Trump Wants to Repeal First Amendment

The Republican frontrunner doesn't want newspapers to be able to write negative stories about him.

Bill Of Rights 2

The Republican frontrunner doesn’t want newspapers to be able to write negative stories about him. POLITICO‘s Hadas Gold:

Donald Trump said on Friday he plans to change libel laws in the United States so that he can have an easier time suing news organizations.
During a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, Trump began his usual tirade against newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, saying they’re “losing money” and are “dishonest.” The Republican presidential candidate then took a different turn, suggesting that when he’s president they’ll “have problems.”

“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” Trump said.

Under current law, largely determined at the state instead of federal level, public persons, such as politicians, can win a suit against a media organization only if the person can prove that the publication published information with actual malice, knowing it to be wholly incorrect, as well as in cases of reckless disregard. The case that set this precedent — New York Times Co. v. Sullivan — was decided by the Supreme Court in 1964.

“You see, with me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people but I’m not taking money. I’m not taking their money,” Trump said on Friday. “We’re going to open up libel laws, and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”

Granting that most of what Trump says is half-baked bluster rather than serious policy proposal, this is further evidence of not only a thin-skinned temperament unsuited to the presidency but a fundamental misunderstanding of our system of government.

Presidents don’t make our laws, they merely sign bills that have passed in identical form in both Houses of Congress. This particular “law” is a binding interpretation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that has stood for 52 years. Thus, “opening up our libel laws” in such a way to overturn this precedent would require either packing the Court with Justices who would overturn it—incredibly unlikely for a variety of reasons, including the fact that this is hardly a cause célèbre among even Federalist Society acolytes–or amending the Constitution. That ain’t happening.

Given that Trump can’t do what he’s saying he wants to do, I suppose his spouting off in this way is irrelevant. But, again, it’s pretty strong evidence of what a lousy president he’d make.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Law and the Courts, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. He frequently sounds like a tin pot Third World dictator (which is disconcerting for someone who could be one of the major party nominees).

  2. Of course this isn’t a serious policy proposal on Trump’s part, but what it is is yet another example of the antipathy that Trump shows towards the media during his speeches that seems to become more fiery and vitriolic each time. I’m waiting for the first report of a Trump supporter at one of these rallies getting physical with a reporter the way they’e already gotten physical with protesters.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    “I realized at this point this man was no ordinary man…..this guy was a NUT!”

    –from Rinse the Blood off my Toga, Wayne & Schuster

  4. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: P.S. How do we know that this isn’t a “serious policy proposal” on Trump’s part? He seems about as sincere about this as he has been about the other “policy proposals” he’s shoved out there that the Trumpenproletariat pee their pants in glee over (e.g. building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, banning Muslims from visiting/emigrating to the U.S.)

    His supporters are dumb enough that they in fact probably DO believe he can do this.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    He’d never be able to overturn the First Amendment without Scalia’s help.

    BTW – Jan Brewer has endorsed the Orange-Faced Comb-Over.

  6. Mr. Prosser says:

    @C. Clavin: Wonderful, Arpaio, now Brewer, I suppose Ducey will be next.

  7. Hal_10000 says:

    Trump has a long and ugly history of going after his critics. I was reading a story this morning about how he got a stock analyst fired for (correctly) predicted the collapse of the Trump Taj Mahal casino.

    So, yeah. Let’s definitely give this thin-skinned twit control of the IRS, Federal marshalls, US attorneys, DEA, FBI, CIA. He might be the first President impeached by his own party.

  8. C. Clavin says:
  9. JohnMcC says:

    Has anyone asked if Mr Trump (and followers) have objections to any other Constitutional provisions? This might be a great opportunity to completely renovate that old document and make it ready for the US to be GREAT AGAIN.

    Of course, we’d have to define what is “GREAT” and decide ‘GREAT for whom’?

  10. Mikey says:

    He’s also said he would kill the IRS rule that prevents churches endorsing political candidates while simultaneously maintaining tax-exempt status. Basically he’d carve an exception into 501c3 for churches. Well, Christian churches, at least. I don’t doubt he’d do his best to ensure the local mosque couldn’t endorse someone.

  11. Liberal Capitalist says:

    I will admit, while I may not be part of the 1%, I’m easily part of the top 5%. So, by economic interest alone, I should be part of the GOP.

    However, my experience of being the child of green-card immigrants, growing up in poverty… well… I just can’t. I can’t even.

    I told you that, so I can tell you this:

    Much like Vincente Fox ( ) , I had the “Hitler” conversation the other day.. with my driver (a small business owner), a recent immigrant to the USA, and a supporter of GOP policies.

    With the discussion of Mr. Trump’s comment of “… change libel laws in the United States so that he can have an easier time suing news organizations.”, I too recognized that this would gut the first amendment.

    Of course, if Mr. Trump were to become POTUS, then just a quick reminder that under the plans of the GOP in the Senate, he would be the person that would replace the vacancy left by Justice Scalia, and likely appoint a justice to replace Justice Ginsburg, as the “Notorious R.B.G.” is already in her 80’s. (… not wishing ill, just a statistical likelihood)

    This, of course, would allow him to pack the Supreme Court in a very pro-Trump way. (I would say pro-conservative, but this would actually end up being pro-oligarchy — way beyond pro-conservative).

