Constitution Protects Free Press

Ava Charlesworth, Staff Writer

President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the anonymous New York Times opinion-editorial is an act of treason — and his insistence that the newspaper reveal its source — is an affront the basic principle of a free press.

On September 5, the New York Times published the now infamous op-ed titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” The Times claims the editorial, which describes a coalition of cabinet members and White House staff working against President Trump, was written by an anonymous senior ranking official.

The bombshell publication gave rise to a serious question: Is this a coup?


Merriam-Webster defines a coup d’etat as “the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group,” the key phrases being “violent” and “alteration of an existing government.”

The alleged resistance in the White House is not a coup.

However, borrowing the term coined by American political scientist Gene Sharp, many news outlets are considering this resistance a “soft coup”, or a coup d’etat without the use of violence. But this is also a misused term when one considers the intentions of the article’s author and the alleged resistance group.

In the op-ed, the author states that their goal is not to undermine the administration or any policies proposed by the administration. The article states that the “1st duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”

There is no coup, or “soft coup”, occurring in the White House. The resistance is not attempting to alter our democracy, system of economics, or even expel the president from office. Distaste for the democratically elected leader of our nation is not treason.

Article III of the Constitution defines treason in the US as levying war against the nation, or aiding and embedding known enemies of the state: by law, the US respects the rights of all citizens to carry their own beliefs and opinions, not just the president.

The only thing in danger here is the last shred of President Trump’s dignity.

The whole ordeal brings to mind the 1971 scandal, caused by the publishing of government documents regarding the Vietnam War, in which the New York Times was temporarily banned from printing the information. The subsequent Supreme Court ruling concluded that the government could not bar the press from publishing the papers because there was no proof of a national security risk.

It is a reminder that the freedom of the press is protected by our Constitution, and may only be compromised when that freedom threatens the security of our nation.

Like Nixon did during his humiliating final days in office, Trump is simply attempting to deflect attention away from his unscrupulous and incompetent behavior.