CNN suit against Trump is more about PR battle than the law

Much of the news business is rushing to embrace CNN for taking legal action against President Trump.

The suit casts CNN President Jeff Zucker as a champion of press freedom, standing up to a president who is accused of violating the First Amendment.

But by taking the president to court, CNN also reinforces its image among millions of Trump supporters as part of the opposition. And the suit isn’t going to get Jim Acosta’s credentials restored any time soon, if at all.

Bob Woodward said at a conference that CNN was taking Trump’s “bait,” and he’s right. But the network, in choosing to revive the Acosta controversy that was starting to die down, clearly likes the narrative.

“The First Amendment grants the right of all journalists to hold those in power accountable and ask tough questions,” Zucker said in a statement.

But Sarah Sanders dismissed the lawsuit as “more grandstanding by CNN,” noting that the White House has credentialed nearly 50 other staffers from the network. She said Trump had already answered two of Acosta’s questions at a presser last week before the reporter “physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions.” And that, Sanders said, wasn’t the first time that Acosta had acted “inappropriately.” (When Trump held his first presser last year, Acosta tried to interrupt by shouting questions after the president-elect had dissed CNN, and he refused to call on the correspondent.)

But Sanders notably declined to repeat her earlier charge that Acosta was suspended because he had “laid hands” on the White House intern sent to take his mic. The CNN suit calls that false, and video of the episode shows only glancing contact.

The network is seeking an injunction because “every day that his pass has been revoked is a First Amendment violation and it’s irreparable harm in the words of the law,” CNN lawyer Ted Boutros said on its air.

The suit is likely to drag on for months and is more about the high-stakes PR war between the two sides than resolving constitutional issues.

By going to court, CNN reframes the fight and deflects attention from Acosta’s conduct to lofty principles. Even some of his White House press colleagues believe Acosta is a showman who takes an activist’s approach to the job — he was lecturing Trump on the migrant caravan — and appeared rude when he kept on talking and interrupting. He’s hardly the best poster boy for the First Amendment.

The president, who knew what he was getting when he called on Acosta, also gets use the correspondent and his network as a whipping boy in his assault on so-called “fake news.” In fact, the lawsuit lists his previous clashes with Acosta, his criticism of CNN (including the famous wrestling video) and Trump’s dismissal of CNN host Don Lemon as the “dumbest” guy on television.

Each side, in other words, is playing to its base.

Things have gotten rather personal between Zucker, who ran NBC when Trump was doing “The Apprentice,” and the president, who clearly feels betrayed by the abundance of negative coverage on Zucker’s network. The fact that Zucker was a guest at Trump’s wedding to Melania feels like ancient history.

I suppose it’s possible that this suit will break new constitutional ground, but the great likelihood is that it will drag on for many months and do nothing to help Acosta. CNN has other White House reporters, but news organizations have an understandable conviction that no politician should be able to dictate who covers him.

But the risk for CNN, beyond big legal fees — the team includes Ted Olson — is that the network may be painting itself as part of the resistance.

Perhaps both sides are getting what they want. CNN has the backing of the White House Correspondents Association. Trump has the backing of millions of people who believe he’s being treated terribly by the MSM. And while Jim Acosta may not have his hard pass, he’s become famous. Maybe CNN should just let him host an opinion show since he’s got so many of them.

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Er… No Hindus? Twitter Calls Out Donald Trump On Diwali Post

Donald Trump’s Diwali tweet missed any reference to Hindus.

New York: 

US President Donald Trump’s tweets on Diwali, a week after the festival, caused a flap on Twitter with an omission that was widely called out. The first tweet described Diwali as a “holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains”, missing any reference to Hindus.

However, in another tweet, he wrote: “It was my great honour to host a celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, in the Roosevelt Room at the @WhiteHouse this afternoon. Very, very special people!”

Reports say the problem was that Donald Trump’s tweets, based on his prepared speech, were out of sequence and his first tweet was deleted and reposted.

His first tweet was from the second part of the Diwali speech. The second also didn’t mention Hindus. It took three tries.

