Politics See who in court? Trump’s empty libel threats target Woodward
Jerry Adler Senior Editor,Yahoo News•Bob Woodward, Donald Trump. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images, Donald Trump via Twitter, Simon & Schuster via AP)Faced with what promises to be the most detailed, damning and authoritative account of his presidency to date, Bob Woodward’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” the president has resorted to one of his favorite tactics: an implied threat to bring a libel suit over reporting he doesn’t like.He fired off the threat Wednesday morning on Twitter: Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?The stories President Trump is denying include accounts in Woodward’s book of his chief of staff, John Kelly, calling Trump an “idiot,” his defense secretary, James Mattis, likening him to “a fifth or sixth grader,” and Trump himself referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a “dumb Southerner” and “mentally retarded.”Kelly and Mattis have disputed the accuracy of those quotes, and Trump himself denied he used those words about Sessions, adding that “being a Southerner is a GREAT thing.” Trump has publicly attacked Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe, although not with those words. Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner.” I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!
Trump’s understanding of libel law, like his grasp of judicial independence, is more than a little shaky. To start with, “Washington politicians” aren’t in a position to help Trump out even if they wanted to; libel law is generally a state matter. Moreover, under the 1964 Supreme Court decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a public figure — and there is no bigger public figure than the president — has to prove “actual malice” to win a libel suit, defined as publishing something the author knew to be false, or with “reckless disregard” for its truth. The unanimous opinion by Justice William Brennan was based on an interpretation of the First Amendment and is considered a bedrock legal principal that even a Supreme Court engineered to Trump’s specifications might be reluctant to tamper with.But since long before he entered politics, Trump has liked to bluster about suing his detractors, counting on intimidating them with the prospect of going up against a self-proclaimed billionaire. He explicitly endorsed this tactic in a tweet in 2015:Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump As dishonest as @RollingStone is I say @HuffingtonPost is worse. Neither has much money – sue them and put them out of business! · Manhattan, NY In October 2016, Trump vowed to sue more than a dozen women who had accused him of unwanted sexual advances. “All of these liars will be sued once the election is over,” Trump said. “I look so forward to doing that.” Nothing came of that threat, or most of the others he made before or since. Around the same time, his former lawyer Marc Kasowitz promised “prompt initiation of appropriate legal action” against the New York Times for publishing an analysis of leaked pages from his 1995 tax returns. In 2015, his former lawyer Michael Cohen famously threatened a reporter, in an expletive-laced rant, to “take you for every penny you still don’t have” over an assertion that Trump’s first wife, Ivana, had charged him with raping her when she filed for divorce. (She later retracted the charge.)
In 2013 Trump filed, and later withdrew, a suit against Bill Maher for failing to live up to an offer to donate $5 million to charity if Trump provided a copy of his birth certificate proving that he wasn’t sired by an orangutan. (In a letter to Maher before filing the lawsuit, Trump’s lawyer wrote, “Attached hereto is a copy of Mr. Trump’s birth certificate, demonstrating that he is the son of Fred Trump, not an orangutan.”) Earlier this year, Trump’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully to stop publication of Michael Wolff’s White House expose “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” Just last month he sued his former protégé Omarosa Manigault Newman over her book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.”He sued author Tim O’Brien for $5 billion over his 2005 book “TrumpNation,” which made the one charge Trump cannot countenance: that he’s not actually a billionaire. After Trump gave a disastrous deposition in which his testimony was contradicted by documents dozens of times, the suit was dismissed, although Trump pronounced himself satisfied with the result because it cost O’Brien “a lot of legal fees.” (O’Brien says his publisher and an insurance company actually paid.)Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” leaves New York State Supreme Court with attorney Gloria Allred last December after a hearing on her libel suit against President Trump. (Photo: Andrew Kelly/Reuters)As a candidate, Trump promised to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” As president, he called libel law “a sham and a disgrace” and urged changes “so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.”He might want to think twice about that plan, though, since he is currently a defendant in a libel suit brought by one of the women he had threatened to sue before the election. Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” said Trump had kissed and groped her without her consent. Trump not only denied it but denounced her as a liar. This constituted “brutalizing of her a second time,” according to her suit, which a judge recently allowed to proceed, leaving open the unwelcome possibility that Trump might be called to testify under oath about the alleged encounter.As for the Woodward book, which hasn’t even been published yet, Trump’s response has been mainly in the form of tweets. If he sues Woodward, he will face the almost insurmountable burden of showing that one of the most honored and respected journalists in America today wrote a book with “reckless disregard” of the truth. Woodward won’t even have to show that, for example, Trump really does have the mentality of a fifth-grader, only that he was diligent in reporting that Mattis said as much.Given that the standard fifth-grade social studies curriculum extensively covers 19th century American history, and that Trump apparently once didn’t know who Frederick Douglass was, if Mattis really did say that, he might have been giving his boss the benefit of the doubt.
