The InfoWars Embed in the CNN First Amendment Lawsuit

CNN is suing Trump and the Secret Service for taking away Jim Acosta’s White House hard pass.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the lawsuit, both as a strategic choice and with regards to how it is argued.

From a strategic standpoint, I absolutely endorse challenging Trump’s abuses in courts, because they are a venue he has fared poorly in, in large part because he’s so legally incompetent in being abusive. And the law around credentialed access is actually pretty problematic. Having a big media journalist call attention to that may be useful. Better to have CNN pay to make this argument about Trump singling out disfavored members than … me!

But by suing Trump while continuing to treat his and Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ press conferences as legitimate news vehicles, you continue to validate the way Trump uses (and denigrates) the media as props in a pageant of tribalism. This lawsuit will actually provide Trump a way to magnify the opposition between him and CNN, to claim he is being attacked by a mean Fake News outlet, thus becoming one more prop in Trump’s performed conflict with the Fake News he uses to debase facts and truth.

Indeed, the lawsuit actually reinforces the claim these staged press conferences are legitimate press vehicle when it claims — as part of its First Amendment claim — that Acosta can’t do his job without hard pass credentials and CNN therefore is deprived of its White House correspondent without one.

Defendants have deprived Plaintiffs of their right to access the White House grounds by revoking Acosta’s White House credentials. Without those credentials, Acosta cannot access the White House and cannot effectively serve as a White House correspondent, thus depriving Plaintiff CNN of its chief White House correspondent

Obviously, CNN can (and has) covered the White House in the time since Trump pulled Acosta’s hard pass. It takes different kinds of reporting, and nowhere does this complaint convincingly argue that the live attendance at press conferences is necessary for them to report on the White House.

Because I think White House press conferences generally, and as practiced under Trump specifically, often serve more to perform journalism rather than conduct it, I think a boycott of White House press conferences would be a better response.

As to how CNN is arguing this. I’m not a lawyer, and definitely not a lawyer of the caliber of Ted Boutrous and Ted Olson (Olson’s inclusion is an especially nice touch both because it suggests CNN is willing to appeal this but also because, earlier this year, Trump tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to hire Olson as part of his defense team).

But it bothers me that this complaint treats a White House hard pass as a right, rather than arguing that the revocation of a hard pass outside of normal process constitutes an abridgment of the press, one carried out outside the existing process for regulating access to the White House media space (which after all is a finite good). Under the current regime, no one has a right to a hard pass — I probably would be refused one (I even seem to have been bumped off part of the White House email list!). Yet CNN presumes that its necessity for a White House correspondent that (it says, unconvincingly) must have access to the White House media space means it must be given access to a hard pass.

A hard pass is essential for White House reporters because it provides access to areas designated for journalists in the West Wing, on Air Force One, and in other secured areas during presidential trips, which are routinely covered by the White House press corps. For a White House correspondent like Acosta, the White House, or wherever the President is travelling, is his workplace. Indeed, Acosta often writes and broadcasts directly from the White House, working out of a booth in the press area known as the “lower press room” or from the “upper press office,” in close proximity to the Oval Office and the offices of the Press Secretary. Because Acosta’s work requires his physical presence at the White House or on the road with the President, he often goes weeks or months without visiting CNN’s Washington bureau. Accordingly, the press credentials allowing access to the White House grounds and press complex, and to the President and his entourage during trips, are necessary to provide workplace access. Without this credential, a daily White House correspondent like Acosta effectively cannot do his or her job.

The first treatment of the alternative — a daily pass (which is what I’ve had the sole time I covered something at the White House) — is inadequate to the task of showing that the hard pass is a kind of access that the White House should not be able to subject to politics and whim, because it conflates the readiness of access with the arbitrariness under which such access is given.

Without a hard pass, a reporter must ask for advance approval each time he wishes to enter the White House. Such access often needs to be requested at least 24 hours in advance. Since many White House news events, briefings, or appearances are frequently announced day-of, reporters without a hard pass are often effectively unable to cover these events. Further, the White House may decline to admit a reporter requesting daily access. Even if admitted, the reporter must wait in a security line with the general public and be screened before entering the White House and then be escorted by security around the press offices. Without a hard pass, a White House correspondent simply cannot do his job.

