The Trump Administration defended its decision to revoke CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass, arguing reporters don’t have a Constitutional right to access the White House.
President Donald Trump’s Justice Department filed a response Wednesday to CNN’s lawsuit seeking to have Acosta’s credentials reinstated. The network sued after the White House pulled Acosta’s “hard pass” over his conduct at a Nov. 7 news conference, where Trump called him a “rude, terrible person” after he refused to hand over a microphone.
In a filing hours ahead of a hearing in federal court in Washington, the Trump administration argued the president has broad discretion to decide who gets press passes.
“No journalist has a First Amendment right to enter the White House,” Justice Department lawyers said in the 28-page filing.
“The president is generally free to open the White House doors to political allies, in the hopes of furthering a particular agenda, and he is equally free to invite in only political foes, in the hopes of convincing them of his position,” the lawyers said in the filing. “The First Amendment simply does not regulate these decisions.”
The filing ratchets up the dispute between the news media and Trump, who has repeatedly denigrated reporters questioning his actions, focusing particular ire on CNN as the purveyor of “fake news.” The network said Trump engaged in an “unabashed attempt to censor the press” by banning Acosta, who has gained notoriety for his aggressive questioning of the president.
Fox News, often a defender of Trump, is one of more than a dozen news organizations that agreed to file a brief in support of CNN. Others include Bloomberg LP, The New York Times, Washington Post and the Associated Press.
“It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the president and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons,” the news organizations said in a statement.
The Justice Department said the president’s broad discretion on who gets so-called hard passes has nothing to do with the First Amendment’s right to free speech. Rather, the White House may decide if it “wants to scale back its interactions with a particular journalist,” it said.
The administration denied CNN’s claims that the decision to bar Acosta was a “content and viewpoint-based punishment imposed on him because the president and his administration do not like CNN or Acosta’s reporting.”
CNN claims the Trump administration violated Acosta’s rights by revoking his press credentials without warning and making false claims that he placed his hands on a White House intern who tried to take his microphone during the news conference. Justice Department lawyers said Acosta’s refusal to surrender the microphone impeded Trump’s ability to run a fair and orderly press conference.
CNN is hardly burdened by the Acosta decision, the Justice Department argued, noting that he can still do his job outside the White House, and that 50 other journalists at the network have hard passes.
Hard passes give journalists access to the White House and its grounds without requiring an escort.
CNN’s lawsuit forces its owner, AT&T, and the Trump administration back into court just months after the two sides squared off before a judge over whether AT&T can buy Time Warner Inc. AT&T won the case, though the Justice Department has appealed the decision.
The case is Cable News Network Inc. v. Donald J. Trump, 18-cv-2610, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).