On Thursday, before supporters and demonstrators clashed outside the San Jose Convention Center, a Donald Trump campaign staffer had a Politico reporter ejected from the event for reporting without the campaign’s permission.
Even as the presumptive Republican nominee has made himself a ubiquitous presence in broadcast media and held confrontational (if specious) press conferences, his campaign has restricted reporters’ access to the candidate and his supporters—to anything outside of the physically-delineated press pen, really. Politico reports:
A campaign staffer spotted the reporter typing on a laptop outside of the press pen at the San Jose Convention Center and asked the reporter, who was attending on a general admission ticket, if he had press credentials. The Trump campaign has refused to credential the reporter for multiple events.
The staffer said he would consult with his superiors and returned minutes later with a private security officer who instructed the reporter to leave the premises, escorting him out a nearby exit.
“The campaign is not aware of the incident or any details pertaining to it and therefore cannot comment,” wrote campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks in an email. She added that the campaign is “looking into it.”
The reporter was subsequently denied press credentials to the Friday rally in Redding, California.
Trump has sharpened his rhetoric targeting the First Amendment and the free press of late, recently referring to an ABC reporter as a “sleaze.” He has also referred to journalists as “scum” and “slime.” Also, he wants to make it easier to sue media outlets. “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,” he said in February.
“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.”
In a New York Times story on the threat Trump poses to the constitution, Ilya Somin, a George Mason University law professor, said, “There are very few serious constitutional thinkers who believe public figures should be able to use libel as indiscriminately as Trump seems to think they should.”
Trump, Somin added, “poses a serious threat to the press and the First Amendment.”
Not everyone thinks so, however: Senator John McCain, a Trump supporter, is optimistic that the real estate developer won’t dismantle the country’s legal foundations.
“I still believe we have the institutions of government that would restrain someone who seeks to exceed their constitutional obligations,” McCain told the Times. “We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We’re not Romania.”
“Our institutions, including the press, are still strong enough to prevent” unconstitutional action, the senator said. Very encouraging.