Judge Grants CNN's Motion, Returns Jim Acosta's White House Press Pass (For Now)

Jim Acosta leaves U.S. District Court on November 14, 2018 - Getty 2 -H 2018
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Judge Timothy J. Kelly granted the network's request for a temporary restraining order on Friday.

A District Court judge granted a motion made by CNN and White House reporter Jim Acosta on Friday, temporarily returning the reporter's suspended press pass while the case proceeds.

The network filed suit against the Trump administration on Tuesday and motioned for a temporary restraining order that would "preserve the status quo" and return Acosta's pass, which had been revoked from him last Wednesday by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"We are gratified with this result and we look forward to a full resolution in the coming days," CNN said in a statement after the ruling. "Our sincere thanks to all who have supported not just CNN, but a free, strong and independent American press."

The judge, Trump appointee Timothy J. Kelly, said that Acosta was not afforded due process when his pass was revoked, a process he described as "shrouded in mystery."

He also agreed that Acosta has suffered "irreparable harm" by being deprived of his pass, which allows him to do his job as the network's chief White House correspondent.

And, he said that CNN has shown that it's likely to win the case, thus satisfying the standards necessary to win the emergency ruling.

But, Judge Kelly said he has not yet decided on the First Amendment nature of the case.

"Today, the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House," the Trump administration 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."

President Trump also addressed the ruling during a bill signing on Friday afternoon. "People have to behave. We're writing up rules and regulations to make our position," he said. "If they don't listen to the rules and regulations, we'll end up back in court and we'll win. But more importantly, we'll just leave. And then you won't be very happy, because we do get good ratings. ... You have to practice decorum. ... We want total freedom of the press, but you have to act with respect. You're in the White House."

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, appearing on the network after the ruling was announced, said it "strikes me as an extremely savvy and wise resolution of this case."

A lawyer for CNN/Acosta, Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., and a lawyer representing the Trump administration, Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Burnham, argued the merits of the motion during a hearing on Wednesday afternoon.

After the decision was announced, Boutrous said: "We're extremely pleased with the ruling today. This is a great day for the First Amendment and for journalism."

Acosta also spoke in front of the court house. "I want to thank all my colleagues in the press who supported us today and I want to thank the judge for the decision he made today," he said. "And, let's go back to work!"

The judge had pushed his decision until Thursday, saying that he would take both positions "under advisement," and then delayed it again until Friday.

Burnham had argued that CNN's team had not met the high burden necessary to grant the motion, which required the network to prove that Acosta was enduring daily "harm" by being deprived of his "hard pass." The network's legal team was also forced to demonstrate that it was and is likely to win the case.

Boutrous argued that the White House's decision was "capricious," unwarranted and deprived Acosta of his First and Fifth Amendment rights.