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Accosting Acosta: will president pay political price for banning CNN reporter?

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  • WASHINGTON — One dramatic White House expulsion might have gotten much of the attention Thursday, but there’s been another that free-speech advocates say must not be ignored: the banning of CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

    The network’s chief White House correspondent and frequent Donald Trump foil had his media pass revoked Wednesday after a remarkable 90-minute news conference in the East Room that saw the president engage in several heated exchanges with reporters, all while an aide struggled to manage their access to a wireless microphone.

    Acosta was holding the microphone, trying to ask a follow-up question, while the president was calling on a different reporter. The aide tried to take it away and Acosta resisted, briefly touching her on the arm as he did.

    “We will never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a series of tweets. “The White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.”

    Acosta responded to the Twitter thread with a single sentence: “This is a lie.”

    Trump’s combative relationship with the media in general, and CNN in particular, has been a fixture of his time in federal politics, fuelling support from a grassroots, blue-collar base that cheers his descriptions of unfriendly reporters as “enemies of the people” and their work as “fake news.”

    But revoking the credentials a journalist needs to do his or her job of holding the government to account is dangerously close to a violation of the U.S. Constitution, said journalism scholar Frank LoMonte.

    “The First Amendment forbids punitive action for constitutionally protected expression, and asking aggressive questions of an elected official is certainly within the protection of the First Amendment,” said LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida.

    It might not be on the same level as firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which the president also did Wednesday. But LoMonte said there’s little doubt that Trump is trying to delegitimize media coverage that doesn’t mesh with his administration’s preferred political narrative.

    “It’s completely fair game for a politician to say he doesn’t think a newspaper or a TV station treats him fairly. The First Amendment applies to Donald Trump, too,” he said.

    “But when a president repeatedly declares that information provided by news organizations is not to be trusted and that government pronouncements are the only trustworthy source of information, that’s crossing a red line.”

    The New York Times urged the White House to reconsider Thursday in a column by the newspaper’s editorial board headlined, “Let Jim Acosta do his job.”

    “Mr. Trump is not likely to temper his rhetoric,” it concludes. “But those he listens to … should try to impress on him the danger of confounding loyalty to Donald Trump with loyalty to the constitution and to democracy.”

    The White House has never before revoked a “hard pass” as a consequence of a reporter doing his or her job. Richard Nixon came close after Washington Post revelations about the Watergate scandal, banning the newspaper from all events except for press briefings.

    Trump, on the other hand, has been trying to block reporters since before he became president. During his 2016 campaign, a number of outlets were shut out by the then-Republican nominee, including newspapers in Idaho and New Hampshire, as well as online outlets like the Huffington Post, Politico and BuzzFeed.

    The White House Correspondents’ Association denounced the decision to revoke Acosta’s White House access, calling it unacceptable and disproportionate to the purported offence. The international Committee to Protect Journalists did the same and called on the administration to restore his credentials.

    And the move sparked fresh public interest in an online petition being circulated by Media Matters for America, a non-profit media watchdog, that calls on other members of the association to show solidarity to any correspondent banned or blacklisted by the U.S. president. More than 333,000 people have signed the petition.

    It’s not the role of working journalists to do battle with the White House, which is a job for the countless advocacy organizations that work on behalf of a free press, LoMonte said. Indeed, he warned, to do so would risk validating the president’s enemy-of-the-people narrative.

    “It’s a bad look for working beat reporters to abandon their reporting role and jump into the arena,” he said. 

    “The whole reason the president likes to push the buttons of journalists by personally insulting them is that he’s hoping to create a narrative that journalists are at war with him. The worst thing a journalist can do is take that bait and enter into combat.”  

    In Canada, where reporters don’t get routine access to the Prime Minister’s Office, media credentials to access Parliament Hill — more akin to the U.S. Congress than the White House — are managed by the parliamentary press gallery, not the PMO.

    “The Canadian parliamentary press gallery opposes the arbitrary cancellation of a reporter’s accreditation as an unjustifiable limit on media access to a democratically elected government and a limit on the free press,” president Philippe-Vincent Foisy said in a statement.

    Added former Liberal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy, who watched the Acosta encounter play out on live television: “It was the most probably cynical ruse I’ve ever seen a politician use for electoral gain.

    “It’s the big lie,” Axworthy continued. “If you read any standard political-science texts about the rise of authoritarianism, it starts with the big lie.”

    Canadian journalists are no strangers to political efforts to impede their work, or finding that demonstrations of solidarity can be used to attack their objectivity.

    “You won’t believe what the press gallery just did in Ottawa,” the Conservatives told supporters in a 2013 fundraising email after the government refused to allow reporters — only photographers and TV cameras — to cover one of then-prime minister Stephen Harper’s caucus speeches.