Nick Visser,•Trump admits that he doesn’t talk to his deputy press secretary Veteran reporter Bob Woodward spent months trying to speak with President Donald Trump for his upcoming book about the current administration, reaching out to half a dozen senior aides and lawmakers close to the Oval Office. But even the president’s deputy press secretary wouldn’t have been able to make that interview happen, because Trump says he never talks to the man.“I don’t speak to Raj,” Trump said of Raj Shah, the White House deputy press secretary, in a phone call with Woodward last month. Shah reports directly to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and regularly addresses reporters on the president’s behalf.The Washington Post published an annotated transcript of the 11-minute callbetween the two on Tuesday, just hours after the paper released excerpts from Woodward’s upcoming bookFear: Trump in the White House. During the call, made in early August after the manuscript was completed, Trump says several times that he wished Woodward would have made more of an effort to interview him, saying he was never informed of the journalist’s repeated attempts to reach out.“I never got a call. I never got a message. Who did you ask about speaking to me?” Trump asks in the call.“Well, about six people,” Woodward said.“They don’t tell me,” Trump replied.Woodward later says he reached out to Shah, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), among others.“Well, a lot of them are afraid to come and talk, or — you know, they are busy. I’m busy,” Trump said. “But I don’t mind talking to you. I would’ve spoken to you. I spoke to you 20 years [ago] and I spoke to you a year and a half or two years ago.”At one point during the call, Trump put Conway on the phone, who admits that she “put in” Woodward’s request but it was rejected.“I guess I can bring it right to the president next time,” Conway said.Trump suggested that one of the lone ways Woodward may have been able to reach him was to get in touch with his scheduler, 27-year-old Madeleine Westerhout.“Madeleine is the key,” Trump said or his executive assistant and gatekeeper. “She’s the secret.”He later said that he did hear about Woodward’s attempts from Graham, but noted that because Woodward didn’t speak with him the reporter’s upcoming tome would be “very inaccurate,” and “that’s too bad.”The reporter, who said the book was based on hundreds of hours of interviews, had a brief retort: “It’s going to be accurate, I promise.”
US escalates warning to Assad regime, Russia not to use chemical weapons in Idlib CONOR FINNEGAN and ELIZABETH MCLAUGHLIN,•US escalates warning to Assad regime, Russia not to use chemical weapons in Idlib originally appeared on abcnews.go.com The White House is doubling down on its warning to the Syrian regime not to use chemical weapons ahead of an expected assault on Idlib province in northwest Syria, saying the U.S. will respond „swiftly and appropriately.”It’s the strongest warning yet as the U.S. tries to assert a greater role in Syria and prevent what it says would be a humanitarian disaster, even as Syria and its allies, including Russia, prepare for an offensive into the heavily populated province. But the threat of retaliation extends only to the potential use of chemical weapons, with critics charging that the U.S. has done nothing to stop Assad’s march on rebel enclaves elsewhere in the country.In a statement on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the U.S. was „closely monitoring the situation in Idlib province, Syria, where millions of innocent civilians are under threat of an imminent Assad regime attack, backed by Russia and Iran.”In particular, Sanders warned that „If [Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately,” after the Trump administration has twice ordered airstrikes on Assad regime targets following its use of chemical weapons.But more broadly, the threat of an Assad offensive into Idlib would be „an unacceptable, reckless escalation of the conflict,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement Tuesday, adding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and they agreed on this point.Still, there were reports Tuesday of Russian fighter jets already bombing parts of the suburbs around Idlib city as it backs Assad in what could be an all-out offensive to retake the province seen as the last stronghold of Syrian rebel groups.PHOTO: A Syrian man rides a motorcycle past a destroyed building in an area that was hit by a reported air strike in the district of Jisr al-Shughur, in the Idlib province, on Sept. 4, 2018. (AFP/Getty Images)The Russian government maintains that Idlib is a „hotbed of terrorism,” with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov telling reporters that President Trump’s opposition to Russian military action there shows his „limited approach” to the situation.There are some groups the U.S. and its allies consider terrorists based in Idlib, including al Qaeda’s affiliate Hay’at Tahrir al Sham. But there are also nearly three million civilians living there, more than one million of them displaced from elsewhere in Syria, according to human rights groups. Any offensive would, therefore, be incredibly deadly or unleash an even larger wave of refugees into neighboring Turkey and beyond.The U.S. military campaign in Syria is instead focused on fighting another terror group in the north and east of the country — ISIS.The president and his top advisers, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have