back to article President Trump broke US Constitution with Twitter bans – judge

Donald Trump has broken the United States Constitution, a New York district court ruled Wednesday, putting the US president in legal hot water. So what was it? His constant interference in the Russia investigation that is looking into collusion with foreign powers? Nope. The money he continues to take from foreign governments …

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Trollface

Re: Ha

codejunky> "he beat out my favourite candidate"

I didn't think Putin openly ran in this one. Did he?!

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Re: Ha

@ Dr_N

Rand Paul. Simplify the tax structure. Simplify regulation and shrink the government. I know your trolling but it is from a position of disliking my position on brexit not on anything factual. But maybe at some point you will get past your issues. Or forever be my troll

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Facepalm

Actually, this decision doesn't matter anyway.

The US judiciary can't do anything if they think the President did something unconstitutional. That is reserved to the legislative branch of the American government: the (currently Republican majority) House of Representatives would have to impeach him, and the (currently Republican majority) Senate would have to convict him.

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Re: Actually, this decision doesn't matter anyway.

Agreed; also it feels like the real offence would be continuing the behaviour now that the law is clear. Not being able to see this outcome coming doesn't seem all that troubling.

Put another way: even if the verdict stands and it definitely is true under US law that Trump's actions violated the First Amendment, do you think he was actually motivated by the desire to restrict people's legal freedom of speech? I feel like he's unwittingly stumbled into the non-obvious violation.

If someone is really crooked, get them for something that's really crooked.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Actually, this decision doesn't matter anyway.

Some "twit" will probably claim Twitter blocking is a "High Crime"...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_crimes_and_misdemeanors

(Not that former Democrat President Andrew Jackson, refusing to abide by the Supreme Court of the United States in it's ruling to stop what became The Trail of Tears, was ever considered a "High Crime".)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_of_Tears#Jackson's_role

Amazing how people react differently to populist American Presidents.

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Re: Actually, this decision doesn't matter anyway.

A plaintiff could perhaps ask the court to get Twitter to unblock the blocked people?

More normally, other presidents (and even this one) have tended to comply with court rulings and/or appeal through the normal court system. But even if POTUS is inclined to straight-up refuse in this case, the request could go straight to Twitter. Imposing a fine, collectable by court order, is another thing the court can do without congress, although unlikely in this case.

Clearly this is not a "high crime" so provided the people get unblocked & no new people in future, this will get forgotten quicky.

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Re: Actually, this decision doesn't matter anyway.

The US judiciary can't do anything if they think the President did something unconstitutional.

Can you point me to the clause in the Constitution saying that? I can't find it.

What I can find is that impeachment is applicable to the President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the US. Impeachment has been applied to US Senators, Judges, a Secretary of War, etc., as well as a few Presidents. What I can also find is that ordinary criminal proceedings have also been used against US Senators and Judges.

Therefore, at least in the case of civil Officers of the US, the fact that impeachment is an option does not preclude criminal proceedings against them. To argue that the President is an exception to this is to violate the precepts of the founding fathers, that the US would be a nation of laws not of kings, and that no man is above the law.

It is also the case that impeachment is for "high crimes and misdemeanours" and that was deliberately left unexplained. Does it mean (high crimes) and misdemeanours or high (crimes and misdemeanours)? The former would permit impeachment for trivial offences like littering while the latter would create the paradoxical "high misdemeanour." It's a way to get somebody out of office who hasn't broken any existing law but it would take too long to craft a new one (impeachment is carried out by the legislature, after all). Or to get rid of somebody for malfeasance rather than criminality (hasn't broken any laws but is doing the job so badly he/she has to be removed before more damage is done).

The sole argument for not instituting criminal proceedings against the president is that it would distract him from playing golf carrying out his job. This is invalid on two counts. 1) An impeachment would be a similar distraction. 2) That's what the Vice President is for, to take over if the President is unable to do the job.

Of course, IANAL. And the current balance of the Supreme Court might rule against all of my arguments even if they were otherwise legally sound. I don't see anything prohibiting such an act, other than DoJ policy. However, see this NY Times article (behind a paywall, but if you've read less than 5 NYT articles this month you can read it for free).

The important bit is towards the end of the article, where it states that the Special Counsel can seek a departure from policy by asking (in this case) Acting Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein. The same Rod Rosenstein that Trump keeps slagging off, so he may be inclined to agree with a request. OTOH, if Rosenstein refuses then the Special Counsel must submit a substantive report to Congress (who may then see grounds for impeachment). So either Rosenstein permits a request to prosecute the President (in which case Congress may not get a report until it comes out at the trial) or Congress gets a full report of everything Trump has done wrong and it may be bad enough that even many Republicans dare not vote against impeachment and indictment.

Want to dispute that interpretation of the rules for Special Counsels? The guy who wrote the NYT article drafted those regulations, so he knows whereof he speaks.

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Re: Actually, this decision doesn't matter anyway.

You won't find the answer to your question in the US Constitution.

That's part of the reason why the USA has such a large body of Judicial Rulings on questions of Constitutional Law.

You need to look for your answer there, and you won't find a clear ruling because this is one area that the US Supreme Court has tiptoed around for over Two Centuries now.

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Paris Hilton

Twitter..Public Forum..How Sad

140 Characters worth of deep thought and discussion.

Quoth Python: "Oh! come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!"

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Re: Twitter..Public Forum..How Sad

@Jay Lenovo

"Twitter..Public Forum..How Sad

140 Characters worth of deep thought and discussion."

Wellll... I could see great merit in forcing MPs and Congressthings to limit each argument to 140 characters...

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140 characters - how tame, how lame

Wellll... I could see great merit in forcing MPs and Congressthings to limit each argument to 140 characters...

I can see great merit in forcing The Donald to 140 bits.

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So, uhm...

I know of several celebrities who have done the exact same thing, so I assume this ruling also applies to that? All public figures after all... Some can't stand critics.

Personally I think this is a very peculiar ruling, no matter if you're in favor or against Trump, and I can't help but wonder if this isn't going to do a lot more damage than people may anticipate.

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The First Amendment protects against censorship by the government

Private individuals and companies are generally free to censor the shit out of you. But despite appearances at times President Trump is a public servant and therefore by preventing people from speaking in what this judge deems an effective public forum the government is censoring.

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Devil

Re: So, uhm...

Are you thinking of James Woods? That would be fucking hilarious.....

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Re: So, uhm...

I know of several celebrities who have done the exact same thing, so I assume this ruling also applies to that? All public figures after all... Some can't stand critics.

Yes, but they're not the President of the US. There is a law about official Presidential communications that applies here. If Trump used his personal account solely for non-official communications he could block them, but instead it has become de facto an official medium of Presidential communications. It is also a public forum (the judge just ruled) so denying people a right to respond to an official Presidential communication in a public forum is unconstitutional. Until the Supremes say otherwise.

I think. IANAL.

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Headmaster

Re: So, uhm...

There’s a difference between public figures and public officials. Public officials have legal and moral obligations to serve the public fairly.

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Anonymous Coward

Work/Life Separation

This isn't a military base that's turned into a public park though. It's his personal-life Twitter account. His work one is @POTUS.

That he doesn't use @POTUS is a pretty serious issue in itself, but someone should be staffing it and at least retweeting what he puts out as the official line.

@POTUS is the President of the United States. @realDonaldTrump is Donald Trump the person.

@POTUS shouldn't be allowed to block anyone- at least no American citizen- but surely Trump the person can?

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A Town Hall meeting doesn't have to take place in the Town Hall

Think of it as a "duck test" - if the President persistently discusses govt business in a public place that invites responses and he clearly listens to and engages with those responses then you can't colour it as private and personal.

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Re: Work/Life Separation

"@POTUS is the President of the United States. @realDonaldTrump is Donald Trump the person."

Yes, but you need to explain that to Trump.

He has quite often made policy announcements from the @realDonaldTrump account whilst he has been president.

Thus he is using @realDonaldTrump as well as @POTUS in his role as POTUS. Since discussions responding to those policy announcements are considered to be public, then blocking people prevents them from the discussion, hence not kosher.

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Re: Work/Life Separation

Look , its his sounding board he can invite friendly voices only if he wants. Since when did every citizen get the right to write on governmemt announcements?

If the consevatives put up a big billboard saying "We the conservatives promise to blah blah blah , if elected" Its not my god given right to scrawl "Bullshit" on it, but if they want to put some quotes from other people on it they can 'cos "ITS THEIRS"

I do have the right to put my own billboard up next to it with an arrow saying "That other billboard is bullshit"

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Re: Work/Life Separation

I agree while it doesn't help that Trump does blur the accounts often.

It does open a whole can of worms.

Can any senator or other public figure block someone?

What about stalkers, death threats or other malicious forms of communication?

Among many more below.

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Obvious bias -- twice

This is an obvious breach of Constitutional rights which will be quickly struck down if it goes to a higher court. For those of you unfamiliar with the US court system, this kind of thing has happened a lot lately, with federal judges who were appointed by the previous administration (and the opposing political party) taking it upon themselves to legislate from the bench.

