Donald Trump suggests he wants US law to limit free speech in wake of publication of explosive new book

President Donald Trump has hit out at “very weak” libel laws in the US as he branded an explosive new book detailing the inner workings of the White House as “fiction”.

Suggesting he would like to see tougher laws on speech, Mr Trump said that if libel laws “were strong… you wouldn’t have things like that happen where you can say whatever comes into your head” – referring to Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

The book has caused a storm of controversy and has left the President facing questions about his mental state, with quotes in Fire and Fury – including from Mr Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon – suggesting that even those close to Mr Trump had questioned his capability.

Early on Saturday, Mr Trump wrote a string of messages on Twitter where he rejected such claims, saying he was a “very stable genius” whose two greatest assets are his “mental stability and being, like, really smart”.

Mr Wolff’s new book, which has shot to the top of the bestseller list on Amazon after being released four days early, has clearly riled the President and he used a rare news conference during a retreat with Republican leadership to reinforce what he sees as a stellar list of life achievements.

Answering a question about why he saw the need to tweet about his mental state, Mr Trump said that he had attended “the best college” and was an “excellent” student. He added that he came out of college and “made billions and billions of dollars… [and] became one of the best business people” before touting his “tremendous success” over a decade on television. He went on to add that he ”ran for President one time, and won”.

Mr Trump also called Mr Wolff a “fraud” and the book “a complete work of fiction”, saying that “he doesn’t know me at all” and said that he had not been interviewed in the White House as Mr Wolff had said. He later admitted that he had spoken to Mr Wolff during his presidential campaign.

The gathering at Camp David, with a number of members of his cabinet, is supposed to be a weekend for Mr Trump to concentrate on their agenda for 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan were also present for the two days of talks, with the Republican party facing a battle to keep control of the US Congress in November’s elections.

At the beginning of his remarks, Mr Trump described having some “incredible meetings” with colleagues, saying the party was readying its 2018 legislative agenda.

[The Independent]

Trump legal team blasts explosive Michael Wolff book in cease-and-desist letter

President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Charles Harder, has demanded on behalf of his client that author Michael Wolff and his publisher immediately “cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination” of a forthcoming book, “Fire and Fury, according to a letter obtained by ABC News.

The book is scheduled to be released next week but excerpts have caused a stir.

“We are investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements that you have made about Mr. Trump,” the lawyer wrote to Wolff.

The letter goes on to say they are looking into possible defamation of Trump and his family and invasion of privacy.

The lengthy letter to Wolff and Henry Holt and Co. Inc. goes on to accuse the author of actual malice.

It states, “Actual malice (reckless disregard for the truth) can be proven by the fact that the Book admits in the Introduction that it contains untrue statements. Moreover, the Book appears to cite to no sources for many of its most damaging statements about Mr. Trump. Also, many of your so-called ‘sources’ have stated publicly that they never spoke to Mr. Wolff and/or never made the statements that are being attributed to them. Other alleged ‘sources’ of statements about Mr. Trump are believed to have no personal knowledge of the facts upon which they are making statements or are known to be unreliable and/or strongly biased against Mr. Trump.”

Harder sent a similar letter to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon Wednesday night demanding he cease and desist from making allegedly false statements against the president and his family.

Bannon has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment. Wolff and his publisher have also not responded.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump hit back at Bannon in scathing comments, saying that when Bannon was fired “he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

President Trump’s comments, which came in the form of a written statement from the White House, were in response to Bannon’s strident criticism of Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort for sitting down with a group of Russians who promised damaging information against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election in excerpts from Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party,” the president said in a statement. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”

[ABC News]

Reality

Man who lead the racist birther movement upset with book of “false” claims about him.

Trump threatens NBC, then says it’s ‘disgusting’ press can ‘write whatever it wants’

President Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon that he found it “frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”

Asked later whether he believed there “should be limits on what the press should write” — which would likely conflict with the First Amendment, which guarantees both free expression and a free press — Trump said, “No. The press should speak more honestly.”

Still, his comment raised eyebrows, especially because it was the latest remark in a string of heightened attacks Trump has leveled against the press in recent days.

Just Wednesday morning, Trump had tweeted that media companies which report critically on him should be punished by having their television station licenses revoked.

