Why not take action against Michael Wolff and his publisher?
.. he quotes Steve Bannon, formerly the chief executive of the Trump campaign and chairman of Trump propaganda outlet Breitbart, characterizing meetings between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian operatives as “unpatriotic” and “treasonous.” Bannon also is quoted as saying that there is “zero” chance that Donald Trump himself was unaware of the meetings. There are many amusing anecdotes in the book that tend to confirm the worst suspicions of the administration’s critics.
.. Wolff has been criticized as an overly free practitioner of what used to be known as the New Journalism, liberally applying literary techniques to recreate (some of his critics would say to simply create) scenes and interactions to which he was not directly privy.
.. (Another lupine journalist, the unparalleled Tom Wolfe, is most closely associated with that style of writing.)
.. Trump is using threats of lawsuits mainly as instruments of harassment
.. Usually, those threats die out for one of two reasons: The first is that a libel action requires the publication of a claim of fact, rather than a judgment or an opinion. If you publish “Jones is a rapist,” that’s a statement of fact, a claim that Jones has committed a particular crime. If you publish “Jones is a man of low character and does not deserve your vote for city council,” then that is a statement of opinion.
.. The second thing that most often stops a libel suit in its tracks is that the claim has to be false.
.. It’s $500 or more every time you pick up the phone and talk to your lawyer.
.. Steve Bannon, living high on those Seinfeld royalties. (Bannon fortified his fortune with “a show about nothing.” Poetic.)
.. To have committed libel, Wolff and his publishers must have printed a claim of fact that is: 1. false; 2. defamatory, meaning that it did some kind of damage to Trump; 3. published with actual malice, meaning Wolff knew it was false or acted with reckless disregard as to whether it was.
.. Given that most of Trump’s net worth is tied up in his “brand,” which is another way of saying his public persona, establishing damages should not be very difficult, either
.. As for the actual malice, if Wolff has indeed manufactured quotations or events, that would go a long way toward establishing that he knew he was publishing falsehoods.
.. The problem, of course, is that a lawsuit would lead to discovery, meaning that the president and the people around him would be questioned under penalty of perjury. One thing Steve Bannon and President Trump have in common is that each lies habitually, even in circumstances in which the lie serves no obvious purpose.
.. One wonders what either man would actually say under questioning, to say nothing of what might be said by a Jared Kushner or a Kellyanne Conway.