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White House suspends press credentials of CNN senior journalist after spat with Trump

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CNN

Washington | In an unprecedented move, the White House has suspended the credentials of a senior CNN journalist for his “disgusting and outrageous” behaviour, hours after he had a testy exchange with President Donald Trump during a marathon news conference.

The move came just hours after CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta drew the ire of Trump by persisting with questions about his views on a caravan of Central American migrants making its way to the US border and refused to the President’s orders to sit down and clung to the microphone.

The removal of Acosta’s pass is a sharp escalation of tensions between the Trump administration and the media.

At the news conference, which lasted 1 hour and 26 minutes, Trump snapped at the press corps, called reporters “rude” for asking questions, and made baseless claims about political polling.

Acosta was one of the first reporters Trump called on. “Thank you, Mr. President,” he said. “I want to challenge you on one of the statements that you made in the tail end of the campaign.”

Trump leaned into the microphone and said, “Here we go” seemingly relishing the confrontation.

“As you know, Mr. President, the caravan is not an invasion,” Acosta said. “It’s a group of migrants moving up from Central America towards the border with the US.”

Trump, sarcastically, replied, “Thank you for telling me that, I appreciate it.”

Acosta: “Why did you characterise it as such?”

“Because I consider it an invasion. You and I have a difference of opinion.”

“But do you think that you demonised immigrants?”

“No, not at all. I want them to come into the country. But they have to come in legally,” Trump said.

That’s what the migrants are trying to do they say they intend to seek asylum, he said.

Acosta called out the misleading ad released by the Republican Party and said: “They’re hundreds of miles away, though. They’re hundreds and hundreds of miles away. That’s not an invasion.”

“You know what? I think you should,” Trump started to say, pointing at Acosta. “Honestly, I think you should let me run the country. You run CNN. And if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” a visibly angry Trump said as Acosta tried to ask another question. Then a White House intern unsuccessfully tried to take the microphone from the CNN correspondent.

Trump backed away from the podium for a moment, signalling he was done, while Acosta asked the question again and then let go of the microphone.

Defending Acosta, the CNN said the Trump administration’s decision was “a threat to democracy”.

Describing Acosta’s behaviour as “disgusting and outrageous”, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, in a statement on Wednesday said, “As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.”

Sanders said Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration. “We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable,” she said.

“It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question,” she said.

Sanders claimed Trump has given the press more access than any President in history.

“Contrary to CNN’s assertions, there is no greater demonstration of the President’s support for a free press than the event he held today.

“Only they would attack the President for not being supportive of a free press in the midst of him taking 68 questions from 35 different reporters over the course of an hour and a half including several from the reporter in question,” she said.

Meanwhile, the CNN said the revocation of Acosta’s pass “was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference…This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better”.

Acosta was stopped by the Secret Service from entering the White House at about 7 pm.

Former president of the White House Correspondents Association, Jeff Mason, refuted the White House accusation that Acosta placed his hand on a female White House intern.

“I was seated next to Acosta at today’s press conference and did not witness him placing his hands on the young intern, as the White House alleges,” he tweeted.

Mason, a Reuters correspondent, said Acosta held on to the microphone as the intern reached for it and later posted a few pictures from the press conference to prove his point.

Peter Baker from The New York Times, who has been covering the White House for 22 years, said, “This is something I have never seen since I started covering the White House in 1996. Other presidents did not fear tough questioning.”

The White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) also said such a decision is “unacceptable” and urged the White House that it “immediately reverse its decision”.

“Journalists may use a range of approaches to carry out their jobs and the WHCA does not police the tone or frequency of the questions its members ask of powerful senior government officials, including the President,” WHCA president Olivier Knox said.

The White House, meanwhile, said it stands by its decision.

“We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behaviour clearly documented in this video,” Sanders said, posting a video of the CNN reporter allegedly placing his hand on a young woman.

International

A leader who doesn’t take timely U-turns is not a real leader: Imran Khan

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Imran Khan

Islamabad | Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said a leader who does not take timely “U-turns” is not a “real leader”.

During an interaction with journalists at the PM House, Khan cited an example from his cricket days when he led Pakistan’s national team said, “We used to make a strategy and then step out into the field but if the opponent team formed a strategy against ours then we would have to change it.”

To buttress his point, the 66-year-old cricketer-turned-politician also referred to Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte, Geo News reported. “Hitler and Napoleon suffered huge defeats and caused losses as they did not take U-turns,” it quoted Khan as saying. “If you are walking and there is a wall in front of you, then you will have to change and find another way,” the Geo News journalist quoted Imran as explaining.  “A leader who does not take U-turns as per the requirements of the situation is not a real leader,” The News quoted Khan as saying.

