As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Tag Archives: White House press corps

White House Press Room Floods During DC Storm

I doubt most of you will be chagrined to hear this.

There was a sudden torrential rain in Washington, and the basement section of the White House press room flooded.

This is neither unusual nor surprising. Remember, the White House is, in the end, just another federal building.

I like how it is characterized as “White House basement” flooding. The reporters only know about the press room. I imagine the Situation Room is nice and dry. At least, I guess it is.

Trump Cancels White House Christmas Party for Press Corps

Well, there’s no Christmas party for the White House press corps this year. President Trump has nixed it.

Every year, the press is invited to feast on White House delicacies, have cocktails, and then meet and get a photo with the first lady and the president. I’ve been to many of these parties – although the Obamas stopped inviting me because they didn’t like me, and I didn’t get an invite last year, probably by mistake – and I can assure you they are wonderful affairs. The lamb chops and the shrimp cocktail are the best you’ve ever tasted.

But who can blame Trump? The press corps invited a comedian who hates Trump to perform at its annual dinner last spring. And the coverage is relentlessly negative.

Why invite a group of people who hate you and who are biased in their work when they claim to be neutral to come party with you?

There’s plenty of grumbling about this, I’ve been told by others who are more connected to the other White House reporters. I’m sure you are all broken up about it and grieving for them . . . 

CNN’s Jim Acosta Interrupts Other Reporters, Demanding On-Camera Briefings

I get why a TV person wants on-camera briefings. He does TV.

And there is some reason to want these things televised. It gives Americans a chance to see the White House taking questions and being held to account. And the presence of cameras does inspire reporters to get more aggressive.

CNN’s Jim Acosta is hopping mad. Like, I think he was actually hopping.

On the other hand, TV does inspire lots of reporters, both TV and otherwise, to preen for the cameras and ask questions whose main function is to hear themselves talk and to get on TV. And if White House reporters need a camera to inspire them to push the White House for answers, then that’s a problem, and they’re not doing their job.

And I’ve noticed over the years that when the cameras are off the questions tend to be more focused on policy, and less on scandal, politics, and a desire for confrontation for its own sake.

And, hey, I don’t remember any of the TV reporters complaining on behalf of print reporters when, under previous administrations, they hogged the briefing. People like David Gregory and Martha Raddatz seemed to think the briefing was being held exclusively for them.

What Spicer is doing is hardly a scandal. I mean, he’s still taking questions.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, yes, it still makes a noise. And if a press secretary answers a question without a TV camera present, yes, he still answered a question.

Once, the White House did both an off-camera gaggle and an on-camera briefing, every day, but the Bush administration eliminated the morning gaggle.

Bring it back.

Trump Threatens to End the Daily Press Briefing

President Trump seems furious at the widespread negative coverage this morning of the White House’s rationale for Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, threatening to put an end to the daily White House briefing.

Much of the coverage has suggested that the White House changed its story from one that sought to portray Trump as firing Comey on the recommendations of Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and that Trump contradicted his advisers and Vice President Pence when he said Thursday he was going to fire Comey no matter the recommendations.

But it’s not exactly true that Trump contradicted anyone.

Much of the coverage of the alleged contradiction has focused on statements by Pence, who repeatedly said Wednesday morning that Trump had accepted the recommendations of Rosenstein and Sessions to get rid of Comey. But while Pence’s statements are a clear effort by the White House, which knew the decision would be controversial, to push responsibility over to the Justice Department, what Pence said was misleading but technically true.

And as far as I’m aware, Pence did not suggest that this was the first time firing Comey had occurred to Trump. In fact, it would be ridiculous to think that Trump simply suddenly decided based on the recommendation of a newly installed deputy attorney general to get rid of the head of the FBI.

Tuesday night, Kellyanne Conway was also offering the spin that Trump had taken the recommendation of the Justice Department. But, what is less well reported is that she also made it clear that Trump’s decision was part of a process that predated the recommendation.

