Trump Vows to Go After “Sham” Libel Laws

Efforts to change them would be very difficult.

Ron Sachs/ZUMA

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that his administration will assess whether the country’s libel laws—which he blasted as a “sham” and a “disgrace”—could be revised in order to ramp up financial punishment against those who knowingly spread false and defamatory information. 

“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness, so we’re going to take a strong look at that,” Trump read from a statement during a cabinet meeting at the White House. 

“You can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account,” he added.

Trump’s remarks follow explosive details alleged in Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury, which swung open the doors for a national conversation about Trump’s mental fitness. Since the book’s release last week, Trump has fiercely defended his competence, even taking to Twitter over the weekend to brand himself a “very stable genius.” 

This is far from the first time Trump has threatened to go after libel laws. Throughout his campaign, the then-presidential candidate repeatedly vowed to “open up” and “reform” the laws to make it easier to sue the media. Trump also has a track-record of threatening legal action against his detractors. He vowed to sue the women who accused him of sexual misconduct but has yet to follow through. In 2007, Trump did sue the author Tim O’Brien for alleging he wasn’t as wealthy as he claimed to be, but that lawsuit was dismissed.

But as the Times recently noted, any effort to change the country’s existing libel laws would prove to be incredibly, almost insurmountably difficult.

There’s also, uh, the uncomfortable problem of this ever-expanding list.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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