The attempt by President Trump to block another book critical of him and his administration has been rebuked both by the publisher and a range of book and free speech groups.
The book is Omarosa Manigault-Newman's Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House, published by S&S's Gallery Books imprint last week. Manigault-Newman had worked on the Trump campaign and in the White House.
Citing a non-disclosure agreement between Trump campaign and Manigault-Newman, Charles J. Harder of Harder Mirell & Abrams, representing the Trump campaign, last Monday wrote to S&S and threatened "substantial monetary damages and punitive damages" against the author as well as "tortious interference with contract and inducement of breach of contract" against S&S.
S&S issued this statement in response: "Despite various legal claims and threats made by representatives of the Trump campaign, Gallery Books and Simon & Schuster are proceeding as planned with publication of Unhinged by Omarosa Manigault-Newman, confident that we are acting well within our rights and responsibilities as a publisher."
The Trump administration attack is reminiscent of its attack in January on Fire & Fury by Michael Wolff, which included a demand that Holt cease and desist publishing and issue an apology. On Friday, a coalition of groups led by the National Coalition Against Censorship, issued a statement supporting S&S. Noting the threats against Fire & Fury and the President's regular attacks on the media, the group said it stands "in solidarity against threats by the president and his administration that undermine our country's commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Efforts to restrict these freedoms are the hallmark of a totalitarian regime."
On Wednesday, Elizabeth A. McNamara of Davis Wright Tremaine, representing S&S, responded to Harder's letter, rejecting his arguments. (Interestingly, Harder wrote the Trump White House's threatening letter to Holt about Fire & Fury, while McNamara wrote Holt's response.) In the Unhinged response, McNamara wrote, in part, that although Harder charged there were "disparaging statements" in the book, "at no point do you claim that any specific statement in the book is false. Your client [President Trump] does not have a viable legal claim merely because unspecified truthful statements in the book may embarrass the President or his associates. At base, your letter is nothing more than an obvious attempt to silence legitimate criticism of the President. S&S will not be silenced by legal threats grounded in vague allusions to 'disparaging statements.' "
She also rejected Harder's claim that the book contained "confidential information," writing, "your letter also fails to specify any statements in the excerpts of the book that contain confidential information. Instead, you merely cite to four news articles published about the book. Yet, these articles do not contain any obvious confidential information."
She also noted that Harder's demand that S&S preserve all communications, documents and materials relating to the book also applies to the Trump campaign. "Should you pursue litigation against S&S, we are confident that documents related to the contents of the book in the possession of President Trump, his family members, his businesses, the Trump campaign, and his administration will prove particularly relevant to our defense."
As with the Fire & Fury controversy, the Trump attacks and threats seem to be acting as remarkably effective publicity. Unhinged is at or near the top of many bestseller lists.