A federal judge handed CNN a major victory on Friday, ruling that President Donald Trump White House must temporarily restore the press credentials it stripped from the network’s chief White House correspondent last week while a lawsuit plays out.
Judge Timothy Kelly ruled that Jim Acosta’s fre-press rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outweigh ‘the government’s interest in orderly, respectful press conferences.’
He declared that the White House failed to give Acosta ‘due process,’ something guaranteed in government proceedings under the Fifth Amendment.
‘I want to thank all of my colleagues in the press who supported us this week,’ Acosta told other reporters outside the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C. ‘And I want to thank the judge for the decision he made today. And let’s go back to work.’
While Kelly ordered the White House to let Acosta back in the building, he said Trump and his spokespeople aren’t obligated to call on him during press conferences or let him ask questions.
There was near-unanimity in the political press corps’ backing of CNN, with more than a dozen news outlets signaling they would formally submit a supportive brief to Judge Kelly. Only One America News Network, a conservative outlet, publicly sided with Trump.
Kelly, a Trump appointee, emphasized that his ruling was temporary, saying: ‘I have not determined that the First Amendment was violated here.’
‘I want to emphasize the very limited nature of this ruling,’ he said, explaining that he only granted CNN’s emergency request on the basis that the White House’s decision seemed arbitrary.
He also explained that if the White House had canceled Acosta’s press pass based on a belief that he was a safety or security threat, it might have been forgiven for acting without notice.
CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta the first round of a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Friday, winning a temporary restraining order that restores his White House press pass that was canceled last week
A government lawyer told a Judge Timothy Kelly on Wednesday that President Donald Trump, pictured during a fateful Nov. 7 press conference, would be within his legal rights to ban all reporters from the White House; Kelly agreed in principle but said that once the administration let them in it had to treat all reporters equally
Acosta arrived at the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC before hearing the positive ruling
But Kelly sided with CNN, ensuring Acosta will be able to re-enter the White House grounds. He noted that the government’s attorneys couldn’t tell him on Wednesday who had made the final decision to yank Acosta’s credentials, an indication that no formal process was involved.
In a tense but brief hearing, Kelly also said the White House’s claim that Kelly physically put his hands on a female intern during the Nov. 7 press conference was of ‘questionable accuracy.’
In a statement, CNN said, ‘We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days. Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.’
On the air, the network’s correspondents gloated.
Media reporter Brian Stelter crowed that Trump ‘doesn’t want to acknowledge what real news is, so he lashed out’ at Acosta, a reporter he has battled over and over.
CNN argued in court that the Trump administration was capriciously punishing Acosta because of his public advocacy in opposition to the president’s policies.
CNN attorney Ted Boutrous said outside the courthouse that ‘this is a great day for the First Amendment and for journalism.’
Judge Kelly did give the White House some legal options, including the establishment of a formal procedure fo rmaking decisions like the one it unilaterally handed down.
He also hinted that CNN would ultimately prevail on First Amendment grounds, saying that while the administration isn’t under any obligation to host reporters on White House grounds, it’s unconstitutional to exclude some reporters while accepting others.
A Trump administration lawyer argued on Wednesday that Acosta has disrupted media events and interfered with one press conference last week by refusing to surrender a microphone and touching the intern who tried to reclaim it.
The government attorney also argued that the president would be within his legal rights to send the entire press corps packing.
‘If the president wants to exclude all reporters from the White House grounds, he has the authority to do that,’ the attorney said during a closely watched court hearing.
He was describing a scenario where the administration would move reporters, editors, TV producers and camera operators to another government facility and not speculating about limiting their ability to report or publish, according to a White House aide who declined to be identified on Thursday.
CNN correspondent Jim Acosta and his network sued the president and other White House officials after he was banned from the building following a contentious press conference in which he argued with President Trump and refused to surrender a microphone
Acosta left the court hearing in Washington on Wednesday after hearing the government’s arguments against granting on-demand White House entry to all reporters who demand it
Any theoretical disruption to the close-in access journalists enjoy in the headquarters of the world’s most powerful government would send news organizations howling.
