Reporters received an ominous message by William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General during his confirmation hearing Tuesday.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked him about his views on protecting a free press, Raw Story reports.
“I want to ask you something that I asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” Klobuchar said. “If you’re confirmed, will the Justice Department jail reporters for doing their jobs?”
After hesitating for several seconds, Barr responded.
“I can conceive of situations where as a last resort and a news organization has run through a red flag or something like that, knows that they’re putting out stuff that will hurt the country, there might be a situation where someone would be held in contempt.”
Barr’s answer is “disturbing,” notes Spencer Ackerman, who reports on national security for The Daily Beast.
Disturbing answer by Barr on jailing reporters. Says he can conceive of circumstances where "as a last resort" & where a news organization "knows they are putting stuff out where they’re hurting the country," which puts the legal onus on publishers.
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) January 15, 2019
Klobuchar’s questioning was prompted, in part, after reports surfaced that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office was researching ways to revise Justice Department guidelines that specify how prosecutors can obtain the records of journalists, Business Insider reports. The senator asked the question in reference to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was a columnist for The Washington Post.
As it stands, thanks to the First Amendment, there are shield laws in the U.S. that protect journalists and their sources, Britannica.com notes. These laws have been put in place to protect unnamed sources who might otherwise not give a journalist crucial information if their name was revealed. These laws are also meant to protect a journalist’s freedom of speech.
Khashoggi, a well-known journalist, and critic of Saudi Arabia’s government was murdered inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, last October, BBC News reports.
Trump has regularly been contentious with the press and there’s been plenty of verbal fist-fights between the president and reporters. In one such instance, the Trump White House revoked the press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta. A federal judge subsequently ruled Acosta’s credentials must be reinstated.
Watch Klobuchar question Barr in the video below:
Featured image by CBS News via Twitter