White House abruptly cancels Monday coronavirus press briefing, continuing dispute with media

The gathering which had become a mainstay for President Trump to provide updates about developments to fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

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President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, listens to a reporter’s question during a coronavirus update briefing Friday, April 10, 2020
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, listens to a reporter’s question during a coronavirus update briefing Friday, April 10, 2020
White House/D. Myles Cullen
Updated: April 27, 2020 - 12:33pm

The White House on Monday abruptly cancelled its daily Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, a gathering which had become a mainstay for President Trump to provide updates about developments to fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

The notice came late Monday morning after guidance sent to White House reporters Sunday night said the briefing would continue as it usually had in the past several recent weeks. 

"There has never been, in the history of our Country, a more vicious or hostile Lamestream Media than there is right now, even in the midst of a National Emergency, the Invisible Enemy!," Trump tweeted Monday about an hour before the cancellation notice was sent to the White House correspondents' email list. 
 

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Monday's development comes after the White House and CNN reportedly continued their fight over press room access in dispute over a reporting seat at Friday's coronavirus briefing. That altercation was likely the next step in the White House exerting what it argues is its constitutionally-sound right to maintain order in its press briefings.  

Earlier this month, the Justice Department rejected a CNN political analyst's legal claim he deserved access to President Trump's coronavirus briefings, warning the White House press room is ultimately federal property and not the legal domain of journalists.

The DOJ's letter rejecting CNN and Playboy journalist Brian Karem's demands to access the briefings appeared to serve notice to WHCA that its power to regulate who attends White House press briefings was based only on years of "tradition" and not a legal right.

“The press Briefing Room is White House property," and the White House press secretary "merely acquiesced" to WHCA's seating arrangements for reporters during the pandemic, the department's letter stated. The letter also cited court case law indicating that a president choosing which media outlets to speak to and deny did not violate the First Amendment.

Karem, a frequent Trump critic, objected to being denied access to the briefings by WHCA while the White House allowed Chanel Rion, a reporter for conservative outlet One America News, into the briefing room independently of WHCA approval. The WHCA recently voted to ban Rion from the briefings, however Rion returned to the briefing room as a guest of the White House press secretary.

On Sunday, the Trump campaign slammed the media outlet POLITICO for its reporting that was later amended claiming that Trump “himself” owed millions of dollars to the Bank of China, and that the bill was scheduled to come due “in the middle of what could be Trump’s second term.”

"That was entirely false – Donald Trump was never the borrower – but the story has since fallen apart even further," the campaign said in a press statement. "Politico has changed its story to reflect the fact that the Bank of China’s involvement was limited to 22 days in 2012. In other words, eight years ago, a private citizen and international businessman’s business was a passive minority investor in a limited partnership that owned a New York City building that was refinanced with a loan from a consortium of banks, and three weeks later the Bank of China no longer had any ownership interest in the loan. Quite a scoop, guys! This means the entire point of Politico’s false story – that President Trump was in debt to the Chinese – was wrong. The story is now gutted given the significant “clarification,” but it should have been retracted completely."

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