Why do we even have White House press briefings?

Spicer spars with reporters over 'fake news'
Spicer spars with reporters over 'fake news'

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    Spicer spars with reporters over 'fake news'

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Spicer spars with reporters over 'fake news' 01:45

(CNN)From: Wolf, Z. Byron

Date: Thursday, June 1, 2017 at 8:42 AM
To: Cillizza, Chris
Subject: Why not end the daily White House press briefing?
    We seem to be on a slow road to ending the daily White House press briefing. There's no law requiring it. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has been doing briefings off-camera, audio only, or not doing them at all. President Donald Trump has suggested maybe he should be doing the briefings himself. Why not?

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    From: Cillizza, Chris
    Sent: Thursday, June 1, 2017 9:43:26 AM
    To: Wolf, Z. Byron
    Subject: Re: Why not end the daily White House press briefing?
    The press briefings of late have been really bad. Sean appears as though he is being tortured and then ends things after about 5 questions. But I STILL think that the daily press briefings are far more valuable than whatever else Trump would replace them with. There is value in an official White House representative answering (or not answering) every day questions from the media. We forget this but taxpayers pay for Sean's salary. And the president's. Holding them accountable for what they say and do (and don't) matters.

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    From: Wolf, Z. Byron
    Date: Thursday, June 1, 2017 at 10:15 AM
    To: Cillizza, Chris
    Subject: Re: Why not end the daily White House press briefing?
    I think bad is an understatement. Why are they bad? Because Spicer knows he's probably going to be undercut by Trump and so do all the reporters. It's become the norm.
    Spicer's deputy holds down the fort
    Spicer's deputy holds down the fort

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      Spicer's deputy holds down the fort

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    Spicer's deputy holds down the fort 01:04
    But it's not about the quality of the show -- and it does feel like a show. If Spicer is continually undercut by his boss to the point where the words coming out of his mouth have no credibility... if the President says -- and he has! -- that his spokespeople can't really speak for him because they don't have the latest information, I don't understand why it's worthwhile.
    And this is not a Sean Spicer problem. Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave several briefings not long ago and she was undercut by Trump, too. This is a Trump problem.
    So, if we know there's a better than even chance that what the press secretary is saying doesn't actually represent the thoughts of the President, which are either evolving, unformed or contradictory, that's a baseline for inaccuracy for the next three and a half years.
    Is it worth having statements we can presume are untrue? Where's the value in that?
    They could start each briefing by saying, please enjoy these statements, some of which are going to end up not being true. You can spend the next day or so figuring out which ones.

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    From: Cillizza, Chris
    Sent: Thursday, June 1, 2017 10:58:36 AM
    To: Wolf, Z. Byron
    Subject: Re: Why not end the daily White House press briefing?
    Fair points, all.
    But -- and I hate when people say this -- I think you might have to broaden out the aperture. As in, whether or not you think what Sean -- or his eventual replacement (no one keeps this job for an entire presidency!) -- is accurately reporting either facts or the president's own views, jettisoning the daily press briefing entirely sets a very dangerous precedent for future administrations.
    We've already seen attempts -- begun under the second Bush administration but perfected by Obama -- to end-run the media via technology. President Obama was able to sell an entirely self-told narrative about himself and his presidency via Flickr, Twitter, You Tube and the like. The daily press briefing is one of the last ways that independent and neutral reporters can ask direct questions of the administration. If we give that up, I think we are on a slippery slope to sacrificing any sort of access to the president and his senior staff.
    I'd also add this. Miles Davis famously said about music: "It's not the notes you play. It's the notes you don't play." I think the same holds true when it comes to this administration and the press briefing. That Sean said on Wednesday that he hadn't spoken to the president about his views on climate change -- on the same day it was reported Trump had made the decision to pull out of the Paris accords -- speaks to the fact that Spicer is on the outside looking in. That he refused to explain what Trump was doing tweeting "covfefe" at 12:06 am shows how bunkered in and twisted up this administration is.
    Those are valuable insights. And ones we might not have gotten if not for a daily press briefing.

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    From: Wolf, Z. Byron
    Sent: Thursday, June 1, 2017 11:52 AM
    To: Cillizza, Chris
    Subject: Re: Why not end the daily White House press briefing?
    The notes you don't play, the briefings you don't have. Look -- I realize it is somewhat ridiculous for a working journalist to say that some sort of access -- any access! -- is counterproductive at the White House, where access is already so limited.
    But a circus briefing with few facts can feel like a diversion. I'm not sure that ending it now means we wouldn't have it -- or something like it -- in the future. I'm not of the opinion that the next President -- either in 2021 or 2025 -- will be in the model of Trump. But it's becoming clear that the only true statements are the ones the President tweets. The daily briefing should not exist in large part as a way for SNL writers to brainstorm material.
    I look forward to debating you in the future with these same arguments and applying them to the annual State of the Union address.

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    From: Cillizza, Chris
    Sent: Thursday, June 1, 2017 12:40 PM
    To: Wolf, Zachary
    Subject: Re: Why not end the daily White House press briefing?
    "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords." -- You, in 10 years.
    I kid. I get that these daily briefings are an exercise in daily futility. But, like we tell our kids, sometimes the trying is more important than the accomplishing. As in, you learn something from the effort even if you are ultimately unsuccessful.
    As for the idea that the next president won't follow Trump's lead, I think we have to agree to disagree. My experience in covering presidential politics is that one of the only things on which there is bipartisan agreement is in finding ways to either shut out the press entirely or limit our access to the president and his top people. If Trump opens Pandora's Box, I am not sure there will be much urgency from his successor to slam it shut.