President Trump skirts tough questions again

President Trump: Leaks are the 'real story'
President Trump: Leaks are the 'real story'

President Donald Trump has a strategy for skirting tough questions at press briefings: Don't call on reporters from the mainstream media.

Twice in one week, Trump held a press conference with a visiting foreign leader and only called on reporters from conservative news outlets, or at least outlets likely to be favorable to him. By doing so, he avoided having to address revelations about his campaign advisers' relationships with Russians officials.

In a joint appearance with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, Trump took two questions -- one from the Christian Broadcasting Network and the other from the conservative website Townhall. (It is customary at these events for each leader to take two questions from their country's press.)

Neither reporter Trump called on inquired about reports from Tuesday night that high-level advisers close to then-candidate Trump were in constant communication with Russian officials during the campaign. The CBN reporter did, however, reference the recent ouster of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and the controversy over his contacts with Russian officials.

Just before Wednesday's briefing began, White House communications official Sarah Sanders could be seen talking to the Townhall reporter. Following a brief exchange, Sanders moved the reporter from the seventh row toward the front.

Pavlich tweeted after the briefing, "I asked about Flynn yesterday," referring to the regular press conference with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, "wasn't going to ask about Russia during an Israeli/US press conference."

Responding to an email from CNN requesting comment, Pavlich wrote, "I was at the presser as a reporter doing my job and have no interest in becoming the story." Sanders did not respond to a request for comment.

Similarly, during his appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Monday Trump only took questions from the conservative Daily Caller and a TV station owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is generally viewed as favorable to Trump.

Neither of the reporters called upon Monday inquired about the controversy surrounding Flynn, who resigned later that day.

On Wednesday, as on Monday, reporters expressed outrage on Twitter and on television: "Trump ducking questions from big media outlets to avoid discussing Russia," Politico's John Bresnahan tweeted.

"POTUS, making CBN/TownHall his US questioners, seems to have avoided being asked about campaign contacts w/Russians, calls for special probe," CNBC's John Harwood wrote.

This is now the third bilateral appearance in which Trump appeared to skirt questions about controversial issues by not taking questions from the traditional stable of the press corps.

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