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Trump Aides Admit More Press Access Needed

A top aide to President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged Wednesday that there could have been “a little bit better communication” with the press the day after the Trump left his home to attend dinner.
Image: President-Elect Donald Trump Holds Meetings At His Trump Tower Residence In New York
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: A view of Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, November 16, 2016 in New York City. Trump is in the process of choosing his presidential cabinet as he transitions from a candidate to the president-elect. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)Drew Angerer / Getty Images

A top aide to President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged Wednesday that there could have been “a little bit better communication” with the press the day after the Trump left his home to attend dinner with his family unannounced, purposely leaving the press behind.

“One of our goals from the transition team is to improve the communication with members of the press and get that in a better place so folks are given timely and accurate information. Do we always bat 1,000? Not necessarily,” Trump Communications Director Jason Miller told reporters gathered at Trump Tower on Wednesday.

“Last night probably was an example of where we could have been [in] a little bit better communication, but again, our goal going forward is to give you guys the best information in a timely fashion.”

Trump flouted years of tradition Tuesday night when he left Trump Tower without letting the reporters covering him that day know, and after his press secretary had told media his day had ended and not to expect any more movements from the president-elect.

He visited a restaurant with his family, and the first indication the public was given of his plans was from a tweet posted by a Bloomberg reporter who happened to be dining at the same restaurant. NBC News was able to post a reporter at the restaurant after making a reservation to get in, and saw the Trump family, heavily guarded by Secret Service, finish their meal before Trump departed with a promise to the restaurant to lower their taxes.

The president’s movements are a matter of both national interest and national security, and since the creation of the White House press pool he typically has a member of the press with him at all times, even if they’re held slightly apart from his activities, in case anything newsworthy happens to him.

The White House Correspondents Association, the group that organizes the White House press pool, issued a statement from President Jeff Mason declaring it “unacceptable for the next president of the United States to travel without a regular pool to record his movements and inform the public about his whereabouts.”

In the statement, Mason said they were "pleased to hear reassurances by the Trump transition team that it will respect long-held traditions of press access at the White House and support a pool structure.”

"But the time to act on that promise is now. Pool reporters are in place in New York to cover the president-elect as he assembles his new administration. It is critical that they be allowed to do their jobs,” he said.

And it wasn’t the first time Trump has ignored decades of tradition and limited access to the press. Throughout his campaign, he traveled without his press pool accompanying him on his plane; he continued that post-election last week when he traveled independently to Washington to meet with President Obama.

Trump also has yet to hold a press conference following his election, the longest time any president-elect has waited in modern history and a continuation of months without speaking directly to the press on the campaign trail.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told NBC News that the president-elect is working on “formalizing a protective pool structure and look forward to implementing that as soon as possible."

Press has often taken issue with their access to the commander-in-chief. Obama on occasion has ditched his press corp and was criticized throughout his administration for not offering much access to the press. His was one of the most aggressive in prosecuting whistleblowers who leaked sensitive government information to the press, and his administration posted a record number of denials to Freedom of Information Requests for information regarding government agencies, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Trump’s actions, both as a candidate and now as president-elect, are troubling signs for reporters covering his incoming administration.

The real estate mogul made a disdain for and distrust of the press a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, promising to prosecute individual outlets for their reporting and often leading an energized audience at his rallies to jeer at and harass the press that covered him. His moves to limit access post-election — and the lack of guidance on basic developments throughout his transition process, like readouts of calls from foreign leaders or briefings on his plans to fill out his administration — suggest that strained relationship with the media could continue well into the next four years of his administration.