White House Cited A Nonexistent Witness Statement When Suspending Reporter’s Credentials, Report Says

Brian Karem in a confrontation with Sebastian Gorka at the White House.
Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Trump administration supposedly cited a nonexistent witness statement when suspending the press credentials of Playboy reporter Brian Karem, a new report claims.

Karem’s hard press pass was pulled by the White House after a confrontation in the Rose Garden last month with Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to President Donald Trump. As Law & Crime reported, the White House told Karem’s lawyer that they relied on a witness statement from a Secret Service agent in suspending Karem, but new legal filings show that this statement may have never existed.

As the report noted, attorneys representing the Justice Department told U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras that there was never a written statement from the agent who spoke to Karem following the July 11 incident. This appeared to directly contradict what White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a letter from August 16 informing Karem that his press credential was suspended.

Instead, the lawyers representing the Trump administration said that there was a statement from an attorney with the Office of White House Counsel, but admitted that the Secret Service agent never made a statement on the matter.

Brian Karem has challenged the Trump administration in court, teaming up with attorney Ted Boutrous who represented CNN correspondent Jim Acosta when he successfully filed suit against the Trump administration to have his own press pass returned following another controversial incident. The White House had claimed that Acosta was rough with an intern while holding a microphone, and the White House later released video of the event that was reportedly doctored to make it appear as if Acosta was aggressive. A federal court ruled that the White House did not afford Acosta due process in revoking his pass. After Karem’s incident, the White House took more formal steps when informing the Playboy and CNN correspondent of plans to revoke his hard pass, allowing him to challenge the decision before it was made official.

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Boutrous had already pushed back against the White House, saying in a letter that the Trump administration had not provided the alleged witness statement on which his suspension was based.

“We still lack critical information that remains in your possession and that you have refused to disclose,” Boutrous wrote in the August 9 letter. “For example, you have advised that you intend to rely on a witness statement you obtained from a Secret Service official who observed the events at issue, yet you have refused to give us the full statement, or even to disclose his identity. Instead, you read aloud to us what appeared to be a selected excerpt from the statement.”