Trump Threatens to Cancel White House Press Briefings
In a series of tweets, the president also warned James Comey against leaking anything to the media.
President Donald Trump issued a warning to the press amid a flurry of early morning tweets sent from his personal account Friday.
After tweeting that the "Fake Media is working overtime today!" the president, whose administration is dealing with the aftermath of Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, defended his surrogates and threatened to cancel all future White House press briefings, which he used in quotation marks, for the "sake of accuracy."
"As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!" he tweeted. "Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future 'press briefings' and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???"
Trump also issued a Nixonian warning to Comey, saying the former FBI director "better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"
It is unclear if any such recordings exist.
Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
The Fake Media is working overtime today!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
...Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
China just agreed that the U.S. will be allowed to sell beef, and other major products, into China once again. This is REAL news!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
In an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt that aired on Thursday, Trump indicated he had been planning to fire Comey regardless of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's recommendation. "I was going to fire Comey. My decision," he said, contradicting earlier statements put out by his White House. Trump also claimed he is not under investigation by the FBI, insisting there was no "collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians," and that the ouster should not be seen as a warning to Comey's successor to drop the probe.
Trump's lashing out at the press corps and Comey comes on the heels of a media-aimed rant issued in Time magazine, where the president specifically targeted Stephen Colbert, calling him a "no-talent guy," and CNN's Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon.
Around the same time Trump was sending out his Friday morning tweets, Melissa McCarthy was spotted filming in character as press secretary Sean Spicer for her hosting gig on this weekend's Saturday Night Live.
The White House Correspondents' Association was quick to object to Trump's threat to potentially do away with pressers.
"White House briefings and press conferences provide substantive and symbolic opportunities for journalists to pose questions to officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government," said WHCA president Jeff Mason in a statement. "That exercise, conducted in full view of our republic's citizens, is clearly in line with the spirit of the First Amendment. Doing away with briefings would reduce accountability, transparency and the opportunity for Americans to see that, in the U.S. system, no political figure is above being questioned. The White House Correspondents' Association would object to any move that would threaten those constitutionally-protected principles."
Spicer returned to Friday's White House press briefing after a two-day absence and was immediately asked to clarify Trump's tweets by Mason.
Spicer said Trump's tweet at Comey was "not a threat" and that Trump was "simply stating a fact." He set up the presser by saying he had spoken to Trump and that the president had nothing further to add about the tweets.
Spicer on President Trump’s tweet about James Comey ‘tapes’: “The President has nothing further to add on that.”— CNN (@CNN) May 12, 2017
When pressed about whether or not Trump has recorded conversations or has recording devices in the White House, Spicer would only say the tweet speaks for itself.
Spicer did, however, expand on Trump's suggestion at canceling further press briefings, accusing the press corps of turning the daily event into a "game of gotcha."
"I think he’s a little dismayed, as well as a lot of people, that we come out here and try to do everything we can to provide you and the American people with what he’s doing on their behalf, what he’s trying to do to keep the nation safe, what he’s doing to grow jobs," said Spicer. "And yet we see time and time again an attempt to parse every little word and make it more of a game of gotcha, as opposed to really figuring out what the policies are, why something’s being pursued or what the update is on this. That’s where there’s a lot of dismay and I don’t think it’s something that just alone the president feels."
Spicer went on to say that due to Trump's robust schedule, they don't always have the opportunity to meet with him and get his full thinking before addressing the press.
"There are times when you more often than not read a story where someone is trying to pull apart one sentence, one word and make it a "Aha, gotcha" thing," he reiterated. "We get here early. We work pretty late... I think we do a pretty good job of following up or getting you the information [if we don't have the answers]."
Spicer on Trump’s tweet on WH briefings: “I think he’s a little dismayed” and doesn’t want “a game of gotcha” https://t.co/T9GMLFBkow— CNN (@CNN) May 12, 2017
Speaking to Fox News in a clip released later in the day, Trump delved deeper into his idea behind the tweet about canceling press briefings. Saying he is moving so quickly that his communications team can't keep up, the president suggested doing away with his staff's daily address and instead hosting one every two weeks himself.
"We don't have press conferences unless I have them every two weeks and do them myself," Trump tells Jeanine Pirro during a sit-down, which airs in full Saturday on Justice."I think it's a good idea. You have a level of hostility that's incredible and it's very unfair."
Adding, "Sarah Huckabee is a lovely, young woman. You know Sean Spicer, he is a wonderful human being, he’s a nice man. He does a good job, but he gets beat up."
5 p.m.: Updated with Justice clip
May 12, 2:30 p.m. ET: Updated from presser