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 …

  1. David 45

    Off with his head!

    Will he care? Will he ****!

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Off with his head! - Will he care? Will he ****!

      Would he notice? That isn't the part that does his "thinking".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Off with his head!

      https://codes.findlaw.com/us/title-18-crimes-and-criminal-procedure/18-usc-sect-879.html

    3. tfb Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Off with his head!

      He won't. And that is just another of the increments by which the US turns from a liberal democracy into an authoritarian state. I don't know when history will decide that the moment of transition was, but either in the recent past or the near future, I guess. Assuming he does something about Mueller, that will probably be the moment people agree on.

      1. Wilseus
        Trollface

        Re: Off with his head!

        "And that is just another of the increments by which the US turns from a liberal democracy into an authoritarian state."

        Well it's about time that they caught up with the UK.

      2. Blank Reg Silver badge

        Re: Off with his head!

        "the US turns from a liberal democracy into an authoritarian state"

        That can't happen, the NRA have told me that's what the 2nd amendment is meant to prevent. So we should be seeing gun owners rise up against the idiot in chief any minute now right?

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Off with his head!

          So, using this precedent media companies are going to be legally required to give air time for everybody that shouts at their TV or barges onto a stage uninvited from the audience, and newspapers will be required to publish every letter?

          1. Swarthy Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: Off with his head!

            So, using this precedent media companies are going to be legally required to give air time for everybody that shouts at their TV or barges onto a stage uninvited from the audience, and newspapers will be required to publish every letter?
            Yes! On top of that, allowing same-sex marriage will cause people to marry their dogs, legalizing cannabis will increase heroin overdoses, and deporting undocumented immigrants after a conviction will collapse the labor market.

            *Here's the </sarc> tag for those that need it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Off with his head!

            Obviously not since the Obama era FCC Killed the "Fairness Doctrine"...

    4. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Off with his head!

      Can't they just logout of Twitter to view them? If so it doesn't really stop anyone viewing them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Off with his head!

        Viewing was not the issue the court was asked to rule on. The issue was users being blocked from participating, in which case they would have to be logged in.

      2. Velv Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Off with his head!

        Can't they just logout of Twitter to view them? If so it doesn't really stop anyone viewing them.

        It’s not just about viewing the conversation, it’s about being able to take part in the debate.

        You cannot post your opinion if you are logged out, blocking accounts therefore controls (censors) the discussion, potentially limiting comment only to those who support the politician.

    5. Jaybus

      Re: Off with his head!

      You do realize that now that social media is an official "designated public forum", posting "off with his head" regarding the President is grounds for a Secret Service investigation of a threat against the President.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Off with his head!

        What do you mean now? The Secret Service has been investigating all known threats to the President (and presidential candidates, and former Presidents) since its inception. Instead of wasting your energy on righteous indignation, perhaps spend the calories on educating yourself? I almost never recommend Wiki for anything (for what should be obvious reasons), but in this case it's a good place to start your research:

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

  2. cirby

    So...

    When the next President has a press conference and ignores questions from some of the reporters, he's violating the Constitution too, right? Same effect.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: So...

      Constitution too, right? Same effect.

      There is a difference between ignoring and sending the secret service goons to apply some ducktape to their mouths. Similarly, there is a difference between ignoring and disallowing people to comment on your tw*tter feed.

      1. cirby

        Re: So...

        Except, of course, that they can STILL COMMENT.

        In many, many places.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: So...

      No, but if the next President had a press conference, then disallows people who have expressed contrary opinions from being able subsequently to discuss the content of his press conference then that too would be a violation of the Constitution.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Similarly, if EPA holds a press conference and kicks out reporters of a specific political option out of it, they are also violating the Constitution. Hope someone tells them.

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          Re: So... @BronetKozicki

          I'm not sure about that; the issue here seems to be that Trump's tweets and their replies count as a public forum because of the policy nature of their content, and that banning users from seeing his tweets while logged in limits their ability to take part in that public forum. So the breach isn't the not talking to them, it's the limiting of their opportunity to reply. It's the prohibition on their speech that's problematic, not their hearing.

          I might be misunderstanding of course.

          1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

            Re: So... @BronetKozicki

            @ThomT I think we are both right. The reason why anybody would be blocked/kicked out is NOT to prevent them from hearing the information (because it becomes public knowledge anyway), but to prevent them from asking inconvenient questions (expressing opposing views etc) publicly in the context where the announcements were made. I think this is where the violation lies.

      2. Jaybus

        Re: So...

