I've been warning about this coming for months now and the Trump regime's vengeance for last night's Trump tax story was the catalyst for a swift and brutal purging the White House press corps of credentials across the board.
The White House today immediately instituted a "new standard" for credentials based on how often reporters were on the White House grounds, something of course that happens to get rid of credentials for most non-FOX reporters completely. Again, the vast majority of press reporters, technicians, and camera operators for America's press organizations all lost their White House press credentials today.
As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank lays out, "exceptions" were made for some "senior" reporters, but those can now be revoked at will by the White House. And those "senior" reporters do not include Milbank, who has covered the White House for 21 years.
The Post requested exceptions for its six White House reporters and for me, saying that this access is essential to our work (in my case, I often write “sketches” describing the White House scene). The White House press office granted exceptions to the other six, but not to me. I strongly suspect it’s because I’m a Trump critic. The move is perfectly in line with Trump’s banning of certain news organizations, including The Post, from his campaign events, and his threats to revoke White House credentials of journalists he doesn’t like.
White House officials provided me no comment for the record.
I’m not looking for pity. Trump’s elimination of briefings and other changes have devalued White House coverage anyway. But there’s something wrong with a president having the power to decide which journalists can cover him.
Now, virtually the entire White House press corps is credentialed under “exceptions,” which means, in a sense, that they all serve at the pleasure of press secretary Sarah Sanders because they all fail to meet credentialing requirements — and therefore, in theory, can have their credentials revoked any time they annoy Trump or his aides, like CNN’s Jim Acosta did.
Last year, Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, ordered the White House to restore Acosta’s press credentials, saying that the White House’s process for revoking his access (after Acosta had aggressively questioned Trump) was “shrouded in mystery.”
In response, it seems, the White House established a clear — if nearly impossible — standard: No credentials to any journalist who is not in the building on at least 90 out of the previous 180 days — in other words, seven of every 10 workdays. The White House wouldn’t provide numbers, but it appears most of the White House press corps didn’t qualify for credentials under the new standard, including regulars for The Post and the Associated Press. (Trump, who has spent more than 200 days at Trump properties and many more on travel, is barely in the White House this much himself.)
The White House said it would grant exceptions for “senior journalists” who are “consistently engaged in covering the White House” and for those with “special circumstances.” Though the culling properly eliminated some (including at The Post) who no longer needed credentials, the victims hurt most were freelance camera operators and technicians who now could lose their livelihood.
The White House, in rescinding my credentials, told me I had only been in the building seven times in the previous 180 days (two foot surgeries during that period kept me at home, though I never came close to the 90-day standard).
More important is that the White House is drastically curtailing access for all journalists. Briefings have been abolished in favor of unscheduled “gaggles” ( on the record, but impromptu and haphazard) in the White House driveway. The Pentagon and State Department have done similarly.
The fact that this policy was rolled out less than 24 hours after the Trump tax story hit the presses last night is no coincidence. The White House was given the heads up on the story some time ago when the NY Times called for comment. They had the time to work this out, and when the story landed with a bang last night, today was the revenge.
We've taken a dark and rapid turn into authoritarianism with a looming shooting war and possible impeachment hearings. No doubt this message pitch for America's press is very clear: you will report what we want you to report, or you will be gone...