Well, he asked for it, and now he’s got it.
Donald Trump is being sued by CNN after the White House revoked reporter Jim Acosta’s hard pass last week following a truly surreal exchange that found the President calling Acosta “a terrible person”.
The episode, which came during a wild post-midterm press conference, was universally criticized as the most egregious example yet of the administration’s efforts to trample on press freedom and otherwise stamp out dissent.
Here, for anyone who needs a refresher, is the exchange at the heart of the issue:
To justify the revocation of Acosta’s pass, Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out a doctored video in an effort to suggest that Acosta had physically assaulted the White House aide who attempted to wrench his microphone away.
Multiple experts have examined the version of the video Sanders tweeted and the conclusion is unanimous: It was altered for effect, a surreal state of affairs in a country where press freedom is sacrosanct. Here’s Abba Shapiro, an independent video producer who examined the footage at AP’s request, explaining:
CNN’s suit (embedded in full below), names Trump, John Kelly, Sarah Sanders, Bill Shine, Joseph Clancy, and a Secret Service officer. “The six defendants are all named because of their roles in enforcing and announcing Acosta’s suspension”, CNN said Tuesday morning, in an article announcing the action.
Here’s an excerpt from the complaint:
The Framers of our Constitution embraced a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” N.Y. Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964). The President lacks the authority to quash “[t]he sort of robust political debate encouraged by the First Amendment”— debate that is “bound to produce speech that is critical of those who hold public office.” Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 51 (1988). That is why the D.C. Circuit has been clear that “the protection afforded newsgathering under the first amendment guarantee of freedom of the press requires that . . . access [to White House press facilities] not be denied arbitrarily or for less than compelling reasons.” Sherrill v. Knight, 569 F.2d 124, 129 (D.C. Cir. 1977). And “notice . . . of the factual bases for denial [of access to White House press facilities] with an opportunity to rebut is a minimum prerequisite for ensuring that the denial is . . . [not] based on arbitrary or less than compelling reasons.” Id. at 131. 6. Plaintiffs bring this action to enforce this constitutional commitment, restore Acosta’s well-deserved press credentials, and ensure that the press remains free to question the government and to report the business of the nation to the American people.
The move comes less than 48 hours after Adam Schiff (who will be intelligence committee chairman under the Democratic House), said Democrats will investigate Trump for abuse of power in relation to his targeting of the Washington Post and CNN.
You can expect all manner of angry tweets from the President, whose disdain for CNN has morphed into a veritable obsession over the course of his presidency.