By Aaron Miller-
Former U.S president, Donald Trump, has sued Bob Woodward for a fraction less than $50m, claiming he did not agree to the veteran Washington Post reporter publishing tapes of their conversations as an audio book.
The Trump Tapes was released in October 2022, under the subtitle Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews With President Donald Trump.
The suit seeks at least $49,980,000, which it says is based on an estimate that the audiobook, “The Trump Tapes,” sold more than 2 million copies at $24.99 apiece.Former President Donald Trump sued famed journalist Bob Woodward on Monday over the release of audio recordings of his interviews with Trump, who claims he never agreed to allow those tapes to be sold to the public.
Woodward, publisher Simon & Schuster and its parent company, Paramount Global, “unlawfully usurped” Trump’s copyright interests and other rights by publishing an audiobook featuring hours of “raw” audio from Woodward’s many interviews with Trump, the lawsuit alleges.
The suit is based on an estimate that the audiobook, “The Trump Tapes,” sold more than 2 million copies at $24.99 apiece.
The 31-page complaint, filed in federal court in Pensacola, Florida, alleges that Trump “repeatedly stated to Woodward, in the presence of others, that he was agreeing to be recorded for the sole purpose of Woodward being able to write a single book.”
That book, 2021′s “Rage,” failed to replicate the success of Woodward’s previous book on the Trump White House, according to the lawsuit. Woodward then “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 complaint alleges.
Simon & Schuster did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.
Woodward interviewed Trump over the phone and in person 19 times between December 2019 and August 2020, according to the lawsuit. Woodward and his publisher assembled more than eight hours of audio from those interviews, plus another from 2016, for the audiobook, which was released last October “without President Trump’s permission,” the lawsuit says.
Trump “made Woodward aware on multiple occasions, both on and off the record, of the nature of the limited license to any recordings, therefore retaining for himself the commercialization and all other rights to the narration,” according to the lawsuit.
The complaint also alleges that Trump and his lawyers had previously “confronted” the defendants about the dispute, but they “brazenly refused to recognize President Trump’s copyright and contractual rights.”
The lawsuit notes that the audio has also been worked into CD, paperback and e-book formats, “all at the expense of President Trump and without accounting to him.”
The lawsuit accused the three defendants of unjust enrichment, and singled out the author himself on counts of breaching a contract, and an “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”
Trump sued Woodward, who is one-half of the legendary reporting duo that broke the Nixon-era Watergate scandal, as he ramps up his 2024 presidential campaign. Weeks before he launched his current White House bid, a federal judge dismissed Trump’s sprawling lawsuit against Democratic presidential campaign rival Hillary Clinton and a cadre of former officials, slamming it as a “political manifesto.”
Woodward also wrote three print bestsellers about Trump and his administration: Fear, Rage and Peril – the last cowritten with Robert Costa. The interviews which formed The Trump Tapes were mostly carried out from December 2019 to August 2020, when Woodward was writing Rage.
In the suit filed in the northern district of Florida on Monday, lawyers for Trump said their case “centers on Mr Woodward’s systematic usurpation, manipulation and exploitation of audio of President Trump”.
They also alleged that one conversation was deceptively edited, citing a comparison with a recording made by Hogan Gidley, a Trump aide, at Mar-a-Lago in Florida on 30 December 2019.
That recording, the suit says, contains an exchange in which Woodward tells Trump: “This again is for the book to come out before the election.”
Rage was published in the US on 15 September 2020, a little less than two months before election day.
Trump is seeking just under $50m in damages, a figure his lawyers say they reached by looking at sales of Fear, which “sold more than two million copies, which is the amount of copies that the audiotape can be estimated to sell.
“Based upon the purchase price of the audiotape, $24.99, the damages President Trump has sustained due to the actions of the defendants as set forth herein are estimated to be at least $49,980,000.00, exclusive of punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.”
Trump first complained when the audiobook was released. Appearing on CNN, Woodward was asked about Trump’s claim that he “never got his permission to release these tapes”.
Woodward said: “Well, they were done voluntarily, it was all on the record. I had used some of it before. So he’s president and … so he’s out there. And this is out there to the tenth power.”
Woodward did not immediately comment on Monday. Simon & Schuster and Paramount Global also did not immediately comment.
Trump is beginning to accelerate his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, a contest in which he remains the only declared candidate.
He faces legal jeopardy on numerous fronts: over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, his financial and campaign finance affairs, his retention of classified records and an allegation of rape by the writer E Jean Carroll, which Trump denies.
Trump has often sued media foes, CNN among them. A lawsuit against the New York attorney general was recently thrown out of court.
The section of Trump’s suit against Woodward which alleges deceptive editing, meanwhile, contains an echo of the scandal that made the reporter famous: Watergate, which brought down Richard Nixon in 1974.
In an exchange published in The Trump Tapes, Woodward and Trump discuss Trump’s first impeachment, over his approaches to Ukraine for dirt on political rivals.
Trump says the affair was “peanuts” next to Watergate.
Woodward says: “But as soon as the Watergate burglars were caught, if Richard Nixon had gone on television and said, ‘You know, I’m the man at the top. I’m indirectly responsible for this. I am sorry. I apologize,’ it would have gone away.”
Trump says: “Yeah, Nixon should have done that … But I can’t, I shouldn’t have done that, because I did nothing wrong.”