WASHINGTON – White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he does not know whether or not President Trump will speak at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April, questioning why anyone would be “worrying” about Trump’s attendance at this time.
It has become a tradition for presidents to address the audience at the event, which takes place on April 29 this year. In the past, Trump has attended the dinner as a guest.
Frank Sesno of George Washington University asked Spicer if Trump plans to attend the dinner.
“I don’t know,” Spicer said during a discussion on “Does Trump Need The News Media? Making and Shaping the News from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” at George Washington University this past Monday.
“Traditions are good,” Sesno replied.
“I understand that, but that shouldn’t – I mean, the idea that that’s a priority,” Spicer said.
“I’m not saying it’s a priority, my God, it’s not a priority given what’s going on in the world. It’s just that we’re chatting here,” Sesno said.
“I know, I just think that, like, of all of the things that are going on in the world, worrying about a dinner in April?” Spicer responded.
Sesno also asked Spicer if the media is going to stay on the White House premises for briefings. Spicer told the audience that he was thinking “outside the box” by considering ways to expand the number of journalists at the briefings as a way to “mix it up a little” and allow for “additional voices” at the White House.
“We looked a couple of options. Right now we’re not planning on doing anything, but the idea is the reporters love to tell you how cramped they are and then we talk about additional space and it’s like, ‘well, we don’t want to move.’ OK, well, so I get hit for talking about, hey, there’s a couple of potential places we could move the briefing room to allow more seats and have additional space,” he said.
Sesno read Spicer a statement from David Axelrod, former White House advisor in the Obama administration, about attending National Security Council meetings. Spicer defended Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s new seat on the NSC’s Principals Committee.
“According to [Axelrod’s] statement, he was not a member of the National Security Council but he attended them. What did we do? We actually put it in paper and said that Steve’s going to be able to attend them,” Spicer said. “We were transparent about it and now we’re being criticized because we actually did what they didn’t do. The most transparent administration in history didn’t have him listed as a member of the National Security Council. He attended them and then we actually said, hey, if we are going to have people go in and out of meetings they should be on the piece of paper.”
Trump issued a presidential memorandum last Monday adding Bannon to the Principals Committee while saying “the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.” Sesno asked if Bannon is a member of the council or is just going to attend the meetings.
“He has the ability to go in and out of the meetings. The idea was that instead of having someone float in and out without anyone knowing we would list the people attending. He’s listed as being able to attend. There are four people that can attend the meetings,” he said.
Spicer said that his boss is getting things done and the media shouldn’t “question his motives.”
“I think you can see already he’s a man of action. You can disagree with his agenda. I get that – that’s what makes this country so amazing but at the end of the day, please don’t question his motives. He truly cares about making this country better for every single American and uniting us,” Spicer said.
“I hope people give him a chance to show that because when he brings these people in to meet with him, as he did throughout the transition and in the first couple weeks, it’s amazing to watch these individuals walk out of a meeting who have never met him before, never interacted with him before. It is usually a very, very different impression when they understand how much he cares and what’s in his heart,” he added.