The ACLU fired off a reminder Wednesday that the “White House belongs to the people, not the president” after the Trump administration asserted in a legal filing that the president has “broad discretion” to bar reporters from press briefings.
“No journalist has a First Amendment right to enter the White House,” Justice Department lawyers argued in a 28-page filing in response to CNN’s lawsuit against the administration for revoking the “hard pass” of the network’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, last week.
CNN said in a statement announcing the legal action on Tuesday that the suspension violated Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights and that it is seeking to have the credentials reinstated.
“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 stated.
The president himself suggested that it was not only Acosta, with whom he’s sparred frequently, or his frequent target CNN, but that “it could be others” who face the same retaliation.
As the White House filed its briefing, thirteen news organizations — including Fox News — declared their support of Acosta’s case and their intention to file an amicus brief.
“It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the President and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons,” a joint statement from the news media organizations says.
“Our news organizations support the fundamental constitutional right to question this President, or any President. We will be filing friend-of-the-court briefs to support CNN’s and Jim Acosta’s lawsuit based on these principles,” it continues.
The White House’s narrative for why it stripped Acosta’s press pass has shifted. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at first said Acosta put his hands on a White House aide who tried to take the microphone away from him, and Sanders shared a doctored video to support her allegation. After the lawsuit was filed, however, the White House said Acosta “physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions.”
In a statement last week, Committee to Protect Journalists advocacy director Courtney Radsch said Acosta’s press pass should be reinstated immediately and that the White House must “refrain from punishing reporters by revoking their access — that’s not how a free press works.”
Literary and human rights organization PEN America, which as filed its own suit last month against the Trump administration, added in a tweet on Wednesday, “Journalists — and all Americans — have a right to not be retaliated against by the government based on the nature of their reporting or their questions.”
A hearing is set for Wednesday afternoon.