The White House reversed course on Monday in its bid to boot CNN reporter Jim Acosta from the West Wing, and instead issued new guidelines aimed at maintaining control of press conference questions.
Despite a court order that Acosta not be kicked out of the press pool, the White House sent the reporter and CNN a letter on Friday evening, telling the network it still planned to remove him with a formal announcement at 3 p.m. on Monday.
By that deadline, the White House blinked.
“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,” according to the letter co-signed by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and deputy chief of staff Bill Shine.
The White House, however, said all reporters must now abide by a new four-part policy about covering press conferences:
- Only one question per reporter.
- Any follow-ups are purely at the discretion of the president or any other White House official answering questions.
- “Yielding the floor includes, when applicable, physically surrendering the microphone.”
- Any violations of these rules “may result in suspension or revocation” of a White House press pass.
The White House has long resented Acosta’s work and that reached a boiling point on Nov. 7. It led to an awkward moment when a young female White House intern was sent to take a microphone from Acosta, who didn’t immediately hand it over.
The White House revoked Acosta’s press pass and CNN went to court and won a favorable ruling last week.
A judge temporarily restored Acosta’s press pass last week and told both sides to reach a settlement, one the White House said it has no interest in reaching.
“Your behavior at the November 7 press conference violated the basic standards governing such events, and is, in our preliminary judgment, sufficient factual basis to revoke your hard pass,” according to the Friday letter from Sanders and Shine.
“While this is our preliminary decision, we would be pleased to consider any material you would like to submit in response to it,” according to the letter, which praised President Donald Trump and claimed the White House bends over backward to be open.
“As you know, President Trump has provided an extraordinary amount of access to journalists to ask questions, while operating an extremely open and transparent White House,” according to Sanders and Shine, a former Fox News executive.
CNN went to court again on Monday seeking relief for Acosta. But that’s no longer necessary.