January 10, 2018 / 5:39 PM / a month ago

Stung by Wolff book, Trump calls for stronger U.S. libel laws

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that his administration will examine whether U.S. libel laws can be strengthened after a new book questioned his mental fitness to serve as president.

“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness so we’re going to take a strong look at that,” he told reporters as he met members of his Cabinet.

In “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” author Michael Wolff has questioned Trump’s mental fitness, portraying him as child-like with a short attention span. Trump had often complained about U.S. libel laws on the 2016 campaign trail.

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts,” Trump said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

To prove libel, a public figure must show a writer or publisher acted with actual malice in publishing a false statement. Malice is either reckless or purposeful disregard for the truth.

In what was seen as an attempt to show Trump is mentally fit and in command, the president had kept a pool of reporters, including a TV camera, inside of a meeting he had on Tuesday with U.S. lawmakers on immigration.

Reporters would have typically been escorted out after a few opening remarks, but they were kept in the meeting for 55 minutes as Trump and his Republicans debated immigration policy and ideas with Democratic members.

On Wednesday in the same room when Trump met members of his Cabinet, the president was ecstatic that TV networks had focused heavy attention on the immigration meeting.

“Some of them called it a performance. I consider it work,” Trump said.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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