CNN has dropped its lawsuit against the White House alleging that the president and his team violated the network’s First and Fifth Amendment rights after the White House announced Monday that it was restoring Jim Acosta’s permanent press pass.
CNN filed the suit the day after the White House stripped Acosta of his pass, claiming that the White House’s press office violated the network’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and Acosta’s Fifth Amendment right to due process because he was deprived of property without proper notice or what Acosta and the network considered a proper hearing.
Acosta refused to sit down during a press conference with President Donald Trump, peppering the president with follow-up questions on a variety of issues as the President attempted to move on and answer questions from other reporters. When a White House press aide stepped up to take the microphone away from Acosta, he grappled for it, eventually pushing the aide and keeping the microphone.
The suit targeted the press office, but also Sarah Huckabee Sanders personally, as well as the White House Secret Service agent responsible for confiscating Acosta’s physical badge.
The network’s PR team issued a statement late Monday on the suit.
“Today the @WhiteHouse fully restored @Acosta’s press pass. As a result, our lawsuit is no longer necessary. We look forward to continuing to cover the White House,” they said.
A Trump-appointed judge issued a 14-day injunction against the White House on Friday, forcing the press office to return Acosta’s pass, but the White House pledged early Monday to revoke Acosta’s pass again once the injunction expired. That announcement forced CNN to file for an emergency hearing seeking a more permanent injunction against the White House.
By Monday afternoon, though, the White House’s tune had changed. They announced that they would return Acosta’s permanent pass and would drop the threat to revoke his credentials a second time.
But White House press officials were clear that Acosta and others on the White House press team must abide by a new set of rules, much clearer than the first, and a bit more restrictive than what is expected, per tradition, in White House press conferences.
Journalists will now be allowed to ask only a single question and pertinent follow-up questions (so long as those follow-up questions are relevant and the speaker is willing to answer). After the initial question is answered, reporters must “yield the floor” to the next reporter in line and relinquish any technological equipment — in most cases, a handheld microphone.
Acosta was reportedly informed of the change independently.
“Having received a formal reply from your counsel to our letter of November 16, we have made a final determination in this process: your hard pass is restored,” the White House said in a letter addressed directly to Acosta. “Should you refuse to follow these rules in the future, we will take action in accordance with the rules set forth above. The President is aware of this decision and concurs.”
The outcome of CNN’s lawsuit was unclear. On one hand, no one appearing as a member of the White House Press Corps is entitled to ask a question of the president, or even attend briefings, and Acosta remained a member of the White House Correspondents Association and eligible for a daily pass to White House press conferences by virtue of his permanent CNN press credential. CNN also had several other reporters available for daily briefings. On the other, the White House did not have a rule previously on asking a single question or “yielding the floor” — only the weight of accepted press room protocol.
Litigation could have drawn out on the topic for months, however.