The gap between the tweets, though miniscule, was enough to fire up Twitter.

One user, Jeff Young, tweeted: “Hey, whoever wrestled Trump’s phone away to post this: Pretty sure Hindus also have some interest in Diwali.”

Trump began his Diwali speech saying, “I’m thrilled to be here for the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.” But he left Hindus out later while listing the communities that celebrate the festival.
He told the small gathering at the White House Diwali celebration that they were a “very impressive group”. “Now I know you are very important, very impressive”, Trump read out from his prepared text: “I am thrilled to be here for the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights and I am honoured to host this beautiful ceremony at the White House.”

Then veering off his text, he added, “Very, very special people.”

He interrupted the speech to talk about the wildfires that have killed more than 40 people in California.

The President then resumed his Diwali speech and continued: “We are gathered today to celebrate a very special holiday observed by Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains throughout the US and around the world.”

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Donald Trump Names New US Ambassador John Abizaid To Saudi Arabia


President Donald Trump on Tuesday tapped John Abizaid, a top US general from the Iraq war who has studied the Middle East for years, as ambassador to Saudi Arabia amid growing friction between the longstanding allies.

Abizaid is a fluent Arabic speaker of Lebanese Christian descent who headed US Central Command — which covers the Middle East — during the Iraq war from shortly after the US invasion in 2003 through 2007.

The 67-year-old wrote his master’s thesis at Harvard University about Saudi Arabia, studying how the kingdom makes its decisions on defense spending, in a paper that won acclaim in academic circles.

A California native, Abizaid graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point and later won a scholarship to study in Jordan, where he honed his Arabic, which he did not speak as a child.

Trump has been slow in filling key posts amid his promises to shake up Washington. But the absence of an ambassador in Riyadh, nearly two years into his presidency, has become more glaring amid rising tensions between the countries.

Trump, who quickly forged a close relationship with Saudi Arabia upon taking office, has been forced to criticize the kingdom and its powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, after a team from the kingdom killed a US-based critical journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Amid a US souring on the heir apparent, the United States has also curbed cooperation and demanded a halt to the Saudi-led military campaign against rebels in Yemen that has contributed to a humanitarian crisis believed to be the worst in the world.

But US pleas — made by telephone rather than in person by an ambassador — have failed to sway the Saudis.

Abizaid requires confirmation from the Senate, which would appear likely as the retired four-star general has long enjoyed respect in Washington.

Shortly after taking over as CENTCOM commander, Abizaid told reporters that US forces were facing a “classical guerrilla-type campaign” from remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

His choice of words contradicted his bosses, who initially tried to portray the Iraq invasion as a quick victory, but then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not move to replace him amid admiration for Abizaid’s skills.

And soon after retiring in 2007, Abizaid said that, while the United States should try to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, “there are ways to live with a nuclear Iran,” describing the clerical state’s behavior as rational and noting the United States also dealt with a nuclear-armed Soviet Union.

Trump has championed a hard line on Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

The real estate mogul turned president has shown a fondness for appointing retired generals, with Jim Mattis as defense secretary and John Kelly as his chief of staff.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Bob Woodward criticizes CNN’s Acosta lawsuit, says media’s ’emotionally unhinged’ about Trump

Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Watergate journalist whose recent book, “Fear,” described chaotic infighting at the White House, on Tuesday criticized CNN for filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration and charged that too many media figures “have become emotionally unhinged.”

Speaking at the Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, Florida, Woodward said “the remedy [isn’t suing the administration]. … It’s more serious reporting about what he’s doing.”

CNN filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration on Tuesday demanding that the White House restore the press credential of star reporter Jim Acosta. The administration suspended Acosta’s “hard pass,” which provided expedited access to the White House grounds, after he repeatedly refused to surrender his microphone after asking Trump a barrage of questions during a press conference last week.

“In the news media there has been an emotional reaction to Trump,” Woodward said. “Too many people for Trump or against Trump have become emotionally unhinged about this.”

