Donald Trump is meeting with The New York Times after all, despite announcing by Tweet early Tuesday morning that he was canceling sessions with the paper’s executives and journalists.
It continued a whirlwind 24 hours of Trump’s mixed messages to the media.
The president-elect kicked it off Monday with a session in which he had invited television news anchors and executives to establish a new working relationship, only to berate them for what he termed unfair campaign coverage. He then told them he wanted a reset with the press.
Early Tuesday, Trump tweeted that the Times had sought to change the ground rules of their planned meetings, which he termed “not nice.”
The top spokeswoman for the newspaper, Eileen Murphy, contradicted Trump’s account in an email to NPR. Murphy said that the Times “was unaware that the meeting was cancelled until we saw the President-Elect’s tweet this morning.”
She said there had been two planned sessions: The first, a smaller one, was to be off-the-record. At the second, Trump’s camp had agreed he would respond to questions, on the record, from a group of the paper’s reporters, columnists and editors.
Trump had sought to eliminate the longer on-the-record meeting; according to Murphy, the Times refused, and then Trump’s camp seemingly agreed to revert to the original understanding.
Later, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told a Times reporter serving as a pool reporter for the political press corps that the meeting was back on.
Times Co. spokeswoman Eileen Murphy issued this statement:
“Mr. Trump’s staff has told us that the President Elect’s meeting with The Times is on again. He will meet with our publisher off-the-record and that session will be followed by an on-the-record meeting with our journalists and editorial columnists.”
A half-hour after his original tweet this morning, Trump complained on Twitter that the Times continues “to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!”
Trump did not refer to a specific news story. However, a front page story in the Times on Tuesday morning strongly suggested, in measured terms, that Trump’s vast foreign holdings could represent a violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.
Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution states: ” … no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [these United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Canceling meetings at the newspaper could have allowed him the chance to avoid direct questioning on the subject. At the least, the past day’s media misadventures have deflected much attention from that potentially deeply damaging subject — for the moment.
At Monday’s gathering, Trump and a small group of aides met with news anchors and executives of the nation’s leading television networks in an off-the-record session at which both sides expressed the desire to set the tone for a new working relationship in the Trump administration.
According to a participant who took detailed notes, Trump started by assailing the press’s coverage of his campaign as unfair, pointing especially to CNN and NBC. He also said he hoped to establish a “cordial and productive” rapport and took questions for 45 minutes about his policies, appointments and plans. None of that was on the record, however.
Instead, later on Monday evening, Trump posted a video to social media presenting — in only the most general terms — his aspirations and progress on his transition. Presidential desire for such direct communication with the public is not new. President George W. Bush often complained about the way the media operate as a filter out of his control. And President Obama took advantage of social media frequently to communicate directly to the public.
Trump now communicates with the media as well as the public through his social media accounts — as The New York Times discovered once more Tuesday morning.