U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

President Trump tries to stop release of journalist’s book ‘Fire and Fury’

Incident Details

Henry Holt & Co.
— Henry Holt & Co.
January 4, 2018

On Jan. 4, 2018, President Donald Trump’s attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to journalist Michael Wolff, the author of an upcoming book critical of the Trump administration, and to the president of Henry Holt & Co., the book’s publisher.

The book, titled “Fire and Fury: Inside the White House,” offers a close-up account of the chaos of the Trump administration, and was originally scheduled to be released on Jan. 9. Copies of the book have already shipped to bookstores and news outlets.

After the Guardian obtained a copy of the book and reported on its contents, and New York magazine published an extended excerpt of the book, the publication date was moved up to Jan. 5.

The cease-and-desist letter was sent by attorney Charles Harder, who previously represented Melania Trump in a defamation lawsuit against the Daily Mail and a Maryland blogger. Harder has represented a number of high-profile public figures in lawsuits against media organizations, most notably serving as one of Hulk Hogan’s attorneys in the wrestler’s invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media.

“Mr. Trump hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the Book, the Article, or any excerpts or summaries of either of them, to any person or entity, and that you issue a full and complete retraction and apology to my client as to all statements made about him in the Book and Article that lack competent evidentiary support,” the cease-and-desist letter reads.

The letter warns that Wolff and Henry Holt & Co. could be liable for “defamation by libel” if they go ahead and publish the book.

“We see ‘Fire and Fury’ as an extraordinary contribution to our national discourse, and are proceeding with the publication of the book,” Henry Holt & Co. said in a statement.

On Jan. 3, Harder sent a similar cease-and-desist letter to Stephen Bannon, the former White House senior strategist who is quoted in the book.

Throughout his presidential campaign and presidency, Trump has threatened to sue numerous journalists and news organizations for defamation, but he has never followed through on these threats.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].