        Not just Presidents! The judge made it clear in her opinion that it was unconstitutional. That means it applies to ALL government officials, including representatives, senators, the state governors, city mayors, etc., and of course to herself and fellow judges as well. I wonder if she considered that a judge will now have to allow the people they rule against to inundate their own Twitter feeds.

    3. stiine
      FAIL

      Re: So...

      Not exaclty, but if he ejects them, like dipshit-at-the-EPA, well, then it does. (as far as I can see)

  3. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    "...it will carefully reasoned, diplomatic and respectful of the independence of the judiciary."

    Now THAT'S comedy!

    1. Sixtysix
      Thumb Up

      Re: "...it will carefully reasoned, diplomatic and respectful of the independence of the judiciary."

      Yep - I lost coffee to that well crafted addendum!

  4. steviebuk Silver badge

    Well maybe....

    ...they are going for something easy to pin on him. After all they took down Capone for income tax evasion.

  5. chuckufarley
    Alert

    The Question is...

    ...how many lawyers will find this verdict "appealing"?

    The answer is...

    ...it depends on how much money can be spent arguing over what should be common sense.

    If any public figure does not separate their private lives and actions from the public then they forfeit the right to act as a private individual. An open democracy is they only way to avoid the tyranny that drove Thomas Jefferson's pen on so many occasions. A lot of money that could be used to fight true injustice must now be spent to take this case to the Supreme Court. All because one man in a powerful position can't tell the difference between "It is right" and "I want it to be right."

    1. Claverhouse

      Re: The Question is...

      @chuckufarley

      "An open democracy is they only way to avoid the tyranny that drove Thomas Jefferson's pen on so many occasions. "

      Indeed, had that Champion of Freedom! been given the right to appeal to The People and poll his ideas, he might well have gathered enough support for his pet law of castrating gays and adulterers.

      Alas. though, the American Revolution did not include manhood suffrage, nor yet womanhood suffrage, let alone blackhood suffrage, so he died too early.

      1. chuckufarley
        Coat

        Re: The Question is...

        And even with all of his imperfections and contradictions the best ideas that he put down on paper are still shaping our world today. Thanks to the combination of ideas from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Congress Committee on Style we have:

        "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

        And:

        "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

        Singularly either one is bigger than any one person and their flaws. Taken together we have a vehicle of government that gives us all a chance live in a better world than our parents and grandparents. That is if we can stop taking so many steps back on the road to a more perfect union.

        Yes, Jefferson was fully a man of his times. Just as we all are. We cannot escape our biases but we can try to overcome them and hopefully inspire others to overcome their own. Just like we kept the best ideas of Thomas Jefferson's and Gouverneur Morris's generation we have, in the spirit of those very same ideas, been working to rid ourselves of their worst ideas. And hopefully our own bad ideas as well.

        In closing, I would ask that next time you wish to imply how our aspirations to fulfill to the worthy ideals of our society are in vain because the authors of the ideas were all too human, don't.

        1. Claverhouse

          Re: The Question is...

          "And even with all of his imperfections and contradictions the best ideas that he put down on paper are still shaping our world today. "

          So he's the one to blame !

          Seriously, fuck the American Constitution.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: The Question is...

      "All because one man in a powerful position can't tell the difference"

      more like: All because ONE CAREFULLY SHOPPED-FOR JUDGE and a handful of money-grubbing l[aw]yers want to INJECT CHAOS into the system through FRIVOLOUS LAWSUITS AND FRIVOLOUS 'DAMAGE' CLAIMS, as usual. These sewers suers are the REAL problem...

      1. Outski

        Re: The Question is...

        "FRIVOLOUS LAWSUITS AND FRIVOLOUS 'DAMAGE' CLAIMS"

        Actually, damages are not under discussion in this case. As I understand it, this was a declaratory judgement, clarifying a point of law, rather than any judgement of a claim for damages.

  6. Donn Bly

    First Amendment Violation?

    I have a big problem with this judges ruling and its consistency with the rest of US law. There is a big difference between silencing a person's views, and mandating that a specific forum be maintained to host those views. The first amendment says that they government may not pass a law preventing someone from speaking their mind about a political subject, but it does not say that every possible method be made available to them. They may not be able to post on Trump's own feed just as they can't spraypaint their message on the side of the White House - but they can certainly post on their OWN twitter feed. They can write a letter, start a petition, do ANY NUMBER of things. Their right to speak their opinion has not been blocked.

