In a preliminary ruling, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., sided with CNN on Friday in its lawsuit against President Trump, ordering the White House to immediately reinstate correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credentials.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly, who was appointed by Trump, said the White House failed to provide Acosta due process in revoking his access, and he granted a temporary restraining order restoring it. Kelly noted that it was a “very limited” ruling, based on due-process considerations.
The judge said that Trump does not have to call on Acosta ever again but that the CNN chief White House correspondent is owed due process before the administration can revoke his “hard,” or permanent, press pass.
“Whatever process occurred within the government is still so shrouded in mystery that the government could not tell me at oral argument who made the initial decision to revoke Mr. Acosta’s press pass,” Kelly said.
CNN had been seeking to restore Acosta’s credentials as the network’s First Amendment case against the White House goes forward.
“We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days,” CNN said in a statement. “Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.”
Acosta made a brief statement outside the court thanking colleagues in the media for support, adding: “Let’s get back to work.”
The network said that Acosta would be reporting from the White House on Friday afternoon.
“Today, the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass. We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future. There must be decorum at the White House.”
The judge, however, did not issue a ruling on the First Amendment. He ruled Acosta’s Fifth Amendment rights were violated.
Speaking to reporters inside the Oval Office, Trump said the administration was drafting “rules and regulations” for journalists to follow.
“People have to behave,” Trump said. “We want total freedom of the press. It’s more important to me than anybody would believe. But you have to act with respect when you’re at the White House, and when I see the way some of my people get treated at news conferences, it’s terrible.”
“We’ll end up back in court and we will win,” the president predicted.
The Trump administration revoked Acosta’s hard pass last week after a contentious exchange between the reporter and the president at a press conference the day after the midterm elections. When Acosta tried to press Trump on the language he has used to describe Central American migrants seeking asylum at the southern border, Trump called him a “rude, terrible person” and ordered him to sit down.
The White House later released a statement saying it was suspending Acosta’s hard pass, which provides expedited access to the White House grounds, alleging that he inappropriately touched a White House intern who was trying to grab his microphone.
“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration,” Sanders said in a statement. “We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable.”
Sanders then shared a doctored video that she claimed “clearly documented” the incident. But the deceptively edited video, first posted by a YouTube user known for his conspiratorial videos, was sped up to make Acosta’s movements seem more aggressive.
In his ruling, Kelly said the allegation that Acosta placed his hands on the intern was of “questionable accuracy.”
In its complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, CNN argued that the revocation of Acosta’s access was “the culmination of years of hostility by President Trump against CNN and Acosta” based on the media outlet’s reporting and was “an unabashed attempt to censor the press and exclude reporters from the White House who challenge and dispute the President’s point of view.”
More than a dozen other media outlets, including Fox News, released statements of support for CNN.
“Fox News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential,” Fox News President Jay Wallace said in a statement. “Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized. While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”
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