CNN has taken legal action against Trump and a number of aides after the White House revoked Acosta's press credentials.
Acosta’s credentials were revoked after a heated exchange with Trump on 7 November.
The CNN Chief White House Correspondent had suggested to Trump that the caravan to the south of the US was not an ‘invasion’. “Well, I consider it an invasion,” Trump snapped back, before telling Acosta: “I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN.”
CNN sued the Trump administration for barring a White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, escalating tensions between the president and the media https://t.co/mcFZEFb3xL
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 13, 2018
The White House had falsely claimed Acosta was physical with an aide
The White House later accused the CNN journalist of “placing his hands” on an aide who was trying to take a microphone from him, a claim not supported by video of the incident. CNN called these claims “fradulent accusations“.
White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders then shared what appeared to be a doctored video in a bid to show Acosta had attacked the intern. The altered video originally came from InfoWars, a notorious far right-wing conspiracy site.
The White House has also accused Acosta of rudeness to other reporters when asking questions of the President.
“The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolise the floor,” Sanders said. “If there is no check on this type of behaviour it impedes the ability of the president, the White House staff and members of the media to conduct business.”
In a statement, CNN said not challenging the ban could have a “dangerous chilling effect” on journalists covering the President.
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) November 13, 2018
CNN says there was no due process afforded to Acosta before his press pass was cancelled
In the lawsuit, CNN alleges the White House infringed on Acosta’s First Amendment right to free speech.
“The content and viewpoint of CNN’s and Acosta’s reporting on the Trump administration – not his interaction with the staffer at the November 7 press conference – were the real reason the White House indefinitely revoked his press credentials,” the lawsuit says. “Neither the White House nor the Secret Service has provided Acosta any formal notice of the reasons for, opportunity to be heard regarding, or opportunity to challenge, the decision to revoke his hard pass.”
Sanders has dismissed the legal action as “grandstanding” from CNN and said the administration will “vigorously defend” itself.
“This is not a step we have taken lightly. But the White House action is unprecedented,” CNN President Jeff Zucker wrote in an internal memo.
“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…we will always stand up for our rights. That is why we have filed suit.”
Should CNN sue the White House for suspending @Acosta's press pass? Famed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams says yes — and he told me CNN would have a "strong case." Here's a recap of today's segment https://t.co/UYIgNIB8eJ
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 11, 2018
Legal opinions on the CNN lawsuit
Fox News Legal Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said the White House had little chance of winning.
“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 told Fox Business on 13 November. “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.”
Floyd Abrams, the nation’s best known First Amendment lawyer, said the optics of the network suing the President may not be ideal but that it should sue and would win.
“I think it’s a really strong lawsuit,” Abrams told Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources.
“This is going to happen again,” he continued. “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.”