Well, it’s not the dumbest lawsuit he’s ever filed …
The post Trump Alleges Conspiracy To Collate And Cobble By Bob Woodward And Publisher Simon & Schuster appeared first on Above the Law.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Fresh off getting slapped with a million dollars in sanctions for filing garbage civil tort suits, Donald Trump, the OG vexatious litigant, is back for another round. This time, he’s taking a run at reporter Bob Woodward, as well as his publisher Simon & Schuster, and S&S’s parent company Paramount, demanding $50 million from the publication of recorded interviews the reporter conducted between December of 2019 and August of 2020. Naturally the case was filed in the Northern District of Florida, where none of the parties reside.

Woodward published “Rage,” a book based on the interviews in 2020. But in 2022, he packaged the recordings of the interviews in “The Trump Tapes.” Or, as Trump’s lawyers put it:

Specifically, SSI and Woodward conspired to, and did, collate and cobble together more than eight hours of “raw” interviews with President Trump. Without President Trump’s permission, on October 25, 2022, Defendants released the recordings as an audiobook dubbed The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews with President Donald Trump (“Audiobook”).

It’s a conspiracy to collate and cobble!

As is par for the Trump course, this case is long on conclusory bluster, but short on specifics. The former president slags Woodward’s book as “a complete and total failure” (it wasn’t), and asserts without evidence that “the only way to rectify the failure of Rage was for experienced publishers and authors to throw their values to the wind and trample on established rights for the sake of profit.”

“Woodward was not telling anything new; it was who was doing the telling that made the difference,” he goes on. “Accordingly, President Trump has been harmed.”

But, like … how has he been harmed? (And why does this pleading sound like it was drafted by a septuagenarian on an iPhone?)

Trump claims that his agreement with S&S only permitted the use of the recordings as a basis for Woodward’s book, not their separate publication or the “systematic usurpation, manipulation, and exploitation of audio of President Trump gathered in connection with a series of interviews conducted by Mr. Woodward.” The former president alleges breach of contract, although he does not attach the contract as an exhibit, or refer to any specific provision therein.

Instead, he says that he “made Woodward aware on multiple occasions, both on and off the record of the nature of the limited license to any recordings, therefore retaining for himself the commercialization and all other rights to the narration.”

Former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner, a current partner at the firm Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC, calls this a non-sanctionably frivolous argument, since the caselaw and the copyright office take different positions on the ownership of recorded interviews.

“While certain aspect of this latest law suit are ridiculous, including the place where it was filed, the fundamental claim that Donald Trump holds a copyright interest in his answers in the interview is actually a respectable position that the copyright office agrees with,” he told ATL.

Of course, Trump takes the maximal position that he had the exclusive right to sell the recordings, or, in the alternative, a declarative judgment that he holds the rights to his own responses and is thus entitled to a pro rata share of the profits.

And how does he estimate those profits?

Published sources indicate that the Fear sold more than two (2) million copies, which is the amount of copies that the Audiotape can be estimated to sell. Based upon the purchase price of the Audiotape, $24.99, the damages President Trump has sustained due to the actions of the Defendants as set forth herein are estimated to be at least $49,980,000.00, exclusive of punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.

Sure, you “can” estimate that there are two million Americans willing to plunk down $25 to hear Trump yammer two years after he left office. Just like you “can” pretend that Amazon doesn’t take a cut of that $25 for getting the book to consumers. And if you were, say, trying to get that $50 million figure into headlines, you might do just that!

As with every Trump LOLsuit, his lawyers swing for the fences, arguing both promissory estoppel and violation of the Florida Deceptive Trade Practices Act. This last is a favorite of Trump’s, who made FDUTPA claims against Twitter, YouTube, and Meta in his tortious deplatforming lawsuits. The logic here seems to be that Trump is a “consumer” and Woodward’s book is sold in the state, ipso facto the state law’s fee shifting provisions should apply.

For its part, S&S seems to be taking the case in stride. First the company “brazenly refused to recognize President Trump’s copyright and contractual rights” and instead “doubled down; in an avaricious attempt to reap more benefits from their ongoing violation of President Trump’s rights.”

“All these interviews were on the record and recorded with President Trump’s knowledge and agreement,” the publisher went on in a statement yesterday. “Moreover, it is in the public interest to have this historical record in Trump’s own words. We are confident that the facts and the law are in our favor.”

Meanwhile, the case has been assigned to Judge Clyde R. Vinson, a senior judge and former chief jurist in the Northern District who was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan. If Trump’s lawyers filed this case in Pensacola in an attempt to avoid Judge Middlebrooks, the gambit was a success, even though the former president failed to luck onto the docket of either of the two judges he himself appointed to the bench. But Judge Vinson is an extremely hard-nosed jurist, which is probably not ideal if Trump’s lawyers are planning shenanigans.

Luckily, there are never any shenanigans, not to say frivolity, in a Trump law suit.


Trump v. Simon & Schuster [Docket via Court Listener]

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.