Trump Asked FBI Chief To Jail Journalists: Comey Memo

Fact checked

A memo written by former FBI director James Comey documenting a conversation he had with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in February has been shared with reporters and Comey’s close friends.

During a private conversation President Trump allegedly told FBI director James Comey that he should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information.

The revelation was buried in the memo dealing with other revelations on how Trump asked Comey to shut down the federal investigation into national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation, according to the New York Times.

Comments ‘cross a dangerous line,’ said Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. ‘But no president gets to jail journalists‘.

JournalistsBy Nadia Prupis:

Press freedom advocates on Wednesday slammed President Donald Trump over revelations that he had asked former FBI director James Comey to consider putting journalists in jail—a startling detail that was buried inside Tuesday’s bombshell New York Times report that Trump had asked Comey to drop his investigation against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates,” Times reporter Michael Schmidt wrote.

The news quickly raised alarm bells.

“The comments attributed to President Trump cross a dangerous line,” Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said Wednesday. “But no president gets to jail journalists. Reporters are protected by judges and juries, by a congress that relies on them to stay informed, and by a Justice Department that for decades has honored the role of a free press by spurning prosecutions of journalists for publishing leaks of classified information.”

Schmidt’s revelations also follow the Washington Post separately reporting that part of the reason Trump abruptly fired Comey last week was that he believed the FBI was not doing enough to investigate the leaks coming out of his administration.

As the Guardian’s Trevor Timm noted Wednesday, the president “was even insisting at one point that the FBI needed to go after leaks about non-classified information (which is not a crime by anyone’s standards).”

The comments seem to reflect the Trump administration’s leanings toward authoritarianism.

While the White House under former President Barack Obama became known for its aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, officials never went after the outlets that published the information. Former Attorney General Eric Holder pledged in 2014 that he would not jail journalists for doing their jobs—but Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to make a similar promise during his confirmation hearings.

Timm continued:

It’s bad enough for press freedom that Trump is so determined to go after whistleblowers and sources within his administration who are attempting to get the truth to the American public. When their sources are investigated, journalists face the prospect of surveillance or subpoenas to testify and it can inhibit important investigative reporting. But directly prosecuting journalists is an unprecedented step that should send a chill down the spine of any American who values the first amendment—no matter their political persuasion.

And Peter Certo writes at OtherWords, “Was this an impulsive request? Not likely. In fact, the administration appears to have been laying the groundwork for this for some time.” Certo notes the administration’s antagonistic response to WikiLeaks once the organization published hacked CIA documents.

The revelations also come at an ironic time, as Trump hosted strongman Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Washington, D.C., while Erdoğan’s bodyguards attacked protesters outside the embassy. The Committee to Protect Journalists described Trump’s meeting with the Turkish president as part of a “shameful trifecta” that followed meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Still, the Reporters Committee’s Brown said, “[c]omments such as these, emerging in the way they did, only remind us that every day public servants are reaching out to reporters to ensure the public is aware of the risks today to rule of law in this country. The president’s remarks should not intimidate the press but inspire it.”

Nadia Prupis is a staff writer at Common Dreams.


  1. Congress doesn’t need the press to do their jobs. Journalists are a joke anymore. They carried water for the Obama crime admin. And harshly treated whistleblowers. And besides Comey writing his perspective after a meeting is a joke. I can write anything I want and say it is true without anyone questioning me to the truth of it is a joke.

  2. There is no other way. The war propaganda and lies the media have been using to manipulate the population to accept genocide and war on behalf of their owners the warprofiteers in the military industrial complex have cost millions of people their lives. Western media are not free press but a sinister mindcontrol operation complicit in the enslavement of the many by the few. Wage and debt is used to enslave the people like an invisible whip in the hands of the slavemasters.

    Obama jailed journalists who threaten the masters but if Trump went after the manipulators I would support that. Media secret services and banks are the real enemies of the people of this world. So far Trump seems willing to challenge 2 of those components. Maybe Trump is the real deal.

  3. Frankly journalists should be jailed for leaking sensitive classified information or for spreading false statements intentionally to deceive the public. I am really sick of this fake news.

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