The problem with the daily pass is that a journalist obtains one via a far more arbitrary process, giving the discretion for entrance to a White House political appointee who can exercise bias in a pernicious way, rather than the Secret Service. The fact that Acosta was denied a daily pass once already could be used to emphasize that.

The White House also rejected Acosta’s application for a day pass on November 8, 2018.

The details about the Secret Service denying Acosta access in Paris would also be better deployed in an argument about the abridgment of rights that other similarly situated (in Paris, accredited by France) media enjoyed, than in arguing about a right that he has been denied.

On November 9, 2018, Defendants prohibited Acosta from fully covering the President on a trip to Paris to mark the centennial of the end of the First World War. Although Acosta traveled to Paris, he was told that he would not be allowed to access the President’s events, including an event that had been planned (but was ultimately cancelled due to inclement weather) to visit with French President Emmanuel Macron a cemetery to honor the fallen. Although the French government issued credentials to Acosta, the Secret Service refused to allow Acosta to attend an allegedly “open” press event whose attendees included journalists from around the world.

Plus, since CNN has had some of the best reporting of Trump’s trip to Paris, it’s hard to argue they do need access up close (at least for international trips to countries with open press access), but that gets back to the question of how one covers the President.

In short, I think CNN’s argument is weak because it doesn’t see itself as “the press” generally, but instead as some kind of holder of special kind of press status, the holder of a privilege rather than an entity that has had rights shared by all abridged.

That attitude plays out in an amazing passage, one that will likely bring about my favorite outcome of this suit, but one that betrays the odd stance CNN is taking. That’s the discussion of the video Sanders released to try to justify the revocation of Acosta’s pass.

But the video shared by Press Secretary Sanders was apparently doctored, as has been reported widely. It has further been reported that the video Ms. Sanders disseminated to the public came from a contributor to InfoWars, an organization whose “conspiracy theories and hateful content” have led to it “being banned earlier this year by most major social media platforms.”

Analyses comparing the video included in Press Secretary Sanders’s tweet and unaltered video captured by C-SPAN of the same event shows that the version shared by Press Secretary Sanders appears to have been edited. As the Washington Post has explained, the video makes it appear that Acosta “swiftly chop[ped] down on the arm of an aide as he held onto a microphone while questioning President Trump. But in the original video, Acosta’s arm appears to move only as a response to a tussle for the microphone. His statement, ‘Pardon me, ma’am,’ is not included in the video Sanders shared.” Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway has since attempted to deny the video had been altered but then admitted it had been “sped up.” But the unaltered video captured by C-SPAN shows what really occurred: Acosta was only attempting to hold onto the microphone as the staffer tried to grab it from him. [my emphasis]

When I heard CNN was suing, I immediately laughed at the prospect of the White House having to defend their doctored video. Boutrous and Olson making that case before a jury will make for great legal theater.

But note how they argue this, in a lawsuit about the First Amendment. It describes InfoWars (which at least used to be and still may be credentialed by the White House) not as a media outlet, but as “an organization whose ‘conspiracy theories and hateful content’ have led to it ‘being banned earlier this year by most major social media platforms.'” On top of dodging the question of what distinguishes a conspiracy theory site from a news site — one that might be central to the issue of who should get access to the limited supply of hard passes to the White House — its appeal to authority is that of privatized censorship, the removal of InfoWas from platforms like Facebook, rather than what makes CNN a journalistic outlet but InfoWars a conspiracy site (and even that distinction may be a problematic basis to demand a hard pass under a First Amendment claim).

CNN’s lawsuit does that while also making a second bizarre claim to authority (or lack thereof). The video Sanders used to justify the revocation of Acosta’s hard pass “was apparently doctored,” says a media outlet that elsewhere in this suit brags that it is “a trusted source for news and information [that] reaches more individuals than any other cable television news organization in the United States.” Why doesn’t the media outlet know whether the video was doctored?

This media outlet reverts to the passive voice — “as has been reported widely,” “has further been reported” — to defend its first claim that the video was doctored. In that first claim, it doesn’t even say reported by whom. Are those reporting it anything more credible than InfoWars itself?

