Unfortunately, no other American has spent more time, energy and (taxpayer) resources trying to cancel dissent and enforce submission than Trump. Here are just a few of the ways that Trump has used or tried to use the powers of his office to punish critics and perceived enemies:
1. He has weaponized antitrust powers against a media organization whose coverage he dislikes.
Trump repeatedly ordered subordinates to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, which owns CNN. (Disclosure: I am a contributor to CNN.) As the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported last year:
[I]n the late summer of 2017, a few months before the Justice Department filed suit, Trump ordered Gary Cohn, then the director of the National Economic Council, to pressure the Justice Department to intervene. According to a well-informed source, Trump called Cohn into the Oval Office along with John Kelly, who had just become the chief of staff, and said in exasperation to Kelly, “I’ve been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing’s happened! I’ve mentioned it fifty times. And nothing’s happened. I want to make sure it’s filed. I want that deal blocked!”Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, evidently understood that it would be highly improper for a President to use the Justice Department to undermine two of the most powerful companies in the country as punishment for unfavorable news coverage, and as a reward for a competing news organization that boosted him. According to the source, as Cohn walked out of the meeting he told Kelly, “Don’t you f--- dare call the Justice Department. We are not going to do business that way.”
Trump’s presidential campaign also issued a news release in 2016 pledging that he’d block the merger: “AT&T… is now trying to buy Time Warner and thus the wildly anti-Trump CNN. Donald Trump would never approve such a deal.”
2. He has threatened to “revoke” licenses of media organizations whose coverage he dislikes.
3. Since the Federal Communications Commission won’t go along with his instructions to “revoke” media licenses for specific news organizations, Trump has also urged his followers to cancel subscriptions to the cable company that owns the news organization in question.
4. He has weaponized the U.S. Postal Service against the owner of a media organization he dislikes (The Washington Post, which is personally owned by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos).
Trump has made no secret of his desire to use the Postal Service to raise costs for Amazon, even if doing so might ultimately cause more pain for USPS.
For example, as my colleagues Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey reported in 2018, Trump repeatedly urged the postmaster general to double the rates it charges Amazon.
More recently, he said he would not aid the Postal Service unless it quadrupled prices on the company.
5. Trump has allegedly weaponized the government procurement process against the owner of a news organization he doesn’t like (also The Post and Bezos).
According to an October 2019 memoir by a senior aide to former defense secretary Jim Mattis, Trump in 2018 “called and directed Mattis to ‘screw Amazon’ by locking them out of a chance to bid” on a lucrative contract to build the Pentagon’s cloud architecture. When Amazon’s bid was rejected, the company sued and argued that Trump’s public remarks improperly influenced the process. The administration barred Defense Department officials from answering questions in interviews with the department’s inspector general about whether the White House had exerted influence on the procurement process.
6. He has repeatedly accused a TV host he dislikes of murder, with zero evidence.
7. He has fired from one job, and blocked from promotion, a national security official whose speech he dislikes.
After Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified before Congress about Trump’s notorious Ukraine call, Trump had both Vindman and his twin brother, who did not take part in the impeachment proceedings, fired and escorted from the White House grounds. Now the administration has delayed awarding Alexander Vindman a scheduled promotion, alongside hundreds of other officers selected to be promoted to full colonel this year.
8. The president, other government officials and Trump family members have tried to block publication of books critical of the president.
Trump alleged that former national security adviser John Bolton’s book was both untrue and contained classified information. A judge declined to block release of the book as the Justice Department had requested.
Separately, Trump’s family filed a petition asking that the president’s niece, Mary Trump, and her publisher be blocked from publishing her memoir on the grounds that the book violated a confidentiality agreement; a New York court has allowed the publisher to continue distributing copies of the book in preparation for its planned July 28 publication.
9. Trump has demanded pledges of allegiance to him personally and blocked from jobs people who have ever said anything critical of him.
10. He has encouraged or tacitly condoned violence against protesters, journalists and dissidents.
“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, okay? Just knock the hell — I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise,” then-candidate Trump said at a rally in 2016:
In 2018, he cheered on a congressman for assaulting a reporter:
And of course he did nothing after American protesters were assaulted by Turkish agents on American soil.
11. He gassed peaceful protesters outside the White House so he could stage a photo op with a Bible.
Quite literally — and forcibly — canceling dissent.