Sarah Sanders announced that the White House will restore CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's hard press pass following a federal judge's ruling on Friday that asserted that Acosta's Fifth Amendment right to due process was violated when the White House pulled the pass.
"Today, the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House," Sanders said in a statement. "In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass. We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future."
"There must be decorum at the White House," she added.
As noted by Sanders, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly (a Trump appointee) did not rule on Friday that Acosta had his First Amendment rights violated when the White House revoked his press pass; he asserted that the White House indeed has the right to revoke such a privilege, but only after a fair process in which the facts are fully weighed before a final ruling. The equivalent would be a wrongful termination suit where an employer fired an employee without presenting a case against them.
"If at some point after restoring the hard pass the government would like to move to vacate the restraining order on the grounds that it has fulfilled its due process obligations then it may, of course, do so and I will promptly address that and then the remaining basis of the (temporary restraining order)," U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly said.
Last week, Jim Acosta got into a heated exchange with President Trump that became so explosive the president ordered him to sit down. When the White House intern came by to do her job by retrieving the mic, Acosta refused to give it up and lightly pushed her arm down. Later, the White House pulled his hard press credentials.
CNN immediately filed a lawsuit against the administration asserting that his First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated. CNN stated, "The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process. We have asked the court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass to be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process."
On Wednesday, during an emergency court hearing, the Trump administration argued that the president has the right to decide which reporters enter the physical White House and how they will conduct themselves.
"If the president wants to exclude all reporters from White House grounds he clearly has the authority to do that," said James Burnham, deputy assistant attorney general. "We’re talking about the physical White House, I mean the one building in which the president’s authority over how people act, where they go, should be at his apex."
While Judge Kelly only ruled that Acosta's Fifth Amendment right to due process was violated, CNN and the ACLU are declaring it a First Amendment victory.
"The White House surely hoped that expelling a reporter would deter forceful questioning, but the court's ruling will have the opposite effect," Ben Wizner, the ACLU's director of speech, privacy and technology project wrote in a statement. "The freedom of the press is a bedrock principle, and our democracy is strengthened when journalists challenge our leaders rather than defer to them."
Ted Boutros, an attorney for CNN, said the news organization is "extremely pleased with the ruling today."
"A great day for the First Amendment and journalism," he said. "We're very excited to have Mr. Acosta be able to go back and get his hard pass and report the news about the White House."