Just the fact that something has been claimed in a report does not make that true.

The next paragraph does somewhat better. The first sentence again stops short of stating that the video has been doctored, this time stating that it “appears to have been.”

Analyses comparing the video included in Press Secretary Sanders’s tweet and unaltered video captured by C-SPAN of the same event shows that the version shared by Press Secretary Sanders appears to have been edited.

Finally, in the next sentence, the suit does appeal to an authority — CNN’s competitor, the WaPo (though doesn’t formally cite this article in any way).

As the Washington Post has explained, the video makes it appear that Acosta “swiftly chop[ped] down on the arm of an aide as he held onto a microphone while questioning President Trump. But in the original video, Acosta’s arm appears to move only as a response to a tussle for the microphone.

This is really really weird, for two reasons. First, because the real authorities on the fact that the video was doctored are video editors. CNN employs a shit-ton of them. But there are also experts in video analysis who could offer their expertise for this suit. An uncited WaPo article (WaPo is a very good news organization, but nowhere near as good at video as CNN) simply doesn’t offer an uncontested authority for what should be a slam dunk assertion.

More remarkable still, consider what CNN is treating as “the original video” here, and therefore the true one: CSPAN. While I agree that it is the best record of the incident (though I assume there are a slew of other video feeds, including CNN’s own, that would corroborate what the unedited CSPAN video shows), if CSPAN is the authoritative vehicle to access the truth, then why couldn’t Jim Acosta access the truth of the Trump presidency that way from day to day, the same way I do from flyover country? If CSPAN is “true,” then why isn’t watching a press conference on CSPAN adequate to reporting on a press conference? (I actually know some journalists with hard passes who stay in the White House media room for such events, because they know they’ll never get called on to ask a question.)

The answer is two-fold. Now that Sanders has started offering doctored video, someone needs to be in the room as a witness to certify that what a video shows is what actually happened (CNN’s suit cites two live witnesses, including the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, to prove that Sander’s version of events is wrong).

But the other answer is one that puts us immediately back in the realm of privilege, not rights. The reason CNN can’t cover White House press conferences via CSPAN is because reporters need to be in the room to ask questions. Indeed, CNN is quite privileged, even among those holding hard passes, in that the Sanders and Trump frequently do take questions from them — from Jim Acosta himself.

So is this about privilege, what separates CNN from media outlet emptywheel and conspiracy outlet InfoWars? Or is this about an abridged right, the right to be treated as all other outlets are under a credentialing system?

I’m not sure CNN is sure about the answer to that. And the hierarchy of authorities it appeals to in its complaint adopts a really problematic approach to the “truth” that a news outlet would seem to be claiming.

Update: Because I’ve been informed that CNN believes it is making a revocation of access argument, let me add two points.

First, a good revocation of access argument would distinguish more acutely the difference between a hard pass (which is administered significantly by Secret Service) and a daily pass (which is administered by White House political appointees, and requires a separate transaction with USSS at the door, which is why you have to go through the line). The distinction is there, but not made as starkly as it should that one kind of access involves a quasi neutral process, while the other doesn’t pretend to be.

Relatedly, while the suit does raise the fact that Acosta’s hard pass (indeed, all of them) is a two-year renewable pass,

Acosta began reporting from the White House in 2012. In 2013, to gain regular access to the White House, like all White House correspondents, he applied for White House press credentials and a security clearance in order to obtain what is called a “hard pass.” Acosta underwent a Secret Service background check and was granted a “hard pass,” which is valid for renewable two-year periods.

But I expected the suit to return to that two-year pass in this passage, where it addresses the limits of USSS discretion.

Generally, the Secret Service may grant or deny a request for a security clearance made in connection with an application for a White House press pass. 31 C.F.R. § 409.1. However, the Secret Service’s discretion is expressly limited. Secret Service officials making that decision must “be guided solely by the principle of whether the applicant presents a potential source of physical danger to the President and/or the family of the President so serious as to justify his or her exclusion from White House press privileges.” Id. In applying that standard, the Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service, Technical Security Division must apply designated procedures governing notices, responses, and hearings regarding decisions about applications. Id. § 409.2.

