Judge expected to rule Thursday on CNN-Trump press credential lawsuit
"Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized."
In a major show of media support, other news outlets, including Fox News, are backing CNN's lawsuit against President Trump and top White House aides over the treatment of correspondent Jim Acosta.
Fox News president Jay Wallace announced Wednesday morning the network was among the outlets planning to file an amicus brief in support of CNN, which is seeking to have Acosta's press credentials immediately returned.
"Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized," Wallace said in a statement. "While we don't condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people."
In addition to Fox News, nine other news organizations — the Associated Press, First Look, Gannett, NBC News, the New York Times, Politico, E.W. Scripps, USA Today, and the Washington Post. — announced they would also be filing amicus briefs to support CNN and Acosta's lawsuit. The National Press Club and the Press Freedom Defense Fund also intend to file friend-of-the-court-briefs.
"Our news organizations support the fundamental constitutional right to question this President, or any President," the news organizations said in a joint statement.
Fox News' announcement came shortly after the Trump administration responded to CNN's lawsuit, arguing that the president had "broad discretion" to determine press access and that "no journalist has a First Amendment right to enter the White House." The administration's legal team, led by Assistant Attorney General Joseph Hunt, also claimed the its decision to revoke Acosta's press credentials were "viewpoint- and content-neutral."
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee, heard arguments from government and CNN attorneys before deciding to adjourn for the day. Kelly told the court he would "sleep on it" and return Thursday at 3 p.m., according to Washington Post reporter Erik Wemple.
Earlier in the day, Trump told the conservative news website the Daily Caller that he wasn't sure if the White House would prevail against CNN.
"I don't know, we should… We'll see how the court rules. Is it freedom of the press when somebody comes in and starts screaming questions and won't sit down?" Trump said in a interview published Wednesday afternoon.
"Jim Acosta is just somebody who gets up and grandstands, he doesn't even know what he's asking you half of the time," Trump added. "I really think that when you have guys like Acosta, I think they're bad for the country."
CNN filed the lawsuit against Trump on Tuesday demanding the return of Acosta's White House credentials, which were stripped after a tense exchange with the president during a press conference last week.
In addition to Trump, other defendants include White House chief of staff John Kelly, press secretary Sarah Sanders, deputy communications director Bill Shine (who is a former Fox News executive and a former colleague of Wallace), and Secret Service director Joseph Clancy.
"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," CNN said in a statement. "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."
Pundits and even some anchors on Fox News have been critical of the way Acosta has questioned president Trump, with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace calling Acosta's behavior "shameful." Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, however, said he thought CNN had a strong case against the White House and Trump, regardless of Acosta's style of questioning or personality.
"Obviously Acosta may have been an irritant to the president, but he was hardly a danger to him," Napolitano said on Tuesday. "So I think CNN's got a very good case. I think this will be resolved quickly. I don't expect a jury trial. I think it will either be settled or CNN will prevail on motion."
This isn't the first time Fox News has backed CNN during a fight with the White House over press access. Back in July, Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Shepard Smith both criticized the administration after CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins was banned from covering an event at the Rose Garden after questions she asked as a pool reporter were deemed "inappropriate" by Shine and Sanders.
"I'm on the news side of the house and you have to stand for access. This is a credentialed person," Baier said during an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show back in August. Sam Donaldson was yelling questions they didn't like in the Reagan White House either, but he was never denied access. And to Fox News' credit, they stood up right away. I mean it was instantaneous. We put up the chain, it happened, and then I got it on the show with the approval of Fox management."
Here is the Trump administration's response to the lawsuit: