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Threats against the free press part of Trump’s far-right vision

Donald Trump's radical blueprint for a second term is multifaceted, but his interest in cracking down on the free press is a key piece of an ugly mosaic.


There’s been increased interest of late in Donald Trump, his post-election vision, and the degree to which the former president’s plans echo authoritarianism. The focus is well grounded: The Republican, more so than during his 2016 and 2020 campaigns, has been unsubtle in recent months about radicalism.

The blueprint is, by any fair measure, multifaceted. Trump has raised the prospect, for example, of seizing control of government departments and agencies that have historically operated with independence. There’s also been increased talk about the Insurrection Act and Trump’s interest in possibly deploying the U.S. military domestically.

Unfortunately, the list keeps growing. Members of Team Trump have a radical anti-immigration vision in mind for a second term. They’ve also hatched plans to hire right-wing lawyers who will be positioned to help the Republican politicize federal law enforcement and exact revenge against his perceived political foes. The former president himself has also been quite candid about issuing pardons to politically allied criminals and labeling his opponents “vermin,” seemingly indifferent to the word’s 1930s-era antecedents.

But let’s not forget that Trump’s plans for the free press are a key part of this ugly mosaic. Here, for example, was a missive the former president published to his social media platform shortly on Tuesday night:

“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. 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!”

Obviously, it’s a free country. If the former president doesn’t like my employer’s coverage, he’s welcome to criticize it to his heart’s content.

But note that Trump didn’t just say he disapproves of MSNBC’s work. He also raised the prospect of the government coming down “hard” against the network, adding that he considers MSNBC’s journalism to be “illegal.”

If this sounds at all familiar, it’s not your imagination. As my colleague Ja’han Jones noted last month, the Republican also publicly questioned CBS News’ right to access public airwaves after it ran an interview with President Joe Biden that Trump didn’t like.

A month earlier, the former president also suggested that Comcast — MSNBC's and NBC News’ parent company — should be investigated for “Country Threatening Treason” because he disapproved of the network’s coverage of the Trump/Russia scandal.

There are countries where such talk and tactics have long been common. The United States just wasn’t one of them.