Notably, this language talks about the initial grant, but it doesn’t talk about the maintenance of that grant, which is what is assumed for a pass good for two years. That’s where the question of revocation by the supposed neutral authority should show up, in my opinion.

48 replies
  1. Rick says:

    I think CNN is trying to lose on purpose, to make it a bigger issue.

    (And I agree with everything you’ve said.)

  2. Anura says:

    I’m not familiar with the law, nor do I especially care what it says as I’m against written law out of principal, but I would argue that an organization like CNN does deserve privilege, not because they are particularly special in what they do, but because of the number of people in the public that depend on them for news. The reporters and CNN itself are completely unimportant to me; we should consider only the interests of the consumers of that information (of course, this line of reasoning also means we need to be critical of how CNN chooses what to report, what not to report, whether they are informing people or just presenting information, etc.).

    • cat herder says:

      That would mean that without press credentials their viewership/market share will decline thus negating the criteria for granting them privilege. This is called circular reasoning.

      • Anura says:

        First, the public’s dependency doesn’t end just because you cut them off. Second, if you apply my reasoning then CNN never would lose access in the first place – the scenario you describe just doesn’t happen and so the reasoning just doesn’t apply. I’m against making a priori judgements; what matters is the effect of revoking CNN’s pass today, not whether that reasoning would still be applicable if the situation completely changed over time due to revoking the pass.

    • Someguy says:

      I’m not familiar with the law, nor do I especially care what it says as I’m against written law out of principal

      What does that even mean?

      • Anura says:

        I put that in there because I wanted to make it clear that I’m discussing the situation at hand rather than the law. What I mean by being against written law in principle is that I believe it is impossible to define what is right and wrong, and thus adherence written law (whether constitutional or statutory) will necessarily result in injustice.

  3. Trip says:

    I don’t think anyone needs to cover Huckster-b, it’s all lies and she never answers one damn question straight, while her right eye closes in protest. Everything she sells could be done via press releases. The journalists don’t bring the people anywhere to a better understanding of facts by being in her presence.

    On the Trump pressers, I tend to agree it is more about privilege (assumed privilege). Would suing Sanders and the WH for libel (in doctoring the video) have been a better route to make their point about Sanders? Trump going to extremes to destroy people who challenge the WH? That act was used in defense of destroying established privilege.

  4. Thomasofoar says:

    Will the White House try to present a defense based on CNN & Acosta being “fake news?” That would make for interesting courtroom testimony.

  5. scribe says:

    The literary pleading style you discuss is a function of the post-Twombley/Iqbal pleading regime we no live under.  Where once it was sufficient for a plaintiff to provide a “short plain statement of the matter” sufficient for the defendant to have reasonable notice of why the plaintiff was suing, now one has to plead sufficient facts to state a claim that is plausible from the face of the complaint.  (Set aside that by putting in the hands of a judge the determination of what is, or is not, plausible is derogatory of the plaintiff’s right to a trial.)  So, what winds up happening is lawyers representing plaintiffs have to become creators of literature to include all the possible facts they might think they can possibly prove to support their case, lest they not plead enough and have the judge decide their complaint is implausible and therefore must be dismissed.

    In other words, stepwise we are going back from the notice pleading instituted by the revolution in civil procedure created by the 1938 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to the pre-FRCivP days of fact pleading, where trial by ambush was the rule and not the exception.

    30+ years ago, while a law student, my then-boss gave me a box of documents concerning a bridge construction project where we would be the plaintiff suing for breach of contract.  He told me to first create a chronology of every scrap of paper in the box (timelines, EW!) and, when that was done, to convert it into a fact-pleading complaint.  (This clashed with my just-completed semester of Civil Procedure telling me “notice pleading only”, but I was getting paid to do this, so I bit my tongue, shut up and got to work.)  A month later, the complaint was 58 pages long.

    We filed it in the Federal District Court in the small southern city where our client had their factory.  It made A1 top right above the fold in the local paper the next day, with some of the juicy quotes I’d included in the complaint reproduced in the paper.  I have a copy of the article somewhere in my files.

