A US federal judge says he will hold a hearing on CNN’s lawsuit against the Donald Trump administration seeking the speedy reinstatement of press credentials for White House correspondent Jim Acosta, a frequent target of the President.
In its lawsuit filed on Tuesday in US 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”.
US District Judge Timothy Kelly ordered the Trump administration to respond to the lawsuit on Wednesday and he set a hearing that day on the request for a restraining order.
Mr Kelly, a former lawyer for the Senate Judiciary Committee, was nominated to the bench by Mr Trump last year.
The White House revoked Mr 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”.
Mr 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 November 6 congressional elections, Mr Trump erupted into anger during a news conference when Mr Acosta questioned him about the Russia probe and a migrant caravan travelling through Mexico.
“That’s enough, that’s enough,” Mr Trump told Mr Acosta last Wednesday, as a White House intern attempted to take the microphone away from the correspondent.
“You are a rude, terrible person.”
— The Hill (@thehill) November 8, 2018
The White House suspended his credentials later that day, with Ms Sanders alleging that Mr Acosta had put his hands on the intern who was trying to take the microphone from him.
Videos of the encounter show Mr Acosta pulling back as the intern moved to take the microphone.
“While the suit is specific to CNN and Mr 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 Mr Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday there “could be others also”.
Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer for CNN and Mr Acosta, said the White House was punishing Mr 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.