Attorney: Trump’s lawsuit against CNN likely won’t go far

Dan Abrams Live

(NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump sued CNN for defamation Monday, seeking $475 million in punitive damages and claiming that the network had carried out a “campaign of libel and slander” against him.

Trump claims in his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that CNN had used its considerable influence as a leading news organization to defeat him politically.

Floyd Abrams, a constitutional attorney who has argued numerous First Amendment cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, says Trump’s case likely won’t go far in court.

“We live in a country which protects more than anything the expression of opinion,” Abrams said Monday on “Dan Abrams Live.” “We start with a very broad commitment to free speech and to speaking out even in extravagant, even over-the-top terms. That doesn’t mean there could never be a libel suit, but it would really have to be beyond anything he’s talking about.”

Libel and defamation cases filed by public officials have a high bar to clear, a standard known as “malicious intent” in which they must prove the statement was made with the knowledge it was false and with the intent to harm one’s reputation.

In a statement, Trump threatened to sue other major media companies “in the coming weeks and months.”

“I think he wants to persuade them, push them, scare them a little bit to lay off, or at least not to come down as hard on him as they do,” Abrams said.

The former president claims in the 29-page lawsuit that CNN had a long track record of criticizing him but had ramped up its attacks in recent months because the network feared that he would run again for president in 2024.

If he does run, Abrams said, it’s unlikely Trump would want to pursue the case following the election.

“What I think is more likely than anything is some sort of motion by CNN to dismiss the case with a pretty high likelihood of success,” Abrams said. “This is inevitably, necessarily in my view, a pre-election effort on his part as to which he will lose all interest as soon as the election is over.”

The lawsuit comes as the 76-year-old former president faces considerable legal woes, including a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for retaining government records at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after leaving office in January 2021.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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