“Brazen Effort to Squelch Speech”: The Trump Family Is All Tangled Up in a Tell-All Legal Battle
By Joe Pompeo, Vanity Fair, June 24, 2020
Jun 27, 2020 - 1:59:04 PM
Donald says niece Mary is “not allowed to write a book,” as his brother Robert goes to court to block publication. “If they really wanna litigate with her,” says Trump biographer Tim O’Brien, “then she’s got grounds for really serious discovery.”
The Trump Family Is All Tangled Up in a TellAll Legal Battle
Earlier this month a source close to Mary L. Trump told me, “She feels very determined. She has a very clear-eyed view of her family and the importance of what she’s witnessed. I think she’s been getting herself ready for this moment for a really long time.”
This moment, of course, is the forthcoming publication of Too Much and Never Enough, an unforgiving memoir about the Trump clan and its influence on President Donald Trump, Mary’s uncle. Or, as the subtitle puts it, How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Mary, according to my source, had fully prepared herself for the likely severing of some remaining family ties, as well as any other repercussions from her highly anticipated tell-all, which hits shelves July 28 from Simon & Schuster.
The fallout began even before the blast. On Tuesday the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reported that Mary’s other uncle, Robert S. Trump, has attempted to halt publication by asking a Queens County court to issue a temporary restraining order. Moreover, according to the Daily Beast, Robert is working with pit bull celebrity attorney Charles Harder, who has represented the president in media-related offensives against CNN, author Michael Wolff, and former White House staffer and Apprentice star Omarosa Manigault Newman, along with repping Melania Trump against the Daily Mail. Although it was Robert who initiated the legal action, one presumes that Donald is dialed in. As the Beast also reported, “discussions with the president himself regarding what to ‘do about the Mary thing’—both legally and from a public relations standpoint—had been ongoing ‘for days.’”
The request for an injunction was made on the grounds that by publishing the book, Mary would be violating a nondisclosure agreement she and her family members signed nearly 20 years ago when settling a messy court battle over the estate of her grandfather Fred Trump Sr. On First Amendment grounds, the bar for convincing a judge to stop a publication is so high that the effort seems fanciful at best. A successful “prior restraint,” as it’s called, would typically apply to speech that is not constitutionally protected—false advertising, fraud, incitement of violence, that sort of thing, according to Jonathan Peters, a First Amendment law professor at the University of Georgia. “Where a court may issue a prior restraint, it’s just always going to be in a case where the underlying speech is unprotected, whereas this is a breach of contract case,” said Peters. “The category of speech least likely to be subject to a prior restraint is political speech. This book would qualify as political speech because it’s about the current president.”
Simon & Schuster’s general counsel and Mary’s personal attorney, the high-profile media lawyer Ted Boutrous, are now working on their responses to Harder’s filing. In addition to using the core First Amendment argument, according to someone familiar with the matter, they also are expected to make a case that Donald and Robert have themselves breached the 2001 settlement agreement, which effectively sought to bar any of the signatories from publicly discussing their relationships with one another, in perpetuity. In an interview with Axios last week, Donald said, “She’s not allowed to write a book. You know, when we settled with her and her brother, who I do have a good relationship with—she’s got a brother, Fred, who I do have a good relationship with, but when we settled, she has a total...signed a nondisclosure.” In a statement to the Times, Robert said, “Her attempt to sensationalize and mischaracterize our family relationship after all of these years for her own financial gain is both a travesty and injustice to the memory of my late brother, Fred, and our beloved parents. I and the rest of my entire family are so proud of my wonderful brother, the president, and feel that Mary’s actions are truly a disgrace.”
Boutrous—who has previously battled the Trump White House on CNN’s behalf—had no comment beyond his own statement: “President Trump and his siblings are seeking to suppress a book that will discuss matters of utmost public importance. They are pursuing this unlawful prior restraint because they do not want the American people to know the truth. The courts will not tolerate this brazen effort to squelch speech in violation of the First Amendment.” A rep for Simon & Schuster told me on Tuesday: “The courts take a dim view of prior restraint, and this attempt to block publication will meet the same fate as those that have gone before.” (The Trump administration previously tried to block S&S from publishing White House memoirs by John Bolton and Manigault Newman.) Harder didn’t return an email.
Even if the Trumps fail, as is expected, to keep Too Much and Never Enough off shelves, that won’t necessarily spell the end of Mary Trump’s legal headaches. The family could still bring a civil action against her after publication. That war would be waged based on differing interpretations of what one can only assume is an absurdly draconian NDA. Even then, Mary could still have the upper hand.
“If they really wanna litigate with her on this, then she’s got grounds for really serious discovery, and that’s the same mistake he made with my lawsuit,” said Tim O’Brien, who famously prevailed in a $5 billion battle over the publication of his 2005 Trump biography. “He chose three pages about his wealth, and that opened him up to discovery on his bank records, tax records, and two days of depositions that remain a very embarrassing public record.”
I asked O’Brien, someone who has both tangled with Donald Trump and reported on him extensively, how damaging he thought Mary Trump’s book could potentially be. “I think generally, very few books are gonna add to what we know about who Trump is, as this profoundly damaged and dangerous man,” he said. “The value added now is in the specifics. So I don’t know that Mary Trump’s book will add to what is already a portrait of a dark and disturbed man, but she certainly could add a lot of specific information about the family’s finances, and possible legal issues arising from that.” One other pearl of wisdom: “All authors should recognize that Trump is an eternal and unflinching saber-rattler who uses litigation to scare people and rarely follows through.”
Source: Ocnus.net 2020