Trump’s Zeal to Reform ‘Sham’ Libel Laws Would Expose Him to 100’s of Defamation Lawsuits

Donald Trump opened a cabinet meeting Wednesday morning by welcoming the press to “the studio.” It may have been a sarcastic remark, but it reveals his tendency to view everything from the perspective of a former reality TV game show host which, of course, he is. The portion of the meeting that was allowed to be televised just went downhill from there.

Donald Trump

The cringeworthy public appearances by this president continue to mount, although he seems to be entirely oblivious to how embarrassing they are. Underscoring that, during this cabinet meeting Trump made a point of exalting his own performance during an addled immigration PR stunt on Tuesday. He said that reporters had sent him emails calling it “One of the greatest meetings they’ve ever witnessed.”

WTF? That’s just more proof that he’s totally nuts. The meeting was an unmitigated bore except for the part when he zoned out and accidentally endorsed a “clean” DACA bill. He had to be bailed out by GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, but he still didn’t appear to grasp what he said that was wrong. And I’d love to see those alleged emails. Given Trump’s reputation as a notoriously pathological liar, it’s fairly certain that no such emails exist.

Most of the televised meeting was consumed by Trump praising himself for things he never did. The only part of the meeting that covered anything substantive was when Trump made a plea to reform libel laws. He said that:

“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts. If somebody says something that is totally false, and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled, will have meaningful recourse.

“Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness. So we’re gonna take a strong look at that. We want fairness. You can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account.”

Let’s set aside for the moment that no one in America has made more knowingly false, defamatory comments than Donald Trump. And frequently they served to enrich him. But make no mistake, this is a blatant attempt to seek revenge against anyone who dares to be critical of Trump. He is striking back at Michael Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury,” and the members of his staff who were quoted in the book. He is targeting those behind the Steele Dossier and the news organizations that published it. This is a position that threatens freedom of the press, which he has made a priority of his presidency.

What’s interesting about this, however, is that the proposed reforms he would consider would very likely backfire. No one has exposed himself to more potential libel allegations than Donald Trump. Every time he calls a reporter a liar, or asserts as fact that unnamed sources don’t exist, or alleges that a story was deliberately made up, Trump is slandering those reporters and harming their reputations and careers. Every time he lashes out with his juvenile nicknames at people he is claiming are “lyin,” “failing,” or “crooked,” he is asserting a falsehood that could trigger litigation under his reform.

And then there are the outright lies that Trump has told about his critics and political foes. Think of the lawsuit that might have been filed after Trump accused Ted Cruz’s father of being part of the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. Could President Obama have sued after being charged with wiretapping Trump? There have been literally hundreds of comments and tweets by Trump that were demonstrably false, but manifestly injured their targets. For instance, what about the sixteen women who have spoken out about Trump’s sexual abuse? He called every one of them liars. One of them (so far) has filed a defamation suit which Trump, ironically, is seeking to have dismissed. So much for opening up the libel laws.

It’s plain that Trump’s only purpose here is to silence his critics. There are plenty of safeguards in current law that protect people from deliberate slander and libel. Even if committed by the media. The truth of that is demonstrated by Trump’s own lawyer who just filed a defamation lawsuit against Buzzfeed for publishing the Steele Dossier. He’ll have his day in court (which he’ll likely end up regretting). But Trump isn’t interested in truth. He’s seeking the sort of tyrannical control of the press that all dictators lust after. But he is to stupid to recognize how destructive it would be to democracy. If the consequences weren’t so horrendous, it might actually be fun to let Trump have his way and then see how many people sue him.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Trump ‘Honored’ by Journalists’ Organization for ‘Undermining Global Press Freedom’

Many American presidents have had a contentious relationship with the press. At times it has become a bitter rivalry wherein the media was regarded as a troublesome annoyance that embraced deliberate biases. But most of the time there remained a deep-rooted respect for the freedom of the press and the crucial role it plays in a democracy.

