Team Trump sends cease-and-desist letter over poll it didn't like

No one's ever even heard of a major-party presidential campaign -- led by an incumbent, no less -- throwing this kind of tantrum.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden.AP Photos
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By Steve Benen

With Election Day about 20 weeks away, pollsters are generating quite a bit of data on the state of the race. All of the surveys of late point in the same direction: Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump nationally, by margins that are unusually large for a challenger running against an incumbent president.

The latest CNN poll was especially brutal for the Republican in the Oval Office: it found the former vice president leading Trump nationally by a 14-point margin, 55% to 41%. A month earlier, the same poll found the Delaware Democrat ahead by only five points.

It was, by some measures, a bit of an outlier: every major pollster has Biden ahead at this stage in the contest, but only CNN's results show the former vice president ahead by 14 points.

Trump had a rather hysterical reaction to the data earlier this week, going so far as to hire a Republican pollster to prepare a document claiming the latest polls are "skewed." The president added that he believes multiple pollsters are engaged in an elaborate conspiracy to undermine his re-election prospects.

Soon after, Team Trump took matters to an even more ridiculous level.

President Donald Trump's campaign is demanding CNN retract and apologize for a recent poll that showed him well behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The demand, coming in the form of a cease and desist letter to CNN President Jeff Zucker that contained numerous incorrect and misleading claims, was immediately rejected by the network.

In addition to making some deeply odd claims about the methodology and motivations behind CNN's poll, the Trump campaign's correspondence asked the cable news network to retract the poll "by publishing a full, fair, and conspicuous retraction, apology, and clarification to correct its misleading conclusions."

And in case that weren't quite enough, the president's political team alerted CNN to the fact that it's "on notice" -- a phrase reminiscent of Stephen Colbert's old Comedy Central character -- and asked that the network preserve materials related to the poll's production.

The not-so-subtle suggestion was that the Trump campaign is preparing to file a lawsuit against CNN over the network releasing poll results that made the president upset.

To the extent that reality still has meaning, the idea that CNN deliberately manipulated a national survey as part of an electoral scheme is ridiculous. The Trump campaign's case is built around the idea that the poll's sample includes too few Republican voters, but as CNN explained in its report yesterday, the argument is difficult to take seriously.

But what's especially amazing about this story is the unhinged nature of Trump's erraticism. No one's ever even heard of a major-party presidential campaign -- led by an incumbent, no less -- throwing this kind of tantrum. It's comparable to a president threatening to sue his campaign manager for showing him discouraging polling data.

Oh wait, Trump reportedly did that, too.

For its part, CNN wrote a response to Trump's campaign team yesterday, noting in part, "To the extent we have received legal threats from political leaders in the past, they have typically come from countries like Venezuela or other regimes where there is little or no respect for a free and independent media."