President-Elect Donald Trump Breaks With Long History Of Press Conferences Donald Trump hasn't held a press conference since July, opting instead for frequent tweets and the occasional interview. Presidents-elect typically, though, take questions from reporters within days.
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President-Elect Trump Breaks With Long History Of Press Conferences

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President-Elect Trump Breaks With Long History Of Press Conferences

President-Elect Trump Breaks With Long History Of Press Conferences

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This was supposed to be a big day - President-elect Donald Trump's first press conference since winning the presidency last month. He was supposed to talk specifically about how he would deal with conflicts of interest between his international business holdings and his job as president, but it is not happening, postponed, his team says, until January. And we're joined now by NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who's been looking at how this compares to past presidencies. Tam, good morning.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So basic question here - is this normal?

KEITH: No. No, not at all. Typically, presidents-elect hold a press conference within a few days of winning, but Donald Trump hasn't held a press conference since July 27. That's actually the one where he suggested that Russia should hack Hillary Clinton's emails. Since then, he's done rallies, photo ops. He's tweeted a lot, but he hasn't held a formal press conference.

GREENE: But is this something that maybe journalists just obsess about? I mean, you know, he's said on Twitter that he's going to hold a press conference in the near future. His transition team saying it'll be January. I could see some people in the country saying, you know, I see him in interviews taking questions. You know, he communicates on social media. Is this that important?

KEITH: Well, unlike other ways of getting messages out, press conferences hold public officials and politicians more accountable to the American people because they have to answer questions that are - come in in sort of an uncontrolled environment. And if there's something that's problematic for the president, multiple reporters could ask about it in different ways to try to tease out what's really going on. And, you know, this isn't for us, the reporters, this is for the public. You know, we operate as a proxy for our listeners and our readers. I asked Martha Joynt Kumar about this. She studies the presidency and regularly attends press conferences at the White House. She's a political scientist.

MARTHA JOYNT KUMAR: The public expects that a president isn't just going to announce something, that he's going to explain it and be able to answer questions about it.

KEITH: We've created a feature on the NPR website that's up now that tracks how long it's been since Donald Trump's last press conference and how many times he's tweeted since then.

GREENE: OK.

KEITH: And for the record, as of right now, it has been 140 days and 1,456 tweets.

GREENE: Those numbers going up, though, as we speak, I guess.

KEITH: Well, every time he tweets.

GREENE: What's it been like for past presidents during transitions?

KEITH: There are good records for both President George W. Bush and President Obama. Two days after the Supreme Court decision that made George W. Bush president-elect in 2000, he held a press conference in Austin. Ultimately, he held 11 during what was a shortened transition period. President-elect Barack Obama held 18 different press conferences. And as with many other things, President-elect Trump has - has flouted this tradition.

GREENE: Well, and does that tell us anything about what things will be like in terms of the relationship between the press and President Trump once he gets started?

KEITH: Yeah. You know, one irony in this is that Donald Trump had been so critical of his rival Hillary Clinton's choice to avoid having press conferences for what was ultimately 276 days. Yesterday, Trump's future chief of staff, Reince Priebus, went on the Hugh Hewitt radio show and said that many things that have been normal in the relationship between the White House and the press are - are up for grabs as they consider what the Trump White House will look like. Here's the tape.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REINCE PRIEBUS: The traditions, while some of them are great, I think it's time to revisit a lot of these things that have been done in the White House. And I can assure you that change is going to happen.

KEITH: Yeah, and Trump ran as a nontraditional candidate. Aides say there's no reason to believe that he would change that as president.

GREENE: OK, NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks a lot, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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