More than 70 protesters have been dragged out of the Senate hearing room where Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing is taking place, in the first two days of the proceedings. (Photo: @dcexaminer/Twitter)
“Tireless and creative, rambunctious, confrontational, and peaceful protest is unnerving to him. It is one of many aspects of American life that he, simply, cannot control.”
By Julia Conley / 09.05.2018
With his deeply unpopular U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, facing outraged protests at his confirmation hearing and veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s book about the inner workings of the White House making waves, President Donald Trump launched his latest attacks on the First Amendment on Wednesday.
According to reports from the Daily Beast and Hill Reporter, Trump took aim at protesters like the dozens who were dragged away in handcuffs from Kavanaugh’s hearing on Tuesday and Wednesday. In an Oval Office interview with the conservative Daily Caller on Tuesday, the president was quoted as saying:
I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that…I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on…In the old days, we used to throw them out. Today, I guess they just keep screaming.
The reports did not indicate what Trump, whose only political position has been as President of the United States, was referring to by “the old days” when “we used to throw them out,” but as a presidential candidate in 2016, he made a habit of ordering the removal of protesters from his rallies—as well as encouraging his supporters to violently attack them.
So there’s plenty of evidence suggesting tireless and creative, rambunctious, confrontational, and peaceful protest is unnerving to him. It is one of many aspects of American life that he, simply, cannot control: so his desire is to render it illegal, to own and dominate it
— Aaron Walker (@sturgidson) September 5, 2018
Trump thinks protests should be illegal and Kavanaugh thinks someone who wants to shake his hand is a security threat.
They are telling you what they want this country to be. Believe them. https://t.co/q9SdQ9Sl7K
— Moira Whelan (@moira) September 5, 2018
Demonstrators have already faced consequences for exercising their First Amendment rights at Kavanaugh’s hearing. CNN reported that a total of 70 protesters were arrested for protesting on the first day of the proceedings.
On Wednesday morning, the protesters returned to the hearing room to find no apparent allies on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is overseeing the confirmation hearings. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) apologized to Kavanaugh for “the circumstances” after several demonstrators were removed for vocally opposing the anti-choice extremist, while Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) warned against “insolence” in the chamber.
After a few protests early in the hearing, Lisa Desjardins, a correspondent for the PBS “Newshour” tweeted that the public had been barred from the room.Not content to attempt to curb legal protests, the president also raged against Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House.” The book portrays Trump as a serial liar who officials have privately worried possesses the knowledge of “a fifth or sixth grader” regarding issues like relations with North Korea—and wondered why lawmakers wouldn’t “change libel laws” to protect someone such as himself from such accounts.
Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
Trump has frequently railed against journalists for writing negative stories about him, and this is just the latest time he has made a public call for Congress to amend libel laws to protect him.
Last winter, following the release of another White House exposé, Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” Trump warned that he would “be taking a look at our nation’s libel laws.”
As MSNBC reporter Ari Melber noted on “Morning Joe,” the president suggestion served to chill free press rights—and was not based in an understanding of U.S. laws regarding libel and defamation.
“Libel laws are state laws,” Melber said. “That tweet, beyond being a potential abuse of the president’s role in trying to bully the free press given the federal First Amendment, also shows a stunning lack of knowledge and total ignorance about how libel laws work.”