Judge to Rule Thursday on CNN Pass Revocation: Hearing Update
(Bloomberg) -- The Trump Administration was in court defending its decision to revoke CNN Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass, arguing reporters don’t have a Constitutional right to access the White House.
CNN sued after the White House pulled Acosta’s “hard pass,” citing his conduct at a Nov. 7 news conference where he refused to hand over a microphone. The network is asking a judge to reinstate Acosta’s pass immediately. A hard pass allows people unescorted access to the White House and its grounds.
Judge to Rule on CNN Pass Revocation Thursday
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly said he’ll rule Thursday on the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to revoke Acosta’s press pass. After hearing more than 1 1/2 hours of arguments from CNN and Trump Administration lawyers, Kelly said he’ll issue the ruling from the bench at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Trump Can Bar All WH Reporters, Lawyer Argues (5:15 p.m.)
The president is at the apex of authority to set rules, both in the Oval Office and in press conferences, and if he wants to exclude all reporters from the White House grounds, “he clearly has the discretion to do that,” a lawyer for the Trump administration told the judge.
James Burnham said there was no discrimination involved in the revocation of Acosta’s pass, but some control is required.
“If there is no check on this type of behavior,” the president’s ability to conduct the press conferences will be impeded, Burnham said at the hearing. "Grandstanding and disrupting press conferences is just not a viewpoint."
Acosta isn’t being picked out for his viewpoints, because countless other White House reporters, whose viewpoints are closer to Acosta’s than the president, haven’t had their passes revoked, including about 50 journalists from CNN, Burnham said.
Responding to U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly’s questioning of the government’s shifting reasons for revoking Acosta’s pass -- first the administration claimed Acosta put his hands on an aide trying to take away the microphone, then it was just his refusal to surrender the microphone -- Burnham said the government has been consistent in justifying its action for Acosta’s refusal to turn over the microphone and let others ask questions.
Earlier, Boutrous called Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’s statement that the president wouldn’t tolerate a reporter “placing his hands on a young woman” trying to do her job a “smear.”
He said Acosta wasn’t given any opportunity to challenge the revocation of his press pass, and the White House didn’t respond to a letter of protest from CNN President Jeff Zucker.
Acosta went to France to cover the president and while he got credentials from the French government, he still couldn’t get one from the White House, Boutrous said.
President’s Bad Day (4:30 p.m.)
Acosta and the president have had numerous clashes. What made Nov. 7 different was that “it was a bad day for the president,” coming after the midterm elections when the Republicans lost their majority in the House, CNN’s lawyer Theodore Boutrous told U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly.
Trump invited Acosta to ask a question at the press conference because he’s an aggressive reporter, Boutrous said. Trump, unlike other presidents, is often the most aggressive and rude person in the room, he said. “President Trump wants it to be a free-for-all,” Boutrous said.
"They don’t have to call on Jim Acosta at the press conference,” Boutrous said. “They could have turned off his mic."
The judge said that was fair, but asked what would happen if the administration just said it wasn’t going to invite Acosta in?
That would be too broad of a response, Boutrous replied. The First Amendment needs precision and Trump, the day after Acosta’s pass was pulled, suggested other credentials may be pulled, "and for what? A fit of pique?" Boutrous asked.
Hearing Starts With Questions (4 p.m.)
The hearing began with Kelly telling the two sides he has a “bunch of questions.” The judge said there’s at least some evidence that it was Acosta’s behavior, and not his viewpoint, that got his pass revoked.
CNN’s lawyer Boutrous says the White House has made it very clear it doesn’t like the content of Acosta’s and the network’s reporting. He cited Trump’s litany of referring to the press as the “enemy of the people” and “fake news.”
The case is Cable News Network Inc. v. Donald J. Trump, 18-cv-2610, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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