With Acosta back for now, let's just turn off the cameras
Federal Judge Timothy A. Kelly did not rule on the underlying case Friday when he said CNN “journalist” Jim Acosta’s press pass must be returned to him. In fact, he suggested that he might not agree with CNN’s First Amendment claims. What he did say was that Acosta’s “due process” rights had been violated in rescinding the pass, so, for now, he gets to keep it.
The judge made the point that Trump is under no obligation to call on Acosta during press briefings. He characterized his decision as “limited” to the due process aspect.
Still, that is just about the weirdest expansion of the concept of “due process” I’ve ever come across. This clause is part of the Fifth Amendment, the same amendment that mentions the right against self-incrimination (I could make a joke here about Democrats working in government being all too familiar with that part, but I won’t). Regarding due process, it says that no one shall be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Trump has not even suggested taking Acosta’s life (much as he might like to throttle him sometimes), or his liberty (no one has the “liberty” to just walk into the White House), so the judge must be talking about his property. Once the press pass was issued to Acosta, did it become his PROPERTY? I’m not a lawyer, but that notion defies common sense to me.
Anyway, Mr. President, here’s what I hope you’ll do. Even while this odd ruling is in place, don’t discontinue the press briefings, though you have the right to. Go ahead with them as usual, except for one thing: for now, at least, turn off the TV cameras. As far as I know, there is absolutely no requirement for the President to have a camera feed in the briefing room. This change will stop most of the grandstanding, so the White House can get down to what is supposed to be the real business of the briefing. No one will be "denied access"; they'll just be denied what some of them obviously crave more than that --- TV coverage of themselves.
As much as I enjoy seeing the press secretary’s smiling (or, as appropriate, scowling) face in the afternoons as she presides over all the nonsense in that room, I’m willing to make the sacrifice to help save the profession of journalism from itself.
In a stunning and frankly inexplicable ruling, a judge appointed by President Trump granted CNN a temporary restraining order and ordered the White House to reinstate Jim Acosta’s press pass. Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly made the ruling on Fifth Amendment grounds, claiming that Acosta didn’t receive “due process,” but made no judgment yet on the ridiculous claim that CNN’s First Amendment rights were violated.
Kelly said the claim that Acosta inappropriately touched the female intern who was trying to do her job in taking his microphone was based on “evidence of questionable accuracy,” by which I assume he means it was caught on video and you can see it with your own eyes. It sounds as if he swallowed the ridiculous canard that the video was somehow “altered,” as if Industrial Light & Magic made Jim Acosta look like a jackass instead of it being his own doing.
CNN has asked the court for "permanent relief," meaning a ruling that Trump's revocation of Acosta's press pass was unconstitutional, which could be applied as a blanket protection for all reporters from being ejected.
Even many other journalists have pointed out that what Acosta was doing was not journalism. He wasn’t asking a question, he was badgering the President with his own, objectively incorrect political screed. He was monopolizing the press conference and refused to follow protocol by shutting up when his turn was over or relinquishing the microphone to the intern for the next reporter. By taking up other reporters' time, he was actually impeding their right to question the President. After the ruling, Acosta declared, “Let’s get back to work.” Yes, a lot of us have been wondering if he would ever get back to the job of being a journalist instead of a grandstanding partisan.
If you’re going to rule Acosta’s behavior as protected under the First Amendment, then why not declare that every mentally disturbed person in America has a First Amendment right to enter the White House, accost the President, tackle the tour guides and break the furniture and never be thrown out?
Sleazy lawyer Michael Avenatti insists he will be cleared of domestic violence allegations, and tweeted, “Contrary to @FoxNews and others, I have always advocated for due process including with Judge Kavanaugh (we demanded a full and thorough investigation repeatedly). Any claim to the contrary is bogus. Many of these ‘pundits’ don’t even know what legal due process is.”
Admittedly, I’m not a lawyer, but I think I know what it is better than he does. In fact, I called for extending it to him. It’s something he needs, since he was arrested…legally. So have other prominent conservatives, including Sean Hannity and Sen. Lindsay Graham, who was both a private practice attorney and a judge advocate in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.
While Avenatti did not call for Judge Kavanaugh to be deprived of the presumption of innocence or the right to defend himself (the most prominent person doing that was Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono), as Brian Anderson of the political research firm The Saguaro Group tweeted, “That’s interesting. Because during a CNN tape in September – one week *before* Julie Swetnick – you said Trump should ‘pull the nomination’ and ‘move on to the next nominee,’ citing a lie detector test you acknowledged is ‘not admissible in a court of law.’” I would add that he also called for "a full and thorough investigation" of accusations that never got near the level of proof required for a legitimate police investigation.
Naturally, Avenatti’s defenders grabbed their scissors and starting splitting hairs. They fell back on the focus-grouped excuse that it wasn’t a trial, it was a “job interview,” and therefore, due process protections didn’t apply. Except that if it were a job interview, Kavanaugh could have sued the Democrats for violating their own employment laws by asking him prying questions about his sex life.
What happened to Judge Kavanaugh might not have been a trial in the literal sense, but there’s no question that his opponents intended it to be a trial in the court of public opinion. With Americans as the jury, they set out to declare him guilty of being a sexual predator without evidence or conviction, and to sentence him for his crime by destroying his reputation and career.
Avenatti might claim on a technicality that he wasn’t denying Kavanaugh his legal right to presumption of innocence, but that was only because his opponents never planned to grant him a fair trial at all. They just went straight to calling him guilty and demanding he step aside. So Avenetti's argument is that he never did anything legally wrong, just morally reprehensible.
Interestingly, while Avenatti was attacking conservatives who defended him, his liberal pals were turning on him. Feminist activist/actress Alyssa Milano called him “totally disgusting” (she just now noticed?) and disavowed him.
Meanwhile, the Vermont Democratic Party canceled a previously-booked speaking appearance by Avenetti in light of the arrest. If, as he claims, he is innocent, then the fact that he’s not yet been proven guilty in court isn't stopping Democrats from harming his career just because he's been accused. Does the fact that this is happening outside the court system make that feel any less unjust to him?
I’ll bet he thinks it’s incredibly unfair that people believe an unproven accusation that he says is false and are already punishing him for it by trying to destroy his career. Well, welcome to Brett Kanvanaugh’s world. At least Michael Avenetti will never have to suffer the pain of seeing the good reputation he spent decades building be smeared. You can’t lose what you never had.