President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE said Wednesday he will take a “strong look” at the nation’s libel laws following the publication of Michael Wolff’s book that paints a chaotic and dysfunctional picture of his presidency.
Speaking from a prepared statement before a Cabinet meeting, Trump blasted the current laws as “a sham and a disgrace.”
“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values and American fairness,” he told reporters. “We're going to take a very, very strong look at that.”
Trump said he wants people who are the subject of false claims to have “meaningful recourse in our courts.”
"You can't say things that are false — knowingly false — and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account," the president said.
The comments are Trump's latest response to the book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which has engulfed his administration in controversy in the first days of the new year.
The president had sought to use an unusually public negotiating session with lawmakers on immigration Tuesday to seize political momentum and rebut the book’s claim that he is ill-equipped to occupy the Oval Office.
Trump also took aim at the libel laws when asked about the book over the weekend at Camp David, saying it “would be very helpful” to have tougher laws to push back against the book.
“The libel laws are very weak in this country,” he told reporters. “If they were strong, it would be very helpful. You wouldn’t have things like that happen where you can say whatever comes to your head.”
No lawsuit has been filed.
The president's personal lawyer reportedly filed a defamation Tuesday against BuzzFeed and the firm behind the explosive dossier that laid out ties between Trump and Russia during the 2016 election.
Trump has floated changes to libel statutes in response to negative media coverage in the past, saying in October that it's "disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write."
He also pledged during his presidential campaign to "open up" libel laws "so when they write purposely negative and horrible, false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”
Though it is hard for public officials to win libel suits, the president is not capable of changing the nation’s laws.
State courts and state legislatures are responsible for codifying protections against libel and defamation.
A 1964 Supreme Court decision, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, set limits on what those libel laws can entail.
The justices unanimously ruled that the First Amendment protects statements about public figures, including false ones, unless officials can prove actual malice.
“We consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials,” Justice William Brennan wrote in his opinion.
-Updated 1:02 p.m.