Overnight, amid a flurry of social media posts, Donald Trump demanded President Joe Biden weaponize the federal government to “come down hard” on a news media outlet to benefit the indicted ex-president’s 2024 political campaign. While attacking the press is part of Trump’s regular tactics, this time he’s getting widely criticized for his thinly-veiled threat he will do what he’s demanding of Biden if he retakes the White House.
The First Amendment is clear, and numerous rulings have shown the federal government cannot censor or dictate how or what the free press reports. It can, and has, asked for coverage of a story, and can direct a news outlet’s attention to an issue, but it cannot stop the media from reporting on a presidential candidate.
And yet, that’s exactly what Donald Trump demanded President Joe Biden do.
“MSNBC (MSDNC) uses FREE government approved airwaves, and yet it is nothing but a 24 hour hit job on Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party for purposes of ELECTION INTERFERENCE,” Trump claimed very late Tuesday night. “Brian Roberts, its Chairman and CEO, is a slimeball who has been able to get away with these constant attacks for years. It is the world’s biggest political contribution to the Radical Left Democrats who, by the way, are destroying our Country.”
“Our so-called ‘government’ should come down hard on them and make them pay for their illegal political activity. Much more to come, watch!” Trump wrote.
Critics immediate focused on the fact that MSNBC is a cable news outlet that does not use what Trump called the “free government approved airwaves” (which are not free, broadcasters pay licensing fees.)
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, who has written several books on Trump, called it “a perfect example of Donald’s appalling ignorance.”
Also pointing to Trump’s false claim of MSNBC using “free government approved airwaves,” former New York Times media reporter Bill Carter noted Trump’s “ignorance is worse than the puerile name-calling.”
“He’s ranting mindlessly,” Carter observed, noting Trump “has several cable nets that are full-time propaganda channels for him.”
But the larger concern expressed was not that Trump does not understand the difference between broadcast and cable TV, but that he does not understand the U.S. Constitution.
“Thank goodness for the First Amendment, which gives the American people, the private sector and the free press the right to tell the former President to shove it,” wrote U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). “If Trump is going to say or do stupid stuff, or authoritarian crazy stuff, the press has the right to expose it.”
Former Obama Administration senior advisor and campaign chief strategist David Axelrod wrote, “I think we owe it to Trump to take his words seriously. He would use the power of government to punish media outlets who do critical reporting about him. Where are those who speak reflexively about fidelity to the Constitution but apparently have not read it?”
Former CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter responded to Axelrod’s post, writing: “Slight revise: Trump repeatedly did use the power of government to punish media outlets, and he can’t wait to do it again.”
Politico White House Bureau Chief Jonathan Lemire, who is also an MSNBC host, wrote: “Trump again threatening to use the power of the government against media he believes is being critical of him: ‘More to come, watch!'”
Gen Z speaker, writer, podcaster, and organizer Victor Shi noted Trump is calling for “MSNBC — which does NOT use free government-approved airwaves — to be dismantled by the government. Joe Biden does not say this about Fox, because he values democracy. Trump does NOT.”
Shi, adding other Trump overnight posts to his commentary, observed: “So, over the span of one night, Donald Trump called for the government to shutdown MSNBC because they don’t cover him ‘favorably’ & called for Obamacare to be gutted AGAIN. This isn’t how leaders [in a] democracy behave. This is how fascists act—& we must be alarmed.”
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Arrested Again: Ex-FBI Informant and GOP Former Star Witness Alexander Smirnov
Alexander Smirnov, the former FBI informant who was arrested just eight days ago and charged with lying to the Bureau about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, has again been arrested, his lawyers state in an emergency court filing Thursday.
Smirnov allegedly used Russian intelligence to smear the Bidens, falsely claiming both Joe Biden and Hunter Biden had each accepted $5 million bribes. His claims were the basis of House Republicans’ impeachment investigation into President Biden.
But as NBC News’ Tom Winter reported, it’s a “mystery,” at least for now, why Smirnov was arrested again, his lawyers say, on the same charges as the first time.
Winter says earlier today at his attorneys’ offices in Las Vegas, Nevada, “Apparently agents showed up with a valid arrest warrant out of the Central District of California and took him into custody, but according to his attorneys, it was for the same exact indictment and the same exact charges that he had been previously hit with.”
CNN adds that the warrant “this time” was “signed by federal district Judge Otis Wright, who will oversee the criminal case out of California.”
The federal government asked for Smirnov to be detained but a magistrate judge allowed him to be released last week.
Winter reports that Smirnov’s attorneys say “they would like to know why” he was re-arrested, “and there’s no indication on the docket that the judge has granted some sort of emergency motion to remand him, basically to pull him off the streets because he’s violated his agreement.”
“So a bit of a mystery at this point,” Winter adds.
CNN notes that after his first arrest, “Smirnov was released by Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts in Nevada on Tuesday with several conditions, including GPS monitoring and the surrender of his two passports.”
Politico’s Kyle Cheney posted the arrest warrant. See it below or at this link.
