Judge to hold hearing Wednesday into CNN's White House lawsuit
Network suing the Trump administration, demanding correspondent's press credentials be returned
A U.S. federal judge says he will hold a hearing Wednesday on CNN's lawsuit against the Trump administration seeking the speedy reinstatement of press credentials for White House correspondent Jim Acosta, a frequent target of President Donald Trump.
In its lawsuit filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, the cable news network said the White House violated the First Amendment right to free speech as well as the due process clause of the Constitution providing fair treatment through judicial process.
The network asked for a temporary restraining order.
The administration revoked Acosta's credentials last week following U.S. President Donald Trump's contentious news conference, where Acosta refused to give up a microphone when the president said he didn't want to hear anything more from him.
Watch the Nov. 7 exchange between Trump and Acosta:
Several journalists and organizations — including the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Online News Association — have demanded Acosta's access be reinstated.
The White House said it would "vigorously defend against this lawsuit," calling it "more grandstanding" by CNN.
A statement released by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders cited the fact that CNN had 50 other pass holders and noted what it characterized as Acosta's repeated unprofessional and inappropriate behaviour.
In the aftermath of the exchange, the White House accused Acosta of grabbing the female aide who attempted to take the microphone, an allegation that is absent from the press secretary's statement from today.
Sanders tweeted out a video of the incident, too, which the White House has been accused of doctoring.
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. <a href="https://t.co/T8X1Ng912y">pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y</a>—@PressSec
The lawsuit seems certain to further inflame the relationship between the administration and the network. Acosta and Sanders have sparred verbally during briefings, while Trump has frequently derided critical reports on the network as "fake news," while generally characterizing the press as "the enemy of the people."
This morning, CNN filed a lawsuit against <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@realDonaldTrump</a> and top aides. The White House has violated CNN and <a href="https://twitter.com/Acosta?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Acosta</a>'s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and Fifth Amendment rights to due process. Complaint: <a href="https://t.co/43oX6L8xA7">https://t.co/43oX6L8xA7</a> <a href="https://t.co/RvJ0Cgh6oi">pic.twitter.com/RvJ0Cgh6oi</a>—@CNNPR
CNN president Jeff Zucker last month took Trump to task for his rhetoric after the network, as well as those critical of the president, received threatening packages that included apparent pipe bombs.
"There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media," Zucker said in a statement released by CNN on Oct. 24.
"The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that."
The reproaches haven't altered Trump's approach. Trump, two days after the Acosta incident, reacted disgustedly to a question from CNN reporter Abby Phillip about his choice for interim attorney general.
"What a stupid question that is," said Trump.
In a joint statement, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Georgetown Law's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection said they had submitted an amicus brief supporting CNN's action.
"To be sure, Trump is entitled to dislike Acosta and any other journalist. Many presidents have been angered by searching news coverage," said the statement. "But Trump's revocation of Acosta's credentials is, simply put, extraordinary."
The courts must guard against "government attempts to bully critics into silence," the advocacy groups said.
With files from Reuters and CBC News