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Trump sues Bob Woodward and publisher for $50 million over use of his interview recordings

Former President Donald Trump speaks on May 28, 2022 in Casper, Wyoming. The rally is being held to support Harriet Hageman, Rep. Liz Cheneys primary challenger in Wyoming.

Chet Strange | Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump sued famed journalist Bob Woodward on Monday over the release of audio recordings of his interviews with Trump, who claims he never agreed to allow those tapes to be sold to the public.

Woodward, publisher Simon & Schuster and its parent company, Paramount Global, “unlawfully usurped” Trump’s copyright interests and other rights by publishing an audiobook featuring hours of “raw” audio from Woodward’s many interviews with Trump, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit seeks $50 million or more which it says is based on an estimate that the audiobook, “The Trump Tapes,” sold more than 2 million copies at $24.99 apiece.

The 31-page complaint, filed in federal court in Pensacola, Florida, alleges that Trump “repeatedly stated to Woodward, in the presence of others, that he was agreeing to be recorded for the sole purpose of Woodward being able to write a single book.”

That book, 2021’s “Rage,” failed to replicate the success of Woodward’s previous book on the Trump White House, according to the lawsuit. Woodward then “decided to exploit, usurp, and capitalize upon President Trump’s voice by releasing the Interview Sound Recordings of their interviews with President Trump in the form of an audiobook,” the complaint alleges.

Simon & Schuster did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

Woodward interviewed Trump over the phone and in person 19 times between December 2019 and August 2020, according to the lawsuit. Woodward and his publisher assembled more than eight hours of audio from those interviews, plus another from 2016, for the audiobook, which was released last October “without President Trump’s permission,” the lawsuit says.

Trump “made Woodward aware on multiple occasions, both on and off the record, of the nature of the limited license to any recordings, therefore retaining for himself the commercialization and all other rights to the narration,” according to the lawsuit.

The complaint also alleges that Trump and his lawyers had previously “confronted” the defendants about the dispute, but they “brazenly refused to recognize President Trump’s copyright and contractual rights.”

The lawsuit notes that the audio has also been worked into CD, paperback and e-book formats, “all at the expense of President Trump and without accounting to him.”

The lawsuit accused the three defendants of unjust enrichment, and singled out the author himself on counts of breaching a contract and an “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

Trump sued Woodward, who is one-half of the legendary reporting duo that broke the Nixon-era Watergate scandal, as he ramps up his 2024 presidential campaign. Weeks before he launched his current White House bid, a federal judge dismissed Trump’s sprawling lawsuit against Democratic presidential campaign rival Hillary Clinton and a cadre of former officials, slamming it as a “political manifesto.”

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