Assaults on Civil Liberties
Few American values are more important than protection of civil liberties and civil rights. These are not quite the same. Both "rights" and "liberties" appear in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Though they are sometimes used interchangeably, and sometimes the areas between them blur, they refer to different kinds of guaranteed protections.
Civil liberties offer protections against government actions. The First Amendment guarantees, among other things, that U.S. citizens may practice whatever religion they please. Government cannot interfere in an individual's freedom of worship. Amendment I gives the individual "liberty" from the actions of the government. Civil rights are positive actions of government takes to create equal conditions for all Americans.
This page focuses on actions and statements of Trump and his administration that threaten civil liberties.
|2015.12.08||Trump says he might have supported Japanese Internment if he was alive at the time. time.com (See also 2016 Campaign, Asian Americans, Fascism)|
|2016.02.26||Trump: We're going to "open up" libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists. politico.com (See also Feuds, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2016.07.15||The ACLU publishes a 27 page long list of all of the things Trump has proposed which are unconstitutional. action.aclu.org|
|2016.11.29||Trump tweets that people who burn the American flag should go to jail or lose citizenship, violating well-established First Amendment protections. twitter.com (See also Presidential Transition)|
|2017.02.01||Trump vows to "destroy" decades-old law that prevents tax-exempt churches from engaging in political activity. nytimes.com|
|2017.02.03||Atlanta-based Morehouse College professor sets off threats after posting political essay, calling support of Trump unAmerican. ajc.com|
|2017.02.03||Trump falsely claims protestors are paid "professional anarchists." nymag.com (See also Assaults on Facts, Attempts to Discredit Media, First 100 Days)|
|2017.02.06||Activists angry they weren’t allowed to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban inside Denver International Airport last month have asked a U.S. District Court judge to declare the city’s regulation requiring protesters get a permit in advance unconstitutional. denverpost.com (See also First 100 Days, First Amendment, Muslim Immigration Ban)|
|2017.02.06||Trump spokesman Sean Spicer falsely claims anti-Trump protests are part of a "very paid, Astroturf-type movement." washingtonpost.com (See also Assaults on Facts, Sean Spicer)|
|2017.02.08||ACLU vows to sue Sessions if he violates Constitution as attorney general. thehill.com (See also First 100 Days, Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice)|
|2017.02.08||In an extraordinarily rare move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell interrupts Warren's speech, saying she breached Senate rules by reading past statements against Sessions from the late senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the late Coretta Scott King. washingtonpost.com (See also First 100 Days, Jeff Sessions, Assaults on Government)|
Warren will be unable to take the floor for the duration of the Jeff Sessions debate.
|2017.02.08||Trump and top aides are positioning themselves to seize more power in the event of a terrorist attack by highlighting a nonexistent threat: jihadist refugees and immigrants. newyorker.com|
|2017.02.10||FBI representatives have contacted several "water protectors", raising alarm that an indigenous-led movement is being construed as domestic terrorism. theguardian.com (See also Dakota Access Pipeline, FBI, Native Americans)|
|2017.04.06||Twitter files lawsuit after the The Department of Homeland Security demands they reveal the identity of several Twitter accounts posting information critical of Trump. variety.com (See also Fascism, First 100 Days, John Kelly, Department of Homeland Security)|
|2017.07.19||The US Justice Department rolled out a new policy that allows the government to seize more possessions and money under federal authority, in some cases circumventing state or local laws, even when a person has not been charged or convicted of a crime. buzzfeed.com (See also Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice)|
|2017.07.27||The Justice Department, intervening in an important private employment case, urged a federal appeals court to rule that civil rights law does not bar job discrimination based on sexual orientation. washingtonpost.com (See also Department of Justice, LGBTQIA, Legal Activity)|
|2017.08.14||Web hoster DreamHost says it has been asked to hand over to the Justice Department more than 1.3 million IP addresses on visitors to a site that helped organize anti-Trump protests earlier this year. forbes.com (See also Department of Justice, Fascism)|
|2017.08.21||Sam Clovis, Donald Trump's pick to be chief scientist for the Department of Agriculture, has argued that homosexuality is a choice and that the sanctioning of same-sex marriage could lead to the legalization of pedophilia. cnn.com (See also Assaults on Facts, LGBTQIA)|
|2017.09.15||Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission came under fire when a lawsuit and media reports revealed that the commissioners were using private emails to conduct public business, and Kris Kobach confirmed that most of them continue to do so. propublica.org (See also Criminality, Legal Issues)|
|2017.09.25||The Department of Homeland Security is planning to collect social media information on all immigrants, including permanent residents and naturalized citizens, a move that has alarmed lawyers and privacy groups. buzzfeed.com (See also Fascism, Nationalism, Department of Homeland Security)|
|2017.09.29||The Justice Department is demanding that Facebook turn over information from three accounts that could provide access to the personal details of thousands of activists who expressed interest in anti-Trump rallies. nbcnews.com (See also Fascism)|
|2017.10.04||A Texas judge has dealt a blow to Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, ruling that state officials would be violating state privacy laws if they hand over voters’ personal information to commission members. thedailybeast.com (See also Fascism, Legal Issues)|
The commission has asked state election officials to share specific voter information, voters' felony conviction history, voter history, and partial Social Security numbers, along with a host of other details.
