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The disappearing White House press briefings explained

The daily White House press briefing is no longer routine. In fact, reporters can't even count on one weekly...

Posted: Sep 22, 2018 5:13 AM
Updated: Sep 22, 2018 5:13 AM

The daily White House press briefing is no longer routine. In fact, reporters can't even count on one weekly anymore. So far this month, there has only been one press briefing in total.

But communication between the President and the press has nonetheless continued, whether it's in the form of tweets, or impromptu news conferences on the White House lawn.

"This president's been awfully available," Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents' Association told CNN's Brian Stelter for this week's Reliable Sources podcast. "And that reflects in part the fact that he has really been his own communications director."

That's not to say that press briefings no longer have value.

Press briefings are particularly important for smaller news outlets that do not typically get a lot of attention from the White House staff, as well as reporters who aren't covering the top story of the day, Knox said.

It is the White House Correspondents' Association's job to ensure that journalists have access to the White House. Knox said organization members have voiced concern about the decrease in press briefings, and he has brought these concerns to the attention of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

"She's heard us out," Knox said, in response to Stelter asking why the association hasn't expressed more frustration on the issue. But projecting rage over the situation is not Knox's preferred route. "I don't think that the screaming really has a lot of value in that relationship. I would prefer to try to work productively through this" he said.

Listen to the whole podcast here:

The daily briefings have all but stopped under Trump, but Knox said they have had "ebbs and flows over time" in previous presidencies.

"I remember times when, you know, Obama would recede and we would pepper Jay Carney with questions about when he would next [take questions from the press]," he said. Carney served as former president Barack Obama's press secretary from 2011 to 2014.

There's something that concerns Knox more than the diminishing frequency of press briefings under the Trump administration.

"One of the things that this administration has done is claw back a lot of government information that was public in the Obama, Bush and even the Clinton years," he said.

He cited the War Powers Act as an example -- a law that requires a public letter be submitted to Congress by the President every six months, "laying out where American troops are in harm's way and how many of them are in harm's way." The current administration has eliminated the head count of Americans in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq from the letter, Knox said.

"When you pull that kind of information out of the public eye, you're making the job of holding the federal government accountable more difficult," he said.

Last year, Olivier wrote about this issue, and said he was able to figure out how many American troops were in those specific places by going through Pentagon briefings and Pentagon documents.

With Pentagon briefings notably on the decline, it would make research like Knox's even more challenging. And the wars abroad are an issue he believes needs more spotlight.

"It's amazing how little scrutiny it's getting," he said. "Donald Trump inherited a lot of military conflicts. He's expanded a lot of them as well. And we can't forget this. We can't."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 156287

Reported Deaths: 2252
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31935542
Washington21311212
Marion18541285
Clackamas13426183
Lane10325129
Jackson8489114
Umatilla767882
Deschutes597561
Yamhill379168
Linn360157
Malheur335358
Polk307343
Klamath279855
Douglas252755
Josephine236553
Benton234817
Jefferson196628
Coos152420
Union129519
Columbia127421
Wasco122126
Lincoln113620
Hood River106929
Morrow104914
Clatsop7776
Crook77618
Baker6639
Curry4296
Tillamook4212
Lake3786
Harney2776
Grant2251
Wallowa1425
Gilliam541
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3582320

Reported Deaths: 53083
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles119601721676
Riverside2904983849
San Bernardino2870552959
Orange2617983966
San Diego2613533342
Santa Clara1110761798
Kern103756915
Fresno957851451
Sacramento937901498
Alameda809501271
Ventura77952870
San Joaquin671231150
Contra Costa62931695
Stanislaus56433953
Tulare48114768
Monterey42335329
San Mateo39148521
San Francisco34387422
Santa Barbara32147420
Solano30216165
Merced29264407
Sonoma28261301
Imperial26926638
Kings22091220
Placer19911232
San Luis Obispo19751238
Madera15523214
Santa Cruz14736183
Marin13285198
Yolo12867185
Shasta11054179
Butte11007167
El Dorado9195100
Napa908072
Sutter889998
Yuba577638
San Benito577061
Lassen562324
Tehama510452
Nevada398874
Tuolumne396659
Mendocino382643
Amador347441
Humboldt323033
Lake316941
Glenn223223
Colusa214013
Calaveras191849
Siskiyou178414
Inyo132137
Mono12144
Del Norte10085
Plumas6536
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