The media seem confused about their constitutional status and rights.
President-elect Donald Trump left reporters in the dark about his whereabouts Tuesday night, continuing a pattern of restricting press access and setting up a dangerous precedent for the press covering the Trump administration.
Trump left his residence at New York’s Trump Tower to have dinner at a restaurant without informing the pool of reporters tasked to cover him.
Trump’s transition team had told the reporters there would be no more news for the day, indicating Trump would remain at Trump Tower for the night. But an hour afterward, Trump was spotted at a restaurant, violating the tradition that media covering the president or president-elect be regularly informed of his movements and schedule.
Spokeswoman Hope Hicks later confirmed that Trump was having dinner with his family and claimed that she had not known about the plans.
Hicks blamed the violation of protocol on the fact that Trump’s transition team has not yet established “a protective pool” of reporters who document the movements of the president for the larger press corps, particularly if there is something unexpected or significant.
Private events, such as family dinners, can be closed to the press, but reporters should be made aware of them.
While documenting something like a dinner might seem trivial, the pool travels with the president because there’s always a possibility something newsworthy might happen in relation to him ― and as the White House Correspondents Association, which oversees the White House Press Corps, has said, Americans need to know about his “whereabouts and well-being in the event of a national crisis.” President Ronald Reagan’s traveling pool documented an assassination attempt on the president in 1981, for example, and President John F. Kennedy’s press pool had special access that helped them cover his assassination in 1963.
The incident continues a pattern of Trump and his team limiting press access and violating basic tenets of press freedom and creates serious concerns about whether he will abide by traditions like holding press briefings and allowing reporters on Air Force One when he is president.
Trump’s team has resisted establishing the “protective pool,” a decision that the White House Correspondents Association has called “unacceptable” and a violation of “decades of historical precedent and First Amendment principles.”
Trump and his supporters frequently vilified the media during his campaign, and he threatened to sue media outlets that produced unfavorable coverage of him and banned them from campaign events.
Reporters traveling with Trump were not allowed to travel on the same plane, and the campaign sometimes failed to inform them when he was leaving for events. He even mocked them for being late to a rally.
Last week, Trump’s transition team also limited press access during his first visit to Washington after being elected. They kept reporters and photographers at a distance during his meetings with President Barack Obama at the White House and with GOP leaders on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday morning, White House Correspondents’ Association president Jeff Mason again implored the Trump transition team to honor basic press protocol.
“One week after the election, it is unacceptable for the next president of the United States to travel without a regular pool to record his movements and inform the public about his whereabouts,” he said in a statement.
“The White House Correspondents’ Association is pleased to hear reassurances by the Trump transition team that it will respect long-held traditions of press access at the White House and support a pool structure,” he continued. “But the time to act on that promise is now. Pool reporters are in place in New York to cover the president-elect as he assembles his new administration. It is critical that they be allowed to do their jobs.”
That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
The First Amendment protects freedom of the press, along with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. That means that the press can print anything they want, subject to a few narrowly tailored exceptions, like obscenity and libel. The press is also free to ask questions, just like any other citizen. What the First Amendment does not do is give the press some special right of access or the power to compel answers.
If a president doesn’t want to talk to the press, he doesn’t have to. He doesn’t have to allow them in the White House. He doesn’t have to give them briefings or hold press conferences. He doesn’t have to tell them where he is going or who he is talking to. He doesn’t have to tell them shit.
Congress has oversight power over the Executive branch, but even that is limited. There are some laws like the Freedom of Information Act and the Presidential Records Act that require the keeping and production of certain records, but as we have seen in recent years the press doesn’t seem to think those laws are important.
But nowhere in the Constitution or in federal law is there any requirement for a President-Elect to tell the press when he goes out to dinner.
On the other hand, most presidents try to maintain a symbiotic relationship with the press. Every modern president has tried to manipulate the press to get favorable coverage. There are things ever president wants the press to cover, like when they give speeches. That’s why presidents allow the press access to the White House and give press briefings.
Trump is still working out his relationship with the press. He is not bound by any formal or informal agreements or protocols worked out between the press and previous administrations. What is happening now could be called a negotiation. But it has nothing to do with the Constitution. The press is a bunch of arrogant little fucks who need to be humbled.
It is obvious that President-Elect Trump will have a contentious and adversarial relationship with the press. But that’s a good thing. When the press quit acting like lapdogs maybe they will regain some credibility.