Late last night, Twitter doubled down on its controversial labeling of tweets from President Donald Trump to flag what it views as misleading or offensive material. Yesterday, I wrote a column on Twitter’s policy and a second column on President Trump’s response with an executive order. I have strongly opposed Twitter’s policy on censoring and labeling material, including the decision to correct a tweet from the President on the political debate over main-in voting. Undeterred, Twitter has issued a new warning that a tweet from the President on the rioting in Minneapolis was a violation of its rule for “glorifying violence.” Twitter is now making the case for government action to monitor and control social media. The loser will ultimately be free speech.
A police station in Minneapolis was torched last night as looting and rioting continued in that city. The escalating violence and looting has magnified controversies over how networks are describing the scenes. Earlier, Craig Melvin, an MSNBC host and co-anchor of “Today,” shed some light as to how his network is framing its reporting. Melvin tweeted a “guide” that the images “on the ground” are not to be described as rioting but rather “protests.” That framing has been used on other networks, including some segments where the reporting seems bizarrely out of sync with the scenes in the background. Update: CNN appears to be drawing a distinction in an even more curious way.
We have previously discussed the effort of students and faculty to bar federal agencies like ICE from job fairs despite the strong interest (and need) of students to seek such jobs. Now the American University College Democrats have demanded the banning of Customs and Border Protection despite widespread unemployment and the dire need of many fellow students to find positions with such agencies. The interesting twist is that this was not even an on campus event but a virtual event. Even without the government stepping on campus, the students objected to other students being able to speak with Customs in a virtual space.
I have a column criticizing Twitterfor its labelling of tweets from President Donald Trump as presumptively false. Twitter has yielded to demands in Congress to censor and regulate political speech. In signature style, however, Trump promptly bulldozed the high ground in the controversy by threatening to close down social media companies through retaliatory regulations. The First Amendment was written to bar that very authority in either the President or Congress or both. The President cannot be the putative victim of private censorship while claiming the authority to engage in government censorship. In fairness however Democratic leaders have threatened such a regulatory crackdown in the past. The coverage on Trump’s threat telling omits the fact that Democratic leaders and presidential candidates have made the same threat in the past.
We previously discussed the insider trading allegations against Senators Richard Burr (R., N.C.) Dianne Feinstein (D., Cal.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), and Kelly Loeffler (R., Ga.) over the selling of stocks after briefings early in the pandemic. As I stated earlier, I am highly skeptical of such cases as a criminal defense attorney as viable due to the difficulty in both the elements and the proof needed for such a charge. Yesterday, the Justice Department dropped three of the four investigations. Only Burr remains under investigation.
Twitter has (correctly) declined demands from various people to delete the tweets of President Donald Trump pushing the conspiracy theory that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough murdered a young intern, Lori Klausutis. I have repeatedly denounced the use of this tragedy as reprehensible given what the family has gone through. I have received many emails from people who defend Trump’s tweets and advance this claim. I am not convinced for all of the reasons that I have stated previously. I view this conspiracy theory as analogous to the one involving with Rep. Gary Condit and the death of intern Chandra Levy. In that case, Condit actually had an affair with Levy but I was highly critical from the outset of the overwhelming presumption of guilt based on nothing but sensational and scurrilous rumor. It is not enough to say that “some people believe this might be true” to justify such tweets. Seven percent of Americans believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows, but we do not investigate the claim.
We have been discussing the struggle of Democratic members and various commentators in rejecting sexual assault allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden while also opposing any review of his papers for past allegations, including those at the University of Delaware. Some members and feminist figures, including most recently Iihan Omar, have declared that they believe that Biden did rape his Senate aide Tara Reade and is continuing to lie about it publicly. However, they still support him to be the next President of the United States. Now, former George Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter has chastised Omar for publicly stating that she believes Reade because it could cost the Democrats the election. It is a curious ethical line to draw. If a member believes that Biden is not just a rapist but continuing to lie about the rape, one would hope that the member would publicly voice their view. Just as I find Omar’s position to be morally incomprehensible, I find Painter’s position to be ethically incomprehensible.