Donald Trump Censorship

All of that changed when Donald Trump was inaugurated January 20, 2017. Trump has been more openly hostile to the media than any chief executive before him. His hatred is expressed bluntly with insults and accusations that exceed reasonable criticism. He calls out reporters by name as “sleazy,” liars,” and “horrible people.” On more than one occasion he has labeled the press as “the enemy of the American people.” That isn’t a critique, it’s a declaration of war.

Last week Trump announced that he would be hosting an event to commemorate “The Most Dishonest and Corrupt Media Awards of the Year.” It’s just the sort of shallow stunt to be expected from a former reality game show TV host. And Trump’s dimwitted predictability removes any sense of excitement the event might have had. Let’s face it, CNN, the New York Times, and the like will dominate his phony ceremony.

In anticipation of this dull affair, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has produced their own roster of honorees that they dubbed The Press Oppressors Awards:

“Amid the public discourse of fake news and President Trump’s announcement via Twitter about his planned “fake news” awards ceremony, CPJ is recognizing world leaders who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media.”

The CPJ bestowed their awards on several world figures whose record of oppression and censorship was noteworthy for their severity and brutality. Not surprisingly, Trump was honored twice. The headline award that Trump snagged was for “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom.” The CPJ wrote that Trump:

“…has consistently undermined domestic news outlets and declined to publicly raise freedom of the press with repressive leaders such as Xi, Erdo?an, and Sisi. Authorities in China, Syria, and Russia have adopted Trump’s ‘fake news’ epithet, and Erdogan has applauded at least one of his verbal attacks on journalists. Under Trump’s administration, the Department of Justice has failed to commit to guidelines intended to protect journalists’ sources, and the State Department has proposed to cut funding for international organizations that help buttress international norms in support of free expression.”

Trump was also recognized as the runner up for “Most Thin-skinned.” Given his notorious narcissism and thirst for revenge, He must have been a fierce challenger for this award. The CPJ’s decision rested on Trump’s threat “to ‘open-up’ U.S. libel laws, sue news outlets, and subject their broadcast licenses to review.” And surely his posting of more than 1,000 tweets critical of the press contributed to his showing in this category.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

The honorees for these awards are a sinister lot that includes. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, President Xi Jinping of China, and Trump’s BFF, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. That’s auspicious and foreboding company, but it accurately represents the tenor and the harm for which Trump’s presidency is responsible. And it’s a far more honest ceremonial observance than the one Trump is planning for next week (if he even bothers to follow through).

Donald Trump ‘Absolutely Believes in the First Amendment’ – And Won’t Rest Until It’s Dead

Okay, so it’s still only the first week of the new year. Nevertheless, the reigning champion of flagrant dishonesty, Donald Trump, is making a strong showing for Lie of the Year 2018. In 2017 PolitiFact “honored” him for his relentless insistence that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was a hoax. Trump stubbornly maintained that he believed Vladimir Putin’s denials more than the conclusions of every American intelligence agency that investigated the issue.

Donald Trump

And now the White House has made a declaration so absurd that it has jumped to the head of the pack for this new year of presidential lies. During the daily briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to comment on Trump’s regard for the First Amendment. She replied that:

“The President absolutely believes in the First Amendment. But as we’ve said before, the President also believes in making sure that information is accurate before pushing it out as fact when it certainly and clearly is not.”

Whenever one asserts their belief in a core constitutional principle, it’s bad form to follow it with “but…” And in this case the qualification is outright bizarre. To suggest that Trump gives a damn about “making sure that information is accurate” flies in the face of his lie-riddle Twitter feed. He has a deep rooted aversion to the truth and he proves it every day. What’s more, the Washington post has documented almost 2,000 lies Trump has told since his inauguration.

The specific lie featured here is especially egregious because Trump’s fealty to the First Amendment has always been a bad joke. After all, Trump has been attacking the free press since he launched his presidential campaign. He routinely refers to it in general terms as “fake news.” He has vilified reporters as “liars, sleazy,” and “horrible people.” And he famously called out the media in Stalinesque terms as “the enemy of the America people.”

