Trump leaves Washington without holding year-end news conference

Trump leaves Washington without holding year-end news conference
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Esper: Military personnel could help treat coronavirus patients 'if push comes to shove' Schumer calls for military official to act as medical equipment czar MORE left Washington on Friday for Christmas vacation without holding a year-end news conference, a break from his predecessors.

Trump took a handful of questions from a small group of reporters while signing tax and spending bills at the White House before departing for Florida, but did not hold a formal news conference with the entire press corps.

The president suggested he might speak with the press on Air Force One, telling reporters before boarding, “I’ll see you on the plane.” 

But Trump did not come back to the press cabin during the two-hour flight.

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Soon after he arrived at his Mar-a-Lago club Friday afternoon, the White House informed the media the president would not make any more public appearances for the rest of the day. 

A White House official, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said they decided to forgo a news conference because the president has benefitted from positive coverage over the GOP tax plan.

Officials did not hold a news conference where the president could have been peppered with questions about the Russia investigation and other topics.

Most, but not all, modern presidents have held major news conferences at year's end to offer holiday greetings, tout their accomplishments and set their agenda for the coming year.

The practice dates back to the 1970s. Each president starting with George H.W. Bush held some type of December news conference almost every year they were in office, according to data compiled by Martha Kumar, a professor who studies White House communications.

The last president to skip the news conference entirely was George W. Bush, who did not hold one the first two years of his presidency.

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPoll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters Can you kill a virus with a gun? Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE held one every year he was in office, though his first happened overseas with a smaller press corps and his 2011 news conference was conducted alongside Iraq’s prime minister.

But Trump has had a contentious relationship with the mainstream media, which he frequently calls “fake news.” And he hasn’t been afraid to shun traditions when it comes to the president’s relationship with the press. 

Trump became the first president since Jimmy Carter to skip the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner for non-health-related reasons.

The president has generally avoided traditional news conferences. He held only one during his first year in office, way back in February. 

By comparison, Obama held seven, Bush held four, President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonClintons send pizza to NY hospital staff treating coronavirus Budowsky: President Trump, meet with all former living presidents Why Klobuchar should be Biden's vice presidential pick MORE held 11 and President George H.W. Bush held 27 in each of their first years, according to the American Presidency Project

Trump prefers to take questions from smaller groups of reporters in informal settings, such as ceremonies in the Oval Office or on the South Lawn. 

He frequently shares his thoughts on Twitter, too. In lieu of a news conference, Trump tweeted 10 times as of Friday afternoon. 

This story was updated at 4:45 p.m.