White House: Lawsuit to protect First Amendment is just 'grandstanding'


A major news network is finally going to court over Trump's war on the First Amendment — and the White House isn't happy about it.

The White House opened a new front in Trump's war on the free press last week by revoking its press credentials from CNN reporter Jim Acosta for transparently bogus reasons.

And now that CNN is fighting back with a lawsuit alleging that Trump and other White House officials violated the First Amendment, the White House is mocking the idea of defending press freedom as "grandstanding."

CNN's lawsuit, filed Tuesday morning in the D.C. Circuit Court, demands that Acosta's credentials be reinstated — and points out that this issue is much bigger than a feud between Trump and a single reporter.

"While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone," CNN said in a statement. "If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials."

Constitutional law expert Floyd Abrams said Sunday that he thought CNN should sue over the incident, and that they'd have a good case.

"This is going to happen again," he said. "It's likely to happen again. So whether it's CNN suing or the next company suing, someone is going to have to bring a lawsuit. And whoever does is going to win unless there's some sort of reason."

But in a dismissive, combative statement Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders scoffed that the lawsuit was "just more grandstanding from CNN," and whined that the White House "cannot run an orderly and fair press conference" when reporters dare to challenge Trump like Acosta did in a Nov. 7 press conference.

When Acosta tried to ask Trump a follow-up question at that event, Trump tried to shut him down — and an intern tried to physically grab the microphone out of Acosta's hands. Acosta held on to the mic and said, "Pardon me, ma'am," when his arm bumped against the intern's.

In a strikingly Orwellian move even for the Trump administration, Sanders released a statement accusing Acosta of assault, or "placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern," and said his press credentials would be revoked as a result.

In a tweet, Sanders "supported" this false claim with a doctored video that made Acosta's accidental arm-bump look more like a karate chop. The video came from a contributor to Infowars, a discredited conspiracy theory site.

Sanders made up a fake reason to pull Acosta's credentials because the real reason was both obvious and arbitrary: Trump doesn't like Acosta or CNN, and thinks they don't show him enough "respect" just because they accurately report on his failings as a leader.

CNN's complaint calls this out explicitly, and points to another press conference two days later where Trump admitted this was all about Acosta failing to “treat the White House with respect."

Trump also said then that there "could be others also" who would get the same treatment as Acosta.

"This severe and unprecedented punishment is the culmination of years of hostility by President Trump against CNN and Acosta based on the contents of their reporting — an unabashed attempt to censor the press and exclude reporters from the White House who challenge and dispute the President’s point of view," the complaint reads.

The lawsuit notes that without White House press credentials, Acosta "simply cannot do his job" as CNN's chief White House correspondent. And that makes it harder for CNN to do its job of informing the public.

And as Trump himself made clear, if it could happen to Acosta and CNN, it could happen to any other journalist trying to do his or her job.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.