The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit against CNN in March this year, deeming reporter Larry Noble’s column about Russian interference in American elections libelous.
In the op-ed, Noble wrote that “the Trump campaign assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.”
According to CNN’s lawyers, the reporter’s column is not actionable because he was simply stating his opinion on the matter, not presenting the information as indisputable facts.
Trump and his advisers were accused of cooperating and conspiring with the Kremlin to win the 2016 presidential election. However, as The New York Times reported, former special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of any such activities, although his final report detailed extensive efforts by the Russian government to meddle in American elections via online disinformation and other influence campaigns.
As for the 2020 election, it remains unclear whether alleged foreign interference made any difference, but Trump is all but certain to lose. His opponent, Democratic nominee Joe Biden, was projected the winner of the race last week.
Judge Brown wrote that “most of the allegations in the complaint regarding actual malice are conclusory.”
“Plaintiff, for example, alleges in a purely conclusory manner that Defendants ‘clearly had a malicious motive’ and ‘knowingly disregarded all… information when it published the Defamatory Article.'”
Still, Brown rejected CNN lawyers’ claims that Noble’s column was merely an opinion piece, saying that the sentence cited by the president’s legal team can be interpreted as an assertion of fact.
“The context of the Statement (both in the article and in Mr. Noble’s discussion of current events) suggest to readers that the Statement is a statement of fact, not opinion,” he wrote.
As Deadline noted, the judge’s suggestion allows Trump’s legal team to file an amended complaint.
As reported by The Hill, in March, Trump’s lawyers filed a series of libel lawsuits against the media. Apart from suing CNN, they took aim at The New York Times and The Washington Post.
The lawsuits accused these media organizations of deliberately spreading false claims about Trump’s alleged dealings with the Russian government.
Critics saw the move as a major escalation in the president’s war on the press.
Trump has regularly attacked members of the press, dismissing unfavorable coverage as “fake news.” Last month, for instance, he accused the media of suppressing information to damage his re-election bid.