WILLIAMSON – Don Blankenship has filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump Jr. claiming the president’s son was part of a conspiracy to keep him from being elected to the U.S. Senate last year.
In his complaint filed April 25 in Mingo Circuit Court, the former Massey Energy CEO says Trump Jr. published a tweet to his 3.5 million followers on May 3, 2018, calling Blankenship a felon.
“Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that Mr. Blankenship was a ‘felon’ after meeting with, and as part of a scheme with, NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee) leaders seeking to prevent Mr. Blankenship's victory in the primary,” the complaint states. “Moreover, defendant's defamatory statement was made in conjunction with reference to the mine disaster and thus, had the additional effect, through inference, implication, innuendo and/or insinuation of further defaming Mr. Blankenship by falsely attributing to him responsibility for murder.”
In 2015, Blankenship was convicted of one federal misdemeanor charge of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards. The federal jury found him not guilty of securities fraud and not guilty of making false statements after the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in Raleigh County that left 29 miners dead in 2010. Both of those charges were felonies.
“We did not want to sue Trump Jr., but he left us no choice,” Blankenship told The West Virginia Record. “He slandered me just days before an election for a U.S. Senate seat. This is entirely unacceptable as it deprived West Virginia voters of a fair election.
“’Fake News’ – whether spread by CNN, Fox or Trump Jr. – has to be stopped. President Trump himself has said that ‘Fake News’ is an enemy of the people.”
The 26-page complaint details Blankenship’s business history, his federal misdemeanor conviction, his plan to run in 2018 for the U.S. Senate seat held by Joe Manchin, what he calls the defamatory attacks and schemes against him. It talks about Trump Jr. meeting with NRSC members in Florida on May 3, 2018.
“The president’s son had (and has) considerable influence with West Virginia voters likely to cast ballots in the May 8th primary,” the complaint states. “That afternoon, Mr. Trump tweeted the following: ‘I hate to lose. So I’m gonna go out on a limb here and ask the people of West Virginia to make a wise decision and reject Blankenship!”
After that, Blankenship issued a press release saying “the establishment needs to stand down in this race.”
Trump Jr. responded with another tweet saying, “Ha! Now I’m establishment? No, I’m realistic & I know the first thing Manchin will do is run ads featuring the families of those 29 miners killed due to actions that sent you to prison. Can’t win the general.. you should know that & if others in the GOP won’t say it, I will.”
Someone replied to that, saying she didn’t think Manchin would do that because “his ads are usually abt him.”
“He’s probably never run against a felon,” Trump Jr. replied.
The next day, Blankenship tweeted his own reply.
“I am sorry that you were misinformed and misled by McConnell’s (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky) cronies while you were at the RNC meeting yesterday in Miami,” he wrote. “I have never been convicted of a felony and never been convicted of a misdemeanor that I committed. Just like your father, I am a victim of fake news and a corrupt Obama DOJ.
“When I get to DC, your dad will have no better supporter in his efforts to drain the swamp. Looking forward to working together to Make America Great Again. You will like the real Don Blankenship, just like WV voters.”
Blankenship says Trump Jr. never issued a correction or retraction about his tweets, and Blankenship says he believes Trump Jr. published “this false tweet at the request of the NRSC and others as part of their efforts to smear Mr. Blankenship and defeat his candidacy.”
Blankenship’s lawsuit against Trump Jr. comes just one month after he filed a $12 billion lawsuit, also in Mingo Circuit Court, claiming national media outlets and leading Republicans intended to defame him in his 2018 U.S. Senate bid. That suit named, among others, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and the NRSC as defendants.
Like his latest lawsuit, Blankenship calls it a case of “Weaponized Defamation.”
In both lawsuits, Blankenship notes that McConnell and other senators expressed to the media that they did not want him to win the election.
“In reaction to my possibly winning the election, a Political Action Committee apparently controlled by Senator Mitch McConnell launched a $1.3 million negative and false ad campaign against me,” Blankenship said. “However, in the words of the media, I continued to ‘surge’ toward the lead in the race. In fact, I took the lead in most polls including polls taken by my opponents.
He claims the GOP then went to the media for help. That includes Napolitano, who had heard cases by West Virginia Attorney General and New Jersey native (and fellow Republican Senate candidate) Patrick Morrisey. Morrisey eventually won the Republican nomination, but lost to incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin in the 2018 general election.
Blankenship also blames government officials for controlling the national media.
In his latest lawsuit, Blankenship accuses Trump Jr. (and up to 50 anonymous defendants) of defamation and conspiracy to defame as well as false light invasion of privacy/conspiracy. He seeks general and special damages as well as a permanent injunction prohibiting republication of the defamatory statements and requiring removal of those statements from public access. He also seeks punitive damages, damages for emotional distress, interest and other relief.
In both of his recently filed cases, Blankenship is being represented by Jeffrey S. Simpkins of Simpkins Law in Williamson as well as Eric P. Early, Jeremy Gray and Kevin Sinclair of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae in Los Angeles.
Mingo Circuit Court case number 19-C-51