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.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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