White House Correspondents' Association: Trump Can’t Arbitrarily Exclude Reporters

Donald Trump gets into an exchange with CNN reporter Jim Acosta - Getty - H 2018
Al Drago - Pool/Getty

Other Capitol Hill reporters are rallying behind CNN's Jim Acosta as he awaits a decision from a D.C. federal judge about whether his access to the White House will be reinstated after he was banned following a press conference conflict with Donald Trump during which he refused to surrender a microphone to a staffer.

CNN and Acosta on Tuesday sued Trump and many members of his staff, claiming the suspension of his credentials violated the reporter's First and Fifth Amendment rights. In its opposition to the temporary restraining order, the Trump administration argued it has "absolute discretion" over which journalists receive interviews and "on-demand" access to the White House.

The White House Correspondents' Association on Thursday filed an amicus brief in CNN's lawsuit, claiming a dangerous precedent would be established if the court denies the motion for a temporary restraining order. 

"Under the President’s view of the law, if he does not like the content of an article that a journalist writes about him, he can deny that journalist access to the White House," writes attorney George Lehner. "In fact, according to the President, if he alone considers a journalist a 'bad' or a 'rude' person, he can deny that journalist access to the White House. And he can do so without providing that journalist with any process whatsoever."

WHCA argues that Trump can very well ban a journalist from his residence at Trump Tower, but he doesn't have the power to choose which members of the press have access to him at the White House. To do so would be violating Acosta's First Amendment rights and contradicting clear case law, absent a "compelling government interest."

If the court denies the TRO, WHCA argues, it would have a severe and chilling effect on political journalists, forcing them to evaluate whether asking questions that "could upset the President" is worth losing their press passes. (Read the full filing below.)

"Forcing those who cover the President to make such an untenable choice is not something that the First Amendment can tolerate," writes Lehner. "Nor can the First Amendment — or our democracy as a whole, for that matter — tolerate yielding to the President the power to effectively choose who does and who does not cover him."

Further, WHCA argues that Acosta is entitled to due process and should have received a notice of the reasons his access is being denied and should have been given the opportunity to respond. 

This follows an announcement Wednesday that Fox News intends to file an amicus brief on the matter. A hearing on the TRO is currently set for 10 a.m. ET on Friday.