Trump threatens to hold military pay hostage unless he can punish Twitter


He's apparently willing to jeopardize national security to make his point.

This week, leaders from both sides of the aisle hammered out the final details of the new National Defense Authorization Act — but Donald Trump is attempting to hold the bill hostage if it doesn't overturn social media liability protections.

The $741 billion bill is expected to be voted on in the House and Senate next week; however, its passage could be held up by Trump's repeated threats to veto it.

As recently as Thursday night, Trump slammed the bill's failure to include language terminating Section 230, the provision that affords legal protections to social media.

"Very sadly for our Nation, it looks like Senator @JimInhofe will not be putting the Section 230 termination clause into the Defense Bill. So bad for our National Security and Election Integrity," Trump tweeted. "Last chance to ever get it done. I will VETO!"

Section 230, presented by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA), was originally designed to allow website owners to serve as moderators for social media platforms without incurring legal liability for what its users said.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has referred to it as "the most important law protecting internet speech."

Trump, however, is determined to scrap the provision, maligning it on Tuesday as a "liability shielding gift from the U.S. to 'Big Tech.'"

Trump's veto of the critical defense bill could have far-reaching effects.

According to the Verge, it is "one of the few pieces of legislation that is seen as a 'must-pass' by members of Congress."

"The National Defense Authorization Act primarily authorizes spending by the military and other national security agencies, so a failure to pass some version of the bill could have severe consequences for the nation as a whole," noted the outlet.

While military pay raises are a matter of statute, the Military Times reports that "at least 30 other military specialty pays," such as hazard pay, bonuses, and housing allowances, are at risk if Trump vetoes the bill.

According to Politico, the bill will authorize $69 billion for the Overseas Contingency account and $26.6 billion for Department of Energy nuclear programs, with the remainder of the funding — some $635.5 billion — going toward the "base Pentagon budget."

The outlet reports that the bill will also stymie Trump's attempts to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany, prohibiting the Pentagon from reducing troop levels below $34,500 for 120 days. It will also limit any attempt to remove troops from Afghanistan until the Pentagon submits a report on how such a move might affect counterterrorism efforts going forward.

The bill also limits types of military-grade gear available to civilian law enforcement, and includes a provision that recommends a name change within three years for military bases and monuments named for Confederate figures, Politico reported.

And this isn't the first time Trump has threatened to veto the crucial defense bill.

Over the summer, he said he would veto it if the bill included any clause recommending a name change for Confederate military assets.

"I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth 'Pocahontas' Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!" he tweeted June 30.

Twitter users were quick to point out that this was a strange and racist hill to die on.

"So you're defending the military to defend the Confederacy? Weird priorities," tweeted one user at the time.

But now it seems Trump has zeroed in on a repeal of Section 230 as an excuse to reject the bill.

On Tuesday, Trump first demanded that social media liability protections be stripped away before he would agree to pass it.

It's part of his war on "Big Tech," which Trump and other conservative figures claim unfairly censor conservative voices — something Republican lawmakers made clear in their Capitol Hill grilling of Twitter executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg in November.

But according to NPR, Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike are, for the most part, opposed to eliminating Section 230 outright.

While the outlet reports that "no concrete legislative steps have been taken," NCR notes that some lawmakers have attempted to pitch various revisions to the provision, but no plan to scrap it entirely seems to be in the works.

This begs the question of whether Republican lawmakers will override Trump's objections and pass the defense bill despite his threats. Many, it seems, understand the crucial nature of the NDAA and the ramifications of failing to pass it.

But some, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) would rather side with Trump than the nation's military.

"I support President @realDonaldTrump's insistence Section 230 repeal be part of the defense authorization bill," Graham tweeted Friday. "Big Tech is the only industry in America that cannot be sued for their business practices and are not meaningfully regulated. This must come to an end."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.