That prospect didn’t faze the official who spoke to DailyMail.com and said: ‘What, like they’re going to hate us more?’
Trump said Wednesday that CNN’s Jim Acosta, who has been banned from the White House complex for the past eight days, is ‘bad for the country.’
The lawyer said hours later that ‘there’s no First Amendment right’ to be physically present in the building Trump works.
Acosta, he said, ‘is just somebody who gets up and grandstands. He doesn’t even know what he’s asking you half of the time.’
The president’s comments on the controversy were his first since his legal team fired a salvo at CNN hours earlier, responding to a lawsuit the network filed after Acosta lost his press credentials. That followed a clash with a female White House intern over a microphone during a Nov. 7 press conference.
‘We’ll see how the court rules,’ Trump told The Daily Caller, asking whether ‘it[‘s] freedom of the press when somebody comes in and starts screaming questions and won’t sit down.’
‘He was very rude to the young lady,’ he said of the intern, who the White House has declined to identify.
‘I really think that when you have guys like Acosta, I think they’re bad for the country. … He’s just an average guy who’s a grandstander,’ Trump said, while acknowledging that Acosta is a reporter ‘who’s got the guts to stand up and shout.’
CNN attorney Ted Boutrous spoke to reporters following a hearing Wednesday as a protester held up a sign for news cameras
Acosta saw his press pass revoked last Wednesday after he clashed with an intern over a press conference microphone and harangued President Donald Trump
President Trump, pictured Wednesday during a Diwali ceremony at the White House, has tussled with Acosta regularly and shows no sign of relenting
The White House argued Wednesday that it was within its constitutional rights to bar Acosta, just as it can choose who gets Oval Office interviews, who can attend press conferences and who the president will call on for questions
The government’s response to CNN’s lawsuit points out that the network still has ‘roughtly 50 other employees’ with hard passes, and that they’re capable of covering the White House from inside the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue campus
In a legal filing Wednesday, the White House argued that ‘[n]o journalist has a First Amendment right to enter the White House.’
Trump, the administration claimed, doesn’t have to justify his decision constitutionally ‘whenever he exercises his discretion to deny an individual journalist one of the many hundreds of passes granting instant access to the White House complex.’
The White House’s argument is centers on a reading of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees the freedom to publish, but not to attend White House functions on-demand.
‘The President and his staff have absolute discretion over which journalists they grant interviews to, as well as over which journalists they acknowledge at press events,’ Trump’s Justice Department lawyers argued.
‘That broad discretion necessarily includes discretion over which journalists receive on-demand access to the White House grounds and special access during White House travel for the purpose of asking questions of the President or his staff.’
The administration contends that CNN has’t suffered from Acosta’s forced exile since roughly 50 of its other employees still have ‘hard passes’ that grant them on-demand entry.
The network ‘is not limited in what it can broadcast, or even what it can report from the numerous CNN-affiliated reporters who continue to hold hard press passes,’ the response to Tuesday’s lawsuit reads.
And it blames Acosta for making a ‘decision to engage in conduct that disrupts press events and impedes other reporters from asking questions,’ saying that’s ‘a more-than-sufficient reason for revoking his hard pass.’
Acosta lost access to the building hours after refusing to give up the microphone when the president said he had answered enough of his questions.
CNN sued on Tuesday on First Amendment grounds, claimed Acosta was denied a Fifth Amendent right to due process, and asked a judge for a restraining order
CNN’s Jim Acosta goes through security as he enters the federal court in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, to attend a hearing in a legal challenge against President Trump’s administration
Trump’s administration contends it has “broad discretion” to regulate press access to the White House as it fends off a legal challenge from CNN and other outlets over the revocation of journalist Acosta’s ‘hard pass’
The Trump campaign started raising money over the legal battle on Wednesday
Acosta, who has frequently clashed with President Trump during persistent questioning, lost access to the White House on Wednesday night
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement last week that Acosta ‘physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern.’ That appeared to be softer language than her earlier claim that he placed ‘his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job.’
