Thoughts On ‘Executive Privilege’ …

Donald Trump has invoked ‘executive privilege’ more than any other president, though all have used it to a lesser extent.  Just in the past month, Trump has used it to keep a number of people from answering subpoenas by various congressional committees trying to find answers to some very important questions.  Yesterday, he used it to claim that Congress and the public would not be allowed to see the un-redacted version of the Mueller report.  Most of us are scratching our heads and asking, “Can he do that?” 

Executive privilege is defined as “the right of the president and high-level executive branch officers to withhold information from Congress, the courts, and ultimately the public.”  It is not a right that is spelled out in the Constitution, but rather was defined by the Supreme Court when it ruled that it is “fundamental to the operation of government and inextricably rooted in the separation of powers under the Constitution.”

Executive privilege can be asserted for one of two reasons: for national security needs, and for “protecting the privacy of White House deliberations when it is in the public interest to do so.”  Now, at issue here is whether Donald Trump can be said to have known about and welcomed the Russian intrusion into the 2016 presidential election, and more likely, did Donald Trump attempt to interfere with the investigation into said Russian interference?  Neither, at this juncture, qualify as ‘national security’ issues, so that leaves the second reason.

“Protecting the privacy of White House deliberations when it is in the public interest to do so” is rather open to interpretation. Is it in the ‘public interest’ to keep us in the dark and allow Trump to get by with having broken the law? My own opinion is that transparency is in the public interest, that the public has both a right and a need to know the truth.  Just as Nixon’s assertion of executive privilege was widely seen as self-serving and against the public interest, most of us believe that Trump’s repeatedly invoking it makes him look guilty of far more than even Nixon.

If I sidle past you with my hands behind my back, you ask what I’m hiding, and I say “nuffin” then run quickly past and into my room, slam the door and lock it, you’re going to be pretty darn suspicious, right?  Trump has been caught with his hands in the cookie jar and he is trying very hard to hide it.  So … back to the question at hand:  Can he do that?

Is it in the public interest?  No.  It is in the interest of Donald Trump as he wishes to remain in office, for he is enjoying the power of the office, the free jet-setting all over the world, and financial benefits for his businesses.

President Nixon’s abuse of the privilege made future presidents leery of it, and even when he was facing the Iran-Contra investigation during his second term, President Ronald Reagan decided against asserting executive privilege, agreeing instead to provide much of the requested information to Congress.  President Bill Clinton attempted to invoke executive privilege during the investigation into his affair with Monica Lewinsky but was ultimately overruled.

Just as Richard Nixon used executive privilege in an attempt to cover his guilt, there can be no doubt that Trump is doing the same … the proof is in what we already know of the Mueller report.  However, as the courts struck down Nixon’s claim, they are not as likely to do so with Trump’s.  Why?  Attorney General William Barr.  The Justice Department under Nixon refused to pander to the president’s whims and instead held him accountable.  Why do you think Jeff Sessions was fired?  Why do you think Rod Rosenstein is resigning?  And why do you think Trump nominated, and the Senate confirmed, William Barr so quickly?  Why do you think Trump encouraged Justice Kennedy to retire and then the Senate was in such an all-fire hurry to put Brett Kavanaugh on the bench, despite credible allegations of sexual abuse?  Trump knew that Mueller’s report would open the doors to congressional investigations and he was pre-covering his bases.

In U.S. v. Nixon in 1974, President Richard Nixon was ordered to deliver tapes and other subpoenaed materials to a federal judge for review. The justices ruled 9-0 that a president’s right to privacy in his communications must be balanced against Congress’ need to investigate and oversee the executive branch.  That was then, and this is now … Nixon thought he would not be caught and didn’t have time to prepare in advance.  Trump knew he was caught and rushed through terminations and nominations to cover his patootie even before the Mueller report saw the light of day. Remember how Trump’s lawyers refused to let him testify before Mueller’s team, for they knew he would lie and incriminate himself even further.

