When you’re a politician, your career is made or broken on your reputation. Donald Trump has been sued for defamation several times, with varying rates of success. Now his son, Donald Trump, Jr., is also being sued for defamation over allegations he made concerning another Republican candidate.
Don Blankenship was a Republican candidate for Senate in West Virginia in 2018, trying to unseat the incumbent, Joe Manchin III, who’s a Democrat. Trump and his allies opposed Blankenship in the primary, and their smear campaign included allegations that he’s a felon.
The allegations refer to an explosion at a mine run by Blankenship, and while felony charges were brought against him, he was only convicted of a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 1 year in prison, which is the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor and could have caused some of the confusion leading to him being called a felon.
Blankenship also sued multiple media outlets for publishing the same misinformation, but those media outlets corrected their mistake as soon as it was brought to their attention. Trump Jr., on the other hand, doubled down and continued insisting Blankenship is a felon. The tweet he posted on May 3rd, 2018, calling Blankenship a felon was not deleted until late June of the same year, after Blankenship had already lost the primary, and long after Trump, Jr. had allegedly been made aware of the correction.
Attorneys for Blankenship have presented evidence that they claim supports that Trump Jr. knew Blankenship was not a felon at the time he made his defamatory comments, including the fact that Trump Jr. quoted a tweet containing a story from CNN that revealed that Blankenship had been convicted of a misdemeanor, not a felony.
Although Trump Jr.’s attorneys tried to get the case dismissed, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver Jr. refused their motion, citing the evidence provided by Blankenship’s team that Trump Jr. most likely knew his claims were false when he made them, which means Blankenship has a solid case for defamation against Trump Jr.
In order for a public figure to sue for defamation, they need to be able to prove, not only that the statement was false, but that the alleged defamer knew the statement was false at the time they made it, and that they made the statement with the intention of inflicting some sort of financial harm on the plaintiff. There’s no doubt that Trump Jr. made statement in an attempt to hurt Blankenship’s campaign and help his chosen candidate win (after all that is what political endorsements are all about), but whether he knew the statement was false at the time he made it will most likely be at the heart of the debate in court.
At Lubin Austermuehle, we help clients navigate the complex laws and emotionally charged pathways to a court victory or settlement in slander and libel cases, as well as a vast range of other disputes from class-action suits to breach of contract. We serve clients throughout Chicagoland from Waukegan, to Skokie and beyond. and the Chicagoland area. You can contact us online here or call us on our locally at 630-333-0333. Take advantage of our FREE consultation, where we can discuss your specific needs and wishes and our ability to meet them.