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CNN sues Trump, his White House aides over barring of reporter

By Lalit K Jha
November 13, 2018 22:21 IST
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IMAGE: A White House staff member reaches for the microphone held by CNN's Jim Acosta as he questions US President Donald Trump during a news conference following last week's midterm US congressional elections at the White House. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

CNN on Tuesday said it has filed a lawsuit against United States President Donald Trump and several of his top aides, seeking the immediate restoration of the network's correspondent Jim Acosta's press pass to the White House which was suspended following a testy exchange with the President.

 

During a White House press conference last Wednesday, Acosta challenged Trump's use of the word 'invasion' to describe a migrant caravan heading to the US from Central America.

When Acosta tried to ask a question about the Russia investigation into alleged interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump told him repeatedly 'that's enough' and 'put down the mic'.

Hours after the encounter, seen across the world, the White House, in an unprecedented move, suspended Acosta's press pass, known as a Secret Service 'hard pass'.

White House Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said access was removed because he had put 'his hands on a young woman'.

Acosta has denied the allegations. White House insisted that its charges against Acosta were correct.

In a statement on Tuesday, CNN said it is seeking a preliminary injunction as soon as possible so that Acosta, the chief White House correspondent, can return to the presidential mansion right away, and a ruling from the court preventing the White House from revoking Acosta's pass in the future.

The suit alleges that Acosta and CNN's First and Fifth Amendment rights are being violated by the ban.

The suit is being filed in US District Court in Washington, DC on Tuesday morning, a CNN spokeswoman said. Both CNN and Acosta are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

There are six defendants: President Trump, chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Sanders, deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine, Secret Service director Joseph Clancy, and the Secret Service officer who took Acosta's hard pass away last Wednesday.

The officer is identified as John Doe in the suit, pending his identification.

The six defendants are all named because of their roles in enforcing and announcing Acosta's suspension, CNN reported.

On Friday, CNN sent a letter to the White House formally requesting the immediate reinstatement of Acosta's pass and warning of a possible lawsuit, the network confirmed.

The White House Correspondents Association President Olivier Knox in a statement 'strongly' supported CNN's goal of seeing their correspondent regain a US Secret Service security credential that the White House 'should not have taken away' in the first place.

"Revoking access to the White House complex amounted to disproportionate reaction to the events of last Wednesday. We continue to urge the Administration to reverse course and fully reinstate CNN's correspondent," Knox said.

The President of the United States should not be in the 'business of arbitrarily picking' the men and women who cover him, he said. Trump's combative relationship with the media deteriorated further last Wednesday with a news conference where he called some reporters rude and accused a PBS reporter of posing a racist question when she asked him about white nationalists.

"It's such a hostile media," Trump said during his post-midterm election news conference at the White House, after ordering reporter April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks to sit down when she tried to ask him a question.

The President complained that the media, while reporting 'fake news', did not cover the booming economy and was responsible for much of the country's divided politics.

He said that 'I can do something fantastic, and they make it look not good'.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
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