Trump Puts The Bill Rights On The Chopping Block Because He’s So Afraid Of Terrorists
Donald Trump offered his opinions about the bombing in Manhattan on Saturday and the arrest of a suspect following a shootout with police, on Monday. In a call-in interview with Fox News, and later at a speech delivered in Florida, Trump outlined three freedoms, clearly enshrined within the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution, which have become a problem, as he sees it.
Trump told “Fox and Friends” that two key freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment are in the way of his glorious vision of national security. He complained that “magazines” are being published in the United States supporting terrorists and telling terrorists how to build bombs, Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone reported. Trump said,
“I see the other day, and they’re all talking about it so wonderfully, because, you know, it’s called freedom of the press, where you buy magazines and they tell you how to make these same bombs that I saw,” Trump said in an interview on on “Fox & Friends.” “Now people will go crazy, they’ll say, ‘Oh Trump is against freedom of the press.’ I’m not against. I’m totally in favor of freedom of the press. But how do you allow magazines to be sold?”
Trump continued by caricaturing anyone who would criticize him for having a problem with this as being overly attached to “freedom of expression.” Trump said,
“We should arrest the people that do that because they’re participating in crime,” Trump continued. “We should arrest them. Instead they say, ‘Oh no, you can’t do anything, that’s freedom of expression.’”
He added that “we don’t want to touch them because of freedom of speech.”
Calderone finds scant evidence for the claim that publications in the US are actively helping terrorists. Nonetheless, Trump seems to be conflating freedom of the press with freedom of speech. Those are two separate freedoms delineated in the First Amendment. Trump is clearly stating that publications need to be regulated against publishing anything deemed helpful toward terrorists. But he’s also implying that public speech needs to be regulated if it is also aiding and abetting terrorism. Congress could not pass such a law, since that is expressly prohibited by the First Amendment. So it would be up to His Royal Majesty Trump the Magnificent to be judge, jury and executioner of publications and types of speech that he decides help terrorists.
But wait! There’s more.
Trump also took issue with the Sixth Amendment, calling its rights to an attorney and a speedy trial “sad.” Slate reported that Trump told a rally in Florida,
“He will be represented by an outstanding lawyer,” Trump complained with palpable chagrin. “His case will go through the various court systems for years and in the end, people will forget and his punishment will not be what it once would have been. What a sad situation. We must have speedy but fair trials and we must deliver a just and very harsh punishment to these people.”
Here, Trump argues that the rights described by our Founders in the Bill of Rights are making us weak. The Founders wrote them because they and their contemporaries personally experienced the abuses under the British Crown. In the years leading up to America’s rebellion, a Royal-appointed magistrate could haul in any American colonial, charge them with anything, and secure their conviction and obscenely harsh punishment with hardly any due process. The Founders made sure this couldn’t happen again. And with major horrific exceptions, that has more or less held constant in the 240 years since.
Slate aptly observes that John Adams, future second president of the United States, represented the British soldiers accused of perpetrating the Boston Massacre in 1770. He won acquittal for most of them. That episode served as a cornerstone for the principle of upholding the rule of law on the road to Revolution and beyond. Now, the Republican presidential candidate thinks that anyone accused of terrorism should be denied an attorney, should be subject to trial by public passion in the heat of the moment, and should face a “very harsh punishment.”
All of this is extremely dangerous rhetoric coming from a presidential candidate. The current Supreme Court is one of the oldest in history, and there is an empty seat. If Donald Trump gains the power to appoint Justices and judges, Americans could face the most drastic curtailing of their rights in our history. Based on these comments alone, anyone who publishes or says anything that Trump deems helpful to terrorists could be arrested and tried without a lawyer, then essentially tossed to mob justice.