Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix | Analysis

Here's how Trump avoided questions about Michael Flynn in today's press conference

By Callum Borchers

February 13, 2017 at 3:50 PM

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Here is the full video from President Trump's joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They discussed immigration, trade and national security. (Reuters)

On a day when reports about the uncertain future of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn dominated headlines, President Trump skated through an entire news conference Monday without facing a single question about one of his top aides.

Trump ended a joint appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Washington after only four questions, none of which touched on Flynn's status in the wake of Friday's Washington Post report that the retired general privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country's ambassador to the United States during the month before Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by administration officials.

Related: [As Flynn falls under growing pressure over Russia contacts, Trump remains silent]

The glaring omission immediately struck journalists — the ones who didn't have opportunities to ask questions, anyway.

"Interestingly, there was not any question about the future of the president's national security adviser, Michael Flynn," CNN's Wolf Blitzer observed, as soon as the news conference concluded. "That's a big news story today, but the two American reporters who asked questions, asked questions about the U.S.-Canadian relationship. Presumably, that's what the White House wanted."

"It is clearly what the White House wants," CNN analyst Gloria Borger replied, "and I don't know if they arranged that in advance."

Journalists besides Borger also seemed to wonder whether the questions had been set up. Several pointed out that the two U.S. news outlets receiving questions were the conservative Daily Caller and the ABC affiliate in Washington, which has taken what The Post's Paul Farhi described in 2014 as "a subtle but noticeable turn to the right" since being purchased by the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said in December that the Trump campaign and Sinclair had struck a deal during the campaign that involved more interviews with the then-candidate, in exchange for less commentary.

Yahoo's Hunter Walker chronicled the efforts of other reporters in the White House to ask the Daily Caller's Kaitlan Collins and WJLA-TV's Scott Thuman about their questions.

Collins responded on Twitter to the claim that she "ran away."

In an email to The Fix, Collins added (rather humorously) that she "was wearing heels and could not have physically run out of the press conference today without doing real damage to [her] footwear." She said she was notified moments before the news conference began that she would get to ask a question but made clear that there was no agreement not to ask about Flynn.

Politico's Hadas Gold noted that Trump's last news conference with a foreign leader featured questions from the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post and Fox News.

And NBC's Carrie Dann contrasted those questioners with the ones who were called on by former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.


Callum Borchers covers the intersection of politics and media.

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