On Tuesday afternoon, the presidential campaign of Donald Trump threatened the conservative Club for Growth with a "multi-million dollar lawsuit" if it doesn't cease and desist running an ad (see above) that Trump's lawyer says is defamatory. It's a day we all knew would probably come. Combine a litigious and uber-wealthy presidential candidate with the vagaries and often-misleading claims made in campaign ads, and it's no wonder the very first attack ad run against Trump has drawn a cease-and-desist letter. But there is a lot to unpack here. So let's annotate it!
CEASE & DESIST DEMAND
September 21, 2015
By Federal Express
The Club for Growth
2001 L Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20036
Re: Your Defamatory Attack Ad
Dear Mr. McIntosh:
I am General Counsel to Donald J. Trump. We recently had the opportunity to view your television commercial entitled "Politician" together with your accompanying statements in the media concerning my client's views (collectively, your "Attack Ad") and, quite frankly, are dismayed by the depths special interest groups like yours will go to in an attempt to materially mislead the public for the personal benefit of you and your financial backers.
Simply stated, your Attack Ad is not only completely disingenuous, but replete with outright lies, false, defamatory and destructive statements and downright fabrications which you fully know to be untrue, thereby exposing you and your so-called "club" to liability for damages and other tortious harm. For example, while your Attack Ad blatantly misrepresents to the public that Mr. Trump "supports higher taxes", nothing could be further from the truth. To be clear, Mr. Trump's tax plan, which is scheduled to be released later this week, supports a lowering of taxes.
Not surprisingly, a closer look at your Attack Ad reveals that your supposed "source" for this statement is -- according to the small print on your website -- nothing more than a single article published in the Advocate on February 15, 2000 which quoted Mr. Trump as supposedly saying he would "impose a one-time net worth tax of 14.25% on the superwealthy ... to pay off the national debt." That's it. While a reputable organization would have at least had the decency to disclose its source — and the fact that the source article is more than 15 years old -- your pitiful little group conveniently chose to leave that information out in a deliberate attempt to mislead the public into believing that it is reflective of Mr. Trump's current position — when, unquestionably, it is not. Making matters worse, you then chose to appear on several talk shows, including, MSNBC's Morning Joe, in which you furthered the erroneous notion that Mr. Trump "supports higher taxes" even though you have absolutely no factual support for that statement. In other words, you lied. Mr. Trump does not support higher taxes. This is the very definition of libel.
Sadly, the deplorable actions of your organization are not the least bit surprising. As I am sure you recall, it was only a few short months ago that you very openly and shamelessly attempted to extort Mr. Trump to the tune of $1 million in exchange for your political support. Indeed, you were not even the least bit discreet about your motives in that, after meeting with Mr. Trump, you immediately followed up with a June 2, 2015 letter requesting a "contribution of $1 million" in exchange for an endorsement by your organization's political action committee. "This contribution," you proclaimed, "would have a dramatically positive impact on the Club's ability to identify future free-enterprise champions." When Mr. Trump, however, presumably unlike many of the other candidates, refused to succumb to your extortionist demands, your only response was to oppose his inclusion in the August 6, 2015 Fox News Republican Presidential Debate, launch a series of misleading Attack Ads targeting Mr. Trump and, ultimately, endorse certain other candidates. Though your website states that donations to "Club for Growth ... are NOT publicly disclosed", one can only assume that the candidates you are endorsing paid handsomely for your support. American politics at its worst. If that is not a "shake-down", I do not know what is.
Rest assured, however, we will not sit idly by and allow special interest groups and political action committees like yours to defame Mr. Trump and cause damage to his reputation and business interests by intentionally disseminating libelous statements you fully know to be untrue and, even worse, continue to purposely mislead the American people for your own financial gain. Toward that end, Mr. Trump has authorized our legal team to take all necessary and appropriate actions to bring an immediate halt to your defamatory Attack Ads. In the interest of avoiding what will certainly be a costly litigation process, we are prepared to offer you the one-time opportunity to rectify this matter by providing us with your prompt written assurances that (i) you have stopped running the Attack Ads; and (ii) you will not generate or disseminate any misleading or inaccurate information or make any factually baseless accusations you know to be untrue with respect to my client at any point in the future. In the event, however, we do not promptly receive these assurances, please be advised that we will commence a multi-million dollar lawsuit against you personally and your organization for your false and defamatory statements and the damage you have intentionally caused to my client's interests as well as pursue all other remedies available to us at law or in equity.
Please be guided accordingly.
Very truly yours,
cc: Donald Trump
Mark E. Kasowicz, Esq.