Jail Journalists? Sessions Won’t Rule It Out

The freedom of the press is a bedrock of U.S. democracy, so it only makes sense that with all of President Donald Trump’s apparent contempt for the institution, other politicians may turn to the attorney general for assurance that the administration is not going to pull anything crazy.

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions answered questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat for Minnesota, appropriately asked, “Can you commit to not jailing reporters for doing their jobs?”

Sessions’s response provided no comfort: “I don’t know if I can make a blanket commitment to that effect.”

For the record, it shouldn’t be hard for Sessions to shut speculation down with a firm no. Most administrations throughout history have respected the First Amendment and not gone after journalists, but Sessions doesn’t want to rule anything out, apparently.

He elaborated: “But I would say we have not taken any aggressive action against the media at this point.”

The “at this point” clause seems rather foreboding, especially when you consider how nonsense it is for Sessions to say the White House hasn’t taken aggressive action against journalists so far. Trump has broadly labeled the press the “enemy of the people,” instructing supporters to jeer reporters and insisting that their stories are “fake.” Just last week, Trump intimated he’d like to revoke NBC’s license for publishing an unflattering story about him.

Is none of that aggressive enough for Sessions?

Sessions was willing to concede that the DOJ is engaged in an effort to crack down on people leaking government secrets to the press. While it’s one thing for the White House to address that problem internally, as Care2 learned in August, in actuality it means that multiple journalists have had their phones wiretapped to see who is contacting them with information.

That’s worrisome, even if journalists aren’t necessarily the “targets” of this surveillance. Sessions has also acknowledged the DOJ is reconsidering how it handles subpoenas and search warrants for reporters. It doesn’t seem safe to say that only the leakers, not the reporters, won’t get swept up in the prosecution… that goes doubly when the attorney general won’t concede he wouldn’t jail the journalists.

You’d like to think that Sessions would absolutely assert the rights of journalists after publicly advocating for the First Amendment just a few weeks ago. However, as Slate points out, Sessions stumps for the First Amendment until it doesn’t suit him. After all, this attorney general is literally prosecuting a woman for laughing at him and also led an unsuccessful court battle to try to obtain private information on people who visited a website that promoted anti-Trump demonstrations on Inauguration Day.

American citizens are going to have to pay close attention to this administration. If we want to maintain our freedom of the press, given the recent comments by Sessions, we may need to fight for it.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

73 comments

Darlene Buckingham
shawn arscottabout a month ago

Interesting that Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who had held out endorsing Clinton until after she secured the nomination in June of 2016, said she agreed that the system was "rigged" for Clinton. There is a lot of monkey business in politics - both Dems an Repubs are corrupt and the whole political system of a 2 party system needs to be overhauled so that it is a fair system that works for all people and creates a better world.

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heather g
heather g1 months ago

for BRIAN F. Please note this quote from Care2: Our Promise: Welcome to Care2, the world’s largest community for good. Here, you’ll find 39 million like-minded people working towards progress, kindness, and lasting impact.
Care2 Stands Against: bigots, bullies, science deniers, misogynists, gun lobbyists, xenophobes, the willfully ignorant, animal abusers, frackers, and other mean people. If you find yourself aligning with any of those folks, you can move along, nothing to see here.
Care2 Stands With: humanitarians, animal lovers, feminists, rabble-rousers, nature-buffs, creatives, the naturally curious, and people who really love to do the right thing. You are our people. You Care. We Care2.

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Brian F
Brian F1 months ago

Now Regus emerges to defend corrupt Democrats like Obama, who took $400,000 for a speech, as a reward for bailing out Wall Street and not prosecuting one banker. Obama also lied and gave us a Republican healthcare plan, after promising us Medicare for All. Now Obama will get a 65 million dollar book advance. So once again Regus, you have demonstrated your breathtaking ignorance. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America, and it's time for corporate fake Democrats like you to support him, and stop defending corrupt corporate Democrats like Hillary and Obama who caused this fraud Trump to get elected.

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Regus Slantei
Regus Slantei1 months ago

Ignoring the flam-floozle deflection from the substantive topic of this story by meathead Brian......

Sessions and his antics are yet another piece of the ongoing fascist puzzle being constructed by Trump and his rightwing cronies.

Only morons claim they can't see this, and only Russian stooges would deny it.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E1 months ago

brian f
BOT !!

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Brian F
Brian F1 months ago

Oh right Rhoberta E. If Donna Brazille passes debate questions to Hillary, or Debbie Wasserman Shultz schedules the debates to favor Hillary so what. Corruption is only wrong when this fraud Trump and the Republicans do it, but not when the Democrats do it.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E1 months ago

brian f
BOT and worse than the SPAM

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Brian F
Brian F1 months ago

Rhoberta E Bill Clinton got $500,000 for a speech to Russia. Obama got $500,000 for a speech as a reward for not prosecuting one banker. The Democrats have become corrupt and in bed with Wall Street like the Republicans, and cheated Bernie Sanders out of his primary, and anointed a horribly corrupt charlatan, Hillary, which caused this fraud Trump to win. This has nothing to do with education, and everything to do with corruption. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America, and most people support his progressive policies. It's time that you support Bernie Sanders, and stop defending the corruption in the Democratic party, that caused this fraud Trump to win, and is blocking Bernie Sanders from having any power.

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Rachel -
Rachel -1 months ago

If you think an attorney is going to respond to such a vague question with a firm answer, you're tripping. Likewise, if you think I have any sympathy whatsoever for these hypocritical corporations who themselves try to censor alt media and citizen journalists, are presently nothing but political echo-chambers, and have always been propagandists for the military-industrial complex all the way back to Viet Nam. Education doesn't equal honesty. Never has, never will.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E1 months ago

brian f
BOT.
President Obama and well educated people have a right to earn a very good wage. Your jealousy is overwhelming.
No brian, I just don't agree with the Democrats YOU choose to trash because you have your knickers in a bunch about your loss.
Most of the ones YOU trash are lawyers and were professionals before entering politics and most have a reputation of public service NOT self service.
Grow up, brian and sort out the good from those YOU think are evil.
BTW, what is YOUR level o education that says YOU can trash those WITH an education ?

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