Although Donald Trump Jr. and former coal baron Don Blankenship have a lot in common — both are far-right bullies, both are extremists, and both are aggressive defenders of fossil fuels — there is a considerable amount of bad blood between the two of them. And in West Virginia, a 95-year-old federal judge has refused to throw out Blankenship's defamation lawsuit against Trump Jr., according to Law & Crime.
The lawsuit stems from comments that Trump Jr., the son of former President Donald Trump, made about Blankenship during West Virginia's 2018 U.S. Senate race, which found Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin being reelected.
The 71-year-old Blankenship is the former CEO of the coal company Massey Energy, and he served a year behind bars because of his role in a 2010 coal mining disaster. In his lawsuit, Blankenship argues Trump Jr. wrongly defamed him by describing him as a convicted "felon"; Blankenship was incarcerated because of a misdemeanor conviction, not a felony conviction.
In one of his anti-Blankenship tweets, Trump Jr. said of Manchin, "He's probably never run against a felon." That tweet, according to Law & Crime Elura Nanos, appears to have been deleted.
U.S. District Court John T. Copenhaver, Jr., who was appointed by President Gerald Ford back in the mid-1970s and is now 95, ruled that Blankenship's lawsuit can move forward.
Copenhaver wrote, "Based on this article that Trump Jr. himself cites within his own quote tweet, there is a plausible inference that he had knowledge of the plaintiff's conviction history in association with the mine explosion, and in particular that the conviction was a misdemeanor, not a felony."
The bitter rivalry between Trump Jr. and Blankenship started in 2018, when Blankenship ran for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia and Trump Jr. — pointing out that Blankenship had been incarcerated — predicted that centrist Democrat Manchin would crush Blankenship in the general election if Blankenship received the GOP nomination. Although West Virginia Republicans rejected Blankenship in the primary as Trump Jr. hoped and Republican Patrick Morrisey won the nomination, Manchin won the general election. The centrist and relatively conservative Manchin, like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has often been a source of frustration among more progressive Democrats. But he is popular in West Virginia, a deep red state.
Blankenship, who left the Republican Party in 2018, is now a member of the right-wing Constitution Party — and in 2020's presidential election, he received the Constitution Party's nomination and ran against then-President Donald Trump, now-President Joe Biden, Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen and Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins.