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Politics & Government

President-Elect Donald Trump Will Hold First Press Conference Since Before Election


This week, President-elect Trump will take questions from the press for the first time since the election. On Wednesday, he will hold what he is calling a, quote, "general news conference." To understand what that may mean, NPR's media correspondent, David Folkenflik, is here with us. Hi, David.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So NPR's politics team has been tracking the number of days since Trump's last press conference. It's been - wait for it - 164 days. Why is a press conference so important?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, look, it may seem like self-justifying banter from the press to say he's got to come down and take questions from reporters. After all, the reporters are the ones who get to ask the questions. At the same time, this is very much ensuring that there's a degree of transparency and accountability. And let's not forget, Donald Trump has on a number of occasions said, I'll get to that later. You'll learn more about my taxes and finances later on. You'll learn more about how I'll handle the pervasive conflicts of interest that involve his business entanglements abroad.

Well, later keeps coming and the answers keep not showing up. And I think it is important for the public to hear that the man who's going to lead them for the next four years is willing to address these questions and has answers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I guess the idea that, you know, President-elect Trump will actually be live, presumably on the air, taking questions from reporters that are unscripted - this will be a big moment.

FOLKENFLIK: I think it's very important to be able to hear from our public leaders in ways that they can't entirely orchestrate, seeing them speak live and unscripted and take questions that they themselves haven't arranged ahead of time. I think this is a way in which citizens who are deciding what they think of their leaders who govern in their name, this is one of the ways in which they can evaluate how they feel about the quality of the leadership.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, are we sure that Trump will take questions? In his tweet, he called this a news conference. We're calling it a press conference. Is there a difference?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, about 40 years ago, as I understand it, aides to President Nixon started calling press conferences news conferences to indicate that the president is the one making the news and that the agenda isn't set by the press. So I think that you're hearing echoes of that. If he doesn't take questions, it's not a news conference or press conference at all. It's a public statement. He'll be making some remarks and then walking away from the lectern. We're going to see what happens.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have the press really done a good job explaining what their role is?

FOLKENFLIK: I think that Trump has succeeded in many ways at making the press look like an actor in this campaign season rather than somebody holding the candidates and major political figures to account. And I think that's really undercutting the press here. Any time it holds the Trump administration accountable he'll say, well, here they are being biased again rather than accepting that that is part of the give and take of democracy and of the accountability we expect.

So that's something the press is going to have to earn back, I think, is its stature with the public as it seeks to do its job and serve its mission and show how it's arriving at its conclusions and will explain why the reporting it does is necessary. I think so much reporting at times seems designed for the Beltway insiders, people of the political class who understand why this subcommittee hearing or that nomination is so important without people saying this is what is at stake.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: On a final note, any thoughts on the timing of this news conference-slash-press conference? Why is he holding it now?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, so much is going on next Wednesday. The Republicans on Capitol Hill are holding multiple hearings for various nominees, some of whom are quite controversial. So it looks as though he intends to dominate the news cycle by having this. You know, this also was intended to be a press conference, or at least promised to be a press conference, about his business entanglements. And yet now he's promising a general news conference, which means that he's going to sweep up other controversies in it. And that's fine. I think there are a lot of other substantive issues that need to be explored as well.

But it certainly means that there will be a diminishment of attention that can be given to the question of his business entanglements. You know, each time that he promises to come forward with something, when you actually get to the point of disclosure it seems as though there's a lot less that was promised for the press and particularly for the public to understand.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: David Folkenflik, NPR's media correspondent. Great to have you on.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.