Woodward added: “This is a negative … Trump is sitting around saying, ‘This is great.’” That sentiment was echoed in a piece in Rolling Stone on Tuesday by Ryan Bort titled, “CNN Has Played Right Into Trump’s Hands.”

“Too many people for Trump or against Trump have become emotionally unhinged.”

— Journalist Bob Woodward


Trump fiercely criticized Woodward after his book released earlier this year, saying “he’s had a lot of credibility problems,” and Woodward’s comments were less about the merits of CNN’s legal claim than an observation about Trump’s strategy for controlling narratives.

CNN’s suit alleges that the White House violated Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights by punishing him for the content of his speech without providing notice or any due process, although the White House maintains that Acosta was penalized solely because of his behavior.

None of CNN’s approximately 50 other “hard pass” holders has lost White House access, nor have reporters belonging to any other liberal-leaning media outlet — although Trump has suggested that may change.

At the testy press conference the day after last week’s midterm elections, Acosta continued to shout questions at Trump even after he tried to move on to another reporter, and he refused to hand the microphone to an intern who tried to retrieve it.

The litigation, which does not fully describe Acosta’s actions during the press conference, also asserts that the Secret Service violated the Administrative Procedures Act by taking a final agency action by penalizing Acosta without providing any notice or hearing.

The suit also claims that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders shared a “doctored” clip of the episode on Twitter. In the low-resolution .gif clip shared by Sanders, Acosta’s arm moves slightly faster than it does in higher-quality footage of the press conference.

However, despite reporting from a wide variety of outlets that Sanders had shared a doctored clip, a Buzzfeed analysis suggested the changes in the video could have resulted inadvertently from the conversion of the footage to the lower-fidelity .GIF format, which is commonly used on Twitter. The  format produces fewer frames per second than a higher-quality video source, making scenes appear to move faster.

The lawsuit states that Sanders used a bogus justification by claiming that Acosta had “placed his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as White House intern.”

In responding to CNN’s suit, Sanders on Tuesday said that Acosta’s behavior had “impeded the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business.”

“After Mr. Acosta asked the President two questions—each of which the President answered—he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions,” Sanders said in statement.

“This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters,” she continued. “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.”

Fox News’ Howard Kurtz and Brian Flood contributed to this report.

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Merkel calls for creation of ‘European army,’ backing Macron in spat with Trump

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday backed French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in his call for a European army — a move that President Trump has called “insulting” as he urged the countries to fulfil their NATO commitments instead.

Merkel told lawmakers in the E.U. Parliament in Strasbourg that “we have to work on the vision of one day creating a real European army.” She clarified the such a force would not mean the end of NATO, and also called for the creation of a European security council.

The remarks were met with a mix of boos and cheers from lawmakers, with some British representatives crying “Rubbish! Rubbish!”

Merkel made the remarks after the idea was floated by Macron last week, when he said that Europe was “the main victim of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army,” Macron said, according to The Wall Street Journal. He also grouped in the U.S. with the countries from which France needed protection.


“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” he said on French radio.

President Trump responded angrily to that call, on Friday calling it “very insulting” and instead calling for European countries to meet their NATO defense commitments. He doubled down on that call on Tuesday when he made reference to the French surrender to the Nazis in World War II.

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France?” he tweeted.”They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

Trump has often complained about the burden placed on the U.S. by NATO obligations, noting that the U.S. has an enormous military budget, part of which is spent protecting allies abroad — including in Europe. In July, he complained, “We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France. We’re protecting everybody. And yet we’re paying a lot of money to protect.”

NATO itself does not have a defense budget, but members commit to spending a minimum of 2 percent of their Gross Domestic Product to defense spending — although a number of countries do not meet this commitment. For 2018, the U.S. is spending 3.5 percent of its GDP on defense spending.

Meanwhile France is spending 1.81 percent, Germany is spending 1.24 percent and only a handful of NATO countries are meeting that 2 percent commitment.

Merkel said recently that she intends to step down as chancellor in 2021.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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