NEW YORK — Donald Trump can keep his Twitter insults flying.
In a decision made public Tuesday, a New York judge dismissed a lawsuit filed last year against the Republican president-elect by a political strategist who claimed her reputation was trashed when he falsely said she had "begged" for a campaign job and called her a "dummy" on Twitter.
Trump's tweets might be "rife with vague and simplistic insults," and the barbs he aimed at Republican public relations consultant Cheryl Jacobus might have been hurtful, but they were still protected free speech, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe ruled.
The case has its roots in a February appearance Jacobus made on CNN in which she said Trump's presidential campaign had not been transparent about its financing.
Trump retaliated in a tweet that night. Trump tweeted that Jacobus had "begged us for a job. We said no and she went hostile," calling her "a real dummy." Days later he tweeted that she was a "major loser, zero credibility!"
Jacobus filed a $4 million lawsuit, saying Trump's online attacks had cost her TV appearances and inspired bullying from Trump supporters.
In her 20-page opinion, signed Monday, Jaffe wrote that although Trump's "intemperate tweets are clearly intended to belittle and demean plaintiff," they wouldn't prevent her from working as a consultant and political commentator.
Jacobus' lawyer, Jay Butterman, vowed to appeal the decision. He said the ruling had effectively given "now President-elect Donald Trump a free pass to trample on the free speech rights of any critic."
Larry Rosen, Trump's attorney, called Jaffe's decision "well-reasoned." A transition spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jacobus had previously had two meetings with then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in the summer of 2015 about a possible job with the campaign. And though no job offer was ever made, both Trump and Lewandowski publicly attributed Jacobus' criticisms to her lack of employment with the campaign.
In her decision, Jaffe ruled that whether Jacobus "begged" Trump for a job was subjective and not an objective fact.
Because it followed her own public criticisms of Trump, Jaffe ruled, the context of the exchange "signals to readers that plaintiff and Trump were engaged in a petty quarrel."