The judge presiding over the CNN lawsuit regarding Jim Acosta’s White House press access said that he will issue a ruling this afternoon. CNN filed suit on Tuesday and the first hearing in the case was held yesterday. CNN is asking for a temporary restraining order that would force the government to return Mr. Acosta’s White House access.
CNN’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous, said that the “judge was very, very, focused on the key issues of the case.”
In the two-hour hearing, Judge Timothy of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, a Trump appointee, probed CNN’s claim that Acosta’s ban was viewpoint discrimination rather than an action based on the reporter’s conduct. Boutrous cited the Trump Administration’s attack on CNN for “liberal bias” in a fundraising email sent after the revocation.
Boutrous also told the judge that the Trump Administration’s claim that Acosta put his hands on the White House intern who tried to grab his microphone was “absolutely false,” noting that the 28-page brief filed by the Justice Department does not allege that Acosta touched the aide.
James Burnham, the attorney representing the Justice Department, said that the White House didn’t need a reason to ban Acosta “because there’s no First Amendment protection and the President has broad discretion.”
Burnham attacked CNN’s First Amendment claim, saying, “A single journalist’s attempt to monopolize a press conference is not a viewpoint and revoking a hard pass in response to that is not viewpoint discrimination.”
At issue is whether the White House had valid cause to revoke Acosta’s press access. There is legal precedent from the 1977 case Sherrill v. Knight that “such refusal [for press access] must be based on a compelling governmental interest.” Judge Kelly must decide whether Acosta’s disruptive actions at last week’s press conference were sufficient to give the White House a valid reason for revoking his access. President Trump’s longstanding feud with CNN and Acosta give the news outlet ammunition to claim that the ban was directed at CNN because of their unfriendly coverage of the Trump Administration.
Numerous news organizations such as Fox News and the USA Today Network have filed briefs supporting CNN’s petition. “Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,” said Jay Wallace, president of Fox News. “While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the president and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”
The ruling is expected at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time today.