The question that drew Sanders’ response was specifically about Trump’s reaction to the new book by Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury. He had his lawyers threatened to sue the author and his publisher. Included in the threat was a demand that strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. The letter warned that:

“Mr. Trump hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the Book.”

So the President who “absolutely believes in the First Amendment” is attempting to force a journalist to halt publication of a book that is critical of the President. That is such an obvious contradiction in terms that it strains credulity. But it fits neatly into a pattern of oppressive behavior that is typical of Trump. There has never been a president who was more hostile to the First Amendment and those whose profession relies on it. The assertion that he believes in the First Amendment is nothing more than an acknowledgement that it exists. But he clearly regards it as an obstacle to his tyrannical aspirations and is doing everything he can to kill it.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Frightened Fox News Pulls ‘Impeach Trump’ Ad After Trump and Viewers Complain

The cable news network that once promised to be “fair and balanced” has demonstrated again that it was never either. Which may be why they ditched that slogan earlier this year. Friday it was revealed that Fox News breached a contract with billionaire activist Tom Steyer to air a commercial advocating the “Need to Impeach” Donald Trump. Steyer had bought airtime on Fox News and the ad did air at least once on Fox and Friends.

Donald Trump Impeach

However, since then Fox News decided to yank the ad despite the fact that the time had already been paid for. They didn’t give Steyer any reason for breaching their contract. They didn’t even tell him they had done so. When Fox News was asked to explain why they pulled they ads they gave a surprisingly inappropriate response:

Jack Abernethy, Fox News co-president: Due to the strong negative reaction to their ad by our viewers, we could not in good conscience take their money.

If that’s true, it is an extraordinary development. It may be the first time that a television network made a programming decision for advertisements based on viewer response. Maybe the TV audience could speak up and get those disgusting cartoon bears that are obsessed with which toilet paper they wipe their cartoon butts with off the air.

More likely, Fox News axed these ads because the content was contrary to their political biases. The propaganda ministry at the network just could not abide an advertisement that made a strong case for removing Trump from office. Add to that the fact that Trump himself had registered his own complaint via Twitter saying:

Steyer appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes on Friday when the subject of the ad came up (video below). He told Hayes about Fox’s action and explicitly called out the network for kowtowing to Trump. Steyer also had his attorneys contact Fox News to seek answers as to why they would unilaterally terminate the contract. The letter they wrote said in part that:

“Fox News abruptly pulled the advertisement without explanation (the ‘Cancellation’). We write to protest this baseless and unethical decision. The Cancellation is not only a breach of your agreement with Mr. Steyer – it is also a profound failure of journalistic integrity, a suppression of constitutionally protected speech, and likely a consequence of inexcusable political pressure.”

There are some good reasons for networks to decline to air certain ads. For instance, if the content is provably false, or if it is deliberately harmful or libelous. Political disagreement is not among the legitimate reasons. That would be censorship. Particularly if the President had a role in the decision.

However, the reasons that Fox News would have are easier to predict. They surely would not want to expose their viewers to this sort of information. And they wouldn’t want to piss off their prime benefactor in the White House. But the excuse that they felt guilty about taking Steyer’s money is patently absurd. That sort of argument would lead to rejecting any ads from Democratic candidates. Their predominantly Republican audience wouldn’t like those either. But maybe that’s precisely the ultra-partisan, spin doctoring that Fox News is aiming for.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

POLL: Ignorant Trump-loving Republicans are cool with government shutting down media it doesn’t like

For nine months Donald Trump has been steering the country into something that more closely resembles a fascist dictatorship. His tendency toward a strict authoritarianism is evident in almost everything he does and says. And the fact that he has issued more executive orders at this point in his presidency than any president in fifty years affirms his inherent imperialism. Particularly since he was a fierce critic of executive orders when President Obama was issuing them.

