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Opinion The Trump campaign’s transparent lawsuit against CNN

Brad Parscale, campaign manager for President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign, with Laura Trump, the president's daughter-in-law and a member of his 2020 reelection campaign, at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2020, in National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 28. (Samuel Corum/AFP/Getty Images)

CNN published an opinion piece by contributor Larry Noble that was pegged to some extraordinary comments made by President Trump last year to ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos: “It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” said Trump when asked whether he’d accept opposition research from foreign governments. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.”

Based at least in part on that input, Noble concluded, “The Trump campaign assessed the potential risks and benefits of again seeking Russia’s help in 2020 and has decided to leave that option on the table.”

And that is the toehold for the latest libel lawsuit from the Trump campaign against major media organizations. It targeted the New York Times last week; The Post earlier this week; and now CNN. The serial complaints have some commonalities, in that they are all aimed at opinion pieces and they all address the Trump-Russia topic area. Oh, and they’re all garbage suits.

There’ll be no investigation in this column of the merits of the CNN suit, considering that there are none.

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One point, however, bears consideration. The opinion piece by Noble, a former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, was published on June 13, 2019. According to the Trump campaign suit, it caused all manner of trouble: “The Defamatory Article has forced, and will continue to force, the Campaign to expend funds on corrective advertisements and to otherwise publicize the fact that the Campaign is not seeking Russia’s help, nor leaving that ‘option on the table,’ in the 2020 election campaign. The Campaign was damaged in an amount to be proven at trial, in the millions of dollars.”

Wow, what a hassle. In light of that impact, the Trump campaign pressed CNN for a retraction and apology on ... Feb. 25, 2020, according to the lawsuit. Less than two weeks later, it filed the suit.

Perhaps the campaign stewed over Noble’s killer opinion piece for nine months and then finally got around to lodging its retraction request. Another possibility is that the campaign recently decided that a string of lawsuits against media organizations for their Russia coverage would be a good way to go. Then it rummaged through the archives in search of targets.

We asked the Trump campaign when it identified problems with the opinion pieces in its recent lawsuits — was it an organic reaction to the pieces themselves? We will update this post with any response.

Should the Erik Wemple Blog receive such a response, we are required to believe it. After all, the suit against CNN lays bare the campaign’s wide-ranging belief in its own credibility. Addressing Noble’s conclusions, it reads, “The Defamatory Article is false. In fact, the Campaign has repeatedly and openly disclaimed any intention to seek Russian involvement in the 2020 election. The examples of this are too numerous to fully enumerate … ”

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