Top Delaware court rejects ex-Trump adviser’s defamation case against Yahoo, Huff Post

The Delaware Supreme Court (State of Delaware)

The Delaware Supreme Court (State of Delaware)

Former Trump adviser Carter Page’s defamation suit against Oath, Inc., the former parent company of Yahoo News and Huffington Post, has been denied by the Delaware Supreme Court.

The case was heard in Delaware because Oath is incorporated there.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, the court ruled that Page’s claims that articles written by Michael Isikoff and others about his connections to Russian officials were not defamatory.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

According to the court’s opinion, the articles “discuss an ‘intelligence report’ from a ‘well-placed Western intelligence source’ with information that Page met with senior Russian officials and discussed potential benefits to Russia if Donald Trump won the presidential election.”

In writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice Collins Seitz ruled that the articles fell under “fair reporting privilege” and that Oath “was protected” under the federal Communications Decency Act.

The ruling also found that since Page did not appeal a lower court’s ruling, which found the articles in question were “substantially true,” his case did not hold water:


“The Isikoff Article describes a federal investigation into a report about Page — an investigation that existed and was being pursued by the FBI. At a minimum, the article is substantially true, and as such, Page did not state a claim for defamation based on that article. Page also fails to state a claim for defamation with respect to the remaining articles. At oral argument, Page conceded that if the Isikoff Article is not defamatory, he loses on his remaining claims.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Justice Karen Valihura dissented from the court’s opinion, saying she disagreed with the majority that the “fair report privilege” applies to this case. “I also disagree with the majority that the Isikoff article was substantially true,” she wrote in her dissenting opinion.

In a separate ruling related to the case, justices ruled in favor of one-time Trump lawyer Lin Wood, who tried to join Page’s legal team as an out-of-state guest attorney.

In December, the state’s high court heard oral arguments over Wood’s claims that he was wrongly denied what’s called pro hoc vice, a Latin phrase meaning “for this occasion.” That allows an out-of-state lawyer to be added to a case, even if they’re not licensed to practice in that state.

The Supreme Court determined a lower court wrongly kept Wood from joining Page’s team.

In January 2021, Superior Court Judge Craig Karsnitz denied Wood’s request, calling his efforts to fight the 2020 election results in courts in Georgia and Wisconsin a “toxic stew of mendacity, prevarication, and surprising incompetence.”

Karsnitz also pointed to tweets Wood posted or shared that called for the arrest and execution of then-Vice President Mike Pence. “No doubt these tweets, and many other things, incited these riots,” the judge wrote of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

The high court disagreed with the Karsnitz decision, in part because he revoked Wood’s admission, even though courts in Georgia and Wisconsin did not cite him for sanctionable conduct.

The court also disagreed with Karsnitz’s mention of the Capitol attack.

“More questionable yet was the court’s insinuation that Wood was at least partially responsible for the troubling events that occurred at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021,” the justices wrote. The lower court’s “willingness to pin that on Wood without any evidence or giving Wood an opportunity to respond is indicative of an unfair process.”

Support the news you'll need in 2021

Donate

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal