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Judge orders White House to restore press pass to CNN’s Jim Acosta

November 16, 2018

A federal judge ordered the White House to restore CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass, ruling Friday that President Trump and his aides didn’t give Mr. Acosta enough of a chance to explain himself or contest the revocation.

The ruling is a major win for CNN and its combative approach to the Trump White House.

Judge Timothy J. Kelly, ruling from the bench, said the facts of last week’s encounter that led to the press credential being withdrawn were in doubt, and said that’s all the more reason why the White House should have given Mr. Acosta a chance to explain himself.

“The opportunity to be heard seems especially important in this case,” he said.

Mr. Acosta’s credentials were stripped after a press conference in which he verbally sparred with the president, then got into an altercation with a White House intern who came to end his questioning.

When the intern came to take the microphone from him, Mr. Acosta refused to give it back, using his hand to chop at the woman’s elbow to prevent her from controlling the microphone.

CNN sued on Tuesday, saying revoking Mr. Acosta’s credentials was a violation of First Amendment press rights, Fifth Amendment due process rights and the Administration Procedure Act, which prohibits arbitrary decision-making.

The White House called the lawsuit “grandstanding” and said CNN has nearly 50 other journalists who can cover the White House, and Mr. Acosta’s access is not critical to the cause of press freedom.

The case had turned into a Rorschach test for Americans and how they view the press in the Trump era, with partisans picking sides on Twitter.

Inside the courtroom, Fox News, the Associated Press and many other news organizations sided with CNN, saying the White House cannot be allowed to use the threat of access to pressure reporters.

But One American News Network, a conservative upstart, filed a brief arguing it was Mr. Acosta who was hurting the press with rude questions.

Judge Kelly did not rule on the big First Amendment questions CNN raised, instead limiting his decision to whether the White House had acted arbitrarily in denying Mr. Acosta a thing of value in this case, the press pass that CNN says is crucial to him doing his job.

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