The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump threatened to sue the AP over Panama condo story

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

Though his political opponents often express doubts about the authenticity of Donald Trump’s political views, there’ll be no wondering whether the real-estate mogul is sincere about his aim to “open up” the country’s libel laws. First off, he loves to complain in public about allegedly “unfair” treatment by media organizations. Second off, he threatens to sue them and sometimes follows through on the bluster.

This whiny inventory is growing: Trump threatened to sue the Associated Press over an October 2015 article about a movement by the directors of the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City to oust a management team installed by the Trump family, the AP tells this blog. The article alleged shoddy work by a brand that the candidate likes to promote as a purveyor of visionary management. “[D]uring the four years that Trump Panama Condominium Management LLC had managed the property, Central America’s largest building, a team installed by the Trump family was accused of running up more than $2 million in unauthorized debts, paying its executives undisclosed bonuses and withholding basic financial information from owners, according to an Associated Press examination,” wrote the AP’s Jeff Horwitz.

Titled “Panama condo owners to Trump: You’re fired!,” the article chronicled the board’s allegation that the Trumps took advantage of the owners via “fine-print chicanery.” In a testament to Trumpian real-estatepolitik, the purchase agreements of many residents in the 70-story waterfront building on Panama Bay “prevented them from voting against the Trump company’s wishes,” according to the AP piece. Defending the good name of the Trumps was the candidate’s son, Eric Trump, who insisted that the building was “an amazing icon and, frankly, a great testament to America.” Adjectival excesses run in the family.

“Like other news organizations, we did get a letter from Trump’s attorney after the Panama story saying they were considering legal action,” Sally Buzbee, AP’s Washington bureau chief, told the Erik Wemple Blog today. “This was very early in his campaign.” No complaint has been filed, said Buzbee, who confirmed that the letter came from Trump’s company, not the Trump presidential campaign. “We have been, we hope, both aggressive and careful in our vetting of Trump — that’s been our goal. But we certainly have not been letting the threat of lawsuits deter us,” continued Buzbee.

The threat letter, recalls Buzbee, was “detailed” and claimed that the article was “hurting his business interests.” The article stands today with no corrections. “We did not see anything that they raised that had merit,” said Buzbee.

The Erik Wemple Blog has sought comment from the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization, thus far without success.