CNN and correspondent Jim Acosta are suing President Donald Trump and several of his top aides for denying Acosta routine access to the White House, following a heated confrontation between Trump and the reporter at a press conference last week.
The lawsuit filed in DC District Court on Tuesday morning demanded that the administration return Acosta's White House "hard pass" credentials and asked the court for an immediate restraining order requiring Acosta's pass to be returned. A hard pass allows journalists regular and unescorted access to the White House and White House briefings.
CNN filed the lawsuit after Acosta's credentials were revoked when he refused to give up the microphone while asking a question about the Russia investigation at a news conference with Trump on Nov. 7.
Video from the exchange showed a White House aide attempting to take the microphone from Acosta, who said, "Pardon me, ma'am," after briefly making contact with her arm. Acosta continued to press Trump about the Russia investigation while the aide tried to take the microphone from him.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused Acosta of "placing hands on a young woman just trying to her job as a White House intern." She then spread around a video that has been the subject of intense debate about whether or not it was doctored.
Many journalists defended Acosta and were shocked by the White House's decision to revoke his credentials.
"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 Tuesday.
During the press conference, Trump singled out Acosta as an "enemy of the people."
"CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them," Trump said. "You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN."
The complaint said that CNN and Acosta have been Trump's "favorite targets of abuse" and that the decision to revoke Acosta's credentials "is the culmination of years of hostility by President Trump against CNN and Acosta based on the contents of their reporting."
The lawsuit described it as "an unabashed attempt to censor the press and exclude reporters from the White House who challenge and dispute the President’s point of view."
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Sanders seemed to change her explanation about why Acosta's access was revoked.
The statement said said that Acosta was "no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment" and that he "inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters" on other occasions, and that the White House "cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional."
"The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor," Sanders said. "If there is no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business."
Earlier, Sanders said Acosta's credentials were revoked due to "placing his hands" on the intern.
The lawsuit was assigned to Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee and former counsel to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Trump told reporters on Nov. 9 that he thought Acosta "was not nice to that young woman" but added, "I don’t hold him for that because it wasn’t overly, you know, horrible."
White House Correspondents' Association President Olivier Knox said the group "strongly supports CNN’s goal of seeing their correspondent regain a US Secret Service security credential that the White House should not have taken away in the first place. Revoking access to the White House complex amounted to disproportionate reaction to the events of last Wednesday."
"The President of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him," Knox added.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Tuesday in support of CNN’s lawsuit against Trump.
The brief argues that the revocation of Acosta’s White House press credentials "tramples on the Constitution – in particular the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and of the press – and could have a chilling effect on other journalists," the organizations said in a joint statement.
"President Trump’s revocation of Acosta’s credentials is, simply put, extraordinary and out of line,” Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said. “It’s decidedly out of step with the traditions of freedom of speech and of the press enshrined in our Constitution."