Over the last 30 days, the Trump White House has held only 10 on-camera press briefings – and those briefings have averaged just more than 17 minutes each.
Those stats, courtesy of CNN White House super producer Allie Malloy, are reflective of a President – and a broader White House – that is increasingly disinterested in answering questions from reporters in any sort of structured environment.
It’s a “back to the future” moment for the White House, which in the early days of Trump’s time in office suspended the on-camera briefing for days at a time – arguing that it served no purpose other than to let reporters try to dunk on then-press secretary Sean Spicer.
“I think that the press office should be available, as they are, to give the press responses and updates as to what’s going on at the White House, but I think the daily briefing is sort of worth reexamining,” Spicer said in an interview that aired Sunday on C-SPAN. “The briefing has become more of a show than an outlet of information for the media.”
It’s not clear whether current press secretary Sarah Sanders agrees with Spicer’s sentiment. But the numbers don’t lie. It’s not been a daily briefing for the past six weeks. It’s been a twice-a-week briefing.
But wait, you say! President Trump talks to the media all the time! He spent 30 minutes answering questions just yesterday alongside the South Korean President!
Correct -ish. Yes, Trump does have a tendency to let reporters barrage him with questions at photo sprays, or as he is walking out of the White House to get on Marine One.
But Tuesday’s experience is instructive here. Asked whether he had confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – a totally fair question – Trump used his foreign guest as a shield, arguing that the question didn’t befit the moment. Huh?
As long as Trump does things like that, the media should keep pushing for more presidential news conferences or, in lieu of that, more daily press briefings from Sanders.
The Point: The White House is reportedly shrinking its communications staff amid unhappiness from Trump about leaks coming out of the West Wing. That move, combined with the dearth of Sanders’ briefings of late, send a very specific message: This White House is moving toward less interaction with the media, not more.