ACLU unveils plan to fight potential free speech abuses in second Trump term

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has unveiled a plan to combat potential free speech abuses the country could face if former President Trump is elected to a second term.

The ACLU warned in a Thursday memo that a second Trump term could pose several threats to democracy by targeting political opponents, trying to crack down on protesters and the freedom of the press and “exploiting” executive powers to use surveillance on Americans.

Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director of the ACLU, wrote in a statement that “relying on unwritten norms for presidential behavior is grossly insufficient.”

“Trump is now threatening to be even less constrained if given a second chance,” she said. “If there is a second Trump administration, we are prepared to defend people it attacks, including protestors, dissenters, and journalists.”

The organization pointed to many of Trump’s past actions and statements that it says show there are risks of free speech abuses if he wins against President Biden in November. The union suggested that he is likely to use federal law enforcement to respond to protesters after he sent federal law enforcement to Portland in 2020 amid the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration at the time over the protest tactics.

The organization also warned that Trump could threaten journalists, political opponents and others with investigations and prosecutions.

“Donald Trump has not been shy about threatening his perceived enemies,” the memo reads. “He’s threatened prosecution or violence towards President Joe Biden and Biden administration officials, poll workers, former generals, former officials in his own administration who fell out of favor, protesters, journalists, migrants, and many others.”

The ACLU also outlined its response in a 14-page memo, saying the group is prepared to file lawsuits over potential violations and encourage Congress, as well as local and state governments, to help safeguard the rights of Americans through legal advocacy.

“When the people disagree with the policies and actions of the president, it will be more critical than ever for the American people to exercise their rights of free speech — including through protest and dissent — so that Trump’s excesses are met with the direct power of the people,” the memo said.

The Hill has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment.

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