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Judge tosses Trump campaign’s defamation suit against The New York Times

A Manhattan judge on Tuesday tossed a defamation suit filed by former President Donald Trump’s campaign against The New York Times.

Trump’s campaign filed the lawsuit against the paper in February 2020, charging that a column the Times published March 27, 2019, defamed the president when it said his 2016 campaign was working with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton.

In his ruling, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James E. d’Auguste said the column about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference was not defamatory since it appeared in the opinion section.

“First, while the complaint alleges that the terms used in the article, such as ‘deal’ and ‘quid pro quo,’ are defamatory and false, Mr. Frankel’s commentary in his article is nonactionable opinion,” wrote d’Auguste.

“And the overall context in which the article was published, in the opinion section of the newspaper, signaled to the reader that ‘the broader social context and surrounding circumstances [indicate] that what is being read . . . is likely to be opinion, not fact,’” the judge ruled.

The judge also dismissed the suit because Trump’s campaign — the plaintiff in the case — was not the focus of the column written by former Times executive editor Max Frankel.

Donald Trump's campaign alleged a New York Times column from 2019 defamed the former president.Donald Trump’s campaign alleged in a lawsuit that a New York Times column from 2019 defamed the former president.Julio Cortez/AP

“Here, the focus of Mr. Frankel’s column was the former President’s associates and family members, not the Trump campaign itself,” the judge wrote.

Lastly, d’Auguste wrote that Trump’s campaign failed to prove the Times published the piece with actual malice.

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