President Trump convenes surreal, televised Cabinet meeting in which appointees praise his leadership and thank him for the pleasure of serving his Administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions takes the hotseat among former colleagues in the Senate at a public hearing on alleged ties to Russia. The Public Theater’s Oskar Eustis offers a stirring defense of his controversial production of Julius Caesar (see PEN America’s statement here.) NJ teacher suspended after excising pro-Trump slogans from school yearbook. Another appeals court upholds suspension of Trump’s proposed travel ban, citing his tweets. Federal COVFEFE Act proposed to preserve presidential tweets as public records.-Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director


DARE: Daily Alert on Rights and Expression

The most pressing threats and notable goings-on in free expression today


Who loves him more? Trump’s cabinet members gush at meeting
Great president or greatest? That appeared to be the question at President Donald Trump’s first meeting of his full Cabinet on Monday, as top aides took turns piling praise on the boss. The meeting came as the White House struggles to advance its agenda amid the investigations into Russia’s election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. The White House has been dogged by reports of infighting and disarray. And the president has repeatedly sought out conflict on social media, distracting from the issues his advisers are trying to promote.

Jeff Sessions is testifying publicly about Russia. That’s very smart.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions stunned the political world over the weekend by making clear he wanted to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Today he delivered another stunner: he wants that Tuesday hearing to be public! To be clear: neither a closed-door hearing nor a public one are great options for Jeff Sessions. But, it you have to do one, Sessions chose the right one.

How Outrage Built Over a Shakespearean Depiction of Trump
Shortly after the presidential election, Oskar Eustis, one of New York’s most successful theater executives, knew what he wanted to direct a production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” with the title character a provocative but inexact stand-in for President Trump. The production, which opened Monday night in New York, has been engulfed in controversy ever since a bootleg video of the assassination of Caesar, who is styled and performed to suggest Mr. Trump, began circulating on the internet last week and some who had seen the performance started to complain.

After pro-Trump yearbook photos were altered, teacher suspended
A New Jersey school district has suspended a teacher as it investigates why the yearbook photos of two high school students were altered to remove President Trump’s name on clothing they wore. In the yearbook, one student wore a sweater vest with Mr. Trump’s name on it; another student wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Trump Make America Great Again.” But neither feature appeared in the photos published in the yearbook. The school’s dress code doesn’t prevent students from expressing their political views.

Trump’s tweets were used against him in a court’s travel-ban ruling
One of President Donald Trump’s recent tweets about his administration’s controversial travel ban was used against him in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold an injunction blocking the implementation of the executive order. “That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!” Trump had tweeted in response to the terror attack in London. The 9th Circuit ruled that Trump “exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress” to oversee immigration in his revised executive order.

COVFEFE Act would preserve Trump’s tweets as official statements
From the incomprehensible “covfefe” to a post labeling fired FBI director James Comey a “leaker,” President Donald Trump’s tweets would be preserved as presidential records if a Democratic lawmaker’s proposed COVFEFE Act becomes law. “If the president is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference,” Representative Mike Quigley, a member of the House intelligence committee, said in a statement. “Tweets are powerful, and the president must be held accountable for every post.”

Sandy Hook Families Criticize Megyn Kelly for Planned Alex Jones Interview
Families of some of the 26 people who were killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre have criticized an upcoming NBC interview with Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist who has said the shooting was a hoax perpetrated by forces hostile to the Second Amendment. As the host of “The Alex Jones Show” and the operator of the right-wing website Infowars, Mr. Jones has called the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York City an inside job, promoted and then later apologized for helping spread the hoax known as “Pizzagate,” and asserted that an Idaho yogurt factory owned by a Kurdish immigrant was associated with a sexual assault before retracting that claim amid a lawsuit.


The Teenagers Standing Up to Putin
Thousands of people, many in their teens and twenties, poured into the center of Moscow on Monday to protest against the corruption they say eats away at their livelihoods and future. The rally was organized by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, a charming 41-year-old lawyer who has designs on the presidency. Mr. Navalny has spent the past several years being harassed endlessly by the Kremlin. For such a man to command that kind of power — enough to shut down the center of Moscow at his word — is something the Kremlin would be hard-pressed to ignore.

Qatar’s Crisis is About Freedom of Expression
Over the past few weeks, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council have systematically sought to isolate and suffocate Qatar, accusing the country of supporting extremism, severing diplomatic ties, and calling upon their allies to do the same. As some analysts have pointed out, the singling out of Qatar has as much to do with the country’s alleged support of terrorism as it does with neighboring countries’ desire to shutter Al Jazeera, Qatar’s flagship media organization.

Japan accused of eroding press freedom by UN special rapporteur
The UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression has accused Japan of eroding media freedoms and stifling public debate of issues such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown and the country’s actions during the second world war. In a report submitted to the UN human rights council, David Kaye said he had identified “significant worrying signals” about Japan’s record on freedom of expression. His investigation – the first into freedom of the press in Japan – was prompted by concern over mounting government pressure on the country’s media.

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