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White House vows new decision on Jim Acosta press pass Monday afternoon

November 19, 2018

The White House has already notified CNN reporter Jim Acosta that officials are preparing to re-revoke his press credentials, sending him a letter laying out his purported offenses and giving him a chance to respond.

The letter was sent Friday, just hours after a federal judge ruled the White House had acted hastily in revoking his press pass the first time, after a disruptive press conference with the president earlier this month.

After the judge scolded the White House for not giving Mr. Acosta due process a chance to argue his case the new letter, filed in court documents Monday morning, gave him until Sunday night to respond.

White House Communications Director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the letter, which promised a final decision by Monday afternoon.

Mr. Acosta replied through his lawyers Sunday, objecting to the White House writing rules now, and then attempting to retroactively apply them to the reporter’s behavior during a Nov. 7 press conference.

“Put simple, the White House’s illegal reaction after the November 7 press conference cannot be made legal now by applying an after-the-fact concocted process,” wrote CNN’s lawyer, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr.

He suggested Americans want to see a collaborative process where CNN helps the White House write rules to govern future press conferences, rather than a continued push to go after Mr. Acosta’s pass.

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.

In their letter to Mr. Acosta on Friday the White House press officials said there had been a “shared understanding” of how press conferences work, and said Mr. Acosta’s behavior violated those.

They said that understanding includes a reporter being called upon to ask a single question then yield the floor, unless the president allows a follow-up, and reporters yielding the floor and “when applicable, physically surrendering any microphone” to White House staff.

“These basic, commonsense practices are necessary for orderly press conferences that are fair to all journalists in attendance,” they wrote, adding that “no other reporter” failed to live up to those standards at the Nov. 7 press conference.

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