There has been so much controversy swirling around Donald Trump’s comments, activities, and tweets over the last week alone that most people are pretty much overloaded with things to be outraged about. Small wonder that one of Trump’s most dangerous requests has received short shrift in the media.
The reporting on the bombshell Comey memo of his February 14th meeting with Donald Trump has pretty much focused on the President of the United States asking the Director of the FBI if he could see his way clear to basically dropping the investigation of the Trump-Russia ties, in specific the investigation of General Michael Flynn.
Contents of the contemporaneous memo that Comey made following that meeting were leaked to The Washington Post shortly after Trump unceremoniously and disingenuously fired Director Comey on Tuesday May 9th. But the memo also contained another request by the POTUS that would have sent alarm bells sounding throughout the country if it alone had been the only top of discussion
Because during that same meeting, the one where Trump dismissed Vice President Pence and Attorney General Sessions so that he could speak privately with Director Comey, he also suggested, as reported by The New York Times, that
Comey “should consider jailing journalists who publish classified information.”
For those who remember, studied, or lived through the Nixon administration this goes beyond what they tried to do in regarding the publication of the notorious Pentagon Papers by the New York Times. In that instance, the Department of Justice sought an injunction to prevent publication of the documents by The Times. After a temporary injunction was granted, the documents were then given to The Washington Post along with a number of other publications.
The Pentagon Papers were classified documents that had been obtained and released by Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst who had helped prepare the documents. According to Biography.com “For leaking the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was charged with theft, conspiracy and violations of the Espionage Act, but his case was dismissed as a mistrial when evidence surfaced about the government ordered wiretappings and break-ins.”
This injunction was reviewed by the Supreme Court within two weeks of its issuance and in a 6-3 decision overturned the injunction against the Times as a violation of the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press through “prior restraint.” The Supreme Court did also not buy the government’s argument against publication of what they considered “classified information.”
In his concurring opinion Justice Hugo Black wrote “[W]e are asked to hold that … the Executive Branch, the Congress, and the Judiciary can make laws … abridging freedom of the press in the name of ‘national security.’ … To find that the President has ‘inherent power’ to halt the publication of news … would wipe out the First Amendment and destroy the fundamental liberty and security of the very people the Government hopes to make ‘secure.'”
Donald Trump is rightly terrified that his administration is leaking classified information to the press like a broken sieve, but the remedy lies, as it did with the Pentagon Papers, in holding the leakers responsible. If the Supreme Court ruled that ‘prior restraint’ i.e. preventing the publication of such material was unconstitutional, how much more so would be arresting the very journalists who report it.
Reporters have been found in contempt of court and arrested for refusing to name the sources of their reporting. But they have never before been threated with arrest for reporting truthful information to the public, regardless of its source. The effects of any such attempts would be chilling for those who cherish the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and once again demonstrate that Donald Trump neither understands nor respects the Constitution of the United States.
Considering the level of information that is leaking to the media, it is becoming clearer every day that these are upper echelon officials who are seriously worried about decisions being made in the Oval Office. Before he tries to jail reporters, perhaps someone needs to tell him
Mr. Trump. The calls. They are coming from INSIDE YOUR HOUSE.