CNN sues Trump and White House aides
Judge Andrew Napolitano, the top legal analyst at Fox News, is predicting that CNN v. Trump will be resolved "quickly," and in CNN's favor.
"The only grounds for revoking the pass are, is the person a danger to the physical security to the president or his family? Obviously -- Acosta may have been an irritant to the president -- but he was hardly a danger to him," Napolitano said on Fox Business on Tuesday morning. "So I think CNN's got a very good case. I think this will be resolved quickly. I don't expect a jury trial. I think it will either be settled or CNN will prevail on motion."
Napolitano's analysis was notable because many commentators on Fox have been harshly critical of Acosta's aggressive questioning of the president.
Media law experts and advocacy groups lined up on CNN’s side shortly after the lawsuit was filed on Tuesday morning.
George Freeman, the head of the Media Law Resource Center, said CNN "has a very strong case," because "the president's retaliation against Acosta was for no appropriate reason, let alone a constitutionally required compelling reason."
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection jointly filed what’s known as a “friend of the court” brief in support of the lawsuit. It said the White House’s suspension of Acosta’s press pass “tramples on the Constitution” and aims to “chill the constitutionally protected speech and newsgathering activity of other journalists whom the public depends upon to question government officials vigorously and to report candidly on the responses.”
The ACLU put it this way:
"It is un-American and unlawful for the president to expel a reporter from the WH briefing room for doing his job. It shouldn’t take a lawsuit from CNN to remind the president of the First Amendment.”
Per CNN’s David Shortell, the case has been docketed and assigned to Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee.
Judge Kelly “was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2017,” according to his bio. A graduate of Duke University and Georgetown University, he previously served as a top lawyer to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley.
You can find the full complaint here.
The White House’s initial response to the lawsuit does not address the substance of the case. Instead, Sarah Sanders is strongly objecting to Acosta's style – saying that he acted unprofessionally at a press conference last week – and arguing that there needs to be a “check on this type of behavior.”
Different White House reporters have different styles. But CNN’s suit is about the process of giving and revoking press passes. The suit says the defendants “had no legal or rational justification to revoke Acosta’s credentials.” The argument that Acosta wasn’t sufficiently respectful “is not sufficient as a matter of law,” the suit alleges.
The White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claims CNN is “grandstanding” by suing. In a response to the suit on Tuesday morning, the administration said it will “vigorously defend” itself.
This is her statement:
“We have been advised that CNN has filed a complaint challenging the suspension of Jim Acosta’s hard pass. This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit.
CNN, who has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders, and Mr. Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment. After Mr. Acosta asked the President two questions—each of which the President answered—he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions. This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters.
The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional. The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor. If there is no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business.”
The White House Correspondents' Association just released a statement about CNN's lawsuit against President Trump.
WHCA President Oliver Knox said the association "strongly supports CNN's goal of seeing their correspondent regain a US Secret Service security credential that the White House should not haven taken away in the first place."
This is not the first time the WHCA has supported CNN in recent days. After Jim Acosta's pass was yanked last week, the group called the move "out of line" and "unacceptable." "We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action," the association added.
Here's the group's full statement today:
CNN president Jeff Zucker sent a note to staffers this morning explaining the network's suit.
"The First Amendment grants the right of all journalists to hold those in power accountable and ask tough questions. It's what Jim, and all of his colleagues who cover the White House and the administration, do with integrity and professionalism. As we have said before, we will always stand up for our rights. That is why we have filed suit," Zucker wrote.
Here's the full note:
This morning, CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration in DC District Court. The White House has violated CNN and Jim Acosta's First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and Fifth Amendment rights to due process. We are demanding the immediate return of Jim’s White House credential.
As you know, Jim's credential was revoked last Wednesday, and he was denied entrance to the White House grounds by the Secret Service when he arrived for a scheduled live shot.
The White House’s action came in the wake of Jim’s questioning of the President at his post-Election Day press conference. Their assertion that it was because of Jim's interaction with a press aide was patently false, and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a video that was distorted to give an inaccurate impression of what happened.
This is not a step we have taken lightly. But the White House action is unprecedented.
The First Amendment grants the right of all journalists to hold those in power accountable and ask tough questions. It's what Jim, and all of his colleagues who cover the White House and the administration, do with integrity and professionalism. As we have said before, we will always stand up for our rights. That is why we have filed suit.
I will keep you posted as the case continues. Below is the statement we released in conjunction with filing the suit, as well as a quote from one of our lead attorneys for the case, Ted Olson, who was the Solicitor General of the United States under President George W. Bush.
Reporters from many news organizations have expressed support for CNN's Jim Acosta after the White House revoked his press pass.
- The Radio Television Digital News Association, which represents newsrooms across the country, called the revocation "unconscionable."
- The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said Sanders' "false description of the events leading up to it is insulting not only to the nation's journalists, but to its people."
- The White House Correspondents' Association called the yanking of Acosta's pass "out of line" and "unacceptable." "We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action," the association added.
- The White House News Photographers Association's president Whitney Shefte issued a statement expressing outrage that Sanders "may have shared a manipulated video." "As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth," Shefte said. "It's deceptive, dangerous and unethical.
- Hallie Jackson, of NBC, wrote on Twitter that the press corps "should stand up against this."
- Peter Baker, of The New York Times tweeted, "This is something I've never seen since I started covering the White House in 1996." Baker wrote that he believes Trump called on Acosta at the presser because "he wants the confrontation."
- Elisabeth Bumiller, the Washington bureau chief of The Times, said, "The president should not pick and choose who covers him, and he should certainly not force out a representative of one of the country's leading news organizations."
- Even Chuck Ross of The Daily Caller, a website that harshly criticizes CNN, stood up for Acosta. "Plenty to criticize Acosta about," Ross wrote, "but he did not 'place his hands' on the intern. It's ridiculous for anyone to suggest he did."
- The National Association of Hispanic Journalists said in a statement,"We ask the public to contact the White House, their local and state representatives demanding the return of Jim Acosta’s credentials and to respect the press who work on their behalf in seeking truth and holding the powerful accountable.”
- The National Association of Black Journalists said it "Demands an end to hostilities against the journalism community and to the continuous string of untruths and misinformation that have become staples of the Trump administration's dialogue with the press."