Today, Times attorney David McCraw responded. The letter, available here, provides a forceful defense. It notes that the Times reporters made diligent efforts to confirm the accusations and published Trump’s denials (i.e. that the Times did not show reckless disregard for the truth in publishing the story). It further notes that the underlying issue is clearly one of national importance; indeed, it is an issue that Trump himself has discussed extensively during the campaign, and there is no question that Trump is a “public figure” for purposes of libel law.
Finally, and perhaps most devastating, McCraw’s letter notes that a libel claim, to be successful, must allege damage to the subject’s reputation. Yet in this case, McCraw notes, the allegations in the story are fully consistent with Trump’s own repeated claims about his conduct and other public statements he has made. Notes McCraw: “Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.” The truth hurts.
It’s clear that the Times will not back down. It also seems fairly clear that Trump has no case. He may well file a lawsuit — or continue threatening to do so for the next 25 days — but even if such a suit were to be filed, I would expect it to be dismissed rather quickly. From what I have seen, it does not seem that Trump has much of a case.