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Trump Campaign Sued for Defamation by Republican Strategist

Trump Campaign Sued for Defamation by Republican Strategist

Complaint seeks $4 million in damages plus punitive damages and costs.

On Monday, Republican consultant Cheri Jacobus filed a defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump, his presidential campaign, and his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

Jacobus is a veteran political operative with decades of experience in the political consulting world, including a stint as a media spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. She has been a repeated guest on cable news shows; the complaint states she has had “over one thousand appearances on Fox News/FOX Business News, and hundreds of appearances on CNN and MSNBC,” among other television appearances and published articles.

The dispute started after Jacobus criticized the Trump campaign in January and February.

The campaign responded by claiming she was a disgruntled job-seeker who had “begged” for a job. As reported by Politico:

The complaint stems from comments Lewandowski and Trump made in late January and early February following Jacobus’ January 26 assertion on CNN that Trump, in interviews and debates, “comes off like a third grader faking his way through an oral report on current affairs.”

The next day, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Lewandowski said that Jacobus “came to the office on multiple occasion trying to get a job from the Trump campaign, and she wasn’t hired clearly she went off and was upset by that.”

Following a February 2 CNN appearance in which Jacobus criticized Trump’s claim that he does not get enough credit for self-funding his campaign, the businessman tweeted “@cherijacobus begged us for a job. We said no and she went hostile. A real dummy!”

According to Jacobus’ complaint, her attorney sent a cease and desist letter to Trump on February 3, 2016.

Politico reported on that letter on February 4th, including contacting Lewandowski and another Trump spokesperson, negating any plausible deniability that the campaign was not aware of the letter. On February 5th, Trump tweeted another attack on Jacobus:

The complaint and the February 4th Politico article list multiple public comments by Jacobus that include both criticisms and defenses of Trump. She called him a “bad debater” on CNN in January but also defended him last summer against accusations of racism. By including examples like this, Jacobus’ attorneys are presumably trying to show that she was not unduly hostile to Trump, but simply providing commentary. As the complaint says:

The brief and ill-fated recruitment of Jacobus by the Trump campaign had no influence whatsoever; she maintained no grudge toward Trump and harbored no hostility toward him. Rather, during this period Jacobus was professional and even-handed in her commentary on Trump, “calling it as she saw it,” defending his policies and statements in some instances, and criticizing them in others, as she did with other Republican canddiates.

The lawsuit states causes of action against Trump and Lewandowski individually, and against the Trump campaign, for libel per se for the “false and defamatory statements,” and seeks damages in the amount of $4 million, plus punitive damages and court costs.

Definition of defamation

Defamation is the communication of a false statement of fact that harms someone’s reputation. Some jurisdictions will define defamation in a written form as “libel” and spoken defamation as “slander,” but the legal issues presented are virtually the same. Jacobus will need to prove that the defamatory statements were made, that the statements were false, that they damaged her, and that there isn’t any applicable defense.

Proving the statements were made is an easy task here because they were publicly posted on Twitter or said on television news programs. In fact, the public nature of the comments and the large audience they received helps support Jacobus’ case; it’s easier to prove that a defamatory statement that was widely disseminated caused damage than one that received little attention.

Regarding the truth of the statements, Jacobus’ complaint quotes emails with Lewandowski and Facebook chats with another Trump adviser, Jim Dornan, that support her side of the story.

As far as damages go, she claims that the defamatory attacks had a “devastating impact on Jacobus’ media appearances,” including cancelled bookings, and “requests for new bookings all but dried up.” The complaint also describes an “avalanche of vicious ridicule and scorn” directed at Jacobus by Trump supporters online, including insults, sexual threats, and disturbing pornographic and false photoshopped images of her.

Statement to Legal Insurrection from Jacobus’ attorneys

Defamation lawsuits can be difficult to win, often due to issues of proof, the ability of defendants to characterize allegedly defamatory attacks as opinion or petty insults, challenges showing actual damages, and the broad protections for free speech protected by the First Amendment.

In this case, however, Jacobus’ attorneys are confident, citing the “indisputable” and “well known and documented” facts in the case. In a statement emailed to Legal Insurrection, attorney Jay R. Butterman wrote:

The facts of this matter are detailed in the complaint filed today with the New York Supreme Court. These same facts have been the subject of extensive scrutiny by the press, and are well known and documented. While libel suits are generally difficult to prove, in this matter it is indisputable that the statements of Trump and his agents which are the subject of this lawsuit are defamatory. Donald Trump far exceeded the legitimate bounds of free expression in his false attacks on Ms. Jacobus. He should be held accountable for his actions. We have no doubt that the defendants will hurl a host of technical objections at this filing, but we are confident that the complaint has already addressed the technical hurdles often confronting the victims of defamation.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.


