The following editorial originally appeared in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.
“Word just out that I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt. Unanimous decision in my favor from The United States Court of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit on the ridiculous Emoluments Case. I don’t make money, but lose a fortune for the honor of serving and doing a great job as your President (including accepting Zero salary!).”
— Donald J. Trump, July 10, 2019 (@realDonaldTrump)
President Trump’s tweet on Wednesday morning aims to inform — as well as sway — the American people to his point of view as the leader of the U.S. government.
But this tweet also affirms Tuesday’s ruling by a federal appeals court that says Trump cannot block his critics from the Twitter feed he regularly uses to communicate with the public. This tweet — like all his tweets — is de facto official government document.
Trump had made his Twitter account a part of how he, as a public official, communicates with his constituents and the American public at large. It makes no difference that it is personal account. Trump is the president, and what he says, regardless of the platform, is the stand of the president.
The First Amendment makes clear that the government, in his case represented by Trump, cannot abridge free speech. This includes blocking views (responses to tweets) that disagree with its views.
The legal challenge to Trump’s blocking of access of individual to his Twitter account came from the Knight Institute at Columbia University, which represented the blocked users. It maintained Trump’s Twitter account is an extension of the presidency that is routinely used by Trump to announce government nominations, defend his polices and promote his legislative agenda. The comment section is no different from a traditional town hall meeting, it said, and citizens must be allowed to respond directly to government officials and engage in public policy debates.
The U.S. Court of Appeals agreed.
Judge Barrington Parker, writing for the 2nd Circuit in the decision, said public officials who take to social media for official government business are prohibited from excluding people “from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.” Other courts have held that this is “viewpoint discrimination.”
“In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less,” Parker wrote.
This is what Trump does. The president takes to Twitter daily to clearly and forcefully rebut perceived attacks on him, his allies or his policies.
The appeals court’s ruling was a strong — and necessary — stand for free speech for all.