The White House said Thursday that it was preparing to release a lawsuit over a portrait of the late U.S. president, the first time the president’s lawyers have challenged the right of a private citizen to wear the portrait.
The suit, which was filed in federal court in Texas, is a continuation of a legal battle over the president and the portrait, which is a landmark of a controversial, largely symbolic campaign for the White, a congressional district he represents.
Trump’s attorneys, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Wall St. Journal, said the portrait is a public asset and should not be subject to the president being allowed to choose who wears it.
“The portrait is entitled to the protection of the Constitution and Congress, and the right to wear it is protected by the First Amendment,” said Joshua Sharfstein, an attorney for the Trump team.
Trump and his lawyers have used the portrait in political advertising, and some lawmakers have said they would not allow Trump to wear a crucifix.
Trump, who was elected president in November 2016, has not acknowledged wearing the portrait himself.
“I would be very disappointed if he were to have to wear that picture, because I would be so disappointed,” said Representative Raul Labrador, a Republican from Idaho who represents a district in southern Idaho.
“He’s a Christian.
He has a Christian faith.
He’s an American, and he should be able to have that kind of freedom of speech.”
Sharfsteins filing Thursday said the administration is trying to establish a precedent that allows a person to sue for the portrait to be displayed.
The portrait is one of three portraits in the White Houses public space that have been displayed since Trump took office in January.
It is also a fixture in the Capitol.
The other two are portraits of former President Ronald Reagan and former President Bill Clinton.
Trump has long sought to change the portrait so that it doesn’t depict the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who died in 1997 at age 82.
Trump also has threatened to take the portrait down from the White’s grounds if it doesn: “I’ll have the right-wing media and I’ll have people in the other buildings, the buildings across the street, to make their case and have their people put up the pictures.
They’ll do that, because that’s their right.”
He has refused to remove the portrait from the grounds.
The president has previously said the church has no right to say that it is not allowed to have the portrait displayed on the grounds of the White and said it has a right to keep the portrait on the White house grounds.
But Trump’s lawsuit says the president should have the freedom to decide who wears the portrait and what it says about him.
“In the event that Mr. Trump were to choose to wear this portrait, he would have no reasonable basis to conclude that it depicts Mr. Jackson, or any other public figure of any stripe,” Sharfststein wrote.
“Mr. Trump would be bound by the Constitution to allow the White to choose which public figures are allowed to wear his portrait.”