    This is one of the reasons that I dislike mixing "social media" and "government". Social Media is conducted within the terms of service of a private sector organization. A private sector company has to be able to say what is, and what is not, allowed on their servers -- especially now that the law has changed so that they can be criminally liable for user posts even if they don't know about them. If Trump or some member of city council posts something on twitter, does that now mean that Twitter has to host it indefinitely and allow other people to comment on it?

    If a politician posts something on their own website, such as a letter of comment from a constituent, does that mean that they have to allow ALL people to be able to comment on it and be forced to publish those views/letters as well? If not, how is that any different than posting something on Twitter or Facebook?

    People who get rowdy, obnoxious, or rude get kicked out of public meetings all of the time, and repeat offenders get banned. How is that any different than getting blocked on Facebook or Twitter? Or is this judge saying that it isn't different, and that people can't be banned from speaking at public meetings or removed from the podium when their allotted time runs out?

    As much as I hate Trump's obnoxiousness, especially on twitter, I don't agree with this judge and expect this to get flipped on appeal. As long as people can read his drivil, and the government doesn't forbid them from posting their own drivel well thought out opinions, I don't see the first amendment as written being violated.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: First Amendment Violation?

      "This is one of the reasons that I dislike mixing "social media" and "government""

      So do I, and I think politicians should not do it. Especially Trump because he has no self control.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: First Amendment Violation?

      I'm on the fence but I can understand the logic behind the conclusion.

      The First Amendment speaks in absolute terms of making no incursions upon freedom of speech, and this case applies the usual sensible modification of that re: public forums. Any restriction is an incursion — that they could speak elsewhere (or elsewhere on Twitter) isn't a defence. The most controversial part of that to me seems to be in finding Trump's feed to be a relevant 'public forum'.

      The court isn't compelling Trump to create a public forum, it merely found that he had already created one through use of his account for policy discussion. Having created one, his ability to exclude people is then subject to the law.

      The difference between this and those kicked out of public meetings for being rowdy, obnoxious or rude is that the court was considering those excluded based on the content of their opinions, not their behaviour.

      1. Donn Bly

        Re: First Amendment Violation?

        The difference between this and those kicked out of public meetings for being rowdy, obnoxious or rude is that the court was considering those excluded based on the content of their opinions, not their behaviour.

        Now that I've started reading the case document, I'm even more convinced the judge has erred. The judge jumps from blocking (which defendants do not dispute) to making an unsubstantiated assumption as to the reason they were blocked. Each of the blocked plaintiffs admit that they took actions over and above voicing their personal opinions, and those actions are just as likely if not MORE likely lead to their being blocked. As such, even his own finding of fact supports that it was behaviour and not just content of opinion.

        Additionally, the convoluted reasoning and justifications used to establish an "injury" to the Knight Institute is laughable. Blaming Trump because Knight wants to read the opinions of someone else that they don't themselves follow. If Knight wanted to read the person's posting then they should follow them, not demand that someone else do it for them.

        I also disagree with the reasoning saying that Twitter is a public forum. If his reasoning stands, then an official's own own email account could be considered a public forum as well, and if it is a public forum then Twitter is now obligated to publish everything even if it violates their terms of service.

        You know all of those Russian accounts that Twitter dropped? Well, those fake accounts had someone's political opinions and as a public forum it would be illegal to drop them and their messages.

        No, this finding is going to get at least partially reversed on appeal. If not, the unintended consequences / collateral damage will be quite significant.

        (And no, don't take this as support of Trump - they should not have blocked the accounts and they should be unblocked - but the reasoning the judge used doesn't cut it)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: First Amendment Violation?

          I also disagree with the reasoning saying that Twitter is a public forum. If his reasoning stands, then an official's own own email account could be considered a public forum as well, and if it is a public forum then Twitter is now obligated to publish everything even if it violates their terms of service.

          What nonsense! An Email account is for exchanging messages between a small amount of people.

          Trump uses his Tweeter account to speak to the people - to as many people as possible - he would actually like if he had 7 billion followers. The problem comes from him blocking users based on them saying things he disagrees with. If he had a read-only account, where nobody could respond to his tweets, then that too would be OK.

          And Twitter is still NOT required to publish content that violates its terms of service.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: First Amendment Violation?

      "They may not be able to post on Trump's own feed"

      It's not Trump's feed. It belongs to Twitter. Never, ever, forget that you do NOT own anything that you post to so-called "social media". It belongs to the company running the servers.