    First case management conference, the judge looked at my boss and said “notice pleading.  Revise your complaint and refile.”

    We’d managed have the local paper, quoting our complaint, make sure all the locals – who would be our jury – know just how bad as people were the contract-breaching, project-screwing-up, deadbeat Yankees we (other Yankees) were suing on behalf of one of the biggest employers in the region.  Mission Accomplished.

    Giving the other media juicy quotes to use editorializing against Trump and all things Trump under cover of reporting on a lawsuit, is the the point of the way the CNN case was pleaded.  I would not be surprised in the least if the complaint was run by CNN’s external PR people in the draft stage, both to cast it appropriately and to shop for adjectives.

    Best I can tell, there was BOGO in the purple aisle of The Adjective Store and CNN stocked up.

    The logical/legal inconsistencies, incongruencies and pleas to privilege (not the right/privilege dichotomy but rather that CNN is one of the “betters” in media-town and therefore entitled to all that comes with being an aristo) matter little because the public at large will never pay any attention to what is actually argued and proven in court.  And the public at large doesn’t “do” subtle, nuance or distinction.  They do emotion.  (Do an experiment.  Count the next time “Today” uses the word “emotional” to signal the audience to either pay attention or, more likely, tell the audience how to decide.)

    Me, through the miracle of the internet I’m listening to the German premiere of a new opera on the life of Anna Nicole Smith.  Looking at the cast of characters, I’l bet Howard Stern and Larry King never thought they’d be characters in an opera.

  6. gedouttahear says:

    I agree that a boycott of the WH press briefings (sic) would be the better tactic, but given the nature of instant and constant news broadcasting, and the competition among the media and the promotion of media “personalities,” that’s not likely to happen. ( I note that a number of press people have shown some spine in the face of the administration cretins and even though that’s their job, it’s commendable.)
    The very best reporting on Washington ever, came not from press conferences or briefings, but from deep digging into sources: Izzy Stone. (I think of this blog as being in that tradition and as also doing some of the very best reporting.)
    It would be nice though if this suit could educate the populus a bit about the First Amendment (though breath should not be held for that.)

  7. Peterr says:

    Like you, Marcy, I have great respect for The Teds, especially having watched them take apart the defendant-intervenors in the Prop 8 case. Reading your post, though, reminds me of the legal arguments put forward in that case, not by The Teds but by the DIs:

    • the use of the passive voice to obscure agency
    • assertions without presenting properly supporting evidence
    • confusing a “right” with a “privilege”

    Your point at the end strikes me by far as the strongest argument in CNN’s favor. Despite longstanding procedures put in place to separate decisions about who can and cannot receive a hard pass from political concerns that may/would run afoul of the First Amendment, the political voices at the WH overruled the USSS for crass political gain.

    Having joined your criticism of The Teds with regard to the filing, what happens if/when witnesses are called to the stand would be a very different thing. I can easily see one of The Teds having fun with the supervising USSS agent on the stand, probing how the decision to revoke Acosta’s hard pass was made, how it was communicated to him and then to Acosta, and how far outside the norm this is.

    Hmmmmm . . . Could it be that The Teds didn’t come back to this argument in the filing, because they want to save it for trial?

    Hmmmmm, part two . . . I’m also reminded of the tussle that Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSBlog had with the Supreme Court over being credentialed. Being the best legal reporter in the country, writing for one of the best legal news websites, was not good enough for SCOTUS, which piggy-backs on the WH and Congressional credentialling process. It was only because he was able to also cross-report for WBUR in Boston that he finally got his pass.

