Two years ago, Donald Trump launched one of the more outrageous offensives of his political career, targeting a clerical worker in a county election office in Georgia and her mother. The Republican had decided that Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who had taken a temp job helping count ballots in the 2020 election, were directly and personally responsible for election fraud — claims that had no basis in fact.
In fact, Trump’s own Justice Department looked into the allegations and explicitly told him that they were baseless.
The former president didn’t care. On the contrary, the Republican went after the two Black women, by name, repeatedly, which in turn led some Trump followers to threaten the women’s lives and show up at their homes. Freeman, a retiree who started a small boutique business selling fashion accessories, was forced to flee her house, close her business and move to an undisclosed location on the advice of the FBI for her own safety.
As we discussed yesterday, Trump, for reasons that still aren’t altogether clear, renewed his attacks against Freeman around midnight on Monday night, publishing a trio of items on his social media platform, insisting there’s “TROUBLE FOR RUBY!!!”
“At first she thought that they had been caught, got VERY nervous, and wanted to ‘spill the beans’ on everyone. Then the SOS, GBI, FBI, calmed her down, helped CLEAN her social media, took her away (for two months!). SHE THEN CHANGED HER STORY!”
By all appearances, these allegations are quite bonkers. Worse, they might very well lead to a new round of harassment, threats and potential violence from radicalized Trump followers who don’t realize that the Republican’s claims are ridiculous.
But there’s another angle to this worth pondering: Will Trump’s latest round of attacks lead to litigation?
As regular readers might recall, Freeman and her daughter already filed suit against a far-right conspiracy website, alleging that it knowingly published false stories that led to dangerous consequences. They also sued Rudy Giuliani and a far-right media outlet called One America News Network, or OANN.
What’s to stop them from suing the former president, too?
As my colleague Lisa Rubin explained via Twitter overnight, when Trump initially went after Freeman, he was still a sitting president, which complicated her litigation options.
Now, however, he’s a private citizen.
Trump seems awfully eager to pick a fight with Freeman. Don’t be too surprised if the Georgian and her attorneys decide to fight back.
Update: Van Dubose, who represents Freeman and Moss, provided this statement: "Nobody, not even a former president, has a right to intentionally spread damaging, defamatory lies about fellow citizens. The lies about Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss have been proven false over and over again, but they have nonetheless upended my clients’ lives and continue to threaten their safety."