By Gretchen Schuldt
The small Rhinelander television station sued by the Trump campaign committee over a television ad is seeking dismissal of the suit, arguing President Trump's defeat in his re-election bid mandates an end to the litigation.
"This case began when President Donald Trump repeatedly used the word “hoax” to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, and it ends with him repeatedly using the word “hoax” to describe his defeat at the ballot box," WJFW-TV said in its new motion. "With the election now decided against him, the Trump Campaign’s work has ended, and so should this defamation lawsuit."
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals already has held that "redressability is lacking where, as here, an alleged injury amounts to defeat at the ballot box, because federal courts simply cannot remedy such alleged harm," the station said.
The Trump campaign in April sued the WJFW, alleging that a political ad the station aired showing Trump downplaying the threat of COVID-19 contained false and defamatory content. The ad, aired by Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, was played by stations across the state. (Politifact did label it false – details here.)
The station and its lawyers, from the Washington, D.C. law firm of Ballad Spahr and the Madison firm of Godfrey & Kahn, previously sought to have the complaint dismissed on the grounds that it did not state a legitimate claim. The station still believes that, but Trump's loss provides "a new and independent basis to dismiss the complaint," the station said.
"President Trump has lost his bid for reelection, and this Court can neither set those results aside nor recast the election results," the station argued. "Moreover, the money damages that the Committee seeks also would not 'likely remedy' their alleged injury. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the 'psychic satisfaction' of winning a lawsuit alone – the only possible motive for the Trump Campaign Committee to continue with this litigation – 'is not an acceptable...remedy.'”
The Trump campaign has not yet filed its response to the new motion. The campaign is represented by the Husch Blackwell law firm. Trump himself is not a party to the suit.
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