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Yes, Free Speech Protects Steve Bannon's Right to Criticize Trump

What’s going on?

It’s Bannon vs. the Trumps, Part II. President Donald Trump’s lawyers have sent former White House adviser Steve Bannon a cease and desist letter claiming that Bannon is violating a “confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement” by communicating with an author for a new book about the early days of the Trump administration.

I’m still catching up …

On Wednesday, New York Magazine published an excerpt of a book that promises to be a bombshell portrayal of Trump campaign officials and the transition team: Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.

Trump responded by unloading on Bannon, who is quoted in the book with less-than-flattering comments about the Trump family.

“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said in a statement. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look.”

Does Trump have a case?

Not really. No one can be told to “cease and desist” saying bad things about the government, so free speech should protect anyone’s right to criticize the U.S president.

Pat and Jeffy talked about the latest update to the Bannon saga on today’s show, pointing out that the First Amendment leaves Trump and his lawyers without a case.

“There’s no way you can stop Steve Bannon from saying things that Donald Trump and his family don’t like,” Pat said.

This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

PAT: It's been a fascinating 24 hours or so since the Steve Bannon discussion began.

And the Steve Bannon versus Donald Trump battle began. Lawyers on behalf of President Trump sent a letter yesterday -- or, last night to former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon to demanding he refrain from making disparaging comments against the president and his family.

Can a president demand that people don't make disparaging comments against him? Is that even a thing in the United States?

JEFFY: It is now.

PAT: I hope it's not. Wait a minute. You can't tell me not to say bad things about the president. I have to do it within certain, I can't threaten obviously.

JEFFY: Right.

PAT: But you can say virtually anything you want, other than that. How do you -- how do you send a cease and desist against saying mean things about the president? You can't do that.

JEFFY: We'll see, won't we?

PAT: I guess we will.

JEFFY: We will see. Because you're right. No question about it. However, we'll see what happens.

PAT: We'll see.

JEFFY: Obviously the --

PAT: My guess, it's still America in that way.

JEFFY: Yeah, there's no way that can stand. There's no way that can stand.

PAT: There's no way you can stop Steve Bannon from saying things Donald Trump and his family don't like.

JEFFY: Yeah, and, look, he's already backed up a little bit last night, where he seems like he wants the kids more than he wants Donald.

PAT: Yeah, he actually -- I guess it's his show -- is it his show?

JEFFY: It's Breitbart News on Sirius XM.

PAT: Okay. So on Sirius XM, he was actually saying good things about the president.

JEFFY: Yeah. So, you know, okay.

PAT: He seems to -- yes, you're right. His target here is Donald Jr. For whatever reason.

JEFFY: Hey, and good luck. That's a fine line to walk with President Trump, with dad.

PAT: You can't walk that line. You can't. You go after -- I think going after his children is just like going after him. And I don't blame him for that. I would be the same way. So Donald Trump has obviously not taken kindly to this Steve Bannon news. To him speaking --

JEFFY: I know.

PAT: -- Michael Wolff in this new book. It will be interesting when this thing actually comes out. Is it Tuesday? Next Tuesday? That's usually when they come out.

JEFFY: You bring someone into your house. And then not long after that they turn around and start throwing knives at you. He's got a little -- got a little point to be pissed.

PAT: Yeah, it would be upsetting. It would be upsetting.

But Trump has always kind of dismissed Bannon ever since he left. Ever since he was out of the picture, out of the administration, away from the campaign, Trump has always kind of said, yeah, he came in afterwards. He had nothing to do with my winning. I had already won. And he had very little to say about anything. It's a different story when you listen to Steve Bannon.

JEFFY: Yes, it is.

PAT: And so there's been an interesting -- yesterday, on my show, Pat Gray Unleashed, which immediately follows this on TheBlaze TV and Radio Network, I said I expected a lot of tweets from the president about Steve Bannon last night. We gave the over under at five, and I said it would be over. It would be over five tweets. He hasn't tweeted at all, I don't think. Don Jr. has. And I think his count is five or six.

JEFFY: No.

Yeah. Don is like, look, he's squandered the privilege of working with the White House and serving the country. Turned it into a backstabbing, harassing, leaking, lying, undermining the president. He's not a strategist. He's an opportunist.

PAT: Yeah. That seems to be their thing, that he's not a strategist, he's an opportunist. And he didn't help them at all. He was just looking for an opportunity for power.

JEFFY: And that would bode well with President Trump saying he came in after I already won.

PAT: Yes. It fits -- it fits that narrative.

JEFFY: Yes, it does.

PAT: And fits it well.

Now, there's an interview from one of Donald Trump's advisers, Sam Nunberg, who is a former Trump adviser. And he was on with S.E. Cupp. And he had some interesting things to say about this upcoming book about Wolff, in that he mainly admits it's true.

VOICE: So you're quoted a number of times. And at one point, Wolff says, Trump told you that he can be, quote, the most famous man in the world.

The quote reads: As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was saying, when his ultimate goal after all had never been to win, I can now be the most famous man in the world. He apparently told you.

Is that true? Did he tell you that he didn't plan to win?

SAM: No, it's not. What I was telling Michael was a story that in 2014, I was flying down with then Mr. Trump to New Orleans for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, and we were discussing his run. And he had already told me he was planning on running. And what I said to him was, 100 years from now, nobody is going to remember if you don't win the primary or the presidency, who ran.

Frankly, nobody was going to remember who was the president. But I'll tell you what, 100 years from now, when they're covering you, they're not going to be able to write that you didn't run. They're not going to be able to say you were a perennial tease. And the one thing I can guarantee you is that you will come out well out of this. I can't guarantee you, you'll win the nomination. That's very hard to do.

VOICE: So did he say, I'm going to be famous and I don't need to win any -- was any of that true?

SAM: What he did say -- what the president did say was, I won't come out badly out of this. I won't come out badly. He kept repeating that to me. And no matter, we'll have fun.

PAT: Isn't it?

SAM: And what I find with Michael -- and with the quotes -- and I sat with Michael at least three times from my recollection. Is Michael takes the quotes, and he puts them as direct quotes.

But they're really paraphrasing what I said, and how I explained it.

With that said, I'm not criticizing Michael at all.

VOICE: Oh, okay. Well, another excerpt --

PAT: Kind of wants to have it both ways, doesn't he?

JEFFY: Yes.

VOICE: -- when you were trying to explain the Constitution to then candidate Trump, Wolff writes, quote, early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. Quote, I got as far as the Fourth Amendment, Nunberg recalled, before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head. Did that happen?

SAM: Well, not exactly. What happened was it was a week and a half before the first debate. And what I was worried about was that somebody would attack then Mr. Trump and ask him some gotcha question. What is your favorite case about the Supreme Court? Who is your favorite justice? Something like that. Just to try to make him look as if he doesn't know policy. One thing Trump always told me and I was wrong about, was that the campaign would be about big issues, be about big communication, be about explaining simple common sense solutions.

So when I brought this page -- and I made it like a crib sheet. Maybe a page and a half, we got to around the Fourth or Fifth Amendment, to which he then just started saying, "Look, I have to do work." And at the time he was running for president and still running his organization. So once again, Michael kind of takes it out of context, but, yes, something similar to that happened.

JEFFY: I got work to do.

PAT: But, yes, something similar to that happened.

Okay. So something similar. Sort of what he's saying here, it seems to me, is that the spirit of what is in the book is true, not necessarily the word-for-word quotes he seems to say.

But she continues to push him a little but further.

VOICE: You read the excerpts. You were there. On the whole, how accurate a picture do you think they paint of the Trump campaign?

SAM: Well, I think it was pretty accurate from what I understand towards the end. Remember, I wasn't involved with the campaign at all after September of 2015. I don't think they expected to win, so when they start with Kellyanne, you know, just going around and blaming Reince earlier in the day -- that certainly happened. She did that on Twitter.

And I think that the president himself, one thing that I had heard from numerous people, not only Steve, but others in the campaign, for instance, that story about Mnuchin coming on the plane and having to get the wire transfer immediately when then candidate Trump promised to give the 10 million. That is 100 percent accurate. I don't think he thought he was going to win, until the end, when he told a confidant of his, Roger Stone, he said, look, it's trending my way. And it was. So his last four days, five days, I think he saw something there. And if you remember, he outcampaigned her. And he concentrated on certain states, and he pulled those states out. States that --

VOICE: Oh, yeah. I was there. I know how it happened. I'm just wondering if you're willing to say that this book is like rated. True? Half true? Mostly true? Some true?

SAM: I would rate it half true on the specific examples.

VOICE: Okay.

SAM: Mostly true overall that I don't think --

VOICE: Like on the gist?

SAM: On the gist of it, I would say mostly true. I do not think the president the he was going to win the campaign.

PAT: Interesting.

JEFFY: Wow.

PAT: And that seems to be kind of a common theme from people in and around the campaign was that he never thought he was going to win. And some have claimed that he didn't want to.

JEFFY: Yeah, he was just there for the ride.

PAT: Pretty interesting. As far as specific quotes that are in this book, they're not entirely accurate. But the gist of what he's saying, the spirit of the message, he says, is -- is mostly true.

JEFFY: Okay.

PAT: That's going to be interesting to see. When the book comes out and you get the full context of what they're saying about it, we'll see. We'll see what happens.

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