Busy times for new Republican President Donald Trump. Churning out executive orders. Frozen department communications. Had cabinet choices withdraw or turn him down. Reneged on transgender bathroom choice.
And attacks on the press reporting about it all.
Trump's most heated attacks on news organizations came after stories about leaks concerning allegations of Trump aides being in touch with Russians during his presidential run.
There were news reports that several U.S. intelligence agencies said Russians had hacked into e-mails of the Democratic National Committee, in an effort to influence the presidential election.
Then on Thursday, Feb. 23, CNN reported that the White House had attempted to get the FBI to publicly declare the Times story wrong.
Though White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said top FBI officials had told him the story wasn't true, they refused to confirm that to the press.
The next day, Trump, addressing the Conservative Political Action Committee, bitterly repeated his charge that the press is "the enemy of the American people."
Later that day, press secretary Sean Spicer kept journalists from several media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN, from attending an informal off-camera press briefing in his office.
That provoked the Committee to Protect Journalists, which usually advocates for press rights in countries with despotic regimes, to put out an alarmed statement on Friday about Mr. Trump’s press attack.
“It is not the job of political leaders to determine how journalists should conduct their work, and sets a terrible example for the rest of the world,” said the group’s executive director, Joel Simon. “The U.S. should be promoting press freedom and access to information.”
Trump's blasts at the media also drew the attention of a couple well-respected critics.
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for more than five years, said this is “how dictators get started.”
“In other words, a consolidation of power," MCain told Chuck Todd, host of NBC's "Meet the Press."
“When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press," McCain continued. "And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”
Comments like Trump’s "enemy of the people," McCain said, are “more typically used by leaders to refer to hostile foreign governments or subversive organizations” and “echoed the language of autocrats who seek to minimize dissent.”
William H. McRaven, the former Navy SEAL and four-star admiral who hand-picked and oversaw the group of SEALs who killed terrorist Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011, also condemned Trump's attack on the press.
McRaven, who retired from the military in 2014, and in 2015 became chancellor of the University of Texas System, spoke to a group of students Feb. 21 at the UT Austin journalism school, from which he graduated in 1977.
“We must challenge this statement and this sentiment that the news media is the enemy of the American people," McRaven said. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”
“In my sixty years, most of the serious threats to our nation have come from the outside,” said McRaven, who served 37 years in the military.
Sometimes, some in the government have hidden information or skirted the law, but "never has the government openly challenged the idea of a free press,” McRaven said.
“The news media have not always been kind to me," he added. "However, I can tell you — as someone who has been to 90 countries and spoken to the press in almost all of them — the United States has the finest press corps in the world, bar none.
"There is nothing more important to a democracy than an active and engaged press," he continued. "Is it perfect? Far from it. Does the media make mistakes? Far too often.
"But flaws and all, I believe the free press is our country’s most important institution. One I am more than happy to defend," McRaven said. "One I did, in fact, defend for 37 years.”
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on Friday, Feb. 24, endorsed an independent special prosecutor to oversee an investigation of the Russia allegations.
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions must recuse himself because he was so close to Trump on the campaign, Issa said. A non-political special prosecutor should oversee an investigation into the Russia situation, Issa said.
Guess we'll see what happens – on that, and on Trump's war on the press.
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