Donald Trump Voter

A new poll shows that Trump’s view of government supremacy has caught on with the Republican Party. The numbers are disturbing for a supposedly free democracy that cherishes a free press. Overall forty-six percent of respondents said that “the news media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump.” Even Trump was so moved by this poll that he tweeted about it Wednesday night (FYI: Trump’s tagging of Fox News is curious. They had nothing to do with this poll):

Indeed, it is much worse. But not in any way that Trump understands. Those numbers are heavily weighted by the views of Republicans. For GOP respondents alone it’s seventy-six percent who believe that bad Trump press is made up. It isn’t difficult to figure out where they got this idea from. Trump has been smearing the media for at least two years. His criticisms are not rational observations of press reporting. They are vicious insults and unsupported condemnations of journalists he says are evil. Just last week he told a radio talk show host that:

“I thought after I won, the media would become much more stable and much more honest. They’ve gone crazy. CNN is a joke. NBC is a total joke.”

In other words, he thought the media would bend to the demands of those in power. Why else would journalists behave differently toward a candidate than a president. What’s more, he isn’t complaining about a particular story. He’s trashing whole networks as “jokes.” His undisguised purpose is to destroy the people’s faith in journalism as a whole. He wants people to believe no one but himself and his official proclamations on Twitter.

The consequences of his relentless propaganda have taken a toll. That’s how you end up with three-quarters of the GOP essentially opposing the First Amendment. And it gets worse. The poll also asked whether “the government should have the power to revoke broadcast licenses of major news organizations that it says are fabricating news stories about a president or the administration.” On this question as well there was a sharp partisan divide. Forty-six percent of Republicans said the government should have such power. Another twenty-one percent were undecided. So two-thirds of Republicans are comfortable with the government being able to shut down media based on content.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

These are the views of a segment of the electorate that has been brainwashed to accept policies that are wholly un-American. Imagine what these same people would have thought if President Obama ever suggested taking such action. But they are perfectly fine with handing Trump the power to strip away the nation’s constitutionally protected press freedoms. That isn’t political partisanship. It’s cult worship. And it’s a dangerous trend that threatens the future of the American experiment in democracy.

Despite the foregoing, Americans still trust the media more than they trust the pathological liar in the White House. Funny, Trump has never tweeted about that.

Trump Threatens NBC’s Broadcast License in a Straight-Up Tyrannical Move

Determined to emulate his hero, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump has issued a threat that brazenly violates the Constitutional guarantee of a free press. In a couple of utterly idiotic tweets, Trump threatened to challenge NBC’s broadcast license.

Donald Trump

Make no mistake, this is what dictators do. They begin by criticizing the media and ridiculing honest journalists. But they eventually resort to outright censorship and government control. Trump has already been lashing out at the press for years. But his repetitive and tedious cries of “fake news” are actually just whining about stories that he doesn’t like. These are his tweets Wednesday morning:

And This Just In: Another tweet:

First of all, Trump offers no support for his contention that NBC’s story is untrue. NBC is standing by the story which had numerous sources affirming the information. This is typical of Trump’s infantile reaction to anything remotely critical. His fragile ego is constantly on the brink of crumbling.

Secondly, Trump’s threat is another example of his Olympic-grade stupidity. If anyone still doubts that Defense Secretary Rex Tillerson called him a moron, you can set those doubts aside. The problem with Trump’s threat to challenge NBC’s license is that the government does not license television networks. There is no license to revoke. The FCC does license individual TV stations and requires them to serve in the public interest. There’s is no way that Trump could have the licenses pulled from every NBC affiliate throughout the country.

Even if Trump were dumb enough to pursue this, he would have to show that each affiliate deliberately broadcast false information that they knew was untrue. Of course, the network most guilty of doing that is Fox News. If that’s the standard being applied then let’s get Fox off the air ASAP. [NOTE: That isn’t possible either because the FCC rules apply only to broadcast television, not to cable].

