A president can be sued
, although there is some controversy
as to whether a president can be sued over defamatory tweets. At last report
, Donald Trump is facing 75 suits.
Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough should join the many who have decided to bring legal action against the compulsive Tweeter-in-chief.
Their joint editorial in the WP
establishes that Trump's actions definitely fall within any reasonable definition of the term "reckless disregard for the truth." I don't think that anyone can fairly argue that he acted within his official capacity as president. Getting into a silly bitch-fight with the hosts of a morning TV show is not within the scope of the president's duties as defined by the Constitution.
Many would say that we are in something of a legal grey area. That very "greyness" is the reason why we should ask a judge to make the decision. I doubt that there are many judges in this country who would rule that a sitting president -- in this case, a president whose stability has been questioned (from afar) by various psychiatric professionals -- should have an illimitable ability to make personally defamatory tweets whenever he pleases. Trump must be made to understand that actions have consequences.
Trump's tweets offer several grounds for suit:
1. Trump characterized Scarborough as "psycho" and Brzezinski as "crazy." The right continually tells us that no-one has the right to characterize Trump's mental state except a trained psychologist who has personally examined him. Yet Trump arrogates onto himself the right to pronounce on the sanity of two television hosts. Double standard!
In my layman's opinion, neither Brzezinski nor Scarborough have unsound minds. To be honest, I don't think that those two possess a sufficient number of eccentricities to be considered interesting
2. According to Brzezinski and Scarborough, Trump falsely characterized their desire and willingness to spend personal time with him over the course of three days, including New Years Eve. In the past, many MSNBC watchers have citicized the pair for showing a pro-Trump bias in their reporting. By falsely claiming that Brzezinski and Scarborough acted like Trump sycophants, the president has called into question their professional objectivity. In short: Trump told a lie injurious to their careers.
3. The possibility that Trump participated in a blackmail scheme absolutely demands
to be heard in a court of law:
During the campaign, the Republican nominee called Mika “neurotic” and promised to attack us personally after the campaign ended. This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas
On their MSNBC show Friday, Scarborough and Brzezinski expanded on the threatened story, alleging that the White House told them to apologize to Trump for their critical coverage of the president in order to make the story disappear.
“We got a call that ‘hey the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story about you guys,’” Scarborough said. “And they said ‘if you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage then he would pick up the phone and basically spike this story.’”
He added: “I had three people at the very top of the administration calling me and the response was like ‘are you kidding me, I don't know what they have, run a story, I'm not going to do it.’
“The calls kept coming and they were like ‘you need to call, please call.’”
According to Brzezinski, the Enquirer, in fact, had no story but was harassing her teenage daughters and staking out her house.
“They were calling my children, they were calling close friends and they were pinning this story on my ex-husband, who I knew would never do that, so I knew immediately that it was a lie and that they had nothing,” she said. “And these calls persisted for quite some time and then Joe had the conversations that he had with the White House where they said ‘oh, this could go away.’”
The episode, said Scarborough, represented Trump’s “really strange obsessions with this show and in particular really disturbing obsession with Mika.”
Scarborough said that tabloid journalists were even staking out Brzezinski’s house.
“After all this started happening, that’s when we started getting calls from the White House saying, ‘If you call, you need to call the president, and we’ll do what we can,’” he added.
Trump, who has live-tweeted Morning Joe in the recent past, responded to the segment on Twitter, and in the process acknowledged that he has some editorial control over the Enquirer.
Trump responded, as is his wont, with a ridiculous tweet:
Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show
Trump's claim constitutes a ludicrous example of mirror imaging, unbelievable on its face. Just which
article is Trump talking about? However, he did do us the favor of confirming that the National Enquirer was involved in smearing a perceived Trump opponent.
Scarborough characterized Trump’s tweet as a “lie” and said he has the receipts to prove it.
Yet another lie. I have texts from your top aides and phone records. Also, those records show I haven't spoken with you in many months.
Scarborough would not claim to have proof unless he actually does. Trump obviously has none. The man's ability to rewrite reality continues to astound: I have no doubt that when he looks in the mirror, he sees a trim young man with non-orange skin and a full head of hair.
For still more, go here
"I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me ... I don't know what they have. Run a story? I'm not going to do it. The calls kept coming. And kept coming. And they were like, 'Call. You need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe. Just pick up the phone and call him,'" Scarborough said.
"It's blackmail," Mika Brzezinski added. "And let me explain what they were threatening. They were calling my children. They were calling close friends ... And our response talking to my ex-husband and Joe and my kids was screw it, let them run it. Go ahead and run it, we're not calling."
Scarborough said Trump called him during the campaign to tell him he had his friend at the National Enquirer write negative stories about campaign foes Dr. Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Over the years, this blog has addressed the question: Are some political conspiracies real? My answer: Yes. This incident proves the point. Trump came into office by appealing to conspiracy buffs -- yet his actions (and those of his associates) were conspiratorial.
As I've said many times in the past, true believers in grand conspiracies are always the first to engage in the actual practice
of conspiracy. See: The Dreyfuss case
. See: The Nazi party of Germany
. See: The neo-Nazis
. See: The John Birch Society
. See: The Lyndon LaRouche
organization. We may add Donald Trump to that list.
Many lawyers, I think, would see the above as sufficient grounds for a lawsuit against both the current president and against David Pecker, the man behind the Enquirer (who should be made to regret his fealty to Trump). Lawsuits take money, of course. Money can be raised.
It's up to Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough to do the right thing, both for themselves and for the country.
We learn that Jared Kushner
was one of the people with whom Scarborough dealt, although Kushner denies that what he said amounted to blackmail. The Enquirer did eventually publish a smear story, although it revealed nothing that we didn't already know.