White House backs down from legal fight, restores Jim Acosta's press pass

The White House on Monday said that CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's press pass has been "restored," bowing to...

Posted: Nov 20, 2018 2:48 AM
Updated: Nov 20, 2018 2:48 AM

The White House on Monday said that CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's press pass has been "restored," bowing to days of pressure and a federal lawsuit against the administration.

In response, CNN said in a court filing that it has dropped the ongoing litigation over Acosta's access to the White House.

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"Today the White House fully restored Jim Acosta's press pass. As a result, our lawsuit is no longer necessary," the network said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to cover the White House."

Monday afternoon's announcement, what the White House called a "final determination," was an abrupt shift from the administration's earlier positions.

Nearly two weeks ago the Trump administration took the unprecedented step of suspending Acosta's access to the White House after he had a contentious exchange with President Trump at a press conference.

When a federal judge sided with CNN and issued a temporary restraining order last Friday, thereby forcing the White House to restore his press pass for 14 days, the administration continued to threaten his access.

In a private letter to Acosta that same evening, two of the defendants in CNN's suit -- press secretary Sarah Sanders and deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine -- cited Acosta's conduct at the November 7 press conference, where he asked multiple follow-up questions and didn't give up the microphone right away. "You failed to abide" by "basic, widely understood practices," the letter to Acosta claimed.

Many journalists have challenged the administration's actions, pointing out that aggressive questioning is a tradition that dates back decades. But Trump appeared eager to advance an argument about White House press corps "decorum," no matter how hypocritical.

The letter from Shine and Sanders said their "preliminary decision" after the press conference was to suspend the press pass. This indicated that the White House could take further action against Acosta as soon as the judge's temporary restraining order expired.

It was also a sign that the White House was trying to establish a paper trail. The judge in the case, Timothy J. Kelly, had criticized the government for not following due process before banning Acosta on November 7. His ruling in Acosta and CNN's favor was on Fifth Amendment due process grounds.

So Friday night's letter offered Acosta a chance to contest the decision and said a "final determination" would be made by Monday at 3 p.m.

Lawyers for Acosta and CNN did respond, forcefully, in a letter and in a court filing.

They had signaled a willingness to settle after prevailing in court on Friday. But in a new motion on Monday morning, they said the defendants "did not respond to this offer to cooperate." Instead, the letter from Shine and Sanders was an "attempt to provide retroactive due process," the filing alleged.

So CNN and Acosta asked the judge to set a schedule of deadlines for motions and hearings that would give the network the chance to win a preliminary injunction, a longer form of court-ordered protection to Acosta's press pass.

They were seeking a hearing "for the week of November 26, 2018, or as soon thereafter as possible," according to the court filing.

The judge had yet to file on that request when the Monday at 3 p.m. deadline came.

The new Monday afternoon letter from Sanders and Shine included no expiration date, though it did contain the general threat to take action against reporters who flouts new "rules."

The White House's letter said, "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. 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 White House press corps, however, has not agreed to any new set of rules governing presidential press conferences. And Trump rarely holds press conferences anyway.

The White House Correspondents' Association said Monday it had "no role in crafting" what the White House sent out.

The letter asserts that reporters may ask "a single question" at a press conference. Follow-ups will only be permitted "at the discretion of the President or other White House officials." And reporters must "physically surrender" the microphone, when directed.

In practice, many reporters asked follow-up questions at the November 7 press conference.

And that's not going to change any time soon. "For as long as there have been White House press conferences, White House reporters have asked follow-up questions. We fully expect this tradition will continue," the association said.

It remains to be seen if the rules are just cover for the administration's loss to CNN in court. At the same time, the White House's move could create a chilling effect among reporters.

Tensions remain high, with the White House rarely holding press briefings and Trump regularly lashing out at the media. Some observers wondered if he picked the fight with CNN and Acosta to distract the media from the Democrats' gains in the midterm elections.

Trump seemed to shrug off last week's loss in court, telling Fox's Chris Wallace in an interview that "it's not a big deal."

He said in the interview that the White House would "create rules and regulations for conduct" so that the administration can revoke press passes in the future.

"If he misbehaves," Trump said, apparently referring to Acosta, "we'll throw him out or we'll stop the news conference."

Acosta, for his part, thanked his supporters on Monday. "Lets get back to work," he tweeted.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 539829

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798271529
Mobile41261809
Madison35132506
Tuscaloosa25915455
Shelby25294249
Montgomery24705593
Baldwin21392310
Lee15987172
Calhoun14569319
Morgan14422280
Etowah13918353
Marshall12275225
Houston10641282
Elmore10147206
Limestone10065151
St. Clair9946245
Cullman9761194
Lauderdale9457243
DeKalb8865188
Talladega8339176
Walker7260278
Autauga7001108
Jackson6836112
Blount6771139
Colbert6320135
Coffee5578118
Dale4876113
Russell445138
Chilton4369113
Franklin426282
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia394777
Chambers3590123
Dallas3568153
Clarke351461
Marion3137101
Pike311977
Lawrence302698
Winston275773
Bibb264564
Geneva254078
Marengo249665
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale223978
Butler219069
Fayette212662
Henry189643
Cherokee184645
Randolph182442
Monroe178141
Washington167739
Macon161150
Clay157157
Crenshaw153557
Cleburne149641
Lamar143236
Lowndes140553
Wilcox127430
Bullock123242
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter104932
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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