CNN Versus Trump Round 1 Goes To CNN; Jim Acosta Credential Restored The federal judge said the White House cannot revoke reporters' access without due process, as apparently happened in Jim Acosta's case. President Trump said the administration was writing up rules.


Judge Rules In Favor Of CNN, Temporarily Restores Correspondent's Credential

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A federal judge delivered a decisive blow to President Trump today, ruling in favor of CNN and the news media. Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, ordered the White House to restore the press pass of CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta, something the White House later did. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Judge Kelly said that the White House, having granted access to reporters for decades, cannot take that right away without due process of law. And in this case, the judge said whatever process there was was shrouded in mystery. Indeed, he said, the Trump lawyers could not even say who made the initial decision to revoke Acosta's pass. In order to revoke a pass, said Kelly, the White House would have to notify the reporter, give him or her a chance to challenge the decision and provide a written justification.

In this case, the judge observed none of that happened. Indeed, in seeking to explain Acosta's pass revocation, the White House put out a justification that the judge said is, quote, "likely untrue," namely that Acosta had laid hands on a White House press aide at the press conference when she sought to take the microphone from him. Outside the federal courthouse, Acosta made a brief statement.


JIM ACOSTA: I want to thank all of my colleagues in the press who supported us this week. And I want to thank the judge for the decision he made today. And let's go back to work.

TOTENBERG: But the fight over his press pass is not over yet. The pass restoration is temporary, and the case is now scheduled to continue unless the White House and CNN can reach an out-of-court settlement, a distinct possibility. The judge did recognize that the White House has the right to set standards for correspondents' behavior, which president Trump said he would do.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They don't listen to the rules and regulations, we'll end up back in court, and we'll win. But more importantly, we'll just leave. And then you won't be very happy 'cause we do get good ratings.

TOTENBERG: What kinds of rules does he anticipate?


TRUMP: Decorum. You can't take three questions and four questions and just stand up and not sit down.

TOTENBERG: First Amendment lawyers say any rule the White House comes up with must be neutral in its content and must apply the same way to everyone. Some rules are a good idea, says Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University - for example, rules to prevent disruption at a press conference.

JAMEEL JAFFER: That said, I'm not sure that problem exists right now. I don't see reporters being disruptive. The disruption that the White House was focused on here I think was principally the result of the content of Jim Acosta's question, which apparently provoked the president. And the First Amendment allows reporters, protects reporters' right to ask questions that provoke the president. That's the whole point of the First Amendment.

TOTENBERG: Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush, says the best way to come up with standards would be to do it with the press corps, the White House Correspondents' Association. That way it's not the government trying to dictate reporters' behavior. But he suspects that because of the hostility between the president and the press corps, that Trump will try to do it by fiat.

ARI FLEISCHER: The press corps is anarchistic, and the president loves to frolic in the anarchy. It's a part of him. He loves mixing it up with the press corps. He loves the back-and-forth. He loves the pugilistic fight.

TOTENBERG: And the press corps in turn, says Fleischer, loves the access. Fleischer believes Acosta went too far, however, in asking four questions. The limit, he says, should be two.

FLEISCHER: If I were the White House, I would announce when they do their new regulations and rules - I would call it the Acosta rule.

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.


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