…As Trump fires Attorney General Jeff Sessions***
The White House has suspended the credentials of CNN’s chief White House correspondent hours after a testy exchange with US President Donald Trump.
A White House staffer tried to grab the microphone from CNN’s Jim Acosta at the press conference on Wednesday.
But press secretary Sarah Sanders said access was removed because the reporter put “his hands on a young woman”.
Mr Acosta called Ms Sanders claim “a lie”.
The president said the CNN journalist was a “rude, terrible person” at the press event.
What happened at the press conference?
Mr Acosta challenged Mr Trump’s recent assertions about a migrant caravan heading to the US from Central America.
A female staff member then attempted to take the microphone from the journalist.
“That’s enough, that’s enough,” the president said to Mr Acosta, before telling him to sit down and to put down his microphone.
“CNN should be ashamed of themselves, having you work for them,” he said. “The way you treat Sarah Huckabee [Sanders] is horrible.”
What did the White House say?
Ms Sanders, in a statement posted in a Twitter thread, said the White House would “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job”.
“The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it’s an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration,” she said.
“As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.”
The press secretary later shared a zoomed in clip of the incident, saying they “will not tolerate the inappropriate behaviour clearly documented in this video”.
Mr Acosta posted a tweet saying he was stopped by the Secret Service from entering White House grounds.
What was the reaction?
Journalists decried the move to revoke Mr Acosta’s access.
CNN issued a statement on Twitter saying the ban was “in retaliation for [Jim Acosta’s] challenging questions”.
“In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied,” it said. “She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association – a group that represents the press corps at the presidential residence – called the decision “out of line” and “unacceptable”.
“We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action.”
In the meantime, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been fired by President Donald Trump.
Mr Trump had criticised his top law official for months, mainly over his refusal to oversee the investigation into alleged Russian meddling in favour of Mr Trump’s election in 2016.
Mr Sessions’s chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, who has criticised the inquiry, will take over temporarily.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Mr Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation has resulted in a series of criminal charges against several Trump associates.
In a resignation letter, Mr Sessions – a former Alabama senator who was an early supporter of Mr Trump – made clear the decision to go was not his own.
“Dear Mr President, at your request I am submitting my resignation,” he wrote in an undated letter.
“Most importantly, in my time as attorney general, we have restored and upheld the rule of law,” Mr Sessions added, while thanking the Republican president.
“We thank Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his service, and wish him well!” Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday.
“Clearly, the president has something to hide,” opposition Democratic party Senate leader Chuck Schumer said.
“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general.”
Why was Sessions fired?
Mr Trump has repeatedly pilloried his top law enforcement official since Mr Sessions stepped aside from the Russia inquiry in March 2017.
In July 2017 Mr Trump told the New York Times: “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.”
Mr Sessions voluntarily removed himself from the probe after Democrats accused him of failing to disclose contacts with the Russian ambassador during his Senate confirmation hearing.
The attorney general later said he had forgotten about those meetings, which happened during the Trump election campaign.
Mr Trump has at various times belittled Mr Sessions as “VERY weak” and “DISGRACEFUL”.