The White House is dropping its effort to strip CNN reporter Jim Acosta of his press credentials, a defeat for President Trump in his campaign against the news media.
The reversal comes after the White House notified Acosta last Friday it may renew its attempts to revoke his press pass after a judge’s order restoring it expired. The White House set a Sunday deadline for Acosta to object and said it would make a final decision by 3 p.m. on Monday.
“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 new letter to Acosta.
The letter also outlined new rules for reporters at presidential news conferences, including limiting each journalist to one question with follow-ups coming “at the discretion of the president or other White House officials taking questions.”
“Should you refuse to follow these rules in the future, we will take action in accordance with the rules set forth above,” the White House wrote to Acosta. “The president is aware of this decision and concurs.”
The White House said any reporter could have their credentials pulled if they do not follow the new rules for news conferences.
“We have created these rules with a degree of regret,” the White House wrote. “But, given the position taken by CNN, we now feel obligated to replace previously shared practices with explicit rules.”
CNN applauded the decision to restore Acosta’s pass and indicated it would end its lawsuit against the Trump administration over the suspension.
“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,” the network said in a statement
The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) said the administration “did the right thing” in restoring Acosta’s pass, but criticized its new press-conference rules.
“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,” said WHCA President Olivier Knox, adding the group had “no role in crafting” the rules.
“We will continue to make the case that a free and independent news media plays a vital role in the health of our republic.”
The development marked the end of a nearly two-week long saga that began when the White House suspended Acosta’s credentials on Nov. 7 following a contentious exchange with Trump at a post-election news conference.
Acosta refused to physically surrender a microphone to a White House intern when Trump cut off him off after he asked the president multiple questions about the migrant caravan and the Russia investigation. Acosta and Trump have clashed on multiple occasions, dating back to the 2016 campaign.
The decision triggered widespread outrage among media organizations. CNN filed a lawsuit accusing the administration of violating Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights to press freedom and due process, respectively.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly granted CNN an initial victory last Friday when it ordered the White House to temporarily restore Acosta’s pass, indicating the network had a good chance of succeeding on its claim that the reporter’s due-process rights were violated. He did not rule on CNN’s First Amendment claim.
Several media organizations have scoffed at the White House’s arguments, saying that past presidents have all dealt with aggressive coverage without pulling reporters’ credentials.
But Trump and his staff have stressed that reporters must follow rules of “decorum” while inside the White House.
“We have to practice decorum,” the president told reporters last Friday while reacting to the judge’s ruling.
The decision to permanently restore Acosta’s pass was surprising, given the president’s reluctance to back away from a fight. By most indications, the administration was prepared to move forward with its efforts just hours before a final decision was announced.
CNN on Monday morning asked Judge Kelly for an emergency hearing after the White House indicated it would suspend Acosta’s pass again after the 14-day order restoring it expired.
Trump has yet to comment personally on the decision to restore Acosta’s pass, but on Sunday he shrugged off the courtroom defeat.
“It’s fine, I mean it’s not a big deal,” he told Chris Wallace in an interview for “Fox News Sunday.”
Regarding the new rules and Acosta, Trump said: “if he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference.”
-Updated 6:18 p.m.