CNN vigorously disputed the implication of anything more than minor physical contact.
The court docket was updated just as a group news organizations, including the Associated Pres and the Trump-friendly Fox News Channel, said they would file a friend-of-the-court brief backing CNN.
‘Whether the news of the day concerns national security, the economy, or the environment, reporters covering the White House must remain free to ask questions. It is imperative that independent journalists have access to the President and his activities, and that journalists are not barred for arbitrary reasons,’ the press outlets said.
‘Our news organizations support the fundamental constitutional right to question this President, or any President. We will be filing friend-of-the-court briefs to support CNN’s and Jim Acosta’s lawsuit based on these principles.’
The other signers included NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, Bloomberg, Gannett, Scripps, USA Today, First Look Media Works, the National Press Club Journalism Institute and the Press Freedom Defense Fund.
The White House Correspondents Association’s president, SiriusXM broadcaster Olivier Knox, issued a supportive statement on Tuesday.
CNN filed its federal lawsuit after the White House punished Acosta for clashing with Trump and a female intern during a November 7 press conference.
The networks’ suit, filed by a team that includes former George W. Bush solicitor general Ted Olson, demands the immediate return of Acosta’s credentials. The White House called it ‘grandstanding’ hours later.
The network claims the revocation of Acosta’s press pass violates the constitutional rights to freedom of the press and due process. CNN is asking for an immediate restraining order to reinstate Acosta’s access to the White House.
The suit ‘demands the return of the White House credentials of CNN’s Chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process,’ according to a CNN statement.
‘We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process.’
The suit names as defendants Trump, chief of staff John Kelly, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, deputy chief of staff for communications and former Fox News executive Bill Shine, the director of the U.S. Secret Service and the uniformed officer who took away the credentials.
The network is seeking a preliminary injunction. It has already written the White House demanding an end to Acosta’s punishment.
The suit was filed by Ted Boutrous, and Olson, of the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Acosta was banned from the White House last week after a heated exchange with President Trump during a press conference in which an intern tried to take his microphone away
Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said in a statement that the group ‘strongly supports CNN’s goal of seeing their correspondent regain a US Secret Service security credential that the White House should not have taken away in the first place.’
Sanders responded: ‘We have been advised that CNN has filed a complaint challenging the suspension of Jim Acosta’s hard pass. This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit.’
She continued: ‘CNN, who has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders, and Mr. Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment. After Mr. Acosta asked the President two questions—each of which the President answered—he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions. This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters.’
‘The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional. The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor. If there is no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business,’ Sanders concluded.
CNN’s lawyers say Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment constitutional rights were violated
The White House did not respond on Tuesday to a question about whether Sanders issued the statement in her capacity as a presidential spokesperson or as a named defendant in the lawsuit.
Floyd Abrams, a veteran lawyer and expert in First Amendment law, told CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday that the network would have a robust case.
‘I think it’s a really strong lawsuit,’ Abrams said.
‘I can understand CNN being reluctant to sue because the president keeps saying CNN is the enemy of me, and CNN might have reluctance to have a lawsuit titled “CNN vs.Donald Trump.” That said, yes, I think they should sue,’ he said.
Former ABC News journalist Sam Donaldson appeared on the program and revealed he had been asked to sign an affidavit in support of CNN’s case.
He described the decision to ban Acosta as ‘not only wrong and unfair’ but also ‘dangerous for the press as a whole.’
Even as he had lost his access to the White House, Acosta tweeted a defiant message to Trump from Paris Friday, saying he intended to cover the president’s trip there despite being stripped of his access.
The reporter tweeted a view of the Eiffel Tower and said: ‘Greetings from Paris where we are on the ground for Trump’s trip to France. #1A.’
The hashtag was a reference to the first amendment, which prohibits the federal government from curtailing the publishing rights of the press.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted the clip to justify the White House’s decision to revoke Acosta’s press pass