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White House says it has 'broad discretion' on press access

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump watches as a White House aide reaches to take away a microphone from CNN journalist Jim Acosta during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. CNN is suing the Trump administration, demanding that Acosta's press credentials to cover the White House be returned. The administration revoked them last week following President Trump's contentious news conference, where Acosta refused to give up a microphone when the president said he didn't want to hear anything more from him. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s administration contends it has “broad discretion” to regulate press access to the White House as it fends off a legal challenge from CNN and other outlets over the revocation of journalist Jim Acosta’s “hard pass.”

In a legal filing ahead of a Wednesday hearing on CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order to restore Acosta’s access, the government argues it “was lawful” to punish Acosta for his behaviour during a contentious Trump press conference last week.

The White House’s explanations for why it seized Acosta’s “hard pass,” which grants reporters as-needed access to the 18-acre complex, have shifted over the last week. Acosta has repeatedly clashed with Trump and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in briefings over the last two years.

The Associated Press joined with a group of 12 other news organizations planning to file an amicus brief in the case Wednesday.

“Whether the news of the day concerns national security, the economy, or the environment, reporters covering the White House must remain free to ask questions. It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the President and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons,” the law firm Ballard Spahr said in a statement on behalf of the news organizations.

Fox News President Jay Wallace said that Secret Service passes for working White House journalists “should never be weaponized.” Fox News was one of the organizations part of the filing.

Wallace said while Fox News doesn’t condone the “growing antagonistic tone by both the president and the press at recent media avails,” it supports “access and open exchanges for the American people.”

The Associated Press