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article imageOp-Ed: Trump to sue Bannon for defamation? Maybe not.

By Paul Wallis     Jan 4, 2018 in Politics
Washington - The furore around the new book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff has turned to possible legal action by Trump against Bannon. Bannon, meanwhile, is saying that Trump is a great man again, after Trump’s remarks about him.
Fire and Fury is a tale of the first 12 months of the Trump administration and Trump himself. The author, Michael Wolff, is a highly experienced journalist for USA Today and other high profile publications. Wolff wrote a book about Rupert Murdoch called The Man Who Owns the News, an interesting, and actually pretty balanced, book.
The problem with that is that Wolff is also a very good investigative journalist. He knows how to source information, and how to evaluate it. For all the many quotes about off-the-cuff remarks by various individuals, Wolff’s journalistic style isn’t about conversations. It’s about substance, illustrated to a point by conversations.
Any competent journalist, in an environment which seems like a bit torrent of bile, is likely to find a lot of information. In this case, it may have been even when not specifically trying to find that information. The quotes are likely to be signposts. I’ve read The Man Who Owns The News, and the quotes in that book are both entertaining and a sort of GPS for hard facts.
Wolff doesn’t read like a guy who values bitchy gossip too highly. I’d say there’s a very high degree of verbatim accuracy involved, both for professional and legal reasons.
So if Trump is said to be considering taking legal action against Bannon for his statements as quoted in the book, a few raw nerves have been exposed. Even Bannon’s very blunt style and over-hype habits can’t mask the fact that some facts must be in the mix.
The relationship, whatever it is, between Trump and Bannon is variously described as a civil war in the conservative side, or a simple clash of egos. If it gets to the point of legal action, the egos are likely to be very much in the mix. Hostility to Bannon is nothing new among liberals, but it’s now coming from the conservative side, too.
Bannon’s card to play is Breitbart, but it’s a one-trick wonder. The Breitbart style of invective and innuendo won’t work on insiders. Since his dismissal, Bannon’s clout has been reduced considerably in the hard world of who owns what on the conservative side. He’s not really in a position to benefit much even from winning a defamation case.
Nor is America likely to benefit from a display of laundry from the depths of the administration. Witnesses under oath have a choice between the Fifth Amendment and giving truthful evidence. Any truthful evidence is likely to set off a cascade of more information, whether the administration wants that information to come out or not.
This could get very ugly, in terms of America’s already battered reputation. For the first time in its history since the Revolutionary War, America’s credibility is in short-selling territory. Having relentlessly antagonized all America’s traditional allies, and with several serious failures, (North Korean missiles, South China Sea islands, etc.) this administration has a real knack for devaluing and diminishing America’s status. There is no dignity, just hate, and it’s hard to ignore.
Legal action can’t really do much but make things worse. God alone knows what else may spill from the bowels of the ultra-leaky inner tiers of government. Careful what you wish for, even if you’re anti-Trump and anti-Bannon. These guys have a tendency to turn any boo-boo in to a plague of festering sores on the body of America.
Fire and Fury comes out tomorrow. The headlines will be deafening.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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