A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to immediately return the White House press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
US District Court Judge Timothy Kelly, an appointee of President Donald Trump, announced his decision at a hearing Friday morning local time.
The White House had revoked Acosta’s credentials last week after he and Mr Trump tangled during a press conference following the midterm elections. Trump was taking questions from reporters and called on Acosta, who asked about Trump’s statements about a caravan of migrants making its way to the US-Mexico border. After a terse exchange, Trump told Acosta, “That’s enough,” several times while calling on another reporter.
Acosta attempted to ask another question about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and initially declined to give up a hand-held microphone to a White House intern. Trump responded to Acosta by saying he wasn’t concerned about the investigation, calling it a “hoax,” and then criticized Acosta, calling him a “rude, terrible person.”
Hours later, the White House pulled Acosta’s credentials.
CNN sued, alleging Acosta’s First and Fifth amendment rights were violated when the White House revoked his credentials, and asked the judge to issue a temporary restraining order forcing the White House to allow Acosta back, at least temporarily. The judge agreed, though a lawsuit over the credentials’ revocation is continuing.
The White House said it would comply, but planned to develop “rules” for orderly press conferences.
“Let’s go back to work!” Acosta said outside the courthouse after the ruling.
The judge said CNN was likely to prevail on its Fifth Amendment claim – that Acosta hadn’t received sufficient notice or explanation before his credentials were revoked or been given sufficient opportunity to respond before they were.
The judge also found that Acosta suffered “irreparable harm,” dismissing the government’s argument that CNN could simply send other reporters to cover the White House in Acosta’s place.
Trump has made his dislike of CNN clear since before he took office and continuing into his presidency. He has described the network as “fake news” both on Twitter and in public comments.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders initially explained the decision to ban Acosta by accusing the reporter of making improper physical contact with the intern seeking to grab the microphone.
But that rationale disappeared after witnesses backed Acosta’s account that he was just trying to keep the microphone, and Sanders distributed a doctored video that made it appear Acosta was more aggressive than he actually was.