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Why New Press Secretary Grisham Refuses To Hold Briefings

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The White House has a new press secretary, but even if you’re a pretty close follower of political news, you may have missed her.

Stephanie Grisham, who had previously been serving just as First Lady Melania Trump’s communications director, took over for Sarah Sanders as press secretary for President Donald Trump at the beginning of July. She has retained her previous position working for the first lady, and she’s also functioning White House communications director.

One way she has been able to juggle all these duties is that she has declined to hold a single on-camera press briefing since taking over for Sanders. Sanders had once held briefings with some regularity but by the end of tenure, she had gone months without taking questions from reporters in the White House press room. CNN reported Friday that it has been 165 days since a formal on-camera White House briefing.  The State Department and the Pentagon, too, have drastically cut back on their press availabilities.

The new CNN report also focused on Grisham’s decision not to hold briefings. This reportedly came as a surprise to her friends, who thought she would reinstate the practice once she took on the new role. Instead, Trump has been giving increasingly frantic, disjointed, and bigoted comments to reporters in impromptu outdoor question and answer sessions.

CNN noted:

People close to Grisham have said she is now doubtful about fielding questions from reporters on camera, and has weighed holding off camera briefings instead. She has remarked she doesn’t want a fate similar to her predecessor, Sarah Sanders, whose tenure was marked with confrontations with reporters.

Sanders’ mendacious and tumultuous time as press secretary has indeed permanently tarnished her reputation, though she may still thrive on the appreciation she’s earned from stalwart Trump supporters. Perhaps in one of the darkest moments of her career, Robert Mueller revealed in his report that Sanders concocted a completely baseless story she told reporters about FBI agents calling her to thank the president for firing former Director James Comey, the event that triggered the special counsel investigation.

Grisham, understandably, may indeed want to avoid this “fate.” But a better strategy than tearing down an institution of government transparency would be to refuse to work with a liar like Trump altogether.

Fox News Hires Sarah Sanders (She’ll Fit In Well)

After she repeatedly lied to reporters and the American public for nearly two years, Fox News announced on Thursday that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be its newest official contributor.

“The former Trump administration advisor is expected to contribute commentary to Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox News Digital and the Fox Nation streaming service, the Fox Corporation unit announced Thursday,” Variety reported.

Sanders is set to make her first official appearance as a Fox News employee on “Fox & Friends,” Trump’s favorite show on the disinformation network.

Since Trump took office, there has been a revolving door of employment between the network and members of his administration. Former communications director Hope Hicks is now an executive at Fox’s parent company along with several others, while multiple members of Trump’s team came from Fox.

Sarah Sanders will join following a confession to special counsel Robert Mueller, who was at the time investigating the Trump campaign, that she blatantly lied to reporters and the public.

Sanders had claimed in a White House press briefing that Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey because FBI agents had “lost confidence” in him. But she admitted to investigators that she simply made up the cover story.

When she wasn’t lying to the public while she was a government employee, Sanders was hiding from the press. She effectively killed the daily White House press briefing, depriving the public of an opportunity to see the administration defend and support its actions under questioning from the independent press.

There has not been a White House press briefing since March 11.

Instead of facing reporters, Sanders often chose to appear on Fox News, where she could give the administration’s spin on multiple issues in an environment and where she was not seriously challenged by the network’s conservative hosts.

For over 23 years, Fox has operated as the leading outlet for pro-conservative, pro-Republican propaganda.

Sanders’ hiring from the Trump White House press operation gives more fuel to the contention that the network is not a journalistic enterprise but rather just a dishonest GOP mouthpiece.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Successor To Sarah Sanders Is Unlikely To Improve On Her Dismal Tenure

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ imminent departure, announced via tweet last week by President Donald Trump, will inspire few laments from the nation’s journalists. Inhabitants of Sanders’ office are supposed to balance their political service defending the president with their public service keeping the nation informed through the press. But Sanders has rejected the latter role, shamelessly spreading misinformation and lies while accusing journalists of doing the same, viciously belittling members of the press and stripping them of access as she effectively eliminated White House press briefings.

There’s no official word yet on who Sanders’ successor will be. The lists of possible picks circulating in the press include current administration officials, current Fox News personalities, and current and former administration officials who were previously Fox News personalities, underscoring the propaganda network’s unique role under the Trump presidency.

What seems likely is that Sanders’ replacement will either be as bad as she was or will have a remarkably short tenure in the position. Her dishonesty and antagonism toward the press may be personal character flaws. But under the Trump administration, they are also all-but-official job requirements for the post.

No politician’s record of honesty is entirely unmarred, putting their spokespersons in the difficult position of trying to spin their words to skeptical journalists. But Trump lies constantly, at a rate and scale far beyond that of a typical politician, and demands his aides show fidelity to him when he tells untruths. These shameless and brazen lies are a core function of the Trump presidency, a way for him to bind together his coalition by regularly spreading disinformation. Any press secretary will face constant questions about the president’s relentless falsehoods, and it is difficult to imagine them lasting in the job if they fail to provide Trump with a vigorous defense.

Anti-media invective has long been a staple of conservative commentary. But because Trump has sought to assert himself as the final arbiter of reality, he has needed to make delegitimizing the press a central plank of his political platform. His use of authoritarian language about the press has continued even as his supporters have threatened and enacted plots to murder journalists. This Saturday, for example, he accused The New York Times of committing a “virtual act of Treason” for publishing a story Trump claimed was “bad for our Country”; the next day, he claimed that both the Times and The Washington Post are “a disgrace to our Country, the Enemy of the People.” The next press secretary will be asked to reckon with Trump’s rhetoric and will likely not have the option of simply saying that he or she disagrees with the president.

Sanders’ replacement may offer some stylistic differences and could lack some of the sheer glee she seems to take in the worst aspects of her work. But her successor will be a liar and an antagonist of journalists. The position requires it.

Sarah Sanders Started Lying Within Hours After Mueller Finished Statement

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Well, it’s a day of the week that ends with “y,” so it’s a good bet that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is lying.

On Wednesday morning, Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced his resignation from the Justice Department, announcing the conclusion of his investigation and reiterating the key facts laid out in his report. And right on cue, Sanders was on Fox News just a few hours later, blatantly lying about what he said.

“The entire existence of the Special Counsel and this process was to determine whether or not there was collusion,” Sanders said. “There was no question: He was explicitly clear in the fact that there was no collusion.”

Nope, nope, and nope.

Mueller explained that “This included investigating any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign.”  So, to be clear, it wasn’t about determining whether there was “collusion” — a term Mueller explicitly rejects the use of in his report. And on the topic of “links,” Mueller found many between Russia and the Trump campaign.

But Mueller also noted, further proving Sanders’ claim false, that he was tasked as special counsel with investigating obstruction of justice by Trump. And on that front, Mueller found ample evidence of criminal activity, though he determined he could not accuse the president of a crime:

And in a second volume, the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation involving the president.The order appointing the Special Counsel authorized us to investigate actions that could obstruct the investigation.

Obviously, since Mueller didn’t investigate through the framework of “collusion,” he absolutely was not “explicitly clear” that “there was no collusion.” He did investigate whether there was evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, and he found that “there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.” But this isn’t even the claim that “there was no conspiracy” or even “there was no evidence of a conspiracy.” Just that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove it to the standards of the criminal justice system.

Given that Mueller did lay out evidence of obstruction — while saying that he couldn’t conclude Trump didn’t commit a crime — it’s no surprise Sanders wants to distract from the substance of the report. But yet again, her willingness to just brazenly lie about something that happened on live TV just a few hours before she spoke shows her radical disrespect for the American people.