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Americans Must Reject Trump’s Authoritarian Incitement Against The Press

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

On March 21, Cesar Sayoc pleaded guilty after mailing explosive devices to the offices of CNN, several Democratic officials, and other progressive leaders. Sayoc, a superfan of President Donald Trump whose van was plastered with anti-media images, was arrested while reportedly working through a list of more than 100 potential targets, including other journalists.

One week later, at a rally in Grand Rapids, MI, the president accused the media of working with Democrats and the “deep state” intelligence community in a “sinister effort… to sabotage the will of the American people” by reporting on connections between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Trump further claimed that “all of the Democrat politicians, the media bosses, bad people, … crooked journalists, the totally dishonest TV pundits” who had promoted the Trump-Russia “hoax … have to be accountable.”

The crowd responded by chanting, “Lock them up!”

Trump’s campaign of incitement against the press will never stop. The president has received repeated warnings that his actions threaten the safety of journalists in the United States and around the world. He does not care — or at least, he does not care enough to change his behavior. His political strategy of delegitimizing any individual or institution that pushes back against his lies and his personal need to respond to any perceived grievance with maximum force both require him to attack the press. And so those attacks will continue, no matter the consequences.

Over the last week, he has returned to his Stalinist description of journalists as “the Enemy of the People,” baselessly suggesting that they fabricated sources as part of a campaign of deception to take down his presidency, and in so doing damaged the country. In the hours before Trump’s rally on Thursday, The Atlantic reported that the Republican National Committee and the pro-Trump super PAC America First are planning to respond to critical journalism by assailing individual reporters using digital ads.

At a minimum, this behavior inevitably intensifies the constant stream of harassment and threats which journalists have been subjected to since Trump’s political rise began.

At worst, it puts reporters in physical danger.

Trump’s vicious attacks on the press during his campaign rallies have had violent consequences — a BBC cameraman was assaulted while simply doing his job and filming one last month. And law enforcement has stepped in to prevent even more dire repercussions. At least two people were arrested last year after allegedly threatening to murder reporters in messages that mimicked the president’s rhetoric; in September, the director of the FBI reportedly said that six federal investigations were then underway into threats on journalists.

Sayoc isn’t even the only person to allegedly assemble a hit list of journalists. In February, the FBI arrested Christopher Hasson, a Coast Guard officer and self-described white nationalist whom prosecutors termed a “domestic terrorist.” Hasson, who faces federal charges of illegal possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance, had amassed an arsenal he allegedly planned to use to murder hosts at CNN and MSNBC and Democratic politicians.

Asked at the time if the president planned to ratchet down his rhetoric in response to Hasson’s arrest, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied, claiming Trump hasn’t “at any point” done anything “but condemn violence, against journalists or anyone else.” Her claim was simply fantastical given Trump’s public encouragement of supporters who harass — and even assault — members of the press.

The president’s words on the stump matter much more than the mealy-mouthed statements coming out of Sanders’ office. And his message of incitement against the press is ringing through, loud and clear.

IMAGE: President Trump rallies his supporters in Grand Rapids, MI, March 28, 2019.

Prosecutors: Arrested Coast Guard Officer Is A White Supremacist Terrorist

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Federal prosecutors alleged Wednesday that Lt. Christopher Hasson, a member of the Coast Guard arrested last week on drug and gun charges, was, in fact, a terrorist with a long list of major Democratic politicians and media personalities from MSNBC and CNN that he wanted to target.

“The defendant is a domestic terrorist bent on committing acts dangerous to human life,” prosecutors said in a new court filing.

The case was pointed out by Seamus Hughes with the Program on Extremism at George Washington University on Twitter.

According to the filing, Hasson had a large stash of guns and a list of people he wanted to kill, including MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, CNN’s Don Lemon, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and many Democratic candidates for president. They also say he was an admirer of the white supremacist terrorist Anders Breivik.

Seamus Hughes

@SeamusHughes

He was an fan of Anders Breivik

View image on Twitter

Seamus Hughes

@SeamusHughes

When he was arrested this week in Silver Spring MD, he had a stash of guns and a list of people he wanted to kill. It was a who’s who of media personalities and elected officials. pic.twitter.com/Y8iEgqktlR

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
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An incident described in the filing also suggests that Hasson may have an affinity for President Donald Trump. Prosecutors say that after viewing a story about Scarborough calling Trump “the worst ever,” Hasson looked up information about Scarborough, including where his show “Morning Joe” was filmed and the commentator’s former address.

It also says that Hasson wrote a draft of a letter to an American neo-Nazi, describing himself as a “White Nationalist.” He allegedly said that he wanted to start a “white homeland” because  “Europe seems lost.” This letter, prosecutors say, was written in the months following the 2017 neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia.