The Trump administration, in defending its decision to revoke CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s pass to the White House, argues it has “broad discretion” to regulate journalists’ access to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
But not as much discretion as the president thought.
Timothy Kelly, a federal judge whom Trump appointed, today ordered the administration to immediately return Acosta’s pass that gives him access to press conferences and other events on the 18-acre complex that includes the White House.
But the more compelling question to me is not whether Trump has the authority to revoke press access, but what he hopes to accomplish by impugning one of the nation’s most cherished freedoms, that of the press.
I’m not surprised, of course. Journalists are among Trump’s most frequent targets for tirades, on Twitter and elsewhere.
But though I find Trump’s descriptions of the media as the “enemy of the people” and “dangerous and sick” comparable to the rantings of a child denied dessert, I’m even more troubled by his taking action that directly affects a reporter’s work, even if the reporter in this case is prone to grandstanding, which I believe Acosta is.
The First Amendment, and legal precedent, are quite clear that the federal government may not impinge on press freedom based on content — in this case, the questions Acosta asked Trump during a Nov. 7 press conference.
Trump — again, unsurprisingly — warned that Acosta might not be the only journalist to be punished. The same fate, the president said, could befall others who “don’t treat the White House and the office of the presidency with respect.”
I’m not at all sure that last word is one Trump can even define.
— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor