Oh, how I hope Trump sues the New York Times.
You sue a news organization for libel and the news organization’s attorneys are entitled to conduct a legal process called “discovery,”
As an editor, I worked with many of the best libel lawyers in the business on processes of discovery. The late, great Ken Murray of the Detroit Free Press specialized in written interrogatories. I’ve seen high-powered lawyers in their aluminum suits and alligator shoes burst into the Free Press newsroom and throw down their legal papers in a barrage of insults and threats. I’ve heard their clients shout to the heavens alleging falsehoods in our reporting,
I’ve seen those same clients cringe, and their lawyers melt, reading Ken’s probing interrogatories, which would have required them under oath to divulge their dirtiest secrets and worst tax scams. Lawsuit withdrawn.
Ken never lost a libel suit that went to trial. Once, the Free Press was found not guilty of libel but the judge did hold that a single statement in the article being litigated did in fact defame the reputation of the litigant. The judge ordered the paper to pay the value of the defendant’s tarnished reputation — $1 — which Ken paid out of his own pocket.
He never coached reporters before they were deposed by opposing counsel in the discovery process. “Just tell them what you told me when we were discussing the story before publication,” he would say. Once, a wealthy businessman sued us after he had been named in one of our stories about profiteering during the Detroit riot. Undeterred by Ken’s interrogatories, the businessman’s lawyers went ahead with discovery, deposing one of our reporters, a doe-eyed, soft-spoken beauty who was as ruthless an interviewer as Sy Hersh. The lawyer waded in while Ken — who was entitled to object if the questioning went out of line — simply smiled and remained silent. Our ice maiden turned the bullying lawyer into a sweat-stained wretch, who broke off the deposition and withdrew the lawsuit.
I suspect the same fate lies in store for Trump’s lawyers if they were to actually follow through on their threat to sue the Times. I’ve worked with Times lawyers vetting sensitive stories before they were published. I know how they operate in discovery. I presume today’s Times lawyers are as skilled as the ones back then. The amount of damaging information they might unearth about Trump is almost beyond comprehension, No doubt Times reporters are salivating at this very moment in anticipation of getting their hands on some of that stuff.
And then there’s the matter of deposing witnesses. Some poor bastard representing Trump will have to go after Jessica Leeds in a legal setting. It’ll be the ice maiden v. the shark all over again.
I know how that one turns out.
Leeds was asked during a CNN interview with Anderson Cooper if she was afraid of Trump and his lawyers, who are boasting that they have “devastating evidence” against Trump’s accusers.
Leeds looked for all the world like the doe-eyed reporter who disemboweled a legal shark in that Detroit case years ago.
“We’ll see,” she said with a disarming smile.