Donald Trump reacted on Wednesday to the publication of the last muddy book about his presidency in the same way he did to the last: publicly reflecting that the strongest laws against defamation should have avoided it.
"It is not a pity that someone can write an article or a book, invent stories and form an image of a person who is literally the opposite of the fact, and get away with no retribution or cost. Washington does not change defamation laws? Trump tweeted after the initial news coverage of & # 39; Fear & # 39 ;, a book by the famous Watergate reporter Bob Woodward.
Defamation, the act of publishing false and defamatory material about specific persons or institutions, is generally awarded at the state level.
That means that Trump would have to persuade state legislatures to adjust their existing statutes in order to generate significant change.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday hinted at the Herculean task of changing US defamation laws, following the initial revelations of a critical book by Bob Woodward
Trump wrote on Twitter that he does not know why Washington politicians do not change defamation laws, ignoring the fact that state laws, and not federal ones, generally address defamation.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders did not take the bait and dodged a question about "Good Morning America" about whether the claims in Woodward's book "Fear" amounted to defamation.
Minutes after the president tweeted about defamation, his press secretary slapped Woodward more gently in a "Good Morning America" interview.
"We've seen some surpluses that have been pretty much rejected by some of the most respected people in our country," Sarah Sanders said in response to a question about whether the author had freed Trump. & # 39; We'll see what happens. & # 39;
In January, the famous litigating president harshly criticized author Michael Wolff after the publication of "Fire and Fury", saying he planned to "take a good look" at the reform of the US laws on defamation.
& # 39; Fear & # 39; is the third anti-Trump book from deep sources of the year, after the volumes of Michael Wolff and Omarosa Manigault-Newman.
He said at the time that he wanted a way for judicial consequences when someone says something false and defamatory about someone.
"Our current defamation laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American justice … You can not say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile while money enters your account banking, "he said then.
Trump had already hinted several times in the past, both as a candidate and president, that he would like to make it easier to push back the media that he believes are being treated unfairly.
In March of 2017, he specifically addressed the New York Times in a tweet, saying that he had "dishonored the world of the media."
& # 39; I was wrong for two solid years. Change the defamation laws? I ask.
His specific concerns with Woodward's reports include serious denials he once called Attorney General Jeff Sessions & # 39; mentally retarded. & # 39;
"The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and false sources, has called me Jeff Sessions" mentally retarded "and" southern idiot. "I said NI, I never used those terms with anyone, including Jeff, and being a Southerner is a great thing. He did this to divide! "He tweeted on Tuesday.
Trump also tweeted statements by John Kelly and James Mattis that refuted other parts of Woodward's book, which alleges that Kelly called Trump an "idiot" and Mattis compared him to a "fifth-grader."
"Woodward's book has already been refuted and discredited by General (Secretary of Defense) James Mattis and General (Chief of Staff) John Kelly, his appointments were made frauds, a scam in the public. appointments Woodward is an operational Dem? Did you notice the time? the president wrote.
Trump first raised the idea of reforming the defamation law during a rally in the February 2016 campaign in Fort Worth, Texas, warning the Times and the Washington Post that we're going to open those laws on defamation, friends, and we're going to have people sue you as if you'd never been sued before.
"If I become president, do you have problems?" He told 8,000 screaming fans.
"And one of the things I'm going to do … I'm going to open our defamation laws so that when they write deliberately negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and make a lot of money," Trump boasted.
& # 39; Let's open those defamation laws. So when The New York Times writes a successful article, which is a total disgrace, or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a successful article, we can sue it and make money instead of not having No chance of winning because they are fully protected.
The president has gone after the media in the past, suggesting that changing the defamation laws would help him fight the coverage of & # 39; fake news & # 39;
Most state laws set a difficult standard for proving defamation against public figures like Trump.
Cases filed by ordinary Americans can be won on the basis of whether a statement is false or not when it is published.
But public figures have to prove "real malice," which means that a news outlet knew that a statement was false when it was published, and that it intended to harm its target.
LAWS OF THE AMERICAN LIBERATION THAT TRUMP LOVES HATE
Most of the statutes that allow Americans to sue for defamation and defamation are state laws, but the definition of defamation is basically the same in all of the US. UU
Libel is the act of publishing a false statement about someone who harms them or their reputation.
In most states, it is considered a "civil offense", not a crime, which means that a newspaper, author or speaker can be brought before the courts to face a lawsuit filed by the victim.
But 17 states have criminal laws that prohibit defamation.
In general, ordinary people need only prove that a de facto statement was false to win a defamation case.
But so-called "public figures" – which can range from the President of the United States to virtually anyone with a Wikipedia profile – have a higher burden of proof called "real malice".
That means proving that the writer or announcer knew in advance that a statement was wrong and, in any case, imprudently published it.
It's hard to know how that is different from what Trump said he wanted.
He said: If someone says something that is totally false and deliberately false, that the person who has been abused, defamed, defamed, [should] have a significant resource. & # 39;
The key word is "knowingly", which is precisely the proof of "real malice" established by the courts.
Most states allow people who are released by a media outlet or other publisher to demand a formal retraction. If that happens, they lose the right to sue.
However, in many cases this correction is one of the demands that a lawsuit raises, along with the money.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution establishes freedom of expression and freedom of the press, setting a high standard for plaintiffs to prove they were defamed.
That also restricts Congress from passing federal defamation laws that could override state laws.