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Donald Trump’s news conference drought will (probably) end at 168 days, maybe

Donald Trump speaks at a news conference at Trump National Doral in Doral, Fla., on July 27. He has not held a news conference since. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
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Donald Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told CNN on Monday that the president-elect will probably hold a news conference Jan. 11.

“I know that's the current plan,” Conway said, sounding less than certain. Let's not forget that a September event originally billed as a news conference turned out to be an infomercial for Trump's new D.C. hotel — capped by a brief concession that President Obama was, in fact, born in the United States. And last month's long-planned news conference was scrapped just days beforehand. So plans can change.

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Assuming Trump does follow through next week, his news conference drought will end at 168 days — a staggeringly long stretch for a man who once constantly held court with reporters and seemed to view the interactions as a kind of sport.

It is also a rather prolonged hiatus for a politician who routinely mocked his opponent, Hillary Clinton, for her own reluctance to participate in news conferences. During one dry spell, Clinton went 275 days (or 277, depending on who's counting) between news conferences.

Trump will be 61 percent of the way to Clinton's ignominious total by next Wednesday.

The numbers are less important than what they represent — a turn away from the accessibility that characterized Trump's early candidacy and a move toward evasiveness. Beyond his unwillingness to hold a prolonged question-and-answer session with reporters, Trump also has granted few interviews since Election Day, ditched his traveling press corps on multiple occasions and made no promises about preserving such White House traditions as the daily media briefing and the protective press pool.

On New Year's Eve, for example, Trump decided on a whim to play golf at his course in Jupiter, Fla. Reporters were not told about the excursion and did not know where the incoming president was until a golfer posted a photo on Twitter — an unsettling feeling for journalists assigned to cover Trump's every movement.

Transition team aide Stephanie Grisham told reporters that she and other Trump staffers did not know about the golf outing, either. As if that should make journalists feel better.

Trump's team has not announced a time or venue for next week's news conference, which may or may not actually happen. The noncommitment and lack of details serve as reminders that Trump wields tremendous power, when it comes to media access. He doesn't have to hold news conferences, grant interviews or allow reporters to travel with him.

Even when it appears that Trump is about to give journalists something they want, he does it in a way that highlights his preference for appearing to maintain control.