Free Speech Lawsuit Against Trump Gets Go-Ahead from Judge
Free speech advocates can move forward with a lawsuit alleging U.S. President Donald Trump violated the Constitution by threatening journalists and news organizations who have criticized his administration.
U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield on Tuesday denied Trump’s request to throw out the case, saying the threats are credible because Trump has barred reporters from news conferences before and revoked CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s credentials.
“The press secretary indeed e-mailed the entire press corps to inform them of new rules of conduct and to warn of further consequences, citing the incident involving Mr. Acosta,” Schofield wrote. “These facts plausibly allege that a motivation for defendant’s actions is controlling and punishing speech he dislikes.”
Pen America Center, one of more than 100 centers that make up the PEN International network, sued Trump in federal court in Manhattan in October 2018 seeking an order declaring that Trump’s threats violate the First Amendment.
It also asked the judge to block the president from taking any action in retaliation against members of the White House press corps for speech that he doesn’t like.
The judge declined to issue the order saying Trump “has significant discretion over White House press credentials and reporters’ access to the White House and Air Force One.”
Pen America will now be able to seek documents to bolster its claims that Trump has sought to use regulatory actions to punish critical media, said Pen America said.
“This decision is a victory not just for PEN America and our own writers, but also for the journalists and media outlets doing the vital, risky work of keeping us all informed,” said Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Nossel. “But above all, it is a win for all individuals who depend on a free press to dig out the facts and hold leadership accountable without fear of reprisal.”
The issue is also before a federal appeals court in Washington, where a three-judge panel heard arguments Monday in the government’s appeal of U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras’ September ruling that restored White House credentials to Brian Karem, a correspondent for Playboy magazine.
The appeals court judges seemed skeptical that Trump’s press secretary can suspend a reporter’s special-access White House credential without clear notice and advance warning, The Washington Post reported.
©2020 Bloomberg News
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