|2017.10.06||The intelligence division at the Treasury Department has repeatedly and systematically violated domestic surveillance laws by snooping on the private financial records of US citizens and companies. buzzfeed.com (See also Department of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin)|
|2017.10.09||A judge ordered the web hosting company DreamHost to redact identifying information about visitors to a website used to coordinate a protest during Donald Trump’s inauguration, imposing further limits on an extensive warrant obtained by the Justice Department that initially aimed to collect visitors’ IP addresses. gizmodo.com (See also Fascism, Department of Justice)|
|2017.10.11||Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened NBC over a news report he called "pure fiction," and he lashed out at the news media, threatening NBC's broadcast license. washingtonpost.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior, Rex Tillerson)|
|2017.10.18||Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to discuss his conversations with Donald Trump about James Comey or Russia, despite 5 hours of testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. nytimes.com (See also Russian Meddling in Election, Legal Issues, Department of Justice, LGBTQIA)|
|2017.10.18||In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he can’t ‘make a blanket commitment’ not to jail journalists for doing their jobs. washingtonpost.com (See also Attempts to Discredit Media, Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice)|
|2017.10.23||Democratic members of Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission are voicing mounting frustration about its mission and lack of collaboration, as two of the commission’s four Democrats have written letters to its executive director, demanding basic information such as when the panel might meet again, what kind of research is being conducted by its staff and when it might send a report to the president. washingtonpost.com (See also Unprecedented Actions)|
|2017.10.24||Senator Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who has tangled with Donald Trump for months, declared on the Senate floor that he “will no longer be complicit or silent” in the face of the president’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior. nytimes.com (See also Assaults on Facts, False Statements)|
|2017.10.25||The Federal Communications Commission is planning to eliminate a decades-old rule designed to preserve media diversity in local markets, which critics say it will lead to greater media consolidation and the loss of independent voices. washingtonpost.com (See also Censorship)|
The regulations, passed in 1975, prevent any single company from owning both a full-power TV station in a given market and a daily newspaper at the same time.
|2017.10.26||The Government Accountability Office will investigate Donald Trump's voting commission to understand the funds used, the body's work on voter participation, what methodology is being used, how it is protecting voter information, and how it is following regulations. cnn.com (See also Corruption)|
|2017.10.28||After CNN published a gripping report on the Libyan slave trade, some media outlets in Libya have raised doubts about its authenticity, citing Donald Trump's refrain of "fake news." gq.com (See also Trump Effect)|
|2017.11.09||Donald Trump's judicial nominees, who recieve lifetime appointments, are so unqualified, so far outside the mainstream, even some conservative Republicans have expressed dismay. nytimes.com (See also Unprecedented Actions, Legal Activity)|
|2017.11.09||Donald Trump's voter-fraud commission was hit with a new federal lawsuit Thursday, from one of the panel's own members, claiming that he's being denied access to the commission's records and effectively frozen out of its activities. politico.com (See also Assaults on Government, Legal Issues)|
|2017.11.13||A judge just ruled that Federal prosecutors involved in the Inauguration Day rioting cases will be allowed to access the Facebook accounts of anti-Trump activists who challenged search warrants for their information. buzzfeed.com (See also Legal Issues)|
The ACLU proposed having an outside, neutral party search the Facebook accounts, as opposed to law enforcement officials, but the judge said the government can do the search.
