The ongoing push-and-pull between the Trump administration and CNN reporter Jim Acosta has come to an end, at least for the moment. A federal judge on Friday morning ruled that the White House must return Acosta’s press credential. “I will order defendants immediately restore Mr. Acosta’s hard pass,” said Judge Timothy J. Kelly, bringing to a quick end to court proceedings resulting from a lawsuit filed Tuesday by CNN.
"I will order defendants immediately restore Mr. Acosta's hard pass." Judge rules in favor of CNN in this initial proceeding and White House MUST restore @Acosta press pass IMMEDIATELY.
— Jessica Schneider (@SchneiderCNN) November 16, 2018
After hearing oral arguments on Wednesday, the court was scheduled to reached a decision Thursday afternoon, but Judge Kelly, who was nominated by Trump, postponed the ruling until Friday morning. The White House must now return Acosta’s hard pass temporarily, at least, based on Kelly’s decision that not enough evidence was provided to legally justify revoking his credential. Kelly said that his ruling Friday morning was “very limited” and did not make a judgement on whether Acosta’s First Amendment rights had been violated, but he did say that he expects CNN to win the case once it is ultimately decided. “We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days,” CNN said in a statement. “Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote following the ruling that the White House will “temporarily” reinstate Acosta’s credential, and that the administration will “further develop rules and procedures to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future.”
— Jordan Fabian (@Jordanfabian) November 16, 2018
The White House revoked Acosta’s press credential last Wednesday after a tense exchange between the reporter and the president at a press conference earlier that day. When Acosta asked Trump a question about his rhetoric surrounding the caravan of Central American migrants making its way through Mexico, the president refused to answer. Acosta attempted to ask another question about the Mueller investigation, leading Trump to attack him. “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” the president said. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. You’re a very rude person. The way you treat [Press Secretary] Sarah Huckabee [Sanders] is horrible. The way you treat other people is horrible.”
In the midst of the exchange, a White House intern attempted to take Acosta’s microphone. Acosta did not allow her to do so, and Sanders later claimed that it was Acosta’s “disgusting” treatment of the female intern that prompted their decision to revoke his credential. Sanders also tweeted an allegedly doctored video of the confrontation that made Acosta’s exchange with the intern look more violent than it actually was.
After Acosta’s hard pass was revoked, CNN attempted to convince the White House to reinstate the long-standing member of the press corps, threatening litigation if they refused to comply. The lawsuit filed Tuesday alleged that the White House was infringing upon Acosta’s right to free speech, as well as his right to due process, arguing that the reasoning behind barring Acosta from covering the administration was not substantial enough to warrant such an action.
Following the ruling Friday morning, Acosta thanked those who supported him, including several news networks who filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of CNN legal battle against the White House. “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,” Acosta said. “Let’s go back to work.”
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 16, 2018
Though the White House doesn’t hold press briefings near as frequently as past administrations, Acosta’s first exchange with Sanders could be interesting. Though it may be a while before he’s able to ask questions of the administration directly, Acosta is expected to resume reporting from the White House Friday afternoon.
This post has been updated.