In a tweet, the president decried the supposed “fake news coming out of NBC and the Networks.” He asked, “At what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

Trump seems to have been furious over an NBC News report that said he wanted a tenfold increase in the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal. Earlier in the morning he claimed the story was “pure fiction” and “made up to demean.”

Trump’s veiled threat may contribute to the increasingly chilly atmosphere journalists in the U.S. are working under during his administration. But his threat is essentially toothless.

First of all, there is no single license for NBC or any other national television network. Licenses are granted to individual local stations — and NBC doesn’t even own most of the stations that broadcast its content across the country. And it is extremely unusual for any station’s license to be taken away for any reason, much less for a political vendetta.

The licenses for local television stations are subject to review by the Federal Communications Commission every eight years.

It would not be possible for Trump or his allies to challenge all of the licenses held by NBC in one fell swoop. Individuals who reside in the areas the local channel airs would have to submit complaints to the FCC.

There is precedent for political allies of a president challenging local licenses. It happened under Richard Nixon in the 1970s, when a friend of Nixon’s tried to take over a license held by the Washington Post. Nixon’s ally did not succeed in his bid.

Short of gross misconduct on the part of a challenged station, it’s unlikely any other such attempt now would be successful either.

“Whatever other legal problems [NBC parent] Comcast may have, this is not one of them,” Andrew Jay Schwartzman, an attorney who works at the Georgetown University Law Center and specializes in telecommunications law, told CNN. “Comcast knows full well that the FCC will never, ever, deny its license renewal applications.”

The FCC is technically an independent body, not subject to the president’s orders. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — who is a Republican appointed to his current post by Trump — said in March that his job is not to be a “political actor.”

“It is simply to be somebody at the FCC who, as I said, is administering the laws of the United States,” Pai said. “I’m simply not going to wade into that kind of political debate.”

Neither Pai nor an FCC spokesperson immediately responded to requests for comment about Trump’s tweet. But former FCC officials were quick to skewer the president.

“To me it’s just incomprehensible that because of the content of NBC News that somehow their license would be at risk,” Alfred Sykes, a Republican who served as chairman of the FCC under George H.W. Bush, told The Wrap.

“This madcap threat, if pursued, would be blatant and unacceptable intervention in the decisions of an independent agency,” echoed Michael Copps, a Democrat who served as FCC commissioner under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, in a statement to HuffPost. “The law does not countenance such interference. President Trump might be happier as emperor, but I think the American people would strip him of his clothes on this issued.

A spokesperson for NBC declined to comment.

Trump has increased his attacks on the media in the past week. Last week, he urged the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate news outlets for publishing supposed “fake” stories. Over the weekend, he hinted it was perhaps time for a law that would require broadcasters to give equal time to both sides of the political debate when discussing public policy.

“At what point are we going to silence media critical of the President?” tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “When we cease to have a First Amendment and a democratic government.”

[CNN]

Media

A college professor criticized Trump. Now the White House wants an investigation

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wants the University of Las Vegas to investigate one of its professors after she strongly criticized President Donald Trump and the consequences of his election as the city reeled from the mass shooting.

Recordings of assistant professor Tessa Winkelmann showed her speaking to her class about the president’s violent rhetoric and the power of his words.

“Right when he got elected, I told my classes, three semesters ago, that some of us won’t be affected by this presidency, but others are going to die,” Winkelmann said in the video, obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Other people will die because of this.”

One student was “dumbfounded” and said the professor’s comments were “appalling,” in the wake of the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, the Review-Journal reported.

“He’s [Trump] threatened to declare violence against North Korea and other places,” the professor added. “And words, especially if they’re coming from someone who is the president, have consequences. . . I don’t know that these events would have inevitably happened whether or not he got elected, but he has rhetorical powers every president has to encourage or to discourage (violence). So far all he’s done is to encourage violence.”

The White House condemned the comments and said the school should “look into” the professor’s actions.

“It is sad she is teaching students such divisive, inaccurate and irresponsible rhetoric,” Sanders said. “She should be ashamed of herself, and the university should look into it. What a terrible example to set for students.”

Winkelmann apologized in an emailed statement to the Review-Journal and said she wished she had been “more thoughtful in how I directed the conversation.”

“This week has been very difficult for members of our community, and we have allowed students space in our classes to discuss how they have been affected and to openly convey their feelings,” she wrote. “I regret that my comments caused more pain during this difficult time. Emotions were running high and I wish I would have been more thoughtful in how I directed the conversation.”

