White House Brain Trust Flips Off Acosta Judge
The thing to remember about the Trump White House is that no competent person actually wants to work there. It's a tough sell to get people to throw their reputations into a flaming dumpster and risk crippling legal bills for a guy who fires his staff in mean tweets. So it's hacks, all the way down.
Competent persons, having gotten their asses kicked by a Trump-appointed judge and ordered to give Jim Acosta back his hard pass, would take a breath, let the whole business die down, and come up with a plan. They could refuse to ever call on Acosta again. Or they could use him as a liberal foil to gin up the pitchfork mob. Or they could write up a White House code of conduct and accuse Acosta of violating it. Instead, Bill Shine and Sarah Huckabee Sanders immediately sent Acosta an email telling him that he'd violated the UNWRITTEN White House code, and thus they'll be revoking his hard pass permanently as soon as the court's preliminary injunction expires on November 30.
We had not previously thought that a formal set of rules for journalists' behavior at press conferences was necessary. That is because it had previously been a widely shared understanding that: (1) a journalist called upon to ask a question will ask a single question and, having received a response, will yield the floor unless, at the discretion of the President or other White House official answering questions, a follow-up question or questions is permitted, after which follow-up(s), the journalist will then yield the floor; and (2) when a journalist has had his or her question answered, the journalist is expected to yield the floor and, when applicable, physically surrender any microphone the journalist is using to White House staff for use by the next questioner.
Leaving aside that this in no way describes regular process at White House briefings, where the press corps routinely jockeys for the mike and shouts out questions, this is a far cry from Sanders's original justification for revoking Acosta's access. We are old enough to remember when she tweeted a doctored video tape from Infowars, accusing him of "placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job."
It was only three days ago that Judge Timothy Kelly (again, a Trump appointee!) found that the White House had likely violated Acosta's Fifth Amendment rights by arbitrarily yanking his credentials without any means of redress.
But look, Your Honor! Here's a back formulation based on a "widely shared understanding" Bill Shine and the boys just pulled out of their asses Friday afternoon. They even went to the trouble of formulating a figleaf procedure to challenge the White House when it destroys Acosta's ability to report the news. So, we're good, right?
Should you wish to contest this preliminary decision or the factual basis set forth in this letter, please submit a written response to us in writing via email by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 18, 2018. Should you not submit a decision by that time, this preliminary decision will be final. You may submit that response by emailing it to one or both of us.
Ooooh, a whole 44 hours to submit a response, or Acosta loses his right to cover the White House in perpetuity. VERY PROCESS! MUCH DUE!
Judges looooove it when parties indicate their intention to contravene a court order before the ink is even dry. All the best lawyers will tell you that. This is especially true when the parties agreed in court on Friday morning to suspend the Tuesday deadline for the government to file written opposition to the preliminary injunction just issued. If we didn't know better, we'd speculate that the government went before the court and negotiated in bad faith!
James Burnham represents the White House, Ted Boutros represents CNN.
In response, CNN has filed a Request for an Emergency Briefing Schedule and Hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction, saying, essentially, You fucked us, and now the court needs to step in and make this preliminary injunction into a restraining order.
And when CNN says, "discovery may be necessary to resolve Plaintiff's claims," they mean they're going to depose Sanders, Shine, the intern, and everyone else in the White House Press Office. They're going to find out if that confrontation was staged. They're going to subpoena any emails where Shine -- who was Ailes's goon at Fox, so he's really better at throwing money at problems than covering them up -- discussed how to get Acosta out of there. They're going to make Sarah Sanders admit to downloading that bullshit video from Infowars. And God only knows what other skeletons they'll shake loose once discovery gets going.
All of which could have been avoided if the White House had just sat down with CNN as they agreed to on Friday afternoon and figured out how to make this shit go away. So, mazal tov on another stunning win for the White House Brain Trust. Really, you knocked this one right out of the park!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.