The White House has said it will put in place new rules for journalists at press briefings; CNN on Monday reported one of "several" of them contained in the letter to Acosta: Each journalist shall ask "a single question" at a time, unless allowed follow-ups "at the discretion of the President or other White House officials".
The White House argues Acosta did not follow "basic standards" at a news conference when he scrapped with President Donald Trump.
CNN then sued, saying the decision violated Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights to freedom of the press and due process, respectively.
In court, US government lawyers said there was no First Amendment right of access to the White House and that Acosta was penalized for acting rudely at the news conference and not for his criticism of the president.
Last Friday CNN won a temporary restraining order, forcing the White House to restore Acosta's press access to the White House for 14 days.
Since the judge criticized the government for not following due process before banning Acosta on November 7, the new letter looks like an effort to establish a paper trail that could empower the administration to boot Acosta again at the end of the month. It's signed by Bill Shine, deputy chief of staff for communications, and Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, who are both named as defendants in the initial lawsuit. Trump later called Acosta's behaviour distracting and disrespectful. The White House reminded the reporter that he would be stripped of his pass again when the injunction expires.
So CNN and Acosta are seeking a hearing on a preliminary injunction "for the week of November 26, 2018, or as soon thereafter as possible", according to Monday's filing.
"So, out of their Acosta nonsense, the White House has made it a punishable violation for anyone to say "could you please address the specific question I asked, ' 'could you please provide an example, ' or 'that's actually not true" without their permission?"
Kelly himself emphasized on Friday that he wasn't ruling on the First Amendment issue (yet), only the due process issue, so it's understandable that people would focus on that part of it. CNN filed new papers today accusing the Trump administration of violating their constitutional rights by planning to punish Acosta retroactively by applying rules of decorum that aren't written.
"And if he misbehaves, we'll throw him out, or we'll stop the news conference", Trump added, referring to Acosta.