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CEO of 'Fire and Fury' publisher responds to Trump legal threat

CNN logo CNN 1/8/2018 Oliver Darcy
Kathy Mallin, from Glenview, Ill., looks over a copy of the book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff at Barbara's Books Store, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Chicago. © AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast Kathy Mallin, from Glenview, Ill., looks over a copy of the book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff at Barbara's Books Store, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, in Chicago.

The CEO of the parent company for the publisher of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" shot back on Monday to last week's demand from President Trump's attorney that it cease and desist further dissemination of the book.

John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, the parent company of Henry Holt, outlined in a memo to employees the company's "firm" response to Trump, telling staff it "is a matter of great importance" that is about "much more" than the book itself.

"The president is free to call news 'fake' and to blast the media. That goes against convention, but it is not unconstitutional," Sargent wrote. "But a demand to cease and desist publication—a clear effort by the President of the United States to intimidate a publisher into halting publication of an important book on the workings of the government—is an attempt to achieve what is called prior restraint. That is something that no American court would order as it is flagrantly unconstitutional."

Related: President Trump tries to quash bombshell book

Charles Harder, an attorney representing Trump, sent a letter last week to Henry Holt demanding the publisher "cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination" of the book, alleging the book contained "false/baseless statements" about the president.

But Henry Holt saw things differently. Instead of ceasing distribution of the book, the publisher released it to the public several days early.

Sargent said in his memo that the company would send Trump a formal legal response on Monday.

"There is no ambiguity here. This is an underlying principle of our democracy. We cannot stand silent," Sargent wrote in his memo. "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."

Wolff's "Fire and Fury" has dominated the media cycle since excerpts were released last week.

The book portrays Trump's aides and allies as questioning the president's mental fitness for office. CNN has not independently confirmed all of Wolff's assertions.

Trump has slammed the book and its author, even responding to questions about his mental fitness for office. In a series of tweets over the weekend, he said his "two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart," and called himself a "very stable genius."

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