Trump lawyer blasts 'The Apprentice' biopic in legal warning letter, calling it foreign election interference

  • Trump threatened legal action over "The Apprentice" biopic that played at the Cannes Film Festival.

  • It depicts Trump's rise in New York under the tutelage of Roy Cohn.

  • Even if a lawsuit isn't successful, the threat can make it difficult for the movie to be released.

In the 1970s, the lawyer Roy Cohn taught Donald Trump a simple playbook for political fights: attack, counterattack, and never apologize.

Trump is employing that strategy on "The Apprentice," an independently produced biopic about him that premiered this week at the Cannes Film Festival.

In a cease-and-desist letter, one of Trump's attorneys threatened to sue over the movie's release, calling it "direct foreign interference in America's elections."

"If you do not immediately cease and desist all distribution and marketing of this libelous farce, we will be forced to pursue all appropriate legal remedies," lawyer David Warrington wrote in the letter, obtained Friday by Business Insider.

The movie depicts the rise of Trump as a New York real estate mogul in the 1970s and 1980s. Trump is played by Sebastian Stan, who is best known for his role in Marvel movies as an American soldier brainwashed by Russians.

In the biopic, he rises as a New York power broker under the tutelage of Cohn (played by "Succession" actor Jeremy Strong), a colorful and controversial figure in American politics who made his name in the 1950s as a Senate lawyer rooting out Communist Party members with US Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

According to critics who have seen it, the biopic depicts Trump undergoing liposuction, receiving surgery for hair loss, living with erectile dysfunction, and rejecting his brother, who suffered from alcohol addiction. It also shows Trump raping his first wife, Ivana.

"The Apprentice," produced by Dublin-based production company Tailored Films, is still seeking deals with distribution companies that would put it in American theaters and on streaming services. Although a lawsuit against the filmmakers may not be successful, the threat of litigation may chill those negotiations.

The threat of a lawsuit may also work in the other direction, creating a Streisand Effect that draws more eyes to a movie that may have been otherwise relegated to the arthouse film market.

Warrington works for Dhillon Law, a firm that has represented Trump in several other cases — it collected nearly $900,000 from Trump's donor-funded PACs last year — and has brought defamation lawsuits against journalists in the past.

The cease-and-desist letter is addressed to director Ali Abbasi and screenwriter Gabriel Sherman, who directed Business Insider to a statement attributed to the movie's producers.

"The film is a fair and balanced portrait of the former president," the producers. "We want everyone to see it and then decide."

At a Cannes Film Festival press conference this week, Abbasi said the movie was really about "the way the system is built and the way the power runs through the system," according to the Los Angeles Times, and seemed unconcerned about a potential lawsuit.

"Everybody talks about him suing a lot of people," he said. "They don't talk about his success rate, though."

In a statement issued earlier this week, Strong compared Trump's attacks on journalism to rhetoric from Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong — comparisons Warrington called "unhinged."

Warrington also criticized Sherman, a Vanity Fair reporter, for making what he said were "racist, Marxist, and otherwise disparaging statements" about Trump in the past.

"The Apprentice" was partly funded by foreigners, according to Warrington's letter. The letter warns that the movie's release in the United States would amount to "foreign interference in our elections."

"The Movie, released six months before the November 2024 election, is directed at influencing the 2024 election by falsely defaming President Trump," he wrote.

Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump's 2024 presidential campaign, said the independently produced movie "doesn't even deserve a place in the straight-to-DVD section of a bargain bin at a soon-to-be-closed discount movie store" and "is election interference by Hollywood elites, who know that President Trump will retake the White House and beat their candidate of choice because nothing they have done has worked."

"We sent a cease and desist letter to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers," he said in a statement. "This garbage is pure fiction which sensationalizes lies that have been long debunked.

Read the original article on Business Insider