More Libel Law Bluster

Trump rages again about laws he can’t change.

 By The Editorial Board
 

Donald Trump keeps baiting the press, and the press keeps biting. In remarks before a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Mr. Trump returned, in a familiar if tedious non sequitur, to American libel law.

“On a separate front, we are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts,” Mr. Trump said. He can look all he wants, but he can’t do anything about it. Cue cable news fainting anyway.

More Libel Law Bluster
PHOTO: ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

Our contributor Floyd Abrams takes us to task nearby for being too nonchalant about Mr. Trump’s libel rants, and we respect Mr. Abrams as much as anyone on First Amendment law.

But on Mr. Trump’s comments, we associate ourselves, to our astonishment, with Brian Hauss, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who issued the following statement Wednesday: “President Trump’s threat to revise our country’s libel laws is, frankly, not credible. There is no federal libel law, and the president does not have the authority to change state libel laws. Furthermore, the First Amendment provides strong protections against libel liability, particularly with respect to statements about public figures or matters of public concern. Whatever President Trump might think, he has no power to override these constitutional protections.”

 

Exactly right. Worry about genuine threats, not more feckless bluster.

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