    Most outlets chose to boycott Harper’s speech, instead ending up in the New Democrats’ caucus room when the NDP made a show of welcoming them with open arms.

    “We knew they wouldn’t give us fair coverage,” the Conservative email read, “but this is a new low for the Ottawa media elite.”

    Liberals, too, have played the other side of the field for their political advantage. Leader Justin Trudeau made a show of taking media questions at length during his successful 2015 election campaign, an effort to set up a contrast with the notoriously media-wary Harper.

    — With files from Mike Blanchfield in Ottawa

    — Follow James McCarten on Twitter @CdnPressStyle

    James McCarten, The Canadian Press



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    MPs continue voting marathon as Tories protest shutdown of Wilson-Raybould motion

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  • OTTAWA — Members of Parliament are continuing their marathon voting session as opposition parties protest the Trudeau government’s efforts to shut down any further investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair.

    The Liberal majority shot down a Conservative motion calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to let former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould testify more fully about her allegation that she was improperly pressured to drop a criminal prosecution of the Montreal-based engineering giant.

    The motion was defeated by a vote of 161-134.

    That set the stage for a Conservative-sponsored filibuster Wednesday night, requiring 257 separate votes on items in the government’s spending estimates.

    Former Treasury Board president Jane Philpott is adding more fuel to the fire in an interview with Maclean’s magazine.

    She says in the interview that there’s “much more to the story that should be told.”

    Philpott resigned from cabinet over the government’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin controversy earlier this month.

    Since any vote involving government spending is automatically considered a confidence vote, Liberals were required to be out in force to avoid potential defeat of the government.

    The voting could theoretically last 36 hours, but the Conservatives have only to keep it going until just after 10 a.m. today to scrub the remainder of the parliamentary day.

     

    The Canadian Press


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    ‘It has to send a message:’ Broncos families await sentencing for truck driver

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  • Kevin Matechuk says he will never, never forgive the semi driver who caused the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

    Matechuk’s 19-year-old son Layne of Colonsay, Sask., is still coping with a brain injury he suffered in the collision last April. The young man’s recovery is expected to be a long one.

    The trucker who blew through a stop sign and caused the crash, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary, is to be sentenced in Melfort, Sask., on Friday.

    “I know he purposely didn’t go out to kill all those people but he did … run that stop sign,” Matechuk said recently from the family’s temporary home in Saskatoon.

    “It was his fault.”

    Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured when the transport truck drove into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus at a rural Saskatchewan intersection.

    Court heard that Sidhu went by four signs warning about the upcoming intersection before he came up to an oversized stop sign with a flashing light. His lawyer told court Sidhu was an inexperienced driver distracted by a flapping tarp on the back of his load.

    Sidhu, 30, pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous driving and apologized in court. The Crown has asked that he serve 10 years in prison. The defence did not propose a specific sentence but said other cases point to between 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years.

    Family members submitted 90 victim impact statements during an emotional sentencing hearing in January. Some said they forgive Sidhu, while others said they are too angry.

    “It’s funny how the wide range of different people feel and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” said Matechuk.

    Melanie Smith of Leduc, Alta., whose 20-year-old son Tyler was also injured, said she’ll be glad to have the court case over with.

    “We’re content about how it turned out with him pleading guilty to all 29 counts and the emotion he showed,” she said.

    “We don’t really have any thoughts either way on what he ends up getting sentenced. The problem is you either have to forgive or you somehow have to get past whose fault it was. It was his fault. And as a family we’re content.”

    Former NHL player Chris Joseph of St. Albert, Alta., lost his 20-year-old son Jaxon in the crash.

    He said forgiveness won’t bring his son back. And he’s going to be disappointed in whatever sentence Sidhu gets.

    “I don’t know if there’s any number that would make me happy,” he said.

    “He did the crime. He needs to do the time. And we would like the legal system to show that it doesn’t matter that you feel bad. It’s nice that you feel bad. It doesn’t matter though.”

    Michelle Straschnitzki’s 19-year-old son, Ryan, from Airdrie, Alta., was paralyzed from the chest down. She said she has days when she would like to think forgiveness is possible.

    But her anger overwhelms those feelings.

    “There are days that it’s no — no matter what. Nothing’s going to be OK again and 16 people are gone and the lives of 13 children are still in flux.”

    She wants the judge to give Sidhu a harsh sentence.

    “It has to be more than a slap on the wrist. It has to send a message,” she said.

    “Unfortunately it won’t really change anything, but it has to make a difference and change people’s minds.”

    — Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

    Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press



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    march, 2019

    fri8mar - 30aprmar 85:30 pmapr 30Real Estate Dinner Theatre5:30 pm - (april 30) 10:00 pm

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