President Trump’s re-election campaign sued the New York Times for defamation on Wednesday, accusing the paper of “a systematic pattern of bias” aimed at preventing Trump from securing victory in 2020.
Attorney Charles Harder authored the complaint, filed in a state-level court in New York City.
The lawsuit refers to a March 2019 column by Max Frankel, a former New York Times executive editor in the 1980s and ’90s, accusing Trump and the Russian government of working towards the same goal in 2016: the President’s election.
The column alleged that a “quid pro quo” existed between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government, whereby Trump would receive help on his re-election campaign in exchange for a “new pro-Russian foreign policy.”
That, the lawsuit claims, was contradicted by the Mueller report.
“Among other things, there was no ‘deal,’ and no ‘quid pro quo,’ between the Campaign or anyone affiliated with it, and Vladimir Putin or the Russian government,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit suggests that both Frankel and the Times are in league with the Democratic Party, citing an interview where the op-ed author described himself as a “Democrat with a vengeance” while saying that the newspaper had “endorsed the Democrat” in every Presidential election for the past 60 years.
“There is extensive evidence that The Times is extremely biased against the Campaign, and against Republicans in general,” the lawsuit, filed by the Trump campaign, reads.
A New York Times spokeswoman told TPM in a statement that the Trump campaign had “turned to the courts to try to punish an opinion writer for having an opinion they find unacceptable.”
“Fortunately, the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance,” the statement reads. “We look forward to vindicating that right in this case.”
Harder, the attorney on the complaint, made a name for himself representing Hulk Hogan, whose lawsuit destroyed the news website Gawker after it published his sex tape. Since then, Harder has represented the Trumps in various matters, including a letter sent to CNN last year accusing the network of bias.
The lawsuit against the Times goes on to posit an elaborate conspiracy: the newspaper knew in March 2019 that the then-incoming Mueller report would “exonerate” the Trump campaign. The paper’s own reporting, the lawsuit argues, suggested that there was “no ‘deal’ or ‘quid pro quo’ between the Campaign and Russia.”
“Thus, by publishing the Defamatory Article in March 2019, The Times sought to damage the Campaign before the Mueller Report would be released debunking the conspiracy claims,” the complaint reads.
While the Mueller report did not establish evidence of a criminal conspiracy, it did find that both the Trump campaign and the Russian government saw a “mutual benefit” and worked accordingly in 2016.
The Trump campaign is seeking “millions of dollars” in damages as part of the suit.
Harder provided TPM with a copy of the lawsuit showing that it had been filed.
Read the complaint here: