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Trump's press 'briefing' that wasn't

It was a quiet afternoon at the White House toward the end of a four-day week. Network correspondents were p...

Posted: Jan 4, 2019 6:29 AM
Updated: Jan 4, 2019 6:29 AM

It was a quiet afternoon at the White House toward the end of a four-day week. Network correspondents were preparing for their evening newscasts, cameramen were scattered throughout the briefing room and outside, some reporters had stepped out for coffee.

Minutes after 4:00 p.m., a voice came on the overhead speaker announcing that press secretary Sarah Sanders would hold a briefing in "five minutes."

The scramble was on.

For a White House that has held increasingly rare briefings, the short notice was unusual yet not surprising. And as the press appearances have shrunk, the importance of each opportunity to ask questions has increased.

Still photographers ran to secure their spots. Television camera crews and audio technicians rushed to turn on, focus and color balance cameras and wire up correspondents for live shots. The White House audiovisual staff turned the podium microphones on and the lights up at the last minute.

And when Sanders took the podium, instead of taking questions she introduced a "very special guest" -- the President of the United States.

"Hello, everybody, beautiful place, I haven't seen it," President Donald Trump said as he walked in, wishing the press assembled a happy new year.

Thursday marked Trump's first official appearance at the briefing room podium nearly two years into his administration. But despite being billed as a press briefing, and taking place in the briefing room, Trump did not deliver a briefing (he took no questions) and instead gave a statement pressing for his border wall.

His visit was such a surprise that the podium wasn't dressed with a presidential seal. Journalists were still filling in seats in around the back of the briefing room, which is normally packed and standing room only for briefings, as the President began to speak.

He offered his warm congratulations to newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, praising what he called her "tremendous, tremendous achievement."

On the first day of divided government during his administration, Trump cited infrastructure as one area where the White House could work with the Democratic-controlled House. Then, Trump made a push for his border wall, introducing some members of the National Border Patrol Council and National ICE Council.

The remarks came on the 13th day of a partial government shutdown as Democrats have officially taken control of the House and negotiations to fund the government have reached a stalemate due to ongoing disputes about border security and wall funding. The White House won't say whether the President would accept a funding package with less than $5 billion for a border wall, but leadership from both parties in Congress are expected to meet with the President at the White House Friday morning.

The President said he had been sitting in the Oval Office with the border patrol agents in a previously scheduled meeting and decided he wanted to "see the press" so the agents could "tell them about the importance of the wall."

"First time I've ever done this. The first time I've done it, and I've done it for you (the National Border Patrol Council members). And I'm very proud of it," he said.

Trump refused to take questions about the government shutdown, walking out of the briefing room along with the border patrol agents, Sanders, communications director Bill Shine and social media director Dan Scavino, a mere eight minutes after entering.

One reporter, who had gotten word of the briefing but was across town on Capitol Hill, rushed back across Pennsylvania Avenue, but missed it altogether.

"It was over before I even got there," the reporter texted.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 293542

Reported Deaths: 6638
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19601229
Hinds18712386
Harrison16569277
Rankin12637263
Jackson12483219
Lee9671160
Madison9420196
Jones7914146
Forrest7159136
Lauderdale6798226
Lowndes6014137
Lamar585880
Lafayette5716113
Washington5182129
Bolivar4599121
Oktibbeha440391
Panola428392
Pearl River4138128
Warren4122113
Pontotoc408068
Marshall400392
Monroe3981126
Union393673
Neshoba3777167
Lincoln3491100
Hancock341674
Leflore3363118
Sunflower317385
Tate301574
Pike299193
Scott292868
Alcorn290760
Itawamba289072
Yazoo284962
Coahoma276367
Tippah276165
Copiah276057
Simpson272778
Prentiss268858
Leake252171
Marion251578
Wayne251541
Covington248278
Grenada246277
Adams233377
George231145
Newton226352
Winston221375
Jasper212744
Tishomingo211965
Attala206369
Chickasaw200851
Holmes181770
Clay178250
Stone171829
Tallahatchie170039
Clarke168971
Calhoun157128
Smith152431
Yalobusha143536
Greene127233
Walthall123640
Noxubee122829
Perry121434
Montgomery121338
Lawrence119521
Carroll117923
Amite110932
Webster110030
Jefferson Davis101231
Tunica98823
Claiborne97929
Benton93324
Humphreys92427
Kemper89623
Quitman77114
Franklin75619
Choctaw69516
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson61927
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 491849

Reported Deaths: 9869
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson707641366
Mobile35937724
Madison32307450
Tuscaloosa24024410
Montgomery22502499
Shelby21848214
Baldwin19698277
Lee14926151
Morgan13624251
Calhoun13202285
Etowah13154319
Marshall11243208
Houston10058259
Limestone9348134
Elmore9345182
Cullman8879179
St. Clair8799221
Lauderdale8588210
DeKalb8436174
Talladega7500163
Walker6509251
Jackson6483102
Autauga622890
Blount6084125
Colbert6004118
Coffee5235102
Dale4627106
Russell402930
Franklin398876
Covington3949106
Chilton386298
Escambia377472
Tallapoosa3572141
Clarke343149
Chambers3399108
Dallas3397141
Pike292972
Lawrence282284
Marion281295
Winston246266
Bibb244560
Geneva238870
Marengo233755
Pickens223954
Barbour210651
Hale209068
Fayette199956
Butler195265
Henry182041
Cherokee176438
Monroe166038
Randolph163140
Washington156334
Crenshaw144054
Clay143454
Macon141643
Cleburne137139
Lamar132432
Lowndes130749
Wilcox121425
Bullock116336
Conecuh106523
Perry105427
Sumter98331
Coosa88623
Greene87132
Choctaw54923
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