reTrump always had a problem with freedom of expression. In the past, he sued reporter Tim O’Brien and the New York Times for allegedly underestimating his wealth. Trump claimed he was worth billions, but O’Brien calculated the number at no more than $ 250 million, not shoddy, but not staggering, either. In the end, the New Jersey courts rejected Trump’s defamation claim, but only after the tabloid newspaper star acknowledged that his personal balance sheet was influenced by his own estimates.
Time passes and some things do not change. Trump continues to be censored as always, as the courts continue to deny him the relief he ultimately seeks: free media that flatter and flatter, but don’t really hold him accountable.
On Thursday, a federal judge sitting in Manhattan issued another reminder that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of expression. This time, the court also made clear that the federal prison system was not created to silence Trump’s adversaries. In other words, two divorces and three wives do not make him Henry VIII.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered the release of Michael Cohen from federal prison after discovering that the administration had tried to illegally silence the Trump consigliere. Cohen had been suspended from house arrest because of Covid-19, but was later sent back to jail after refusing to keep quiet about his former boss in an upcoming book.
Hellerstein, an 86-year-old Clinton designee, said this was the first time he had seen this type of government power play in more than 20 years on the bench. He described the administration’s stance this way: “You follow the line about giving up your first amendment rights or we will send you to jail.” Hellerstein also found that the government’s conduct is inadmissible in retaliation.
From the looks of it, the 45th President has more in common with Tony Soprano than he does with his immediate predecessors. But for now, that’s not exactly news.
Adding insult to injury, this was Trump’s third loss in so many attempts to silence a critical author. First, Bill Barr’s justice department was unable to obtain a pre-publication warrant against John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, and his book, The Room Where It Happened. Then Trump’s brother Robert tried unsuccessfully to prevent Mary Trump, his niece, and Too Much and Never Enough, his family from saying it all, being heard, or seeing the light of day. In baseball, commentators would say he struck out swing.
In its opinion, the court cited the Pentagon Papers case as grounds for refusing to ban publication, and in a rhetorical flourish added, “In the vernacular of first-year law students, ‘constitutional law triumphs over the contracts'”. In other words, confidentiality agreements take a backseat regarding freedom of expression and the public’s right to know. And now this.
Worse still for Trump, his legal turmoil has resulted in paydays for his critics. The lawsuits are free advertising and sales of goose books. Put another way, Brad Parscale, the president’s former campaign manager, is not the only person making money by the name of Trump.
In January 2018, Trump threatened to prevent Michael Wolff from releasing Fire and Fury, but he never went to court. Trump’s aborted gambit caused Wolff’s editors to publish the book early, and it became an overnight sensation. Instead of Trump intimidating his goals, he only emboldened and enriched them.
As for Bolton, The Room Where it Happened is in its fourth week on the bestseller list after it debuted at # 1. Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough sold nearly a million copies in its first week. Talk about the unintended consequences.
Suffice it to say that when it comes to freedom of expression, Trump has been inconsistent. In a recent interview with CBS, Trump made clear that the first amendment protects the display of the Confederate battle flag. He explained: “My attitude is freedom of expression. Very strong views on the Confederate flag. With me, it is freedom of expression. Very simple. I like it, I don’t like it, it’s freedom of expression. “
But with this president few things are so simple. And even fewer are true.