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Photo: NurPhoto / Contributor/Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that President Trump violated the Constitution in blocking critics of his viewpoints on Twitter.

Why it matters: This is a huge win for free speech advocates. The ruling sets a precedent that any elected official — from a local mayor to the president — who blocks a constituent on Twitter could be found guilty of violating that constituent's First Amendment rights.

Details: Tuesday's decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York aligns with an earlier decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia that ruled government officials can't block constituents on social media accounts that they use for official business, based on its interpretation of the First Amendment.

  • In its ruling, the 2nd Circuit held that: "The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees."

Between the lines: The White House had appealed the district court case on the grounds that the president was using the @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle, not his official @POTUS45 government handle, and thus the president has the right to block whomever he wants. The 2nd Circuit panel rejected that argument.

  • "President Trump established his account, with the handle @realDonaldTrump, (the “Account”) in March 2009," the ruling reads.
  • "No one disputes that before he became President the Account was a purely private one or that once he leaves office the Account will presumably revert to its private status. This litigation concerns what the Account is now ... The public presentation of the Account and the webpage associated with it bear all the trappings of an official, state‐run account."

The big picture: President Trump's consistent attacks on the press and access to information, mostly on social media, have forced judges to re-evaluate the rules of political communications in the digital era.

Go deeper: Trump's unexpected 1st Amendment legacy

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to show that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling aligns with an earlier ruling by 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on whether public officials could block critics from social media accounts (the 2nd Circuit did not uphold the 4th Circuit's ruling).

Go deeper

Democrat Mark Kelly sworn in to U.S. Senate

Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Astronaut Mark Kelly (D) was sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Wednesday after defeating incumbent Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) last month for the seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain.

Why it matters: Kelly's swearing-in by Vice President Mike Pence narrows the Republican majority and moves the Senate balance to 52-48.

Senate Armed Services chair dismisses Trump threat to veto defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he plans to move ahead with a crucial defense-spending bill without provisions that would eliminate tech industry protections, defying a veto threat from President Trump.

Why it matters: Inhofe's public rebuke signals that the Senate could have enough Republican backing to override a potential veto from Trump, who has demanded that the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Scoop: Uber in talks to sell air taxi business to Joby

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uber is in advanced talks to sell its Uber Elevate unit to Joby Aviation, Axios has learned from multiple sources. A deal could be announced later this month.

Between the lines: Uber Elevate was formed to develop a network of self-driving air taxis, but to date has been most notable for its annual conference devoted to the nascent industry.