Seriously guys, all of this anti-Trump rhetoric coming from El Reg's office in left-wing San Francisco is getting a bit tiring. Can we stick to IT please?

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Happy

Re: Obvious bias -- twice

Why? I need a good laugh at the end of the day.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Obvious bias -- twice

"Seriously guys, all of this anti-Trump rhetoric coming from El Reg's office in left-wing San Francisco is getting a bit tiring. Can we stick to IT please?"

Seems to me to be technology related, of public interest and mostly factual in content. It's not the left's fault that Trump is a bit of a lying scumbag.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Obvious bias -- twice

"Can we stick to IT please?"

No.

C.

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A ruling full of holes that will go nowhere

This ruling is full of so many holes it won't stand up for long.

In any "Public" real life forum, trouble makers are promptly ejected or not allowed in without any issues being raised.

So if the same judge or anybody else in the government have a website or twitter account or anything that allows commenting, do they have to leave it open to be overrun by every troll in the entire planet?

Stupid decision that is entirely politically motivated and won't stand up for long.

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Re: A ruling full of holes that will go nowhere

It's a decision by a judge. Generally given their post by noting that they're intelligent and knowledgable about the law.

Unlike POTUS, which is mostly about being newsworthy enough to attract votes.

If the decision fails to stand, it won't be because it's stupid. It'll be because politics doesn't respect justice.

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Re: A ruling full of holes that will go nowhere

Others agree,

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/court-ruling-trump-cannot-block-twitter-users-mistaken/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A ruling full of holes that will go nowhere

Wow, did you just casually link to The National Review like it's a real in depth, bipartisan, not-at-all alt-right propaganda mouth piece and expect someone not to call you on it? Seriously, the only thing worse would have been breitbart.com.

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Re: A ruling full of holes that will go nowhere

"If the decision fails to stand, it won't be because it's stupid. It'll be because politics doesn't respect justice."

No , its stoopid. Jims right. The judge is saying that everybody has the right to go spmamming whatever they want where they want .

Hey - I think ill start a business and advertise all the products on trumps twitter - that should get some coverage!

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Imagination

Awesome imagination you've got there, Kieran.

Hope it's not disappointed.

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Twitter a public forum

So does this mean I can't be banned from Twitter for sharing an unsavory opinion in the comments of any political feed? Weren't people being ridiculed 6 months ago for claiming the Twitter ban hammer was depriving them of freedom of speech? Is Twitter now liable if it decides my tweet to @SenFeinstein against illegal immigration is worthy of account suspension? And what about foriegn services? If a US pol made a comment on El reg would El reg have to leave the forum open and unmoderated for all commentary's?

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Re: Twitter a public forum

The public official can't block you if they disagree with your opinion.

The public official can mute you if they feel you're being obnoxious but you can still voice your opinion.

Twitter can ban your account if you break the T&Cs.

XKCD for flavour: https://xkcd.com/1357/

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Boffin

Re: Twitter a public forum

> "Twitter can ban your account if you break the T&Cs."

If Twitter is officially declared a public forum - and this ruling would seem to do so - then no, they can't. There are well-established rules regarding public fora and many of the reasons they ban people for run afoul of them; this is especially true in California, where Twitter is based(and where they're currently being sued over this exact issue).

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Stop

Re: Twitter a public forum

The First Amendment prevents government from censoring speech. It does not prevent private entities from doing the same. Twitter can still ban accounts for breaking T&Cs because they are not a government entity.

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Public?

While I'm fairly certain this will be overturned for any one of a number of reasons... i hope we get a free speech on a private platform affirming decision.

Should open the doors to stamping out platform censorship, but probably not in my lifetime.

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Re: Public?

" i hope we get a free speech on a private platform affirming decision."

Is that not what we have?

An agent of the government (Trump) is using a private platform (and a personal account) to make policy announcements. The government wants to be able block certain accounts from seeing and being able to comment on these policy announcements. Some of those blocked accounts sued, and the court has ruled that the government can indeed not limit a person's speech.

Muting is OK, since it's one way. DJT doesn't have to read my replies to his public missives, but he can't hide them from me. It's also why you can't really "disrupt" a twitter discussion in the same way as yelling in a meeting, since anyone who doesn't want to hear you can mute you.

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Re: Public?

No, the "space around" his tweets are what is considered a public forum in this judgement. Not necessarily the platform itself.

Forcing people to mute you is the same as calling security in a meeting... it certainly disrupts the flow, whether you believe it does or not.

