- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A federal judge should force President Trump to unblock seven people currently barred from interacting with his Twitter account, attorneys for the social media users wrote in a court filing Tuesday.

Trump critics including political consultant Rebecca Buckwalter and University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen sued the president for violating their First Amendment right to free speech on July 11 after being blocked by Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump.

Pending litigation, attorneys for the Twitter users asked a Manhattan federal judge Tuesday to order the president to unblock their accounts.

“Defendants’ ongoing exclusion of Plaintiffs from @realDonaldTrump imposes a continuing burden on Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights,” the attorneys wrote in a letter to Honorable Naomi Reice Buchwald.

“The burden is especially significant because it affects Plaintiffs’ ability to access, reply to and discuss the statements of the nation’s highest official,” they added. “At the same time, the government plainly has no legitimate interest in protecting the President from criticism.”

Until the president unblocks their Twitter accounts, plaintiffs will “continue to suffer irreparable injury to their First Amendment rights,” their attorneys added.

“We hope the court will order the President and his aides to restore our clients’ access to this forum while the suit proceeds,” said Katie Fallow, a senior staff lawyer at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, a free speech group that brought the lawsuit last month on behalf of the seven Twitter users. “Allowing this First Amendment violation to continue risks normalizing it.”

The White House declined to comment on pending litigation, New York Daily News reported.

Other plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit include Grammy-nominated songwriter Holly Figueroa, Vanderbilt University surgeon Eugene Gu, former Guantanamo Bay prison guard Brandon Neely, retired cyclist Joseph Papp and comedy writer Nicholas Pappas.

The original suit was brought against Mr. Trump as well as his social media director Dan Scavino and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Mr. Spicer has since resigned amid a wave of recent West Wing staff changes.

Mr. Trump is an active Twitter user and has penned more than 35,000 tweets since launching @realDonaldTrump in 2009, including 290 tweets during his first 50 days in office.

“President Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, has become an important source of news and information about the government, and an important public forum for speech by, to, and about the President,” lead attorney Jameel Jaffer wrote in the initial complaint. “While public officials’ use of Twitter to engage with constituents is a relatively new phenomenon, it is well-settled that a public forum may consist of a metaphysical space rather than a physical one.”

Mr. Trump last month described his tweeting habit as “modern day presidential.” About 71 percent of respondents surveyed in a nationwide poll last week, meanwhile, said Twitter is a “risky way for a president to communicate.”

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