Last week, during a marathon post-midterm press conference, Donald Trump escalated his attacks on the media materially.
The “standout” moment (if that’s what you want to call it), was obviously the President’s confrontation with CNN’s Jim Acosta, who Trump branded a “terrible person” and whose hard pass was subsequently revoked by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Sanders tweeted out a doctored video in an effort to suggest that Acosta had physically assaulted a White House aide.
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
For those unaware, multiple experts have examined the version of the video Sanders tweeted and the conclusion is unanimous: It was altered for effect, a surreal state of affairs in a country where press freedom is sacrosanct. Here’s Abba Shapiro, an independent video producer who examined the footage at AP’s request, explaining:
Journalists have universally condemned Trump’s crackdown on Acosta, but Jim was hardly the only reporter targeted by the President last week. In the same press conference, Trump i) variously berated April Ryan, ii) called PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor (who is black) a “racist”, iii) said “I don’t like you either” when NBC’s White House correspondent Peter Alexander tried to defend Acosta, and iv) told a Japanese reporter to “say hello to Shinzo for me”.
Watch the highlights
Two days later, while speaking to reporters before departing for France, Trump said this to CNN reporter Abby Phillip after she asked an obvious question about Matt Whitaker’s appointment as Acting Attorney General.
In many ways, last week marked the culmination of two years worth of attacks on the press. Over the course of his presidency, Trump has gone so far as to suggest he would pursue anti-trust charges against Amazon in retaliation for negative coverage he’s received from the Washington Post (obviously he didn’t come out and say that, but everybody knew that was the thrust), implicitly encouraged violence against the media (last week, he joked about Greg Gianforte assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, a charge Gianforte pleaded guilty to), and labeled the media “the enemy of the people” at every possible opportunity.
So far, Trump has gotten away with this, despite the fact that it’s right out of the autocratic playbook. But it looks like that’s about to come to an end.
In an interview with Axios on HBO, Adam Schiff (who will be intelligence committee chairman under the Democratic House), said Democrats will investigate Trump for abuse of power in relation to his targeting of the Washington Post and CNN.
Specifically, Schiff says he plans to use subpoena power and public hearings to compel e-mails and testimony to determine if Trump is engaged in an ongoing effort to wield “the instruments of state power to punish the press.”
“It is very squarely within our responsibility to find out,” Schiff told Axios, adding that Trump “was secretly meeting with the postmaster general in an effort to browbeat the postmaster into raising postal rates on Amazon.”
In case you’ve become numb to Trump’s dictatorial tendencies, he cannot curtail the press. What he’s doing is unconstitutional and represents a violation of his oath of office.
And now, he’s going to be investigated for it. Along with all manner of other things.