Ann Turner
August 6, 2023

Turley: Trump indictment would derail first amendment if it succeeds

Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley has voiced concerns that the First Amendment could be in jeopardy due to the recent indictment of former President Donald Trump.

As reported on Fox News, Turley, a professor of law and a regular contributor to the news platform, has raised serious questions about the implications of the indictment.

The charges, which are connected to the 2020 election interference and the events of January 6 at the Capitol, were filed against Trump this week.

Freedom of speech under threat?

Turley's main concern is that the indictment essentially accuses Trump of disseminating false information about the 2020 election results.

This, he argues, could pose a significant risk to the First Amendment, which safeguards the freedom of speech.

The indictment alleges that Trump consciously made false claims about the election outcome. Turley counters this by stating that if Trump truly believes he was victorious, then the indictment would be fundamentally flawed.

The wider implications of the indictment

The indictment also endeavors to show that Trump was cognizant of his defeat in the election.

It refers to multiple instances where Trump was advised about his loss. Turley contends that Trump's search for individuals who endorsed his belief of victory is not a criminal act.

He further cautions that if the charges against Trump are upheld, it could establish a perilous precedent.

It would essentially give the government the authority to decide what is true and what is not.

Constitutional dilemmas raised

Turley points out a "constitutional problem" with the attempt to criminalize lies.

He cites a 2012 Supreme Court case, United States v. Alvarez, which determined that making lies a criminal offense is unconstitutional. The court acknowledged that such a ruling would endow the government with "broad censorial power unprecedented in this court’s cases or in our constitutional tradition."

Even if the Special Counsel can demonstrate that Trump lied, Turley suggests there would still be constitutional obstacles to making his false statements a criminal offense.

The case's future

Turley concludes by expressing skepticism that the Supreme Court would endorse the criminalization of false political speech, even if Judge Tanya Chutkan supports the special counsel's case.

As he puts it, "the Supreme Court would likely balk at the criminalization of false political speech."

The recent indictment against former President Trump raises substantial concerns about its potential impact on the First Amendment. The case could establish a dangerous precedent, giving the government the power to determine what is true and what is false.

The attempt to criminalize lies also presents a constitutional issue, as it contradicts a previous Supreme Court ruling.

The future of the case remains uncertain, with doubts about the Supreme Court's position on the matter.

What it means

  • Recent indictment against former President Trump could potentially undermine the First Amendment.
  • The indictment accuses Trump of spreading misinformation about the 2020 election results.
  • If the charges are successful, it could grant the government the power to determine what is true and what is not.
  • A 2012 Supreme Court case ruled that criminalizing lies is unconstitutional.
  • There are doubts about the Supreme Court's stance on the criminalization of false political speech.

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