The campaign is accusing the newspaper of knowingly publishing false information in a May 2019 op-ed arguing that Trump and Russia effectively colluded before the 2016 election.
The column said Trump had an “overarching deal” with the Kremlin to ease sanctions in return for Russian operatives torpedoing Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The Times opinion section ran the piece before special counsel Robert Mueller found no criminal conspiracy despite shady meetings between the two parties.
“The statements were and are 100 percent false and defamatory,” Jenna Ellis, senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, said in a statement. “The complaint alleges The Times was aware of the falsity at the time it published them, but did so for the intentional purpose of hurting the campaign, while misleading its own readers in the process.”
The campaign shared a draft of the complaint signed by the notorious media attorney Charles Harder, who sued the Gawker Media empire into bankruptcy on behalf of Hulk Hogan, represented first lady Melania Trump against The Daily Mail, and has since taken aim at CNN. Seeking damages “in the millions of dollars,” he argues that the Times column’s subtle points should be taken literally.
Writer Max Frankel, former executive editor of the Times, argued that Trump and the Kremlin shared an understanding rather than “detailed electoral collusion.” Various figures from Trumpworld met with Russian operatives during the campaign. And former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn talked with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Election Day about easing economic sanctions.
Trump himself even asked the Kremlin to hack Clinton’s emails during a July 2016 news conference.
Frankel’s op-ed had been lost in the mountain of Mueller content until today. Harder argues in his complaint that the piece alluded to Team Trump’s communications maliciously and inaccurately twisted them into “an overarching deal” and “quid pro quo” between Trump and the Kremlin. He goes on to assert that the paper published the piece before Mueller concluded his investigation because he “was likely to exonerate the Campaign.”