CNN filed a lawsuit in DC District Court on Tuesday, demanding the return of Acosta’s White House press credentials and saying that both Acosta and CNN’s First and Fifth Amendment rights have been violated through the suspension of his pass. Furthermore, CNN explained in a statement that it had asked for an “immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim” and plan to “seek permanent relief as part of this process.”
The defendants are Trump, his Chief of Staff John Kelly, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine, Director of the Secret Service Randolph Alles, and the Secret Service officer who was responsible for taking Acosta’s pass.
Following a heated exchange between Acosta and Trump at a press briefing last week, Trump called for Acosta to stop his questions, while a White House aide sought to take the microphone from the reporter’s hands. Acosta refused and Sanders announced that the White House had revoked his “hard pass” later that day. Sanders accused Acosta of placing “his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job,” and proceeded to share doctored footage of the incident to justify the move.
While disputes between reporters and this administration—as well as administrations past—are not uncommon, taking away a reporter’s pass for asking challenging questions appears to be unprecedented. The day following the incident, Trump threatened that other journalists could similarly lose their credentials, a fact CNN highlights. In its statement it notes, “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.”
Precedent would suggest that CNN has a good chance of winning the suit. A federal judge ruled in May that Trump can’t block his critics on Twitter, as it is in violation of their right to free speech. “The government cannot exclude reporters from [the White House] because of their views,” explained Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight Institute, the organization responsible for bringing about the Twitter suit. “Viewpoint is not a criterion that establishes a media organization’s right to be at a news briefing.”