CNN Sues Trump Administration Over Jim Acosta Press Credentials (#GotBitcoin?)
The network says revocation of reporter’s credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights. CNN Sues Trump Administration Over Jim Acosta Press Credentials.
CNN filed a lawsuit against President Trump and his administration seeking to reinstate the credentials of Jim Acosta, the cable news channel correspondent who was banned from the White House after clashing with the president during a press conference last week.
“The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process,” CNN said in a written statement.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asks for a restraining order requiring the return of Mr. Acosta’s White House press pass.
When the White House suspended Mr. Acosta’s pass last week, it said it did so because he had placed his hands on an intern who was trying to take the microphone from him after Mr. Trump indicated he was no longer taking the reporter’s questions. Video of the altercation shows incidental contact between the intern and Mr. Acosta before the reporter gave up the microphone. CNN has said this fight wasn’t about the intern but rather about the president’s contempt for Mr. Acosta and CNN.
“While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone. If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials,” CNN said. CNN is a unit of AT&T Inc.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the suit is “just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit.”
“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,” she said in a written statement.
Ms. Sanders said that besides Mr. Acosta, CNN has “nearly 50” additional holders of White House hard passes, which allow journalists to enter White House grounds.
The legal battle between CNN and the White House is the culmination of years of public feuding between the news outlet, Mr. Acosta and Mr. Trump. In its suit, CNN notes several examples of verbal and social-media attacks by Mr. Trump both before and after he became president.
“At a news conference on January 11, 2017, for example, then-President-elect Trump told Acosta, ‘your organization is terrible.’ Acosta responded: ‘You’re attacking us. Can you give us a question?’ The President replied: ‘Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question…You are fake news’ ,” the suit said.
Last year, President Trump’s son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushnerprivately criticized CNN to a senior executive of the network’s then-owner, Time Warner Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.
When AT&T announced its intent to acquire Time Warner, the Trump administration voiced its opposition to the deal and the Justice Department unsuccessfully sued to block the sale.
After the Justice Department challenged the deal, people inside CNN and close to AT&T worried that Mr. Trump’s views on CNN were influencing the deal review.
In a September interview with The Wall Street Journal, AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said there appeared to be carry-over from the election rhetoric. “I don’t think it’s illogical to believe that a lot of these activities were a function of comments he made as a candidate that he intended to fulfill,” Mr. Stephenson said. He said he wasn’t suggesting Mr. Trump personally intervened with the Justice Department.
In a separate interview Monday, Mr. Stephenson criticized the White House decision to suspend Mr. Acosta’s press credentials, saying officials had ignored established procedures.
“If the White House wants to pull someone’s press credentials, there is a process,” Mr. Stephenson said at the Journal’s WSJ Tech D.Live conference. “That process must be followed, otherwise what is the criteria for pulling somebody’s press credentials?”
“You didn’t like the line of questioning? Well, that kind of seems to be violative of our protections of freedom of the press,” he said.
Mr. Trump has labeled much of the media coverage he doesn’t like “fake news.” At political rallies he often calls the press an “enemy of the people,” and the attacks play well among his base.
Democratic control of the House of Representatives could introduce a new dynamic in the relationship between Mr. Trump and the media. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), who will head the House Intelligence Committee, recently told Axios that Congress should investigate Mr. Trump’s potential abuses of power in his relations with the press, citing the AT&T-Time Warner deal, as well as the possibility that the president wanted to raise postal rates on Amazon.com Inc. to punish its CEO, Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post.
The House Intelligence Committee lacks jurisdiction over antitrust matters or allegations of Justice Department interference.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed an amicus brief in support of CNN, and the White House Correspondents’ Association said it strongly supported CNN’s actions.
“We continue to urge the Administration to reverse course and fully reinstate CNN’s correspondent,” the WHCA said in a written statement. “The President of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him.”
“It is un-American and unlawful for the president to expel a reporter from the White House briefing room for doing his job,” said Ben Wizner, a director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “It shouldn’t take a lawsuit from CNN to remind the president of the First Amendment.”
AT&T CEO Criticizes White House Over Handling of CNN Reporter Jim Acosta
Randall Stephenson says Trump administration failed to follow procedure in suspending correspondent’s credentials.
AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson fired back at the White House over its decision to suspend the press credentials of a CNN correspondent, saying officials had ignored established procedures in a way that appeared to violate press-freedom protections.
The Trump administration said it suspended credentials for Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, because he “placed his hands” on a White House intern who was trying to take the microphone from him at a press conference after President Trump indicated he was no longer going to address him. Video of the press conference showed Mr. Acosta keeping hold of the microphone and making incidental contact with the intern briefly.
Mr. Stephenson, who has headed the telecommunications giant since 2007, has taken on a new role as a media mogul after AT&T completed its roughly $81 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. in June following a lengthy antitrust fight. Time Warner includes CNN and other media outlets.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a video of the incident involving Mr. Acosta that appeared to have been edited in a way that makes the reporter’s actions look more aggressive, according to an analysis by Storyful, a social-media intelligence firm owned by News Corp, the parent company of the Journal.
“If the president doesn’t like his conduct in the press briefing room then there’s a process to articulate that he doesn’t like it,” said Mr. Stephenson. “There has been no process followed.”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Monday.
Separately, Mr. Stephenson called again for clearer standards on net- neutrality rules, saying no company should be allowed to slow the content of another one.
“We don’t really have legislative clarity,” he said, adding that companies “should not be able to block you from getting to Netflix or whatever you want to get to.”
Internet service providers “should not be allowed to throttle somebody else’s content,” he said, referring to the practice of slowing internet speeds. And he said any device should be allowed to connect to the internet without interference.
“There should be no blocking,” said Mr. Stephenson.
Judge Grants CNN’s Motion to Restore Jim Acosta’s White House Press Pass
The cable network made an emergency request so its correspondent could have access to the White House as lawsuit continues.
A federal judge granted an emergency motion Friday to restore the White House press credential of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, a victory for the network in a closely watched press-freedom case.
The lawsuit, which drew the attention of major media outlets and press-freedom advocates, could establish a new precedent on when the government can ban individual reporters from public buildings.
District Judge Timothy Kelly, who was appointed to the bench by President Trump, granted CNN’s request for a restraining order, temporarily restoring Mr. Acosta’s press access to the White House while the case proceeds.
In seeking such motions, plaintiffs typically must show that they are likely to win the case on the merits. So while Friday’s ruling doesn’t resolve the underlying dispute, it suggests CNN would ultimately prevail.
Speaking from the bench, Judge Kelly said that Mr. Acosta’s constitutional rights to due process appear to have been violated by the White House, justifying a tentative restoration of the press credential while Judge Kelly hears further arguments from both sides.
Judge Kelly ruled narrowly, avoiding the thornier question of whether White House had violated the First Amendment. Judge Kelly acknowledged that the White House had the ability to control who comes on its grounds. But once it allowed journalists to enter, he said, it could not block a particular reporter without proper process and procedures.
Judge Kelly said that every day Mr. Acosta didn’t have his press credential, he suffered an “irreparable” harm, another key requirement for such emergency restraining orders. “The court cannot restore his access to press briefings that have already occurred,” the judge said.
The White House said it would restore Mr. Acosta’s press credential, also called a hard pass, but that it would also develop new procedures to keep order among the press corps.
President Trump told reporters after the ruling that “people have to behave” at press conferences, and “you can’t take three questions and four questions.” The White House is writing up rules to enforce this decorum, he added.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement, “In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass. We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future.”
CNN cheered the result. “We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days. Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press,” the network said in a statement.
In a brief statement outside the courthouse, Mr. Acosta thanked the judge, the lawyers and his colleagues in the media. “Let’s get back to work,” he said.
Mr. Trump has regularly attacked CNN, and Friday’s ruling was a setback for the White House in its continuing skirmish with the press. Government lawyers acknowledged in court they knew of no other situation where the White House had revoked a press pass under similar circumstances.
The lawsuit was sparked by an incident last week in a post-election press conference with Mr. Trump when Mr. Acosta initially refused to surrender his microphone during a testy exchange.
The White House said it suspended the pass because Mr. Acosta had placed his hands on an intern who was trying to take the microphone from him after Mr. Trump indicated he was no longer taking the reporter’s questions. Video of the altercation shows incidental contact between the intern and Mr. Acosta before the reporter gave up the microphone. CNN has said this fight wasn’t about the intern, but rather about the president’s contempt for Mr. Acosta and CNN.
