“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
These words are the presidential oath of office that every president takes upon being inaugurated into the office of president. On 20 January 2017, Chief Justice John Roberts administered the above oath to Donald J. Trump. In the past 24 hours, the same Donald Trump has threatened to break his oath not once, but twice.The first came on the wave of his rage over the Bob Woodward book, Fear, that is to be released next Tuesday. Trump repeated his call for stricter libel laws … a threat he has made before. What Trump is actually calling for, however, is a change in the very definition of the word ‘libel’.
Defamation is defined as the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation. Defamation falls under two categories: slander & libel. The difference is simple: slander is verbal or by gestures, whereas libel is written or printed.
There are several things a person must prove to establish that libel has taken place. In the United States, a person must prove that 1) the statement was false, 2) caused harm, and 3) was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement. These steps are for an ordinary citizen. For a celebrity or public official, a person must prove the first three steps, and that the statement was made with the intent to do harm or with reckless disregard for the truth.
Trump has been referring to the legitimate press as “the enemy of the people” while at the same time praising Fox News and even Breitbart, neither of whom are known for fact-based, honest reporting. And now, he wants Congress to enact stricter libel laws, by which he simply means, by his definition, anything printed that is critical of him. This is not how it works, and it would be a blatant disregard of the 1st Amendment if it were. As long as what the press prints is factual, or to the best of their belief was factual, they are well within their rights.
Despite the fact that Congress has been bowing to the wishes of Trump since day #1, I cannot imagine that they would even consider such a bill, so I am not concerned that the press will ultimately be shuttered from reporting anything critical of Trump. However, that he even threatens it is very concerning, for it is but one more indicator of his intent to rule rather than lead. To bring the government into the realm of autocracy. Such disregard for the Constitution goes against his oath.The second and equally concerning threat was made as a response to protests against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Tuesday.
“I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that. I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.”
Now, the statement in itself is disturbing enough, and taken in conjunction with his rants about Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest against police killing unarmed black men, it makes an even more chilling thought. “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protestors.” Again, I direct attention to the 1st Amendment that protects freedom of speech, including peaceful protests. And again, I remind you that he referred to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia last year as “very fine people”. He did not suggest shutting down their freedom of speech.
What is, perhaps, almost as bothersome as what he said is to whom he said it. He made the statement during an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller. Now, in case you aren’t familiar with the Daily Caller, it is a conservative website co-founded by Tucker Carlson of Fox News fame. Mr. Carlson has more controversies under his belt than can even be tallied. To give you one small example of his idiocy, he is against seat belt laws. Like its co-founder, the Daily Caller is laden with controversy and is definitely not a legitimate source of news. A few examples:
- In 2017, The Daily Caller published a story claiming that a “peer-reviewed study” by “two scientists and a veteran statistician” found that global warming had been fabricated by climate scientists. The alleged “study” was a PDF file on a WordPress blog, and was not peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.
In March 2013 The Daily Caller posted interviews with two women claiming that New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez had paid them for sex while he was a guest of a campaign donor. The allegation came five days before the 2012 New Jersey senate election. News organizations such as ABC News, which had also interviewed the women, the New York Times, and the New York Post declined to publish the allegations, viewing them as unsubstantiated and lacking credibility. Subsequently, one of the women who accused Menendez stated that she had been paid to falsely implicate the senator and had never met him. Menendez’s office described the allegations as “manufactured” by a right-wing blog as a politically motivated smear. A few weeks later, police in the Dominican Republic announced that three women had claimed they were paid $300–425 each to lie about having had sex with Menendez.
Carlson Tucker is not much different than Alex Jones, it would seem, and anybody who reads and believes the Daily Caller should come see me about a bridge I have for sale. For Donald Trump to treat the Daily Caller as a legitimate news source, while denigrating the 141-year-old Washington Post, and the 167-year-old New York Times, is an indicator of his intelligence, or lack thereof.
So, we have a president who, as I have said from the very beginning, is not satisfied with the office of president, but seeks to undermine the foundation of the Constitution by chiseling away at the rights and privileges that document gives us in order to expand and extend his power. Surely Congress will stop him, right? Um … well …
** Endnote: While I am writing a post, I rarely check news other than to verify facts or look up something pertaining to the post I am writing at the time, lest I lose my focus. Thus, I was not aware of the anonymous letter from a senior administration official that was published in the New York Times late yesterday afternoon until I had finished writing this post. I will have more to say about that later, once the dust has settled just a bit, but Trump’s comment that “the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!” sends chills and signals another potential attempt to undermine the Constitution.