The 2024 Executive Power Survey – Press Freedoms


2024 Executive Power Survey

Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Press Freedoms

Prosecutors during the Trump administration expanded a criminal case against Julian Assange to include accusations that he violated the Espionage Act by soliciting, obtaining and publishing classified documents without authorization. It could establish a precedent that such common journalistic activities (a separate question from whether Mr. Assange counts as a “journalist”) can be treated as a crime in the United States; the Biden administration has kept those charges. Meanwhile, following a surge in leak investigations under presidents of both parties that included going after reporters’ communications logs and other information, the Biden-era Justice Department issued new rules barring investigators from seeking compulsory production of reporters’ information.

Are the Espionage Act charges against Mr. Assange constitutional as a legal policy matter and would your administration keep that part of the case against him? Do you support and would your administration keep the new rules against compulsory production of reporters’ information in leak investigations?

Headshot of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Yes, I support and will retain the new rules. Compelling journalists to reveal their sources will stifle independent journalism, which the founders understood to be indispensable to democracy. I will drop all charges against Julian Assange. The problem here goes to the heart of what gets classified and why. He was targeted not because he published secrets that endangered the security of the United States, but because what he published embarrassed the government of the United States.

Headshot of Mike Pence

The independence and freedom of the press is expressly guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Why? Because, as Thomas Jefferson constantly reminded the country, we cannot sustain this experiment in self-government unless the American people are well informed. In fact, because the American people have the right to know, I introduced federal media shield legislation — the Free Flow of Information Act — to prevent reporters from having to reveal confidential sources.

However, our laws need to balance our national security with the freedom of the press, and the First Amendment is not a shelter from the law. It does not protect so-called journalists from breaking the laws necessary to maintain our national security and keep Americans safe. Our laws need to balance these two priorities that are sometimes in conflict.

Headshot of Asa Hutchinson

I have no plans to interfere with the Assange case.


Headshot of Francis Suarez

In keeping with the precedent against presidential interference in criminal prosecutions as discussed above, it would be inappropriate for a candidate for president to opine on a pending prosecution. Ultimately, any change in policies on leak investigations will be up to the Department of Justice.

Headshot of Joe Biden

I won’t speak specifically about the Assange case — it isn’t appropriate for me to offer an opinion on an ongoing criminal prosecution that is now pending in court. But I have made clear that I believe that, outside certain limited circumstances, it is wrong for federal law enforcement to seize journalists’ phone or email records created in the course of doing their jobs.

And under my administration, the Justice Department — after an extensive consultation with stakeholders, including members of the media — issued new regulations codifying Attorney General Garland’s directive that the department no longer use compulsory legal process to obtain information from or records of members of the news media acting within the scope of newsgathering, except in limited circumstances.

Headshot of Marianne Williamson

The Espionage Act is a relic of President Woodrow Wilson’s prosecution of Eugene Debs for opposing his military frolic in the Soviet Union. The act violates freedom of speech and press by criminalizing publications without proof that the disclosures were intended to and did cause material harm to the national security of the United States.

The First Amendment does not permit a British-style Official Secrets Act for classified information. I would drop the Espionage Act counts against Assange.

Headshot of Donald J. Trump

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Ron DeSantis

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Vivek Ramaswamy

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Nikki Haley

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Chris Christie

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Doug Burgum

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Will Hurd

Will Hurd

Former United States representative

Has not responded to this question.

Headshot of Tim Scott

Has not responded to this question.

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