The administration of President Donald Trump is mocking a federal lawsuit of Twitter users who claim their constitutional rights are being violated because the president has blocked them from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle.
“It would send the First Amendment deep into uncharted waters to argue that a president’s choices about who to follow and who to block, on Twitter — a private website that, as a central feature of its social media platform, empowers all users in allows to block certain persons from viewing messages – violating the constitution.” That’s part of what Justice Department attorney Michael Baer wrote Friday to the New York federal judge overseeing the lawsuit.
In addition, the Justice Department said the courts are powerless to tell Trump how he is… private twitter handlewhich has 35.8 million followers.
“To the extent that the administration of his Twitter account by the president constitutes an action of the state, it is undoubtedly within his discretion as Chief Executive; it is therefore beyond the scope of judicial enforcement,” Baer wrote (PDF).
Baer added that an order to tell Trump how to manage his Twitter feed “would arouse deep concerns about the separation of powers by penetrating directly into the president’s chosen way of communicating with millions of Americans.”
The lawsuit, filed last month, alleges that Trump’s Twitter feed is a public forum and an official vote of the president. Barring people from reading or replying to his tweets — especially because they tweet critical comments — amounts to a First Amendment violation, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit demands that Trump unblock people he has blocked on Twitter, and it is requesting a preliminary injunction to prevent him from blocking people.
Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy says he doesn’t think blocked Twitter users have violated their First Amendment rights. That said, he believes that “the case is not open and closed.”
Many of these lawsuits against politicians are popping up across the country. There is also legal precedent on this subject. Last month, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that a local politician had violated a voter’s First Amendment rights because the politician briefly banned the voter from the politician’s personal Facebook account, where she discussed public affairs.
“The suppression of critical commentary on elected officials is the quintessential form of facial discrimination that the First Amendment guards,” US District Judge James Cacheris wrote in a lawsuit filed by a voter against Phyllis Randall, the chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. in Virginia. Randall’s Facebook page, the judge ruled, “operates as a forum for speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.”
In the Trump case, the Justice Department notes that people who have been blocked by the president can still view his tweets if they log out of Twitter. The department also says those who denounce Trump “remain free to use Twitter (or any other social media platform) to criticize the president.”
No hearing date has been set.