We have been discussing special dispensation granted to former Vice President Joe Biden by Democratic members and the media. Yesterday, Rep. Iihan Omar, D-Minn., became the latest member to declare that she believes that Biden did rape a Senate aide and is continuing to lie about the crime in public statements. However, Omar reaffirmed that she will do everything in her power to make him the next president of the United States.
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on special dispensation given Joe Biden by members of Congress, commentators, and the media. We previously discussed the muted media response to false legal comments from President Barack Obama and other Obama officialson the Flynn case. The pattern of media avoidance is more glaring with recent Biden controversies. Notably, the column ran when Biden gave his interview on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” This weekend, I was critical of segments on CNN and NBC’s Meet the Press which quoted Biden but cut off the line where he falsely claimed to have received multiple endorsements from the NAACP. CNN’s John King derisively referred to controversy as something people are “trying to make hay” out of and then played the interview. However, CNN clipped the tape to leave out the next line where Biden declared “The NAACP has endorsed me every time I’ve run. Come on, take a look at my record.” Despite that invitation to look at his record, CNN and other media routinely cut out the false statement and also omitted any discussion of the false claim linked to the NAACP. On a story about Biden’s claim that all black voters must vote for him (or not be truly black), it would seem material that he also falsely claimed endorsements from the leading organization in the African American community. However, it was routinely omitted from the tape and Biden has not been asked to respond to the rebuttal from the NAACP. It is precisely the type of crafting of the coverage to confine damage for Biden that is discussed in the column.
Here is the column: Continue reading “Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong”
Scarborough’s co-host and wife Mika Brzezinki is calling for President Donald Trump to be banned on Twitter after he resumed his bizarre pushing of a conspiracy theory that Joe Scarborough murdered an intern in 2001. I have long denounced the President’s use of the tragic story of Lori Klausutis as callous and wrong. There is not a shred of support for this claim and the constant tweets from the President only adds to this tragedy for the Klausutis family. As I noted yesterday, “politics ain’t beanbag” but it is also not a license for such malicious slandering of your critics. Having said that, I do not support the effort to ban Trump from Twitter. I have written repeatedly about the danger posed by calls from politicians for increased censorship on social media and the Internet. Indeed, I criticized Trump recently for such banning of opposing views from his Twitter account.
This week, President Donald Trump has pledged that he will “override” state orders barring in-person religious services unless governors do so. As I have previously noted, the President is claiming authority that is expressly denied to him in our system of federalism. While I have warned such deference given to the states wanes with time, any order to reopen churches in a given state will be based on the inherent authority of the courts, not the President. This issue could be coming to a head with the split decision of a panel in the Ninth Circuit late Friday to uphold the order Gov. Gavin Newsom barring large in-person religious services. Early on in the pandemic, I wrote about how governors can shutdown churches under the Constitution. The Administration can, and has promised, joined legal challenges to such state orders but it is not claiming the inherent authority of presidents to “override” state decisions. The Justice Department has warned Newsom that his order is contravening constitutional rights.
Former Vice President Joe Biden had a bad day yesterday after his statement during an interview with Charlamagne tha God on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” To Biden’s credit, he came out an apologized. (Something President Donald Trump has consistently refused to do for comments like his statement that Jewish voters who voted for the Obama Administration “do not like Israel too much”). However, Atlantic staff writer Jemele Hill has kept the controversy brewing with her insistence that Biden’s statement that over a million such Black voters in recent polling are not really (as opposed to “technically”) black was “accurate.” The controversy raises some of the issues addressed recently in a column on the stereotyping of Trump supporters. [Biden is also facing a push back from the NAACP which said that, despite his repeated statements to the contrary, it has never endorsed Biden or anyone else.]
We have been having a spirited debate over the orders of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in the case of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Now, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has given Judge Sullivan ten days to respond to the motion for his removal. The language is not discretionary so Sullivan will likely to have address the two controversial orders issued after the filing of the motion to dismiss. In particular, he will have to state directly to the D.C. Circuit his understanding of his own discretion in such matters. I have maintained that the law in this areas is clear and that Sullivan has little ground upon which to deny this motion. Continue reading “A Call To Account: D.C. Circuit Gives Sullivan 10 Days To Defend His Flynn Orders”