UNLV issued a statement that said Winkelmann’s comments were insensitive, but did not announce any potential disciplinary action against her.

“While we respect academic freedom in the classroom and the right to free speech, we believe the comments were insensitive, especially given the series of events this week and the healing process that has begun in the community,” university spokesman Tony Allen said, according to the Review-Journal.

Unfortunately this is not the first time the White House has commented on civilians who are outspoken in their criticism of the president. On Tuesday morning the president once again attacked the recently suspended ESPN anchor Jemele Hill as part of his long-running crusade against NFL players who have knelt during the national anthem in protest of social and racial injustice.

Press secretary Sanders also previously said Hill had committed a “fireable offense” when the anchor called the president a white supremacist on Twitter.

Conservatives have long advocated for free speech on college campuses, yet have remained quiet when the White House suggested disciplinary action be taken against a professor who was well within her free speech rights.

[Salon]

Justice Demands 1.3M Visitor Info Related to Trump Resistance Site

The Department of Justice has requested information on visitors to a website used to organize protests against President Trump, the Los Angeles-based Dreamhost said in a blog post published on Monday.

Dreamhost, a web hosting provider, said that it has been working with the Department of Justice for several months on the request, which believes goes too far under the Constitution.

DreamHost claimed that the complying with the request from the Justice Department would amount to handing over roughly 1.3 million visitor IP addresses to the government, in addition to contact information, email content and photos of thousands of visitors to the website, which was involved in organizing protests against Trump on Inauguration Day.

“That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment,” DreamHost wrote in the blog post on Monday. “That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.”

When contacted, the Justice Department directed The Hill to the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C.

The company is currently challenging the request. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday in Washington.

“In essence, the Search Warrant not only aims to identify the political dissidents of the current administration, but attempts to identify and understand what content each of these dissidents viewed on the website,” the company’s general counsel, Chris Ghazarian, said in a legal argument opposing the request.

The web provider published a purported search warrant issued by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia that asks for records and information related to the website and its owner, along with information that could be used to identify subscribers of the website.

This includes “names, addresses, telephone numbers and other identifiers, e-mail addresses, business information, the length of service (including start date), means and source of payment for services (including any credit card or bank account number), and information about any domain name registration.”

The warrant, dated July 12, says that authorities will seize any information constituting violations of D.C. code governing riots that involve individuals connected to the protests on Inauguration Day.

More than 200 people were indicted on felony rioting charges in connection with the protests in Washington on Jan. 20.

[The Hill]

Trump Told Comey to Consider Jailing Reporters Publishing Leaks

President Trump reportedly told now-ousted FBI Director James Comey to consider jailing reporters who publish leaked classified information, according to The New York Times.

One of Comey’s associates told the newspaper that the conversation occurred shortly after a joint meeting on Feb. 14 that included Vice President Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Following a terrorism threat briefing, Trump reportedly told everyone to leave the room except for the FBI director.

The source told The Times that Trump then began discussing the leaks to the news media and asked Comey to consider jailing reporters for publishing classified information.

According to the report, Trump also asked Comey to end the federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Following the meeting, Comey wrote in a memo that Trump told him, Flynn “is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

[The Hill]

White House Official Says ‘We’ve Looked At’ Changes to Libel Laws That Would Restrict Press Freedom

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the Trump administration has “looked at” changes to libel laws that would curtail press freedoms, but said “whether that goes anywhere is a different story.”

President Trump frequently slams the press for its coverage of him and in March suggested changing libel laws.

Libel is when defamatory statements about someone are published. But the American press enjoys some protection from lawsuits claiming libel because of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech rights.

When Priebus was asked by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl if the president would really want to pursue a change in libel laws, the White House chief of staff said it’s been considered.

“I think it’s something that we’ve looked at,” Priebus told Karl in an exclusive interview on “This Week” Sunday. “How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story.”

Priebus said the media needs “to be more responsible with how they report the news.”

He also addressed another First Amendment issue on flag burning. Priebus hinted that the Trump administration may look at punishing flag burners, as Trump suggested in a tweet during the transition.

(h/t ABC News)

Reality

Trump Again Calls Media ‘Enemy of the People’

President Trump turned his speech before a conservative convention into a full-throated attack on journalism Friday, saying some reporters make up unnamed sources for “fake news” and again describing them as “the enemy” of the American people.