      What the judge has pointed out (and rightly so, IMO) is that even us ordinary plebs have a right to heckle a speaker in a public place. A Twitter feed is (in essence) a publicly available soapbox, and anybody should be allowed to comment from that same soapbox, NOT be relegated to the soapbox across town where nobody is listening to that particular conversation.

      1. MrZoolook

        Re: First Amendment Violation?

        "It's not Trump's feed. It belongs to Twitter. Never, ever, forget that you do NOT own anything that you post to so-called "social media". It belongs to the company running the servers."

        Well, if its not his feed, and it belongs to Twitter, Trump shouldn't have been named in the lawsuit. And, further, it is Twitter who should've been sued. So, the judge erred on that count, and the appeal will fully dismiss the findings of the first hearing.

        So, now we've established Trump is innocent, and the court simply found him guilty through corruption, the judge involved and the prosecutors should be sacked immediately, right?

    4. Public Citizen

      Re: First Amendment Violation?

      You make some excellent points.

      The comparison with the operation of the White House internal Postal System is particularly appropriate.

      There are multiple levels of filtering that occur before any mail gets to the Oval Office. Since the White House receives and estimated 10,000 pieces of mail a day. Compare that to the potential for a Twitter account, or any other social media account, to be flooded to the point of uselessness by spammers and bots by the judicial insistence that nothing can be blocked.

      This is an old judge, with a limited grasp of how the digital world functions or how it can be abused. This decision will be appealed. Hopefully more technically educated heads will make a ruling at the appellate level.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: First Amendment Violation?

      "Social Media is conducted within the terms of service of a private sector organization."

      The crux of the matter...

      And, so far, that private sector organization actively filters and excludes what that private sector organization deems to be "offensive", "terrorist", "undesirable", etc., without oversight of any representative authority, and without divulging the rules or algorithms used, only its opinion. That is, it is NOT a public forum, regardless of who, or how many, participate on it. Being that's the case, I don't think this ruling will stand

    6. MrZoolook

      Re: First Amendment Violation?

      Indeed, as a non-American, I just see this as a CNN type of tactic to have a dig at him... "because I don't like him" instead of it actually being some valid thing.

      They can read his posts, and can comment on the official POTUS account, so what's the deal? If he just copy/pastes stuff from @POTUS to his personal feed, it's just representing his personal views.

      That he blocks them from replying on his personal feed, and is now under fire legally for doing so, tells me that the courts want to effectively tell us that blocking anyone from replying to anything posted by anyone, is now illegal.

    7. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: First Amendment Violation?

      "As much as I hate Trump's obnoxiousness, especially on twitter, I don't agree with this judge and expect this to get flipped on appeal."

      I expect this not to be overturned. This is simply for the fact that the FA is pretty broad in what it proscribes: basically any governmental interference in speech. There are practical limitations, such as time running out in a debate, but these do not occur on Twitter. What happened here is that the President deliberately stifled the ability of people to communicate on Twitter because of their political opinions. Being rowdy in a public meeting can get you kicked out, but that's not suppression of your speech due to politics.

      The FA is specifically "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The President is abridging the freedom of speech of these people. You don't need to suppress it entirely to be at fault under the FA, just to even try is wrong.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: First Amendment Violation?

      "I have a big problem with this judges ruling and its consistency with the rest of US law"

      well, that's why the US has judges and other legal experts to decide the matter based on years of study.

      If you don't like it, vote for someone to change it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First Amendment Violation?

        "I have a big problem with this judges ruling and its consistency with the rest of US law"

        well, that's why the US has judges and other legal experts to decide the matter based on years of study.

        If you don't like it, vote for someone to change it.

        Simply buy a judge who agrees with you. [buy as in pay for their election].

        Let's be honest, due to the system, the voters have very little power - at best "Choice A or Choice B", and in some elections, it's "Choice A" only

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: First Amendment Violation?

          'at best "Choice A or Choice B"'

          I think you meant Choice A or Choice a, they try to look different, but are basically the same thing.

  7. codejunky Silver badge

    Ha

    They have been trying so hard and spent so much time trying. Hopefully those people will finally feel rewarded having something they can actually legally pin on Trump. Those tears on the day he was elected can now be wiped away and a feeling of doing good can wash over them.

    Will it balls.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Ha

      The plaintiffs are seven people who were blocked and the Knight First Amendment Institute, which as the name suggests has the sole purpose of defending the First Amendment. The court's verdict was solely on the grounds of the Constitution and its case law.

