If our future attorney general actually has not studied regulations regarding our very first amendment, that’s concerning as it is. More concerning, though, is the fact that Sessions actually has extensive experience with these regulations. As litigator Greg Lipper pointed out on Twitter, it is highly unlikely that Sessions was being honest when he stated that he hasn't studied them.
Sessions hedging on the question of press freedom, and his tying of prosecution to "bias" in reporting, should set off alarm bells. Bias should not be related to whether or not a journalist is safe from prosecution—otherwise reporters face a constant fear of political prosecution due to ideology. And Sessions’s answer is even more troublesome because of Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to “open up” libel laws and is constantly calling all media lying, biased, and/or crooked.
It's somewhat unclear what Sessions means when he describes media as a mechanism for obtaining unlawful intelligence. Is Sessions leaving the door open to prosecuting journalists for publishing information that was illegally obtained, such as the information released by WikiLeaks earlier this year?
As Matt Zapotosky with the Washington Post noted on Twitter, Sessions’s response is much less categorical than that of Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who in 2015 stated that he would not punish journalists for doing their job.
Holder’s assertion came after an extended legal battle between New York Times reporter James Risen and the Department of Justice. Risen was critical of Obama's Justice Department and Attorney General Holder even after Holder stopped demanding Risen reveal his sources, calling the administration "the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation."
The media is more important than ever in the Donald Trump era, where corruption runs rampant and nothing is predictable. Sessions’s response to Sen. Klobuchar’s question indicates that he will erode, not strengthen, protections for the press.
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