JUST IN: Alexander SMIRNOV, the former FBI informant charged with feeding false info about the Bidens, has been rearrested despite a magistrate’s release order.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) February 22, 2024
Image: Screenshot of Smirnov with his face hidden from camera view
‘Reached His Limits’: Engoron ‘Brings the Hammer Down’ on Trump Attorney
New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron has refused a “last ditch effort” from Donald Trump’s attorney to delay imposing the $355 million judgment in Attorney General Letitia James’ civil business fraud case against the ex-president.
“Once the judgment is officially entered, it will start the 30-day clock for Trump to file an appeal. During that period, Trump will need to put up cash or post bond to cover the $355 million and roughly $100 million in interest he was ordered to pay the state,” CNN reports.
MSNBC legal correspondent Lisa Rubin pointed to an email Judge Engoron sent Trump’s attorney Clifford Robert that reads in part, “You have failed to explain, much less justify, any basis for a stay.”
On social media Rubin notes, “Judge Engoron has reached his limits. It appears that he has signed the judgment and that all that needs to happen now is for the clerk to enter it.”
On-air at MSNBC, Rubin explained that Trump’s attorney asked Engoron “to stay the judgment without Donald Trump having to post a bond.”
Robert, according to Rubin, tried to use “a technicality in New York Civil Practice saying they should have filed a motion and they didn’t file a motion, they should have given us notice. We should have been able to counter propose our own judgment.”
Engoron, she continues, asked, “‘What exactly are you objecting to?’ And when Trump’s lawyers couldn’t articulate beyond a small but meaningful error with respect to the calculation of interest for Allen Weisselberg, that was the only real error that they identified. They couldn’t come up with anything else.”
“That’s when Engoron sort of dropped the hammer on them and said, ‘look, enough is enough. You have given me no reason for a stay.”
Rubin notes that at this point, “We’re just waiting for the clerk to start that 30 day clock.”
Nikki Haley Just Laid the Groundwork to Endorse Donald Trump
Down in the polls by double digits, former Trump UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who recently took off the kid gloves and has been battering her Republican opponent Donald Trump, just laid the groundwork to endorse the man she calls “unstable and unhinged,” by labeling President Joe Biden “more dangerous.”
“I think what’s really important is to know that the majority of Americans dislike Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” Haley told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in remarks that aired Thursday (audio below). “So we think that there needs to be an alternative.”
“While critical of both men — who she called ‘too old’ to be president — she said ‘Biden is more dangerous’ due to his management of immigration and the economy,” NPR reports. “Haley hinted that, if Biden and Trump were to face a rematch, she would back Trump if he wins the Republican presidential nomination.”
Trump, despite facing 91 criminal felony charges and civil judgments totaling possibly more than a half-billion dollars (including accruing interest,) is beating Haley, the former South Carolina governor. FiveThirtyEight‘s national polling average puts Trump at 77.7% and Haley at 16.4%. Even in her home state, Donald Trump is trouncing Nikki Haley, 63% to 35% in one recent poll, and 63% to 34% in another.
Haley did beat the one-term twice-impeached four-times indicted ex-president in January fundraising, a feat some strategists say will allow her to stay in the race longer.
Haley is going directly after Trump, and “launched her sharpest attack yet Tuesday, describing him as getting ‘more unstable and unhinged,'” AFP reported.
“He’s getting meaner and more offensive by the day,” she added. “He’s completely distracted, and everything is about him. He’s so obsessed with his demons in the past that he can’t focus on the future Americans deserve.”
She did not stop there.
“It’s not normal to spend $50 million dollars in campaign contributions on personal court cases,” Haley told supporters. “It’s not normal to threaten people who back your opponent, and it’s not normal to call on Russia to invade NATO countries.”
And yet, despite promising her base she will stay in the race even after South Carolina, and despite attacking Trump, Haley is now paving the way to endorse her former boss.
“I have a lot of concerns about Trump regaining the presidency. I have even more concerns about Joe Biden being president. I mean, you look at both of these men and all they have done is given us chaos, all they have given us is division,” Haley told NPR. “We need to starting bringing normalcy back to America and that’s why I think we need to have a new generational leader that focuses on the solutions of the future instead of all the issues of the past.”
Haley “compared the ex-president to a ‘bully,’ and stressed that he failed to obtain significant portions of the electorate in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“People don’t like when he goes off the teleprompter and says crazy things like he’d rather take Putin’s side over our allies,” she said. “People don’t like it when he mocks the military. People don’t like it when he calls people names.”
Some think an endorsement from Haley for Donald Trump won’t come.
“Haley endorsing Trump would be career ending for her. MAGA will never support her now. You can’t staddle this. You are either Trump or Never Trump. There is no middle ground between Liz Cheney and Donald Trump,” says former Washington State lawmaker and former state GOP chair Chris Vance, who opposes Donald Trump and describes himself as “a politically homeless Never Trump Conservative.”
Listen to Haley’s remarks to NPR below or at this link.
Image: Haley and Trump in 2020.
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