said since Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that they want to work with Russia on counterterrorism. But the divide over Idlib shows how difficult that will be, with the two sides in disagreement on who even is a terrorist.In a tweet on Monday, Trump called for Assad to „not recklessly attack Idlib Province,” adding that „the Russians and Iranian would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy.” His Twitter message was seen as an escalation of the U.S. war of words, as Trump has rarely weighed in on Syria, where he has said he wants to withdraw U.S. troops and aid.Donald J.Trump@realDonaldTrumpPresident Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen! For two weeks now, Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Pompeo have been urging Assad and his allies not to wage an offensive into Idlib province. That message was also communicated in person to the Russian ambassador in Washington by Amb. David Satterfield, top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, and Amb. Jim Jeffrey, the new Special Representative for Syria Engagement.But the U.S.’s strongest words have been saved for a warning that the U.S. would respond to another chemical weapons attack, as it did after the attacks in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 and Douma in April 2018. Each attack killed nearly a hundred civilians, including women and children.In response to the Douma attack earlier this year, the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom launched targeted airstrikes at three locations related to chemical weapons development. The Assad regime has denied the use of chemical weapons and delayed independent chemical weapons inspectors’ access to the site of the attack.For weeks, Moscow has attempted to portray the U.S. and its partners as the ones actually planning to stage a chemical weapons attack in Idlib as a pretext for again striking Assad.”This is absurd,” Pentagon spokesperson Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson told ABC News in a statement on Friday. „That Russia is seeking to plant false lies about chemical weapons use suggests that Moscow is seeking to deflect from its own culpability when these heinous weapons are used. Russia’s efforts to obscure the truth only underscore its years-long role in abetting the murder and mayhem conducted by the Assad regime.”After the Douma attack, the Russian government said it had evidence that the chemical weapons attack was „staged,” despite U.S. intelligence assessments that it was conducted by the Syrian regime with knowledge by the Russians.ABC News’ Luis Martinez contributed to this report from the Pentagon.
President Donald Trump bashes NFL, Nike in latest round of critical tweetsBen Rohrbach,• Trump targets Nike as Colin Kaepernick ads spark boycott calls Trump targets Nike as Colin Kaepernick ads spark boycott callsYahoo News VideoScroll back up to restore default view.This may shock you, but after taking a somewhat reasoned approach on Nike’s endorsement deal with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in an interview with The Daily Caller that was published on Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump was back to casting Twitter insults on Wednesday morning.Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrumpJust like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!Let’s take this piece by piece.Have NFL ratings gone ‘WAY DOWN’?The NFL’s ratings declined roughly 8 percent in 2016 and another 9 percent in 2017, and they are expected to make a similar drop this season, following a trend that television networks across the board are experiencing, as viewers cut cords and seek content from various streaming services.The NFL’s ratings decline has been less sharp than the 16 percent drop in viewership that broadcast networks experienced as a whole last year. The NFL still dominates TV ratings throughout the season, outdrawing every other professional sport by a wide margin, so “WAY DOWN” is fairly subjective here.Is Nike getting ‘absolutely killed’?Likewise, Nike’s stock fell 3.1 percent on Tuesday from its closing price of $82.18 on Friday. Kaepernick’s endorsement deal with the apparel company was announced on Monday. On the whole, the New York Stock Exchange was down roughly a third of a percentage point on Tuesday. While the NYSE was down again during morning trading on Wednesday, Nike was making a slight comeback from the day before.President Donald Trump finds some entertainment in the NFL. (Getty Images)Either way, it’s hard to say, as the president did, “Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts.” Even by a less formal analysis, the number of people supporting Nike’s decision to make Kaepernick the face of its “Just Do It” anniversary ad campaign appears equal to those protesting it.Did Nike have ‘any idea’ it would be this way?Of course Nike anticipated the reaction to its Kaepernick campaign, since the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s decision to kneel in protest of social injustice and racial inequality during the national anthem became a hot-button issue in the U.S. That’s kind of the whole point, isn’t it?As one shoe industry executive told Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson on Monday, “Trump could tweet tomorrow for everyone to boycott Nike. I’m sure that was one of the first considerations before a new deal. … But there’s the other side, where Colin Kaepernick could be the