If there’s one thing Donald Trump doesn’t like, it’s having his tactics thrown back into his face.
This afternoon, the Trump campaign issued a cease and desist letter to the Club for Growth, over a political attack ad, touting Trump as “just another politician,” rather than the “outside savior” persona he seems to have created for himself in his campaign for President. The ad is fairly convincing, though didn’t seem to land much in the way of a blow when it landed sometime last week. But unfortunately for the Club for Growth, Donald Trump decided to challenge their premise that he was “just another politician,” by abandoning the traditional crisis communications response in favor a puzzlingly litigious one.
CEASE & DESIST DEMAND
September 21, 2015
By Federal Express
The Club for Growth
2001 L Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20036
Re: Your Defamatory Attack Ad
Dear Mr. McIntosh:
I am General Counsel to Donald J. Trump. We recently had the opportunity to view your television commercial entitled “Politician” together with your accompanying statements in the media concerning my client’s views (collectively, your “Attack Ad”) and, quite frankly, are dismayed by the depths special interest groups like yours will go to in an attempt to materially mislead the public for the personal benefit of you and your financial backers.
Simply stated, your Attack Ad is not only completely disingenuous, but replete with outright lies, false, defamatory and destructive statements and downright fabrications which you fully know to be untrue, thereby exposing you and your so-called “club” to liability for damages and other tortious harm. For example, while your Attack Ad blatantly misrepresents to the public that Mr. Trump “supports higher taxes”, nothing could be further from the truth. To be clear, Mr. Trump’s tax plan, which is scheduled to be released later this week, supports a lowering of taxes.
Not surprisingly, a closer look at your Attack Ad reveals that your supposed “source” for this statement is — according to the small print on your website — nothing more than a single article published in the Advocate on February 15, 2000 which quoted Mr. Trump as supposedly saying he would “impose a one-time net worth tax of 14.25% on the superwealthy … to pay off the national debt.” That’s it. While a reputable organization would have at least had the decency to disclose its source — and the fact that the source article is more than 15 years old — your pitiful little group conveniently chose to leave that information out in a deliberate attempt to mislead the public into believing that it is reflective of Mr. Trump’s current position — when, unquestionably, it is not. Making matters worse, you then chose to appear on several talk shows, including, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, in which you furthered the erroneous notion that Mr. Trump “supports higher taxes” even though you have absolutely no factual support for that statement. In other words, you lied. Mr. Trump does not support higher taxes. This is the very definition of libel.
Sadly, the deplorable actions of your organization are not the least bit surprising. As I am sure you recall, it was only a few short months ago that you very openly and shamelessly attempted to extort Mr. Trump to the tune of $1 million in exchange for your political support. Indeed, you were not even the least bit discreet about your motives in that, after meeting with Mr. Trump, you immediately followed up with a June 2, 2015 letter requesting a “contribution of $1 million” in exchange for an endorsement by your organization’s political action committee. “This contribution,” you proclaimed, “would have a dramatically positive impact on the Club’s ability to identify future free-enterprise champions.” When Mr. Trump, however, presumably unlike many of the other candidates, refused to succumb to your extortionist demands, your only response was to oppose his inclusion in the August 6, 2015 Fox News Republican Presidential Debate, launch a series of misleading Attack Ads targeting Mr. Trump and, ultimately, endorse certain other candidates. Though your website states that donations to “Club for Growth … are NOT publicly disclosed”, one can only assume that the candidates you are endorsing paid handsomely for your support. American politics at its worst. If that is not a “shake-down”, I do not know what is.
Rest assured, however, we will not sit idly by and allow special interest groups and political action committees like yours to defame Mr. Trump and cause damage to his reputation and business interests by intentionally disseminating libelous statements you fully know to be untrue and, even worse, continue to purposely mislead the American people for your own financial gain. Toward that end, Mr. Trump has authorized our legal team to take all necessary and appropriate actions to bring an immediate halt to your defamatory Attack Ads. In the interest of avoiding what will certainly be a costly litigation process, we are prepared to offer you the one-time opportunity to rectify this matter by providing us with your prompt written assurances that (i) you have stopped running the Attack Ads; and (ii) you will not generate or disseminate any misleading or inaccurate information or make any factually baseless accusations you know to be untrue with respect to my client at any point in the future. In the event, however, we do not promptly receive these assurances, please be advised that we will commence a multi-million dollar lawsuit against you personally and your organization for your false and defamatory statements and the damage you have intentionally caused to my client’s interests as well as pursue all other remedies available to us at law or in equity.
Please be guided accordingly.
Very truly yours,
cc: Donald Trump
Mark E. Kasowicz, Esq.
This is, to put it nicely, interesting. The theory behind it is that the Club for Growth “libeled” Donald Trump for its own personal benefit. That’s both hard to prove – the ad doesn’t seem to have any marked effect on Trump’s numbers – and probably the point of the ad itself, since Club for Growth uses the ad to both raise funds and tarnish a candidate for which it disagrees.
As for the meatiest claim, that Trump will “raise taxes” – something that his lawyer vehemently denies – it’s interesting that Trump did not issue a similar letter to the New York Times, who reported that exact possiblity, or to Trump himself, when he admitted in the debates that he was considering killing the carried interest tax loophole. I suppose that one could argue closing a tax loophole isn’t really “raising taxes,” per se, but it seems rather open to intrepretation. And then, there’s a 1999 speech which is, technically, on his candidate’s record, where he mentions a one-time tax on the “superwealthy.” It’s 15 years old, yes, but it would make for some intersting dinner table discussion. The rest of the claim tags Club for Growth’s president for going on TV to promote his ad which isn’t actually illegal.
Perhaps the best part of the C&D is the claim of extortion, where the Club for Growth reportedly asked Trump for a $1million contribution to earn their endorsement. The Club, apparently, went on to oppose his inclusion in the Fox News debate, but neither we nor the Washington Post could find anyone who had already earned the Club’s endorsement. So while they may, in Trump’s eyes be shakedown artists, it’s hard to prove they’re any good at it.
Ultimately, the letter is probably a way of scaring Club for Growth into pulling its attack ad, since it threatens a costly legal battle which the Club probably can’t undertake (and hang on to their donors). It’s a threat that could work, but might set a terrible President. Can you imagine if every Presidential candidate sent a C&D every time someone put together a negative attack ad about them for the Internet? Ted Cruz alone would spend his entire existence battling it out in The People’s Court.
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