Trump Sues Washington Post Editor for Audiobook About His Presidency

January 31, 2023 by Tom Ramstack
Trump Sues Washington Post Editor for Audiobook About His Presidency
Bob Woodward (left) with Carl Bernstein at SPJ Mediafest in Washington. (Photo by Dan McCue)

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming $50 million in damages because of recordings from interviews that Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward released in an audiobook.

Trump admits he consented to giving taped interviews to Woodward for his book, “Rage,” but did not know Woodward would publish the recordings.

Trump says in the lawsuit, “Said audio was protected material, subject to various limitations on use and distribution — as a matter of copyright, license, contract, basic principles of the publishing industry and core values of fairness and consent.”

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida also names Woodward’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, Inc., and its parent company Paramount Global, as defendants.

“Rage,” which was published in 2020, is based largely on on-the-record interviews of Trump by Woodward over seven months. It offers Trump’s point of view on the presidency and what he calls the “dynamite behind every door.” 

The book also draws from hundreds of hours of interviews and documents from witnesses and participants in the Trump presidency.

The “Rage” Audible audiobook listed on Amazon.com runs for 13 hours and 22 minutes. Amazon says there were 17 recordings used to produce it but Trump says in his lawsuit there were 20.

Woodward, along with Simon & Schuster, released a joint statement saying Trump’s lawsuit lacks merit.

“All these interviews were on the record and recorded with President Trump’s knowledge and agreement,” the statement said. “Moreover, it is in the public interest to have this historical record in Trump’s own words. We are confident that the facts and the law are in our favor.”

Trump claims in the lawsuit that Woodward’s motives were more selfish, driven by a desire for bigger sales.

“Faced with the reality that ‘Rage’ was a complete and total failure, Woodward decided to exploit, usurp and capitalize upon President Trump’s voice by releasing the interview sound recordings of their interviews with President Trump in the form of an audiobook,” the lawsuit says.

Any money Woodward and his publisher made off the audiobook represented unjust enrichment, Trump’s lawsuit says.

“The defendants proceeded with such publication knowing that President Trump’s voice is one of the most recognizable voices in the world and hearing his words from his mouth or as directly articulated by him, is much more valuable and marketable than Woodward’s interpretation of the interviews in ‘Rage,’” the lawsuit says.

Trump alleges that in some recordings he replied to Woodward asking about going on the record by saying, “For the book only, right?”

The implication is that he thought he was providing information for a book, not audio recordings that would be released under the name of “Trump Tapes.”

“The interviews reflect that Woodward was prone to exercising his own discretion in recording President Trump, despite the foregoing limitations instituted by President Trump regarding recording,” the lawsuit says. “For instance, several minutes into Interview 8, Woodward says, ‘I’m going to turn on my recorder,’ failing to tell President Trump that the recording had already begun.”

Trump’s court filing in Pensacola this week follows defeats he suffered recently in other lawsuits he filed.

After a lawsuit against his former presidential election opponent Hillary Clinton and other political adversaries was dismissed, a federal judge on Jan. 19 fined Trump and his attorney nearly $1 million.

“Mr. Trump is a prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries,” U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks wrote in his order explaining the fine. “He is the mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process, and he cannot be seen as a litigant blindly following the advice of a lawyer. He knew full well the impact of his actions.”

Trump has taken other legal action against the Pulitzer Prize board, the New York attorney general, CNN and Big Tech companies.

The lawsuit against Clinton filed in March says she orchestrated a “malicious conspiracy” by urging a Justice Department investigation of Trump’s campaign ties to Russia, thereby “destroying his life” and trying to slant the presidential election in her favor.

The lawsuit against Woodward is Donald Trump v. Simon & Schuster, Inc. et al in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Tom can be reached at [email protected] and @TomRamstack

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