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Literary group sues Trump, alleges free speech stifling

Published:Tuesday | October 16, 2018 | 9:43 AM
President Donald Trump raises his fist to chants of "USA" during a visit Monday, October 15, 2018, to Lynn Haven, Florida. (Michael Snyder/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP).

NEW YORK (AP) — In the three years that Donald Trump rocketed from candidate to president, the PEN American Center has criticised him as a bully, an autocrat, a user of hate speech and an enemy of free expression. It has published studies, organized petitions and established a Press Freedom Incentive Fund.

Now the literary and human rights organization, which includes thousands of authors and journalists, is taking a more direct step: PEN is suing the president.

In a suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, the center, also known as PEN America, alleges that “official acts” by Trump have “violated the First Amendment and his oath to uphold the Constitution.”

PEN cites such examples as reports that Trump was meddling in the proposed merger of AT&T and CNN, a frequent target of Trump’s anger (The Justice Department has sought to block the merger).

The suit also notes Trump’s comments on Washington Post owner and founder Jeff Bezos. Trump, unhappy with the Post’s coverage, has threatened antitrust action against Amazon and suggested raising its shipping costs.

According to the Post, he has pressured U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rates. (Last week, the United States Postal Service proposed some hikes for 2019, among them increases which would affect Amazon. Shipping costs have been raised several times over the past decade).

“President Trump has First Amendment rights and is free to criticise the press vehemently, but he is not free to use the power and authority of the United States government to punish and stifle it,” the complaint reads.

An email sent to a White House spokeswoman shortly before the suit was filed was not immediately returned.

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