Donald Trump has claimed Americans who burn the US flag should face “consequences” and suggested a year in prison or having their citizenship revoked would be suitable punishments.
The President-elect has been tweeting angrily at news outlet CNN during the past 24 hours over their report on his claim of electoral fraud after his victory in the US general election.
On Tuesday, he turned his attention to protesters burning the American flag, writing on Twitter: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
In 1989, the US Supreme Court ruled the act of burning the flag was protected by the First Amendment, which defends the right to free speech. In 2005, Mr Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton co-sponsored a bill that would make burning the American flag a criminal act punishable by one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Mr Trump’s tirade began again at 7am on Tuesday morning with more attacks on CNN and the network’s reporters, reaching a crescendo soon after with his suggestion flag burning should be a punishable offence.
His ire was provoked by a report from CNN’s Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleney that suggested Mr Trump was showing signs of being a “poor winner” and had “zero evidence” to support his claim that he won the popular vote in the general election. Ms Clinton is currently leading in the popular vote by more than two million, but Mr Trump now asserts he has been the victim of widespread election fraud. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” he wrote on Twitter.
The claim that he is the victim of election fraud despite having won the election is unprecedented. Ms Clinton says there is no evidence of wrong-doing but she is supporting a recount in Wisconsin requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Stein is also pushing for a recount in Michigan, where 4.8 million votes were cast.
Mr Zeleney’s report criticised the billionaire business magnate for disseminating “baseless” allegations on Twitter, where he has 16.2 million followers.
Mr Trump’s war with the media has escalated in recent weeks. After rounding up representatives of some of the biggest news networks at Trump Tower and delivering what one source summarised as a “Trump-style dressing-down”, he then cancelled a meeting with the “nasty” New York Times at the last minute before rescheduling it hours later.
Another participant at the Trump Tower summit told The New Yorker his behaviour was “f**king outrageous”. An account by Mr Trump’s spokesperson was altogether more sanguine, with Kellyanne Conway describing the meeting as “cordial, candid and honest”.
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