Former President Donald Trump has said that the federal government should threaten journalists who report on government leaks with prison time (and possible rape) in order to get them to reveal their sources.
“You take the writer and/or the publisher of the paper … and you say ‘Who is the leaker? National security,’” Trump said during a Saturday night rally in Robstown, Texas. “And they say ‘We’re not gonna tell you.’ They say ‘That’s OK, you’re going to jail.’ And when this person realizes he’s going to be the bride of another prisoner very shortly, he will say ‘I’d very much like to tell you exactly who that leaker is!’”
Trump made his comments when mentioning the May 2022 leak of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion draft which revealed the court’s desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case which legalized abortion access nationwide. The Court overturned Roe in June 2022, but the identity of the leaker still hasn’t been revealed, despite the court’s pledge to investigate.
“Every year, a staggering 200,000 people are sexually abused while locked up,” Jesse Lerner-Kinglake, a spokesman for health and human rights organization Just Detention International, told Fox News, citing the most recently available data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. “At least half of all abuse is committed by officers.”
In 2003, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to study and offer suggestions for preventing such rape. But its efforts remain woefully underdeveloped and underfunded, experts say.
Trump’s comments aren’t surprising considering his 2017 suggestion that police shouldn’t worry about injuring arrestees.
“The laws are so horrendously stacked against us, because for years and years they’ve been made to protect the criminal,” Trump told a group of law enforcement officials in Long Island, New York in 2017. “Totally made to protect the criminal, not the officers. If you do something wrong, you’re in more jeopardy than they are. These laws are stacked against you. We’re changing those laws.”
Trump has also referred to racial justice protestors as “terrorists” when protests for police reform have devolved into riots.
Trump has also repeatedly called for the loosening of national libel laws to allow lawsuits against anyone who publishes unflattering statements about public figures.
“We are going to take a strong look at our country’s libel laws so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts,” Trump said in 2018.
Trump has repeatedly sued or threatened to sue publications and authors who have published embarrassing facts about him and his presidency. He has also repeatedly referred to journalists as “the enemy of the people,” a phrase used by other fascist rulers throughout history to target their political opponents.
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