most powerful social persona that Nike ever signs. Not necessarily the most lucrative, but just the most powerful in terms of moving the social needle. That’s definitely part of the allure.” So, yeah, they expected this from Trump, too.Why Does Trump find the NFL hard to watch?The president said on Wednesday that he finds football “hard to watch” because players refuse to stand for the flag. The number of players who kneel during the national anthem is a small percentage, and ESPN decided not to air the “Star Spangled Banner” prior to games, so it’s hard to know whether anyone is kneeling and harder still to understand how that impacts one’s enjoyment of the game.We’ve been over this. A lot.Prior to being president, Trump said he finds the NFL hard to watch because it’s “far too soft”:Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrumpI don’t know what it is, but I’m getting totally bored watching NFL football. Too many penalties and far too soft! T.V. off and back to workImmediately after watching the Super Bowl, the last NFL game to be played before the league opens its 2018 season on Thursday, Trump tweeted congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles on their win. He then disinvited the Eagles from the White House when it became clear few would actually visit.We should note that Trump made several failed bids for NFL teams. He instead bought into the USFL, ultimately playing a role in its failure. Also, Nike, the largest single occupant of a Trump Organization property, reportedly plans to leave the $253 million Trump-owned New York City property.One last thing: It was unclear whether Trump knew the words to the national anthem as he attempted to sing along to the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Alabama-George football national championship game this past January. His White House raised the flag before the customary mourning period for a military hero following Senator John McCain’s death, only to lower it again under political pressure. New Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick is a ‘brilliant business decision’Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor shares his insight on the new commercial that will debut on television during Thursday’s NFL regular season opener between the Falcons and Eagles.– –Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach
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CDC Reports 100 Sick Passengers On Emirates FlightNina Golgowski,•Flight from Dubai quarantined in New York City with ill passengersAn investigation is underway after an international flight out of Dubai landed at New York City’s JFK Airport with 100 passengers reporting illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. In a statement released to the media, the CDC said 11 people were hospitalized Wednesday morning after dozens of passengers and crew on board Flight 203 complained of illness including fever, coughing and gastrointestinal illness.The health agency said it evaluated all 549 passengers and crew members with the Port Authority, EMS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Initial actions included taking passengers’ temperatures and arranging transportation to a local hospital.A photo reportedly taken by a passenger onboard the flight at JFK Airport shows a number of emergency vehicles outside. (Larry Coben)
Eric Phillips, press secretary for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, announced at 12:30 p.m. on Twitter that all of the passengers had been taken off the plane and evaluated.
“Health officials are processing tests now to determine the cause. Symptoms still pointing to the flu,” he said.
A Port Authority official told HuffPost that the plane was not quarantined as initially stated by Phillips.
An Emirates airline spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost that those hospitalized included three passengers and seven crew members.
In addition, “nine passengers underwent additional medical screening at the site near the aircraft and were released afterwards. The rest of the passengers were allowed to leave and clear customs,” the airline said.Passengers and crew members taken to Jamaica Hospital in Queens for treatment have been isolated as they’re evaluated, the hospital said in a statement.“With a great deal of experience in emergency management situations, Jamaica Hospital is well equipped and prepared to accommodate these patients. As a result, hospital operations have not been affected and all of our patients continue to receive the highest quality of care,” the hospital said.CBS New York, citing a government source briefed on the situation, reported that there is no evidence of a security or terror issue.The White House said President Donald Trump has been updated on the situation. “We are monitoring the situation and the president is being updated as new information is available,” said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters.The CDC is asking that any passengers who develop symptoms contact their health provider and provide their travel history. One woman on Twitter, identifying herself as a passenger on the plane, has said that those sickened were ill before boarding the plane and that she requested a face mask but they didn’t have any.“The passengers were sick before they got on board. This is 100% not food poisoning,” @SykesStyle tweeted with a video showing passengers on the plane being addressed by an official.
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