Trump that bill

Donald Trump has big plans for his prospective presidency. He said on Friday he plans to change libel laws in the United States so that he can have an easier time suing news organizations (video below). Politico’s Hadas Gold reports:

During a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, Trump began his usual tirade against newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, saying they’re “losing money” and are “dishonest.” The Republican presidential candidate then took a different turn, suggesting that when he’s president they’ll “have problems.”

“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” Trump said.

I don’t think Trump will ever be in a position to implement his proposed reform of libel law. The limited scope of the libel protection afforded public figures was a creation of the Supreme Court under New York Times v. Sullivan (1964). The Supreme Court rested its decision on the First Amendment. “Opening up our libel laws” would require the Supreme Court to rescind its old “bill” and sign a new “bill.” It’s not gonna happen, but it’s good to know where Trump’s heart is.

In the alternative, the New York Times case could be overruled by constitutional amendment. In the unlikely event Trump were to be elected president, he could urge Democrats in Congress to propose a constitutional amendment overruling the New York Times case along with Citizens United. It would be a huge deal and they might well go for it. This may come as a shock to him though: the president doesn’t have a constitutional role in the amendment process under Article V.

The problem with such a deal is that the Dems don’t need Trump. The Dems are confident the next Democratic appointee to the Court will join the others in constitutionalizing the prohibition of undesired political speech and Trump is making the prospect of a new Democratic appointee to the Court more likely every day, every time he opens his mouth.

Quotable quote: “You see, with me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people but I’m not taking money. I’m not taking their money. So we’re going to open up libel laws, and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”