Scholar fires off Twitter response to Trump, calls the president's behavior 'incredibly sleazy'

  • President Donald Trump tweeted that former FBI Director James Comey leaked classified information to the media.
  • Brookings Institution scholar Benjamin Witte responded with an analysis of Trump's claims.
  • Wittes hopes a libel case comes before the Supreme Court.

A retort to President Donald Trump lit up Twitter on Monday, as one scholar had "a few things to say."

Trump tweeted that former FBI Director James Comey "leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION" to the media, and said it was "so illegal."

Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution, shot back with a 12-part response, starting with "I have a few things to say about this tweet."

Wittes' first two points of rebuttal were in regard to Trump's previous denial of Comey's claims, which were made in Senate Intelligence Committee testimony on June 8. If Trump's defense was true, Wittes pointed out that any memo regarding the interaction could not be classified.

But if Trump's defense is not true, and because Trump names Comey in his most recent tweet about their meeting, then Trump's accusation is libelous.

Wittes points to one exception to a potential libel suit, in that the president of the United States can claim immunity from a civil suit under the Supreme Court's decision in Nixon v. Fitzgerald (1982).

If Trump were to claim immunity as a response to his tweets about Comey, Wittes tweeted that, "for what it's worth, that's incredibly sleazy. And it's not what Fitzgerald immunity was meant to protect."

On the point of immunity, Wittes points to two essays about presidential immunity.

Finally, Wittes hopes that the president's testing of "the other bounds of Presidential action," especially done via one's personal Twitter account, comes before the Supreme Court.

"I hope someday someone the President defames in this way makes the Supreme Court answer this question," Wittes said.