We’re confident that the Department of Justice that the First Amendment protects all American citizens and that it would not participate in such a blatant abuse of government power.
The President’s threats both underscore why we must safeguard the identity of the writer of this op-ed and serve as a reminder of the importance of a free and independent press to American democracy.
That’s from the New York Times and it’s in response to Donald Trump’s suggestion that he will attempt to force the Justice Department to launch an investigation into which senior administration official penned the bombshell Op-Ed published by the paper earlier this week.
“I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security”, Trump said, aboard Air Force One, on his way to North Dakota where he delivered a series of characteristically egregious remarks while raising money for GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer’s Senate race.
“We’re going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, what he’s talking about, also where he is right now,” Trump continued.
To be clear, nobody can blame Trump for wanting to know who wrote the Op-Ed, but on the other hand, his Friday comments on this issue are so authoritarian in character as to be absolutely laughable. This is the President of the United States instructing the Attorney General to launch an investigation aimed at hunting down and presumably prosecuting a government employee because that employee wrote an Op-Ed for a newspaper Trump despises. It’s not at all clear whether Trump understands how outrageous that is.
Additionally, don’t let it be lost on you that this is yet another example (and the most poignant one at that) of how Trump’s anti-media push continues to backfire on him. He’s been incredulous from day one that “free press” actually means “free press” and his ongoing frustration with the Constitution is manifesting itself in ever more exasperated rants. The more combative he gets with the press, the more the press pushes back.
You’ll recall that late in July, Trump decided it would be a good idea to make an off the record conversation with A.G. Sulzberger public by tweeting about it (something that makes his allegations against Bloomberg sound pretty hypocritical, by the way). You can read the whole story on that here, but suffice to say that in a meeting at the White House on July 20, the Times attempted to impress upon the President the idea that his characterization of the press as “the enemy of the people” is extremely dangerous.
Trump didn’t want to hear that. Unable to restrain himself from telling the whole world just how badly he didn’t want to hear it, he hopped on Twitter to “explain” why he calls the media “the enemy of the people.” The Times fired back and Trump became even angrier.
Fast forward a few weeks and the Times broke story after story including a truly revealing piece about outgoing White House counsel Don McGahn’s “extensive cooperation” with Robert Mueller. The publication of the anonymous Op-Ed this week in many ways represented the ultimate “karma’s a b*tch” moment for the President in his ongoing war with the press.
His attempts to pressure Jeff Sessions into investigating the Times mark a kind of authoritarian two-for-one deal. For months, the President has demanded that Sessions investigate a long list of political rivals and has variously implored the Attorney General to shut down the Mueller probe. Sessions has stood firm and his unwillingness to allow the DoJ to become a political weapon of the White House is ultimately going to cost Jeff his job after the midterms.
Who knows whether Sessions will move on Trump’s request to try and hunt down the “resistance” inside the White House and who knows if spineless GOP stalwarts like Lindsey Graham would sit idly by in the event such an investigation is launched.
All we know for sure is that Donald Trump has a really – really – hard time pronouncing the word “anonymous”…
Ok, say it with me… "anomynoushhhhhhhhhhh"… no wait…. "really, an anominoussssssss".. pic.twitter.com/EiNEfJxg6v
— Walter White (@heisenbergrpt) September 7, 2018