President-elect Donald Trump‘s team could move the White House press briefing room from the West Wing to another location that accommodates more media from around the country, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on Sunday.
Esquire magazine reported on Saturday that the Trump administration planned to relocate White House reporters from the press room to the White House Conference Center or the Old Executive Office Building next door.
Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Priebus said the team discussed moving news conferences out of the small West Wing briefing room to the Old Executive Office, which is part of the White House complex. He said no decision had been made.
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“I know that some of the folks in the press are uptight about this, and I understand,” Priebus said. “The only thing that’s been discussed is whether or not the initial press conferences are going to be in that small press … the press room that people see on TV is very, very tiny.”
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“So no one is moving out of the White House. That is the White House, where you can fit four times the number of people in the press conference, allowing more press, more coverage from all over the country … That’s what we’re talking about.”
Such a move would mark a potential change in access for reporters as the current briefing room is only steps from the Oval Office. The White House Conference Center had been used as a temporary press room during the George W. Bush administration.
The current press room has about 49 seats. Trump has long had contentious relations with what he refers to derisively as the “mainstream media,” banning some news outlets during the presidential campaign and publicly criticizing individual reporters.
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Those tensions escalated last week after some news organizations reported unsubstantiated allegations that suggested the president-elect could be blackmailed by Russia.
The White House Correspondents’ Association objected in a statement to “any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps,” and said that it would fight to keep the briefing room and access to senior administration officials open. Jeff Mason, a Reuters White House correspondent, is president of the WHCA.
On CBS’ Face the Nation, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said there was a “tremendous” amount of interest in the incoming administration.
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“The interest of the team is to make sure that we accommodate the broadest number of people who are interested and media from around the country and around the world,” Pence said.
The briefing room was built in 1970 by Richard Nixon over an old swimming pool installed by Franklin Roosevelt that was used regularly by John F. Kennedy but underutilized by later administrations. But the presence of reporters at the White House dates back even farther.
In addition to theater-style seats where the White House press secretary conducts daily briefings, the press area of the White House includes workspace for television, radio, print and online news organizations that cover the administration on a daily basis. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani, additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Caren Bohan and Meredith Mazzilli)