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Trump campaign sues Washington Post for libel over Russia stories

President Donald Trump speaks publicly for the first time on Feb. 6, 2020 since his acquittal of two impeachment charges. (White House/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign sued The Washington Post on March 3 for defamation, arguing that two opinion columns published last year falsely asserted a connection between the campaign and Russian election interference.

The campaign sued The New York Times (NYT) on similar grounds last week over one opinion piece.

One column mentioned in the new lawsuit cites a June 13 opinion piece that said Trump “tried to conspire with” a “sweeping and systemic” attack by Russia against the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Another opinion piece, which was allegedly false and defamatory, was published on June 20 and asked, “who knows what sort of aid Russian and North Korea will give to the Trump campaign, now that he has invited them to offer their assistance?”

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“The statements were and are 100 percent false and defamatory,” Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to the Trump campaign, said in a statement.

An article about the lawsuit written in the Post says the “campaign may be aiming to highlight its criticism of the mainstream media and to blunt suggestions that it colluded with Russian operatives.”

Kristine Coratti Kelly, vice president of communications at the newspaper, said it was “disappointing to see the president’s campaign committee resorting to these types of tactics and we will vigorously defend this case.”

Trump has repeatedly lashed out at media scrutiny and criticized the Washington-based newspaper and its owner, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos. During a period in the previous campaign, Trump wouldn’t allow reporters from the Post to cover his events.

An investigation by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller chronicled Moscow’s campaign of hacking and social media propaganda to bolster Trump’s 2016 candidacy and damage his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

The probe discovered dozens of contacts between people associated with Trump’s campaign and Russian nationals, as well as 10 instances of potential obstruction by Trump.

Mueller concluded he didn’t have enough evidence to show a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s team and Russia but also didn’t exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice related to the investigation.

Trump’s reelection campaign has retained Charles J. Harder, a lawyer with a reputation for waging combative legal battles against prominent news media outlets, according to the NYT.