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CNN is suing Donald Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and others in an attempt to get Jim Acosta's press credentials restored. CNN attorneys argue that whatever lame excuse the White House fabricated about his beating an intern to death with a microphone, the real reason Trump suspended his White House pass was plain old not liking CNN's coverage, and that there is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.


The brief complaint lays out a pretty simple case: the White House has the right to make sure reporters aren't a security threat to the president, other reporters, or the general public. That's perfectly fine, so the administration can screen reporters before granting them a "hard pass," the credential allowing reporters daily access to the White House and the various press offices there, which the complaint takes some pains to explain is a WH correspondent's actual factual workplace. But that's pretty much the limit of the reasons the White House can restrict or rescind press access, too: a president can't just decide it doesn't like a reporter or network and then pull their access.

The suit argues that under the landmark 1977 Sherrill v. Knight case, the government cannot deny a reporter access to the White House "arbitrarily or for less than compelling reasons," and that last Thursday's banishment of Acosta was therefore illegal. CNN notes that Acosta was never notified of his pass being revoked, and that he only learned of it when he showed up to work at the White House Thursday night. Sarah Sanders's announced reason for pulling Acosta's credentials, the claim he'd "place[d] hands upon" an intern who was trying to grab his microphone away, was fabricated, the complaint says, and is refuted both by other witnesses in the press room, and by the ludicrously manipulated video Sanders tweeted to "prove" Acosta had accosted the poor lass. We mean, get real.

Just for the sake of being as consistent as we've come to expect, Sanders's canned statement on the lawsuit dismissed it as "just more grandstanding" and offered a brand new made-up reason for not allowing Acosta to come back: He was SO RUDE.

Hey, looks like previous cases don't actually allow "unmannerly" as a reason to yank press credentials, leaving aside the quaint notion that anyone in Trumpworld is overly concerned with etiquette.

CNN's attorneys argue that Donald Trump's animus against CNN and Acosta was clearly the reason for revoking his pass, a conclusion reinforced by Trump's outburst during last Thursday's presser ("I'll tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you work for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn't be working for CNN" ) and by Trump's subsequent statements that he didn't consider Acosta's interaction with the intern "all that horrible," but boy howdy, he sure failed to "treat the White House with respect." Trump also said he just might banish other reporters in the future! The complaint also cites numerous examples of Trump's insistence that going after CNN is always good press for him, which sure doesn't sound like he has any plans to adhere strictly to the Sherrill standard.

That's how the First Amendment protects White House correspondents, Charlie Brown: no matter how many other CNN reporters have press credentials, or even hard passes, the government doesn't get to pick who will cover it beyond safety screenings of those who press organizations send to be White House reporters.

The suit also claims Trump and company violated Acosta's due process rights under the Fifth Amendment, because he was banned arbitrarily, was never given a reason for his banning before it happened, and wasn't allowed to appeal the decision. The suit asks that his hard pass be restored, or at least, barring that, he be given a formal written explanation of the decision and an administrative route to respond to the allegations. And you damn well bet the suit asks the judge to declare Acosta's treatment unconstitutional.

However much Trump hates the enemy of the people, legal types think CNN and Acosta have a pretty good chance of success:

"I think it's a really strong lawsuit," Floyd Abrams, a noted First Amendment lawyer, told CNN on Sunday. "I think [CNN] should sue, and if it's not about Acosta, this is going to happen again . . . So whether it's CNN suing or the next company suing, someone's going to have to bring a lawsuit, and whoever does is going to win" unless the White House can show that Acosta is violent and disruptive.

Hell, even Fox News dickcheese legal commentator Andrew Napolitano thinks CNN has "a very good case" and expects a quick decision or settlement to get Acosta back in the press room, although Fox Business smugpudding Stuart Varney said don't be so sure, maybe the White House will rewrite the rules for the First Amendment, because they're smart over there and don't have to put up with bad liar reporters who are the enemy, and if being the enemy isn't a security risk, what is?

"The complaint is filled with Madisonian language that I love about the value of a free press to help Americans make free choices," Napolitano pointed out.

"Yeah, but not the freedom to make a circus out of something," Varney griped.

And the one-man journalistic killing spree that is Abilio James ("Jim") Acosta will continue to stalk Donald Trump, making his life a living hell. That or CNN will put him on cute animal human interest stories, maybe.

Anyway, hey, have an open thread now. We've earned it!

[Daily Beast / WaPo / Crooks and Liars / CNN v Trump complaint]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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