    So, if the media fears being critical and sued into submission, and the Supreme Court becomes a rubber stamp, then the House and Senate (both currently GOP-heavy) becomes almost irrelevant to Trump.

    And let’s face it… as the GOP is plotting against a successful Trump campaign for presidency, then the loyalty of that branch of government is in question… so why not eliminate them?

    Suspend congress so that Trump can proceed to Make America Great Again (TM) … so he can start the wall… “I will build the best wall, the biggest, the strongest, not penetrable, they won’t be crawling over it, like giving it a little jump and they’re over the wall, it costs us trillions,”

    An executive action suspending Congress, supported by the Supreme Court would allow a President Trump to accomplish the tasks that he needs to get done. The militarized expulsion of 11.3 million illegal aliens from the United States. ( )

    Of courses, in that number of 11 million, that would include those natural born citizens that were born here on American soil… but the Trump argument is that if they were born here via the illegal actions of their parents, then citizenship would be stripped. And when you plan to expel 500,000 people monthly, well, there won’t be time to insure tiny details. If they are brown, they’re gone. They can prove their citizenship on reentry.

    Of course, the pro-Trump supreme court would support this action.


    Madness? Feverish delusions?

    No… just taking the stated policies of candidate Trump, and turning them into executable policy.

    America would need strong leadership to make his plans happen, and a dictatorship would make it easier.

    He is telling you that is what he wants, and Americans are cheering.

  12. CSK says:

    As far as I can tell, the only amendment the Trump Fan Club cares about is the Second Amendment, and Trump can gut the rest for all it matters to them.


    While the thought of Trump controlling the DEA, FBI, CIA, et al may appall you and me, the Trumpkins are fine with it. He’ll use those entities to go after his and their enemies, which happen to be you. And me. And Doug. And James. And Steven. And everyone posting on this thread. Plus most of the population of this country.

  13. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Of course this isn’t a serious policy proposal on Trump’s part…

    Then what IS?

    Words keep coming out of his moth, and he repeats them often.

    When you ask a Trump supporter about Trump’s comments, the answer usually is…

    Oh, he doesn’t mean that, he is just campaigning

    When will he share what he really means?

    When will people consider what would become policy?

  14. SC_Birdflyte says:

    If Trump were to be elected, he might be the target of a Second Amendment solution. A little historical note: Huey P. Long’s slanders and political retaliation against one of his political foes in Louisiana led the defamee’s son-in-law to pick up a revolver and bring an end to the Kingfish’s career. Bullets can fly from left to right, as well as the reverse.

  15. Scott F. says:


    So, yeah. Let’s definitely give this thin-skinned twit control of the IRS, Federal marshalls, US attorneys, DEA, FBI, CIA.

    Or let’s give this twit control of our nuclear arsenal. Imagine what could happen when Some foreign leaders mocks his hair and this clown has nukes.

  16. Barry says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “He frequently sounds like a tin pot Third World dictator (which is disconcerting for someone who will be, barring a miracle be one of the major party nominees).”


  17. Dmichael says:

    @Mr. Prosser: I think your “Ducey” is a typo. You must have meant “Il Duce.”

  18. Tyrell says:

    No, no way. Count me out.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:


    and decide ‘GREAT for whom’?

    White people of course. The same people it was written for originally.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    and SOME Americans are cheering.

    FTFY, you’ll get my bill in the mail.

  21. ltmcdies says:

    @grumpy realist: A Wayne and Schuster reference….well done….

  22. Paul Hooson says:

    He has all of the makings to become the American-version of Vladimir Putin. An out of control billionaire dictator is a very dangerous thing as the example in Russia well proves…

  23. Jeremy R says:

    Trump on forming some sort of unified Christian lobby:

    I was talking to someone, we probably have 250 million, maybe even more, in terms of people, so we have more Christians than we have men or women in our country and we don’t have a lobby because they’re afraid to have a lobby because they don’t want to lose their tax status.

    So I am going to work like hell to get rid of that prohibition and we’re going to have the strongest Christian lobby and it’s going to happen. This took place during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and it has had a terrible chilling effect.

    When I said that there has to be a temporary ban on certain people coming into this country, we have no choice, there’s something wrong, there’s something really wrong. And when I said ‘Muslim,’ I was met with furor. If I would’ve said ‘Christian,’ people would’ve said, ‘oh we can’t do anything about it.’ That’s going to end folks.

    We’re going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ now on Christmas. We’re going to start going to department stores and stores and you’re going to see big beautiful signs that say, ‘Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.’

  24. Liberal Capitalist says:


    White people of course. The same people it was written for originally.

    No, it’s…

    “The same people for which it was originally written”.

    In this case, we will cross-bill. It’s a wash.

    Don’t make me get all up ‘n pedantic in here!

  25. Scott O says:

    It seems to me that making libel claims easier to successfully pursue would most impact Fox News and most of talk radio. He’ll have to draft the new law carefully, clearly defining what is and is not “truth”.