Donald Trump made an exceedingly rare appearance in the White House press briefing room yesterday, delivering remarks on his administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak and fielding questions for a little under an hour. In a normal administration, reporters with additional questions -- or new lines of inquiry based on unfolding events -- would pose them to the president's press secretary in today's briefing.
But there won't be a press briefing in the West Wing today. In fact, there hasn't been a normal press briefing in quite a while. Former White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes raised a point this morning that shouldn't go overlooked:
"It would be useful if there was a daily White House press briefing where we could get factual information from our government. Norms exist(ed) for a reason."
The current White House press secretary is Stephanie Grisham, who became the president's chief spokesperson nearly eight months ago. If her name seems unfamiliar, or if you're not quite sure you could pick her out of a lineup, that's probably because Grisham has held exactly zero press briefings since succeeding Sarah Huckabee Sanders last summer.
We discussed in the fall how unusual it was to see a sitting president face an impeachment scandal, while his press secretary avoided tough questions by simply not having any briefings. Now there's a public-health emergency, and there's been no indication that Grisham is planning to restore the White House Q&A sessions.
In September, Grisham sat down with the hosts of Fox & Friends and explained her belief that the briefings had become "theater," with reporters who put on a show because they wanted to become "famous." It suggested that the press secretary had no plans to start holding briefings anew.
In fact, even Huckabee Sanders had effectively ended the practice, holding zero briefings in the final months of her tenure. All told, the last time a White House press secretary fielded journalists' questions was on March 11, 2019 -- nearly a full year ago.
As the public-health emergency continues, will Americans looking for presidential answers have to rely on Trump's weird tweets? Or will Grisham find her way to the briefing room?