Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Saturday said he will sue the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, making the announcement during a speech aimed at outlining his plans for the first 100 days of his potential presidency.
“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign, total fabrication. The events never happened, never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over,” Trump said, eliciting cheers from the crowd in Gettysburg, Penn.
Multiple women in recent weeks have accused Trump of inappropriately touching or kissing them without consent in incidents spanning decades. Trump has repeatedly denied the accusations, attacking the appearance and credibility of his accusers. In his remarks on Saturday, he went a step further in announcing plans to take legal action against them, but some media law experts voiced skepticism that such litigation would be viable.
“Does he have a viable legal claim? The answer is: the evidence that we know today doesn’t seem to suggest that,” said Sandra Baron, a senior fellow at Yale Law School and media law expert. “It’ll be his obligation to prove that what the women said was false and defamatory.”
She said while it would be possible to prove the defamatory nature of their accusations because sexual assault is a criminal offense, it would be difficult to prove the statements were false or that they damaged his already high-profile reputation.
“He’s the ultimate public figure. He faces the ultimate burden in any one of those lawsuits,” said Ted Boutrous, Jr., a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who specializes in First Amendment law. “It’s outrageous. It’s frivolous. It’s beneath our democracy to have someone who’s running for president make that kind of threat on the eve of an election.”
Both Boutrous and Baron said Trump’s recently leaked lewd comments from a 2005 conversation—in which Trump bragged about groping women—would serve as corroborating evidence for the accusations against him.
“He’s verging on, or has already become, what’s known as a libel-proof plaintiff,” Boutrous said, adding that he thinks “it’s inconceivable any one of those suits could ever proceed, let alone succeed.”
Trump has previously threatened to “open up our libel laws” and make it easier to sue journalists. Earlier this month, an attorney for Trump demanded a retraction and apology for a New York Times story in which two women accused Trump of touching them inappropriately, calling it “reckless” and “defamatory.” Trump also threatened to sue the newspaper but has not followed through with the threat made more than a week ago.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Saturday called Trump’s legal threat “troubling.”
“Like Trump’s campaign, this speech gave us a troubling view as to what a Trump State of the Union would sound like—rambling, unfocused, full of conspiracy theories and attacks on the media, and lacking in any real answers for American families,” deputy communications director Christina Reynolds said in a statement.
Both media law experts raised doubts that Trump would actually follow through with the threatened lawsuits, given what it would mean if he is elected president.
“His first 100 days would be 100 depositions,” Boutrous said.