CNN’s suit against Trump is a test of the Free Press vs. Dictatorship

Cable News Network (CNN) filed a lawsuit this morning against the Trump Administration demanding White House Press Reporter Jim Acosta’s hard pass be returned to him at once.

In a statement obtained from a CNN Twitter feed CNN stated: “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…”

The lawsuit seeks to have the White House return Mr. Acosta’s pass and seeks permanent relief to prevent them from further acting against Acosta and other reporters who are reporting on the Administration’s activities.

The First Amendment is meant to protect freedom of speech and freedom of the press. This freedom is vitally important to democracy because it allows people to be informed and participate in their civic duties. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“Our liberty depends on freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

Jefferson understood that the transparency of government limits corruption and makes the people safer in the process. Lawyers and journalists have long stood side-by-side in the belief that the right to ask government officials about what they are doing is an unalienable right. In other words, freedom of the press should not be limited, denied or taken away.

The White House excuses for revoking Acosta’s pass have not been consistent. First White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Acosta assaulted a staffer who tried to take a microphone away from him, and then produced a doctored video clip trying to make it look like he did assault her. When the truth about the video came out and we learned it was an edited version from Infowars, Sanders changed her story.

Later, Sanders would say Acosta refused to surrender a White House microphone to the intern, softening the rhetoric somewhat. Still later Sander said Acosta’s pass was revoked because he refused to yield to questions from other reporters. None of the above are the real reasons for the revocation.

If Trump doesn’t like Acosta and didn’t want to answer questions from him, why did he call on him? The answer to that question seems clear. Trump was in a combative mood and wanted to pick a fight. He was still combative the following day when he insulted three female reporters who tried to question him.

This issue is not about respect for the office of the presidency as Mr. Trump would have us believe. This issue is about making the press look bad and taking away their credibility. This issue is about silencing his enemies, who happens to be anyone who questions his words, actions or deeds. This issue is another “us vs them” scenario to feed to his base.

It doesn’t matter to Trump if our liberties are blunted by his actions. It doesn’t matter to Trump that statements he makes about the press being the enemy of the people may cause them to be assaulted by some of his crazier cult-like followers and it definitely doesn’t matter to Trump if the people are ill-informed, he prefers it that way because it brings them down to his level.

During a February 20, 2017 interview with CNN Sen. John McCain said:

 “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

Yes indeed, that is how dictators get started, and that is why this lawsuit is so important. The White House has filed a suit in response to CNN’s suit, and if the White House should win we are on a collision course with a dictatorship and the death of democracy.

 

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