WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A New York federal judge ruled on Wednesday that President Donald Trump violated the Constitution when he blocks Twitter users who opposed his political views.
- It’s a feat for the First Amendment advocates who filed the lawsuit last year.
- The Justice Department backed Trump’s Twitter action, saying that the move is within the president’s “associational freedoms.”
Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that “no government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared.”
It’s a notable development in one of the more unusual debates of Trump’s presidency. But the judge forwent a decision on providing plaintiffs with relief, stating that her judgment should be enough.
The Knight Institute filed the suit last year on behalf of several Twitter users who have been blocked by Trump. The “freedom of speech defenders” applauded the judge’s decision.
“We’re pleased with the court’s decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform,” said Knight’s Executive Director Jameel Jaffer.
Katie Fallow, a Knight staff attorney who represented the plaintiffs, stated that the ruling “should guide all of the public officials who are communicating with their constituents through social media.”
The Justice Department argued saying the president still has a right to decide who he spends time with on Twitter.
A DOJ spokeswoman said, “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and are considering our next steps.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment regarding the court’s decision.
In March, Judge Buchwald suggested both parties to come to an agreement outside of court. She thought maybe the president could mute, rather than block, his detractors.
“Don’t we have a solution that serves the interests of the plaintiffs, serves the interests of the president?” Buchwald asked at the hearing. “It might be better to resolve it in a practical fashion.”
Fallow hinted that she was amenable to the judge’s proposal. But some of the plaintiffs didn’t agree with the idea. Philip Cohen, a sociology professor who was blocked by Trump in June 2017, said that muting wouldn’t resolve the issue.
“I don’t know if muting is really the solution, but if all they really care about, which they say, is that he just doesn’t want to hear from us, then he would mute, but obviously he wants to suppress our speech,” Cohen said.