“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are — they are the enemy of the people,” Trump told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

While praising some reporters as honest, and pledging fealty to the First Amendment, Trump claimed that “the fake news media doesn’t tell the truth.” He said reporters should not be allowed to use anonymous sources, and “we’re going to do something about it.”

The president did not elaborate on what that “something” might be, beyond general criticism.

It was the latest in a series of attacks that, critics said, are designed to undermine coverage of Trump’s troubles in office, including investigations into possible links between his campaign associates and Russians during last year’s presidential election.

The sustained attacks show “how worried he is about the repeated reports of chaos, incompetence, and potential wrongdoing inside his administration,” said Matthew Miller, a spokesman for President Barack Obama’s Justice Department. “His problem, though, is with the facts, not the media, and he’s only making his problem worse the more he runs away from it.”

In his speech to the annual gathering of conservative activists known as CPAC, Trump also thanked them for their support and touted an agenda that includes tax cuts, regulatory rollbacks, a military build-up, a still-to-be-defined replacement for Obama’s health care law, and “border security” that includes travel restrictions from Muslim countries and a proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Our victory was a win for everyone who believes it’s time to stand up for America, to stand up for the American worker and to stand up for the American flag,” Trump said.

The crowd also lapped up his attacks on the media, which came on the same day that he and aides disputed a CNN story that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus spoke to the FBI about media reports on the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

In assailing anonymous sources and so-called “fake news,” Trump discussed specific stories and news organizations in general terms, at one point describing CNN as the “Clinton News Network.”

The White House also deploys anonymity from time to time. Less than two hours before Trump criticized the use of anonymous sources and said all sources should be named, an administration official provided a briefing on condition he not be identified.

Some analysts said Trump’s constant attacks on the press are designed to undermine the public’s faith in institutions in general and the media in particular, as well as to generate doubt about negative stories regarding the administration.

Liz Mair, a Republican consultant involved in a “Never Trump” campaign last year, said attacking the media at a forum like the Conservative Political Action Conference is the easiest way for Trump to unite conservatives who might otherwise oppose him over issues like entitlement spending, free trade, and limited government.

“CPAC has been trying to normalize Trump as a ‘conservative’ for years now, but the fact is, Trump continues to have precious little in common, philosophically, with Burke, Kirk, Reagan, Goldwater or Thatcher,” Mair said.

William McRaven, the retired admiral who planned the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said this week that Trump’s attacks on the media may also be undermining democracy itself.

“The president said the news media is the enemy of the American people,” McRaven, now chancellor of the University of Texas system, said in a speech. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”

Trump first made the “enemy” claim in a tweet a week ago, and he criticized coverage of that incident during his remarks Friday at CPAC.

“In covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the ‘fake news’ the enemy of the people,” he said. “The ‘fake news.’ They dropped off the word ‘fake.’ And all of a sudden the story became the media is the enemy.”

In that Feb. 17 tweet, Trump said: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

Trump said he is not “against the media,” and “there are some great reporters around,” but there are also “terrible, dishonest people” in the business.

“I love the First Amendment — nobody loves it better than me,” Trump said at one point. “Nobody — I mean, who use its more than I do?”

(h/t USA Today)

Media

Trump Calls For Jailing, Revoking Citizenship of Flag-Burners

Trump humps American flag

Burning an American flag should be a crime, President-elect Donald Trump wrote Tuesday morning on Twitter, perhaps punishable by a forfeiture of U.S. citizenship or a year in jail.

“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” Trump wrote in a post to his social media account.

Laws prohibiting the burning or desecration of the flag have been struck down by the Supreme Court, most recently in 1990, because they were found to have violated the First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects freedom of speech. A 1958 Supreme Court decision rejected the practice of stripping U.S. citizenship as a form of criminal punishment, on the grounds that it violates Eighth Amendment protections against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In a 5-4 decision in 1989, the Supreme Court upheld the right of protesters to burn the flag, with the late Justice Antonin Scalia siding with the protesters. He later said he based his ruling on a “textual” reading of the Constitution.

“If it were up to me, I would put in jail every sandal-wearing, scruffy-bearded weirdo who burns the American flag,” Scalia said in 2015 in Philadelphia. “But I am not king.”

