Category: Media

Roughly 300 Years Later, Is Julian Assange The New John Peter Zenger?

Below is my column in the BBC on the historical and potential legal significance of the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Much of the prosecution could turn on whether Assange is a journalist. Notably, Assange just received a European journalism award from the European parliamentarians. Assange is this year’s recipient of the 2019 GUE/NGL Award for Journalists, Whistleblowers & Defenders of the Right to Information.

In the meantime, there are some interesting comparison between the Assange and Zenger cases in the long-standing debate over what constitutes press freedoms.

Here is the column:

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“He Is Our Property”: The D.C. Establishment Awaits Assange With A Glee And Grudge

Below is my column in USA Today on the Julian Assange arrest. We are still learning more about Assange’s confinement, including bizarre accounts of Assange’s conduct in the Ecaudorian Embassy in London. The key question will be the highly generalized allegation in the single count indictment from the Justice Department that Assange played an active role in the hacking. That would cross the Rubicon for journalists and make this an even more difficult case for those worried about free speech and the free press. Yet, the indictment is strikingly silent on details or an assertion that Assange actually used the password. We will likely learn more as the May hearing approaches for his extradition.

Here is the column:

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Sanders: Congress Not Smart Enough To Look At Trump Taxes

I am continually mystified by the Trump White House and its public responses to controversies — responses that often magnify the legitimate concerns of the public. That was case this weekend when White House Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders attempted to come up with some plausible rationale for Trump continuing to refuse to release his taxes — a departure from decades of tradition. Sanders declared that “I don’t think Congress, particularly not this group of congressmen and women, are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume President Trump’s taxes will be.” It is an attempt to wrap an unjustifiable position within a raw insult to avoid the question. Trump has repeatedly promised to release his taxes but continues to cite the fact that he has been audited as a reason for not turning over the records — a position widely rejected by both tax and legal experts. Now it appears that the collective intelligence of Congress is a barrier to disclosure.

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This is CNN? Coverage Of Tax Change Highlights New Advocacy Journalism

I recently spoke on the changes in American media during the Trump years.  While I continue to be critical of Donald Trump attacks on the media, I also criticized what I view as consistently biased reporting on some networks.  CNN was a focus of some of those criticism even though I have many friends at the network and view some of its reporters to be extraordinary journalists.  As I was about to fly home, however, I saw a program that summed up my concerns in journalism in the age of echo-chamber news. It was part of John Avlon’s Reality Check series which looked at the elimination of the deduction for the state and local (SALT) taxes under the recent the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA).  Not once in the segment did CNN mention the long-standing economic and policy objections to the SALT deductions. Instead, the entire segment framed the change as penalizing states and voters who did not support Trump.  It was wildly unfair and incomplete on the issue and seemed calculated to enrage rather than inform.

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On Thursday, British authorities arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London after Ecuador abandoned its long-standing commitment to protect Assange from a coordinated effort of the United States and a variety of other countries as intelligence organizations. American intelligence has long demanded the prosecution of Assange who disclosed controversial military operations in the United States. The arrest will now trigger litigation over the status of Assange. Was he acting as a journalist, a whistleblower, a spy, or a dupe?

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Turley To Speak At Utah Valley University

I have the pleasure of speaking today and tomorrow at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. I will be speaking on Wednesday on “A Crisis of Faith: How Trump Has Changed Journalism in America.” The speech will explore the history and evolution of American journalism as well as the challenges presented in the last two years. While I have been critical of President Donald Trump over his attacks on the media, I also believe that American media has become more partisan and biased in its coverage. The speech will look at the changing standards and economics governing journalism in America.

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CNN Host Presses Comey On Why He Failed To “Shut Down” Trump’s Campaign Statements As Hate Speech

CNN Screenshot

There was a chilling moment on CNN this week in an interview of former FBI Director James Comey, by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. In the middle of the interview, Amanpour asked Comey if he had wished the FBI “shut down” President Donald Trump’s “hate speech” during the 2016 presidential election. Next week I will be debating an advocate of such speech codes and the criminalization of hate speech at Rice University. This was a particularly revealing moment as one of the top personalities at CNN pressed the former head of the FBI on why he did not simply shutdown Trump’s speeches as hate speech. Amanpour has been an outspoken critic of Trump but this reflect more of the diminishing European view of free speech.

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Trump’s Noble Moment: Waiving Executive Privilege Over The Special Counsel Report

Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the decision of President Donald Trump to waive executive privilege and the announcement of Attorney General Bill Barr that he has no intention to even give the White House an early look at the report. While Trump has not received any praise for that decision, it would (if true) represent a significant departure from past presidents and a major advance for transparency in government. Indeed, as discussed below, despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to be the most transparent president in history, Trump could have a greater claim to that distinction.

