Ex-White House press, military officials call on Grisham to restart regular briefings

Category: The Hill
Date: 10 January 2020
Author: The Hill

A group of 13 former White House press secretaries, foreign service and military officials on Friday called on ’s current press secretary to restart regular briefings, saying the public “has a right to know what its government is doing, and the government has a duty to explain what it is doing.”

The officials, who served under former presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush,  and , wrote the opinion piece in CNN after more than 300 days passed since the last standard press briefing at the White House. 

The group wrote that the presidents they served believed a “better-informed public” would be more supportive of their policies.

“And a well-informed citizenry would be better equipped to understand the difficult choices and decisions presidents must make, especially in times of crisis and challenge. Bringing the American people in on the process, early and often, makes for better democracy,” the op-ed states.

The piece argues that preparing for regular briefings helps the government “run better” because it requires officials across agencies to work together so the administration “speaks with one voice, telling one story, however compelling it might be.”

“All of us have experienced the challenges of a regular press briefing whether at the White House, the State Department or the Pentagon. We all had days where the last place we wanted to be was behind one of those podiums. But day after day, we persisted,” the op-ed reads. “We believed that regular briefings were good for the American people, important for the administrations we served, and critical for the governing of our great country.”

The open letter to Grisham comes amid increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran following a Trump-ordered airstrike that killed Iran’s top military general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad.

In response to Soleimani’s death, Iran fired several missiles at two bases in Iraq that house U.S. forces and allied personnel. There were no casualties reported in the strikes, and Trump said the bases sustained limited damage.

The ex-government officials wrote that briefings “take on even more importance” in times of military and international conflict.

They said that it allows for communication to reach soldiers and diplomats around the world, as well as their families who want to hear regular information about their loved ones. 

“Americans want to know the latest developments and seek the truth. On social media, wild rumors can fly, and our adversaries can manipulate disinformation to their advantage. This is now well documented,” the op-ed states.

“For that reason, among many, the country needs trusted sources of information delivered on a timely and regular schedule. That is the fundamental responsibility of people who serve as spokesmen and women for presidents, cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking government officials.”

The Hill has reached out to the White House press office for comment.

Grisham’s predecessor, Sanders, broke with tradition by essentially ending daily press sessions in the James S. Brady Briefing Room. According to CNN, the White House has not conducted a formal briefing with since March 11, 2019 — 306 days ago.

Grisham took over the role in June as chief Trump spokeswoman in June and defended the decision to not restart regular briefings by arguing that Trump, who regularly speaks with reporters at the White House, is “his own best spokesperson.”

"And he's the most accessible president in history as all of the media knows,” she said in September. 

"To be honest, the briefings have become a lot of theatre," Grisham said last year. "And I think that a lot of reporters were doing it to get famous. They're writing books now. They're all getting famous off of this presidency, and so I think it's great what we're doing now."

She also recently caught flack for the lack of briefings from best-selling authors Don Winslow and Stephen King, who promised to donate more than $200,000 to charity if Grisham took questions from reporters.

CNN anchor revealed on Twitter that he asked Grisham about the offers from both Winslow and King. 

Grisham reportedly criticized the offers in response, saying: “If you have $200,000 to play with, why not just help children because it’s a good thing to do?” 

“Donations to charity should never come with strings attached,” she added, according to Tapper.

Source: The Hill

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