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Interesting the plaintiff attorneys have to contact blogs (Like yours) to garner publicity for their case. It’s almost like they want to try the case in the court of public opinion and not in an actual courtroom. How does that old saw about facts, law, and bullshit go again?

A more pertinent question would be: what effort did you (Sarah Rumpf and others at Legal Insurrection) put into contacting the other side so you could provide an unbiased posting as possible. Was any effort put into contacting the other side?

    Sarah Rumpf in reply to tphillip. | April 18, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    To clarify, Ms. Jacobus and I follow each other on Twitter. I heard about the lawsuit from a mutual friend and I sent her a direct message asking about the lawsuit. She said her attorneys had a statement and I gave her my email address. That’s where that statement originated.

    Regarding contacting the Trump campaign, I’ve written multiple stories about him and have been publicly very critical of him. They have never replied to my requests for comment (except for one very early article I did last year for IJ Review about how the GOP presidential candidates like their coffee). I can send emails all day long but it’s a waste of time.

    Ragspierre in reply to tphillip. | April 18, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Never fear, the T-rumpMedia are on the case (heh…!)

    Note the time-stamp.

    I looked in vain for your comment on Dim Jim’s cartoon blog making the same or similar criticism…

    Were you saying something about “bias”…???

      Zachary in reply to Ragspierre. | April 18, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      Dude, that comment section……

      Talk about an echo chamber.

      It’s a scary phenomenon this hero worship.

      Sarah Rumpf in reply to Ragspierre. | April 18, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      Funny how Jim Hoft manages to omit all the evidence that it was the Trump campaign that tried to hire Jacobus and she turned them down, not the other way around.

      Of course, this is the same guy who said I should be “frog-marched” and forced to apologize to Lewandowski. Spoiler alert: that is never happening.

        Ragspierre in reply to Sarah Rumpf. | April 18, 2016 at 9:51 pm

        What’s really creepy and a tell for serious pathology in Der Donald is that these stories sliming everyone…and I mean people as well as conservative outfits like The Club For Growth…that dare to utter criticism of Donelle T-rump all have the same exact elements.

        1. they came begging

        2. I turned them down

        3. now they are critical

        4. they are bad, evil, corrupt, stupid, dummies, etc.

      Estragon in reply to Ragspierre. | April 19, 2016 at 12:26 am

      In the early days of conservative blogging, Hoft was a daily read. But his severe, life-threatening infection caught during routine knee surgery changed him. His battle for life was long & hard, cost him partial vision, but it changed his brain, too. He’s not the old Jim Hoft by a long shot.

      Take Dana Loesch, an old St Lou pal & Tea Party ally who raised money for his treatment and often visited him in the hospital during his illness. No other prominent conservative did more to help him than Dana & husband Chris. Yet he turned on them like a snake over Trump.

      The man’s lost it. Sad, but true.

      Sneaky Pete in reply to Ragspierre. | April 19, 2016 at 8:33 am

      I detect the preparation of a First Amended Complaint.

    Zachary in reply to tphillip. | April 18, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Yeah, man, it’s all a conspiracy to smear poor innocent lil Trump. Best nobody report it or they are guilty of bias. Obvious collusion with their legal team.

    It’s called journalism, ugly at times, yet necessary.

“…a veteran political operative….” Oh please, she’s a beltway groupie, a career professional talk show panelist. The lawsuit’s a great move. She knows full well that the 24/7, all day news and commentary channels have become the equivalent of the “brick wall” comedy circuit – no new material, no bookings. Her mouth got her in trouble, she needs fresh material, this’ll do it.

First Fields and now Jacobus. I thought women had tough skin. Perhaps I was wrong. These two bitches should give Lara Logan a call to find out what its really like to be groped and abused.


Don’t judge all women by journalist tinker belles like Fields & Jacobus, FoxMuldar.

NC Mountain Girl | April 18, 2016 at 10:18 pm

Trump needs a serious dose of his own medicine by not one but dozens of those he has slandered of late.

For years now Trump has been the poster boy for why this nation needs loser pays tort reform. Trump regularly files or threatens to file defamation claims a student one month into first semester Tort Law knows are laughable because he is a public figure. He can do this because Trump almost certainly is able to bury the fees for these frivolous personal law suits in the legitimate legal fees of his business interests. The target of the narcissistic rage of the gilded comb over toad are left scrambling to pay their own lawyers thousands of dollars for the defense of a claim eventually dismissed for the failure to to state a cause of action.

If you don’t think Trump’s legal fees for his vindictive suits get buried that way you may be hopelessly naive. For years I provided thousands of dollars of personal tax advice to business owners who might get charged a nominal $100 dollars for my efforts. My time would then be transferred to the bill for their corporate legal advice. The IRS never raised the issue on audit. I never liked it the practive, but it had to be done to keep the client’s business.

