Poor Donald Trump. He thought that all of his misdeeds and corruption would remain secret in perpetuity. Unfortunately for him, his methods of deception have been just as incompetent and ineffective as everything else he does. Consequently, each new day brings another revelation of some legal or ethical breach that he hoped would stay buried.
The latest bit of bad news for Trump comes in the form of a speculative report that aired on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. On Tuesday night the program revealed allegations from a confidential source who said that some of Trump’s loans from the shady Deutsche Bank were co-signed by Russian oligarchs connected to Vladimir Putin. This could be a bombshell story that would explain much of Trump’s affinity for – and coddling of – Russia generally, and Putin in particular.
The public disclosure of this sort of financial arrangement would be devastating for Trump. Consequently, he is punching back with all his impotent might. Trump had his personal attorney, Charles Harder, dash off a letter with a stern warning to O’Donnell and the network that should make them think twice:
“We write concerning the false and defamatory statements published by Lawrence O’Donnell and NBC Universal […] The Program and Tweet make the false and defamatory statements that ‘Russian oligarchs’ cosigned loans provided to Mr. Trump by Deutsche Bank, and described these ‘co-signers’ as ‘Russian billionaires close to Vladimir Putin.'” These statements are false and defamatory, and extremely damaging.”
Demand is hereby made that Mr. O’Donnell and NBCU immediately and prominently retract, correct and apologize for the aforementioned false and defamatory statements. [and that] Failure to do so will leave my clients with no alternative but to consider their legal options which could include immediate legal proceedings against Mr. O’Donnell and NBCU.”
This is an entirely bogus threat that is highly unlikely to ever be carried out. The allegations that O’Donnell reported were presented as speculative from the outset. He presented it that way in a teaser at the beginning of the show where he said that “I want to stress that it is a single source that has not been confirmed by NBC News [and that] it’s going to require a lot more verification before that can be a confirmable fact.” He repeated these disclaimers in the segment that aired later. He could not have been more clear, repeatedly prefacing his remarks by saying “If true…” Therefore, he never presented it as fact, only the assertions of his source, as is evident in the video of the segment (The video would not load in dKos, but you can see it here).
Trump is well known to engage in legal bullying, wherein he threatens people with lawsuits, but usually chickens out before filing any. In fact, he’s done that before with O’Donnell. In 2011 he threatened to sue O’Donnell for saying that Trump was not really a billionaire. That lawsuit never materialized. And neither will this one. O’Donnell has already taken the high road by tweeting that he “made an error in judgment” by reporting the unconfirmed story.
Last night I made an error in judgment by reporting an item about the president’s finances that didn’t go through our rigorous verification and standards process. I shouldn’t have reported it and I was wrong to discuss it on the air. I will address the issue on my show tonight.
— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence) August 28, 2019
It’s hard to know if his walking this back was due to his own journalistic standards or pressure from the network which might have been spooked by the threat of litigation. But there are good reasons why they need not worry. This lawsuit, if pursued, could have some unintended consequences for Trump and company. First, it would disseminate to a much larger audience the allegation that he needed Russian oligarchs to co-sign his loans. That would confirm already known facts regarding Trump’s dire financial status and inability to secure loans on his own from reputable institutions. The lawsuit would also result in a discovery process which would require Trump to provide otherwise confidential documents to the legal representatives of O’Donnell and MSNBC. That requirement by itself will likely scare Trump out of ever actually filing any lawsuit.
So no one should be getting out the popcorn to watch this goofy episode of Trump’s reality show. It is almost certainly going to be preempted by some other Trump nonsense like buying Greenland or nuking hurricanes. This will just end up being another infantile tantrum thrown by our Crybaby-in-Chief that will amount to nothing but blather and the pathetic hissing of a wounded weasel.