Now, that is not to say that Trump will not ultimately have his feet held to the fire, but it is likely to be sometime next year before that happens, as I suspect this will work its way up through the court system along with other issues.  I also suspect it is more of a delaying tactic than anything.  Think about it … right this moment, we are furious, and this is the hot topic.  As other things take over the headlines in the media, as our attention is directed elsewhere, how likely are we to stay focused on Trump’s abuse of ‘executive privilege’?

I keep hoping that somebody … Don McGahn, Robert Mueller … somebody will have the guts to stand against Trump and volunteer to testify and provide whatever documents are in their possession.  Yes, it could result in a jail sentence, but … isn’t someone willing to put this nation and its well-being ahead of their own self-interest?  Trump for damn sure isn’t.

What Is A Government For?

When reading yesterday about Trump’s threat to cut off emergency aid to the state of California to assist in its efforts to recover and rebuild after the recent deadly fires, I had to ask … what is a government for, then?  It is highly questionable whether food stamp recipients will receive their food stamps next month.  Farmers are not receiving the subsidies they were promised to help ease the cost of the tariffs that have cut deeply into their revenues.  TSA workers who inspect people and luggage at airports to detect bombs are calling off the job, for they cannot afford to keep working without pay.  Inspections of the food we buy at the grocery store are curtailed.  And the list of services that we pay for, but are being denied, goes on … and on … and on … ad infinitum.

So what is a government for, then?  What is its purpose?  For starters, let’s take a look at the Preamble of the United States Constitution:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

First off, note that it is “We the People” who established the government.  We the People give the government its legitimacy.  So, when the government no longer does those things … no longer promotes the general welfare, but rather only the welfare of a few wealthy people … then what purpose does it serve?  Is it truly a government of, by and for the people?

Look at that first point in the Preamble … “in order to form a more perfect union”.  This nation is divided as it has never before been.  I’m not sure that even the Civil War era was as divisive as the current environment is.  What’s worse, though, is that the ‘leader’ of this government is the very one who is causing the divisiveness!  The government is doing not one single thing to try to help bring people together, to “form a more perfect union”.

The second point … “establish justice”.  Justice?  The person in the Oval Office has declared himself to be above the law.  Time and time again.  So, think about this for a minute.  If the head of the government is above the law, if most of his political appointees are considered above the law … can there be justice in this nation?  I think not.

The third point … “ensure domestic tranquility”.  Can you even say that phrase without either laughing or crying?  Domestic tranquility?  What the Sam Heck is that???

Fourth point … “provide for the common defense”.  Let’s ponder for a minute … does constant and unwarranted criticism of our allies, denigration of such peacekeeping organizations as the United Nations and NATO make us safer?  Does the pandering to strong-arm dictators like Putin, Erdoğan, Kim, and Duterte make us safer?  Better yet, does the domestic hotbed that exists in this nation make us safer?  I think not.

Fifth point … “promote the general welfare”.  This is another that would be laughable, if only the laughter didn’t turn to tears.  General welfare???  800,000+ people not getting paid?  Food stamps reduced or eliminated?  Trash overflowing in national parks?  People losing their homes?  Food growers unable to meet their mortgage payments?  A nation in chaos does not … I repeat, NOT … promote the general welfare.

And finally, the sixth point … “secure liberty and posterity”.  Liberty?  From what?  Liberty from tyranny comes to mind, but we have the most tyrannical leader in the history of the nation, so that can’t be right.  Liberty to … go to work without pay?  To watch our infrastructure crumble beneath our feet?  To listen to the self-promoting lies of a madman?  And posterity … defined as “all future generations of people”.  Given the government’s stance on climate change and the devastating effects, there aren’t likely to be too many future generations of people.

I return to my original question:  What is government for?  Whatever it was intended to be for, it no longer fulfills those responsibilities.  What do we do about this?

Think about it.

Au Revoir, General James Mattis 😢

Yesterday, the world became a little less safe.  U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, announced his resignation effective 28 February 2019.  It is understandable, and nobody could possibly blame him, for his has been a thankless job since the day he took office, January 20th 2017.  Mattis has disagreed with Trump on many things during his nearly two-year tenure, from climate change to Russia to pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.  But the straw that broke the camel’s back was Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw the remaining 2,200 U.S. troops from Syria.  I don’t blame General Mattis for finally saying, “I’ve had enough of this mess” … don’t blame him at all.  But with his departure, the world … not just the U.S., but the entire world … became less safe.

