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Trump’s Hollow Free-Speech Defense 

Aug 14, 2023 Richard K. Sherwin

In a liberal democracy, deliberately under­mining the elec­to­ral sys­tem is one of the gravest harms imagi­nable. The idea that such be­ha­vior would be pro­tec­ted by the right to free speech is contra­dicted by legal pre­ce­dent, com­mon sense, and the very structure of the demo­cra­tic order itself.

NEW YORK – In response to the federal indict­ment accu­sing Donald Trump of con­spi­ring to over­turn the 2020 US pre­si­den­tial elec­tion and re­main in of­fice, Trump’s lawyers and defen­ders argue that he was merely exer­ci­sing his right to free speech under the First Amend­ment of the US Consti­tution. To under­stand the case, one there­fore must under­stand where free speech ends and cri­mi­nal fraud be­gins. The fact that Trump’s actions con­sisted of words does not make them consti­tu­tio­nally pro­tected. On the con­trary, nume­rous crimes imply li­mits on speech. For example, it is il­legal to lie to law-en­force­ment offi­cials or to a jury, and to mis­re­pre­sent a pro­duct as safe when it isn’t. You may not in­ten­tio­nally in­cite im­mi­nent vio­lence, knowingly de­fame some­one’s re­pu­ta­tion, or re­pre­sent mi­nors in sexually ex­pli­cit ways. These and other in­for­ma­tion-limi­ting laws exist for good rea­son: they pro­tect so­ciety from signi­ficant harms.

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Posted by Wilfried Allé Thursday, August 24, 2023 2:18:00 PM
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