White House backs down over Jim Acosta pass as it reveals new press conference rules

The move arrives after the White House repeatedly threatened to bar CNN's journalist from future briefings

Chris Riotta
New York
Monday 19 November 2018 22:36
'Let's go back to work' Jim Acosta thanks judge and colleagues for support

Donald Trump's White House has abandoned his battle against CNN’s Jim Acosta by fully restoring the journalist’s press pass in the wake of a judge ordering he could continue reporting at the White House.

The president demanded Mr Acosta respond to a letter White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and communications director Bill Shine wrote alleging he had broken rules of conduct during a 7 November press briefing in which the reporter clashed with Mr Trump refused to hand a microphone to an intern as he was asking a question.

The White House had earlier threatened to rescind the pass again once the judge's temporary 14-day expired later this month, leading to another request for a court hearing from CNN, but has now relented.

“Having received a formal reply from your counsel to our letter of November 16, we have made a final determination in this process: your hard pass is restored,” the White House said in a response to CNN and Mr Acosta on Monday. “Should you refuse to follow these rules in the future, we will take action in accordance with the rules set forth above. The President is aware of this decision and concurs.”

The letter also outlines several new rules the White House will seek to implement at future press briefings, including only allowing “a single question” from journalists and follow-ups will only be allowed “at the discretion of the President or other White House officials.”

In a follow up statement to the White House pool reporters, Ms Sanders further outlined the rules, saying reporters must "yield the floor," which includes "physically surrendering the microphone to White House staff for use by the next questioner."

"We would have greatly preferred to continue hosting White House press conferences in reliance on a set of understood professional norms, and we believe the overwhelming majority of journalists covering the White House share that preference," the statement continued. "But, given the position taken by CNN, we now feel obligated to replace previously shared practices with explicit rules."

Mr Acosta’s case was supported by the Fifth Amendment, which provides protections to Americans against violations of due process — as well as numerous major news outlets like Fox News, which defended CNN in amicus briefs after the network sued the White House over the revoked pass.

The ruling from Judge Timothy Kelly in a district court in Washington DC on Friday said that the White House had breached CNN's and Mr Acosta's Fifth Amendment rights by not offering a clear explanation as to why the pass was taken away, or a right to respond. However Judge Kelly did not rule on any potential violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, which would have been an issue to be decided as part of the wider lawsuit.

After their success in court last week, the network’s attorneys told reporters they were seeking “a resolution that makes the most sense so everyone can get out of court and get back to their work.”

After the judge provided Mr Acosta a temporary restraining order, CNN requested a set of deadlines surrounding a possible preliminary injunction in order to provide longer-term protections for the reporter and his ability to report within the White House.

According to those court filings, which argued the White House letter on Friday was an “attempt to provide retroactive due process,” was seeking a hearing “for the week of 26 November, 2018, or as soon thereafter as possible.”

In a tweet announcing the latest developments, CNN said its lawsuit against the White House is “no longer necessary” as the White House had “fully restored” Mr Acosta’s pass.

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“We look forward to continuing to cover the White House,” the tweet read.

Mr Acosta also followed up the news with a tweet of his own, writing, “Thanks to everybody for their support. As I said last Friday… let’s get back to work.”

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