Here are some of the more pertinent parts from the General’s letter of resignation:

  • I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.

  • One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.


  • My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.


  • We must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America.

The threat of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria and also Afghanistan is a disaster on so many levels, not the least of which being that it is a proverbial slap-in-the-face to our allies in Europe.  As the UK’s Middle East minister, Alistair Burt said …

“There are no vacuums in foreign policy, certainly not in the Middle East. In a fragile region every action is a catalyst for another. If allies cannot be relied upon, others are sought to take their place. Jim Mattis understood – vital any successor agrees.”

And UK’s Defense Minister, Tobias Ellwood …

“The most impressive military mind I’ve had the honour to know. Jim my friend – our world will be less safe without you.”

The co-chair of the European council on foreign relations Carl Bildt had strong words …

“A morning of alarm in Europe. Sec Def Mattis is the remaining strong bond across the Atlantic in the Trump administration. All the others are fragile at best or broken at worst.”

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group in the European parliament, said…

“A victory for Russia, Iran, Turkey, Turkish proxies & the Syrian regime. Unsurprisingly, it leaves Europeans more vulnerable – and shows how wrong it is that we do not have a defence force able to help stabilise our immediate neighbourhood.”

Neither the Syrian withdrawal nor the prospect of cutting troop numbers in Afghanistan were preceded by any serious consultation with his European allies, many of whom either have ground troops or air forces operating in both countries.

Trump’s selection of Mattis for Defense Secretary was, presumably, because he believed Mattis had the knowledge and experience to be a key advisor on foreign policy and matters of defense.  So why does he consistently ignore the advice of this very knowledgeable man?  Ego, pure and simple.  And that very ego is likely, if left unchecked, to have a number of very serious consequences for the world.  The Middle East is a tinderbox that could well turn into an inferno in short order.  Our allies may well determine they are finished with this alliance and to hell with the U.S.  Who could blame them?

It is said that Trump made the decision to pull out of Syria after a phone conversation with Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan, who is planning an attack on Kurdish troops in Syria at some point in the near future.  According to Senator Lindsey Graham …

“What Turkey is going to do is unleash holy hell on the Kurds. In the eyes of Turkey, they’re more of a threat than ISIS. So this decision is a disaster.”

Vladimir Putin was also pleased, saying he agreed with the decision.  But, of course.

Even most conservatives are horrified at the thought of Mattis’ resignation, considering it to be the loss of the last adult in the house.  Neo-conservative editor and political analyst Bill Kristol said it best …

“Never been more alarmed for the nation since coming to DC over three decades ago.”

Republican Senator Ben Sasse expressed deep concern …

“This is a sad day. General Mattis was giving advice [Trump] needs to hear. Mattis rightly believes that Russia & China are adversaries. Isolationism is a weak strategy that will harm Americans.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan weighed in …

“Okay, Republicans. How much longer are you going to let this farcical ‘presidency’ continue? At a time of such political, economic, and geo-strategic turbulence – both nationally and globally – are you waiting for a catastrophe to happen before acting? Disaster looms!”

Remember when then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to Trump as a “f**king moron”?  He was right.

General Mattis’ departure did not come as a surprise, for the rumour mill has predicted it for a while now but make no mistake … it is a devastating blow, not only for the United States, but for the world.  Nobody can predict where we go from here, for there is a thoroughly unpredictable madman at the helm of this ship.  In light of Trump’s comment this morning that he is willing to keep the government shut down “for a very long time”, and his reckless decisions regarding Syria and Afghanistan, today I can no longer consider myself a citizen of what was once a respectable nation.  I believe it is time for serious calls for Trump’s removal from office, else next year at this time the world may look much different than it does today – and not in any good way.

Au Revoir, General Mattis … you will be missed.

CHAOS!!!

