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Sam Donaldson: History shows 'would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press'

Sam Donaldson: History shows 'would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press'

Former longtime ABC News White House correspondent Sam DonaldsonSamuel (Sam) Andrew DonaldsonMSNBC's Nicolle Wallace says she'll 'gladly' vote for Sanders Former colleague Brit Hume on Sam Donaldson's Bloomberg endorsement: 'Never thought I'd see this' Sam Donaldson pens op-ed endorsing Bloomberg for president MORE on Tuesday denounced President TrumpDonald TrumpFBI says California extremist may have targeted Newsom House Democrat touts resolution to expel Marjorie Taylor Greene from Congress Facebook to dial back political content on platform MORE's "wholesale attack" on the press, saying that history shows "would-be tyrants" invariably try to quash the media. 

"Trump's wholesale attack on the mainstream press is wrong, and it is dangerous," Donaldson, a longtime reporter and news anchor, wrote in a CNN op-ed. "History shows that tyrants and would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press. And that is why the First Amendment to our Constitution specifically forbids government from interfering with the work of the press."

{mosads}Donaldson went on to note that almost every president he covered during his 52 years as a journalist "fundamentally understood and accepted the important role of the press." The one exception, he said, was former President Nixon. 

"Compared to what I see today, my time covering Presidents and their press secretaries was a cakewalk," he wrote. 
 
Donaldson has repeatedly weighed in on matters related to the current relationship between the White House and the press. He said in April that he's never seen a White House press secretary act the way Sarah HuckabeeSarah SandersHouse Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing Sarah Sanders on Trump's reported war dead criticism: 'Those comments didn't happen' Sarah Sanders memoir reportedly says Trump joked she should hook up with Kim Jong Un MORE Sanders has, saying that she deserves a "lifetime achievement Oscar for lying."

"I’ve had the pleasure of working with almost every press secretary beginning with Pierre Salinger in the John F. Kennedy administration. And except for [former press secretary] Ron Ziegler, who lied for Richard Nixon, I’ve never seen anything like this with Sarah SandersSarah SandersHouse Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing Sarah Sanders on Trump's reported war dead criticism: 'Those comments didn't happen' Sarah Sanders memoir reportedly says Trump joked she should hook up with Kim Jong Un MORE," Donaldson said while speaking on CNN

{mosads}Donaldson argued at the time that Sanders's behavior was worse than Ziegler's because Ziegler only lied about whether Nixon tried to cover up the burglary at the Watergate hotel. 

"But if you asked him a question about foreign policy, domestic policy, he would try to say what he thought the facts were, and it would often be truthful," he said. "Sarah Sanders simply lies about everything, taking a cue from her boss."

"She deserves a lifetime achievement Oscar for lying," Donaldson continued. "I don’t know her. I feel a little sorry for her. It’s the boss who does it. She takes the cue from him." 

Sanders has faced increased scrutiny since special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's report disclosed that she misled reporters about former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyHawaii GOP official resigns over now-deleted tweet defending QAnon supporters Biden to keep Wray as FBI director Comey: 'Republican Party has to be burned to the ground' MORE's firing. Sanders had said in May 2017 that "countless" FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey before his dismissal. 

She told investigators she made false statements about the dismissal, attributing them to a "slip of the tongue," according to Mueller's report. 

“I acknowledge that I had a slip of the tongue when I used the word ‘countless’ but it’s not untrue … that a number of both current and former FBI agents agreed with the president,”  Sanders told Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityConservatives lean into warnings on 'wave of censorship' McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism Almost 7 in 10 oppose Trump pardoning himself: poll MORE on the day of the report's release. 

Sanders has been part of President Trump's administration since its first day and has served as press secretary since July 2017. 

-Updated at 3:33 p.m.