Oh dearie dear. I don’t see much with traction here. The only concrete item is—did she or did she not try to land a political consulting gig with the Trump campaign, and did said campaign later spread falsehoods about the incident.

If she didn’t … well, why not? Color me skeptical. Freelancing tends to be a full-time sales job. If she didn’t take a shot at the hottest thing in Republican politics, she should have.

And if Trump tried to hire her but she blew him off … color me skeptical there, too. The Trump campaign, for good or ill, has been doing things the Trump way, and nobody else’s.

In any event … great publicity, certainly. Though there could be the risk of one of those “you’ll never work in this town again” moments.

Color me officially and loudly uninterested in this lawsuit.

This is a he-said, she-said case, without the rape. People lose their perspective in elections, and they say all kinds of idiotic things. I assume there was some conversation, and the deal fell through. Each side is likely to have a different take on it.

Like the last attempt at suing Lewandoski, I suspect that both sides are lying, and both would be better off if they took a big dose of STFU for a few days.

    Arminius in reply to Valerie. | April 19, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    This isn’t a “he said, she said” situation like two college coeds going back and forth at a campus kangaroo court about who consented to what sex acts when they were alone in a dorm room. There is a trail of electronic correspondence between Jacobus, Lewandowski, and Dornan. Per the court filing that correspondence is exhibit A to the complaint. Exhibit A isn’t available online but it’s excerpted in the Statement of Facts.

    There will be other evidence, such as credit card statements proving who bought whom lunch while they were discussing a possible job with Trump’s campaign.

    As Jacobus’ attorney, Jay R. Butterman, notes these cases are extraordinarily hard to win. In fact it’s hard for these cases to even survive the motions to dismiss given how many grounds there are for dismissal. That’s what all the lawyers I know say. In fact, I don’t know any lawyer who would take this case based purely on what has been reported in the press. Not on a contingency basis, not even if Jacobus would pay their hourly fees up front. These kinds of cases are notorious losers and they say it wouldn’t be worth their time and reputation to take one on.

    But, there’s always a but. There would have to be substantial amounts of convincing, compelling evidence supporting Jacobus’ version of events.

    Butterman says he has that evidence. He claims he has enough evidence to not only survive Trump’s challenges but to prevail. So we shall see.

    But we can be sure this isn’t just a “he said, she said” because if it were he wouldn’t have taken the case.

Pull out all the stops, it’s desperation time! Any more disgruntled special snowflakes around? Are the fainting couches ready for the hysterical women?

Better hurry, Trump’s about to wrap up this nomination!

Watch: This Controversial Trump Plan Has Mark Levin Calling Donald’s Critics ‘Dead Wrong’ (Video)

Trump’s actions seem to be done with malice. His usual response is to degrade others. This time the documentation is there. She can show they asked her to consider the position, she turned them down, they got pissed off and lashed out.

    gmac124 in reply to Milwaukee. | April 18, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    Getting pissed and lashing out seems to be a common reaction by Trump and his team. That was the biggest factor in the Fields story as well. When you react and attack all of the time you will eventually get return fire that hits the mark. This might be one of the times.

God.. enough of the whining, crying and finger pointing, from everyone. This is politics and if you can’t hack it, run along and find a safe space to hide.

She is a public figure. Therefore, she will have to prove actual malice.

Since she criticized Trump first, and he responded with(loosely worded) statements that contain at least some germ of truth (she definitely discussed working with the campaign, and he definitely did not wind up hiring her), she cannot show actual malice and she will lose the lawsuit.

Therefore, this lawsuit is not actually about the lawsuit. It’s about trying to (1) get publicity for herself, which it will surely succeed in doing in spades; and (2) attempting to change the narrative coming off of the totally Trump-victorious end to the Michelle Fields narrative.

    gmac124 in reply to Wisewerds. | April 18, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    I believe your correct on proving malice. The entire suit hinges on if she can prove Trump offered her a job and she turned him down. Bonus points if she can prove they approached her for the position. Minus that the suit gets tossed.

    Saw her on the CNN broadcast mentioned in the complaint when she called Trump a third grader who was ducking the debate because he was hiding his lack of knowledge. It was said with a good degree of rage, which is why I still recall it.

    Milwaukee in reply to Wisewerds. | April 19, 2016 at 11:16 am

    …(she definitely discussed working with the campaign, and he definitely did not wind up hiring her)…

    But why didn’t he hire her? If she wasn’t hired because, at some point in the process, somebody told her something like ‘we thought you might be as good as your reputation, but having talked to you we think you’re not quite what we had hoped for.’ Or did she say ‘I thought this was a more impressive situation, and you would pay better. No thank you, I would prefer not to work for Mr. Trump.’ Huge difference in why she isn’t working for the campaign. Presumably, the latter is true, and she can prove it. Now Mr. Trump is offended because somebody he offered a job to has 1) turned him down, and 2) dared to criticize him out loud.

