The campaign said a piece by Larry Noble posted last June on the CNN website falsely says that the campaign considered seeking Russia's help in the 2020 campaign and “decided to leave that option on the table.” It made the complaint in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, where CNN is based.
The lawsuit said the article doesn't back up Noble's statement with evidence, and that CNN and Noble had both shown a pattern of bias against Trump. The network had no comment on the lawsuit, a spokeswoman said.
Earlier this week, the campaign sued The Washington Post for similar opinion pieces that discussed the Trump campaign welcoming Russian help in 2016. A week earlier, The New York Times was the target, for a Max Frankel op-ed suggesting Trump and Russia had an understanding to exchange campaign help for more favorable policies toward the country.
“The Trump campaign is trying to send a message, both to the press and the public, that you criticize the president at your peril,” said Brian Hauss, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberty Union's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.
After the lawsuit against the Times, First Amendment lawyer Theodore Boutrous wrote in the Post that the action had little chance of success in the court. “Trump's lawsuit may be frivolous,” Boutrous wrote. “His intentions are serious and dangerous to us all.”
The Time, Post and CNN have all been frequent targets of Trump's Twitter attacks against the press. During Trump's presidency through this week, he's tweeted about CNN 191 times, with 106 of those tweets containing the word “fake.”
Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, said the publications had recklessly published false statements and intentionally misled their readers. “False statements are not protected under the U.S. Constitution,” Ellis said. “Therefore, these suits will have no chilling effect on freedom of the press. If journalists are more accurate in their statements and their reporting, that would be a positive development, but not why these suits were filed.”
The lawsuits make no differentiation between news reporting and editorial pieces. Noble is a CNN contributor and a former general counsel of the Federal Elections Commission. His article was published under the “CNN Opinion” banner and includes a note that Noble's opinions “are solely those of the author.”
The lawsuit claims the article caused damage to the campaign in the “millions of dollars.”