White House Warns CNN's Acosta While Reinstating Full Access

(Bloomberg) -- The White House restored CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass, but with a warning that it will again be revoked if the reporter fails to abide by a new set of rules governing conduct at briefings.

Announced Monday afternoon, first by CNN and then by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, the accord ends a 12-day drama that began with a heated confrontation between Acosta and President Donald Trump on Nov. 7, one day after Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections. The White House pulled Acosta’s pass the same day.

Trump backed down after a federal judge issued a Nov. 16 order that temporarily restored Acosta’s access. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly faulted the administration for revoking the pass without prior notice or an opportunity to contest the decision. Peace also comes after an abortive attempt by the White House to rescind Acosta’s pass again over the weekend, prompting attorneys for the network to ask Kelly to intervene.

"Our lawsuit is no longer necessary," CNN said in a statement after receiving notice the pass was reinstated permanently. "We look forward to continuing to cover the White House."

Among the new rules governing White House press conferences:

  • Reporters will be allowed to ask one question before having to yield the microphone to another reporter
  • At the discretion of the president or any other White House official taking
    questions, a follow-up question or questions may be permitted and -- when allowed and asked -- the questioner must then yield the floor
  • Yielding, in that context, includes surrendering the microphone reporters are provided
  • Click here to read the letter in full

Failure to follow the rules can result in hard-pass suspension or revocation.

That prompted CNN’s media correspondent Brian Stelter to question whether more fights lie ahead.

Sanders said the new rules were created "with a degree of regret."

She blamed CNN.

"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,” Sanders said. “But, given the position taken by CNN, we now feel obligated to replace previously shared practices with explicit rules."

Trump believes in the First Amendment and “is the most accessible president in modern history,” Sanders said.

The president banned Acosta on Nov. 7, following a contentious press conference during which the reporter pressed Trump to answer a question about immigration and refused to yield the microphone even as a White House aide attempted to take it from him. Moments later, Trump called Acosta "a rude, terrible person."

That evening, Acosta was told to surrender his press credential, known as a hard pass, which allows unescorted access to the White House. On Nov. 13, the network and Acosta sued the administration, claiming his constitutional rights to due process and freedom of the press had been violated. Kelly didn’t rule on the freedom of the press question.

Later that same day, the president said he would impose new press conference rules.

“People have to behave,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “You have to act with respect. You’re in the White House.”

Acosta is not home free. In the same letter in which Sanders and White House communications chief Bill Shine told the reporter his access was being restored, they warned that failure to follow the rules will result in further action.

"The president is aware of this decision and concurs," they said. "Happy Thanksgiving."

The case is Cable News Network Inc. v. Trump, 18-cv-2610, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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