The wring of freedom
Last week, after Trump tweeted that the Senate intelligence committee should investigate the “Fake News Networks,” his press secretary said he’s not a foe of constitutional freedoms for journalism.
“The president is an incredible advocate of the First Amendment,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Now that’s fake.
After denying via Twitter an NBC News report — that in a July Pentagon meeting, he expressed interest in a nearly tenfold increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal — Trump followed up with a seeming threat, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.
“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?” He answered that question in an evening tweet, saying “licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.”
And at a photo op, he said this: “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it.”
It’s the First Amendment. You can look it up.
The take-away: Huff and bluff
Trump’s past threats against the news media have come and gone without follow-through, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Last year, Trump spoke of changing laws to make it easier to sue for libel. But he has made no move to so, nor could he as a practical matter. Jurisdiction is with state courts and legislatures.
His also hinted retaliating at CNN by obstructing its parent Time-Warner’s $85 billion takeover by AT&T. But there’s no sign he interfered in the Justice Department’s antitrust reviews.
It’s unclear what Trump Wednesday meant about challenging licenses. The Federal Communications Commission doesn’t directly license networks, though it does license local stations they own.
FCC rules strongly protect criticism of government, and officials say the agency “generally will not intervene” in “allegation” of “inaccurate or one-sided news reports or comments.”
A year ago, Trump demanded through his lawyer that The New York Times retract a story about two women who accused him of groping them or face a lawsuit.
A year later, there is no retraction and no lawsuit. The statute of limitations for such legal action in New York ran out Wednesday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Trump’s past efforts to use the courts against unflattering portrayals haven’t gone well. In 2009, a judge dismissed his suit against an author who wrote he had exaggerated his wealth. Four years later, Trump withdrew a $5 million suit against comedian Bill Maher for joking that he had been sired by an orangutan.
Twitter is his better friend
Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a billionaire who is one of Trump’s oldest and closest friends, told The Washington Post he has been “shocked” and “stunned” by some of the president’s rhetoric and inflammatory tweets.
“He thinks he has to be loyal to his base,” Barrack said. “I keep on saying, ‘But who is your base? ... Your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies; show them who you really are.’ In my opinion, he’s better than this.”
Barrack said Trump hears him out. His response? “I love you, but if I listened to you, I’d still be on ‘The Apprentice.’ ”
Trump acknowledged disagreement within the administration on his approach to North Korea, and said he’s decided on a “tougher” strategy.
“I think I have a little bit of a different attitude on North Korea than other people might have. And I listen to everybody, but ultimately, my attitude is the one that matters, isn’t it?” Trump said during a White House photo op.
An Associated Press-NORC poll found two-thirds of Americans say Donald Trump’s war of words with Kim Jong Un is making the situation worse, while fewer than 1 in 10 think Trump’s comments are helping.
Truckers promised a haul
Pitching his tax overhaul plan to an audience of truck drivers in Pennsylvania, Trump said it would help them by boosting their industry.
“You’re going to make more money. You’re going to do better than ever before,” he said. A cut to business taxes would help truckers because there will be “more products to deliver and more contracts to fill.”
Meanwhile, CNBC noted that Trump seems to have backed off from claims he would not personally benefit from the plan.
Asked directly about that in a recent Forbes magazine interview, the president replied: “Well, what I say is, that the, this whole concept, everybody benefits if the country does well. We all do.”
What else is happening
- Trump nominated Kirstjen Nielsen to be the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. She is the top deputy to White House chief of staff John Kelly and also was his top aide when he ran DHS.
- While Trump is railing against American news media, the State Department said it was “concerned” by Turkey’s conviction and sentencing of a Wall Street Journal correspondent for her reporting as “another example of efforts to discourage viewpoints critical of the Turkish government.”
- National security adviser H.R. McMaster talked a frustrated president down from taking a hatchet to the Iran nuclear pact, the Washington Post reports.
- Trump tweeted “It is about time that [Commissioner] Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem.” The NFL called the celebration premature — the league hasn’t done that, at least not yet. Owners will discuss the issue next week.
- A top Democratic donor, California billionaire Tom Steyer, is demanding that lawmakers and candidates on the left support removing Trump from office through impeachment.
- Sanders, the White House press secretary, has become an icon for like-minded Christian conservatives, according to a Washington Post profile. Before each briefing, she finds inspiration from reading a daily devotional.
- Guaynabo, the Puerto Rico town where Trump tossed paper towel packages at a Hurricane Maria relief center last week, is still without electric power, BuzzFeed reports. Most residents don’t have running water.