The White House has told CNN it has made a “preliminary decision” to once again revoke the press credential of network correspondent Jim Acosta, after a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration must temporarily restore his pass.
CNN, rejecting what it called the White House’s “attempt to provide retroactive due process,” warned Sunday that it will seek to depose the defendants, who include President Donald Trump, “on their intentions and their conduct” unless the administration halts its action against Acosta.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly, who was appointed by Trump, on Friday granted CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order that rescinded the White House’s decision to yank Acosta’s hard pass, which gave him access to the White House grounds. The order lasts for 14 days, multiple outlets reported.
But White House communications chief Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote in a letter to Acosta on Friday evening that “we have made a preliminary decision to suspend your hard pass due to your conduct” at a presidential news conference a week earlier on Nov. 7.
“The President is aware of this preliminary decision and concurs,” Shine and Sanders wrote.
At that presser, where Trump declared victory after the midterm elections, Acosta had disputed the president’s use of the word “invasion” to describe a caravan of Central American migrants traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border. The exchange grew more heated as Acosta continued to ask follow-up questions, prompting a White House intern to try and grab the microphone from the reporter, who initially refused to let go of it.
Later that day, Acosta announced that he had been barred from the White House grounds by the Secret Service.
In the lawsuit filed days later, CNN argued that Acosta’s rights under the First and Fifth amendments to the Constitution had been violated. The White House countered that it had “broad discretion” to remove Acosta’s pass, and highlighted his “decision to engage in conduct that disrupts press events and impedes other reporters from asking questions” in its argument.
At the Friday hearing, Kelly granted CNN’s request for a temporary restraining order, ruling that the White House had indeed violated Acosta’s due process rights.
In statement after the ruling, Sanders said the White House will “further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future,” adding, “There must be decorum at the White House.”
Sanders and Shine echoed that desire for decorum in their letter to Acosta on Friday evening.
“We had not previously thought that a set of formal rules for journalists’ behavior at press conferences was necessary,” the letter read. They listed “basic, commonsense practices” for journalists to follow, such as asking a single question and then yielding the floor unless a follow-up is permitted by the president or other White House staff.
They wrote that their preliminary decision would become “final” unless Acosta responded by 5 p.m. Sunday to contest the action, in which case they would issue a “final determination” by Monday at 3 p.m.
A lawyer for CNN responded in an email to Justice Department lawyers Sunday, “To say the least, the letter is a disappointing response to the court’s decision and our attempts to resolve the matter amicably.” The letter added that “unless you can confirm to our satisfaction that no action will be taken against Mr. Acosta, we will seek expedited discovery, including depositions, from all defendants on their intentions and their conduct.”
In an attached letter, CNN’s lawyer rejected that there are tacit rules of conduct for White House reporters, and noted that other journalists at the Nov. 7 event had asked follow-up questions to Trump “without consequence.”
Both CNN and the White House are expected to submit court filings Monday explaining how they would like to proceed in the case, as Kelly considers CNN’s request for an injunction that would permanently restore Acosta’s pass.
Trump, in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace that aired in part on Friday, said of the ruling that “It’s not a big deal and if he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference.”