Judge will decide CNN vs. Trump press access case Friday

Originally filed Wednesday, November 14, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Judge Timothy J. Kelly will rule Thursday on a temporary restraining order regarding a case of press access to the White House between CNN and the Trump administration. (UPDATE on Thursday: he pushed the decision back to 11 a.m. Friday)

CNN filed the lawsuit Tuesday to immediately reinstate Jim Acosta’s “hard pass” access to the White House. It argued that the White House was denying him First Amendment (free press) and Fifth Amendment (due process) rights.

During a hearing Wednesday, a CNN attorney Theodore Boutrous argued that Trump had criticized CNN frequently and that this was “content-based discrimination.” Kelly, a Trump appointee, expressed skepticism of this argument, saying he sees evidence it was Acosta’s behavior that merited his loss of access. 

The White House attorney James Burnham said they had the right to selectively cut off access to particular journalists.

“If the president wants to exclude all reporters from the White House grounds, he has the authority to do that,” he said

At the same time, he believed Acosta’s behavior was inappropriate during the press conference, though the attorney acknowledged any argument related to Acosta making physical contact with the aide trying to take away his mic was not relevant. 

Burnham said CNN had 50 others with comparable access so its ability to cover Trump was not compromised. (Many of those 50 are technicians and photographers, not journalists.)

Several news organizations - including Fox News - have supported publicly CNN. 

"It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the President and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons. Our news organizations support the fundamental constitutional right to question this President, or any President," a joint statement from the news organizations said.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.