A federal district court judge today ordered the Trump administration to restore the press credentials of CNN’s Jim Acosta. The ruling came from Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee.
Judge Kelly based his decision on a 1977 ruling by the D.C. Circuit. That ruling was not founded on the First Amendment, and neither was today’s.
The 1977 decision said the White House must demonstrate a clear process and right of appeal, before revoking a reporter’s credentials. The Trump team didn’t do this here. As a judge within the D.C. Circuit, Kelly must adhere to that circuit’s decisions.
The White House could ask the D.C. Circuit to overturn or revise its old ruling. If the administration loses at the appellate level, it could petition the Supreme Court for review.
The better option, I think, is to develop a process that complies with the old decision, welcome Acosta back to the White House, and refuse to call on him. Such refusal would probably drive this grandstanding mediocrity crazy.
If Acosta responds by continuing to disrupt, the White House can again bar him, using its new procedure. This time, it would be on stronger ground in litigation. At some point, the courts would almost have to uphold the president’s right to address reporters questions without disruption and obstruction from Acosta. And it’s unlikely that even the most arrogant of our robed masters would try to dictate whom the president calls on at press conferences.
I suspect, though, that Trump won’t refrain from engaging with Acosta. He probably enjoys it up to a point and may believe that sparring with Acosta works to his political advantage.
Continued sparring could eventually lead to another expulsion of Acosta. But freezing him out would be cleaner and more delicious.