      Are you suggesting that the Constitution shouldn't apply to people who preferred the loser in an election? Or maybe that what the Constitution means or doesn't mean should be whatever the current government decides?

      You're extremely naive if you've bought into the version of the world where everything that happens is entirely framed by partisan politics. The cause of the collision is: Trump is using social media in a completely unprecedented way, and the Constitution says a lot about freedom of speech. This has happened now because this is really the first time it could have happened.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Ha

        @ ThomH

        "The court's verdict was solely on the grounds of the Constitution and its case law"

        Thats good. I am glad Trump is being dealt with for factual and legal issues. I am glad he won, not because I think he is much good (he beat out my favourite candidate) but because the Democrats were dangerous in dictating their winner.

        I am sick of hearing he will be impeached for x/y/z and how he is guilty because some crying mob decides they dont like his hair/skin colour/language. There is plenty good reason to complain about Trump but it gets lost in a sea of snowflakes and tantrums. Comedy shows becoming almost worshippers of shouting at the audience how bad trump is. Its boring.

        So hopefully those who deem it necessary to act like that can take this actual event and just learn to be happy, or at least less angry.

        "Trump is using social media in a completely unprecedented way, and the Constitution says a lot about freedom of speech. This has happened now because this is really the first time it could have happened."

        That is a very good and spot on way of putting it. He did something untested by law, the law works out the situation and from now on it can be applied. Dont take anything I have said as against your comment, you get an upvote from me. Your comment is spot on.

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Ha

          Let's not overreact. All that happened here is that a judge found that the president did something wrong. Doesn't that happen, multiple times, to every president?

          All that needs to happen is that he goes from "blocking" to "ignoring" them and promises not to do it again. And if he doesn't want to do that, he can appeal the judgment (allowing him to pose as a martyr to the Deep State for a bit longer, because ye gods this is a trivial matter), and failing appeal, ignore it completely, because seriously - can you see anyone voting for impeachment over this issue?

        2. Dr_N Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Ha

          codejunky> "he beat out my favourite candidate"

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

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            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

  8. steward
    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.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    3. Hugh McIntyre

      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.

    4. handleoclast Silver badge

      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.

      1. Public Citizen

        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.

  9. Jay Lenovo
    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!"

    1. Claverhouse

      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...

      1. Sanguma

        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.

  10. ShelLuser

    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.

    1. Mongo

      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.

    2. stiine
      Devil

      Re: So, uhm...

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

    3. handleoclast Silver badge

      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.

    4. Velv Silver badge
      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.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    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?

    1. Mongo

      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.

    2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      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.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        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"

    3. Saint Gerbil

      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.

  12. IGnatius T Foobar ✅

    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?

    1. stiine
      Happy

      Re: Obvious bias -- twice

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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    3. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Obvious bias -- twice

      "Can we stick to IT please?"

      No.

      C.

  13. Jim-234

    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.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      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.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        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!

    2. Aggie60

      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/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

  14. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Imagination

    Awesome imagination you've got there, Kieran.

    Hope it's not disappointed.

  15. Withdrawn

    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?

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      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/

      1. Alphebatical
        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).

        1. cybersaur
          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.

  16. L05ER

    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.

    1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      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.

      1. L05ER

        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.

  17. MonkeyCee Silver badge

    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.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      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?

  18. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    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?

    1. Sanguma

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

      2. onefang Silver badge

        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?

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      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.

    3. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      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 :)

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        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?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          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.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. 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.

  20. Saint Gerbil

    Does this mean...

    That twitter is infringing on my freedom of speech because I can only tweet 140 characters at the president at a time?

    1. onefang Silver badge

      Re: Does this mean...

      I thought Twitter recently increased the limit? Not a Twitter user, so dunno really.

  21. RobertLongshaft

    More Anti Trump propaganda masquerading a news.

    Sad, as the man himself would say.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    putting my dancing shoes on...

    Another judge that thinks she's the POTUS (or above him).

    There needs to be a method to fire judges who overreach their authority with respect to the Executive branch.

    There is a light side of this story. She's 74 so I'm sure she'll die of old age soon. Anyone care to join me for dancing a little jig on that day?

    What a bunch of self-righteous wannabes we've got for district judges. Interesting how they are immune to the law while telling us "no one is above the law".... except you right judge?

    Good luck using that sort of logic when you are Judged, I don't think your tricks will work with Him.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: putting my dancing shoes on...

      "There needs to be a method to fire judges who overreach their authority with respect to the Executive branch..[]..Good luck using that sort of logic when you are Judged, I don't think your tricks will work with Him."

