With all the complaints that President Donald Trump is an enemy to the free press, some Democrats sure seem prepared to stifle that same free press with hardly any backlash.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, threatened legal action against journalists who had obtained information about police officers convicted of crimes through a public records request. Becerra argued that the information was provided to those journalists by mistake and should not be published.
The journalists, from the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley, filed perfectly legitimate public records requests seeking information about police officers. They were given a database filled with information pertaining to thousands of California cops and law enforcement applicants who had been convicted of crimes in the past 10 years, according to Mercury News.
“The data was released by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, known as POST, which determines whether officers and applicants have been convicted of crimes that would disqualify them from serving,” the News reported.
Becerra’s office sent the reporters a letter after it learned of the disclosure, including the veiled-threat that legal action would be taken if the journalists published the information.
“Someone who’s in possession of information that is unauthorized is supposed to return it or destroy it,” Becerra said at a press conference on a different issue. “I don’t get to ignore the law. The law says that unauthorized possession or use of that type of data is a crime.”
But the journalists were authorized because it was disclosed to them.
Becerra insisted he never threatened the journalists, according to the News.
“We sent the letter, but we never threatened anyone with anything,” he said. “We just restated the law.”
But, according to the News, the letter heavily implied legal action against the reporters.
“If you do not intend to comply with our request, the Department can take legal action to ensure that the spreadsheets are properly deleted and not disseminated,” the letter said.
John Temple, director of the Berkeley program that has already published an article about the list, told the News he and the organization will fight Becerra if they must.
“[Becerra] wants to paint himself as a friend of the First Amendment,” Temple told the News. “We obviously disagree with him and think it’s regrettable that an attorney general would make an implied threat, if not a direct threat, to prosecute, without ever speaking to us or really understanding the matter at hand.”