Here is the column:

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Mueller and The Stages Of Grieving

The release of the summary of findings by the Special Counsel has left much of the country in stunned silence.  For two years, millions of voters have kept hope alive that the term of Donald Trump would be cut short by a type of avenging angel in Robert Mueller.  They are now left with a reality that is still difficult to process: Donald Trump is likely to finish his term as President of the United States. There I said it.

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Trump: Accusers Have Done “Evil” and “Treasonous Things”

It would seem that being cleared of collusion and obstruction allegations might be an opportune moment for Donald Trump to take the high road and declare an intent to move the country past the divisive politics of the last two years. Instead, Trump declared that those people who accused him were responsible for “treasonous things” and said they “will certainly be looked at.” Since I was one of those people who denounced others for alleging treason against Trump, it is disconcerting to now hear Trump himself using the same irresponsible rhetoric. Those peddling unsupported theories of criminality over the last two years were also irresponsible and reckless, but their voicing such views was not treasonous. Trump added that his critics were “evil”

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The long-waited release of the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to the Attorney General has left many in the Beltway with a dilemma: how does one observe Special Counsel day?  The problem is not just the lack of Special Counsel bunting and decorations, but many still do not know whether this will be a day of celebration or commiseration.  Wishful critics and supporters are wondering what the Special Counsel will bring for them.  After all, a large number of reputations are on the line. Breathless accounts of “bombshells”
 and “smoking guns” of collusion will now be tested as will the common article of faith that all will be put right if you “just wait for Mueller.”


The Max Bialystock School of Prosecution: Manafort Charges Flaunt A Disregard For The Constitution


Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the New York charges brought against Paul Manafort. As I have previously written, double jeopardy protections have been watered down by the Supreme Court through the years. However, this is also a matter of state constitutional protections. Regardless of the outcome, there are troubling concerns raised by this filing. Many New Yorkers often see themselves as civil libertarians, but such concerns seem to be dismissed when the target is an unpopular individual like Manafort.

The New York Constitution has a prohibition on double jeopardy, which is further defined under New York’s Criminal Procedure Law 40.20 which states, “A person may not be twice prosecuted for the same offense.” Section 40.30 sweeps broadly to include any case “filed in a court of this state or of any jurisdiction within the United States, and when the action either: (a) Terminates in a conviction upon a plea of guilty; or (b) Proceeds to the trial stage and a jury has been impaneled and sworn or, in the case of a trial by the court without a jury, a witness is sworn.” That would include not just federal counts but those that were subject to both Manafort’s convictions and guilty pleas.

Here is the column:

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Kushner in the Crosshairs: New Book Ties Kushner To Comey Firing

U.S. Embassy (Jerusalem)

If President Donald Trump has had a couple of lousy weeks, it is still considerably better than the experience of his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Not only has the media reported (and the White House has not denied) that Trump overruled his security and legal advisers in ordering a clearance for Kushner, but Kushner is the subject of a new book and confirms earlier accounts that he was the mastermind behind the disastrous decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey. What is striking about the account in Vicky Ward’s new book, Kushner, Inc. is how clueless Kushner (and by extension the President) seemed about the likely response to the firing. With every other advisor, including Steve Bannon, warning of the inevitable backlash and disaster, Trump went with Kushner and fired Comey. The result was the Special Counsel appointment. Had Trump let Comey finish the investigation and then fired him, the Russian investigation would have likely ended many months ago.

In addition Kushner has been accused this week of using private or personal email for official business despite years of controversies over such use and his own father-in-law’s campaign on the issue against Hillary Clinton.

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Can The Mueller Report Be Released?

With everyone waiting for the expected news of the submission of the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, there remains a remarkably unresolved question of what Attorney General Bill Barr can actually give to Congress. I have previously discussed how giving the report to Congress would require the redaction of a host of information under privacy, classification, and executive privilege rules.  However, the threshold question is what the statute contemplates.  The answer is: not much.

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“Husband From Hell”: Trump Launches Twitter Tirade Against Husband Of Kellyanne Conway

I have said it before, but I am again confused this morning after President Donald Trump launched into another self-defeating and unpresidential tirade on Twitter. The target of the tweets is the husband of Kellyanne Conway. (For the record, she is a former student of mine). George Conway has published the criteria used to diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder and has suggested that Trump is clearly mentally ill. By attacking Conway, Trump has only magnified the allegations and drawn attention to the NPD criteria. While various White House officials struggled for months to keep Trump from responding directly to George Conway, Trump finally had enough after daily attacks. However, the result is manifestly bad for Trump. As should have been obvious, Conway responded by highlighting his prior allegation of mental illness and tweeted “You. Are. Nuts.”

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