Pepper Hamilton filed an amicus brief on behalf of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) in Cable News Network v. Trump, the district court case challenging the Trump administration’s decision to suspend the press pass of CNN reporter Jim Acosta following a contentious press conference.
The amicus brief, authored by Pepper attorneys George A. Lehner, Amy B. Ginensky, Eli Segal and Eric S. Merin, was submitted on behalf of the WHCA “to highlight the extent and breadth of the danger posed to all journalists, and to the American public, if the President’s assertion of unbridled authority both to pick and choose but also to affirmatively exclude those journalists who cover him is permitted to stand.” The WHCA is a nonprofit whose primary mission is to advocate for the newsgathering rights of the press on behalf of journalists who cover the White House and on behalf of the Americans who rely on the press to provide information about the activities of their elected officials.
The brief argued that President Trump’s assertion “that he has absolute, unbridled discretion to decide who can report from inside the White House” was “wrong.” The brief stated, “While he may have absolute discretion to exclude a member of the press from his Trump Tower residence, he does not have absolute discretion to exclude a member of the press from the White House. . . . [T]he First Amendment requires a compelling government interest—not whim, prejudice, or dislike—for the President to strip a journalist of his or her ability to report from the White House.”
In her “Distinguished Persons of the Week” column for The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin focused on the WHCA brief and said, “The WHCA . . . understood that if Trump gets away with this conduct, their rights to report and the public’s right to receive their reporting will be impaired. . . . For defending the First Amendment and pursuing their rights and all of ours through the courts (another bulwark against authoritarianism), we can say to all involved in litigating this issue, well done.”
On November 16, D.C. district court judge Timothy J. Kelly granted CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order against the Trump administration, forcing the administration to temporarily restore Acosta’s press pass. On November 19, the administration fully restored the press pass in a final determination, and CNN dropped its suit.
The case and Pepper’s amicus brief on behalf of the WHCA drew significant press coverage. Below are some examples of the media hits discussing the WHCA brief.