By Michael M. Grynbaum
New York Times News Service
CNN sued the Trump administration Tuesday in an effort to reinstate the press credentials of its chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, escalating a dispute that has highlighted the increasingly tense dynamic between President Donald Trump and the media.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, the network argued that the removal of Acosta’s White House press pass constituted a violation of his First Amendment rights to freely report on the government. CNN also alleged that the administration had violated Acosta’s due process rights by revoking his credentials without warning.
Acosta, who has frequently clashed with Trump, angered the president at a formal news conference last week with questions about immigration and the special counsel’s investigation. The CNN correspondent would not relinquish the microphone after Trump attempted to move on to another reporter.
Hours later, the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, announced that the administration had removed Acosta’s credentials, which allowed him access to the White House grounds. The administration claimed falsely that Acosta had placed his hands on a White House intern who had tried to take his microphone away during the news conference.
“While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone,” CNN said in a statement. “If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials.”
Sanders responded shortly after the lawsuit was filed.
“This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” the press secretary wrote in a statement, noting that dozens of other CNN journalists have retained their White House credentials.
Floyd Abrams, the noted First Amendment lawyer, said Tuesday that CNN’s legal action was necessary.
“I can understand the reluctance — at a time when the president is saying, ‘CNN is hostile to me’ — for a lawsuit to be filed with the caption ‘CNN v. Donald Trump,'” Abrams said. “That said, sometimes a strong response is necessary, both for the institution itself and for the broader cause for which it effectively speaks.”
Sanders is named as a defendant in the suit, along with Trump; his chief of staff, John Kelly; the head of White House communications strategy, Bill Shine; and the Secret Service.