Judge Kelly said on Friday that the White House’s initial public statements about why Mr. Acosta’s press credential was suspended were of “questionable accuracy.”
White House Restores Full Access for Reporter Acosta, CNN Says
The White House initially indicated it planned to fight to keep excluding Acosta from the building’s grounds.
CNN says its lawsuit against the government is no longer necessary after the White House restored full press access to Jim Acosta, a reporter who had been banned from the White House grounds.
“Today the @WhiteHouse fully restored @Acosta’s press pass. As a result, our lawsuit is no longer necessary. We look forward to continuing to cover the White House,” the network said in a statement posted on Twitter.
The White House initially indicated that it planned to fight to keep excluding Mr. Acosta from being on the building’s grounds.
But Monday afternoon, it confirmed it had restored Mr. Acosta’s pass and also announced new rules for press conferences. Under the new rules, reporters will be required to yield the microphone after a single question or risk losing their press credentials.
Lawyers for Mr. Acosta, the network’s chief White House correspondent, said in a court filing earlier Monday they had received a letter last week indicating that the Trump administration was still seeking to take away his credential after a testy exchange with the president in a news conference earlier this month.
“Your behavior at the November 7 press conference violated the basic standards governing such events and is, in our preliminary judgement, sufficient factual basis to revoke your hard pass,” White House communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders wrote in a letter to Mr. Acosta that was included in Monday’s court filing.
Last week, a U.S. district court judge issued an emergency order that the White House restore Mr. Acosta’s press badge, which it had taken from him shortly after the news conference. Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, framed his decision on narrow procedural grounds, however—saying that the White House hadn’t given Mr. Acosta due process over the suspension of his press pass and sidestepping other questions about the rights of the press.
The letter by Mr. Shine and Ms. Sanders was an attempt to remedy the issues highlighted by the judge—giving Mr. Acosta notice of the government’s decision and a chance to contest it. Lawyers for Mr. Acosta said they would contest the decision and continue with the lawsuit.
If the White House had pressed on in trying to strip Mr. Acosta’s press credential without reaching a settlement in the lawsuit, the judge could have been forced to address some of the more difficult First Amendment issues raised by the case. There is little case law or precedent on the matter of how much discretion the government has in banning individual reporters from government buildings.
Government lawyers acknowledged in court that they couldn’t recall another case where a reporter was stripped of access to a government building under similar circumstances.
In court last week, they laid out a legal theory that would give the government almost total discretion to ban individual reporters from government buildings for any reason—including critical coverage. Lawyers for Mr. Acosta argued that his First Amendment right to gather news had been violated and that his Fifth Amendment rights to due process had been violated.
The lawsuit was sparked by an incident on Nov. 7 in a postelection press conference with Mr. Trump in which Mr. Acosta initially refused to surrender his microphone during a testy exchange over immigration.
The White House said it suspended the pass because Mr. Acosta had placed his hands on an intern who was trying to take the microphone from him after Mr. Trump indicated he was no longer taking the reporter’s questions. Video of the altercation shows incidental contact between the intern and Mr. Acosta before the reporter gave up the microphone.
CNN has said this fight wasn’t about the intern, but rather about the president’s contempt for Mr. Acosta and CNN.
Controversies over press access in Washington aren’t new, although Mr. Acosta’s case raises novel legal issues about the circumstances under which reporters can be banned.
Under President George W. Bush, the White House suspended reporter Trude Feldman’s credential for 90 days after she was caught looking through the drawers of a White House aide. In another incident, the White House denied credentials in 1971 to Tom Forcade, a reporter for the countercultural news service Underground Press Syndicate. Mr. Forcade would go on to found the marijuana-themed publication High Times.
In another case during the Nixon administration, left-leaning journalist Robert Sherrill was denied a press pass, ostensibly for security reasons, but he sued successfully over the denial. The Sherrill precedent was cited by the judge in Mr. Acosta’s case as a reason to grant the emergency motion.
In other cases, debates have erupted over what counts as a legitimate news outlet. Typically the White House has taken an expansive view of who counts as a journalist, allowing in an array of outlets of all sizes and stripes.
But Capitol Hill press credentials have been occasionally denied to publications like the conservative outlet Breitbart and SCOTUSBlog, a legal news site, over questions about their ties to advocacy groups and government officials.
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