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On arresting reporters, White House pushes back against Trump

The fact that Donald Trump called for the incarceration of innocent journalists was predictable. The public pushback from the Biden White House was not.


The U.S. Supreme Court launched a lengthy, monthslong investigation, but in the end, it couldn’t determine who was responsible for the leak of a monumental draft ruling last May. By any fair measure, it marked an embarrassing chapter for the institution.

Indeed, as we discussed yesterday, not only did Republican-appointed justices overturn Roe v. Wade and undo a constitutional right that Americans had come to rely on, undermining the judiciary’s reputation and credibility, the Supreme Court did so while failing to keep its house in order, and then failing to determine how and why that happened.

But don’t worry, Donald Trump knows just what to do. HuffPost reported:

Donald Trump insisted Thursday that “the reporter” who published the leaked Supreme Court draft ruling overturning Roe v. Wade be jailed until the source of the leak can be determined. Though Trump did not name any particular individual or publication, the draft majority opinion was first reported on in Politico last May by journalists Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward.

By way of his social media platform, the former president added, “Stop playing games, this leaking cannot be allowed to happen. It won’t take long before the name of this slime is revealed!”

In a follow-up missive, Trump went on to call for the “arrest” of the reporters, editors and publisher who ran the original article, at which point “you’ll get your answer fast.”

Part of what made this interesting to me is the way in which the former president believes every question has a simple answer that appeals to his notion of common sense. The immigration system is broken? Build a wall. Opioids are ravaging communities? Execute drug dealers. Hurricanes are approaching American soil? Hit them with nuclear weapons. Shooters are killing children in schools? Put more guns in the hands of those who might shoot back. The Supreme Court sprung a leak? Put journalists behind bars and then we’ll find out who was responsible.

It’s like listening to a child who doesn’t understand why grown-ups make things so complicated.

The comments also stood out as a reminder of the Republican’s reflexive hostility toward the First Amendment and democratic institutions. Journalists at Politico did nothing wrong, but in Trump’s mind, they can and should be incarcerated anyway.

But the unexpected angle to these developments was the Biden White House’s willingness to publicly push back against the former president.

“The freedom of the press is part of the bedrock of American democracy,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement to Politico. “Calling for egregious abuses of power in order to suppress the Constitutional rights of reporters is an insult to the rule of law and undermines fundamental American values and traditions. Instead, it’s the responsibility of all leaders to protect First Amendment rights. These views are not who we are as a country, and they are what we stand against in the world.”

Most of the time, the Democratic White House doesn’t bother to take issue with Trump’s assorted nonsense. But the former president is the current front-runner for the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination, and he is freely expressing his opposition to the rule of law.

Looking ahead, this probably won’t be the last time Team Biden makes the case publicly that “the former guy” is wrong.