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CNN, Jim Acosta win Round One against Donald Trump but the fight is just beginning; White House to release 'new rules' for media

New York: That must have stung. Round One went to CNN as a federal judge ruled on a snowswept morning that the Donald Trump administration must immediately return White House ‘hard pass’ press credentials to CNN reporter Jim Acosta, saying Acosta suffered "irreparable harm" from the decision to abruptly bar him after he questioned a visibly upset US president at a news conference immediately after the Republicans suffered a shellacking in the US midterm elections.

President Donald Trump speaks to CNN journalist Jim Acosta during a news conference on 7 November. AP

President Donald Trump swats CNN journalist Jim Acosta during a news conference on 7 November. AP

In one swift week, Jim Acosta versus Donald Trump had all the zing of a signature Trumpian short story: Trump's hot temper at a press conference, an arbitrary show of White House muscle , a migrant caravan scare that did not deliver for Trump in the election, a court case and a Friday thumbs up for CNN. Within hours, a shiny new word entered popular White House vocabulary: “decorum”.

The White House took a few hours to spin the judge’s interim order into a partial victory for itself, saying that it will restore Jim Acosta’s press pass "temporarily" and until it comes up with new rules, it wants "decorum". That implies the White House can (and may want to) take away Acosta's press pass again. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has generally followed her boss’ lead in her approach to media questions that are uncomfortable; she stuck by the same playbook on Friday.

Symptomatic of the deep partisan divisions that have surfaced in US in recent years, one side sees this case as one where a president and his aides are going beyond the pale; the other sees it as inconsequential in contrast to the “migrant invasion” at the US border.

While CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and generally all manner of what’s come to be called “liberal” media celebrated the judge’s decision, Trump’s favourite news network Fox News avoided mention of the judge’s decision and instead stayed on the migrant invasion story and claimed 9,000 migrants are on the way to the US border.

Meanwhile, the judge’s decision Friday is merely a placeholder - a temporary restraining order - while the bigger First Amendment question remains to be decided.

The suit by CNN alleges that Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated by suspending his hard pass. While the judge didn't rule on the underlying case, he signaled they were likely to prevail in their claims.

As expected, the White House is doing nothing to lower the temperature. If anything, the fever will only rise now.

Timothy Kelly, the district judge who sided with CNN on Friday made his preliminary ruling on Friday on the basis of CNN and Acosta's Fifth Amendment claims, saying the White House did not provide Acosta with the due process required to legally revoke his press pass. With that, he left the stage wide open for the White House to revoke it again if it provided that due process.

“Today, the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House. 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”, Sanders said in a statement several hours after the ruling. Trump seemed to take an instant liking to the word "decorum". We need "decorum", he said, more than once. “It's not a big deal. If he misbehaves, we'll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference. If they don't listen to the rules and regulations, we'll end up back in court, and we'll win". Trump said.

This is less a request for decorum, it's a 100% threat.


Updated Date: Nov 17, 2018 07:55 AM

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