The White House is looking to make changes to its press shop as reporters complain about how the Trump administration conducts its daily briefings.
White House officials wouldn’t confirm any specific staff changes on Monday but acknowledged that they would like to hire additional press aides. Trump’s communications director, Mike Dubke, resigned last month.
“We have sought input from many people as we look to expand our communications operation,” a White House official told the Washington Examiner. “As he did in the beginning, Sean Spicer is managing both the communications and press office.”
On Monday, there were new reports that Spicer could leave the press secretary position and take on another role at the White House.
Fox News reported that Spicer will still be involved in communications, but will transition into a new role at the level of deputy chief of staff. Politico also reported that conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham and Daily Mail editor David Martosko, whose names have both been floated for White House positions, have been approached again about communications roles. CNN said Spicer’s new role would make room for a new White House press secretary.
Spicer did not return a request for comment about his role.
In recent weeks, there have been fewer daily on-camera briefings than at the beginning of the administration. Deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders has been filling in for Spicer more frequently.
Tensions between Spicer and some in the media remain high. On Monday, the White House again held an off-camera gaggle for reporters, which meant Spicer’s comments could be reported but the audio and video couldn’t be aired.
That led to protests from reporters. “So the White House press secretary is getting to a point where he’s just kind of useless,” Acosta said of Spicer on CNN after the gaggle. “If he can’t come out and answer the questions, and they’re just not going to do this on-camera or audio, why are we having these briefings or these gaggles in the first place?”
During the briefing, one reporter asked Spicer: “On days that you come out here and there’s not a camera and there’s not a microphone, and the president speaks, could you ask him if he’d be ever so kind as to step up here and answer some questions from us on that day?”
“I’ll be sure to share your sentiments with him,” Spicer replied.
The press secretary was also asked to explain why the audio and video from the briefing were being restricted.
“I’ve said it since the beginning — the president spoke today, he was on camera,” Spicer replied. “He’ll make another comment today at the technology summit. And there are days that I’ll decide that the president’s voice should be the one that speaks and iterate his priorities.”
Trump mused last month of getting rid of a daily press briefing with a spokesman. Speaking to the Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, Trump said: “Unless I have them every two weeks and I do them myself, we don’t have them. I think it’s a good idea.”
“First of all, you have a level of hostility that’s incredible, and it’s very unfair,” he said. “Sarah Huckabee is a lovely, young woman. You know Sean Spicer, he is a wonderful human being, he’s a nice man.”
Trump added that Spicer is “doing a good job, but he gets beat up.”
Near the end of his first 100 days in office, Trump told the Washington Examiner he would give his an administration an “A” on substance but a lower mark for communications.
“I would say we haven’t communicated the word out, so I’d give us a little bit less than that, but one of the reasons we haven’t done that is, we’re too busy working,” Trump said to the Examiner in an interview at the time.
But Trump didn’t blame Spicer. “Sean’s doing great. Look, Sean is being attacked viciously by people … if Sean were a liberal Democrat, they’d be saying he’s the greatest person ever to live,” the president said.
Dubke, who served as communications director, left the administration after less than three months on the job. He had ruffled feathers among Trump loyalists who viewed the new communications director as someone who was too close to the Republican establishment.
At the time, White House aide Kellyanne Conway suggested changes to the press operations were in the works, including briefings from people other than the White House press secretary.
“There will always be White House briefings, but as you have seen, we have had cabinet secretaries and other administration officials going up to the podium when the issue sets they are working on are actually part of the news of the day,” she said. “And that’s going very effectively as well. Not every briefing has to be on camera, either.”