“Fire and Fury”: The Point of Trump’s Censorship Quest

What did Donald Trump think would happen when he authorized his lawyers to threaten the publisher and author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House with a lawsuit?

On Thursday, January 4th, Trump’s lawyers sent a letter to Michael Wolff (the author) and Henry Holt and Co (the publisher), asserting that the content of the unreleased book (based on the excerpts they had seen) is “false” and “gives rise to, among other claims, defamation by libel, defamation by libel per se, false light invasion of privacy, tortious interference with contractual relations, and inducement of breach of contract.”

Trump demands that the publisher cease any further distribution of the book, except to send “immediately an electronic copy of the full text of the book, in searchable form” as well as a “hard copy of the book” to his lawyers.

So, what happened in the wake of this letter? Due to the great demand for the book, encouraged by Trump’s fury, the publisher decided to push up the publication date by four days. Wolff’s Fire and Fury will be released on Friday, January 5th at 9 AM ET.

I can’t imagine that this turn of events surprises Trump or his lawyers, especially when their request is so unreasonable. They want pre-publication censorship of an instant bestseller pertaining to issues of public importance. If his lawyers made this request as part of a lawsuit, they wouldn’t get it because prior restraints on publications are presumptively unconstitutional, and the book doesn’t fit within any of the potential exceptions to this rule, like disclosing troop movements or inciting violence. See Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931); Bantam Books v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58 (1963).

What potential errors could the book contain that a lawsuit can’t address after publication? The damages would be dealt with by a jury verdict — to the extent the content of the book could somehow damage Trump’s reputation more than his asinine tweets already do.

Trump’s approval rating hovers somewhere in the mid-30s, which means that the vast majority of the American public disapproves of his bizarre performance as president.

I doubt the people who still approve of Trump’s presidency will care about the content in Wolff’s book. They will see it as “fake news,” which is exactly what Trump has encouraged them to do by sending the “cease and desist” letter.

The letter displays the characteristics that Trump’s supporters claim they like to see in him: his fire and fury. He’s a fighter, and for some reason, despite all evidence to the contrary, they think he’s fighting for them.

14 comments

  1. All of this makes me want to just cry! The utter insanity of what is happening makes me wonder if I’m in an episode of Black Mirror. Or some fiction.

  2. I hope you update your readers on this topic when there is more to cover. Between this book and Milo Yiannopoulos trying to sue his former publisher for pulling his contact, publishing has gotten interesting in the legal area.

    1. Yeah, there’s always something interesting going on in the publishing world from a legal perspective. As for Trump’s next steps regarding this book, I think it’s unlikely that he’ll sue. He wouldn’t want to risk discovery, and there really might be an argument that he’s “defamation proof” considering how bad his reputation already is.

  3. I just started reading it. So far it’s pretty interesting. Most I think we knew but I like hearing it by somone inside.
    However, T could have filed suit so there are 2 things distracting us from watching the T-Russia investigation.
    I sure hope we can get him and R Congress out before he ruins everything

    1. I hope Trump will be out of the White House soon too, but I’m not holding my breath for Congress to impeach and convict him. He’s already done so much damage to our agencies, our judiciary, and our international reputation, and they’ve never done anything to stop him.

      1. I agree. I believe many of these Republican Congressmembers are involved in crimes. They lied to keep the investigation obstructed. Oh, I have to stop or I never will

  4. They will see it as “fake news,” which is exactly what Trump has encouraged them to do by sending the “cease and desist” letter today. — Good point. That, and encouraging to think of anything that comes from anyone other than him or his peeps or that aligns with their world views as fake. It’s nauseating.

  5. quote: The damages would be dealt with by a jury verdict — to the extent the content of the book could somehow damage Trump’s reputation more than his asinine tweets already do.

    This made me laugh out loud. Well said! 🙂

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