Trump wanted Comey to throw journalists in prison

Yesterday, The New York Times ran a story with the headline "Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation." But another nugget was hidden towards the bottom of the article:

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

But isn't it legal in the United States for journalists to publish leaks whether they are legally obtained by someone else or not? According to The Guardian:

The real danger, which got far less attention, was that Trump might use the draconian 100-year-old Espionage Act to target reporters with prosecution for publishing classified information. Less than six months into his presidency, we now have reason to believe this is a distinct possibility.

The Espionage Act is blatantly unconstitutional, which is part of the reason why every justice department in modern history has avoided reaching the point of prosecution against a newspaper. But it has long been a specter hanging over journalists: if you read just the text of the law, it is being violated almost daily by reporters at every major paper in the country. (And it’s not just journalists: the law is so wildly broad that just by reading the New York Times, you are arguably guilty.)

Many lawyers have believed the law would be struck down if a prosecution ever took place, but it’s not exactly a chance anyone wants to take. Just by bringing a prosecution without conviction, Trump can surely halt an untold number of stories that come right up to the line.

But the Guardian goes on to explain that there is good news as well:

The Trump administration’s obsession with leaks has only emboldened more people to come forward, and journalists to push even harder behind the scenes. There are almost too many examples to count of the administration admonishing employees not to leak behind closed doors, only to see their warnings promptly leaked to the press.

Ironically, Trump firing Comey – in part for not being aggressive enough in leak investigations – has opened the floodgates to more leaks on what his administration was doing to potentially obstruct justice.

Image: Bill Kerr

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