There’s more than one way to kill a briefing. As my colleague Rosie Gray wrote this morning, the Trump administration has adopted various tactics to slowly strangle the daily White House encounter between press and spokesman: Make them shorter, kick cameras out, ban audio recordings, and so on. When the White House schedule went out Monday night, there wasn’t even a gaggle scheduled with Sean Spicer, the press secretary. Tuesday morning, amid criticism, an on-camera briefing with Spicer was announced.
But as the event showed, it’s almost not worth the trouble. Toward the end of the (very short) briefing, Spicer was asked to answer “just very plainly … does President Trump believe that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections?”
Spicer demurred: “I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing.”
The reporter, incredulous, pointed out that there were 16 intelligence reports that had claimed Russian involvement. Surely the president has a view on them?
“I have not sat down and asked him about his specific reaction to them, so I’d be glad to touch base and get back to you,” Spicer replied.
Incredulity is the appropriate response here. It’s all but impossible to believe that the White House press secretary, the chief spokesman for the president, has not spoken to Trump about his views on a topic so basic and of so much obvious public interest. The question wasn’t about Trump’s views on a minor topic of arcane policy, but about a matter looming over all of national politics every day.