    • scribe says:

      The dispute over the Lyle Dennison accreditation was not between the S.Ct.  and Lyle.  Rather, it was between the people who issue press passes – located in the Capitol and primarily concerned with Capitol Hill press passes.  For some reason never fully explained, these same people control press passes for the S.Ct. reporters.  SCOTUSBlog, looking at Lyle’s upcoming retirement (he’d been covering the Court since like ’58), wanted their own press pass.  The people controlling the press passes were a committee of legacy media folks.  They were mightily pissed that SCOTUSBlog was eating their lunch every frickin’ day.  That SCOTUSBlog did a great job covering the court and performed a real public service demystifying it was bad enough.  That the blog won a Peabody for their coverage of the S.Ct. just made it worse. 
      The legacy media folks’ argument, in sum, for denying a pass to SCOTUSBlog was that because (a) the blog was run/owned by lawyers who represented clients before the S.Ct., then (b)there was no way they could be practicing objective journalism.  So, what happened was the law firm hived off the blog, Lyle wasn’t employed by the blog but contributed until his retirement, using his own long-standing press pass, and the blog issues fulsome disclaimers when the lawyers who might contribute are involved in some way in the case(s) commented/reported on.  But SCOTUSBlog never, AFAIK, got their own press pass.
      Totally different situation from Acosta’s (Other than CNN arguing pretty much the same thing that the SCt accreditation people did – upstarts like InfoWars are evil, wrongdoing, and lesser than us aristos of the press).

      • emptywheel says:

        Right. It was Senate Press Gallery. They excluded him, in part, bc they treated him in some way as a lobbyist (we considered getting me a credential in the FDL days, and were advised we’d be treated as lobbyists too, because a different part of the “business” engaged in direct political action).

        The accreditation here is different. I think I’d have a better chance of getting accredited (not least bc I’ve got well placed friends to do so), and think it is actually more open.

        But accreditation is a problem in a time of non-traditional media.

      • Peterr says:

        Rather, it was between the people who issue press passes – located in the Capitol and primarily concerned with Capitol Hill press passes.  For some reason never fully explained, these same people control press passes for the S.Ct. reporters.

        The reason, as I recall, was simply convenience. The number of reporters seeking credentials at SCOTUS is a drop in the bucket compared with those across the street on the Hill, and SCOTUS simply said “they’ll handle credentialing for us, too.”

        And yes, the arguments about objectivity and such were a big part of the kerfluffle with Lyle. (Though now that I think about it, the WH might be headed toward making the same argument that the Senate Press Gallery was concerned about with Lyle. Per their thinking, Acosta has gone from being an objective journalist to a partisan lobbyist, and thus should not receive a press pass.) My point in raising the example of Lyle is that there’s an interconnectedness in the DC press pass business. A WH hard pass is more than simply access to the WH.

        • bmaz says:

          Let me say this about that. It is not the numbers of people, there are a lot accredited, and some of them are absolute idiots. It really is, or at least was, a very real vendetta against blogs and certain digital media. The Senate Press Gallery has always been run as a fiefdom by stooges for old style media, and to say they are turf protectors would be being kind. And it is not a secret, they flat out proudly admitted it to me. And said it in writing later to Tom Goldstein regarding Lyle. It is a completely arbitrary deal, they know it, relish it and protect it.

  8. Rugger9 says:

    OT, but it seems the state of Maryland is challenging the Whitaker appointment in  lawsuit.  Perhaps CA will join them, given that the D AGs already sent a letter to DC about the DOJ.

  9. Someguy says:

    Because I think White House press conferences generally, and as practiced under Trump specifically, often serve more to perform journalism rather than conduct it, I think a boycott of White House press conferences would be a better response

    This.  I’m so tired of “journalists” — or as you so beautifully suggest, “journalistic performers” — playing into this whole Trump circus.  Don’t cover him.  The press gaggle is absurd.  Report -actually report! – what is happening.  Who cares who asks what question to a woman who is going to lie and say nothing anyway?  Every last one of them should just stop going to the WH press room.  Not as punishment for the WH because who cares, but because it’s a waste of everybody’s time and makes them all willing and eager tools of the Administration.

    And don’t get me started on the live coverage of his rallies.

    • cat herder says:

      Better than a boycott, can you imagine if the reporters were just silent? Huckster calls on one, and… nothing. No question. She calls on the next one… silence. She’d try to kill them with her bare hands. On live TV.

      Of course they’d all have to agree to play along, likelihood of that is about zero. But it sure would be fun to watch.

  10. Rusharuse says:

    No woman would ever try to grab the mike from a real man like Lewandowski or Rob Porter. That I can tell you!

