This drama of potentially Shakespearean scope is moving pretty fast, but here’s where we seem to stand as of this writing:
o A sensational book that widely disparages the President’s fitness-for-office has been authored by a man who had access within the White House;
o The author claims to have interviewed Mr. Trump, and to have audio tapes to back-up many of his statements and descriptions;
o Pre-publication promotion included incendiary remarks from Steve Bannon, when he was Chief Strategist of the Trump administration, notably describing a campaign meeting among top campaign officials and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous,” and specifically belittling two of Trump’s progeny;
o Mr. Trump has reacted by questioning Mr. Bannon’s sanity, minimizing his influence at the White House (was there a Super-chief Strategist?) as well as his contribution to the election, and criticizing his support for evangelical pedophile Roy Moore (whom the President also loudly endorsed);
o Mr. Trump then commissioned letters from an attorney, threatening legal process for libel if the book gets published, and a breach of a campaign NDA if Mr. Bannon persists;
o the publisher responded by accelerating the book’s publication date to today.
So, we don’t yet know whether Macbeth’s strutting idiot is the Prez, Mr. Bannon, the author or some combination – but we do know the following:
1 – the book, whose ‘Fire’ has been stoked by Trump’s bellows, will be a massive best-seller.
2 – its ‘fitness’ claims are not inconsistent with numerous prior statements attributed to high-ranking officials, including the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor.
3 – Trump is bluffing, yet again. He cannot seem to recognize the difference between threatening to tie-up defenseless building contractors in protracted payment litigation, and actually suing those who can fight back. We know he’s bluffing because:
4 – his libel threats are ludicrous, as his quite-capable counsel must have advised him. Actually filing such a suit would subject him to the pre-trial discovery process – imagine the glee with which defense counsel would pursue evidence – in his current residence and the one in New York. Headlines forever, and a devastating loss at the end. We know this because:
5 – Libel requires factual claims that damage the plaintiff’s reputation; truth is a defense. Many of the most damaging claims are ‘opinion,’ not ‘fact’ – even that “treasonous” meeting characterization was rendered as opinion, rather than some legal conclusion coming, as it did, from a non-lawyer. Other claims may be shown to be factually accurate.
And because Trump is the world’s single Most Public Official, he’d have to prove that any surviving false and factual claims were rendered with knowledge they were false, or at least a ‘reckless disregard for the truth.’ That's a nearly impossible standard to meet. It has been settled law for more than a half-century; based on the primacy given by the First Amendment to open discourse, versus any tender sensibilities of elected officials.
‘Many people are saying’ that such a suit is a huge loser; those people are experts in libel law and they are right.
So, what do you think, or predict? Will this case reach critical mass with all those other, similar critiques, starting a chain reaction of further consequences? Has his hour upon the stage nearly expired? Or will these new revelations evaporate like a Scottish mist - another proof of Trump’s boast that he could shoot somebody publicly in Birnam Wood, with impunity?
What about this new battle in the civil war between the insurgent Bannonite populists and the establishment GOP? Significant, or has Bannon been exposed – to be relegated back to the fringey netherlands from which he sprang?
Who will be the “poor player on this stage?’’ Does this all just 'signify nothing?'
Fire away, furiously - and on-topics!