Trump’s Assault on a Free Press Takes a New, Dangerous Turn

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by Pam Martens and Russ Martens, Wall St On Parade:

A long-tenured cartoonist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has recently had his anti-Trump cartoons censored by the editorial director at the newspaper. Yesterday the New York Times reported that the Justice Department has seized years of one of its reporters’ email and phone records. Before we get to those details, it’s important to look at the backdrop around these actions.

Four days after Donald Trump’s inauguration as President on January 20, 2017 he began a propaganda campaign against a free press in the United States on his Twitter page, labeling major media outlets as “Fake News.” According to the searchable database of Trump Tweets, he has since that time posted a total of 230 Tweets calling out major media as “Fake News.”

Former FBI Director James Comey wrote in a memo regarding a February 2017 meeting he had with the President that Trump had urged him to jail reporters who leaked classified information, according to New York Times reporting.

Simultaneously with Trump’s assault on cable news programs and major U.S. newspapers, he has engaged in a serious pattern of lies to the American people. The Washington Post reported on June 1 that the President “has made 3,251 false or misleading claims in 497 days.” The Post provides an ongoing database of Trump’s deceptions.

Major among Trump’s lies have been his alternative facts regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the involvement of members of his campaign with Russia – a serious national security issue. Trump has sought to deflect public attention and negative public opinion on this issue by assigning it all simply to a media that’s out to get him.

Now Trump’s assault on an American free press has taken another dangerous turn. The New York Times is reporting today that one of its reporters, Ali Watkins, was notified by the Justice Department that it had obtained years of her “customer records and subscriber information from telecommunications companies, including Google and Verizon, for two email accounts and a phone number of hers.” The Times’ report notes that “investigators did not obtain the content of the messages themselves.”

According to the Times report, the seizure of documents from its reporter was in connection with the investigation of James Wolfe, a former aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee who had worked there for almost three decades. He and Watkins had been in a personal relationship. Wolfe has been arrested and is expected to make his first court appearance today.

The Times quotes Ben Smith, the Editor in Chief of BuzzFeed News, where Watkins previously worked, as follows: “We’re deeply troubled by what looks like a case of law enforcement interfering with a reporter’s constitutional right to gather information about her own government.”

It should be stressed that this is a government being run by a President who believes he is above the law, can “demand” whom the Justice Department investigates, feels that he has the right to silence members of the press through intimidation, and has turned lying to the American people into an art form.

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