The legal team for author Michael Wolff and the publisher of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” says that a cease and desist letter sent by President Donald Trump’s attorney “appears to be designed to silence legitimate criticism.”
Elizabeth A. McNamara of Davis Wright Tremaine, representing Wolff and Henry Holt & Co., said they would not halt publication of the book, issue any retraction or apologize for the book, which quickly became a best seller when it was released on Friday.
Henry Holt and Wolff’s private attorney, McNamara, wrote a response to a legal threat sent by Trump’s private attorney, Charles Harder.
“Though your letter provides a basic summary of New York libel law, it stops short of identifying a single statement in the book that is factually false or defamatory,” McNamara wrote. She called it the “antithesis of an actionable libel claim.”
Harder sent the letter late on Wednesday, seeking to halt the book’s publication or further excerpts. Instead, Henry Holt moved up the publication date to last Friday, and it quickly started selling out at bookstores in major cities.
McNamara wrote that “as President Trump knows, Mr. Wolff was permitted extraordinary access to the Trump administration and campaign from May 2016 to this past October, and he conducted more than 200 interviews with President Trump, most members of his senior staff and with many people they in turn talked to. These interviews served as the basis for the reporting in Mr. Wolff’s book. We have no reason to doubt — and you letter provides no reason to change the conclusion — that Mr. Wolff’s book is an accurate report on events of vital public importance.”
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Her letter also rejects other claims that Trump’s attorneys made in his latter, including false light invasion of privacy, and of tortuous interference and breach of contract. The latter claim was that Wolff induced Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, to violate a non-disclosure agreement he signed during the campaign.
“The law treats sources like Mr. Bannon as adults, and it is Mr. Bannon’s responsibility — not Henry Holt’s or Mr. Wolff’s — to honor any contractual obligations,” she wrote.
She also responds to Harder’s request that Henry Holt and Wolff preserve any documents related to the book with a similar request. It appeared to be a veiled reference to the fact that a defamation suit would put the onus on Trump to prove that the statements are not true. As a public figure, Trump would have to show that Wolff and the publisher acted with actual malice — they knew the contents of the book were false or had a “reckless disregard” for the truth.
“Should you pursue litigation against Henry Holt or Mr. Wolff, we are quite confident that documents related to the contents of the book in the possession of President Trump, his family members, his businesses, his campaign, and his administration will prove particularly relevant to our defense,” she wrote.
Harder has not yet responded to the decision to move forward with the book’s publication.