A Trump presidency will be many things, but one thing it will not be is cooperative with the press. Or so Reince Priebus hinted earlier today during an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. As the President-Elect’s incoming White House Chief of Staff put it while getting several facts and historical details utterly wrong, several changes to how the White House Press Corps is treated are in the works.
“I think that it’s important that we look at all of those traditions that are great, but quite frankly, as you know, don’t really make news and they’re just sort of mundane, boring episodes,” Priebus said about the White House Press Corps’ relationship with the White House, and he wasn’t kidding. Among the items up for review are traditions like daily press briefings and assigned seating.
During the conversation, Preibus suggested that the tradition of assigned seating in the front two rows, reserved for major news outlets, began under the Obama administration and that the administration itself determines who goes where. Suffice to say, both assertions are untrue, as explained by White House Correspondents Association President Jeff Mason in a statement released later in the day.
Noting that assigned seating has actually existed since 1981, when Ronald Reagan took office, Mason explained how the system actually works. “The WHCA assumed responsibility for assigning the seats in the briefing room over the last two decades at the request of both Republican and Democratic administrations, who were mindful of the potential appearance of playing favorites if they assigned the seats themselves.”
Perhaps aware of Trump’s tendency to punish media outlets who make him unhappy with petty relatiations – Trump, for instance, blacklisted some organizations, threatened to sue others, and has even attacked individual journalists on Twitter – Mason emphasized a cooperative tone. “The WHCA looks forward to meeting with the incoming administration to address questions and concerns on both sides about exactly this sort of issue,” he said in the statement.
If breaking the tradition of daily briefings is unusual for the country, it is not for Trump, who has already indicated he intends to take a, let’s call it more relaxed approach to governing the country. For instance, on Sunday Trump, speaking to Fox News Sunday, proclaimed he doesn’t need to receive daily intelligence briefings. “You know, I’m, like, a smart person,” Trump said. “I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years. Could be eight years — but eight years. I don’t need that. But I do say, ‘If something should change, let us know.'”