On Tuesday, CNN filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and top administration officials including John Kelly and Sarah Sanders, correspondent Jim Acosta’s access to the White House was suspended.
The suit, which lists Acosta as a plaintiff, alleges the White House is infringing upon the First Amendment right of freedom of the press.
"While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone," CNN said in announcing the lawsuit, which also asks for a restraining order requiring that Acosta’s security credentials be returned.
"If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials."
Last week, the White House revoked Acosta's credentials, known as a “hard pass,” just hours after a tense back-and-forth between Acosta and the president at a news conference addressing the midterm elections. During the standoff, Trump told Acosta “CNN should be ashamed” for employing him. At one point, a White House staffer attempted to rip the microphone out of Acosta’s hand.
After a viral, doctored video of the microphone incident was tweeted by Info Wars, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who retweeted the video, claimed Acosta’s pass was revoked due to the reporter “placing his hands on a young woman.”
CNN is arguing in its suit that the pass was suspended as an act of retaliation against Acosta’s negative coverage of the president.
“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,” read the complaint.
CNN argued in the complaint that Trump and White House staff violated Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights, and the network said it is seeking a declaration that taking away Acosta's credentials was unconstitutional.
In a statement, Press Secretary Sanders described the suit as “more grandstanding from CNN” and said that the White House will “vigorously defend against this lawsuit.”
“Mr. Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment.” Sanders said. “This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters.”
She added, “The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional. The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor. If there is no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business.”
The lawsuit was assigned to Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee and former counsel to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
(Photo: Al Drago - Pool/Getty Images)