Steve Bannon was once one of President Donald Trump’s greatest allies. But now it appears that Trump wants nothing to do with the former White House chief strategist. On January 3rd, one of Trump’s attorneys sent Bannon a cease-and-desist letter over comments he made in a new book.
The letter, issued by lawyer Charles J. Harder, stated that Bannon had made “disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements” about Trump’s family. The letter ordered Bannon to stop speaking to journalists and other media personnel about the Trump family or their companies. Harder also accused Bannon of libel and slander — making false statements that can harm his reputation. If Bannon does not meet the demands of the letter, he could face legal action.
In excerpts released from Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Bannon is quoted as saying that Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting with a Russian attorney in June 2016 was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Though Trump Jr. has denied that he received any information at this meeting, the lawyer he met with had promised him information about Hillary Clinton that could help the Trump campaign.
Trump issued a statement from the White House disavowing Bannon and stating that when he left the White House “he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Trump Jr. tweeted on January 3rd that Bannon had turned his position as White House strategist into “a nightmare of backstabbing, harassing, leaking, lying & undermining the President.” Earlier the same day, he accused Bannon of spreading lies, saying the founder of Breitbart News, where Bannon is currently executive chairman, would be ashamed.
In order for a libel suit to be successful, Bannon’s statements must be proven false and intentionally malicious. But because opinions can’t be false, it would be difficult to prove that Bannon committed libel. Orly Lobel, a professor at the University of San Diego School of Law told The Washington Post that threatening legal action against Bannon was a “desperate” move on Trump’s part. It remains to be seen whether Bannon really is defaming the Trumps. Regardless, we hope that the truth about Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting is brought to light.