President Donald Trump came close to rewriting the First Amendment while speaking to the kennel’s worth of right-wing lapdogs, trolls, conspiracy theorists and media hackers he convened at the White House Thursday for his “Social Media Summit.”
Saying that Google, Facebook and Twitter were guilty of “discriminating against conservatives,” Trump vowed that “all regulatory and legislative solutions” available to the federal government would be used against the companies “to protect free speech.”
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Rather than defining free speech in positive terms, Trump explained what free speech isn’t. “To me free speech is not when you see something good and then you purposefully write bad,” Trump said. “To me that’s very dangerous speech and you become angry at it. But that’s not free speech.”
If Trump thinks negative and critical commentary don’t qualify as free speech because they’re “dangerous” and make him “angry,” he’s reversed the First Amendment, which was designed to protect the right to say bad things about “good” things. It’s easy to imagine that Trump’s complete revision of the First Amendment would define freedom of religion as the right to attend a church of Trump’s choice, that the right to assembly was reserved only for people attending MAGA rallies, and that the freedom of the press belongs to those who praise Trump.
Following Trump’s idea to its logical extremes, what would the Bill of Rights look like if he applied the same judicial oomph to the other original amendments to the Constitution? Rewriting the Second Amendment to Trump’s satisfaction could be done with just a few word changes. Rather than having a right to bear arms, the Trump rewrite would make gun ownership a duty. This isn’t far from Trump’s real-life position. In a June interview, he all but called for universal armament when he said that unarmed civilians were “sitting ducks.”
The Third Amendment, which forbids the military from using citizens’ homes as crash pads without consent, is the least controversial of all the amendments. Trump, who worships the military, could own the libs with a rewrite stating that the soldiers working on the Mexican border must lodge in nearby private residences. Homeowners who find themselves overcrowded by their military lodgers would be allowed to temporarily reside in our luxurious and spacious migrant detention centers.
Given the fury he directed at special counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI for their investigations, I imagine that Trump would fork the Fourth Amendment into a two-parter. His enemies would have no protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to hide. But searches directed against obviously innocent people like Trump and his associates would be forbidden. Remember his wailing in April 2018, after the FBI served a lawful search warrant on his then-attorney, Michael Cohen? Trump characterized the search, which helped secure a guilty plea from Cohen, as worse than a break-in. “It’s an attack on our country,” Trump said. “It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”
Trump’s Fifth Amendment makeover would likely toss the “takings” clause. He’s a long-term abuser of eminent domain; he believes that property owners have no right to keep their homes and businesses when he wants to buy them. But what to do about the right against self-incrimination enshrined in the amendment? Keep it as is? Maybe the best way out would be to privatize self-incrimination rights by allowing individuals to sign binding non-disclosure agreements with themselves.
The Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial would be reversed, informed by Trump’s history of dragging his feet in civil cases. Trump loves to sue, and because he’s such a deadbeat, his contractors tend to sue him back. The way Trump sees it, the longer the litigation, the greater chance his opponent will back down. In the famous Tesoro case, Trump’s attorney told architect Andrew Tesoro that he might win the lawsuit he had filed against Trump but the mogul would make certain the case would last so long that he’d go bankrupt in the process.
The Seventh Amendment, which guarantees civil jury trials in federal court, would probably attract no interest from Trump. But the Eighth, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment would be trash-canned. He’s a proponent of torture, water boarding, and other methods of “enhanced interrogation,” saying it “works.” In 1989, he called for the death penalty after a group of teenagers was charged with a Central Park rape. (The teenagers were later exonerated.)
I will leave Trumpian reformation of the Ninth Amendment, which Judge Robert Bork once compared to an impenetrable “inkblot,” to legal scholars. The Ninth might be the only Bill of Rights amendment in dire need of actual freshening, Trump or no Trump. It’s unlikely that Trump would take issue with the Tenth, which establishes the concept of federalism. So instead of rewriting the last two amendments, the unshackled Trump would probably award himself the wild card of an additional amendment to the Bill of Rights. Its wording: “If an incumbent president loses office in a re-election campaign, he shall not be removed from the White House without his consent.”
Maybe a 12th Amendment prohibiting impeachment? Send your Trumpian amendments via email to [email protected]. My email alerts disagree with Trump’s statement that “nobody ever mentions Article II” of the Constitution—my Twitter feed can’t stop talking about it. My RSS feed pines for the Articles of Confederation.