|2017.11.16||Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold — potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by just a small handful of companies. washingtonpost.com (See also Censorship, Fascism)|
|2017.11.19||An FBI report on the rise of black “extremists” is stirring fears of a return to practices used during the civil rights movement, when the bureau spied on activist groups without evidence they had broken any laws. apnews.com (See also Racism, Jeff Sessions)|
|2017.11.21||The Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that it planned to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites. nytimes.com (See also Censorship, Net Neutrality)|
|2017.11.21||The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, as he has testified more than half a dozen times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, and is the author of a 2008 book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.” politico.com (See also Voter Suppression, Voter Fraud)|
|2017.11.23||NY Attorney General Schneiderman estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans’ identities were stolen and used in spam campaigns that support repealing net neutrality, while a new analysis reveals that at least 1.3 million comments supporting the new FCC position on net neutrality were fake. hackernoon.com (See also Legal Issues, Unprecedented Actions, Net Neutrality)|
|2017.11.24||Jeff Sessions is methodically reshaping the Justice Department to reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views, from calling for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible to altering the department's legal stances in cases involving voting rights and LGBTQ issues some would call discrimination. washingtonpost.com (See also Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice, LGBTQIA, Racism, Nationalism, Immigration, Muslim Immigration Ban)|
|2017.11.27||Donald Trump, through his foundation, donated to "Project Veritas," an agency with a history of trying to take down liberal organizations, an agency that is now accused of trying to dupe The Washington Post with a fake Roy Moore claim in an undercover operation. newsweek.com (See also Belief in Conspiracy Theories, Censorship, Donald J. Trump Foundation)|
|2017.12.04||The Trump Administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince (Betsy DeVos' brother) and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, as a means of countering “deep state” enemies. theintercept.com (See also Mike Pompeo, Unprecedented Actions)|
The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration's political agenda.
|2017.12.04||The presidency of Donald Trump has caused Democrats to experience a surge in confidence in the press at the same time that Republicans and Trump supporters are expressing more extreme, negative views of the media. poynter.org (See also Censorship, Trump Effect)|
|2017.12.08||Donald Trump will not speak publicly at opening of a new Civil Rights Museum after the president’s plan to attend the opening erupted into controversy. nbcnews.com (See also Racism, Black Americans)|
|2017.12.08||FCC Chair Ajit Pai says the agency's net-neutrality rules are discouraging investment, leaving consumers with fewer, and less robust, choices for internet service, and potentially widening the digital divide, but broadband providers' own financial reports tell a different story. wired.com (See also False Statements)|
|2017.12.14||Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, appeared in a video promoting the end of net neutrality regulations with a woman who has been accused of pushing the false "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory. buzzfeed.com (See also Belief in Conspiracy Theories, False Statements)|
Objectively speaking, it's a terrible video.
|2017.12.14||FCC commissioners employed dubious information and curious logic before voting to repeal net neutrality rules. wired.com (See also Assaults on Facts, Net Neutrality)|
Here are the six most misleading claims.
