In the days after President Trump stripped former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance, several allies of Brennan suggested that he might sue the administration to prevent the action from sticking. While everyone from Trump, to Rudy Giuliani, to conservative commentators, to legal experts have commented on the absurdity of such a lawsuit, at least one attorney thinks there SHOULD be a lawsuit between Trump and Brennan. Except he thinks it should be the other way around.
In an op-ed for USA Today on Tuesday, Mitchell P. Brook, an attorney specializing in First Amendment law, said that President Trump has a libel case against Obama’s former CIA chief and that by filing it, he might encourage the fake news media to begin adhering to the journalistic principles they abandoned when he became the Republican nominee.
“As incredible as it may sound, Trump could sue John Brennan to help bring some civility and integrity back to today’s poisoned political atmosphere,” Brook wrote.
After noting Brennan’s hyperbolic tweet after Trump’s Helsinki summit, which accused the president of acting in a way that was “nothing short of treasonous,” Brook said that the president may very well have a legal case against Brennan.
From the op-ed:
Unfortunately for Brennan, as satisfying as hurling a political dirty bomb might have been, there was no treason by any stretch of the imagination. Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution defines treason, and requires an “overt act” of either (i) waging war against the United States; or (ii) giving “aid and comfort” to an “enemy.” You may disagree with Trump’s approach, but nothing in his press conference was an “overt Act” under the legal definition. Likewise, although Russia often is hostile to U.S. interests, we are not at “war” with it, and it is not an “Enemy” under the legal definition. Even the Soviet Union in the Cold War did not meet the legal definition, which is why the Rosenbergs, who provided nuclear bomb plans to the Soviets, were convicted of espionage, not treason.
Noting that it is always difficult to prove a libel case in court, Brook nonetheless maintained that Brennan’s tweet rose to the level. It was false, defamatory, and written with “actual malice,” thus making it a perfect statement of libel.
“So, can Trump sue Brennan?” Brook asked. “In a word, yes. President Trump can sue Brennan for libel. A court or jury properly instructed could conclude that Brennan accused Trump of treason knowingly, or at least with reckless disregard for the truth. A Trump versus Brennan case with its compelling facts could provide the most interesting vehicle to tether again the political discourse to reason and fact — a bipartisan issue if ever there was one.”
If only to watch left-wing pundits’ heads literally explode, we’d love to see this happen.