Khan also attacked former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, saying what he told an accountability court on Friday was not a U-turn but a “lie”. “What Nawaz Sharif did in court was not a U-turn but a lie,” Khan said, apparently referring to the Pakistan Muslim League supremo telling the court that he had never had any transaction with Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani.

Sharif is currently facing trial in three corruption cases filed against him and his family by the National Accountability Bureau on a directive from the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers scandal. Khan said his government will uphold the decisions taken by the Supreme Court.

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Sri Lankan Parliament disrupted again, adjourned until Monday amid political crisis

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Sri Lanka

Colombo | Rival Sri Lankan lawmakers threw chilli powder and furniture at each other and disrupted the proceedings of Parliament for a second day Friday, forcing Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to summon police inside the House and adjourn the session until Monday.

The brawl occurred a day after the Speaker announced there is no prime minister or government following a no-confidence motion against disputed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Friday’s proceedings were to repeat the floor test which was disrupted on Thursday.

President Maithripala Sirisena, who installed Rajapaksa as prime minister last month in a controversial move, had agreed for a floor test with the leaders of ousted prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s coalition during crisis talks last night.

The MPs supporting Rajapaksa took over the seat of the Speaker, delaying the proceedings, officials said. They shouted slogans against Jayasuriya broke furniture. Some Rajapakse loyalists were also seen throwing chilli powder at rival legislators and police, Colombo Gazette reported.

The Speaker summoned police inside Parliament chamber after 45 minutes of disruption. One of the rioting MPs Arundika Fernando occupied the seat of the Speaker with more MPs surrounding it. Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, a senior parliamentarian, was injured in the melee.

The rioting United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) members demanded the arrest of two legislators of the Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). They charged that two UNP legislators, Palitha Thewarapperuma and Ranjan Ramanayake were carrying knives during the brawl which took place yesterday. Yesterday, UPFA MP Dilum Amunugama was injured in clashes inside the chamber.

Police Friday protected Jayasuriya from the rioting MPs as he called the Tamil National Alliance lawmaker MA Sumanthiran to propose the suspension of the standing orders. Jayasuriya on the basis of a voice vote announced that the motion against Rajapaksa was defeated as physical voting could not take place due to the brawl.  The rioting MPs threw books at the police. Jayasuriya immediately suspended the sittings until November 19 and left the House surrounded by police.

President Sirisena said that he would not ‘prorogue the Parliament under any circumstances.’ “I urge all Parliamentarians to uphold principles of democracy parliamentary traditions at all times. I will not prorogue Parliament under any circumstances,” the president tweeted. The trouble erupted in Parliament on Thursday when the Speaker agreed to a request from ousted premier Wickremesinghe’s UNP that a vote be taken on a statement made by Rajapaksa demanding fresh polls.

Jayasuriya allowed Rajapaksa to make a statement as a lawmaker after stating that he does not recognise the claim of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) leader who lost a no-confidence motion on Wednesday. Rajapaksa’s side has disputed the no-trust motion, saying proper procedure was not followed and accused Jayasuriya of bias towards his own party.

Parliament on Wednesday passed the no-confidence motion against Rajapaksa after the Supreme Court overturned the presidential decree to dissolve the House and hold snap polls on January 5. Amid raucous scenes, Parliament on Wednesday met for the first time since October 26, when Sirisena sacked premier Wickremesinghe, installed Rajapaksa in his place and suspended the House, plunging the island nation into an unprecedented Constitutional crisis.

The vote of no confidence against Rajapaksa has further complicated the political crisis. It is not yet clear whether Rajapaksa will resign or whether the ousted Wickremesinghe, who has the support of 122 lawmakers in the 225-member House, will return to power.

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Julian Assange charged in US: WikiLeaks

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Julian Assange

Washington | WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was behind a massive dump of classified US documents in 2010, has been charged in the United States, WikiLeaks said on Thursday. Prosecutors revealed the existence of the sealed indictment inadvertently in a court filing in an unrelated case, WikiLeaks said.

The exact nature of the charges against Assange was not immediately known. “SCOOP: US Department of Justice ‘accidentally’ reveals existence of sealed charges (or a draft for them) against WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange in apparent cut-and-paste error in an unrelated case also at the Eastern District of Virginia,” Wikileaks wrote on Twitter. The still unsealed charges against Assange were disclosed by Assistant US Attorney Kellen Dwyer as she made a filing in the unrelated case and urged a judge to keep that filing sealed.

Dwyer wrote, “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged,” according to The Washington Post. Later, Dwyer wrote the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”

US media were alerted late Thursday to the inadvertent disclosure thanks to a tweet from Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He is known to follow court filings closely.

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