Trump administration officials on Monday afternoon fully restored White House press access to CNN’s Jim Acosta, conceding to the cable network and potentially ending a federal lawsuit over journalists’ constitutional rights.
CNN has agreed to drop its ongoing litigation against the White House, according to The Washington Post: “Today the White House fully restored Jim Acosta’s press pass,” CNN said in a statement. “As a result, our lawsuit is no longer necessary. We look forward to continuing to cover the White House.”
But the final decision to reinstate Acosta’s credentials came with a new set of rules for reporters who cover the president, including a policy of allowing only one question per reporter during news conferences.
White House officials warned failure to abide by the new policies “may result in suspension or revocation of the journalist’s hard pass.”
“We would have greatly preferred to continue hosting White House news conferences in reliance on a set of understood professional norms, and we believe the overwhelming majority of journalists covering the White House share that preference,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “But, given the position taken by CNN, we now feel obligated to replace previously shared practices with explicit rules.”
Sanders also said Monday that more rules could be devised that would govern journalists’ conduct in other “open areas” of the White House outside the press room and on Air Force One, where U.S. presidents have traditionally taken on- and off-record questions from reporters.
The full reinstatement of Acosta’s press access comes after Sanders and other White House press officials had said they would only temporarily allow Acosta to return, complying with a federal judge’s order, but would then revoke it once again.
On Friday, Judge Timothy Kelly granted CNN’s motion for a temporary restraining order allowing Acosta to return to the White House grounds. The order was to expire 14 days from the day it was issued.
The White House stripped Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, of his “hard pass” on Nov. 7 following a confrontation with the president during a postelection news conference in the East Room. A “hard pass” allows for easy access to the 18-acre grounds of the White House.
A week later, CNN filed suit against the administration saying revoking Acosta’s pass violated the constitutional right of freedom of the press. Other major news outlets, including The Associated Press, NBC and Fox News, sided with CNN and wrote letters to the judge.
Sanders’ statement said reporters are permitted follow-up queries, in addition to the new one-question rule, “at the discretion of the president or other White House official taking questions.”
In a statement, Olivier Knox, president of White House Correspondents' Association, said: "The White House did the right thing in restoring Jim Acosta’s hard pass. The White House Correspondents’ Association had no role in crafting any procedures for future press conferences. For as long as there have been White House press conferences, White House reporters have asked follow-up questions. We fully expect this tradition will continue. We will continue to make the case that a free and independent news media plays a vital role in the health of our republic."