CNN Has Sued the White House for Pulling Jim Acosta’s Press Credentials

By A.J. Katz 

CNN has filed a lawsuit against The White House, specifically President Donald J. Trump, Trump’s chief of staff John F. Kelly, Trump’s comms director William (Bill) Shine, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and the United States Secret Service, Secret Service director Randolph Alles, and Secret Service agent John Doe, saying the Trump administration has “violated CNN and Jim Acosta‘s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and Fifth Amendment rights to due process.”

CNN chief White House correspondent had his press credential revoked last Wednesday, and he was denied entrance to the White House grounds by the Secret Service when he arrived for a scheduled live shot.

The move comes the administration accused the CNN chief White House correspondent, who already has a contentious relationship with the press shop, of “putting his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern”


Rumors that CNN could sue The White House intensified over the weekend when First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams went on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday and told host Brian Stelter said that CNN could sue the White House for revoking Acosta’s access, and that the network would have a strong case.

“I think it’s a really strong lawsuit,” Abrams said. “I can understand CNN being reluctant to sue because the president keeps saying CNN is the enemy of me, and CNN might have reluctance to have a lawsuit titled ‘CNN vs. Donald Trump.’ That said, yes, I think they should sue.” Abrams said.

Former ABC News White House correspondent Sam Donaldson also appeared on the Sunday program and seemingly surprised the host when he said that CNN had already contacted him to prep an affidavit.

Apparently Donaldson wasn’t kidding.

We obtained the memo CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker sent this morning to staff, followed by statements from CNN and Acosta’s lead attorneys.

November 13, 2018

This morning, CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration in DC District Court. The White House has violated CNN and Jim Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and Fifth Amendment rights to due process. We are demanding the immediate return of Jim’s White House credential.

As you know, Jim’s credential was revoked last Wednesday, and he was denied entrance to the White House grounds by the Secret Service when he arrived for a scheduled live shot.

The White House’s action came in the wake of Jim’s questioning of the President at his post-Election Day press conference. Their assertion that it was because of Jim’s interaction with a press aide was patently false, and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a video that was distorted to give an inaccurate impression of what happened.

This is not a step we have taken lightly. But the White House action is unprecedented.

The First Amendment grants the right of all journalists to hold those in power accountable and ask tough questions.  It’s what Jim, and all of his colleagues who cover the White House and the administration, do with integrity and professionalism.  As we have said before, we will always stand up for our rights. That is why we have filed suit.

I will keep you posted as the case continues.  Below is the statement we released in conjunction with filing the suit, as well as a quote from one of our lead attorneys for the case, Ted Olson, who was the Solicitor General of the United States under President George W. Bush.


Here are statements from CNN and Acosta’s attorneys Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. and Theodore B. Olson.

Statement from CNN:

CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration this morning in DC District Court.  It demands the return of the White House credentials of CNN’s Chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.  The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process.  We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process.  While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone.  If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials.

Statement from Ted Olson:

The Supreme Court has held in no uncertain terms that the First Amendment protects ‘robust political debate,’ including ‘speech that is critical of those who hold public office.’  Mr. Acosta’s press credentials must be restored so that all members of the press know they will remain free to ask tough questions, challenge government officials, and report the business of the nation to the American people

Statement from Boutrous:

The White House punished Mr. Acosta and CNN for the contents of their reporting.  The law is clear that this violates the First Amendment and Due Process Clause of the Constitution.  The arbitrary revocation of Mr Acosta’s press credentials is causing irreparable injury each and every day because it is stopping him from reporting on news from the White House.  That is why we are seeking emergency relief and asking that his credentials be restored immediately.

CNN’s Public Relations account tweeted out the following:

And lastly, a PDF of the lawsuit itself:

CNN and Jim Acosta vs. Trump administration

The Counsel for CNN went on CNN and explained the network’s grounds for suing the White House: