Not the White House's problem. That was basically the Justice Department's answer to Playboy reporter and CNN analyst Brian Karem, according to a letter to his lawyers dated April 5.
Karem had complained that he and other journalists were being excluded from daily White House COVID-19 press conferences while a reporter from One American News (OAN) Network (Chanel Rion) was allowed in, saying that the White House press secretary was engaging in content- and viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.
Karem had his hard passed revoked by the White House last summer but eventually returned at a court's directive after he sued President Trump and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. He said his treatment by the press office also violated that court directive.
But in a letter to Karem's attorney, Ashley Cheung, an attorney in the civil division at the Justice Department, said that it was Justice's understanding that while the Press Briefing Room was White House property, by custom the White House correspondents association determines seating, and that it was WHCA's new virus-related social distancing guidelines--the three-empty-chairs distance between reporters severely cuts down on capacity--that was the culprit, and which was adopted solely by the WHCA.
"To the extent Mr. Karem has been excluded from the seating rotations, he should direct his complaints to the WHCA, not to the Press Secretary, who has merely acquiesced in this practice," Cheung wrote, according to a copy of the letter.
Cheung pointed out that the OAN reporter had been invited by the press secretary, while "nothing in the First Amendment or the Due Process Clause requires the White House Press Secretary to extend a personal invitation to Mr. Karem to be her guest."
As to violating the judge's order, she said the hard pass has been fully restored with "full privileges" and that any restrictions are not based on any actions of the press secretary.
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