MSNBC’s Melber Paints Trump as Danger to First Amendment

MSNBC’s Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber was hosting on All In Tuesday night when he smeared President-elect Donald Trump as a threat to the First Amendment. Melber’s fear stemmed from an incident that occurred over the weekend where Trump kicked author Harry Hurt III off of one his golf courses, “Because of a grudge over Hurt's 1993 biography of Trump, Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.

Our next story is about something very small which could also be very big,” Melber announced at the start of the segment, “It is about Donald Trump's petty payback but also about the prospects for free speech in a Trump era.” MSNBC’s legal expert twisted the case to fallaciously argue it meant Trump didn’t understand the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protections:

Now, it's legal for a private citizen to remove someone from private property. But it is not legal to eject someone from government property for their views and it's not usually legal for government law enforcement to target or escort anyone based on their views. That is called viewpoint discrimination and the Supreme Court has held the government may not pick and choose the speakers it likes. So if Donald Trump took this same golf approach on government property or with his government security detail, it would be a real problem.

He leaned on reports that Trump would be bringing members of his private security detail to Washington, DC as evidence to prove his non sequitur.

But since he has never served before, we don't know whether he realizes that while the president has many extra powers, the president also has strong limitations,” he continued to speculate. Shockingly, he admitted, “The first amendment does not apply to the owners of the Trump International Golf Club, the first amendment is a limit on the government!

Where was this truth when Christian bakers were exercising their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and association?

Melber eventually brought on Hurt himself to inquire about the incident. Denigrating the president-elect’s intelligence, Melber asked, “In your view, does he have an understanding of why this kind of conduct, while legal on a private golf course, would be illegal if he did it on government property or when he is president?

Hurt used the opportunity to deride Trump by tying him to former Congressman Joseph McCarthy, by way of his lawyer Roy Cohn:

One of the biggest influences besides his own father, Fred Trump, when Donald Trump was coming up, was his attorney Roy Cohn. So I think that there's probably some gaps in understanding about what he legally may do and not do, but I also think that he learned smear tactics and Bill of Rights violation tactics from a master who was Roy Cohn…

The conclusion arrived at by Melber was complete speculation and was derived from an absolute disdain for Trump himself. He even stated that “we don't know” about how Trump would behave and act as president, but the only outcome painted by Melber was a negative one. Is such speculation actually news, or is it a more refined form of “fake news?” 

Transcript below:

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MSNBC
All In
January 3, 2017
8:50:39 PM Eastern

ARI MELBER: All right. Our next story is about something very small which could also be very big. It is about Donald Trump's petty payback but also about the prospects for free speech in a Trump era. On Friday, Harry Hurt, a writer went golfing with billion their industrialist David Koch and a few friends at the Trump International Golf Club at West Palm Beach and Hurt ran into Donald Trump himself. Hurt says Trump then kicked him off of the property because of a grudge over Hurt's 1993 biography of Trump Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.

Hurt says several security guards escorted him off the property after he spoke directly to Trump. Now, it's legal for a private citizen to remove someone from private property. But it is not legal to eject someone from government property for their views and it's not usually legal for government law enforcement to target or escort anyone based on their views. That is called viewpoint discrimination and the Supreme Court has held the government may not pick and choose the speakers it likes.

So if Donald Trump took this same golf approach on government property or with his government security detail, it would be a real problem. And even if you view this incident as just some kind of petty sideshow from over the weekend, the fact is that, in 17 days from now, if Trump did this on government property or with government security it would be illegal. The Secret Service's mission is to protect the president's safety, not patrol protesters or biographers or whatever.

But keep this incident in mind as you look at the reports here from Politico that, unlike past presidents, Trump is planning to continue employing some of his private security detail while president. A Trump spokesperson described that report as “complete nonsense and blowing it out of proportion.”

Now many Trump voters saw his lack of government experience as an asset. But since he has never served before, we don't know whether he realizes that while the president has many extra powers, the president also has strong limitations. The first amendment does not apply to the owners of the Trump International Golf Club, the first amendment is a limit on the government! And starting January 20, that means the first amendment will apply to a lot of things Donald Trump does. Is he ready? Joining me now is Harry Hurt, author of The Lost Tycoon, The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump.

MELBER: You look at Donald Trump in this interaction. In your view, does he have an understanding of why this kind of conduct, while legal on a private golf course, would be illegal if he did it on government property or when he is president? Is he ready to take on those limitations?

HARRY HURT III: Well, I don't think that he is, Ari. And here's why. You as a legal scholar, of course, remember the McCarthy hearings back in the '50s and the lead attorney for Joe McCarthy was a fellow named Roy Cohn. The biggest-- One of the biggest influences besides his own father, Fred Trump, when Donald Trump was coming up, was his attorney Roy Cohn. So I think that there's probably some gaps in understanding about what he legally may do and not do, but I also think that he learned smear tactics and Bill of Rights violation tactics from a master who was Roy Cohn…

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