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Trump to take 'strong look' at U.S. libel laws amid book controversy

By Danielle Haynes
Trump to take 'strong look' at U.S. libel laws amid book controversy
President Donald Trump makes opening remarks at a Cabinet meeting at the White House Wednesday. Looking on, from right, is Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 10 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration is going to take a "strong look" at United States libel laws, days after he denounced a "fake book" offering an inside look at the White House.

During his first Cabinet meeting of 2018, Trump called current libel laws "a sham and a disgrace," saying they don't "represent American values or American fairness."

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"We are going to take a strong look at our country's libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts," he said. "If somebody says something that's totally false and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled will have meaningful recourse."

"You can't say things that are false -- knowingly false -- and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account. We're going to take a very, very strong look at that. And I think what the American people want to see is fairness," he added.

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Trump's comments come less than a week after his personal lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to the publisher and author of a book featuring an interview with former chief strategist Steve Bannon and a number of other members of the administration. The book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, is No. 1 on Amazon's lit of best sellers.

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In the book, Bannon condemned a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and adviser Jared Kushner with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in June 2016.

"The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor -- with no lawyers. They didn't have any lawyers," Bannon said.

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"Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad [expletive], and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."

Trump's lawyer, Charles Harder, said excerpts from the book contain "false/baseless statements" about the president and that he can prove "actual malice" in defense of a libel case.

"Actual malice (reckless disregard for the truth) can be proven by the fact that the book admits in the Introduction that it contains untrue statements," the cease-and-desist letter says. "Moreover, the book appears to cite to no sources for many of its most damaging statements about Mr. Trump. Also, many of your so-called 'sources' have stated publicly that they never spoke to Mr. Wolff and/or never made the statements that are being attributed to them."

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Trump addressed the controversy in a tweet on Sunday.

"I've had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author. Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!" he said.

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