A Battle Royale for the First Amendment
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff is explosive. Some of the details in the book, such as the dysfunction inside the White House, are not surprising. Anybody who has paid attention knows this. Some of the details did come as a surprise. President Donald Trump likes McDonalds because he is afraid of poisoning? This is paranoia, pure and simple.
I expect the book to sell extremely well. I already ordered my copy. But the next step in the sage is one that should worry all of us. President Trump makes his life in the public eye. The Washington Post reports:
The letter by Beverly Hills-based attorney Charles J. Harder demanded the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book” or excerpts and summaries of its contents. The lawyers also seek a full copy of the book as part of their investigation.
This is incredible when you think about it. The publisher is under threat, if they pursue publication. The source for quite a bit of the book was Steve Bannon, former Chief of Staff for the president. If one is to be honest, the reason for Trump to be in the White House.
They are accusing the reporter of malice and spreading lies. It is character assassination. pure and simple. But what this is about is the First Amendment. It is another attack on the press. Yes, at times the press will print stories about subjects in the public eye that are salacious.
This is also part of a pattern.
Every time the president has a negative thing happen to him, he immediately goes into attack mode. This is the only thing this White House knows to do. This should worry the country. What we have are the markers of an authoritarian. One that we now have confirmation had no expectation of winning the presidency.
So now we find ourselves in a strange place. While they will not be able to stop publication of the book, this has to be put in context. This is the libel laws, that Trump said should be changed. This is likely the beginning of a battle. The president does not like freedom of the press. He has called the press “the enemy of the people.” This is one more step in his battle against institutions.
Did Bannon violate non-disclosure agreements? Likely. Can these agreements be enforced during government employment? That is also a good question. However, Bannon’s next stop will be before Congressional committees. Why? That book is full of details that might be relevant to the work of the committees. The other obvious question is how much does Bannon know about the meeting with the Russians with Donald Trump Jr?
Bannon called that meeting treasonous. He was being collegial, in the use of the word, I suspect. Trump Jr should have contacted the FBI. Yet, that revelation will lead to even more questions.
There is also the point that Bannon now believes that Russia Gate is about money laundering. One of the excerpts mentioned Panama. The Panama Papers had Trump in the database This is siginifant, and could be cross referenced with the the book.
It looks like the legal issues continue to mount for this White House. It comes on the heels of the revelations from Fusion GPS in their editorial in the New York Times. There are more questions about money laundering and the Russians. This is what Kompromat could look like.