By David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge said he would hold a hearing on Wednesday on CNN’s lawsuit against the Trump administration seeking the speedy reinstatement of press credentials for White House correspondent Jim Acosta, a frequent target of President Donald Trump.
In its lawsuit filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, the cable news network said the White House violated the First Amendment right to free speech as well as the due process clause of the Constitution providing fair treatment through judicial process. The network asked for a temporary restraining order.
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, dismissed the action as “just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit.”
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly on Tuesday ordered the Trump administration to respond to the lawsuit by 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) on Wednesday and he set a hearing for 3:30 p.m. (2030 GMT) that day on the request for a restraining order. Kelly, a former lawyer for the Senate Judiciary Committee, was nominated to the bench by Trump last year.
The White House revoked Acosta’s credentials last week in an escalation of the Republican president’s attacks on the news media, which he has dubbed the “enemy of the people.”
Trump has intensified his criticism of the reporters who cover him, making personal jabs in response to questions he does not like, including those about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of whether his campaign worked with Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election. Trump denies any collusion took place.
CNN, and Acosta in particular, have been regular targets of the president.
The day after the Nov. 6 congressional elections, Trump erupted into anger during a news conference when Acosta questioned him about the Russia probe and a migrant caravan traveling through Mexico.
“That’s enough, that’s enough,” Trump told Acosta last Wednesday, as a White House intern attempted to take the microphone away from the correspondent. “You are a rude, terrible person.”
The White House suspended his credentials later that day, with Sanders alleging that Acosta had put his hands on the intern who was trying to take the microphone from him. Videos of the encounter show Acosta pulling back as the intern moved to take the microphone.
‘COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO ANYONE’
“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.”
The lawsuit noted that Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday there “could be others also.”
Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer for CNN and Acosta, said the White House was punishing Acosta for the contents of his reporting. “The White House cannot be permitted to cast out and punish reporters with whom it disagrees,” CNN said in its court filing.
The White House Correspondents Association said revoking Acosta’s credentials was a disproportionate reaction to what happened at the news conference.
“The President of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him,” it said.
U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, who is likely to become the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in January, supported the CNN lawsuit.
“@CNN is right to fight back against the cynical, unfair, and authoritarian treatment of @Acosta for doing his job,” he said in a Twitter post.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Peter Cooney)
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