That oft-cited phrase, “words have consequences” took on yet another special meaning for Donald Trump late last week when a Kentucky federal judge ruled that there is a limit to what constitutes “free speech” – especially when that speech incites Trump supporters to assault other Americans. The courts, including the Supreme Court, have ruled in the past that not all speech is free or protected, and it is particularly true when a presidential candidate incites violence against people he considers his enemies.
The Federal Judge, David J. Hale ruled against Trump in a lawsuit where Trump’s legal team attempted to get the “assault” case thrown out of court on “free speech” grounds. The lawsuit accused Trump of inciting violence against protesters at a campaign rally in March 2016 where Trump “repeatedly ordered, instructed, and commanded” his acolytes to “get em’ out here” the judge said resulted in protestors being punched and kicked as they were leaving. Trump’s attorney’s claimed the candidate did not “intend” for his zealots to use force or punch and kick the protestors, but that pathetic argument didn’t sway Judge Hale.
The Judge reminded Trump’s legal team that any speech inciting violence is not protected by the First Amendment and ruled “that there is plenty of evidence that the protesters’ injuries were a direct and proximate result” of Trump’s words. It is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ’em out of here’ advocated the use of force. It was an order, an instruction, a command.”
It is likely that Federal Judge Hale remembers Donald Trump “commanding” his vicious supporters in February 2016 that somebody –
“Should knock the crap out of them [protestors], would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell— I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise. It won’t be so much ’cause the courts agree with us too.” Apparently, based on Judge Hale’s ruling, the courts absolutely do not agree with Trump.
This is the third time federal judges have used Trump’s own words to rule against him and the third time his legal team has argued that nothing he says, especially provocative or controversial words, should be taken literally; something about free speech. In Hawaii a little over a week ago another Federal Judge rejected Trump attorney’s argument that his second “Muslim ban” should only be evaluated “without considering Trump’s and his acolytes’ comments about the Muslim ban” being exactly what Trump promised it was going to be; a religious ban targeting one specific faith.
As a reminder, Trump claims his executive order “banning Muslims” is not really about banning Muslims. And yet throughout the presidential campaign, he promised to order “a blanket ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States;” the campaign promise in the form of a news release remains on his campaign website.
Trump’s first “travel ban” was struck down by the courts that “ruled that this rhetoric was relevant” to their decisions in halting his first travel ban. During that case’s hearing Trump’s people argued, and “lied” that Trump’s order wasn’t a Muslim ban even though it specifically gave the highest priority to Christian immigrants from Trump’s list of “undesirable and unprofitable” Muslim majority nations.
In fact, when they struck down his first “Muslim ban” the courts particularly cited Trump operative Rudy Giuliani’s comments that Trump directed him to make his “ban on Muslims” legally practical. Giuliani actually said, “So when [Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban,’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’” There is no way to “legally” single out one religion for special dispensation and if the Trump or Giuliani or any of his “team” had even a rudimentary comprehension of the 1st Amendment they would know that fundamental fact.
The “Muslim ban” words came back to haunt Trump when the courts “halted his second ‘travel’ ban” and specifically cited “his past rhetoric” to prove the intent of the ban was targeting Muslims. The Federal Judge in Hawaii also cited “words of Trump’s team” when he specifically noted that one of Trump’s top advisers, Stephen Miller, openly claimed the second “Muslim ban” was in all practicality exactly the same as the first. Miller said,
“Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court, and those will be addressed. But, those basic policies are still going to be in effect.”
The ‘basic policies’ are that practitioners of one specific religion, Islam, were the target of the travel ban; but only if the “Muslims” came from nations where Trump has no business dealings.
No doubt Trump and his supporters will rail on Judge Hale accusing him of being an activist judge with a grudge who is out to get the Trump. No doubt they will also continue claiming that nothing untoward Trump says should be taken seriously and that no-one should hold him accountable when his words produce consequences for people who he considers his enemies.
Trump cannot have it both ways; either his words mean exactly what he meant when he uttered them or they don’t. That is not a baseless concept; it is the opinion of at least three federal judges in three separate cases where they especially cited Trump’s own speech in their rulings against the Trump.
In this most recent case, the Judge rejected Trump’s claim that he wasn’t ‘really’ inciting violence against protestors despite the simple fact that he issued an “order, command, and instruction” to his followers. As the Judge remarked, they were “commands” that provided “plenty of evidence the protestors injuries” were the “direct and proximate” result of Trump’s words inciting violence against protestors.