Zurawik: Court hands CNN, the press a victory and Trump a defeat — for now

The White House has revoked the press pass for CNN's White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, after a fiery exchange with U.S. President Donald Trump where the White House alleges Acosta "placed his hands" on an intern who tried to take the microphone from him.

U.S.District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly today ruled in CNN’s favor in its lawsuit against the Trump administration and ordered the White House to immediately restore correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass.

The pass was suspended last week after a contentious exchange at a Trump press conference in which the president called Acosta “a rude, terrible person.”


Kelly, a Trump appointee to the bench, ruled narrowly on CNN’s suit, which alleged that First and Fifth Amendment rights had been violated when Acosta’s pass to the White House was taken from him by a Secret Service agent when he tried to enter the grounds in the wake of the press conference. The suit sought a restraining order to immediately restore Acosta’s access to the White House.

In granting that, the judge ruled only on the Fifth Amendment guarantee of due process, essentially saying Acosta’s pass was revoked without a clear procedure in place for how passes are gained and lost by a correspondent. The White House, he says, needs to establish such rules and follow them if it wants to take such actions.

In brief remarks, Acosta voiced his pleasure with the ruling and ended with the call to his fellow reporters to “get back to work.”

Kelly relied on precedent from a 1970s case in which the White House was ordered to grant a press pass to a reporter who had been denied one.

The ruling is a big victory for CNN and the press against Trump, who has been lashing out more than ever since the midterm elections. But larger issues in the war that Trump has declared on media remain.

The attorney representing the White House in the hearings this week claimed that the president had the total right to determine who would or would not be allowed in to cover it. Last Friday Trump himself threatened more press pass suspensions for White House reporters.

Resolving that issue involves a First Amendment ruling, which was not rendered by Kelly.

That fight remains, if Trump wants to go there. But right now, the White House has no alternative than to let Acosta back on the beat.