Even the president has a constitutional right to free speech

Even the president has a constitutional right to free speech
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If we believe the rhetoric that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job MORE's critics regularly advance, the First Amendment is under assault by the White House. Former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Trump: I believe Obama would have gone to war with North Korea Intel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with Trump MORE has argued that, through Trump's revocation of Brennan's security clearance, Trump deprived him of the applicable constitutional protections. Soon after losing the benefit, a letter from many more government security officials agreed with Brennan’s characterization calling the action by the president, “an attempt to stifle free speech.”

Despite these alarms from those in the intelligence community, and the “never Trump” pundits on the cable news shows, there is no need to panic. The free speech argument they advance is hardly intelligent. Moreover, it is completely ridiculous. If anything, having a security clearance is a hindrance, because government agencies review and approve any commentary authored by those who hold such clearances.


The power move by the president, and the likely additional clearance removals to come, is completely within his authority. Further, the action elevated Brennan’s profile and provided an even greater platform for his ongoing criticism of President Trump — hardly silencing him.


It is truly concerning that so many government officials have voiced outage citing that Brennan’s First Amendment rights were in any way compromised. In the hours after losing his security clearance, Brennan appeared on many cable news programs and published an op-ed in the Sunday edition of The New York Times. These forums gave Brennan — someone who claimed the president is guilty of treason — and his message an opportunity to influence millions of people.

Many of these criticisms (and rebuttals from President Trump) were made via social media. As a regular Twitter user, I look at social media as an excellent forum to express opinions, ideas, and even argue. Millions of us do — and even engage the president directly on the platform.

As the security clearance debate loses steam in the news cycle, a new free speech criticism is rising to add further noise to the ongoing resistance movement — specifically an attempt to turn the tables and silence Trump by regulating his Twitter account.

In late May a federal judge in New York, Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that President Trump and moreover, any government official, are prevented from blocking users, regardless of the comments they make. In a surprising move she claimed that by blocking users their rights to free speech is violated.

What about the president’s rights to free speech? What about mine or yours? Must we allow others to stifle our rights by exercising theirs? Simply put, this selective enforcement and application of the Constitution is dangerous.

Just like in the situation with Brennan, the only impact with the president blocking Twitter comments is further criticism. It is a risk he is willing to take to promote his message, success, and complaints that reach the American people directly. It is his right to use his forum to do it too.

Someone had to do something about this continued assault on Trump’s rights (and our right to listen), so the Coolidge Reagan Foundation (for which I serve as chairman) filed a brief defending the president's use of Twitter.

As we state in the brief:

This isn’t about the right to speak in a public forum, but rather to use the equivalent of President Trump’s Christmas card list ... President Trump is entitled to block users from replying to his tweets because they are not entitled to take advantage of his mailing list to transmit their derogatory messages to his followers.

Free speech is incredibly important to all of us. Before accusing others of violating the right, Brennan and those seeking to regulate Trump’s Twitter commentary should realize they are exercising the very rights that they hope to steal from the president.

Everyone, including the president of the United States, should have the right to follow (with permission of course) or block anyone on Twitter. We all have the same rights (equal rights) to advocate a message and work to influence opinions in the marketplace of ideas. Brennan and the Twitter trolls have these rights too — and are exercising them, aggressively — without a security clearance, or accesses to a Twitter feed — is hardly a threat as others would want you to believe.

Shaun McCutcheon is the successful plaintiff in the 2014 Supreme Court case McCutcheon v. FEC; chairman of the Coolidge Reagan Foundation; and an Alabama-based electrical engineer.