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Donald Trump Is Addicted to Lawsuits

Donald Trump. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Donald Trump. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Former President Donald Trump could find himself in court a lot in the coming weeks and months, as he faces multiple criminal charges as well as civil lawsuits. However, he may also be the plaintiff in another case directed at journalist Bob Woodward.

On Monday, Donald Trump sued Woodward for copyright violations, claiming that the famed investigative reporter – known for breaking the Watergate Scandal five decades ago for The Washington Post – had released audio from their interviews without consent.

Donald Trump is reportedly seeking nearly $50 million in damages.

The suit, filed in the Northern District of Florida, also named Woodward’s publisher Simon & Schuster, and its parent company, Paramount Global, as defendants. It accuses Woodward of the “systematic usurpation, manipulation, and exploitation of audio” that was used in the audiobook The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews with President Donald Trump.

The book, which was published last October, consists of recordings from the interviews that Woodward conducted with Trump during the former president’s final year in office at the White House and his Mar-a-Lago residence. The interviews, conducted with Trump’s full cooperation between December 2019 and August 2020, also formed the basis of Woodward’s 2020 book Rage.

The audiobook includes eight hours of raw interviews with Trump, interspersed with the author’s commentary. It has been published in other forms, including a paperback version and an e-book. In the lawsuit, Trump claimed that he did not give Woodward permission to release the audio from those 20 interviews.

“President Trump told Woodward numerous times that the Interviews were to be used by Woodward – and Woodward only – for the sole purpose of accurately quoting President Trump for the ‘written word,’ i.e., ‘Rage,’ and not for any other purpose, including providing, marketing, or selling the Interviews to the public, press, or the media, in any way, shape, or form,” the lawsuit states.

The suit also alleges that the audio was unlawfully manipulated by selectively omitting portions of Trump’s answers.

“Paramount, SSI, and Woodward deviated from industry standard practices, did not obtain the requisite releases, misappropriated President Trump’s copyright interests, manipulated the recordings to benefit Woodward’s desired narrative while peddling the story that the recordings are ‘raw,’ and deprived President Trump of the opportunity to publish or not to publish his words, read in his voice,” the complaint added.

Woodward and Simon & Schuster responded with a joint statement calling the lawsuit “without merit” while promising to “aggressively defend against it.”

“All these interviews were on the record and recorded with President Trump’s knowledge and agreement,” the statement read, according to a report from NPR. “Moreover, it is in the public interest to have this historical record in Trump’s own words. We are confident that the facts and the law are in our favor.”

Send in the Lawyers

Trump has a lengthy history of lawsuits. Even before he ran for office, it was reported that he had engaged in thousands of legal skirmishes. USA Today reported in June 2016 that an analysis of legal filings found that Trump and his businesses had been involved in at least 3,500 legal actions in federal and state courts during the past three decades.

Trump had also famously boasted on the campaign trail that he “never” settles lawsuits, but according to the analysis, he and his business had, in fact, settled with plaintiffs in at least 100 cases reviewed.

Frivolous Lawsuits

In filing the suit against Woodward, Trump apparently didn’t learn a potentially expensive lesson. In January, U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks of the Southern District of Florida ruled that Trump and his legal team were liable for nearly $1 million in sanctions for a lawsuit Trump brought against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign team, alleging they conspired against him in the 2016 presidential race. Trump had sought $70 million in damages and accused Clinton and 30 other defendants of conspiring to “weave a false narrative” during the highly contested race that claimed Trump and his campaign were colluding with Russia.

“We are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose,” wrote Middlebrook.

“Mr. Trump is prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries,” Middlebrook added.

“He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer,” the judge noted, adding that Trump “knew full well the impact of his actions … As such, I find that sanctions should be imposed upon Mr. Trump and his lead counsel, Ms. Habba.”

His Days in Court

Even if the case against Woodward doesn’t go forward, Trump will certainly have his day in court, and probably many days. It was also in January that a federal judge ruled that writer E. Jean Carroll can proceed with defamation claims against Trump, while a grand jury in Manhattan is hearing evidence this week about whether the former president committed crimes for paying “hush money” to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016.

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Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.