A 2005 bill that would have reinstituted a ban on flag burning was co-sponsored by Hillary Clinton, then a senator from New York. That legislation was unsuccessful.

A constitutional amendment that would allow the government to ban flag desecration has been proposed multiple times but has never passed. It was last voted down in 2006 in the Senate, where current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Democratic presidential candidate Lincoln Chafee, then a Republican, were among three GOP lawmakers to vote against it. Then-Sen. Clinton also voted against it.

McConnell disagreed sharply with Trump’s tweet when asked about it during a press availability on Tuesday.

“The Supreme Court has held that that activity is a protected First Amendment right, a form of unpleasant speech, and in this country we have a long tradition of respecting unpleasant speech. I happen to support the Supreme Court’s decision on that matter,” McConnell said.

Some protesters upset with Trump’s Election Day victory have set fire to American flags at demonstrations throughout the country. At Hampshire College, a small school in western Massachusetts, administrators removed the American flag from campus after protesters there burned one, according to WWLP-TV. That decision prompted a protest of more than 1,000 people, many of them veterans, upset with the school’s decision.

Jason Miller, Trump’s senior communications adviser, struggled to defend the president-elect’s post in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” just minutes after the tweet appeared online. He refused to concede that flag burning is constitutionally protected speech, insisting that it should be illegal even as he tried in vain to pivot to the announcement of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as Trump’s pick to be secretary of health and human services.

“Chris, flag burning is completely ridiculous. And I think you know that and I think the vast majority of Americans would agree,” Miller told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo.

“But legal,” Cuomo interjected.

“But Chris, it’s completely ridiculous. And I don’t think there’s a big universe of people out there who support flag burning. It’s terrible and it’s despicable,” Miller replied.

The two continued in circles for several more rounds of back-and-forth as Cuomo tried to pin down Trump’s spokesman on the issue of flag-burning before Miller finally succeeded in turning the interview to Price’s selection, telling his interviewer that “flag burning should be illegal. End of story. Let’s get in and talk about how we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare and these fantastic picks that the president-elect announced this morning.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) readily acknowledged during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that flag burning is constitutionally protected free speech, telling panelist Willie Geist that “we’ll protect our First Amendment” even though he does not agree with the practice.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), asked about Trump’s tweet in a separate “New Day” interview, said, “I love my flag, and I love what it stands for, and I hate those who want to go out and burn it.” Still, Duffy added: “The court is probably right that we want to protect those people who want to protest and their right to actually demonstrate with disgracing our flag even though so many of us who love our country and love our flag object to it.”

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a libertarian-leaning member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, also took issue with Trump’s flag-desecration stance, writing on his own Twitter account that “Nobody should burn the American flag, but our Constitution secures our right to do so. No president is allowed to burn the First Amendment.”

Trump received a modicum of support from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the Armed Services Committee chairman with whom he clashed throughout his presidential run. As he made his way through a Capitol Hill office building, McCain told CNN that “I do not approve of burning the flag. I think there should be some punishment, but right now, the Supreme Court decision is that people are free to express themselves that way.”

McCain declined to offer any further comment on Trump’s social media post, telling a CNN reporter that the president-elect’s bombast is a distraction from the work he faces on Capitol Hill.

(h/t Politico)

After Demanding Safe Spaces in Theaters Trump Attacks Saturday Night Live

President-elect Donald Trump has taken to Twitter again this weekend to dress down another actor: Alec Baldwin.

I watched parts of @nbcsnl Saturday Night Live last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all. Equal time for us?” tweeted Trump on Sunday morning.

Baldwin did his famous Trump impersonation on the long-running NBC show on Saturday in a sketch that focused on how Trump is in way over his head as the future leader of the free world.

To Trump’s criticism, Baldwin shot off a string of tweets on Sunday, giving Trump some unsolicited advice on how to proceed as the next commander-in-chief, saying, in part, “You know what I would do if I were Prez? I’d be focused on how to improve the lives of AS MANY AMERICANS AS POSSIBLE.

And, “Equal time? Election is over. There is no more equal time. Now u try 2 b Pres + ppl respond. That’s pretty much it.”

(h/t AOL News)

Reality

Donald Trump, who claims he alone can defeat ISIS, is losing a twitter war with Broadway and Alec Baldwin

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