Jan 12, 2020

13 former press secretaries urge Trump White House to hold briefings again

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham listens to President Trump talk to reporters. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Seven former White House press secretaries joined six former State and Defense briefers for an open-letter CNN opinion piece arguing for a return to regular press briefings.

Why it matters: The Trump White House has not held a traditional press briefing since March 11, when Sarah Sanders was still the press secretary.

What they're saying:

"The process of preparing for regular briefings makes the government run better. The sharing of information, known as official guidance, among government officials and agencies helps ensure that an administration speaks with one voice, telling one story, however compelling it might be.
Regular briefings also force a certain discipline on government decision making. Knowing there are briefings scheduled is a powerful incentive for administration officials to complete a policy process on time. Put another way, no presidents want their briefers to say, day after day, we haven't figured that one out yet. ...
Using the powerful podiums of the State Department, Pentagon and White House is a powerful tool for keeping our allies informed and letting our enemies know we are united in our determination to defeat them both on the battlefield and in the world of public diplomacy."

Asked for a response, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told me:

"This is groupthink at its finest. The press has unprecedented access to President Trump, yet they continue to complain because they can’t grandstand on TV. They’re not looking for information, they’re looking for a moment. This president is unorthodox in everything he’s done. He’s rewritten the rules of politics. His press secretary and everyone else in the administration is reflective of that.
In terms of the former press secretaries — they can publicly pile on all they want. It’s unfortunate, because I’ve always felt I was in this small club of only 29 others who really know what I deal with each day, and that was always comforting. They may not say it publicly, but they all understand why I do things differently. They know I have three roles. They know my boss has probably spoken directly to the press more than all of theirs did combined. They know the press secretary briefs in the absence of the president, and this president is never absent — a fact that should be celebrated.
Like so many trailblazers, history will look back on this presidency with praise — until then, I’m comfortable with how I do my jobs — and my team and I are always available to the press."

Go deeper: Stephanie Grisham says White House briefings were "theater"

Go deeper

First look: Sarah Sanders to tell press tales in new book

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' new book includes "a candid account of my relationship and interactions with the press. And some reporters come out a lot better than others!"

What's happening: Gearing up for a possible run for Arkansas governor, Sanders will be out Sept. 8 — during the home sprint of the presidential race — with "Speaking for Myself," from St. Martin’s Press.

Go deeperArrowJan 15, 2020

Pompeo says denying credentials to NPR sends "perfect message about press freedoms"

Photo: Natalia Fedosenko\TASS via Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the State Department's decision to deny NPR press credentials for his trip to Europe following his confrontation with reporter Mary Louise Kelly, stating in an interview in Kazakhstan Sunday that it sends "a perfect message about press freedoms" to the world.

The backdrop: In an NPR interview in January, Kelly pressed Pompeo about his reluctance to defend former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch after she was the victim of a smear campaign. After the interview ended, Kelly says Pompeo took her into his private living room and berated her, asking if she could even find Ukraine on a map.

U.S. declares “public health emergency” on coronavirus

HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

On Sunday, the United States will deny entry into the country to any foreign national who poses a risk of transmitting the coronavirus, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday.

Why it matters: The public health emergency comes with a quarantine for U.S. citizens arriving from Hubei province, and a temporary ban on foreigners without family in the U.S. who have recently visited China.