White House to Develop Rules for Press After Acosta Incident

Ivan Pentchoukov
By Ivan Pentchoukov
November 16, 2018Politics

The Trump administration will develop a set of rules and processes for media coverage at the White House to ensure orderly conferences and decorum. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders made the announcement after a federal judge temporarily ordered the White House to restore the hard pass for CNN journalist Jim Acosta on Nov. 16.

District Court Judge Timothy Kelly ruled that the White House violated Acosta’s fifth amendment right to due process and granted CNN’s request to restore the reporter’s hard pass while the court case is pending.

“Today, the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House. In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass,” Sanders said in a statement.

“We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future. There must be decorum at the White House.”

President Donald Trump told reporters that the new rules will limit the number of questions each reporter gets.

“Decorum. You can’t take three questions and four questions. You can’t stand up and not sit down,” Trump said.

“We want total freedom of the press. It’s more important to me than anybody would believe,” the president added. “But you have to act with respect when you’re at the White house, and when I see the way some of my people get treated at news conferences, it’s terrible. So we’re setting up a certain standard, which is what the court is requesting.”

The White House revoked Acosta’s hard pass on Nov. 7, after he refused to give up a microphone during a presidential press conference and mistreated a White House intern who attempted to retrieve the device.

CNN argued in a lawsuit (pdf) that the White House violated Acosta’s First Amendment right to free speech, Fifth Amendment right to due process, and a protection against arbitrary and capricious acts by the government codified in the Administrative Procedure Act.

Judge Kelly only ruled on CNN’s arguments relating to the Fifth Amendment.

“Let’s go back to work,” Acosta said to reporters after the hearing.

CNN Jim Acosta
Cable News Network (CNN) Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta smiles as he departs after a judge temporarily restored Acosta’s White House press credentials following a hearing at a District Court in Washington, on Nov. 16, 2018. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

In court, government lawyers said there is no First Amendment right of access to the White House and that Acosta was penalized for acting rudely at the conference and not for his criticisms of the president.

When called upon to ask questions, Acosta has frequently used the opportunity to advocate for contentious issues and disrupt press conferences. This approach has led to several clashes between him and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

“What would federal judge do if Acosta ‘challenged’ him in his courtroom and argued and wouldn’t shut up when judge told him to and refused to give up mic when bailiff tried to retrieve it? Asking for a friend. And for half of America,” former Arizona governor Mike Huckabee, the press secretary’s father, wrote on Twitter.

The judge said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s initial statement that Acosta was penalized for touching a White House staffer attempting to remove his microphone was “likely untrue and at least partly based on evidence that was of questionable accuracy.”

In explaining why Acosta’s pass was revoked, Sanders said he had “his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”

“This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question,” Sanders said at the time.

While some media outlets describe Acosta’s hard pass as his “press credentials,” the hard pass is one of several ways the press can access White House press conferences. A reporter may apply for daily and weekly passes. Compared to the temporary credentials, a hard pass grants reporters access to certain areas of the White House not otherwise accessible.

The White House Correspondents Association, The New York Times, Fox News, and other organizations supported CNN in the lawsuit.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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