By Daniel Clarke
After a New York Times article about an investigation into the Trump campaign aides’ contacts with Russia citing a number of anonymous sources was published, Sean Spicer held an audio-only gaggle on Friday that did not allow access to a number of well-known news agencies including The New York Times, Politico, BBC and others. While Spicer denied it in the gaggle, many of these agencies believe they were selectively barred from the meeting and see the move as a breach of democracy.
“The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time. They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW,” Trump posted on Twitter on Feb. 24, and then later on Feb. 25, “Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!”
Spicer said that Trump’s Friday tweet speaks for itself and clarified that the FBI told them that the story in the New York Times was false. They responded that the FBI should issue a statement, but the FBI has refused to comment publicly.
“I know nothing more than that they told us a story was not accurate and our answer was, what are you going to do to get the story right?” Spicer said when further probed to comment on the existence of an investigation.
Spicer spent a good amount of time speaking about the number of illegal leaks, suggesting that media agencies are being unfair in their reporting that cites a number of anonymous sources.
“I think there is a big difference between making serious allegations, us coming back on the record, and reporters saying we have 5 sources that are unnamed, that say contrary to that,” Sean Spicer said. “I think there is an obligation at some point, when you’re going to make allegations of a serious nature to at least make somebody go on the record and say yes I’m willing to stand behind that when we’re willing or another organization is willing to refute them on the record.”
The Trump administration has been having problems with leaks causing Spicer to become increasingly distressed. Spicer ordered a meeting to check the phones of attending staff and warn them about problems if news of the meeting on leaks was also leaked; this was, of course, promptly leaked anyway, according to a Politico report.
“We’re going to aggressively push back. We’re just not going to sit back and let false narratives, false stories, inaccurate facts get out there,” Spicer said when asked about what Trump planned to do about the leaks.
Spicer was asked multiple times up until the end of the gaggle about why certain news outlets weren’t allowed into the briefing.
“There are three thousand people credentialed to come in here. There are way more than six that wanted to come in. We do what we can to be accessible,” Spicer said, “Because we had a pool and then we expanded it, we added some folks to come and cover. It was my decision to expand the pool.”
Many of the barred news outlets had their own take on the events, some calling it unprecedented.
“Now, normally, if you were going to do something like this – an extended gaggle, off camera – you would have one person from each news outlet,” CNN’s Sara Murray said. “That is not what the White House was doing today. What the White House was doing was handpicking the outlets they wanted in for this briefing.”
As Trump’s attack of the media continues and it becomes more difficult for reporters to question the government, some organizations have made their intentions clear: that they will do whatever it takes to get the information out to the public.