Earlier this year, the Trump campaign sued CNN, accusing the outlet of libel over a June 2019 op-ed by writer Larry Noble — and U.S. District Judge Michael L. Brown has now dismissed the Trump team’s complaint. Noble had written that “the Trump campaign assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table,” which the Trump campaign alleged was libelous, alleging that the outlet “clearly had a malicious motive,” but Brown concluded that their claim is just not supported by the evidence at hand.
Brown wrote that “most of the allegations in the complaint regarding actual malice are conclusory. Plaintiff, for example, alleges in a purely conclusory manner that Defendants ‘clearly had a malicious motive’ and ‘knowingly disregarded all… information when it published the Defamatory Article.” As Deadline notes, the Trump campaign’s legal team had a steep potential climb ahead of it right from the start. Trump’s lawyers had “to show that the network knew the statement was false but published it anyway or acted with gross negligence,” the outlet explains — and they failed. Brown did dismiss CNN’s characterization of the originally scrutinized comments as mere opinion rather than an assertion of apparent fact.
As for the substance of Noble’s allegation — it’s Donald Trump himself who once claimed while in office that “there isn’t anything wrong with listening” to a foreign government offering dirt on a domestic political opponent. During the 2016 election cycle, Russian operatives collected some of this “dirt” on the Democrats and spread it through outlets like WikiLeaks, with news organizations, the Trump campaign, and others subsequently spreading the material even further. At one point during the 2016 cycle, Trump openly encouraged Russia to go after Hillary Clinton’s private emails. He later claimed to have been joking, suggesting that folks around him were clearly in on the joke and laughing at the time. They were not.
The defeat for the Trump campaign in the CNN libel case emerged amidst a nationwide flurry of Republican lawsuits challenging the integrity of the recent presidential election. Many of these lawsuits have gone absolutely nowhere. The Trump team has faced off with CNN in court before. After the White House punitively revoked the press credential of CNN’s Jim Acosta, the outlet took the White House to court and won their effort to get Acosta’s press access reinstated.