On the first day of the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump made a surprise speech—and the Trump Organization’s general counsel sent a threatening letter to Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of “The Art of the Deal.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY PHILIP MONTGOMERY FOR THE NEW YORKER
By Jane Mayer , JULY 20, 2016
When Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump’s ghostwriter for his 1987 memoir, “The Art of the Deal,” decided to tell the public about his concerns that Trump isn’t fit to serve as President, his main worry was that Trump, who is famously litigious, would threaten to take legal action against him. Schwartz’s premonition has proved correct.
On Monday, July 18th, the day that this magazine published my interview with Schwartz, and hours after Schwartz appeared on “Good Morning America” to voice his concerns about Trump’s “impulsive and self-centered” character, Jason D. Greenblatt, the general counsel and vice-president of the Trump Organization, issued a threatening cease-and-desist letter to Schwartz. (You can read the full letter at the bottom of this post.) In it, Greenblatt accuses Schwartz—who has likened his writing of the flattering book to putting “lipstick on a pig”—of making “defamatory statements” about the Republican nominee and claiming that he, not Trump, wrote the book, “thereby exposing” himself to “liability for damages and other tortious harm.”
Greenblatt demands that Schwartz send “a certified check made payable to Mr. Trump” for all of the royalties he had earned on the book, along with Schwartz’s half of the book’s five-hundred-thousand-dollar advance. (The memoir has sold approximately a million copies, earning Trump and Schwartz each several million dollars.) Greenblatt also orders Schwartz to issue “a written statement retracting your defamatory statements,” and to offer written assurances that he will not “generate or disseminate” any further “baseless accusations” about Trump.
On Thursday, reached by e-mail on an airplane, Schwartz said that he would continue to speak out against Trump, and that he would make no retractions or apologies. “The fact that Trump would take time out of convention week to worry about a critic is evidence to me not only of how thin-skinned he is, but also of how misplaced his priorities are,” Schwartz wrote. He added, “It is axiomatic that when Trump feels attacked, he will strike back. That’s precisely what’s so frightening about his becoming president.”
That day, a lawyer representing Schwartz, Elizabeth A. McNamara, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine, sent Greenblatt a response. (You can read that letter in its entirety at the bottom of this page.) McNamara states that Schwartz “will not be returning any of the advance or royalties from the Book, and he has no intention of retracting any of his opinions about the character of the Republican nominee for the presidency, nor does he have any obligation or intention to remain silent about the issue going forward.” She describes Trump’s cease-and-desist letter as “nothing more than a transparent attempt to stifle legitimate criticism.”