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

So once again Trump has demonstrated that he is painfully stupid. And in the process he reaffirmed his devotion to authoritarian control of the media and government. He is clearly unfit to be president and is a danger to the country for this and many other reasons. That’s why an anxious nation is impatiently waiting for special counsel Robert Mueller to complete his investigation and for Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings. It can’t happen too soon.

BE AFRAID: Trump Admin is ‘Looking At’ Amending or Abolishing the First Amendment

The not-so-subtle inclination of Donald Trump toward totalitarian rule has been apparent for some time. He has repeatedly expressed his admiration for strongman dictators like Erdogan, Jong-Un, Hussein, and Vladimir Putin. What’s more, the alleged “dealmaker” is nakedly hostile to compromise or to accommodating opinions that differ from his own. It’s either conform to Trumpism or be denigrated as a lying, crooked, enemy of America.

Reince Priebus

In an interview Sunday, Trump’s Chief-of-Staff, Reince Priebus, affirmed the authoritarian aspirations of this president. ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl asked Priebus about Trump’s prior statements concerning punishing or restricting the press when he doesn’t like what they say about him. That question led to this ominous exchange (video below):

KARL: I want to ask you about two things the President has said on related issues. First of all, there was what he said about opening up the libel laws. Tweeting “the failing New York Times has disgraced the media world. Gotten me wrong for two solid years. Change the libel laws?” That would require, as I understand it, a constitutional amendment. Is he really going to pursue that? Is that something he wants to pursue?

PRIEBUS: I think it’s something that we’ve looked at. How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story. But when you have articles out there that have no basis or fact and we’re sitting here on 24/7 cable companies writing stories about constant contacts with Russia and all these other matters . . .

KARL: So you think the President should be able to sue the New York Times for stories he doesn’t like?

PRIEBUS: Here’s what I think. I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news. I am so tired . . .

KARL: I don’t think anybody would disagree with that. It’s about whether or not the President should have a right to sue them.

PRIEBUS: And I already answered the question. I said this is something that is being looked at. But it’s something that as far as how it gets executed, where we go with it, that’s another issue.

Priebus could not have been more clear. The President is actively considering changes to the Constitution that would put the free press at risk. The changes he is considering would permit retaliation from hostile government officials seeking revenge for unfavorable coverage. Even short of litigation, such a move would have a chilling effect on journalists.

Trump has openly expressed his animosity toward the press. He calls them sleazy, liars, and “fake news” (although apparently without any understanding of what that phrase means). During the campaign he corralled them in pens and revoked the credentials of those he felt were not sufficiently adoring. His comments have even put some of them at risk for physical harm.

Trump’s consolidation of control goes beyond just the media. This weekend he also complained about the processes in Congress that interfere with him getting his way. “The rules of the Senate,” he said, “in some of the things you have to go through, it’s really a bad thing for the country in my opinion. They’re archaic rules.” In other words, he is opposed to the sort of democratic form of government wherein the people’s representatives work together to shape a consensus on legislation. He prefers dictating his demands and having everyone comply unquestioningly.

The purpose of these assaults on the Constitution is to delegitimize any criticism or opposition, no matter how appropriate. Trump wants only positive stories about him and his administration. And he will not tolerate anyone exposing his frequent mistakes, misstatements and lies. For that reason, every American should be wary of Trump’s efforts to silence the press. And particularly any attempt to codify such censorship into law or Constitutional amendments.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Trump’s ‘Enemy Of The American People’ Is A Direct Threat To The Free Press

From the outset of Donald Trump’s campaign he has made the media a target of his attacks, insults and retribution. He has called them liars and sleazy and horrible people. Keeping them penned up at his rallies was common, as was expelling those he especially disliked.

Donald Trump

Organizations that advocate for the welfare of journalists have expressed their concerns with justifiable anxiety. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a warning that “A Trump presidency would represent a threat to press freedom in the United States.” The National Press Club released a similar statement condemning Trump’s anti-press tactics as “unacceptable and dangerous to our democracy.”

