Donald Trump's 'Very Questionable' Lawsuit Torn Apart by Attorney

Donald Trump recently reminded his supporters that he is suing the Pulitzer Prize Board for rewarding The New York Times and The Washington Post for their coverage of Russian election interference, with the validity of the suit questioned by a legal expert.

Trump filed a suit for defamation in December against the board for jointly awarding the two newspapers the prestigious National Reporting Pulitzer Prize award in 2018 for their coverage of alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 election.

The suit, filed in a court in Okeechobee County, Florida, describes how the "Russian collusion hoax"—allegations that Trump's campaign team worked with Moscow to win the 2016 election—had been "fully and emphatically debunked" numerous times.

"A large swath of Americans had a tremendous misunderstanding of the truth at the time the Times' and the Post's propagation of the Russia Collusion Hoax dominated the media," the complaint states. "Remarkably, they were rewarded for lying to the American public."

trump pulitzer defamation
Above, former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the I-80 Speedway on May 1, 2022, in Greenwood, Nebraska. Trump is suing the Pulitzer board for awarding its prestigious prize to The New York Times and The Washington Post for the papers' coverage of the Russian collusion investigation. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Trump is demanding in the suit that the 2018 Pulitzer prizes be rescinded and took issue with a July 2022 statement from the board in which it defended its decision and confirmed The New York Times' and The Washington Post's prizes will still stand.

The former president said the statement was released with "knowledge or reckless disregard for its falsity" and claimed board members "knew that the Russia Collusion Hoax had been thoroughly discredited numerous times by exhaustive, credible, official investigations, contradicting the 'deeply sourced, relentlessly reported' awarded articles."

In a post on Truth Social on Monday, Trump again mentioned how he is suing the Pulitzer Board for rewarding the newspapers for their Russiagate coverage while citing a recent lengthy and critical report from the Columbia Journalism Review regarding the amount of media coverage the allegations received at the time.

"The Pulitzer Board should have long ago rescinded awards given to the Washington Compost (known to some as the Washington Post) & the Failing NY Times for their fake stories on the Russia, Russia, Russia Hoax," Trump wrote.

"However, Pulitzer refuses to do the right thing! The Hoax has now been further exposed by the devastating, irrefutable piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, and Pulitzer has no comment. I am suing the Pulitzer Board to set the record straight and continue fighting for TRUTH in America!"

Speaking to Newsweek, entertainment and corporate law attorney Tre Lovell noted that there are "several problems" with the suit.

Lovell said that even the merits of the suit are "very questionable" and that Trump may just be filing the suit as part of his efforts to denounce the Russian investigation in any way possible.

"The Pulitzer Prize Board didn't publish these articles, but has simply given an award which amounts to commentary, analysis and opinion as to whether or not the board felt there was good reporting," Lovell told Newsweek. "The premise of holding awards organizations responsible to warrant or guarantee the actions of those to which they grant an award is the start of an extremely slippery slope."

Others issues include that in order to bring a claim of defamation, a statement of fact must be made. In this case, the Pulitzer's decision to give out an award is "difficult to be construed" as a statement and instead falls more in the form of opinion.

Lovell said that even if a statement is inaccurate, it may not necessarily be liable if the underlying facts are provided with the statement.

"For example, a person can say 'Jack is a criminal' and that's a statement of fact. But if they say, 'Jack is a criminal because I read he was arrested for stealing something and police found this evidence,' then even if the person who expressed their opinion in that way is wrong, they have provided all the underlying facts so the public can make their own judgment about it," he said.

"Thus, no liability. In Trump's case, the award is based on articles and news reporting that people can read themselves and come to their own conclusions."

Trump would also need to prove that the board acted in "reckless disregard of its truth" by handing out the 2018 awards for reporting on the Russian collusion allegations.

As the board hired independent reviewers to go through articles and find anything that discredited the reporting, the Pulizters formed "legitimate and reasonable beliefs in the veracity of the statements, further removing themselves from the zone of liability," Lovell said.

In January, Florida District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks sanctioned Trump and his lawyer Alina Habba for filing a series of "frivolous" 2016 election lawsuits alleging Hillary Clinton and the FBI conspired to work together to accuse Trump's campaign team of colluding with Russia in order to hinder his chances of victory.

In his ruling, Middlebrooks cited Trump's Pulitzer defamation lawsuit as one of several examples of the former president's "pattern of misusing the courts to serve political purposes."