NEW YORK—In response to Jane Mayer’s watershed piece in The New Yorker outlining President Trump’s direction to former economic advisor Gary Cohn to pressure the Department of Justice to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner, PEN America and Protect Democracy released the following statements:

“Efforts by the president to exert his power to suppress the media are a troubling encroachment on press freedom and the First Amendment,” said Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer of PEN America. “We filed this lawsuit to prevent the president from continued actions like those revealed so colorfully in the recent news coverage by The New Yorker. He cannot use the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals to target journalists and news coverage that he dislikes.”

“The president’s retaliation against news organizations that publish material he deems unfavorable has crossed a line into unconstitutional behavior. Many presidents have taken issue with their coverage in the press, but using the machinery of government to exact retribution on the free press is a violation of the First Amendment,” said Kristy Parker, Counsel to Protect Democracy.

In plain sight, we see from Mayer’s news story strong evidence of the disturbing behavior Trump engages in, and its effects on the media. As Mayer outlines, the president directed Gary Cohn to pressure the Department of Justice to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner. In October, 2016, before Trump was even elected president, he attacked CNN, threatening to block this merger involving CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, due to his dislike of the way CNN portrayed him in its news coverage. His animus towards CNN—and his retaliatory scheme to target Time Warner—has not changed since he entered office. As PEN America alleges in our lawsuit, the Department of Justice demanded the sale of CNN as a condition of its approval of the merger. As one source we cite in our lawsuit opines, “[t]his has become political … It’s all about CNN.”

PEN America v. Trump enters a critical new phase this spring as we prepare to oppose the government’s attempts to dismiss the case. As The New Yorker article this week demonstrates, the allegations in our lawsuit are well founded. You can find out more about the case, and how the president’s use of his office to retaliate against media entities that are critical of him violates the First Amendment, below:

  • The amended complaint
  • FAQs about the case and how the president’s actions violate the First Amendment
  • Media coverage of the lawsuit

Protect Democracy represents PEN America in the case along with co-counsel, the Yale Law School Media Freedom of Information and Access Clinic and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org