When his team's announcement to move the White House press briefing room was met with criticism, President-elect Donald Trump switched gears, saying they will keep the same room, but journalists will not like the result: He will select which journalists are allowed in.
Days ago, senior officials in the incoming Trump administration said that the White House press briefing room would be moved from the West Wing. The ostensible justification for the move was that Donald Trump is so popular, the small room cannot accommodate all the press who want access.
But, given Trump’s infamous enmity toward the press, there was understandable suspicion that the move was more punitive than practical — and, when Vice President-elect Mike Pence was asked about those suspicions, his evasive answer did not exactly put them to bed.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pence did not respond directly when asked whether potentially moving reporters was a logistical move or a punitive one.
“The interest of the team is to make sure that we accommodate the broadest number of people who are interested and media from around the country and around the world,” Pence said.
After facing blowback for their decision, Trump said during an interview with Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt that instead they would keep the room where it is, and he will just choose who is allowed to enter.
EARHARDT: Press briefing room — are you going to move it?
TRUMP: So, we were going to move it, because, for whatever reason, you’ll have to explain this to me and everybody, but we had a lot of people showing up for press conferences, et cetera, including briefings. And the room is too small. So we said we’re going to move it to a larger room in a nearby area but, you know, not the same area. And the press went crazy, so I said let’s not move it. But some people in the press will not be able to get in, because it’s just too many. We’ll make sure you get a seat. But there’s too many people for this small room.
EARHARDT: Especially nowadays, with bloggers and with radio…
TRUMP: We have so many people that want to go in, and, you know, so we’ll have to just pick the people that go into the room. I’m sure other people will be thrilled about that, but — We offered a much larger room, because we need a much larger room, and we offered to do that, but they went crazy. And they’ll be begging for a much larger room very soon. You watch.
Criticism is not a justification for the erosion of longstanding democratic principles, but that is Trump’s go-to move: He offered the press a bad deal that restricted their access, and they rightfully pushed back, so now he will give them an even worse deal.
And he cites their opposition as the reason for his decision to hand-select press to whom he will grant access — which of course will be press who are favorable toward him, as evidenced by his promise to Earhardt to “make sure you get a seat.”
The press doing its job is used as the excuse for Trump to impede them doing their jobs going forward, and to create his propaganda machine which will replace them.
It was such a predictable turn of events that one imagines this was the goal all along.
And another day brings us another step closer to authoritarianism in the United States.