State Department mutes reporter on briefing call for asking about Bolton book

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A spokeswoman for the State Department on Monday muted the line of a reporter asking officials about allegations in former national security adviser John Bolton’s new book during a conference call announcing new restrictions on Chinese media outlets. 

Morgan Ortagus cut off Reuters reporter David Brunnstrom, who attempted to ask a question about Bolton’s book, saying “that’s not what this call’s about.” 

“OK, AT&T, we can mute that line,” she said, before moving to a question from another reporter.

The State Department held the press briefing to discuss its latest decision, which designated four more Chinese state-backed media outlets as “foreign missions,” requiring them to report their numbers of personnel, certain identifying information and where they hold real estate in the U.S. 

Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell told reporters that “the U.S. system guarantees press freedom while China subordinates the press to the Communist Party,” in announcing the actions.

Bloomberg reporter Nick Whadhams followed up asking how the U.S. can send a message on press freedom while cutting off reporters asking questions.

Ortagus called that question “pretty offensive,” defending the State Department’s availability and willingness to answer questions by the press as “available 24/7”. 

“We like to focus these policy briefings on the policy, but any insinuation that we haven’t made ourselves available or responsive to your questions — Nick’s insinuation is offensive and I just would like to go on the record that that’s totally inaccurate,” she said.

Bolton’s book was released to media outlets and became widely available online Saturday before officially hitting shelves Tuesday. The book made a number of allegations against President Trump and his dealings with foreign leaders, including that he asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help his 2020 reelection bid and offered to help intervene in a federal case against a Turkish bank accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran up to billions of dollars. 

Bolton also describes a tense relationship between Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying the secretary had considered resigning in protest and criticized Trump in private.

Tags AT&T Bloomberg Donald Trump John Bolton Mike Pompeo Morgan Ortagus Reuters
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