In the wake of the revocation of CNN’s Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass, the network has filed a lawsuit against United States President Donald Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine, Secret Service director Randolph Alles, as well as the Secret Service officer who took Acosta’s last Wednesday, the day after the US midterm elections.
While the immediate result that CNN wants is for Acosta’s press credentials to the White House to be restored, the legal suit could have far-reaching implications. According to Ted Olson, CNN’s legal representative in the suit, “This is a very, very important case,” since it could, he argued, “happen to any journalist by any politician.”
A hearing for the case has been set for November 14, Wednesday, at 3:30 pm. A judge appointed by Trump, Timothy J. Kelly, will preside. Should no settlement be reached, CNN has asked for a jury trial.
Acosta’s press pass has so far not been returned to him, as he found out last weekend when he was banned from entry at a venue in France, where Trump was attending an event commemorating the end of World War I.
CNN’s lawsuit against the White House claims that the First and Fifth Amendment rights of both Acosta and CNN itself have been transgressed by Acosta’s banning from presidential events. A judge is being asked for “immediate restoration of Acosta’s press credentials and hard pass,” as well as a legal ruling that what the administration did was “unconstitutional, in violation of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.”
The White House issued a statement through Press Secretary Sanders, who alleged that the lawsuit was “more grandstanding from CNN,” and also said that the White House would “vigorously” defend itself.
“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 First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor.”
However, no legal issues were addressed in Sanders’s statement, which can be found in full here.
Acosta had his press pass revoked on November 7 after a heated exchange between Trump and the reporter during a press conference. Acosta had not finished asking questions, but the president had already called on another journalist. An intern tried to get the microphone from him, but he held on to it, and only gave it to her after he had asked his question.
Sanders afterward tweeted that the administration would “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern” along with a video that included a slowed down version of the exchange, which made it appear as though Acosta had been unnecessarily rough with the intern. The video had originated from InfoWars, a right-wing media outfit that tends to release conspiracy theories and other hate-ridden content.
In an interview, CNN’s lawyer Olson said, “Journalists cannot be silenced, censored or intimidated. That’s the end of the line. The White House cannot get away with this.”