Editorials

Our sensitive president tries to trample the Constitution

By the Observer editorial board

Donald Trump regularly uses Twitter to criticize, but his administration is trying to unmask a critic of him.
Donald Trump regularly uses Twitter to criticize, but his administration is trying to unmask a critic of him. AP

It’s no secret that Donald Trump hates criticism. It’s no secret he obsesses over slights, real and imagined. But crumpling up the Constitution over a critic whose name is secret? That’s what the Trump administration apparently tried to do last month, and it’s something that should send a shiver through anyone who treasures free speech.

In a lawsuit filed this week in federal district court in San Francisco, Twitter accused the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of illegally trying to demand records containing the identity of a Trump administration critic. That user created the account @ALT_USCIS, which has regularly been critical of Trump and the administration.

@ALT_USCIS, which has almost 90,000 followers, is one of several “alt” accounts that say they represent views of anti-Trump officials working in federal agencies. @ALT_USCIS had sent out 8,881 tweets as of Friday morning. That’s probably about 8,881 too many for our sensitive president.

So on March 14, the ironically titled Office of Professional Responsibility decided it wanted to unmask the offending tweeter. In a summons sent to Twitter, the agency demanded @ALT_USCIS account information “in connection with an investigation or inquiry” into the illegal importation of merchandise.

Twitter’s lawyers, however, say that the government refused to explain how the account might be connected to imported merchandise – a good question considering that nowhere on the account is there any mention of merchandise bought, sold or imported.

Twitter suspects something else, as should everyone: That the summons was about suppressing free speech.

Update: Trump’s administration pulled the demand Friday after a flurry of embarrassing headlines. What’s chilling, though, is that a message has been sent: The president may stop at nothing to get back at his critics. What’s frightening is that this president has all of the government at his disposal.

What he doesn’t have is a different Constitution than ours.

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