President Trump told Fox News’s Chris Wallace last week that Judge Timothy J. Kelly’s restraining order, which temporarily restored reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials at the White House, was “not a big deal.”
Judge Kelly made his ruling without prejudice to CNN’s underlying lawsuit based on the First Amendment, which isn’t decided yet. His reasoning for restoring the press pass was in response to CNN’s Fifth Amendment argument that Acosta had been detained by federal officials — the Secret Service — without proper notice of the purpose for it and what violation Acosta had committed.
The White House, Trump said, was working on a set of regulations for press behavior that would answer the judge’s concern.
Trump told Fox News’s Chris Wallace in an interview that aired Sunday morning that the ruling wasn’t “a big deal.” He also warned that if Acosta “misbehaves” again, “we’ll throw him out” or end the press conference altogether.
“Yeah, it’s fine, I mean it’s not a big deal,” Trump told Wallace. “What they said, though, is that we have to create rules and regulations for conduct, et cetera, et cetera. We’re doing that, we’re going to write them up right now. It’s not a big deal and if he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference.”
Apparently, the rules and regulations for conduct are written, or will soon be so. CNN says it received a letter from the White House informing the network that Acosta’s pass will be suspended again when Judge Kelly’s order expires at the end of the month.
Friday's court ruling means that a temporary restraining order is in effect for 14 days. But W.H. officials sent @Acosta a letter stating that his press pass is set to be suspended again once the restraining order expires… https://t.co/yML7r7ymmM
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 19, 2018
The White House hasn’t publicly commented on the letter yet, so its reasoning is a matter of speculation right now. However, the most likely pretext for the letter is a new set of written regulations, which would respond to the judge’s basis for ordering the press pass restored.
The eventual regulations are likely to invoke existing statutory authority for the Secret Service, which — as sensible people already knew — is empowered to escort individuals out of the president’s presence for just about any reason they deem necessary, without regard to the individuals’ profession or reason for being there. Perhaps that point figures in the letter to CNN. But the White House presumably also promises clauses in the written regulations that will specifically clarify what reporters, like Acosta, need to refrain from doing if they want to remain eligible for “hard passes.”
Those conduct-specific regulations would be issued separately, without a preview for either CNN or Judge Kelly. It would be inappropriate for the content of the regulations to sway the judge’s reaction to the CNN letter (as well as inappropriate for him to comment on a matter that’s none of his business anyway. The separation of powers among co-equal branches may be honored more in the breach now, but the concept hasn’t died yet).
Judge Kelly will be reacting to the letter shortly. CNN rushed to court Monday morning to request an emergency hearing after receiving it. The White House scores a point in the trolling game, if you keep track of those things. And the Ballad of Jim Acosta opens the next stanza.