Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled that President Trump blocking Twitter users from accessing his @realDonaldTrump account violates their First Amendment rights. Interestingly, the judge declined to order Trump to unblock those users, instead issuing this veiled warning:
“Because no government official is above the law and because all government officials are presumed to follow the law once the judiciary has said what the law is, we must assume that the President … will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional.”
Well, we all know the old adage about what happens when you assume. And we’re pretty well familiar with Donald Trump’s response to people who try to tell him what to do. So, will he unblock any of the users that sued him? And will he refrain from blocking users in the future?
Around the Block
There’s no telling the total number of Twitter accounts the president and his social media team have blocked, nor is it possible for anyone — other than the blocked user and those with access to the president’s account — to tell if a user has been unblocked. Anne Rice, for one, maintains that she remains blocked, over 48 hours after the ruling:
i’m still blocked by Trump. Will have to find out from some other source what he is tweeting today. https://t.co/vLTvsUBjJG
— Anne Rice (@AnneRiceAuthor) May 25, 2018
It’s also not clear what will happen if Trump refuses to obey the court’s ruling. U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald asserted the court’s right to order injunctive relief against a president, i.e., ordering the president to unblock users:
In this case, the intrusion on executive prerogative presented by an injunction directing the unblocking of the individual plaintiffs would be minimal. Any such injunction would not direct the President to execute the laws in a certain way, nor would it mandate that he pursue any substantive policy ends. Even accepting that the President’s blocking decisions in the first instance are discretionary, the duty to unblock — following a holding that such blocking was unconstitutional — would not be, as the President must act in compliance with the Constitution and other laws.
Still, Judge Buchwald decided that to order such action would not be necessary yet, noting “declaratory relief is likely to achieve the same purpose”:
Declaratory judgment is appropriate … and a declaration will therefore
issue: the blocking of the individual plaintiffs from the @realDonaldTrump account because of their expressed political views violates the First Amendment.
And if declaratory relief doesn’t serve that purpose? Can a judge or court really force President Trump to unblock users or refrain from blocking users in the future? That battle has yet to be fought. But knowing Trump, there’s always a fight right around the corner.