Press freedom advocates on Wednesday slammed President Donald Trump over revelations that he had asked former FBI director James Comey to consider putting journalists in jail—a startling detail that was buried inside Tuesday’s bombshell New York Times report that Trump had asked Comey to drop his investigation against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“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,” Times reporter Michael Schmidt wrote.
The news quickly raised alarm bells.
“The comments attributed to President Trump cross a dangerous line,” Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said Wednesday. “But no president gets to jail journalists. Reporters are protected by judges and juries, by a congress that relies on them to stay informed, and by a Justice Department that for decades has honored the role of a free press by spurning prosecutions of journalists for publishing leaks of classified information.”
Schmidt’s revelations also follow the Washington Post separately reporting that part of the reason Trump abruptly fired Comey last week was that he believed the FBI was not doing enough to investigate the leaks coming out of his administration.
As the Guardian‘s Trevor Timm noted Wednesday, the president “was even insisting at one point that the FBI needed to go after leaks about non-classified information (which is not a crime by anyone’s standards).”
The comments seem to reflect the Trump administration’s leanings toward authoritarianism.
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