|2017.12.14||The Federal Communications Commission voted to dismantle Net Neutrality: landmark rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, scrapping regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for high-quality service or content, reversing the agency's 2015 decision. nytimes.com (See also Domestic Policy, Reversals, Net Neutrality)|
|2017.12.15||One of the top executives of a consulting firm that the Environmental Protection Agency has recently hired to help it with media affairs has spent the past year investigating agency employees who have been critical of the Trump administration. nytimes.com (See also Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency)|
|2017.12.15||The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget. washingtonpost.com (See also Fascism, Assaults on Facts)|
Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
|2017.12.15||Using taxpayer dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency inked a no-bid $120,000 cutting-edge Republican PR firm that specializes in digging up opposition research to help Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office track and shape press coverage of the agency. motherjones.com (See also Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
|2017.12.17||Across the country, at different offices of the EPA, employees that raised concerns were told to submit copies of any emails written by them that mentioned either Scott Pruitt or Donald Trump, or any communications with Democrats in Congress that might have been critical of the agency. nytimes.com (See also Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency, Fascism)|
|2017.12.21||The Trump administration is considering a plan to separate parents from their children when families are caught entering the country illegally. nytimes.com (See also Immigration, Department of Homeland Security)|
|2017.12.22||The Associated Press found that a Russian hacking group targeted at least 200 journalists, publishers and bloggers as early as mid-2014 up to a few months ago. apnews.com (See also Russia, Russian Meddling in Election, 2016 Campaign)|
|2018.01.02||Donald Trump announced he would present “corrupt media awards” to the “fake news media” next week. thehill.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior)|
|2018.01.02||Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to suggest that Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton, should face jail time, days after the State Department posted emails found on her estranged husband’s computer that included confidential government information. washingtonpost.com (See also Fascism, Belief in Conspiracy Theories, Department of State, Department of Justice)|
|2018.01.17||Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Flake castigated Donald Trump for his attacks on the media, saying Trump had embraced the despotic language of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and inspired modern-day authoritarians. reuters.com (See also Fascism, Nationalism)|
|2018.01.24||On January 12th, the National Security Agency (NSA) replaced its mission statement page, removing "honesty" as its top priority. theintercept.com|
|2018.01.26||The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, giving the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians. theverge.com (See also Immigration, Nationalism)|
|2018.02.01||A higher-education bill working its way through Congress is a religious, right-leaning wish list, worrying college administrators and gay-rights groups. nytimes.com (See also Department of Education, LGBTQIA)|
|2018.02.03||The Trump administration’s nominee to coordinate billions of dollars in assistance to migrants around the world has suggested in social-media posts that Islam is an inherently violent religion and has said Christians in some cases should receive preferential treatment when resettling from hostile areas. washingtonpost.com (See also Muslims)|
|2018.02.12||The Trump administration’s controversial pick to run the 2020 census, Thomas Brunell, a political science professor who has defended Republican redistricting efforts in more than a dozen states, has withdrawn from consideration. motherjones.com (See also Resignations and Dismissals, Voter Suppression)|
|2018.02.15||According to records stretching back to the Coolidge administration and compiled by the American Presidency Project, Donald Trump has gone longer without conducting a formal press conference than any president since at least Lyndon Johnson. thedailybeast.com (See also Hypocrisy)|
By the end of his first year in office, President Barack Obama had held 11 press conferences; President George W. Bush had held five.
|2018.03.06||Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is changing the mission statement of his agency, removing promises of inclusive and discrimination-free communities. huffingtonpost.com (See also Ben Carson, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Racism)|
|2018.03.07||Sinclair Broadcasting is making local anchors deliver a new “journalistic responsibility message” bashing the media for “fake stories”— echoing Donald Trump’s “fake news” complaints. money.cnn.com (See also Assaults on Facts, Corruption, Attempts to Discredit Media)|
The conservative media company currently owns the most local TV stations nationwide, and is trying to acquire even more.
|2018.03.12||Donald Trump called Chuck Todd of NBC's Meet the Press a "sleepy son of a bitch" at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania. politico.com (See also Unpresidential Behavior)|
|2018.03.28||The Trump administration is attempting to scale back federal efforts to enforce fair housing laws, freezing enforcement actions against local governments and businesses, including Facebook, while sidelining officials who have aggressively pursued civil rights cases. nytimes.com (See also Racism, Ben Carson, Department of Housing and Urban Development)|
The department is aiming to roll back Obama administration attempts to curtail decades of racial, ethnic and income segregation in federally subsidized housing and development projects.
|2018.03.29||The Trump administration plans to require immigrants applying to come to the United States to submit five years of social media history, setting up a potential scouring of their Twitter and Facebook histories. cnn.com (See also Immigration, Nationalism)|
|2018.04.05||The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.” biglawbusiness.com (See also Department of Homeland Security)|
Note that this is not from the Communications Office, but from the Department of Homeland Security.
