The Department of Justice has asked a federal judge to throw out PEN America's lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the First Amendment by retaliating against critics.
The accusations against Trump are “too generalized” to warrant further proceedings, the DOJ argues in papers filed this week with U.S. District Court Judge Lorna Schofield in the Southern District of New York. The DOJ adds that the writer's group PEN America hasn't shown that its members have been injured by Trump.
The government's papers come in response to a lawsuit filed in October by PEN America, which alleged Trump targeted Amazon, CNN, NBC and individual journalists, due to their critical coverage of him. The organization asked a federal judge to issue a declaratory judgment that Trump acted unconstitutionally, and an injunction prohibiting the federal government from retaliating against media organizations and journalists for their criticism of the White House.
The organization's original complaint alleged that Trump repeatedly “called for action to punish the online retailer Amazon because Jeff Bezos, its chief shareholder and CEO, owns the Washington Post,whose accurate coverage of his Administration the President finds objectionable.”
Last year, Trump directed the Postal Service to review shipping rates charged to Amazon and other companies. In October, the Postal Service proposed a 12% rate increase for the shipping service used by Amazon and others.
PEN America's complaint also noted that Trump threatened NBC last year, following a news report about statements Trump made regarding nuclear weapons. “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” he tweeted.
Earlier this year, PEN America beefed up its complaint with allegations relating to the White House's well-publicized dispute with CNN's Jim Acosta. Last November, after a contentious press conference, government officials revoked Acosta's press credentials. A federal judge subsequently ordered the government to restore Acosta's credentials.
The DOJ says in its papers that any alleged injuries suffered by PEN America or its members are too “subjective” and “insufficiently imminent” to justify a lawsuit. The government also says that the dispute over Acosta's press credentials has already been resolved.
Additionally, the government says PEN America isn't entitled to an injunction that would control the “official, discretionary acts” of a sitting president.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that such injunctive relief would be 'extraordinary' and beyond the power of the federal courts,” DOJ argues.
PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel countered this week that the organization believes its case is strong.
“The threats and actions we are challenging are ongoing, and as they continue, our case grows more compelling,” she stated. Among other examples, she cited a February Washington Postreport that the White House refused to allow journalists from The Associated Press, Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters to cover Trump's dinner with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un.
The organization is expected to respond in court next month to the White House's argument.