As the White House races toward the one-year briefing-drought mark, the Erik Wemple Blog figured it would be a good time to launch The Grisham Watch, the better to routinize scrutiny of the press secretary’s activities. When she accepted the job of press secretary, she also took on the role of White House communications director — essentially strategizing rollouts of initiatives, messaging, branding, etc. — while retaining her job as the first lady’s communications director.
In an email to this blog, Grisham confirmed that she retains those three roles.
Today would have been a fine day to step up to the podium in the James S. Brady Briefing Room. There have been multiple developments on the impeachment front, including the cable-news interviews of Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani who participated in a shadow diplomacy campaign to secure considerations from Ukrainian officials. There’s a trade deal with China that could well ease long-standing concerns and obstacles facing U.S. businesses. There are revelations about how Trump treated high-ranking military personnel and diplomats in a famous meeting, as documented in a new book excerpt from Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig.
Plus: The president’s schedule is light, consisting of an event with the LSU football team and a departure for Mar-a-Lago.
As of posting time, however, there was no briefing.
The Erik Wemple Blog asked Grisham this morning what she was up to. She has a strong record of returning our email inquiries, and she responded with this list:
Phone calls w press beginning around 5:45 for AM showsMet with 7 members of my staff (separately) on internal staff mattersMet with the legal teamMet w the POTUSSpoke to FLOTUS on a few issuesFace timed my son to tell him to have a good day at schoolMtg in the sit roomTwo mtgs with the [chief of staff] on two separate issuesMtg with my comms team on impeachment and Davos next weekMtg with the Advance team on Davos and press access/movementsAs of this moment I have eaten two saltine crackers and had three cups of coffeeReading through talking points and messaging for next week so I can approve disseminationIve used the restroom twiceIn between all of that I have received countless texts and emails from reporters and other agency comms people, all of which I try to stay on top of — keeping in mind I am often in meetings that require my phone remain outsideOh, and now taking the time to explain my day to you.
Grisham’s accounting was sent to the Erik Wemple Blog at 1:55 p.m.
When she is asked about the absence of briefings, Grisham doesn’t talk about her workload. Rather, she points out that the president very frequently answers questions from reporters at ceremonial events, trip departures and so on. She is right about that, as Trump outpaces his predecessors in Q&A sessions. The problem is that those sessions generate additional Qs along with few genuine As, which makes the briefings all the more essential.
Another reason for no briefings, she says, is that reporters abuse them. “They don’t want information, because my team and I give them information every single day. . . . They want a moment, they want their moment on TV so they can peddle their books,” Grisham said during an appearance on Fox News on Thursday.
So we checked with Grisham: Do your three roles at the White House prevent you from doing briefings?
“I prioritize everything I do each day — have to with three roles — so if the day ever comes I will prioritize and make the time,” responds Grisham.
She also added: “[It’s] my opinion that with the Press Secretary up there it has turned into more shouting and arguing and gotcha moments over substantive back and forth, which is why I have Cabinet Secretaries and other subject matter experts out there when needed.”
Here’s a deal: Should Grisham reinstitute the press briefings, we’ll stop asking her what she’s up to.
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