He is … he isn’t … he will … he won’t.  Our federal government is in full-chaos mode and for the most part, the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of the so-called president, who is playing childish games, and those who put him in office.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.” – Donald Trump in meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, 11 December

Then only two days later, he appeared to signal he was on board with backing down, writing in a series of Twitter posts that he would continue to press Democrats for wall funding next year and also claiming that he had taken other steps to make the border “tight.”

And now, one week later …

“At this moment, the President does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall. The President is continuing to weigh his options.” – Sarah Huckabee Sanders, 20 December

And now, to add insult to injury … as if Trump isn’t already creating enough turmoil … enter Mark Meadows and his mis-named “Freedom Caucus”.

Meadows appeared on Fox News on Thursday morning, warning that a continuing resolution without border wall funding was not a “punt” but a “fumble,” and complaining that Trump’s mind must have been poisoned by “bad advice.” Meadows urged Trump to veto the spending bill, should it reach his desk, and to shut down much of the government days before the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.  How very mature, yes?

Then Trump tweets …

“The Democrats, who know Steel Slats (Wall) are necessary for Border Security, are putting politics over Country. What they are just beginning to realize is that I will not sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security. U.S.A. WINS!”

Does anybody in this administration have a maturity level beyond 3rd grade?  This isn’t a government – it’s a zoo!!!

The fact is that the wall is not a pragmatic solution to illegal immigration.  It will be costly, likely somewhere near $70 billion, and experts who have studied the situation have plainly said it will achieve little.  Border states stand to lose billions of dollars in tourism.  There is the potential for significant damage to wildlife and the environment. And frankly, there are much better uses that money could be put to … silly little things like feeding the poor, improving our foundering education system, affordable healthcare, renewable energy development, updating our infrastructure, and the list goes on.

baby-trump-temperCongress cannot cave in to Donald Trump’s virulent temper tantrum, for just as with a child, he would then know the way to get what he wants is to throw a 2-year-old fit.  In fact, I’ve known 2-year-olds with more maturity than Trump.

Last January, during another of Trump’s back-and-forth position-shifting episodes, Chuck Schumer said that negotiating with Trump was like “Negotiating with Jello”.  Seems an appropriate comparison, for Jello has just about as much substance and intellect as Donald Trump, and it’s jiggly.

This type of petulance in a world leader is simply unacceptable.  It is counter-productive and extremely dangerous.  If Donald Trump’s goal is to thoroughly destroy the government of the United States, he is doing a damned good job of it.  If ever, in the history of this nation, there was a cause to remove a leader from office, this is it.  His announcement that he is, against all advice, pulling out of Syria is dangerous and potentially catastrophic, but he woke one morning and just decided that it was what he wanted to do to please his buddy Putin.  Some will applaud the move … most will not, and I will have more on that in another post. Trump-chaosBut the evidence is clear that we cannot afford another two years of this madman in the White House.  Impeachment?  Amendment 25?  Neither seem feasible at the moment because of the sycophants in both the Senate and the cabinet.  I don’t know the solution, but I know that these past weeks, ever since the mid-term elections, have proven what an inept and dangerous situation we have with Trump in the White House.  Republicans in Congress and in the cabinet need to be finding their consciences and putting this nation ahead of their own gluttony.  Those 40% of voters who still support Trump might want to take their blinders off, turn off state-run Fox News, and do a bit of research, enlighten themselves, before they get us all killed.

Make America great again?  What he has done is the exact opposite.  He is destroying the country with every breath he takes.  Would that he would simply stop taking them.

President Reagan’s Daughter Speaks …

This morning I came across this OpEd by Patti Davis, daughter of former President Ronald Reagan.  Her words ring true, her thoughts are those most of us have been having for the past two years.  I thought the piece worth sharing with you …


A child occupies the White House — and the world knows it

Patti-DavisBy Patti Davis
December 17 at 3:34 PM
Patti Davis is the author, most recently, of the novel “The Earth Breaks in Colors” and the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

