Trump sends legal demand letter to MSNBC over host’s unvetted claim

(Screenshots from YouTube)

President Donald Trump is demanding a retraction from MSNBC through his attorneys following comments from Lawrence O’Donnell that Trump says are completely false.

O’Donnell claimed on Tuesday that Trump had “Russian oligarchs” as co-signers on loans, a clear attempt to push the dead horse that is the Russia-Trump election collusion conspiracy theory.

“A source close to Deutsche Bank says Trump’s tax returns show he pays very little income tax and, more importantly, that his loans have Russian co-signers. If true, that explains every kind word Trump has ever said about Russia and Putin,” O’Donnell, who hosts MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” tweeted about the matter.

Talking to Rachel Maddow on Tuesday night, O’Donnell said his information came from “a single source.”

“If true,” O’Donnell said, “that would be a significant factor in Vladimir Putin’s publicly stated preference for presidential candidate Donald Trump over presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

He added that “this single source close to Deutsche Bank has told me that Donald Trump’s loan documents there show that he has co-signers. That’s how he was able to obtain those loans. And that the co-signers are Russian oligarchs.”

O’Donnell later said that the specific “Russian oligarchs” that he was referring to are allegedly close to Vladimir Putin.

“The source close to Deutsche Bank says that the co-signers of Donald Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans are Russian billionaires close to Vladimir Putin,” he said.

“This law firm is litigation counsel for President Donald J. Trump (‘Mr. Trump’) and The Trump Organization (‘Trump Org.’),” Charles Harder, of Harder LLP law firm, wrote to MSNBC executives in a letter. “We write concerning the false and defamatory statements published by Lawrence O’Donnell and NBC Universal (‘NBCU’) (collectively, ‘you’ and ‘your’) about Mr. Trump and Trump Org. in an episode of the program, ‘The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,’ which was broadcasted on or about August 27, 2019 (the ‘Program’), and also published by Mr. O’Donnell and NBCU in a tweet posted on that same date (the ‘Tweet’). The Program and Tweet make the false and defamatory statements that ‘Russian oligarchs’ cosigned loans provided to Mr. Trump by Deutsche Bank, and described these ‘co-signers’ as ‘Russian billionaires close to Vladimir Putin.’”

Harder went on to call O’Donnell’s claims “false and defamatory.”

“These statements are false and defamatory, and extremely damaging,” the lawyer wrote. “The only borrowers under these loans are Trump entities, and Mr. Trump is the only guarantor. Numerous documents for each of these loans are also recorded, publicly available and searchable online. Thus, actual malice can easily be proven based on your reckless disregard of the truth and unreasonable reliance on an alleged ‘source’ who you will not even identify in your story and likely is seeking to mislead you and the public for political reasons or other ulterior motives.”

The letter then demands a retraction from O’Donnell.

“Demand is hereby made that Mr. O’Donnell and NBCU immediately and prominently retract, correct and apologize for the aforementioned false and defamatory statements,” the letter reads.

The letter then threatens that legal action will be taken against MSNBC if a retraction is not released within 24 hours.

O’Donnell has not found much support for his claim based on a single anonymous source — even from the left.

“I understand why reporters often rely on anonymous sources, and so long as they have multiple sources with direct knowledge/evidence of an event, its fair game IMO. But single sourcing ‘scoops’ with no evidence/direct knowledge is indefensible & should be rejected by everyone,” tweeted political strategist Andrew Surabian.

That tweet was in response to a tweet from Michael De Moro, the booking producer for MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” De Moro pushed back on O’Donnell’s claim and said the Deutsche Bank had provided no official comment and MSNBC itself could not verify O’Donnell’s claims.

Lawrence has taken to Twitter to respond directly to the letter sent by the president’s counsel and he seems to admit his false reporting, though he says he will go into further detail on his show on Wednesday evening.

“Last night I made an error in judgment by reporting an item about the president’s finances that didn’t go through our rigorous verification and standards process. I shouldn’t have reported it and I was wrong to discuss it on the air. I will address the issue on my show tonight,” O’Donnell tweeted.

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