Imagine, if you will, President Barack Obama, ready to give a press conference, telling his aides that only people who agree with him completely are to be allowed in. Or, better yet … imagine George W. Bush giving a televised address to the nation after 9/11, but insisting that media companies black out his address to all democratic households. Fantasy, right? Silly at best. And yet, that is exactly what Trump has tried to do. His preferred venue for communicating his … er, um … thoughts … is Twitter. I honestly think he must spend 4-5 hours per day tweeting from his throne (bet there’s no shortage of toilet paper there!)
In 2017, within months of taking the Oath of Office (remember that oath, Donnie?) Trump began blocking Twitter users who dared to disagree with him. Seven of those users felt that if that is the only means by which he is going to communicate, then We the People must be able to question and yes, even disagree with or criticize him. And so, those seven convinced the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University to file a lawsuit on their behalf. Well, the wheels of justice turn pretty darn slowly sometimes, and the case was first heard by Judge Naomi Buchwald in May 2018. Her 75-page ruling, in a nutshell, said that, “No government official — including the President — is above the law.” Hmmmm … perhaps Attorney General William Barr could learn something from her.
Well, Trump and his cadre of lawyers, naturally, appealed the case and in July 2019, a New York-based appeals court upheld Judge Buchwald’s ruling, saying that public officials who take to social media for official government business are prohibited from excluding people “from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”
Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote for a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit …
“In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less.”
Justice Department lawyers defending Trump said in court that @realDonaldTrump is a personal account on a privately owned digital platform and that Trump may block followers he “does not wish to hear.” Sounds rather like censorship to me.
And … sigh … of course the lawyers picked up their briefcases and headed back to court to file yet another appeal. Yesterday, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit denied the Trump administration’s request to revisit the July 2019 ruling. Of the nine judges who considered the Trump administration’s request, only two said they would have revisited the earlier decision. The two are both Trump appointees, Judge Michael H. Park and Judge Richard J. Sullivan. Judge Park wrote in his dissenting opinion …
“The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not include a right to post on other people’s personal social media accounts, even if those other people happen to be public officials.”
The last sentence of the article I read … “The Justice Department is reviewing the ruling, a spokeswoman said.” Translate that as … Trump’s legal eagles will file yet another appeal to a higher court — United States Supreme Court. Remember something, folks … you and I are paying for all the time these lawyers are wasting, we are paying the judges salary and all their clerks who must review and type their 75-page rulings, we are paying for both legal teams … we are paying through the nose for Trump to have his hand slapped time and time and time again. And, what happens when the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court? Well, let’s see … there are the two Justices he leads around using the rings in their noses – that would be Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Then there is Chief Justice John Roberts who, ever since a few private tête-à-têtes in the Oval Office, has been just as much a Trump boot-licker as Kellyanne Conway. So, I give you three guesses.
Now, Filosofa, though no legal scholar, is going to weigh in on this one just for a minute. In the first ruling on this case, Judge Buchwald said that no one, not even the president, is above the law. And yet, Attorney General William Barr has said that as long as Trump’s fat arse is sitting in the Oval Office, he is above the law. My best guess is that this will be the argument the high-paid DOJ lawyers will use at the Supreme Court level, and because Bill Barr said it’s so, then … gasp … of course it must be so.
But back to the starting point. Trump’s attorneys argue that @realDonaldTrump is a private account. However, I would argue that by default it has become a government account, since Trump conducts nearly all communication with his portion of the public, his 62 million Twitter followers, via Twitter using that account. The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives We the People the absolute right to speak out against our government officials. If I attend a speech in another venue, I certainly can express my own opinion, so … why not on Twitter.
If the case goes to the Supreme Court and if the Court rules in Trump’s favour, We the People must engage in a very forceful protest. Coronavirus be damned … this is the future of all Americans that is at stake here, for centuries to come. We simply cannot let him continue chipping away at our Constitutional rights, my friends … it’s really all that remains between us and a full-blown dictatorship.