On Monday, the publisher of Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff’s amusing, incisive, and maybe not-so-surprising exposé on the Trump administration, responded to Trump’s attempt to prevent the book’s publication, deeming it “flagrantly unconstitutional.” The legal team for Wolff and Henry Holt and Company, the Macmillan imprint that published Fire and Fury, didn’t mess around when replying to Trump’s lawyer, Charles J. Harder, Esq. The scathing statement (which Henry Holt’s publicist shared with the media) defends Wolff’s reporting and calls the idea that the president of the United States is entitled to privacy “patently ridiculous.”
After picking apart Trump’s actions meticulously and bitingly over roughly two pages, the closing paragraph really brings it all home:
While my clients do not adopt or subscribe to your description of their legal obligations, Henry Holt and Mr. Wolff will comply with any and all document preservation obligations that the law imposes upon them. At the same time, we must remind you that President Trump, in his personal and governmental capacity, must comply with the same legal obligations regarding himself, his family members, their businesses, the Trump campaign, and his administration, and must ensure all appropriate measures to preserve such documents are in place. This would include any and all documents pertaining to any of the matters about which the book reports. 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.
And in a letter to all Macmillan employees, CEO John Sargent explained why the company chose to respond to Trump’s lawyer’s demand that Macmillan cease publication of the book with open defiance by moving up the publication date:
Our response is firm, as it has to be. I am writing you today to explain why this is a matter of great importance. It is about much more than Fire and Fury.
The president is free to call news “fake” and to blast the media. That goes against convention, but it is not unconstitutional. But a demand to cease and desist publication—a clear effort by the President of the United States to intimidate a publisher into halting publication of an important book on the workings of the government—is an attempt to achieve what is called prior restraint. That is something that no American court would order as it is flagrantly unconstitutional.
The president has been feeling especially litigious since the first excerpt of Fire and Fury was published. This has certainly kept Harder busy: He also sent a letter to former aide Steve Bannon demanding he cease making defamatory statements about the family and suggesting the Trumps are entitled to monetary damages.
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