  11. Rugger9 says:

    Add FLOTUS’ spokesperson to the list of ridiculous creatures.  I’ve dealt with wives “wearing their husband’s stripes” in the Gray Hull Cruise Lines past but this is ridiculous.  Maybe Kaiser Quisling doesn’t have a prenup and he has to listen to her like he didn’t have to for Ivana and Marla.

    Wow.  Maybe Mueller would want to talk to Melania or her staff?  They seem to be wired in pretty well on palace intrigues.

    Bolton’s aide on the hot seat was wanted because she (like Mustachio) likes to shake things up because she can. So, maybe Melania’s onto something.

  12. Rugger9 says:

    OT but would help the Ds get leverage for the AAG question.  It seems Schumer wants to tie AAG acquiescence to the government shutdown, i.e. AAG Whitaker recuses himself or else the Ds will filibuster (at least until he gets rolled again by McTurtle for worthless promises).  What will make it viable as a threat is the fact that October 2018 expenditures went up 18% and revenues up only 7 or so year over year, leaving a 100+ billion $ hole in the budget.  That’s not sustainable with a debt limit coming up…

  13. Rugger9 says:

    If indictments were coming today as had been  reported by CBS, et al, we’d see them by now.  Maybe tomorrow but Mueller will not be rushed or sloppy.  Besides, the longer he takes the more Kaiser Quisling and his minions will tweet themselves into trouble.

  14. Rick says:

    There are a million other pressing issues in the world. Why has CNN been pushing for a confrontation between Acosta and Trump? Acosta could be anywhere.

    Bmaz says it’s ‘nuts’ to suggest that CNN wants to low ball this in order to then escalate it. But wouldn’t they want to do that to make it wider ruling?

  15. Jockobadger says:

    I’m as anxious to see Robert Mueller drop the hammer as the next person, but I’m torn because I’m also thoroughly enjoying thinking about trump and his sleazy crew sweating and worrying and squirming while they reflect on the host of bad things that might are soon going to happen to them.  Boy do they deserve it.

  16. Ed Smiley says:

    A useful visual aid is a comparison of the Sanders/InfoWars video with the objective video that overlays the InfoWars video in red. The videos are roughly in sync until the fake “chop”. Suddenly you will see the red get all out of sync. The fake video is not just “sped up”, it is sped up in ONE SECTION to create a fraudulent appearance. I am also sick and tired of mealy mouthed phrases like “apparently” when we can say incontrovertibly it is a forgery.

    The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works?–“1984

  17. orionATL says:

    i have a small set of personal eyeball observations that bothers me a lot about the acosta matter. but first:

    – i definitely think it is both punitive to ban acosta and a deliberately harsh warning to any other agressively inclined questioners among the would-be journalism crowd who call themselves white house reporters.

    – i think the white house defense offered by sanders and others is transparently :) a set of lies. there really is no other word so appropriate.

    now to what bothers me:

    i watched a video of the acosta/”intern” interaction, perforce, as it was buried in maybe a huffpost or guardian news article.

    – a female intern moved from a sitting or crouching position to the side of acosta to a position in front of acosta. as she did so she appeared to place her left hand on top of his right hand. was that the mike hand? acosta presented a restraining left arm to her as he continued to look at the president.

    – first, what is an intern, female to boot, doing crouched just to the side of acosta?

    – do (or should) interns in a well-run presidential press conference have the authorization to crouch beside and interfer with a hard-credentialed news reporter?

    – was the intern there to control the mic access in general (pass on the mike to others)?

    – did she act by standing and placing her body in front-side of a reporter and her hand on the reporter’s mike hand for any other reporter for that session?

    – was this intern placed there specifically for the purpose of accosting acosta :) who had previously challenged the oaf-in-office on, among other things, the kavanaugh matter and on calling on women reporters ?

    i don’t mind seeing a legal challenge to this matter because i suspect a white house trap had been devised, but i think you can miss the boat by relying too much on the law, which is frankly rather inflexible, when a news report featuring facts-in-a-coherent-presentation might make a very good non-law case that citizens would understand easily. the law is not very educate-the-masses friendly.

