Trump tar­gets news me­dia

As he de­cries anonymity, his aides talk on such terms

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Nancy Benac, Mary Clare Jalonick, Jonathan Lemire and Julie Bykow­icz of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Cal­lum Borchers of The Wash­ing­ton Post; and by Michael M. Grynbaum, Glenn Thrush of The New York Times.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump un­loaded on the news me­dia Fri­day for us­ing anony­mous sources — just hours af­ter mem­bers of his own staff in­sisted on brief­ing re­porters only on con­di­tion their names be con­cealed.

Un­leash­ing a line of at­tack that en­er­gized an en­thu­si­as­tic crowd at the na­tion’s largest gath­er­ing of con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists, Trump said un­eth­i­cal re­porters “make up stories and make up sources.”

“They shouldn’t be al­lowed to use sources un­less they use some­body’s name,” he de­clared. “Let their name be put out there.”

Trump told the Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence that while not all re­porters are bad, the “fake news” crowd “doesn’t rep­re­sent the peo­ple. It will never rep­re­sent the peo­ple, and we’re go­ing to do some­thing about it.”

He also mocked jour­nal­ists for claim­ing free speech rights. “They al­ways bring up the First Amend­ment,” Trump said to cheers. “No­body loves it bet­ter than me.”

Trump didn’t ex­pand on what he had in mind or which news or­ga­ni­za­tions he was talk­ing about. But his broad­sides rep­re­sented an es­ca­la­tion of his run­ning bat­tle against the me­dia, which he and his al­lies has taken to call­ing “the op­po­si­tion party.”

The pres­i­dent has chafed at a num­ber of anony­mously sourced stories, in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous re­ports de­scrib­ing con­tacts be­tween his cam­paign ad­vis­ers and Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agents, which the White House has sharply dis­puted.

How­ever, mem­bers of his White House team reg­u­larly de­mand anonymity when talk­ing to re­porters. That was the case Fri­day morn­ing when Trump of­fi­cials briefed re­porters on Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ con­tact with top FBI of­fi­cials con­cern­ing the Rus­sia re­ports.

Later Fri­day, af­ter Trump’s speech, sev­eral news or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing The New York Times, the Los An­ge­les Times, CNN, Buz­zFeed News and Politico were blocked from join­ing a White House me­dia brief­ing, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports.

CNN’s Sara Mur­ray went on the air to de­scribe what hap­pened.

“We lined up. We were told there was a list ahead of time, which is sort of ab­nor­mal, but we put our name on a list. And then when we went to en­ter, I was blocked by a White House staffer who said we were not on the list for this gag­gle to­day.” A press gag­gle refers to an in­for­mal me­dia brief­ing in which White House spokes­men may speak to re­porters on the record but may not be video-recorded.

“What the White House was do­ing was hand­pick­ing the out­lets they wanted in for this brief­ing. So Bre­it­bart, The Wash­ing­ton Times, the One Amer­ica News Net­work — news out­lets that maybe the White House feels are more fa­vor­able were all al­lowed in, whereas I was blocked from en­ter­ing, Politico was blocked from en­ter­ing, The New York Times, the LA Times. All of these news out­lets were blocked from go­ing to a gag­gle.”

Noah Bierman, a White

House re­porter for the Los An­ge­les Times, also was barred.

“It was clear that they let in a lot of news out­lets with less reach who are Trump-friendly,” he said. “They let in al­most ev­ery net­work but CNN. That’s con­cern­ing, the hand­pick­ing as­pect of it.”

Jour­nal­ists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Jour­nal, Bloomberg News and Fox News were al­lowed to at­tend.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the barred news or­ga­ni­za­tions made clear that they be­lieved that the White House’s ac­tions Fri­day were puni­tive.

“Ap­par­ently this is how they re­tal­i­ate when you re­port facts they don’t like,” CNN said in a state­ment.

Dean Ba­quet, the ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of The New York Times, said in a state­ment that “noth­ing like this has ever hap­pened at the White House in our long his­tory of cov­er­ing mul­ti­ple ad­min­is­tra­tions of dif­fer­ent par­ties. We strongly protest the ex­clu­sion of The New York Times and the other news or­ga­ni­za­tions. Free me­dia ac­cess to a trans­par­ent gov­ern­ment is ob­vi­ously of cru­cial na­tional in­ter­est.”

Ben Smith, ed­i­tor-in-chief of Buz­zFeed, called it “the White House’s ap­par­ent at­tempt to pun­ish news out­lets whose cov­er­age it does not like.”

White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Jeff Ma­son called in to CNN to say the or­ga­ni­za­tion is “still get­ting in­for­ma­tion about” the de­ci­sion.

“They clearly wanted to have a gag­gle that was not on cam­era and was not the full press corps to­day. We don’t ob­ject to there be­ing brief­ings like that that aren’t al­ways on cam­era, but we have en­cour­aged them when they want to do some­thing like that … [to] still do it in the press­room and do it in a place where all the re­porters have a chance to ask ques­tions.”

He added, “We’re not happy about how this hap­pened to­day.”