Now Trump has taken his abuse a step further into an ominous future. He posted on Twitter a message that reeks of an authoritarian stranglehold on one of America’s most cherished principles. The Free Press. He tweeted:

Trump’s characterization of the press as “the enemy of the American People!” has roots in some of the most oppressive historical dictatorships. It goes back to ancient Roman times. However, it has been used as recently as the 1950’s by China’s Chairman Mao Tse-tung to suppress freedom. Trump’s usage is particularly repulsive because of the overtly violent overtones that infect so much of his rhetoric. Is he deliberately fomenting violence against the press now? As an aside, it’s curious that he thinks the media is the enemy of the American people, but that it isn’t his enemy.

In the United States, disgraced former President Richard Nixon made an almost identical statement in private. He said that “The press is the enemy, the establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy.” Sound familiar? But Trump is saying it very publicly. It’s also notable that Nixon’s Watergate scandal and Trump’s current transgressions have similar beginnings. The Republican operatives who broke into Democratic offices at the Watergate were called the “Plumbers” because their purpose was to plug up leaks. And that’s exactly the focus of Trump’s complaints.

The “enemy of the people” theme is likely the handiwork of Trump’s alt-right, white supremacist aide, Stephen Bannon. In 2012 his Breitbart News website featured a commentary by Trump supporter Pat Caddell. In it Caddell said that “The press’s job is to stand in the ramparts and protect the liberty and freedom of all of us from a government and from organized governmental power,” So far, so good. However, he continued to say that they have “desert[ed] those ramparts” and “made themselves the enemy of the American people.”

Mao, Nixon, Breitbart. Is there a pattern forming? Trump would be thrilled to discredit the media that he regards as the “opposition party.” Then he could rant relentlessly with his “alternative facts” and outright lies without restraint or objective scrutiny. He could rely on disreputable “news” manglers like Breitbart, Infowars, the National Enquirer, and Fox News to lead his campaign of disinformation.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

This needs to be taken seriously. Trump is not kidding when he says the free press is the enemy. Last October he complained that “Our press is allowed to say whatever they want and get away with it.” Trump is actually appalled that the press can say whatever they want. It’s a freedom that he would eagerly undo given the opportunity. That would leave us with his factless accounts of a delusional world that exalts him and maligns his critics. He must be stopped by any (legal) means necessary.

Whistleblower’s Rights Supersede Trump’s Gag Orders – Says U.S Office Of Special Counsel

The past week has seen Donald Trump attempt to suppress the free speech of scientists and analysts within the government. The departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency were ordered by the White House to clam up. The prohibition on communications applied to website posts, press releases, and social media such as Twitter.

Donald Trump

These gag orders were mainly directed at agencies providing information related to healthcare and climate change. Trump has made it a priority of his administration to halt any progress on those issues. Even worse, he aims to roll back whatever was done during the Obama administration. But his path may not be all that clear.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is charged with protecting government employees who report malfeasance within federal offices. Whistleblowers often come forward to reveal official corruption or misrepresentation at significant personal risk. However, they are protected by statute from retaliation. It is the responsibility of the OSC to enforce those laws.

Consequently, the OSC responded to the news reports about Trump’s efforts to silence federal employees working on the affected issues. They released a memorandum reminding the administration, and the employees, that certain rights exist that cannot be denied. It’s title is “OSC’s Enforcement of the Anti-Gag Order Provision in Whistleblower Law” and says in part:

“The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is releasing information on its enforcement of the anti-gag order provision in the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). The WPEA, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate in 2012, strengthened anti-retaliation protections for federal workers. Under the anti-gag provision, agencies cannot impose nondisclosure agreements and policies that fail to include required language that informs employees that their statutory right to blow the whistle supersedes the terms and conditions of the nondisclosure agreement or policy.”