    • orionATL says:

      – “intern” or not, the female staff member initiated the interaction, moving on acosta.

      – did she do so on cue from the prez? from some other staffer? because another reporter had been recognized?

      • James says:

        The video of the intern has been compared to the woman who pulled “plaid shirt guy” out of Trump’s Montana Nuremberg rally, and they look very much like the same woman. It seems she is more “enforcer” and less “intern.”

    • JD12 says:

      I don’t think it was a trap.

      I hate Trump and think Acosta is okay, but Acosta needs to learn to pick his battles imo. He had already asked his question plus a few follow-ups when Trump called on Peter Alexander and tried to move on. As much as I can’t stand Trump, he is POTUS (unfortunately), and you can’t treat him like a press secretary. And the silly thing is someone was probably going to ask that question about indictments anyway.

      Granted, the WH accusing him of putting his “hands on a young woman” is absurd when we all know he didn’t, but he did escalate things more than he should’ve.

      • orionATL says:

        in my view, disliking acosta’s aggressiveness or rudeness (as you will) is no grounds for supporting the trump gang’s treatment of acosta. i think back to how trump treated reporters during his campaign, putting them in a pen at rallies.

        as far as i am concerned, a history of egregious lying to and about the media from his lecturn earns trump as demanding a questioning as the media can muster – which usually ain’t much.

        as for the “hands on a young woman” charge, this is the identical ploy that vicious police use when they knock a person about on the street and the person reaches out to protect himself and is charged with “assaulting an officer” – completely dishonest, mouse-trapping behavior in the case of the cop and the trump administration.

        • JD12 says:

          I don’t mind Acosta’s aggression. I actually like the guy, in this case he just carried on for too long. He got his question in, in fact he and Trump had a back-and-forth debate over immigration and he landed some shots. Trying to force an extra question that another reporter was probably going to ask anyway just wasn’t necessary at that point. Even Peter Alexander, who stuck up for him afterward, was standing there looking at him like come on, Jim, just sit down.

  18. Mike Petersen says:

    OT: Aren’t we due for another Presidential “physical” soon?  I seem to recall the whole Ronny Jackson kerfuffle happened in mid-January, which would put the actual evaluation right around New Year’s.

    The new WH doctor is Cdr. Sean Conley, DO, USN.  (  It’ll be interesting to see if we get a more believable report this year, or if the President has lost weight & will live to 300.

  19. Michael says:

    At the end of a news segment that was about this incident, the final comment was (something like) the WH ought to be glad they don’t face a Helen Thomas or (another name). Yes! She didn’t take no guff.

    I think it was PBS’ News Hour last Friday and the “segment” was the weekly Shields & Brooks.

  20. Trip says:

    So now Melania is the diversionary foil. Not happening.

    We know Trump didn’t attend any ceremonies in France or the US (sulking about losses and rain), while also using the military in wasteful spending to sit idly at the border, and when some vets are not getting paychecks. We know Trump inserted a purposeful barrier to the Mueller investigation as the AG.

    It’s a little late to bring in wifey for a story arc. If you (Trump) want to fire Kelly, as you have been saying for years now, just do it. If he had any kind of ethical compass, he would have quit long ago.

  21. Trip says:

    Fox News on Wednesday announced that it would be filing an amicus brief on behalf of CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who recently had his White House press pass rescinded by the Trump administration.

    “Fox News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential,” the network announced. “Secret Service passes for White House journalists should never be weaponized.”

    Meanwhile over at Hannity:
    “White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders officially responded to CNN’s latest lawsuit Tuesday; saying the cable news network was “grandstanding” after correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credentials were suspended.”

    Murdoch is doing the slow roll of pulling the carpet from under Trump?

  22. Manqueman says:

    An unnecessary battle vis a vis suing Trump to teach him he’s not above the law. I’m just guessing, but I believe that much worse will be coming on that front so who cares now?

    And what’s at stake here is Acosta’s ability, as one reporter, to take part in the Trump’s BS. Maybe I’m just a decrepit dotard, but I don’t see how any reporter going through Trump’s hoops like the DC press corps do helps us in the least.

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