WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A US judge on Friday (Nov 16) temporarily restored White House press credentials to CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, which were revoked after a contentious press conference with President Donald Trump, saying there should be a due process in place for limiting a journalist’s access to the White House.
US District Judge Timothy Kelly, who is hearing CNN’s lawsuit challenging the revocation, ordered the White House to restore Acosta’s press pass while the case is pending.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Acosta’s credentials would be temporarily restored.
“Let’s go back to work,” Acosta said to reporters after the hearing.
But Trump said that “people have to behave” and warned of future court action against reporters who do not.
“If they don’t listen to the rules and regulations, we’ll end up back in court and we’ll win,” Trump said on Friday.
“But more importantly, we’ll just leave. And then you won’t be very happy, because we do get good ratings.”
CNN said in a statement it “looked forward to a full resolution in the coming days” and thanked “all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kelly, a Trump appointee, did not address the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech and the press, but instead focused on a due process provision of the US Constitution that provides for fair treatment through a judicial or administrative process.
“Whatever process occurred within the government is still so shrouded in mystery that the government at oral argument could not tell me who made the initial decision to revoke Mr. Acosta’s press pass,” Kelly said in his verbal ruling.
The White House revoked Acosta’s credentials last week in an escalation of the Republican president’s attacks on the news media, which he has dubbed the “enemy of the people.”
In court, US 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.
The judge said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ initial statement that Acosta was penalised 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.”
Sanders accused Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern” and of preventing other reporters from asking questions at the news conference.
She called his behaviour “absolutely unacceptable” and said his White House press pass would be suspended “until further notice.”