By Chris Adams
In a session with the National Press Foundation on the Washington agenda for 2019, veteran White House reporters offered their insights on the Trump White House agenda, as well as how reporters can cover it.
All three reporters are heavily involved with the White House Correspondents’ Association, the group that deals with the president or his lieutenants on a daily basis. For the first two years of the Trump administration, the association has continuously pushed for greater access on behalf of the press in general. It also weighed in on the episode in which the White House took away the press pass for Jim Acosta, a CNN reporter whose persistent questioning had annoyed the president.
“The White House did the right thing in restoring Jim Acosta’s hard pass,” association president Olivier Knox said in a statement at the time.
“There’s a bit of an absurd dimension to trying to predict with any sort of certainty what this White House will do over any given timeframe,” he said. But there are things the president is likely to try to accomplish. One of the most important: Continuing to remake the federal judiciary in a conservative mold. He also talked about what Trump may do regarding tax policy, trade policy, North Korean denuclearization and Middle East peace efforts.
“What we don’t know is the degree to which this will be sidetracked by … the bevy of investigations into individuals in the Trump administration,” he said.
Anita Kumar (bio, Twitter), a White House reporter for McClatchy who in late 2018 is moving to Politico, talked about those investigations and how the White House is planning to defend the administration on issues of policy (hurricane response, border actions) or personal issues (the president’s taxes).
One complicating factor: The White House is understaffed – and it hasn’t shown an inclination to beef up that staff as previous administrations have done.
“They’re starting to do that now, but they have this serious problem in which they’re always understaffed,” she said. Kumar is also a board member for the correspondents’ association.
Margaret Talev (bio, Twitter) is a past president of the correspondents’ association, a White House reporter for Bloomberg News and a CNN political analyst. She talked about covering the president’s agenda, but also gave a unique perspective on coverage of the president, given that she had just returned from three months out of the daily news cycle.
“There is more interest in the long-term story outside of Washington than there is in the short-term story,” said Talev, who had just come off being a resident fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. “Who’s going to be the next chief of staff is not as much of a concern outside of Washington as it is in Washington. The day-to-day turn of the (Robert) Mueller investigation is not as much of a concern, but what it all means is a very big concern.”