President Donald Trump can’t be more thrilled about his victory against Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels) in the defamation suit she brought against him. After she issued an artist’s sketch of a man she claims approached her in a parking lot in 2011 and tried to intimidate her into keeping quiet about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump, he tweeted that she was conning the media into writing about a “nonexistent man.”
She sued for defamation, and this week, a federal judge in California tossed the case based on an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute. Essentially, Judge Judge S. James Otero ruled that President Trump’s rhetoric was well within the bounds of American law and tradition when it comes to political discourse. “The United States Constitution protects statements that cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts about an individual made in debate over public matters in order to provide assurance that public debate will not suffer for lack of imaginative expression or rhetorical hyperbole which has traditionally added much to the discourse in the United States,” Judge Otero wrote, citing standards set by the Supreme Court. Mr. Trump is entitled to seek attorney’s fees from Ms. Clifford — and to gloat about it on Twitter.
We’re not so sure that Mr. Trump’s new sobriquet of “horseface” adds much to the discourse in the United States, any more than his “Pocohontas” taunts of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her ensuing decision to wave around a possibly meaningless, certainly irrelevant, DNA test illuminated the crucial public policy decisions of our time. But we do very much appreciate the principle that Judge Otero articulated and which President Trump so revels in. The same legal framework that gives him a right to call her “a total con job” protects our right to call him any number of unflattering things, all of which are backed up by far more conclusive evidence than his insistence that Ms. Clifford is lying about the man in the parking lot.
We could call him a pathological liar.
The evidence for this abounds, but let’s take for a recent example his claim in his “60 Minutes” interview Sunday that he “didn’t really make fun of” Christine Blasey Ford after her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in which she accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavnaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teens. What else you would call his imitation of her during a rally in Mississippi, we don’t know.
We could call him a tax cheat.
President Trump may claim to have found the New York Times’ recent exhaustive analysis of the many ways in which his father, Fred Trump, transferred millions to him and his siblings to be a “very old, boring” hit piece, but to the rest of us, it was an illuminating lesson in how creative the future president was in finding ways to avoid paying taxes. Shell companies, inflated bills, un-repaid “loans” and convenient assessments, he did it all, in ways that quickly caught the attention of New York city and state tax authorities.
We could call him a serial sexual abuser.
There is, of course, no need to get into the merits of the claims by various women who say he made unwanted advances to them over the years. One need only listen to the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about forcing himself on women and grabbing their genitalia, acts he claimed he could get away with because he was rich and famous.
We could call him a wannabe fascist.
There’s plenty of evidence for his affinity for dictators and strongmen, from his avowed love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to his open admiration of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Noting encapsulates it quite so perfectly, though, as his abiding desire to host a grand, Soviet-style military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
We could call him a profiteer.
Amid the many outrages and notorious presidential firsts that have come since Mr. Trump was elected, let’s not forget one of the first: his refusal to make any meaningful effort to divest from his far-flung business empire. Rather than seeking to assure the American people that he would avoid conflating his public duties with his private interest, he and his family have shown every willingness to use their time in office for personal gain. Case in point, the recent questions about whether his business ties with Saudia Arabia are prompting his gentle and credulous treatment of the kingdom’s leaders over the disappearance and presumed death of journalist Jamal Kashoggi. Mr. Trump insisted on Twitter that he has no business interests in Saudi Arabia, but as the Washington Post has documented, he’s done plenty of business with that country’s ruling elite, including a recent $270,000 tab the Saudi government racked up at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Indeed, one of the great things about this country is the broad right all of us have to free speech, particularly in relation to politics. Thanks for reminding us, President Trump.
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