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Why would the most notoriously cash-strapped man in America waste money on frivolous lawsuits?

On Monday, Donald Trumpwhose lawyers recently announced that he cant come up with the money to post a $454 million bond in his civil fraud casefired off yet another suit against a news organization that reported facts he didnt like. The targets this time are ABC News and its anchor George Stephanopoulos, who Trump alleges defamed him by stating that Trump had been found liable for raping E. Jean Carroll.

The case looks like a sure loser. Trump was technically found liable under New York law for sexual abuse, not for rape, but the judge in the civil case ruled that, by forcibly penetrating Carrolls vagina with his fingers, Mr. Trump in fact did rape Ms. Carroll as that term commonly is used and understood. But no matter. The Stephanopoulos suit slots into a well-worn groove for Trump, who for years has lodged periodic lawsuits against alleged purveyors of fake news about him. Targets have included The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, Bob Woodward, and a Wisconsin TV station that ran an attack ad against him during the 2020 campaign. Trump has even gone after the board of the Pulitzer Prizes for awarding Pulitzers to the Post and the Times for their coverage of his connections to Russia.

Filing these suits has been costly for Trumpor rather, for donors to his campaign and affiliated political action committees, who have footed millions of dollars in legal fees. Not one of Trumps media lawsuits has ever succeeded, nor is one ever likely to, given both the underlying facts and the towering bar a president or former president faces in proving defamation. In one case against The New York Times, a judge found Trumps argument so flimsy that he ordered Trump to pay the Times legal fees. In other cases, such as the one involving the Wisconsin station, the suit was quietly withdrawn a few months after it was filed.

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So why does he keep doing it? On a basic level, this appears to be just Trump being Trumppeevish, headstrong, and narcissistic. For decades, his love-hate relationship with reporters has tended to flare into legal action, as it did in 2006 when he sued the writer Tim OBrien over a few pages in a book that questioned Trumps personal wealth. As Trump told me in an interview in 2016, he knew he couldnt win that suit (he didnt) but brought it anyway to score a few points. I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and [OBriens publisher] spent a whole lot more, he said then. I did it to make his life miserable, which Im happy about.

But Trumps quixotic legal crusades are not as irrational as they appear. Suing the press serves as a branding exercise and a fundraising tool. The lawsuits show his supporters that Trump is taking the fight to those lying journalistsso wont you contribute a few dollars to the cause? They thus have become an end unto themselves, part of an infinite loop: sue, publicize the suit, solicit and collect donations, sue again. The cases may be weak on the legal merits, but they further his narrative of being persecuted by the radical left media, Brett Kappel, a campaign-finance lawyer who has researched Trumps legal actions against the press, told me.

This narrative has been a fixture of Trumps fundraising pitches for years. A few weeks after his inauguration, in 2017, one of his fundraising committees sent out an email urging donors to do your part to fight back against the medias attacks and deceptions by sending contributions that would help cut through the noise of news reports. Even before Trump filed a lawsuit against CNN in August 2022 (for describing his election lies as the Big Lie), his campaign was using the nonexistent suit to drum up contributions. Im calling on my best and most dedicated supporters to add their names to stand with me in my impending LAWSUIT against Fake News CNN, read a fundraising email. A second email sent out under Trumps name a few hours later struck a sterner tone: Im going to look over the names of the first 45 Patriots who added their names to publicly stand with their President AGAINST CNN.

When Trump got around to filing the suit two months later, the appeals began anew. I am SUING the Corrupt News Network (CNN) for DEFAMING and SLANDERING my name, the campaign email read, in a chaotic typographical style reminiscent of a ransom note. Theyve called me a LIAR, and so far, Ive been proven RIGHT about EVERYTHING. Remember, when they come after ME, they are really coming after YOU Im calling on YOU to rush in a donation of ANY AMOUNT RIGHT NOW to make a statement that you PROUDLY stand with me. The suit was dismissed last year by a federal judge appointed by Trump. Trump is appealing.

Of course, the cost of suing news organizations is a pittance compared with what Trumps donors are spending on his criminal defense. But it isnt cheap. According to Federal Election Commission records culled by Kappel, the Trump-controlled Save America PAC shelled out nearly $500,000 to the firm that sued the Pulitzer Prize board on Trumps behalf in 2022. It paid $211,000 last year to another law firm that handled Trumps litigation against CNN, among other matters, and an additional $203,000 to the firm handling the appeal.

The biggest recipient, by far, has been the attorney Charles Harder, the defamation specialist who represented Hulk Hogan in his successful suit against Gawker Media in 2016. From early 2018 to May 2021, according to FEC records, Harder took $4.4 million in fees from Trump-affiliated organizations. At one point in 2020, Harders Beverly Hills firm received more money than any other firm doing work for Trump.

From the January/February 2024 issue: Is journalism ready?

Harders work on Trumps behalf didnt produce anything close to his career-making Hogan verdict, which resulted in a $140 million award that drove Gawker into bankruptcy. Harder took the lead in Trumps effort to suppress publication of Michael Wolffs book Fire and Fury in 2018; he sent cease-and-desist letters to Wolff and his publisher, Henry Holt and Co., before the books release, claiming that it contained libelous passages. The book was released as scheduled and became a best seller, and Trump didnt sue. In 2020, Harder handled Trumps lawsuit against the Times, alleging that an opinion piece by the former Times editor Max Frankel was defamatory. A judge dismissed that suit in 2021. (Harder, who no longer represents Trump, declined to comment for this story.)