Sarah Huck­abee San­ders, a White House spokesman and the daugh­ter of for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee, played down the events in an email Fri­day af­ter­noon.

“We in­vited the pool so ev­ery­one was rep­re­sented,” San­ders wrote. “We de­cided to add a cou­ple of ad­di­tional peo­ple be­yond the pool. Noth­ing more than that.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press and Time mag­a­zine chose not to par­tic­i­pate af­ter the move by White House spokesman Sean Spicer. Lauren Eas­ton, The As­so­ci­ated Press’ direc­tor of me­dia re­la­tions, said in a state­ment: “The AP be­lieves the public should have as much ac­cess to the pres­i­dent as pos­si­ble.”

As for Trump’s crit­i­cism of anony­mous sources, Gregg Les­lie, le­gal de­fense direc­tor for the Re­porters Com­mit­tee for Freedom of the Press, said such ar­range­ments are “es­sen­tial to good re­port­ing” in many cases.

“There are just some things that peo­ple will come for­ward about anony­mously that they can­not dis­cuss openly,” Les­lie said, cit­ing po­ten­tial threats to jobs and even per­sonal safety.

The As­so­ci­ated Press says it uses anony­mous sources only if the ma­te­rial is fac­tual in­for­ma­tion, not opin­ion or spec­u­la­tion, and is vi­tal to the news re­port. It must come from a per­son who is re­li­able and in a po­si­tion to have ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion.

Long ago, Trump him­self played fast and loose with sourc­ing. In the 1990s, when his per­sonal life was tabloid fod­der, a “spokesman” who iden­ti­fied him­self as John Miller would call to of­fer de­tails about the busi­ness­man’s fail­ing mar­riage and the girl­friends he was jug­gling. But The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported it was ac­tu­ally Trump pos­ing as his own pub­li­cist. In later years Trump de­nied it, but he had owned up to it at the time, de­scrib­ing the Miller calls as a “joke gone awry,” ac­cord­ing to the Post.

‘LOVED THE COM­MO­TION’

At the Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence, at­ten­dees said the event was en­livened by Trump’s ap­pear­ance.

El­iz­a­beth Con­nors of New York re­called past gath­er­ings as col­lec­tions of the “down­trod­den.”

To­day, she said, “it’s en­er­gized” af­ter years in which “we’ve been just pushed down, pushed down, pushed down.”

Ni­cholas Hen­der­son of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was there in his “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hat and pro­nounced Trump’s speech rous­ing.

“He touched on a lot of things we’d al­ready heard be­fore, which is re­as­sur­ing, tells us he’s still com­mit­ted to those prom­ises he made dur­ing the cam­paign,” Hen­der­son said.

Trump, who first ap­peared at the con­fer­ence as a re­al­ity TV star six years ago, re­called his past vis­its with nos­tal­gia, say­ing the crowd helped put him on the path to the pres­i­dency.

“If you re­mem­ber, it was my first ma­jor speech. They said he didn’t get a stand­ing ova­tion — be­cause ev­ery­body stood,” Trump said of his 2011 speech. “I had very lit­tle notes and even less prepa­ra­tion,” he said of that first speech. “And then you leave, and ev­ery­body is thrilled and I say ‘I like this busi­ness.’

“I loved the com­mo­tion,” he said. “And then they did these polls where I went through the roof and I wasn’t even run­ning, right? But it gave me an idea.”

From there, Trump’s lat­est speech played out like a great­est hits reel from his 2016 cam­paign.

He rem­i­nisced about his vic­tory in the Repub­li­can pri­maries. He vowed to “build the wall” along the Mex­i­can bor­der. He de­nounced Hil­lary Clin­ton’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of some of his sup­port­ers as be­long­ing in a “bas­ket of de­plorables.”

The crowd re­sponded to his Clin­ton crit­i­cism with chants of “Lock her up!” just as they did at Trump ral­lies last year.

Trump de­parted the stage to the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Al­ways Get What You Want,” the same exit music he used dur­ing his cam­paign.

Af­ter his new­est jibes, Trump turned his speech into a recita­tion of his top agenda items, promis­ing bold ac­tion on health care, trade, im­mi­gra­tion, en­ergy and more.

“One by one, we’re check­ing off the prom­ises we made to the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he said, telling the crowd, “I will not dis­ap­point you.”

He told the con­ser­va­tives the health care law he in­her­ited from Pres­i­dent Barack Obama threat­ens to bring about “to­tal catas­tro­phe,” re­it­er­at­ing his prom­ise to re­peal and re­place it. On illegal im­mi­gra­tion, he said that “as we speak to­day, im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers are find­ing gang mem­bers, drug deal­ers and crim­i­nal aliens and throw­ing them the hell out.”

He promised changes to the wel­fare sys­tem, say­ing, “It’s time for all Amer­i­cans to get off wel­fare and get back to work,” adding that: “You’re go­ing to love it.”

AP/ALEX BRAN­DON

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump Hill, Md. speaks Fri­day dur­ing the Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence in Oxon

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