A Georgia judge dismissed the Trump campaign’s libel lawsuit against CNN on Thursday after ruling that the court found no malice by the cable network.
Fox News first reported earlier this year that the Trump 2020 campaign had filed a libel lawsuit accusing CNN of publishing what it called “false and defamatory” statements about seeking Russia’s help in this month’s election.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where CNN is headquartered. It stated in part that CNN claimed Trump’s 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.”
The complaint said that CNN was well aware the statements were false “because there was an extensive record of statements from the Campaign and the administration expressly disavowing any intention to seek Russian assistance”. However, a judge didn’t think the complaint sufficiently proved malice.
“The Court grants Defendants’ motion and dismisses Plaintiff’s complaint for failing sufficiently to plead malice. The Court, however, allows Plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint,” U.S. District Judge Michael L. Brown wrote.
The complaint said that Trump’s legal team sent CNN a request to retract and apologize last month but network executives refused. The Trump campaign sought “millions of dollars” through litigation.
The article referenced by the complaint was published on CNN.com on June 13, 2019.
Larry Noble’s CNN story, headlined “Soliciting dirt on your opponents from a foreign government is a crime. Mueller should have charged Trump campaign officials with it,” was labeled as an opinion piece and featured a disclaimer that stated while Noble is a CNN contributor, the commentary is solely his own view. The piece states that Trump’s 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.”
Judge Brown noted that the statement was “capable of being proven true or false” despite being published in an opinion piece.
“It does not say Plaintiff “may have” conducted such an assessment or that it “might have” made a decision. It does not say that Mr. Noble “fears” Plaintiff did either of these things or that statements by people connected to the campaign “suggest” it did so. The Statement has no such qualifying or softening language,” he wrote before explaining that the court didn’t find actual malice.
“As a matter of constitutional law, a public figure plaintiff must prove actual malice, meaning the allegedly libelous statement was ‘made with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not,’ Judge Brown ruled. “Most of the allegations in the complaint regarding actual malice are conclusory.”
The Trump campaign declined to comment when reached by Fox News. CNN did not immediately respond to requests for comment.