Whether Trumps beat-the-press strategy is a net financial winner, once all the donations are collected and the attorney fees are subtracted, is hard to say. But Trumps filing of another hopeless lawsuit this week suggests that the math may be in his favor. Why bother paying lawyers millions of dollars to sue and appeal if the return on investment is less than zero? Trump may be petty and irrational, but he has never been accused of neglecting his own financial interests. (A Trump spokesperson didnt return a request for comment.)

At the moment, of course, Trump has much bigger headaches. As of this writing, hes days away from having his assets seized to satisfy that civil-fraud judgment. His overall fundraising has lagged President Joe Bidens. And he is burning through his supporters money to pay for his criminal defense. Despite all that, he still finds a way to keep filing lawsuits against the media. You almost have to admire the commitment.

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Colorado lands former Pitt DE Hayes from portal

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Colorado lands former Pitt DE Hayes from portal

Former Pittsburgh defensive end Dayon Hayes announced Sunday that he is transferring to Colorado.

Hayes led Pitt in tackles for loss last season with 10.5 and also had 45 total tackles, four sacks and six quarterback hurries. He is a 6-foot-3, 265-pound senior who played the past four seasons for Pitt after signing with the team out of high school.

He is bringing some needed defensive help to Colorado, especially in getting to the quarterback and being disruptive up front. The Buffaloes were ranked No. 63 in sacks last season with 27 and No. 78 in defensive pressures with 139.

The staff has worked this offseason to add more help up front on the defensive side with Hayes and reuniting him with former Pitt teammate Samuel Okunlola, who is also transferring in to Colorado. In addition to those two, Colorado has former Alabama lineman Anquin Barnes, former LSU lineman Quency Wiggins, Arizona State‘s B.J. Green, Arkansas lineman Taurean Carter, Kentucky edge Keaten Wade, New Mexico State edge Nikhil Webb Walker and Houston lineman Chidozie Nwankwo entering the program.

The Buffaloes have brought in transfers in droves during coach Deion Sanders’ tenure at Colorado. The program finished the 2023 season with a 4-8 record.

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Politics

Sunak set for week-long blitz of announcements amid talk of no-confidence vote and summer election

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Sunak set for week-long blitz of announcements amid talk of no-confidence vote and summer election

Rishi Sunak is undertaking a week-long blitz of activity and announcements at home and abroad in a bid to convince a sceptical party he has the ideas and drive to continue as prime minister.

After weeks of criticism about an empty legislative agenda, an inability to set the agenda, and divisions in the Tory Party dominating the headlines, this week “action man” Mr Sunak will seek to take back control with news conferences, interviews and announcements.

On the Politics At Jack And Sam’s podcast, we discuss how Mr Sunak is aware of a possible challenge to his position with a vote of no confidence after the local and mayoral elections on 2 May.

He is undertaking a burst of activity to be able to point to his MPs to a rich agenda both this side of a general election and beyond.

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Politics at Jack at Sam’s wherever you get your podcasts 👈

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‘Patience is thin’ over Rwanda bill delays

On Monday, the PM will hold a news conference to champion the likely passage into law of the emergency Rwanda legislation first announced last year.

Then on Tuesday, he will embark on a two-day European trip, beginning in Warsaw, with a major announcement planned as part of the trip.

Some sources expect the announcement to be defence-related, possibly around jointly training troops and sharing equipment with Poland and the West Balkans.

This is Mr Sunak’s first major trip on to the world stage in months, apart from a brief visit to Ukraine.

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It follows his first set-piece speech outside the Commons last Friday about welfare reform.

Many of the ideas there were designed for the manifesto and to be implemented in the next parliament in the unlikely event the Tories win.

The looming spectre of a challenge has led to some conversations about holding the election over the summer, with the starting gun fired possibly even announced before the local elections.

This remains unlikely, however, since it would be possible for the opposition to present this as a move prompted by panic, and the Tories remain around 20 points behind in the polls.

Therefore appealing to his party to allow him to stay in the job, by showing a blizzard of action and announcements, is a priority for Mr Sunak amid continued speculation about his party’s unhappiness.

Some 57 Tory MPs voted against his flagship smoking ban policy last week, with a further more than 100 abstaining, in a sign of his lack of grip on the party.

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Politics

The Week… Rishi tries to save his skin

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The Week... Rishi tries to save his skin

Two of Westminster’s best-connected journalists, Sky News’s Sam Coates and Politico’s Jack Blanchard, guide you through their top predictions for the next seven days in British politics.

This week, they react to MP Mark Menzies’ resignation from the Conservative Party and look at what it might mean for the next election.

Also this week, Rishi Sunak is packing his bags for Europe. Jack and Sam discuss what’s on the trip’s agenda, including highly anticipated announcements on the defence of Ukraine, as well as the UK’s wider defence and warfare strategy.

Mr Sunak’s Rwanda plan could finally pass through parliament too, more than five months after he unveiled the emergency laws. Jack and Sam reveal the final stage will be far from straightforward though, with MPs told to expect a long night in the Commons.

Plus, Angela Rayner is standing in for Keir Starmer at PMQs this week, the first time she’s been in the Commons since police announced they were investigating her. Jack and Sam discuss how she’ll deal with the mounting pressure.

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Politics at Jack at Sam’s wherever you get your podcasts 👈

Email with your thoughts and rate how their predictions play out: jackandsam@sky.uk or jackandsam@politico.co.uk

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