US President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign escalated its feud with media organisations by filing a libel lawsuit in New York State court in Manhattan against The New York Times for a 2019 opinion piece. In an Op-Ed published on March 27, 2019, Max Frankel wrote an article on alleged collusion between Trump and Russia which titled “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo”.
In the article, the author alleged that rather than “detailed electoral collusion”, the Trump campaign and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s emissaries had an “overarching deal” in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential elections. “The quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy,” wrote Frankel, a former executive editor of The Times.
Trump’s re-election campaign sued the English daily alleging that the Op-Ed article carried by The Times falsely asserted a “quid pro quo” and “knowingly published false and defamatory” statements. While Trump has been threatening to sue media organisations for long, this is the first time that his campaign has followed through by taking legal action against a news outlet in the last three years.
Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The Times, said in a statement that the Trump campaign is trying to punish an opinion writer for “having an opinion they find unacceptable”. The Times spokersperson said that the news outlet looks forward to fighting the case in the court since, “fortunately, the law protects the right of Americans to express their judgments and conclusions, especially about events of public importance”.
Addressing a news conference in the White House, Trump came down heavily on the Op-Ed piece by Frankel. “It’s beyond an opinion, that’s not an opinion. That’s something much more than an opinion,” said Trump. “They did a bad thing and there’ll be more coming,” he added.