Muting, not blocking followers on Twitter, might end suit, Judge tells Trump

Adjust Comment Print

Having heard the arguments, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald offered Trump some advice, according to the Associated Press: Just mute people, instead. Seemingly contradicting that message, the White House officials have said that the president's tweets should be regarded as "official statements".

Buchwald is overseeing Knight Institute v. Trump, a Columbia University lawsuit against Trump for allegedly infringing upon Americans' First Amendment rights by blocking them on Twitter. Both sides, though, indicated initial enthusiasm for the suggestion that the president mute, not block, certain users.

The judge said Trump could simply elect not to see unwanted tweets by "muting" accounts.


Buchwald kept coming back to muting as a compromise that wouldn't give critics equal access to the president through Twitter and wouldn't let Trump keep them completely away from his account, but would give both sides part of what they wanted.

DOJ lawyer Michael Baer countered this morning that the town hall comparison isn't on point, given that blocked Twitter users can continue to interact with other Trump followers. "I don't think it's a flawless solution, but it's far less restrictive", Fallow said. "I never thought that Trump would be reading my tweets".

"It might be better to resolve it in a practical fashion", she said.

Former Trump Aide Announces He Won't Testify Before Mueller Grand Jury
But later on Monday night, Nunberg told Associated Press that, in the end, he's likely "going to end up cooperating with them". Nunberg was an early Trump adviser, but they parted ways early in the campaign. "He was talking about it a week before...

"Once it is a public forum, you can't shut somebody up because you don't like what they're saying", Buchwald said.

Trump's tweets, which cover everything from public policy to what he sees on television and attacks on Democrats, are seen by millions of people and often draw tens of thousands of comments each.

It can not be the case that any personal medium of communication created or maintained by public officials in their personal capacity is subject to an all-or-nothing state action analysis when that person later becomes an officer of the state.

Fallow also rejected the notion that the @realdonaldtrump account is "purely personal". The judge's suggestion that Trump mute people, rather than block them, would likely protect him from further lawsuits of this nature. "This is an official account and it is being used as a forum for speech".

Baer and other attorneys for the government left the courthouse briskly, opting not to stop and answer questions from the media.

"We've said from the outset that muting would be a less restrictive alternative than blocking, so we were pleased the judge raised this possibility", Jaffer said. The suit argues that Trump's Twitter account is a "public forum" under First Amendment law, and that blocking critical voices imposes a viewpoint-based restriction that violates the First Amendment.