On today's BradCast: What happens when the President of the United States blocks you on Twitter? How about when the President blocks a journalist? Does that violate an American's First Amendment free speech rights or Constitutional protections granted to the press? Our guest today thinks so, and is one of seven plaintiffs now suing Donald J. Trump in federal court for having blocked them on the social media platform from viewing or replying to his tweets or participating in discussion about them on the site. [Audio link to show follows below.]
But, first up today, a few breaking news items, beginning with the fifth package bomb to explode in Texas this month, as an apparent "serial bomber" continues to terrorize the Austin community in what may be a deadly spree targeting minorities in the area. Today, Donald Trump and his White House finally made their very first comments on the bombings, that have, so far, killed two and seriously injured several others.
Then, there was another school shooting today, the 17th since the beginning of the year, this time at a high school in Maryland where, just last week, many of its students participated in a national walkout to demand reform of our nation's gun laws. The shooter in today's incident is now dead after a school resource officer fired on him (though it remains unclear if the 17-year old student shot himself and if one of the victims may have been shot by the officer.) The two student victims, a 16-year old female and 14-year old male remain in the hospital. The girl is reportedly in critical condition.
But, we also have some encouraging news on that front out of Florida, where a recent gun safety reform package was adopted by the state in the wake of the Parkland, FL massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The new measure allows, among other things, law enforcement officials with a court order to temporarily seize weaponry from those judged to be a threat to themselves or others. The first such court order was granted last week in Broward County, resulting in four firearms and 267 rounds of ammo being taken from a 56-year old man who, under a separate state law, was involuntarily institutionalized by police after what the judge described as a series of delusional episodes by the man. Naturally, right-wingers are both freaking out about it and not informing their audience about why those steps were actually taken.
Next: My guest today, REBECCA BUCKWALTER-POZA, judicial affairs editor at Daily Kos and a contributor to Democracy Journal, is one of seven plaintiffs now suing Donald J. Trump in federal court for having blocked them on Twitter from viewing or replying to his tweets or participating in discussion about them on the site. The attorney and journalist turned plaintiff joins us today to discuss her lawsuit and the recent hearing in federal court on the landmark case.
As Buckwalter-Poza, who is still blocked by Trump on the social media platform, explains: "It turns out the President really doesn't like it when you suggest that Russia was involved in the 2016 election. He tweeted something about having won the White House, and I all I did was quote that and say, 'To be fair, you didn't win it --- Russia won it for you.'" She says there were "no obscenities, no threats, absolutely nothing more than a reference to Russia's involvement in the election."
As part of its defense case, the U.S. Department of Justice (yes, we, the tax-payers, are footing the bill to defend Trump in this case!) has admitted that plaintiffs were blocked for no other reason than they were critical of the President. "They've conceded that it's 'viewpoint discrimination', which is the legal term for when you are, in this case, blocking someone from Twitter because you don't like what they're saying. There's no other justification. It's just the content. It's a criticism. That definitely violates my First Amendment rights," she argues.
Explaining how she sees those rights as being violated, Buckwalter-Poza tells me: "As a journalist, there's the immediate fact of not being able to follow Trump, not being able to engage other people, not being able to respond. To put it into First Amendment terms, though, I have a right to be part of this public forum, to engage other people, and to have my point of view be heard. And I have a right to try and catch the President's attention. Unfortunately, in this case I did, but his response was to block me instead of to respond."
I can attest to the difficulties in covering stories when the focus of the story blocks you on Twitter, as I reported last week regarding recent false comments about torture made by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who now apparently blocks me on Twitter for reasons unknown, and an incident at the end of last year which resulted in Alabama's Sec. of State John Merrill blocking me as well, after I politely corrected [PDF] his inaccurate statements about the state's computerized vote tabulation systems.
After a recent hearing with an apparently very well-informed federal judge, Buckwalter-Poza says the case could now result in a settlement. But that still remains to be seen.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report on the first day of spring, as extreme winter weather continues to pummel the nation, including with what could be a fifth back-to-back Nor'easter for the East Coast over the weekend (they are currently facing their fourth), and as the Trump Administration continues to make "climate change" disappear, even from FEMA's natural disaster recovery plans...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)