The chairman of the House judiciary committee defended Wikileaks on Thursday, arguing that the controversial actions of the anti-secrecy outlet are protected under free speech.
Speaking at a hearing to explore whether Wikileaks violated the Espionage Act — which the Obama administration is targeting its editor-in-chief for — Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said that “America was founded on the belief that speech is sacrosanct” and dismissed calls for censorship of media outlets publishing leaked documents.
“As an initial matter, there is no doubt that WikiLeaks is very unpopular right now. Many feel that the WikiLeaks publication was offensive,” Conyers said, according to prepared remarks. “But being unpopular is not a crime, and publishing offensive information is not either. And the repeated calls from politicians, journalists, and other so-called experts crying out for criminal prosecutions or other extreme measures make me very uncomfortable.”
The Obama administration and members of Congress from both parties have called for the prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange after the unauthorized leak of State Department cables, portraying him as a threat to national security.
But legal experts have pointed out the extraordinary difficulties in legally targeting the anti-secrecy outlet, and warned that doing so would set a dangerous precedent in which newspapers could be prosecuted for revealing unflattering information about the government.
“And so whatever you think about this controversy, it is clear that prosecuting Wikileaks would raise the most fundamental questions about freedom of speech, about who is a journalist, and about what the public can know about the actions of its own government,” Conyers said.
The crime Wikileaks would be charged with involves obtaining classified government information and disseminating it to the public, which journalists have done in the past without being prosecuted. In a parallel example, the leak of the Pentagon Papers — passed to the New York Times by government whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg — was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1971 case New York Times Co. v. United States.
Calls for prosecuting Wikileaks have picked up steam in Washington, and a majority of the US public deems the leak of diplomatic cables harmful to public interest and supports legal action against Assange, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll released Tuesday.
“But let us not be hasty, and let us not legislate in a climate of fear or prejudice,” Conyers closed, referring to the calls for new laws criminalizing the actions of Wikileaks. “For, in such an atmosphere, it is our constitutional freedoms and our cherished civil rights that are the first to be sacrificed in the false service of our national security.”
Trump whines about ‘demeaning and belittling’ new book titled ‘A Very Stable Genius’
President Donald Trump lashed out at two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists on Saturday after returning to Mar-a-Lago from Trump International Golf Club.
Trump lashed out at Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig for their highly-anticipated new book, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America, which will be released on Tuesday.
The two were on The Washington Post team that won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Trump administration.
"Another Fake Book by two third rate Washington Post reporters, has already proven to be inaccurately reported, to their great embarrassment, all for the purpose of demeaning and belittling a President who is getting great things done for our Country, at a record clip," Trump claimed, without offering any evidence.
Impeachment managers release trial memorandum detailing why Trump must be removed from office
House impeachment managers released an in-depth trial memorandum laying out the case for convicting President Donald Trump during his Senate impeachment trial.
The memorandum was released by representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Val Demings (D-FL), Jason Crow (D-CO) and Sylvia Garcia (D-FL).
The document divides the argument by the House of Representatives into three points.
"The Senate should convict President Trump of abuse of power," is the first section.
"The Senate should convict President Trump of obstruction of Congress," is the second section.
He ‘can’t understand why he is being impeached’: CNN reports Trump is asking ’why are they doing this to me?’
President Donald Trump is reportedly "distracted" by impeachment while vacationing at Mar-a-Lago as the United States Senate trial begins.
"A source close to the White House who speaks to Donald Trump regularly said the President has appeared 'distracted' by the impeachment trial that begins on Tuesday, telling people around him Friday night at Mar-a-Lago that he 'can't understand why he is impeached,'" CNN's Jim Acosta reported Saturday. "'Why are they doing this to me,' the source quoted Trump as saying repeatedly."