A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Tuesday marked 57 days without an on-camera press briefing at the White House. Wednesday will be day 58. This is a record. Up until now, according to CNN’s Allie Malloy, the longest stretch of time with no briefing was 42 days.
“But they just lie at the briefings!” you say. Yes, but… it’s not too much to expect regular briefings AND reliable answers from a taxpayer-funded spokesperson.
Here are a few of the stories that warrant comment from the press secretary on the record and on camera right now:
– The W.H. instructed former counsel Don McGahn to rebuff a subpoena from the Democrats…
– House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “Trump is goading us to impeach him…”
– The Dow suffered its worst day in five months…
– Per CNN’s Tami Luhby, the admin “has taken a step toward changing the way the poverty threshold is calculated, a move that could strip many low-income Americans of their federal benefits…”
– Trump is reportedly “livid” after Axios revealed that a former campaign aide misled donors…
And then there’s THIS story, which the NYT dropped on Tuesday evening:
“Decade in the Red”
Well, Michael Barbaro tweeted, “the reason the president does not want us to see his contemporary taxes has now become abundantly clear.”
“Decade in the Red: Trump Tax Figures Show Over $1 Billion in Losses” is the web title of Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig’s latest.
Here’s the Page One headline: “Trump Tax Figures Show A Decade of Huge Losses…”
The banner on Chris Cuomo’s closing argument read: “IF TRUMP WANTS RESPECT, HE SHOULD RELEASE HIS TAX RETURNS.” At a minimum,” Cuomo told the president, “the truth will come out on your own terms.”
A few minutes later, Don Lemon said this on CNN: “The president of the United States is a fraud and a con man. And the fraud and the con is on us, the American people. Now we know why the president wants to keep his tax returns hidden…”
The biggest takeaway…
NYT editorial writer Binyamin Appelbaum tweeted: “This is an amazing story but for me the biggest takeaway is the massive amount we still don’t know about Trump’s finances and business dealings in the 25 years that follow the end of this story.”
Leaks in the dam…
Rachel Maddow’s take on Tuesday night: “There is this dam he is trying to build here, and shore up here, to hold back access to his tax information and financial information. And it is starting to spring leaks all over the place… And it is hard to know what’s going to happen when that dam finally breaks, given the president’s palpable desperation on this issue.”
Don’t expect daily briefings anytime soon
Back to the topic of my lead — I wanted to note this record-long briefing drought because W.H. chief of staff Mick Mulvaney addressed it in a new interview with Politico. The briefing “looks unlikely to return to its regular functioning under Mulvaney’s leadership of the White House staff,” Nancy Cook wrote Monday.
Mulvaney’s comment: “I would throw it back to the press. Look, are you really making the argument that you don’t have access to information? Goodness gracious, the president is available to the press himself almost every single day. You’re getting it straight from the president of the United States in a way that I’m pretty sure is unparalleled.”
If you mean unparalleled in the depths of its deception, then yes… In any case, a chance to shout questions to the president is not a substitute for a scheduled briefing with a government spokesperson…
“Denying daily access to the press”
At the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press dinner in NYC Tuesday night, honoree Andrea Mitchell brought up the sorry state of the briefing room. Mitchell said the W.H. briefing “now has been reduced to reporters chasing White House aides as they walk back after appearing on one favorite morning show.”
And she pointed out that other key administration posts, including the State Department and Pentagon, are “denying daily access to the press…”
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
– Sheryl Sandberg held meetings with Senators on Capitol Hill on Tuesday… (Bloomberg)
– Mark Murray tweeted: “Maybe the most important thing to understand when it comes to public opinion and the Mueller probe. It’s Fox News viewers vs. everyone else.” He cited these NBC/WSJ poll results… (NBC)
– Credit where it’s due: “Kim Kardashian West has helped free 17 inmates in 90 days,” Chloe Melas reports… (CNN)
Freedom for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo
Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo “spent 511 days in prison for doing their job, and doing it exceedingly well. Now they can return home to their families,” WaPo’s Jason Rezaian wrote Tuesday.
It is a joyous day. But “the reality is that it will be very difficult for them to return to work as reporters in their homeland,” Rezaian noted. And he knows what he’s talking about…
Reuters execs feeling proud and relieved
Reuters EIC Stephen J. Adler spoke with the pair via videoconference on Tuesday morning New York time. Adler is being tight lipped, and understandably so, about the next steps. At the aforementioned Reporters Committee dinner on Tuesday evening, exec director Bruce Brown began his remarks with a huge cheer for the Reuters reporters. Adler and the colleagues at his table smiled with pride and relief…
This year’s RCFP honorees
Along with Mitchell, this year’s honorees at the Reporters Committee event were David Bradley, April Ryan, John Carreyrou, and the founders of City Bureau.
Ryan spoke movingly of her role as a W.H. correspondent. “I do not ask questions just for myself, but for those who needs answers to pressing issues in their lives,” she said.
Outgoing chair David Boardman thanked the Knight Foundation for what he called a “transformational investment” – a $10 million commitment from the foundation to support local news.
Spotted: Laurene Powell Jobs, Jeffrey Goldberg, Jennifer Preston, Jeffrey Goldberg, Peter Lattman, Keith Cocozza, Kyle Pope, Alex Hardiman, Tim O’Brien, Jessica Benvenisty, Susan Zirinsky, Don Baer, James Bennet, Wolf Blitzer, Amy Entelis, Brooke Baldwin, Elise Garofalo, Karen Kaiser, Lauren Easton, Joey Jackson, Laura Vigilante, Rebecca Kutler, Nima Elbagir, Paul Steiger, Ben Smith, Justin Smith, Noah Oppenheim, Jenifer Fenton, Stacey Rubin, Christa Robinson, Jonathan Kaplan, Stephen Battaglio, Barbara Raab, Inna Rudsky, Sarah Ellison, Jenn Topper, Amelia Nitz, and many more…
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
By An Phung:
– Fact-checking Trump is a labor-intensive process. WaPo’s Glenn Kessler has some anxiety about what his team will do “when it comes to campaign season and he’s holding three rallies a day…” (Poynter)
– Condé Nast’s parent company Advance Publications has been on a shopping spree to diversify its assets, buying up “a group of European theaters, a maker of plagiarism-detection software, a majority stake in an esports analytics firm and a stake in a rocket operator…” (WSJ)
– Rolling Stone is launching a competitor to Billboard charts, Joe Pompeo reports… (VF)