White House says it has ‘broad discretion’ on press access

Calvin Saunders
November 15, 2018

The White House said in a legal filing Wednesday it has "broad discretion" to restrict media access to the president, defending its right to bar CNN correspondent Jim Acosta.

CNN's Don Lemon believes that Jim Acosta was set up during the press conference that resulted in Acosta losing his White House hard pass.

On Wednesday, Fox News said it would file an amicus brief (a legal brief filed by non-litigants who have a strong interest in the subject matter) in the US District Court in support of Acosta and CNN.

CNN's lawyers say the case hinges on Acosta and CNN's First Amendment rights; the shifting rationales behind the ban; and the administration's failure to follow the federal regulations that pertain to press passes, an alleged violation of Fifth Amendment rights. President Nixon's battles with the news media were legendary, and much more recently President Obama had an openly antagonistic relationship with Fox News.

They're joined by more than a dozen other news outlets objecting to the move, which followed a November 7 press conference where Acosta refused to yield a microphone to a White House press aide.

The administration suspended Acosta's "hard pass", which provided expedited access to the White House grounds, after he broke protocol by refusing to surrender his microphone during a press conference last week.

The White House, meanwhile, has rejected CNN's suit. "This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters", Sanders said in a statement.

Many individual journalists who attended the press conference shared personal accounts and spoke out in his defense after Acosta's credentials were revoked.

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"He's got a loud voice", Trump said, adding, "You have to treat the White House of the office of the president with great respect".

A group of other news organizations, including Fox News, NBC News, the New York Times, the Washington Post and two wire services - AP and Bloomberg - also said they would file a joint amicus brief in support of CNN on Wednesday.

Star Fox anchor Sean Hannity isn't on board with his network president either, denouncing Acosta last week as a "far-left, grandstanding, sycophant left-winger".

The filing ratchets up the dispute between the news media and Trump, who has repeatedly denigrated reporters who question his actions, focusing his ire on CNN. "He can not do that under the First Amendment".

The White House Correspondents' Association welcomed CNN's lawsuit, saying "revoking access to the White House complex amounted to disproportionate reaction to the events". "We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern".

The brief focused largely on Acosta's "disrupt [tions]" during the press conference rather than a previous explanation by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, which CNN promptly denied, that Acosta had placed his hands on an intern who tried to take away his microphone.

Acosta and CNN are plaintiffs in the case which names six defendants including Mr Trump, Mrs Sanders, and White House chief of staff John Kelly.

The most obvious point is that, in order for the White House to plan this microphone ambush, they needed to know that Acosta wouldn't stop asking the questions when his turn was over.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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