Lately, I’ve been looking at home movies and photographs of my childhood years; I’m working on a documentary about my family’s life before politics claimed us. A time before the world moved in. There is something transformative about looking back at your parents when they were younger than you are now and seeing yourself as a small child gazing up at them, reaching for their hands. It resonates in some deep part of us — they were the first adults we knew, and we relied on them to lead us into a big unfamiliar world. We didn’t know that generations whispered behind us. We didn’t know the pull of ancestry or the fears and doubts that may have trailed our parents throughout their lives. We only knew we were supposed to hold their hands and trust them to keep us from falling.Patty Davis, Ronald ReaganThere is an inherently parental role to being president of the United States. The person holding that office is supposed to know more than we do about dangers facing the country and the world, and is entrusted with making the appropriate decisions to keep us safe and secure. The president is supposed to keep us from falling. What happens when the president is the biggest child in the room — any room? It upends the natural order of things as surely as if a child’s parents started throwing tantrums and talking like a second-grader.

I’m not sure the country has fully comprehended the damage being done by a president who misbehaves so frequently, it’s a news story when he doesn’t. Globally, the United States has lost its power, its aura of seriousness and decisiveness that once made autocrats hesitate before crossing us. Now we are a country that can’t seem to stand up to a ruler who orders the murder and dismemberment of a dissident who was a legal U.S. resident or call out Russia’s intrusion into America’s democratic process. Children know how to scream and sulk; they don’t know how to take control and restore order. They don’t know how to plot out a responsible position and then act on it. A child occupies the White House, and the world knows it.

A friend’s young son thought it was really funny when the president called someone “Horseface.” He giggled when he saw the president on TV telling a reporter that her question was “stupid” and that all her questions are stupid. Nine-year-olds should be able to look up to the president of the United States, not feel that the president is one of them.

Immaturity in adults has serious consequences. My friend, the author Marianne Williamson, once said, “Adults who behave like children do adult damage.” We’re starting to see some of that damage, most recently at the southern border. This president has slammed shut America’s door as loudly as a petulant child slams his bedroom door and shouts, “Go away.” The result is that thousands of migrants are living in squalid conditions just beyond the U.S. border, trying to keep babies from getting sick. This is adult damage, and there will be more.JFKWhat will happen if the country faces serious danger? I was 10 years old in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation about the Cuban missile crisis. I remember sitting on the floor in my parents’ bedroom watching him on television. I remember asking my father if we would go to war. He replied, “I hope not. But the president is doing the right thing.” Kennedy’s somber confidence did make me a little less afraid. At the end of the speech, he said: “The cost of freedom is always high — but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose is the path of surrender or submission. Our goal is not the victory of might but the vindication of right.”

Who would speak to the nation like that if global turmoil turned into a crisis that threatens America’s future?

Text dividers

 

Dear Senators …

For quite some time now, even for years before the current administration invaded the White House, we have seen a Congress so divided that it almost makes a mockery of the words “democratic process”.  We have seen a Congress that pays little, if any, heed to the will of the people, the betterment of the nation, but rather are acting in their own best interests.  It speaks volumes when even former members of Congress are speaking out against the uber-partisanship and asking Congress to step up to the plate and do what they were elected to do.

A group of 44 former senators has penned a letter to the current and future senators, asking them to set aside their partisanship and self-interest for the sake of guarding our democratic principles.  Will they listen?

Dear Senate colleagues,

As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.

It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate.

We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.

During our service in the Senate, at times we were allies and at other times opponents, but never enemies. We all took an oath swearing allegiance to the Constitution. Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.

At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.

Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.

Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Don Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John W. Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)

We Have A Right To Know …

“The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people.” – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black

If the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have their way, we may be seeing the beginning of the erosion of a free press, the very cornerstone of our democracy.

In a news conference on Friday*, Sessions said that Trump’s administration is pursuing three times the number of leak investigations as did the previous administration, and that the Department of Justice “is reviewing policies affecting media subpoenas.” Sessions claims the leaks coming out of the White House have breached national security, and he cited the two phone calls that Trump placed in January, one to Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and the other to Mexican President Peña Nieto.

I would agree that the president should be able to communicate with world leaders without the conversation being shared with the public.  BUT … here’s the thing.  There was no information contained in either phone call that would threaten national security AND more importantly, at least in the case of the conversation with the Mexican president, there was one tidbit that we had a right to know, for in that call, he admitted he had duped his followers during the election (see my post from August 3rd).