While I believe well reasoned dissent should not be blocked... people responding with things considerably more infantile than the original tweet shouldn't be protected in doing so.

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Block and mute

Not sure how relevant this is, but as I understand it, the judge has said that the president (and other public officials) cannot block people from social media accounts that are used to communicate official policy.

However, she was quite clear that Trump can mute people.

This seemed to be the clear difference, in that a block prevented people from being involved in the discussion at all (and any future ones), whereas muting someone meant that Trump doesn't have to see their comments, the respondent can still interact with the discussion.

So it's not about what Trump sees (or doesn't), but about what everyone else can see.

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Re: Block and mute

Put it this way. Does the respondent's rights get curtailed by the President's action (not just freedom of speech but also petition for grievances)? Unruly people interfere with others, thus why the Schenck ruling stands. But what about here?

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Look , a Landlord can deny you entry to his pub - whats the difference?

The Trump cant stop discussion of him anywhere except on his own personal account, which is his , so whats the problem?

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a Landlord can deny you entry to his pub

if you're drunk and disorderly, threatening and violent - but not if you merely don't share the same skin colour or political views or same amount of money in the bank.

Or at least, that was the law as ttime I looked. He can of course keep people out if his premises have been booked for a private function.

But a Public Official making public policy declarations on what is allegedly a private account - well, l'Etat c'est moi was prelude to Apres moi le deluge, let us not forget.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: a Landlord can deny you entry to his pub

The law has changed in the US. One can now deny service to another if their religious views conflict your own. As a white straight married non-practicing (recovering?) Catholic living in the Baptist belt I am very concerned for my quality of life.

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The President is legally a public (government) official; because of legal requirements, public officials are required to be more open to the citizens. That's why, for example, practically all works of the US government (such as USGS maps) are in the public domain. Same reason why it's harder for a public (government-run) school to enforce dress codes than private schools.

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Re: a Landlord can deny you entry to his pub

At least in this country, the landlord can deny you entry on all sorts of trivial reasons, coz it's private property. I've been kicked out of enough offices and shopping centres for being barefoot to know. I rarely go to pubs, but the last two I tried, they wouldn't let me into the first one coz of being barefoot, the other one (being in a very barefoot friendly area) didn't even comment.

And no, health and safety, broken glass, are not valid excuses. I go barefoot for my own health and safety reasons, and when you walk around barefoot for a few decades, your feet get tough. Walking barefoot through broken glass doesn't even slow me down. I even have a medical certificate, which every one ignores.

As for offices, I guess it's well known that feral computer monitors will leap of desks and attack poor unsuspecting people, so wearing thongs (flip flops for non aussies) is suitable protection. It's OK, honest, I'm an experienced sysadmin and computer programmer, I can handle feral computer monitors in complete safety. Maybe this explains why some computer equipment is chained to the desk?

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Seperation

"The Trump cant stop discussion of him anywhere except on his own personal account, which is his , so whats the problem?"

Because he doesn't separate them. The case specifically shows a number of times where Trump used the @realDonaldTrump to make policy announcements, rather than @POTUS.

This is where the military base becoming a park metaphor is from. Whatever the status of @realDonaldTrump when it was created or when DJT was running for president is irrelevant. What it is currently being used for is.

Now if Trump promised to keep them separated from now on, there might be grounds to let him block people. And once he's no longer a public official, certainly.

There is also the problem that anyone who refers to themselves in the third person, pretends to be their own PR, or has a brand that is bigger than themselves has. They genuinely don't see a difference between their personal and professional lives. Especially when that brand is talking playground level smack on twatter :)

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Re: Seperation

"Because he doesn't separate them. "

Thats not what i was getting at - i look at both those accounts as his.

Why should anyone not be able to control who writes on *their* thing?

Anyone he's excluded can go say whatever they want on *their* thing.

I dont let Donald Trump write on my facebook page, but some other people can.

This is probably the issue with the POTUS deciding to run the country through twitter.

If he talked to the country the old fashioned way via press release , we could all discuss it in the comments section in the newspaper. In fact cant we still do that?

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Re: Seperation

"Why should anyone not be able to control who writes on *their* thing?"

The rules change when you become a government official. The President of the United States is a government official. You're no longer your own person but a servant of a greater thing: the American people. Thus why public officials are subject to restrictions not applicable to private entities. It's all based on principles written in the Constitution.

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Ed3

The GOP Hypocrisy

A Republican breaking Constitutional amendments? Naawwww. Can't be. They are supposed to be the only guardians of liberty for the common US man.

Hypocrites.

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