The vanishing White House press briefing

The "daily" White House press briefing is a thing of the past.The White House has only held three on-camera br...

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 1:03 AM

The "daily" White House press briefing is a thing of the past.

The White House has only held three on-camera briefings in the past 30 days, according to the administration's own records on WhiteHouse.gov.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders' most recent briefing was on July 2, more than two weeks ago.

Since that time, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned; Bill Shine has started working as Trump's new communications chief; Trump has nominated a new Supreme Court justice; he has assailed America's alliances and sidled up to Russian president Vladimir Putin; and the administration has struggled to reunite parents and children who were separated at the southern border.

In other words: There's a lot for the press corps to ask about.

Sanders did not respond to a request for comment about the press briefing drought.

But there will be a briefing on Wednesday. Not long after this story was originally published, the White House added a 2 p.m. briefing to the schedule. While Sanders tangles with the press, Trump will sit down with CBS' Jeff Glor for an interview that will air on the network's "Evening News" broadcast Wednesday night.

Related: Trump finds few defenders as news media covers his 'betrayal'

The lack of a briefing was especially glaring on Tuesday, when Trump and his aides returned from a long trip to Europe. Journalists were clamoring to ask about Trump's widely criticized treatment of Putin. But no briefing was held, and Trump did not take any questions during an attempt to clean up his pro-Russia remarks from the day before.

The pros and cons of the briefing format have been debated endlessly. (I'm not going to rehash it all here!)

Suffice it to say, press briefings matter for both symbolic and practical reasons. Symbolically, televised briefings show that the White House is open for business and willing to answer questions. And on a practical level, briefings are an efficient way for the administration to address a numerous topics and engage with a wide variety of news outlets.

In practice, it doesn't always work. Deflections and downright laughable spin have been staples of White House briefings for decades. But past administrations held the briefings more often than Trump's White House has.

Beat reporters say several things have changed in the briefing room in the Trump age. The briefings take place less frequently; they tend to be short; and relatively uninformative.

In private, some members of the press corps call Sanders' briefings "useless," citing her evasive responses and combative stance. But they still care about the existence of the briefing. The sessions should be a chance to glean accurate information, challenge government stonewalling, and hold elected officials accountable.

So why the drought right now? Well in some ways it's a continuation of a trend that Chris Cillizza observed in May. He said the White House is "increasingly disinterested in answering questions from reporters in any sort of structured environment."

Related: Trump ratchets up 'fake news' rally cry overseas

The press briefing schedule bears that out.

In the past 30 days, there were briefings on June 18; June 25; and July 2. In between, there were also a few off-camera "gaggles," typically aboard Air Force One.

Trump has had a busy travel schedule, and that's always a factor when counting the number of briefings.

And he has held several news conferences, both formal and informal, in recent weeks. But that fact doesn't preclude the White House from holding regular briefings.

Shine's arrival may be a factor as well. His appointment as deputy chief of staff for communications was announced on July 5. He may have brought a new point of view about the value of briefings.

But the biggest factor is probably the one that's visible to everyone: The White House is in a constant state of crisis. Trump routinely contradicts himself, distorts the truth and sparks world-rattling controversies. Sometimes he undercuts in tweets the things that Sanders says at her briefings. And his frequent cries of "fake news" are evidence that he doesn't care about the work the press does to inform the public.

With that as the backdrop, the briefing is becoming so brief that it's almost nonexistent.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 697533

Reported Deaths: 13138
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion951321706
Lake50779930
Allen38511669
Hamilton33981404
St. Joseph33279535
Elkhart26810431
Vanderburgh21931393
Tippecanoe21440212
Johnson17325371
Porter17012297
Hendricks16631308
Clark12592190
Madison12223335
Vigo12089243
Monroe11237166
LaPorte10601204
Delaware10241182
Howard9555211
Kosciusko8999112
Hancock7842137
Bartholomew7797152
Warrick7657155
Floyd7501175
Wayne6846196
Grant6724167
Boone647399
Morgan6335137
Dubois6052117
Marshall5709108
Cass5657102
Dearborn564674
Henry5545100
Noble532583
Jackson489469
Shelby474095
Lawrence4305118
Gibson424988
Harrison424870
Montgomery414486
Clinton413153
DeKalb402583
Huntington371880
Whitley371039
Miami369565
Knox363589
Steuben358457
Putnam350560
Wabash344677
Jasper341646
Adams336652
Ripley332368
Jefferson306479
White305954
Daviess287999
Wells283580
Decatur278092
Fayette276562
Greene268685
Posey267333
Scott258553
Clay250744
LaGrange249970
Randolph233379
Washington228429
Spencer226731
Jennings223947
Fountain207245
Sullivan207041
Starke199352
Owen190856
Fulton188939
Jay184829
Carroll184520
Perry178536
Orange175552
Rush169324
Vermillion165343
Franklin164435
Tipton160343
Parke143416
Blackford131730
Pike129634
Pulaski112245
Newton102334
Brown98840
Crawford96814
Benton94513
Martin81915
Warren78315
Switzerland7678
Union69410
Ohio55311
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1037600

Reported Deaths: 18827
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1203461345
Cuyahoga1048492040
Hamilton774221164
Montgomery49484984
Summit44494904
Lucas39105757
Butler37437566
Stark31094890
Lorain23775467
Warren23688291
Mahoning20622581
Lake19698360
Clermont19305226
Delaware17783130
Licking15970205
Fairfield15493195
Trumbull15377458
Medina14662255
Greene14484233
Clark13433287
Wood12547182
Portage12144193
Allen11216229
Richland10899197
Miami10455211
Muskingum8639127
Columbiana8478225
Wayne8451209
Pickaway8388120
Tuscarawas8311239
Marion8297135
Erie7415153
Ross6636145
Hancock6595123
Geauga6449146
Ashtabula6355163
Scioto625299
Belmont5518158
Union550847
Lawrence5435102
Huron5229112
Darke5225121
Jefferson5210147
Sandusky5087118
Seneca5048118
Washington5029107
Athens493654
Auglaize470484
Mercer467884
Shelby453289
Knox4332108
Putnam417298
Madison416157
Ashland408986
Fulton402165
Defiance395096
Brown383855
Crawford3819100
Logan369676
Preble367995
Clinton356859
Ottawa351978
Highland344858
Williams317574
Champaign317055
Jackson304451
Guernsey303348
Perry286449
Fayette276348
Morrow272639
Henry261266
Hardin261063
Coshocton255957
Holmes251499
Van Wert237462
Gallia232146
Pike230931
Adams226151
Wyandot224153
Hocking207057
Carroll187746
Paulding167538
Meigs140838
Noble131737
Monroe128441
Morgan105722
Harrison104836
Vinton80913
Unassigned01
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Rain showers continue Saturday evening, as will a few thunderstorms. Overnight, rain will taper off a little as temperatures drop into the mid 40s. On Sunday, rain chances return in late morning and last much of the day. Temperatures max out in the mid 50s and winds will be brisk at times.
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