The network’s chances of winning are good

CNN is suing the White House to get Jim Acosta’s press pass back.

Legal experts say the network’s chances of winning in court are favorable. Although a court would likely give the president and Secret Service the benefit of the doubt if they barred a reporter due to security threats, the First Amendment protects journalists against arbitrary restrictions by government officials.

Who is more of a security threat to which? Acosta to Trump, or Trump to Acosta?

The suit names CNN and Acosta as plaintiffs. Trump, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine, [Sarah] Sanders and the U.S. Secret Service are named as defendants. It alleges a violation of the First Amendment, a violation of the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees due process in government actions, and a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. It asks for the immediate restoration of Acosta’s credential, or restoration pending a hearing before a “neutral” arbiter.

In a defiant statement, Sanders called the suit “more grandstanding from CNN” and said the White House will “vigorously” defend itself.

“CNN, who [sic] has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders, and Mr. Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment,” she said.

What is this, high school??! Nobody said Acosta is special; the point is that his press pass was yanked for no real reason.

She made no mention of a physical altercation between Acosta and the press aide — the original reason the White House cited for the suspension — and instead said the suspension was because Acosta would not yield to other reporters.

“After Mr. Acosta asked the president two questions — each of which the president answered — he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions,” Sanders said. “This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters . . . The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor.”

That may be true, but it’s not the president’s job to micromanage the press. On the contrary: it’s the president’s job to not do that. It’s the president’s job to leave the press alone. That’s a first amendment issue but it’s also a conflict of interest issue. The president has an interest in favorable coverage, and that’s why the president has to be hands off.

Disputes have occasionally flared over which members of the press corps are qualified to receive a “hard pass.” But Trump’s action appears to be unprecedented; there’s no record of a president revoking such a pass from a reporter because he didn’t like the questions the reporter asked.

That’s not, by the way, because none of them have ever felt like it. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that they have all felt like it. But feeling like it isn’t doing it. Trump’s administration has a startling lack of impulse control.

Another possible parallel: A federal judge last year struck down Trump’s blocking of critics on Twitter. She ruled that the First Amendment prevented him from denying access to presidential statements due to a would-be follower’s opinions and views.

The same principle applies in the Acosta case, said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which brought the Twitter suit last year.

“The government cannot exclude reporters from [the White House] because of their views,” said Jaffer. “Once the government created a general right of access it cannot selectively withdraw it based on viewpoint. Viewpoint is not a criterion that establishes a media organization’s right to be at a news briefing.”

They’re supposed to be viewpoint-neutral, see.

CNN’s lawsuit, he added, “is critical to preserve the media’s ability to ask hard questions and hold the government accountable . . . It would be intolerable to let this kind of thing go unchallenged. Other reporters would end up hesitating before asking sharp questions, the White House would be able to use the threat of similar revocations for critical coverage, and media coverage of the White House would be distorted because of fear of official retaliation.”

Other journalists have been widely supportive of Acosta since Trump pushed him out last week. In a statement Tuesday, the White House Correspondents’ Association’s president, Olivier Knox, said the organization “strongly supports” CNN in regaining its access. He said the revocation of Acosta’s credential was a “disproportionate reaction” to the news conference incident. “The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him,” Knox said.

If Trump had his way there would be only people from Fox News and the National Review and the Weekly Standard at his press conferences (and he wouldn’t be all that sure about the last two).

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