“It makes complete sense because he has lost confidence in the FBI director and he took the recommendation of Rod Rosenstein,” Conway said of the firing. “He has lost confidence,” as in, it happened in the past.

Anyway, Trump is not going to do away with the briefing. He enjoys watching it too much. And it’s a great chance for him to gain intelligence for himself on what the press is thinking and gauge how his own White House is responding.

WH Correspondents’ Assn. Presidents Rip Trump and Clinton

The outgoing and incoming presidents of the White House Correspondents’ Association, respectively Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal and Jeff Mason of Reuters, have written an op-ed in USA Today criticizing the treatment of the press by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

From the piece:

The White House Correspondents’ Association is alarmed by the treatment of the press in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The public’s right to know is infringed if certain reporters are banned from a candidate’s events because the candidate doesn’t like a story they have written or broadcast, as Donald Trump has done.

Similarly, refusing to regularly answer questions from reporters in a press conference, as Hillary Clinton has, deprives the American people of hearing from their potential commander-in-chief in a format that is critical to ensuring he or she is accountable for policy positions and official acts . . .

The United States will not have a free press if its president gets to choose which journalists and which media organizations are allowed access to the executive branch. We will not have a truly free press and an informed electorate if the president doesn’t believe he or she should be held accountable to inquiries from the media.

As a White House reporter, I am a member of the White House Correspondents’ Association. I know this won’t be popular with some of you, but I completely agree with the conclusions in the piece, and I applaud Lee and Mason for taking an aggressive stance.

Hillary Clinton’s failure to answer questions is reprehensible. She has a lot to hide, and she’s hiding it. Though I haven’t experienced it myself, her lackeys no doubt try to intimidate the press when negative stories that are written, just like the Obama people did.

Trump takes all press scrutiny personally and doesn’t seem to have any conception of the roll of reporters in performing accountability on politicians. His decision to ban many reporters from his press conferences stinks of the actions of a third-world despot. And his demagogic press bashing during his speeches is a play to the crowd that is unhealthy for our democracy.

To be sure, the press has undermined itself by failing to restrain its liberal bias. But most mainstream news reporters I know — not all, but most — do their best to keep their own agenda out of it and honestly report the news. Bias creeps in anyway, because we’re human. But the cause of accountability for politicians is so important that even if there is some bias, a potential president demonizing and banning the press is a danger to the republic.

Presidential candidates should allow access to all responsible journalists, even those with an opinion, whether from the left or the right. The Founders enshrined freedom of the press in the First Amendment, and for good reason.

Video || So Obama Got a Tough Question. He’s Not the First

Some, including journalists, are simply appalled that President Obama was asked provocatively Wednesday why it was he didn’t bring U.S. hostages home as part of the Iran nuclear deal.

Seems to me I remember lots of provocative questioning of George W. Bush. The Washington Free Beacon has dug up a sampling, not all of it verbal.

White House: Hillary Cherry-Picked Emails? No Problem!

Here’s how to think of the Hillary Clinton email saga.

It’s difficult, in a way, because emails are not tangible things. They’re a form of organized electricity. Lighter than air. Like thoughts that can float away, or in this case, be erased in an instant.

To better understand what she did, let’s go back to a time before there were emails. Let’s go back to the Reagan administration. And let’s imagine if Reagan’s first Secretary of State, Al Haig, instead of archiving written memos sent to him by other administration officials, brought them all home. And then, when someone found out about it, he went through them and turned over 30,000. And then he got his fireplace roaring and burned 30,000 others, claiming they had nothing to do with official business.

What would Democrats, and many Republicans, be saying about that?

Mrs. Clinton had no particular reason to erase her email server. It’s a piece of electronic hardware. It doesn’t start to bulge and take up more space around the house if it has emails on it. The only reason to erase it is that she didn’t want people to see what was on it.

Now we find out that she didn’t, as you might have expected, turn over all the work-related emails. What’s more, some were edited by her staff

None of this, somehow, is any problem at all for the Transparency White House.

Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden

Kevin Corke of Fox News, who in his short time at the White House has already established himself as one of the best cross examiners in the briefing room, wasn’t letting White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest get away Monday with the usual buck-passing to Hillary’s staff. The conversation made for some great TV.

One sample will show you why Corke presents a problem for the White House:

CORKE: “While she worked for the president, those emails were public record. They’re supposed to be maintained. All of them. Turns out they weren’t. They were on a private server. Which was against what the president asked her to do. And then after the fact we all find out she had her team, or her staff, pick and choose which ones that she said were available. Can’t you see how that’s a problem?”


Here’s the full exchange.

Chuck Todd Takes Over Meet the Press

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not sure NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd is the right choice to host Meet the Press.

Todd, as you probably know, will replace David Gregory. I’ve worked with both during their stints as White House reporters.

This is why Tim Russert succeeded so well on Meet the Press: He was smart, affable, sunny, knowledgable, passionate about politics, and without losing the cherubic look on his face, could slowly rip the intestines out of his guests.

Chuck has everything but the last quality. Maybe he can develop it.

At the White House, Chuck is a good questioner, standing out among mediocre inquisitors in the room. But he lacks the instinct to really carve up the press secretary.

Media reporter Dylan Byers put it well today in Politico:

Todd is well known for his analytical skills, his grasp of data and historical knowledge, but rattling off stats about House districts is not the same skill set as grilling evasive high-ranking politicians and officials on the issues of the day.

Viewers expect more than political trivia from Sunday morning shows — they want a program that goes beyond the recitation of familiar talking points, network execs believe. Americans already believe that the political press corps is too cozy with the politicians it covers. They are hungry for someone who can hold their guests’ feet to the fire, they say.

NBC would have done better perhaps to try to purloin from CNN Jake Tapper, who has that likable but tough quality of Russert’s. Ed Henry of Fox News has a similar ability as Russert to project a friendly countenance while implacably pressing for a serious answer. And Jonathan Karl has proven himself a relentless cross examiner in the White House briefing room.

Perhaps the best replacement of all is, tragically, dead. David Bloom, the NBC White House correspondent who perished in 2003 covering the Iraq war, was the best questioner I ever saw in the briefing room. He didn’t let the smooth talking Clinton White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry get away with anything.

chuck toddIt’s real hard to feel sorry for David Gregory. He was reportedly unpopular at NBC, at it’s not surprising. In the limited amount of contact we had at the White House, he was always friendly, but his behavior generally was atrocious. He gave no heed to the other reporters in the room, hogging the floor.

If we were questioning someone at the mikes on the West Wing driveway who had just met with the president, he’d show up and then it was, David Gregory’s here, everyone shut up while I ask my questions. There are ways to be aggressive without being obnoxious.

Still, I admired his tenaciousness and his commitment to the essential function of journalism, making the powerful tell the truth. I actually thought he was a good choice for Meet the Press.

Todd is, as they say, exactly the same in person as you see on TV. He has a disarming genuineness and knowledge not just of the political scene, but the motivations of the actors.

But his first responsibility as host must not be playing footsie with other Washington types, but holding their feet to the fire. It’s his duty. I hope he succeeds, because our politicians need accountability, not chumminess.

Obama to Take Remakes

Ah, the perils of iPhone autocorrect. From Martha’s Vineyard, a pool report today by Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: President Obama just completed a statement on the situation in Iraq (report to come very shortly). At 5:24 we are rolling toward a fundraiser at a private residence where the president will take remakes. I assume… Continue Reading

WH Press Corps Protests Blocked Access

The White House press corps today formally protested a White House decision to bar reporters from an event featuring President Obama and the surviving members of the Apollo 11 moon mission, a gathering that would have naturally lent itself to wide coverage. Obama met with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to mark the 45th anniversary of the mission.… Continue Reading

Video || Earnest Gets Roughed Up at His First Briefing

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest got taken to task today by the White House press corps for failing to reveal, until asked about it, a call between President Obama and Russian President Putin. Earnest was asked at the end of the briefing about a report that the two presidents had spoken about Ukraine. That… Continue Reading