President Donald Trump threatened to shut down daily press briefings Friday as he sought to defend his White House from criticism of its shifting explanations and misstatements about the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Trump’s statements, through a tweet and later television interview, threaten a Washington institution that is the most high-profile forum for journalists to question the government about policy and the news of the day.
In the Trump era, it has become a cable TV hit and cultural touchstone. Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who was back behind the podium Friday after Sarah Huckabee Sanders subbed for him for two days, has been the subject of memorable lampoons by comic Melissa McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live.”
Spicer was back to answering questions Friday about Comey’s firing. The White House first said this week that Trump made the move because of a negative memo about Comey from the Justice Department, only to have the president later say he made the decision before seeing the memo. Conflicting stories were the topic of much media discussion.
That led Trump to tweet Friday morning, “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 added, “Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”
In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Jeannine Pirro set to air Saturday, Trump suggested eliminating the daily briefings and instead having one every two weeks — conducted by him.
“First of all, you have a level of hostility that’s incredible and it’s very unfair,” he said. He said Spicer is a nice man “but he gets beat up.” Trump would not directly answer questions about whether Spicer, who was out two days because of Naval Reserve duty, would remain in his job.