The top White House ethics lawyer under President Obama believes former FBI Director James Comey could sue President Trump for libel – and that the case could be solid enough to win.
Though the Monday news cycle was largely dominated by the revelation that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen also represented Fox News’ biggest mouth, Sean Hannity, Trump has not lost sight of the damning testimony that James Comey gave to ABC’s George Stephanopolous ahead of the release of his new book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”
While Hannity stays focused on Michael Cohen, Trump has spent the day belittling James Comey. As a result, Obama’s ethic’s lawyer Norm Eisen sees a libel case on behalf of Comey with dire results for the Tweeter-in-Chief:
This false, malicious accusation of criminal conduct is libel per se by Trump. @Comey could sue—& might win. Despite absolute official immunity, open legal question whether defamation using personal Twitter may be outside its scope. See Nixon v Fitzgerald. https://t.co/5YpNSIfiS3
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) April 16, 2018
“This false, malicious accusation of criminal conduct is libel per se by Trump,” Eisen began. “Comey could sue-& might win. Despite absolute official immunity, open legal question whether defamation using personal Twitter may be outside its scope.”
He then cites Nixon v. Fitzgerald as precedent for his claim. For reference, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision of June 24, 1982 ruled that the President is entitled to absolute immunity from liability for civil damages based on his official acts, but is not immune from criminal charges stemming from his official (or unofficial) acts while in office.
This morning, Trump laid into Comey in a surprisingly short tweet (since Monday mornings are usually the president’s favorite time for lengthy tweet storms):
Comey drafted the Crooked Hillary exoneration long before he talked to her (lied in Congress to Senator G), then based his decisions on her poll numbers. Disgruntled, he, McCabe, and the others, committed many crimes!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2018
“Comey drafted the Crooked Hillary exoneration long before her talked to her,” he insisted, adding an assumption Comey lied to Congress and to “Senator G”. Then, taking a jab he can never seem to resist, he blustered that Comey “then based his decision on her poll numbers,” before calling the former FBI Director and his cohorts “disgruntled criminals.”
Clinton, for her part, blames Comey for her loss in the 2016 election after he released the dreaded “Comey Memo” which promised new insights into her email “scandal.” At the time, Trump praised Comey for writing and releasing said memo. (If any of this seems foreign to you, tune into Hannity on Fox tonight where he will undoubtedly be recounting the Clinton email “scandal” in a desperate attempt to deflect from his own.)
Both Trump and Hannity have seemed particularly on edge since the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s home, hotel, and Trump tower office last week in a siege unrelated to the Mueller probe and in relation to the $130,000 payment Cohen made to Stephanie “Stormy Daniels” Clifford ahead of the 2016 election.
Now, it seems that if someone can’t finally put a clamp down on Trump’s tiny, tweeting fingers, he’s going to tweet himself right into jail… which, at this point, is infinitely preferable to him tweeting us into nuclear war.