      You really don't understand how this separation of powers thing is supposed to work, do you?

      I guess you would agree with the person who wrote that the existing judges must be replaced with National Socialist judges who would dispense National Socialist judgments, ignoring the civilian law where it might conflict with National Socialist policy?

      But you think you're a Christian...currently I find delusional Protestants at least as worrying as Wahabis or extremist Shi'ites, and posts like this do noting to change my mind.

    2. Swarthy Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: putting my dancing shoes on...

      Another judge that thinks she's the POTUS (or above him).
      Per the Separation of Powers, she kinda' is:
      • The Legislative Branch creates the laws
      • The Executive Branch executes(enforces) the laws
      • The Judicial Branch interprets the laws
      If the interpretation of the Law is at odds with how it is executed, the execution must change to reflect the interpretation.

      "Legislating from The Bench" is actually what judges are supposed to do.

    3. Sanguma

      Re: putting my dancing shoes on...

      Are you sure you've got the right shoe type? Don't you mean "duncing shoes"?

      In most democracies, in particular the Westminster-derived ones, the Head of State is not there by Divine Right. The United Kingdom Parliament had to therapeutically amputate the head of one Head of State, King Chuck I believe he was called, thought it may instead have been King Technicolour Yawn, or King Liquid Laugh, and the reason they had to therapeutically amputate his head was that he wasn't using it, so it must've caused him extreme pain. It was harming his constitution, thus he could no longer take his daily constitutional ...

      So far President <strikethrough>Chump</strikethrough>, <strikethrough>Frump</strikethrough> <Strikethrough>Rump</strikethrough> Trump has not done anything indicating his head is causing him extraordinary pain, but that precedent does exist for sound medical reasons. (Note that I said medical, not sporting - it has been ages since a monarch was required to surrender his head for use as a shinty-hurling ball. Ah, but those were the days ...)

  23. Claptrap314 Bronze badge

    The Courts vs the US President

    I was rather shocked to find that it is technically an open question as to whether or not a sitting President can be brought to trial. The consensus appears to be no.

    While President, Thomas Jefferson was summoned as a witness in the aftermath of the Hamilton-Burr duel. He refused, writing that if the President could be compelled to appear before the courts, that he would become a lackey to them. Attorneys then negotiated a way for the President to provide the information needed without being summoned by the court.

    There have been other cases, but the most recent President to make use of this claim was President Clinton. As mentioned above, the courts have never pressed this issue.

    Of course, if the President cannot be compelled to appear before a court, then it is impossible for him to be tried.

    The procedure would be impeachment (before the Senate) and removal followed by trial. The really interesting case would be for there to be an attempt to charge him for a crime alleged to have occurred while he was President after he is out of office.

    In this case, the function of the Presidency is not directly impacted. OTOH, the problem of political decisions being criminalized would create a precedent that almost no one wants to have.

    --

    This is a separate matter from whether or not the President can defy the courts. As mentioned, Jackson did. So did Lincoln. It is interesting to note that in Marbury vs Madison, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judicial_review_in_the_United_States) the Court merely declared than a act was unconstitutional. This act was, however, irreversible, so the issue was in fact moot. The Federalist Papers passionately argue that the Court is not bound to enforce or approve laws and acts which it considers to be contrary to the Constitution, but the idea that the Court is somehow the final arbiter as to what is Constitutional is nowhere to be found either in the Federalist Papers nor in Marbury vs Madison.

    I expect that the idea would have been preposterous. The expectation was that each of the branches would exuberantly guard its prerogatives, and the Court "controls neither the sword nor the purse." Indeed, if the Court is the final arbiter of what is Constitutional, there is little need for there to be an executive at all. The entire point of having a separate executive is that the courts are not to be trusted 100%. In an egregious case, the executive protects the populace by refusing to carry out a decision by the Courts.

    I really enjoyed reading Judge Dredd thirty years ago. But I don't want such a system of government.

  24. Dr_N Silver badge
    Joke

    But What About Obama?

    Only joking!!!

  25. Colin Bain

    Wedge .... thin and coming your way folks....

    If this ruling stands then the folks suing Trump on this will find themselves in the same boat. If they are performing a public service, they will not be able to control who posts on their accounts either. A different kind of me too!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Wedge .... thin and coming your way folks....

      The difference is they seriously don't give a shit. Trump does. Figure out why and win a cookie (biscuit if you lean towards the right pondian dialect of English).

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