US President Donald Trump pictured in a tense exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta at the White House on November 7, 2018 (MANDEL NGAN)

Washington (AFP) – A US federal judge was poised to rule Thursday on a lawsuit brought by CNN with broad backing from other US media to compel the White House to lift a ban imposed on a reporter after he engaged US President Donald Trump in a heated exchange at a news conference.

CNN lawyers argued in court Wednesday that the White House violated correspondent Jim Acosta’s First Amendment right to free speech in revoking his credentials, and asked the court to order that they be reinstated.

The US Justice Department’s lawyer, James Burnham, countered that Acosta had “disrupted” last week’s news conference. Burnham insisted “there is no First Amendment right to access the White House.”

Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, said he would hand down a decision at 3:00 pm (1500) GMT.

Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, angered Trump when he persisted in questioning the president at a November 7 news conference, ignoring demands he yield the microphone.

From the podium, Trump called Acosta — a frequent target of his ire — a “rude, terrible person.”

Hours later the White House revoked Acosta’s security pass, initially accusing him of “placing his hands” on a female press aide who tried to take the microphone away.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders released a video to support the claim, but analysts said the footage was sped up to make it appear Acosta had manhandled the aide.

CNN’s suit, which the White House dismissed as “grandstanding,” drew support from major US news organizations, including Fox News, the Rupert Murdoch-owned television news network known for its friendly coverage of Trump and other conservatives.

In a “friend of court” brief, the White House Correspondents Association urged the court to find in favor of CNN, warning that to do otherwise would set a dangerous legal precedent.

“The White House is the People’s House, and the First Amendment does not permit the President to pick and choose which journalist do — and do not — cover him there.”

Others backing the CNN arguments in court included the Associated Press, Bloomberg, First Look Media Works, Gannett, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, NBC News, The New York Times, Politico, Press Freedom Defense Fund, EW Scripps Company, USA Today and The Washington Post.

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