Sessions claims that in addition to leaks to the press, there have been leaks to our foreign adversaries.  Now, I do not have the information to which he refers, but one of our biggest foreign adversaries is Russia, and Trump and his advisors have been undisputedly spoon-feeding Russia information that should have been confidential for two years now!

The implication of Sessions’ statement is that the Justice Department will begin issuing subpoenas for journalists and also their records. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued the following response:

“Independent journalism in the public interest depends on reporters’ being able to communicate privately with sources,” said Alex Ellerbeck, senior Americas and U.S. researcher at the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Rolling back the limited protections on communication between journalists and their sources would lessen the public’s ability to hold their elected leaders to account and weaken hard-won standards of source protection around the world.”

In 2015, former Attorney General Eric Holder put in place guidelines that make it harder for the Department of Justice to subpoena journalists’ records. Will the DOJ now reverse those guidelines?  Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, warned that the administration’s approach to cracking down on leaks risks chilling debates about important issues in the public interest.

“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense against fraud, waste, abuse and illegality within the federal government. The last thing this administration wants to do is to deter whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks,” Brian said. “This administration must carefully tailor the parameters for this investigation with this important consideration in mind.”

The American Civil Liberties Union warned of the greater impact that the crackdown could have. “Every American should be concerned about the Trump administration’s threat to step up its efforts against whistleblowers and journalists,” said the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, who works primarily on national security cases for the civil rights organization. “A crackdown on leaks is a crackdown on the free press and on democracy as a whole.”

Donald Trump has denigrated the free press every chance he got, calling them ‘fake news’, and even referring to them as ‘the enemy of the people’.  They are not our enemy, they are our protectors.  They are the providers of information about what our government is doing.  The Trump administration is the least transparent in my memory, and press briefings have been a joke since the day Trump took office, with no real effort to inform, but rather used as a propaganda tool.  We need the free press to remain free to access whatever sources are available without the fear of repercussion.

The following is the response to Sessions’ announcement by former CBS Evening News anchor, Dan Rather:

dan-ratherWith all due respect, Mr. President and Attorney General Sessions, it appears you can’t handle the truth.

I understand that the press has been a mighty check on the lies, inconsistencies, and cynical ploys that have been coming out of this White House. I understand that it has led to public outcry and a wide ranging criminal investigation by a Special Counsel. I understand that much of this reporting has been based on leaks and unnamed sources, from inside the Administration and from especially the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The exercise of a free and independent press has been the exact bulwark against a government in need of accountability – just as our Founding Fathers envisioned. I shudder to think where we would be without it today.

So the news that the Justice Department is devoting significant resources to tracking down leaks and changing the rules to target the press is a chilling development. There are certainly times when an issue of great national security should not be shared with the public. And most of the journalism organizations I have known or been a part of take that responsibility very seriously. There are some cases where prosecuting leakers may – may – be warranted. But that is not what is going on here. The goal is very clear. The President has complained bitterly of leaks because he doesn’t want to be questioned, even when he has been caught in lie after lie.

“We respect the important role that the press plays and will give them respect, but it is not unlimited,” Mr. Sessions said. “They cannot place lives at risk with impunity.” That is true. So the question is, what lives have been put at risk with all this reporting? And with impunity? Please save us the disingenuousness.

The free press is performing exactly as it needs to. And the proof of that is how seriously those who wish their actions remain undetectable consider the press to be their enemy.

Most reporters I have known take a naked threat such as this as further inspiration to dig even harder to expose the truth. News, as I have said, is what the powerful want to keep hidden.

Well spoken, Mr. Rather! Turkey had 240 journalists locked up behind bars as of May 12, 2017. Is this a path we wish to travel?  Let us all hope that Mr. Rather is right, that the threat by Sessions and the Trump regime will spur the press to begin digging even deeper, for I have no doubt that there is much we do not know … and we need to know … we have a right to know.

*   Transcript of Jeff Sessions news conference, Friday, 04 August 2017