WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s private attorney has sent a cease and desist letter to author Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt & Co. to try to halt the publication of a new book about the first year of his administration, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
“Your publication of the false/baseless statements about Mr. Trump gives rise to, among other claims, defamation by libel, defamation by libel per se, false light invasion of privacy, tortious interference and contractual relations, and inducement of breach of contract,” read the letter, which was obtained by Variety.
The letter, from attorney Charles Harder, asks that Wolff and Holt “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release, or dissemination.”
Much of the early attention on the book has focused on quotes from Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, and the president’s response rebuking him. But in excerpts published by New York magazine and The Hollywood Reporter, as well as copies obtained by journalists, Trump is portrayed as woefully unprepared for the presidency, disparaged by the most loyal of supporters as unable to grasp even basic details of important policies.
Harder also sent a cease and desist letter to Bannon on Wednesday, including claims that Bannon violated non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements in his conversations with Wolff.
In the book, Bannon suggested that Donald Trump Jr.’s election-year meeting with a Russian lawyer who had connections to the Putin regime was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon was a primary source for Wolff’s book, set to be published this month by Henry Holt & Co.
A spokesperson for Henry Holt did not immediately return a request for comment. On Twitter, Wolff wrote, “Snow and fury,” as a major winter storm headed up the East Coast.
According to the excerpt published in New York magazine, Wolff conducted more than 200 interviews for the book, and had access to the West Wing in the early days of the administration. Axios reported on Thursday that Wolff has hours of recordings of his conversations with White House officials.
Trump has threatened to sue publications many times before, but he does not always follow through. That was the case in the fall of 2016, when the New York Times published allegations from a number of women alleging inappropriate sexual contact. Although his attorneys sent a cease and desist letter, no lawsuit was ever filed.
The risk for Trump in filing a lawsuit is that it would set for trial many of the claims in the book, raising the prospect of extensive depositions and testimony even from the president himself.
Complicating matters for the White House is that other reporters say they saw Wolff at the West Wing last year, as he was working on the book, with a pass that allowed him a greater degree of access to Trump administration officials. That could suggest that he was given some kind of permission to meet with senior staff.
In a defamation case, Trump, as a public figure, would have to prove that Wolff and Henry Holt had actual malice — in that they either knew the information in the book was false, or that they “reckless disregard” for whether it was true.
But Trump’s attorneys, in their letter, say that they can prove that, pointing out that the book “appears to cite to no sources for many of its most damaging statements about Mr. Trump. Also, many of your so-called ‘sources’ have stated publicly that they never spoke to Mr. Wolff and/or never made the statements that are being attributed to them.
“Other alleged ‘sources’ of statements about Mr. Trump are believed to have no personal knowledge of the facts upon which they are making statements or are known to be unreliable and/or strongly biased against Mr. Trump, or there are other obvious reasons to question their reliability, accuracy or claims to have knowledge of alleged facts upon which they are purporting to make statements.”
The letter also contends that Wolff induced Bannon to breach confidentiality agreements he signed with Trump’s campaign.
Harder gives Henry Holt and Wolff until Friday to respond.
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