    I recall the Professor had a post about the emotional maturity demonstrated by Donald Trump after losing Wisconsin. This lashing out is in the same vein. Senator Cruz has suggested that with The Donald as President, we’ll all be wondering if one day we will wake up to find that he has nuked Denmark in a fit of rage. Same thing.

    Sneaky Pete in reply to Wisewerds. | April 19, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    GPS is required to follow this logic.

    There is no “germ of truth” in “she begged us for a job and we said no” when the fact is they attempted to recruit her and she said no. You just can’t get there from here. In fact, it is PROOF of malice, since their statement is the obverse of the truth.

It may be impossible to unite the party at this point. Trump, upon realizing his incompetence in managing the delegate process will likely cost him much support after the first ballot, is now whining “rigged contest.”

If nothing else, perhaps we can cleanse the GOP of Trump and the filthy trash who follow him. Then we can rebuild.

    Barry in reply to Estragon. | April 19, 2016 at 1:04 am

    “If nothing else, perhaps we can cleanse the GOP of Trump and the filthy trash who follow him.”

    You’ll have no one left to try and buy. Dead party.

    Figure out who you are supporting for the nomination yet?

    UK Transplant in reply to Estragon. | April 19, 2016 at 11:22 am

    The “filthy trash who folliw him”? These type of comments make me an even stronger Trump supporter because that kind of opinion of other people who you don’t know anything about is vile. Are you a Christian Cruz supporter?

“Republican Strategist”

Just part of the strategy. Her and Fields, a pair of female losers getting paid to stop trump. It will not work. We see through the tactics of the left as we have lot’s of experience.

    spartan in reply to Barry. | April 19, 2016 at 1:30 am

    These folks must also be leftists ……

    This must be when he was on the “I adore women” mood ……

      Barry in reply to spartan. | April 19, 2016 at 2:04 am

      You believe the allegations of infidelity by Cruz?
      That’s what your article is, allegations. Unproven.

      I have no clue what is true or not. I do know Fields is a liar looking for her 10 minutes of fame / paid to take down trump. As is this “republican strategist”. Your link doesn’t change any of that.

      Lots of so called conservatives using the lefts tactics these days. No shortage of those. Follow the money. They’re all paid for what they do. They are paid to fool you, and it works exceedingly well.

        spartan in reply to Barry. | April 19, 2016 at 7:34 am

        Sure they are allegations, but they are allegations made by real people with real names. The Enquirer made allegations based on unnamed private investigators looking into allegations on 5 mistresses, which in 24 hours turned into 8 mistresses.
        Since that story about Cruz was made, no “mistress” has been positively identified, nor have any of these “mistresses” come forward for their “10 minutes of fame”.

        In that lawsuit against Trump, allegations are made by real people in court documents. It should be noted Trump settled that matter out of court.

        I think we now know why Trump no longer wants to debate. He is trying to run out the clock. I also think it is apparent that Trump does not really care whether he wins the nomination. His goal is the same as Al Gore in 2000; delegitimizing the eventual winner, or the political process. No matter what happens, Drumpf will play the victim for all who want to believe his story; just like Al Gore.

lol @ the Trump hit pieces on LI… it’s turned comical and doesn’t reflect well on the editorial staff.

Trump’s Power of Positivism doesn’t appear to take hold of his mouth or his campaign or his supporters. It does extend here: Trump is positively revolting.

$4 million for mean tweets. I get it. This woman bashed Donald Trump left, right and sideways. So now she wants justice. Does a tweet count as evidence? Apparently. Our legal system is mysterious(to me).

This country has too many political “operatives” and hacks. Enough already! The country is in the dumper and out trot the whiners. They only care about keeping their jobs and being in those social DC circles.

Seems to me that there is documented proof that Trump tried to recruit her, not v.v., so the (false) statement of fact that she “begged” for a job and was rejected is prima facie proof of malice (knowledge of falsity). The tweets calling her a loser and a dummy are obviously invective/opinion, but they also imply knowledge of facts (false facts), which may take them out of the privileged category.

The question is, do those statements hold her up to scorn and ridicule? The claim that her television appearances dried up, if true, would support an assertion that her business reputation suffered, and lacking any other causal event, the proximity in time would be persuasive to a jury.

kenoshamarge | April 19, 2016 at 8:45 am

Another instance of how Trump’s obsession with attacking anyone that doesn’t kowtow to him causes a problem. He, and Lewandowski made this a story by their insistence on smearing Cheri Jacobus.

“Political” consultants are a dime a dozen. Most of them are just fillers because the networks need someone to say something to fill all the air space. Jacobus said nothing that hadn’t been said by many others many times.

She’s a fragile little snowflake? Seems to me the fragile little snowflake is Trump.

God, all we do not need is another ignorant whiner in chief.