NEW YORK (AP) A literary group that sued then-President Donald Trump for claiming he repeatedly violated the First Amendment in his dealings with the media on Thursday announced a deal with the government which they claim , will protect journalists in the future.
PEN America, a human rights organization made up of writers, literary professionals and the media, said the deal left untouched a judges’ ruling confirming its ability to challenge threats and retaliatory acts against journalists and the media.
The organization sued Trump in Manhattan federal court in 2018 on behalf of its 7,500 members, saying he was not free to use the power and authority of the US government to punish and stifle the press.
Government lawyers informed a judge of the settlement, without specifying its terms. A spokesperson for government lawyers declined to comment.
In October, Judge Lorna G. Schofield authorized the government to appeal whether declaratory relief could be granted against a sitting president in his official capacity for his discretionary conduct. Weeks later, Trump lost his quest for re-election to current President Joe Biden.
Back in March, Schofield refused to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the nonprofit could take legal action over allegations that Trump had selectively barred access to the White House and threatened to revoke references from press or security clearances from former government officials whose comments he didn’t like.
Suzanne Nossel, chief executive of PEN Americas, said in a statement that the trial and settlement represented an important victory for free speech, a free press and the First Amendment.
The result is clear: Even the President of the United States cannot invoke the power of the government to threaten members of the press based on their coverage, she said. While a president has First Amendment rights, he or she is not licensed to use the authority of the office to threaten critical journalists or punish their coverage.
Kristy Parker, a former Justice Department lawyer who worked on the trial, said Trump left behind a toxic anti-media streak in the United States. Parker works at Protect Democracy, which opposes efforts to form a more authoritarian government in the United States.
We are naive to think that no future political candidate would consider emulating him, which is why this case has been such a crucial marker. Potential imitators now know that this anti-First Amendment behavior will be called into question and has a good chance of being held accountable, Parker said.
PEN America noted in its statement that its members included Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief country correspondent, whose White House press credentials were temporarily revoked in November 2018 by the Trump administration.
Our First Amendment rights always deserve to be defended, Acosta said in the statement. And it’s in our best interests as Americans that we maintain a strong and independent free press in the United States.
In his March ruling, Schofield cited the action against Acosta as bolstering the credibility of the group’s claims, noting that the organization alleged that Trump punished Mr. Acosta publicly in order to dampen his speech and the press.
She noted that Trump made an example of Acosta by removing his press credentials after asking critical questions about the administration, barring him from White House press briefings and ordering his press secretary to warn them. other journalists that they would suffer similar consequences.
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