After that doozy of a press conference on Saturday, plus Kellyanne Conway’s ‘alternate facts,’ it’s no wonder the press weren’t sure which Sean Spicer would be showing up. Would it be the defensive Press Secretary from the weekend or a calmer more rational one?
It seems that the calmer one showed up and tried to hold his own when it came time to discuss the truth. Spicer wound up giving the press an interesting breakdown of what gets under President Donald Trump‘s skin. Something that the media and every American has become very aware of by now.
He broke with the norm and chose the more Donald Trump friendly media outlets with the first question rather then the more harder hitting news outlets. This is definitely letting us know how things will be going down in his White House press room.
It wasn’t the knock-down, drag-out affair that some might have expected, but Spicer’s relationship with the truth did get chewed over in detail, especially in back-and-forths with ABC News’s Jonathan Karl and CNN’s Jim Acosta. And the whole thing provided a real window into how Spicer will interact with the press as the go-between standing in the middle of a controversial president and a press corps still trying to figure out how to cover him.
Toward the end, Spicer gave an impassioned defense of why Trump dwells so much on things like his inauguration crowd size, arguing that Trump is very frustrated by constant negative coverage and the media minimizing him. He basically said it amounted to a defense mechanism from the president. It is definitely making the White House pressers more interesting, to say the least.
Another thing learned is regarding the lawsuit filed against Trump.
The Justice Department will defend President Trump from a new lawsuit that accuses him of violating the Constitution by allowing his hotels and business operations to accept payments from foreign governments, officials said on Monday.
But while Mr. Trump said on Monday that the case was “without merit,” a Justice Department spokeswoman, Nicole Navas, declined to comment on it, saying only, “The department is reviewing the complaint and will respond as appropriate.”
The lawsuit, assigned on Monday to Judge Ronnie Abrams, an appointee of President Barack Obama, centers on the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause, which bars federal officeholders from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments.
Before his inauguration, lawyers hired by Mr. Trump argued that the clause “does not forbid fair-market-value transactions with foreign officials,” like paying for hotel rooms. They also said Mr. Trump would donate profits from foreign governments’ patronage to the United States Treasury.
But the lawsuit, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal government corruption watchdog, contends that the clause bars such transactions, too, and that donating profits does not solve the problem. It wants the judge to stop Mr. Trump’s businesses from accepting such payments.
It is not clear that Judge Abrams will resolve the dispute over the clause’s meaning. First, she must decide whether the group has suffered enough injury to bring a court challenge.
The group argued that it had standing to sue because keeping track of foreign payments to Mr. Trump’s businesses imposed a “significant diversion and depletion of its time, resources and effort.” It cited a 1982 housing discrimination case as precedent for the idea that an advocacy organization can sue over conduct that drains its resources.
But several scholars on Monday noted that Congress had enacted a statute that made it easier to challenge housing discrimination, but not emoluments clause violations.
Mr. Spicer noted that he had sent an email to Josh Earnest, his Democratic predecessor, who had been voted the most popular press secretary among reporters.
“He can rest easy. His title is secure, at least for the next few days,” Mr. Spicer joked.
Mr. Spicer largely ignored the longstanding precedent of calling on the wire services, network reporters and major news organizations. Instead, he called on The New York Post first, then the Christian Broadcasting Network.
“Our intention is not to lie to you,” he told reporters, after a shaky start this weekend when he inflated the number of people at the president’s inauguration.
You can check out the full transcript here.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told a roomful of reporters that “our intention is never to lie to you,” although sometimes the Trump administration may “disagree with the facts.”
Spicer’s first full press briefing was closely watched Monday following a weekend statement about President Donald Trump’s inauguration audience that included incorrect assertions. After White House counselor Kellyanne Conway received wide social media attention for her explanation that Spicer had presented “alternative facts,” Monday’s briefing was televised live on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and, for a time, even ABC.
Meanwhile, ABC announced that anchor David Muir would interview Trump for a one-hour prime-time special to air at 10 p.m. EST Wednesday.
Spicer tried to defuse tension by opening with a self-deprecating joke about his lack of popularity, and his 78-minute session was wide-ranging and mostly substantive. He corrected one disputed statement from Saturday, defended another and expressed some frustration regarding how the new Trump administration feels about its news coverage.
Asked for a pledge not to lie, Spicer assented, saying, “I believe we have to be honest with the American people.” He said he had received incorrect information about Inauguration day ridership on the Washington Metro system when he initially claimed the system was used more Friday than for Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration.
“There are times when you tweet something out or write a story and you publish a correction,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you were trying to deceive readers or the American people, does it? I think we should be afforded the same opportunity.”
Spicer didn’t back down from his claim that Trump’s inauguration was the most-seen ever, clarifying that he was including people who watched online. The ceremony didn’t have the highest TV ratings and aerial photographs indicate the live crowd wasn’t as big as it was for Obama’s first swearing-in, but there are no reliable crowd estimates or numbers indicating how many people across the world watched the ceremony online.
He expressed frustration about an erroneous report, later corrected, stating that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from a room in the White House following Trump’s inauguration.
“Where was the apology to the president of the United States?” Spicer said. “Where was the apology to the millions of people who thought that it was racially insensitive?”
One reporter said Spicer had accepted an apology from the news outlet that made the mistake in a pool report.
Spicer would not say whether he was ordered by Trump or other staffers to make Saturday’s statement, but explained some of the thinking that went into it. Like countless White House staffs before them, the Trump team is exasperated about “negative” and “demoralizing” coverage.
“When we’re right, say we’re right,” he said. “When we’re wrong, say we’re wrong. But it’s not always wrong and negative.”
Spicer broke with the White House tradition of opening briefings with a question from a large media outlet. A large media outlet was traditionally given the first question because it is a broad-based news cooperative that represents the largest swath of American newspapers, broadcasters and other kinds of news organizations.
Instead, Spicer initially called on a reporter from the New York Post, and he took questions from several news organizations that were rarely called on during the previous administration. He said four seats in the briefing room would be kept open for out-of-town reporters to participate via Skype.
The new press secretary – who took no questions Saturday – drew a laugh when he said he’d stay at the podium for as long as the reporters wanted him there, and he nearly did.
“I want to make sure we have a healthy relationship,” he said.