*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
There are good reasons why it is important for a public servant to be well-versed in the law of the land, the U.S. Constitution. First and foremost is because every public servant takes a “swear to god” oath to support and uphold the document and that importance is amplified a thousand-fold when the public servant holds a political office; especially when that office is the head of the executive branch of government. It has become increasingly apparent, and frankly damned worrisome, that the corrupt big-time wrestling celebrity heading for the White House has no knowledge of, or use for, the United States Constitution that despicable Don will swear to uphold, support and defend. It is a frightening prospect to be sure and now for the second time in a week, a Trump insider revealed their abject ignorance of the Constitution by expressing their belief that a journalist should be imprisoned for daring to cross Donald Trump.
There has been no small amount of anxiety among “the media” over threats against journalists from Trump and his campaign, and the reason for that anxiety came to the fore on Thursday. Trump’s former campaign manager and in-house propagandist for CNN, Corey Lewandowski, expressed his boss’s belief that the First Amendment’s freedom of the press, and speech, does not apply to journalists and called for the imprisonment of the New York Times executive editor, Dean Bacquet.
Lewandowski was making an appearance at Harvard’s Institute of Politics for a post-election confab when he repeated that the NYT’s executive editor Dean Bacquet should be is a prison for publishing deceitful Don’s 1995 tax returns in October. Politico reported that Lewandowski said:
“We had one of the top people at The New York Times come to Harvard University and say, ‘I’m willing to go to jail to get a copy of Donald Trump’s taxes so I can publish them.’ Dean Bacquet came here and offered to go to jail — you’re telling me, he’s willing to commit a felony on a private citizen to post his taxes, and there isn’t enough scrutiny on the Trump campaign and his business dealings and his taxes? It’s egregious. He should be in jail.”
First, this column will answer part of Lewandowski’s question whether it was rhetorical or not. No, there was not near enough scrutiny on corrupt Trump, his connection to Russia, his dirty dealing, and lies, his opposition to transparency, his business operations or his taxes; taxes that every other presidential candidate releases for inspection as a matter of course and transparency.
Second, it doesn’t matter one iota what Mr. Bacquet said about a willingness to go to jail if it meant doing his job as a member of the Fourth Estate; many journalists are taking that stand every day now that a tyrannical fascist worked with Vladimir Putin and FBI Director James Comey to lie his way to the White House.
Where Lewandowski is dead wrong is libeling Mr. Bacquet by claiming he committed a felony simply by “being a journalist.” According to 10 esteemed experts in First Amendment law, neither Mr. Bacquet nor the newspaper he runs, the New York Times, violated any laws. In fact, the ‘legal blog’ Concurring Opinions collected the “concurring” legal expert’s opinions and said that the NYTs is on “firm legal ground” because it “did not participate in illegally accessing Trump’s tax documents;” unlike Trump’s Russian cohort that “illegally accessed” (stole) DNC documents and passed them to a Russian surrogate, Wikileaks, to use on the Trump campaign’s behalf.
Since the Times was unaware of exactly who the anonymous person was that mailed the tax document to the paper, there is no criminal liability. And let’s face it, like Trump’s threats against other journalists for allegedly committing libel against him, the lack of a lawsuit or criminal complaint clearly demonstrates even Trump knows the Times did nothing illegal. It may be true that Trump doesn’t know any more about libel laws than he does the Constitution or the First Amendment, but his substantial legal team certainly does. If there was a hope in proverbial Hell of holding either the Times, Mr. Bacquet or any other journalists’ feet to the fire over libel violations, the jails and courts would be swamped with Trump lawsuits against journalists and all manner of media types.
These comments from a Trump surrogate and liar Lewandowski are not only troubling, they have inspired many journalism experts to condemn Trump’s attacks on the press and instilled unwarranted wariness on the part of some journalists. The chairwoman of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ board, Sandra Mims Rowe issued a statement in October critical of Trump’s incessant attacks on the press for doing its job and expecting First Amendment protections. Ms. Rowe’s statement read, in part:
“Throughout his campaign, Trump has routinely made vague proposals to limit basic elements of press and internet freedom. At a rally in February, Trump declared that if elected president he would ‘open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.’ In September, Trump tweeted, ‘My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.’ While some have suggested that these statements are rhetorical, we take Trump at his word. His intent and his disregard for the constitutional free press principle are clear.”
Here’s the thing; what Trump described as “opening up libel laws” to suit his bloated ego is the definition of libel. What Trump complains about are purposely true articles about him, and if he could have sued the Times he certainly would have; he is, besides being a pathological liar, as vindictive and malicious a piece of work as any human will ever meet. As an aside, dirty Don’s choice to run the National Security Agency, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, committed libel against Hillary Clinton when he deliberately shared a “purposely negative and horrible and false article” for the sole purpose of “defaming Hillary Clinton’s character;” the legal definition of “libel.” Trump wants that person running the nation’s top intelligence-gathering spy agency instead of being in prison where Trump Brown Shirts want journalists sent for publishing the truth.
Many journalists and media outlets are not about to be intimidated by the likes of Trump or his rabid Nazi acolytes. The biggest threat to the First Amendment is Trump colluding with his suspected choice to run the Department of Homeland Security. He is the malcontent cop who twice called for armed rebellion against the United States of America, and proposed ending habeas corpus to round up a million people to be imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay Cuba; no warrant, no trial and absolutely no Constitutional rights. It is no stretch to imagine Trump heeding that kind of advice and rounding up non-complimentary journalists. However, until that time, journalists not in thrall to Trump should not give any quarter and hammer Trump and his surrogate alt-right Nazis, billionaires, racists, bigots and warmongers mercilessly; at least until Trump unilaterally abolishes the United States Constitution. It is a prospect once thought unimaginable, but so was the idea of a fascist big-time wrestling celebrity inhabiting the White House.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.