|2018.04.29||The Justice Department deleted language about press freedom and racial gerrymandering from its internal manual. buzzfeed.com (See also Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice)|
|2018.05.09||Donald Trump raised the prospect of taking away credentials from news media outlets that he believes are reporting negatively on his administration. washingtonpost.com (See also False Statements, Fascism)|
|2018.05.20||Donald Trump demanded that the Justice Department investigate whether the department or the F.B.I. “infiltrated or surveilled” his campaign at the behest of the Obama administration, following through on his frequent threats to intervene in the special counsel inquiry as he targets those he views as political enemies. nytimes.com (See also Assaults on Government, Legal Issues, Fascism, 2016 Campaign)|
|2018.05.22||The Environmental Protection Agency is barring The Associated Press, CNN and the environmental-focused news organization E&E from a national summit on harmful water contaminants. apnews.com (See also Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency)|
|2018.05.23||Donald Trump cannot block users on his Twitter feed, a federal judge in New York City ruled. cnbc.com (See also Legal Activity)|
|2018.05.23||Donald Trump told the veteran journalist Lesley Stahl of the CBS program "60 Minutes" that he bashes the press to "demean" and "discredit" reporters so that the public will not believe "negative stories" about him, Stahl said. cnbc.com (See also Assaults on Facts)|
|2018.05.24||Donald Trump suggested in an interview that sweeping changes to what he described as a "corrupt" immigration legal system were necessary, while also questioning the need for a legal process for people apprehended trying to cross into the US illegally. cnn.com (See also Immigration, Department of Justice)|
|2018.05.24||Donald Trump, when speaking about new rules that the NFL has imposed said, "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there — maybe you shouldn’t be in the country." axios.com (See also Nationalism, Fascism)|
|2018.05.29||Donald Trump accused prosecutors working on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election of planning to meddle in this year’s midterm elections, escalating his attack on the probe while offering no evidence to back up his assertion. washingtonpost.com (See also Russian Meddling in Election, 2016 Election, False Statements)|
|2018.06.04||Donald Trump declared on Monday that the appointment of the special counsel in the Russia investigation was “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” and asserted that he had the power to pardon himself, raising the prospect that he might take extraordinary action to immunize himself from the continuing inquiry. nytimes.com (See also Legal Issues)|
|2018.06.04||The U.S. Justice Department said it would appeal against a federal judge’s ruling that Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users from his account on the social media platform based on their political views, according to a court filing. reuters.com (See also Legal Activity)|
|2018.06.05||As it wrestled with accusations about a fake cyberattack last spring, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) purposely misled several news organizations, choosing to feed journalists false information, while at the same time discouraging them from challenging the agency’s official story. gizmodo.com (See also Net Neutrality, False Statements)|
|2018.06.06||Mick Mulvaney took yet another swipe at his consumer watchdog bureau — all but terminating an entire board of advocates who advise the agency about fair lending and underserved communities. money.cnn.com (See also Mick Mulvaney, Resignations and Dismissals, Assaults on Government)|
The CFPB has effectively dismissed the members of the Consumer Advisory Board, which is supposed to advise the bureau on fair lending, civil rights and underserved communities.
|2018.06.18||Across immigration, policing, criminal justice, and voting rights, the attorney general is pushing an agenda that could erase many of the legal gains of modern America's defining movement. theatlantic.com (See also Jeff Sessions, Department of Justice, Reversals, Racism)|
|Trump threatens to cut federal funds to UC Berkeley. sfchronicle.com (See also Unprecedented Actions, Feuds)|
Within the first two weeks of Trump's presidency, he and his administration demonstrated low tolerance for dissent in and outside of the government. He fired the acting attorney general who would not defend his controversial immigration order. Sean Spicer, Trump's press secretary, told career diplomats to “either get with the program or they can go.” His chief strategist, the white nationalist Steve Bannon, also labeled the news media as an “opposition party” that should “keep its mouth shut.”
Civil libertarians are alarmed. “The whole thing is scary," David Boaz of the Cato Institute told the Washington Post. "They have no appreciation for the Constitution, much less the unwritten norms of liberal democracy.” (Source: Washington Post)