- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 24, 2018

CNN reporter Jim Acosta and Infowars publisher Alex Jones could both lob questions at President Trump’s press secretary if petitioners succeed in an effort pending on the White House website.

A publicly-created petition recently posted on the “We the People” section of the official White House site calls on the Trump administration to grant press credentials to the right-wing Infowars publisher and assign him a seat him alongside CNN’s chief White House correspondent.

“Alex Jones’ first amendment rights are being violated everyday he does not have White House press credentials,” wrote the petition’s creator. “Let Alex Jones have press credentials and a permanent seat next to Jim Acosta!”

Created on Nov. 17, the petition has been digitally signed over 34,000 times within a week of going live, placing it on path toward possibly triggering an official response.

The White House provides an official update to petitions that have been signed at least 100,000 times within 30 days of their creation, giving the petition roughly three weeks to garner the remaining signatures required for a reply.

Established during the Obama administration in 2011, the White House briefly disabled the “We the People” petitioning portal in late 2017 prior to relaunching the page in Feb. 2018. The Trump administration has answered only a fraction of the petitions to qualify since, however, and the last time the White House provided an official response was in March 2018.

Twenty-two petitions on the “We the People” section of the White House website have qualified for responses but remain unanswered, including “Divest or put in a blind trust all of the President’s business and financial assets,” “Donald Trump: Resign as President of the United States” and “Declare George Soros a terrorist and seize all of his related organizations’ assets.”

Mr. Acosta, 47, had his White House press credentials temporarily suspended by the Trump administration earlier this month, and CNN subsequently filed a civil suit in D.C. federal court alleging violations of his First Amendment rights. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, issued a temporary restraining order favoring CNN, making the White House restore his credentials.

The White House later reversed itself on the Acosta suspension and CNN accordingly dropped its lawsuit.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders initially said that Mr. Acosta had his press credentials suspended as a result of placing his hands on a White House intern during a briefing before Mr. Trump. Doctored video of the incident circulated by Mrs. Sanders was subsequently traced back to Paul Joseph Watson, a right-wing internet personality and an editor for Mr. Jones’ Infowars site.

A right-wing conspiracy theorist and talk show host, Mr. Jones, 44, has frequently targeted both CNN and its chief White House correspondent in tandem with unabashedly praising Mr. Trump and his policies. He gained notoriety over his past remarks about tragedies including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, and more recently when he was banned earlier this year by Facebook, Twitter and more than a dozen other internet companies for various violations.

Infowars does not have regular White House press credentials, but the website previously received a weekly pass and dispatched Jerome Corsi, a fellow conspiracy theorist and the site’s former D.C. bureau chief.

Even if Mr. Jones were to be admitted to a press briefing, it’s unlikely he would sit next to Mr. Acosta. The White House Correspondents Association, not the White House itself, dictates the seating arrangements in the press briefing room.

Mr. Corsi, 72, said on Friday that he is involved in plea negotiations with the federal government regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 race. The special counsel’s office declined to comment to reporters, and additional details about the reported arrangement were not immediately clear.

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