Mr. Bannon is one of the strongest forces in an administration with competing power centers. A savvy manipulator of the press, and a proud provocateur, he was among the few advisers in Mr. Trump’s circle who were said to have urged on Mr. Spicer’s confrontational, emotional statement to a shocked West Wing briefing room on Saturday, when the White House disputed news reports about the size of the inauguration crowd. He shares Mr. Trump’s view that the news media misunderstood the movement that the president rode into office.
.. “The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong,” Mr. Bannon said of the election, calling it “a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there.”
In this episode of Reveal, we’re using the full hour to take a deep look at the leaking and publication of the Pentagon Papers. At the center of the episode are two guys who have a knack for being in the room when history gets made: Robert J. Rosenthal and Daniel Ellsberg.
.. When Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, he was turning his back on a long career close to power, immersed in government secrets. His early career as a nuclear war strategist made him fear that a small conflict could erupt into a nuclear holocaust.
First, Mr. Trump likes to identify a couple of chief enemies and attack them until they are no longer threatening enough to interest him. He hurls insults at these foils relentlessly, for sustained periods – weeks or months. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton have all held Mr. Trump’s attention in this way; nearly one in every three insults in the last two years has been directed at them... Second, there’s a nearly constant stream of insults in the background directed at a wider range of subjects. These insults can be a response to a news event, unfavorable media coverage or criticism, or they can simply be a random thought. These subjects receive short bursts of attention, and inevitably Mr. Trump turns to other things in a day or two. Mr. Trump’s brief feuds with Macy’s, Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and The New Hampshire Union Leader fit this bucket well. The election has not changed this pattern either...Mr. Trump frequently insulted journalists and media organizations even before he was a serious presidential candidate. Early on, Mr. Trump focused on conservative publications and commentators who stood against him: Bill Kristol, George Will, Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer, Stuart Stevens. As the campaign progressed and media scrutiny increased, Mr. Trump focused on the larger news organizations and the national press, particularly after coverage critical of him. One particularly big insult campaign began in the days after a New York Times article about his behavior toward women.
The Donald Trump campaign inadvertently performed a public service when it exposed the weakness and vulnerability of the euphemisms long used by political journalists. News organizations have been forced to acknowledge that phrases like “stretched the truth” and “fudged the facts” are useless for describing a candidate who speaks falsely in virtually every breath. Genteel circumlocution has given way to calling out lies as lies.
Mr. Trump’s campaign has also made it difficult for opinion writers — even those disposed to give him the benefit of the doubt — to avoid describing his behavior as racist. The signal moment came when, having already characterized Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, he declared an American-born judge of Mexican descent unfit to preside over a lawsuit against the con game known as Trump University. Even the House speaker, Paul Ryan, had to concede that this was “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
.. Black Twitter has ridiculed attempts by traditional news media and others to draw a distinction between racism and “unintentional bias.” Those who defend this distinction typically argue that deploying the charge of racism commits harm by alienating people and stopping “the conversation.”
.. This election has made clear that racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and xenophobia still have broad constituencies in America. The first step toward keeping them at bay is to insist on calling them by their rightful names.
I spoke with Lam about how he built his business, and whether he wanted to sell it, on Recode Media in June:
Marc E. Kasowitz, Esq.
Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP
New York, NY 10019-6799
Re: Demand for Retraction
Dear Mr. Kasowitz:
I write in response to your letter of October 12, 2016 to Dean Baquet concerning your client Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States.
You write concerning our article “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately” and label the article as “libel per se.” You ask that we “remove it from [our] website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology.” We decline to do so.
The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.
But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance — indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.
David E. McCraw
Possibly laughable, however, is that the letter never gave a declarative statement that Trump never did these things (although it called them false), it never offered language for a retraction (which is usually what these letters do), and, most notably, it used language that seemingly misunderstood how defamation suits work when the plaintiff is a public figure — like a presidential candidate.
.. Say Trump — knowing all this — is still headstrong about suing the Times for defamation. This could lead to what is called a period of discovery — which, just as it sounds, is a process in which both parties try to gather as much information as possible to prove their side. This could be more damaging for Trump in the long run, assuming there are more tapes like the one that has already leaked out there.
.. “There would be depositions of the reporters and the editor, and of these women, but also of Trump, and he would have to prove by clear and convincing evidence that these allegations would be false, which I don’t know how he would do that,” Seager explained.
But even before discovery, Seager says the New York Times could file a motion to dismiss, pointing out that Trump hasn’t provided any sufficient allegations in the complaint — the letter to the Times — to show he has evidence that they published the story knowing it was false. Remember, the letter didn’t actually state why these statements were false, either.
.. Trump’s greediest lawsuit was his $5-billion libel lawsuit filed in 2006 against Timothy O’Brien for saying in his book TrumpNation, The Art of Being The Donald, that Trump was at best worth $250 million, not the billions Trump claimed.
A Jersey court dismissed the case because Trump failed to prove O’Brien had “any actual doubts” about the accuracy of his book and Trump lacked any “reliable” evidence that he was worth billions, admitting his net worth is “based on [his] … own feelings.”
.. Trump has an affinity for waging lawsuits — or, rather, threatening to wage them. But according to an investigation from USA Today, which studied more than 4,000 of Trump’s lawsuits (yes, that is a really big number of lawsuits), he’s rarely followed through when the suit involved journalists.
.. “Donald Trump has a horrible record on libel cases,” Seager said. “He bluffs a lot. He threatens a lot, but when he sues, he mostly loses.”