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Reince Priebus: White House Has ‘Looked at’ Changing Libel Laws


White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on Sunday that the Trump administration has considered pushing for different libel laws. The answer came up when This Week‘s Jonathan Karl asked about President Donald Trump‘s call in late March to change the relevant statutes. This host said such a move would require a constitutional amendment.

“I think it’s something that we’ve looked at, and how that gets executed and whether that goes anywhere is a different story,” Priebus said, adding that media outlets needed to be more responsible when reporting.

It is part of the President’s long-running accusation that many media stories critical of him are “fake news.” Even during the 2016 presidential campaign, he suggested making it easier to sue media outlets for stories.

Trump has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to actually change things. From a March opinion piece from‘s Rachel Stockman:

But there are two reasons why Trump can’t actually change the libel laws in any meaningful way. At least not by himself, or through the power of the presidency. 1) Because libel laws are different in every state. States — NOT the federal government — are mostly responsible for governing that area of the law. In fact, case law and precedents surrounding defamation are different from state to state. 2) The Supreme Court is not on his side.

Stockman suggested that the President’s only viable option is a constitutional amendment.

He will need Congress’s help to do anything about this, however. An amendment would be hard to get since both houses of Congress need to pass it by a supermajority. That is a very tall order since Republicans only command a two-vote majority in the Senate, and it’s unclear if GOPers in either house would even back this. Democrats, for their part, are politically motivated to stand against this president, who is having a hard time implementing the promised “Obamacare”-repeal and Wall along the Mexican border.

Generally speaking, to be considered defamation, speech about a public figure requires spreading false, defamatory information with “actual malice,” or reckless disregard for the truth.

[Screengrab via ABC]

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