Trump has had it in for journalists since day one
A New York Times report says that President Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to consider locking up reporters who revealed classified information.
This flies in the face of the first right the Founding Fathers enshrined in the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and would definitely be highly unconstitutional.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press
Any law the law enforcement wing of the Executive Branch of government, which Trump heads as President, might use to try to imprison journalists could, and should be regarded as “abridging the freedom of speech or of the press” – which the Constitution expressly forbids. Yes, even receiving and revealing a so-called “leak” of classified information.
The Founding Fathers didn’t carve out an exception for secrets, and for good reason. Then as now, greed, corruption, and foreign influence were factors in politics, and any such protection would have protected the powerful at the peril of the people – precisely what they rebelled against in the first place. All any President would have needed to do to effectively become King, was classify anything politically embarrassing. And so instead of protecting state secrets, they wisely did the opposite, and protected those who might reveal them.
Indeed, a so-called “leaker” (post 9/11 parlance for what we used to call a “whistle blower” in America) might face consequences for revealing such information. But that’s the beauty of the system the Founding Fathers established. If the peril to the nation or it’s people is so great that an individual can accept greater peril to themselves, if need be, to bring it to the light of day, then and only then are secrets bound to be revealed. But to protect that simple system of checks and balances, the Press must be free to report what is revealed. All our freedoms rest upon this.
Of course, that doesn’t mean a dictatorial minded President with a complacent, whimpering, wholly corrupt to it’s core, spineless, treasonous, blindly partisan Congress in his pocket might not try to punish not only the “leaker” but the leakee. Particularly not if said President had a lifelong history of self aggrandizing, self promoting, a narcissistic love of self, and an ego that could not be overawed by the weight of the Presidency. And this President has always had just such a love-love relationship with himself, and a love-hate relationship with the press. On occasion after occasion he has simultaneously expressed his disdain for the press while lapping up extensive coverage.
According to the New York Times report, the latest bombshell memo Comey apparently wrote concerning Trump’s request to let the Michael Flynn investigation ‘go’ also contains a request to jail journalists;
Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press pushed back with a statement condemning the apparent request. Executive Director Bruce Brown noted that the country relies on the press day after day and the US constitution protects their freedom to report without fear of retribution.
The comments attributed to President Trump cross a dangerous line. But no president gets to jail journalists. Reporters are protected by judges and juries, by a congress that relies on them to stay informed, and by a Justice Department that for decades has honored the role of a free press by spurning prosecutions of journalists for publishing leaks of classified information.
Brown said Trump’s comments serve as a reminder of the crucial role a free press plays in society. He added that the Press should be inspired by Trump’s comments, rather than intimidated.
Intimidating the press is Trump’s M.O. He’s been shown regularly lambasting journalists at press briefings, mocking one New York Times reporter’s disability and.of course, labeling the mainstream media as fake. In a tweet last week he suggested banning the media altogether
…Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
While pundits debate whether or not Trump speaks in hyperbole, the Trump White House slips further down the rabbit hole, demanding loyalty from key officials, asking to squelch investigations and suggesting the imprisonment of journalists. Reasonable people who know a modicum of history recognize the path to tyranny for what it is. And that path almost always begins with hyperbole.
Featured photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.
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