In a memo to Macmillan employees sent Monday morning, company CEO John Sargent issued a forceful rejoinder to President Trump's attempt to prevent the publication of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury by sending a cease and desist order to the publisher last week, as well as other intimidation tactics. An official letter to President Trump's attorney, Charles Harder, was subsequently sent that afternoon by Macmillan's outside legal counsel.
Noting that the battle between Trump and Macmillan is more than just about Fire and Fury, Sargent said the effort by the president to block publication is "flagrantly unconstitutional" and is something no court would back.
Sargent cited a number of Supreme Court Cases, including the case of the Pentagon Papers, in which Justice Hugo Black declared: “Both the history and language of the First Amendment support the view that the press must be left free to publish news, whatever the source, without censorship, injunctions, or prior restraints. In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.”
After citing two other decisions in Supreme Court cases that praised the ability of a press to examine the workings of government free of worries about the government's ability to restrain publication, Sargent wrote: "There is no ambiguity here. This is an underlying principle of our democracy. We cannot stand silent. We will not allow any president to achieve by intimidation what our Constitution precludes him or her from achieving in court. We need to respond strongly for Michael Wolff and his book, but also for all authors and all their books, now and in the future. And as citizens we must demand that President Trump understand and abide by the First Amendment of our Constitution."
In the letter from Macmillan's attorney, Macmillan's counsel writes: "You demand that my clients cease publication of the book and 'issue a full and complete retraction and apology.' My clients do not intend to cease publication, no such retraction will occur, and no apology is warranted." The letter continues: "Generalized and abstract threats of libel do not provide any basis for President Trump's demand that Henry Holt and Mr. Wolff withdraw the book from public discourse."
This article has been updated with further information.