Officials in President Trump's administration sometimes deflect or spin when asked tough questions by reporters, but other times they contend that the questions should not be asked in the first place.
That is what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did Wednesday in Seoul, objecting when journalists pressed him to explain whether, and how, the United States will verify that North Korea is dismantling its nuclear weapons program.
“I find that question insulting and ridiculous and frankly ludicrous,” Pompeo said.
Apparently the media and the public should trust, without evidence, that the administration has everything under control.
Pompeo's testy response to reporters' inquiries fits into a broader strategy by Trump officials to convince voters that basic accountability reporting is out of bounds.
In April, for example, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt bristled when Fox News's Ed Henry brought up Pruitt's sweetheart deal to rent a room on Capitol Hill for just $50 per night.
“President Trump said he would 'drain the swamp,' ” Henry reminded Pruitt. “Is draining the swamp renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington lobbyist?”
“I don't think that that's even remotely fair to ask that question,” Pruitt replied.
Pruitt later attempted to justify the arrangement, but his first move was not to defend his actions; it was to claim that he shouldn't have to answer for them and that it is somehow unreasonable for a journalist to ask him to do so.
In February, NBC's Peter Alexander asked Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser in the White House, whether she believes the women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct.
“I think it’s a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter if she believes the accusers of her father when he’s affirmatively stated that there’s no truth to it,” she said.
In October, CBS's Chip Reid asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders whether Chief of Staff John F. Kelly would return to the briefing room to answer for erroneous remarks he had made the previous day about Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.).
“I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate,” Sanders said.
Sanders frequently tries to shut down questions in this way.
In January, NBC's Hallie Jackson asked, “How are people supposed to trust ... that the people representing the president's position actually are?” It was a timely question, as earlier that day Trump had criticized a federal surveillance program that Sanders previously said he supported.
Rather than treat Jackson's question as legitimate, however, Sanders said, “I think the premise of your question is completely ridiculous and shows the lack of knowledge that you have on this process.”
Sanders used a similar line in October on Jackson's NBC colleague, Kristen Welker, who asked, “What's your response to those who say the president has undercut the secretary of state?”
Trump, referring to diplomatic overtures to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had recently tweeted that Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state at the time, was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”
“I think the premise of that question is absolutely ridiculous,” Sanders told Welker. “The president can't undercut his own Cabinet. The president is the leader of the Cabinet. He sets the tone. He sets the agenda, and I think that question makes no sense because of that.”
Exiting the briefing room at the end of a question-and-answer session in December, Sanders turned around to respond to a final, shouted question about Trump's health. The president had slurred his words, at times, during a speech one day earlier.
“I know that there were a lot of questions on that — frankly, pretty ridiculous questions,” Sanders said. “The president's throat was dry. Nothing more than that.”
Although Trump repeatedly raised doubts about Hillary Clinton's health during the 2016 presidential campaign, questions about his own condition were “ridiculous.”
At a January briefing, Sanders added that questions about Trump's fitness for office were “disgraceful and laughable.”
Sanders has continued a strategy employed by her predecessor, Sean Spicer. In February 2017, for example, Spicer objected to a question about why Trump had neglected to tweet about an attack on a mosque in Quebec. Trump often tweets about violent episodes in which the perpetrators are Muslim.
“I literally stand at this podium and opened a briefing a couple days ago about the president expressing his condolences,” Spicer said. “So why are you asking why he didn't do it when I literally stood here and did it?”
In a memorable briefing-room clash in August, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller protested a question from CNN's Jim Acosta about the administration's plan to prioritize English-language skills when evaluating green card applicants.
“Are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?” Acosta asked.
Miller suggested that the question was outrageous.
“That you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hard-working immigrants who do speak English from all over the world,” Miller said.
The consistent message from the Trump administration is that journalists are misbehaving when they pose difficult or uncomfortable questions.
This post, originally published on April 5, has been updated.