This is a direct swipe at Trump’s attempts to muzzle those working on climate science and healthcare projects. It also anticipates his penchant for shackling his employees with burdensome non-disclosure agreements. The memo reminds everyone concerned that the WPEA:

“…explicitly shields employees for blowing the whistle on any effort to ‘distort, misrepresent, suppress’ or otherwise censor any government ‘research, analysis, or technical information’ that the employee reasonably believes could, among other things, pose a substantial and significant threat to public health or safety or constitute a violation of law, rule, or regulation.”

And that:

“Nondisclosure agreements and policies can chill would-be whistleblowers from coming forward. These orders must clearly state that federal employees have a right to make disclosures of wrongdoing.”

So going forward, the Trump team has been put on notice that any further attempts to suppress communications from protected parties is expressly prohibited. Furthermore, any orders that address such communications must also contain language that informs the employees of their rights.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

It seems unthinkable that a reminder like this is necessary. But in the Era of Trump there is much that would have previously been considered unthinkable. It’s good to know that there are still some dedicated public servants protecting the interests of the federal workforce and, by extension, the American people and the democracy upon which free expression relies.

SRSLY? 34,000+ Tweets Later, Donald Trump Says ‘I Don’t Like Tweeting’

Donald Trump gave Fox News an interview Wednesday and it went pretty much like you might expect. Ainsley Earhardt tossed a few softballs at him, and he dodged them anyway. However, there were a couple of responses where he made news despite himself (video below).

Trump Twit

First of all, Trump was asked about his obsession with Twitter. He responded in a way that contradicts everything he’s done for the past couple of years:

“Look, I don’t like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing. But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract.”

For someone who doesn’t like tweeting, he sure devotes an awful lot of time to it. And his tweets often address significant issues, including trade, and foreign relations. Of course, just as often he’s merely bragging about himself or insulting others. But if he has other things to do, then why isn’t he doing them?

Trump’s excuse for tweeting so frequently is that it’s the only way to counteract all the dishonest press he gets. That’s got to come as a surprise to anyone who owns a television. Trump has been the recipient of more uninterrupted airtime than any other candidate – or human. The media broadcast his campaign stump speeches in full and took his phone calls on the air. When he wants press time he only has to ask for it and the networks oblige. If there is any lack of Trump on TV it’s his own doing. Until last week he didn’t hold a press conference for seven months.

Clearly, there are many ways for Trump to counter what he regards as dishonest press. That includes friendly venues like Fox News, talk radio, and wingnut blogs like Breitbart. He obviously prefers Twitter because it doesn’t require much critical thought. There isn’t much of substance you can say with 140 characters. What’s more, it doesn’t open him up to questions he can’t answer or hold him accountable for his lies.

The other notable remarks from the Fox News interview concerned the controversy over the White House briefing room. Last week Trump’s incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, floated the notion that the briefings might be moved to another location outside of the White House. That didn’t sit well with the journalists who would be evicted. Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) later met with Spicer and issued this statement shortly thereafter:

“The White House Correspondents’ Association has always advocated for increasing access and transparency for the benefit of all news outlets and the public. I emphasized the importance of the White House press briefing room and noted that it is open to all journalists who seek access now. I made clear that the WHCA would view it as unacceptable if the incoming administration sought to move White House reporters out of the press work space behind the press briefing room. Access in the West Wing to senior administration officials, including the press secretary, is critical to transparency and to journalists’ ability to do their jobs.’

Trump told Fox’s Earhardt that, due to the negative reaction, he didn’t think the briefing room would be moved for now. However, he also announced a new and unprecedented control over access to the briefings:

“Some people in the press will not be able to get in because there’s just too many people … we have so many people who wanna go in so we’ll have to just pick the people who go into the room. I’m sure other people will be thrilled about that.”

Currently the non-partisan WHCA is responsible for assigning credentials to reporters who seek admittance to the briefings. The politicians in the White House have no say. That insures that the room isn’t stacked with sycophants and propagandists as is done in dictatorial regimes. Apparently Trump favors the dictator’s methods. That may also be why his Washington, D.C. hotel just announced that it is banning all media during the inauguration. So much for a free press.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.