As reported on Restore Progress and elsewhere, Donald Trump interrupted his luxury vacation at Mar-a-Lago this past weekend to tweet a series of wholly unsupported accusations at former president Obama. The tweet storm accused Obama’s White House of, among other acts, wire-tapping Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. Needless to say, Trump’s conspiracy theory appears to be utterly false, with even James Comey denying Trump’s claims, according to reports.
Trump’s behavior certainly opens himself up to ridicule. Perhaps more problematically, his behavior might also expose him to liability under a lawsuit for defamation. As reported by NBC News, president Obama may have a viable case against Trump on account of his seemingly defamatory tweets: “Although the law provides a great deal of leeway for political speech, that protection is not all encompassing. And because of the way Trump has leveled unsubstantiated accusations at Obama, he may have libeled his predecessor.”
CNN quoted law professor Benjamin Zipursky as follows: “[Trump is] basically stating that Mr. Obama committed crimes, and to state that somebody has committed a crime when it’s false is clearly defamatory. The question is: Is there enough evidence of serious reckless disregard to send that case to a jury? I don’t know what a court would decide on that, but there is some evidence of recklessness.”
Reckless, indeed. Trump may have unintentionally opened up a very expensive can of worms.