Bill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings

Bill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings
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Today marks a milestone. It’s now been 209 days since the last White House daily briefing, held by Sarah SandersSarah Elizabeth SandersBill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings White House correspondent April Ryan to moderate fundraising event for Buttigieg White House press secretary defends lack of daily briefings: Trump 'is the most accessible president in history' MORE on March 11. Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamTrump undergoes 'portions' of annual physical exam Trump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Trump grants pardons to two service members in war-crimes cases MORE became White House press secretary on July 1. She has not held one daily briefing and says she has no plans to.

Of course, there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the White House has to hold daily press briefings. In fact, they’ve only been around since 1995, inaugurated by former President Clinton’s press secretary Mike McCurry. They were continued under former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. Why? Because they proved so valuable — to the public and to the president.

Contrary to what Trump supporters want us to believe, the people hurt most by the lack of daily briefings are not White House reporters, who don’t get their chance to preen on camera every day. The real losers are, first of all, the American people, who don’t get their daily look behind the curtain to know what the government’s up to, or how their tax dollars are being spent.

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But the other big loser, even if they don’t realize it, is the Trump administration itself, which loses the daily opportunity to get its message out, set its own priorities, explain and defend its programs, and rebut any criticism, all from the power of the White House podium — in the voice of a seasoned professional press spokesperson.

And never was the damage done by canceling the daily briefings more apparent than last Thursday’s briefing room appearance by acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyNew witness claims firsthand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes Trump files to dismiss lawsuit from Bolton aide on impeachment testimony OMB official to testify in impeachment probe if subpoenaed after others refused MORE. It was amateur hour at the worst. Mulvaney was out of his element, unprepared and woefully incapable of parrying even the most obvious reporters’ question.

White House reporters were quickly summoned to the briefing room so Mulvaney could announce the location of next year’s Group of Seven (G-7) summit. After considering every other possible venue, he reported with a straight face, the White House had decided that the best and only place in the entire 50 states to hold the summit was the President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE-owned National Doral golf course. But there was no conflict of interest, he insisted, because the event would be held “at cost.” An argument so patently unbelievable and outrageous that Trump himself pulled the plug on it two days later — leaving Mulvaney with egg on his face.

But things only went downhill from there. Next, Mulvaney, totally clueless, waded into Trump’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, telling ABC’s Jonathan Karl that, of course, there was a “quid pro quo” involved: aid for dirt. We do it all the time, he insisted. “Get over it!” Later, of course, he tried to deny admitting a quid pro quo. Only one problem: He’d done so live, on national television. Play the tape.

For Trump, it was a public relations disaster, with grave consequences. Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellNew witness claims firsthand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes Pelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' Overnight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' MORE (D-Calif.) called it a full “confession.” Rep. Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyBipartisan Senate climate caucus grows by six members House Democrat: Taylor's impeachment testimony made 'very clear' there was a quid pro quo New bipartisan Senate climate caucus aims to take 'politics' out of the topic MORE (R-Fla.) said it amounted to “game, set, match.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy READ: Top NSC aide Tim Morrison's closed-door impeachment inquiry testimony Top NSC aide puts Sondland at front lines of Ukraine campaign, speaking for Trump MORE (D-Calif.) observed that, for Trump, things suddenly went from “very, very bad to much, much worse.”

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But here’s the point. It could have all been avoided if Trump had a professional press team, skilled in dealing with reporters, holding daily briefings. Instead, he occasionally sends out amateur players like Mulvaney or worse yet, holds court with reporters himself before walking to his helicopter.

For his own sake, three things Trump should do: Shut up. Bring back the daily briefings. And fire Mulvaney.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”