Ramping up his war on the “fake news” media, as he calls it, President Trump threatened to file a lawsuit against CNN during a self-congratulatory speech at his $35,000 a plate re-election fundraiser held in his hotel in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.
“Boy, did CNN get killed over the last few days,” Trump told the crowd to applause.
“It’s a shame what they’ve done to the name CNN, that I can tell you,” Trump added in his remarks to the friendly audience. “But as far as I’m concerned, I love it. If anybody’s a lawyer in the house and thinks I have a good lawsuit – I feel we do. Wouldn’t that be fun.”
Trump’s latest threat against a media organization was captured in a covert audio recording made during his fundraiser speech, which was published today by The Intercept.
No press were allowed to attend or cover the event which raised an estimated $10 million.
Trump wasn’t specific about what he would sue over, but there have been several embarrassments recently for the news network.
Four days ago, three CNN journalists resigned after the cable network had to retract a story on its website linking Anthony Scarmucci, a close ally of Trump, to a Russian investment fund that they said was being investigated by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“The resignations are a black eye at a sensitive moment for the news organization,” reported the New York Times, “which has emerged as a regular target of Mr. Trump and his supporters….(who have) accused the channel of harboring a bias against Mr. Trump.”
It is a sensitive time not just because Trump has made the media a target to deflect criticism of the many missteps and failure of his administration, but because CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, is in the process of being acquired by AT&T in an $85 billion merger.
The merger is subject to government scrutiny. Trump said he opposed the merger during last year’s campaign.
Trump also gloated that CNN was also the victim this week of a notorious conservative activist. Alt-right activist James O’Keefe released what an undercover video which appeared to show a CNN producer questioning the network’s coverage of the Russia investigation.
The surreptitiously captured video also appears to show CNN contributor Van Jones calling the story about Trump colluding with Russia a “nothing burger.”
Jones responded in an op-ed on CNN’s website that his words were taken out of context by a “notorious con artist” who edited his brief remarks made off the cuff to someone outside the CNN offices for right wing propaganda.
“The notion that I think Trump is innocent of all wrongdoing in Russiagate is ludicrous,” wrote Jones. “But perhaps the people on team Trump can afford to live in a fantasy world.”
O’Keefe, who has been convicted, fined and put on probation for entering a federal property under false pretenses after he took his hidden camera into the office of Senator Mary Landrieu, got a stamp of approval from the White House this week. Trump’s deputy press secretary urged everyone to view O’Keefe’s video even though she admitted she couldn’t verify it was accurate.
“The White House embracing a hoaxer like O’Keefe,” wrote Jones, “was a low moment for those of us who believe in the dignity of our nation’s highest office.”
Looks like our videos just helped @realDonaldTrump raise over $10,000,000
— Project Veritas (@Project_Veritas) June 30, 2017
“Van Jones – you see this man?” Trump said during his fundraiser speech. “These are really dishonest people. Should I sue them? I mean, they’re phonies. Jeff Zucker, I hear he’s going to resign at some point pretty soon. I mean these are horrible human beings.”
Zucker, now the president of CNN, was an NBC executive who helped put Trump on The Apprentice in 2004, which gave him a new level of fame that helped eventually propel him into the presidency.
Zucker and CNN have denied that Zucker is leaving his job anytime soon.
“They’ve made it fairly clear they view this as a war,” a CNN source told The Hill. “We view it as determination to seek truth and hold the powerful accountable regardless of how difficult they try to make it.”
There is no information on whether any attorney came forward after the president’s speech at the fundraiser, but it is unlikely there will be a lawsuit. Trump has threatened to sue many times before and has rarely actually done it.
What Trump accomplished was to rally his base once again on the idea that he is the victim of a hostile press so that when they point out his many failings, lies, and exaggerations, their reports will be discredited.
It is an old trick long used by authoritarians and dictators to counter the power of a free press to act as a counter to dishonest politicians who want to destroy the democratic system so they can take more power.
This is a president who preaches against “fake news,” but then promotes well-known news-fakers like O’Keefe when it fits their twisted worldview. This war is far from over./washingtonjournal.com/BY