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Trump Proposes Imprisoning Journalists Who Don’t Name Sources

In nearly all but a few circumstances, the publication of leaks and the use of unnamed sources is not illegal.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on October 22, 2022, in Robstown, Texas.

During a rally over the weekend, former President Donald Trump suggested that journalists who publish stories about government leaks should be imprisoned and threatened with the possibility of being sexually assaulted in order to coerce them into naming their sources.

The former president’s comments were in reference to journalists who reported on the leak of a Supreme Court draft outling the decision to overturn abortion rights established in the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade. Although publishing leaked documents is legal save for very few or limiting circumstances, not all states have “shield laws” that prevent the government from forcing journalists to reveal their sources.

“You take the writer and/or the publisher of the paper … You say, ‘Who is the leaker?’ National security,” Trump said at a rally on Saturday in Robstown, Texas.

Trump went on to say that journalists who refuse to name names should be imprisoned — and then face the threat of being sexually assaulted by other incarcerated people in order to force the information out of them.

“When this person realizes that he is going to be the bride of a prisoner very shortly, he will say, ‘I very much would like to tell you exactly who that leaker is,'” Trump said.

Trump has condemned the use of undisclosed sources in political reporting at many junctures of his presidency when published reports of his leadership style made him look bad. But the former president has also lauded such reporting when it has benefited him or hurt his political opponents.

This isn’t the first time Trump has called for journalists to be severely punished. In the past, Trump has called journalists “enem[ies] of the people” for reporting facts, and described some of the media’s reporting on his presidency as a “treasonous hoax.” Notably, treason is a crime that can be punished by death, according to federal law.