White House Press secretary Sean Spicer angrily confronted a CNN reporter following a story reporting that the administration pressured the FBI to publicly “knock down” Trump-Russia stories in the media.
The gaggle, which took place Friday morning, was described as a “background briefing” by the White House. It included the White House press pool and was expanded to include a CNN reporter as well as reporters from ABC, NBC, Fox Business and Fox News. CBS was in the pool.
Spicer went on the record to confront CNN in front of their colleagues in the White House during the briefing that occurred in his office.
CNN reporter Joe John (whose byline did not appear on contested story), was told by Spicer that their network was wrong to suggest that the White House put “pressure” on the FBI to publicly challenge the reports on Trump-Russia ties.
Some of the details of Spicer’s comments about the story were included in the White House press pool, but a White House aide that was present in the room detailed the confrontation.
“I know it’s a CNN issue you guys have — but at least get it straight,” an enraged Spicer said to John.
The White House maintains that FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe approached White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to discuss the misleading story in The New York Times, that he described as “bulls**t.” That meeting occurred on February 15, after the New York Times published the story.
Priebus asked McCabe if they would correct the record, which cited sources claiming the existence of an FBI investigation into “repeated contacts” between Trump aides and Russian intelligence.
The CNN report claims that this meeting violated “procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.”
All of this was directly pointed out to CNN reporter Joe John during the press gaggle. Spicer repeatedly emphasized that the meeting was about a story in a newspaper, not the ongoing investigation.
The real story, according to White House officials, was that according to the FBI, the New York Times got their initial story wrong. CNN’s reporter was told by Spicer that their network had “buried the lead.”
Spicer reportedly said he was “disgusted” with the way CNN handled the story, calling it “disgraceful.”
Later, Friday afternoon, the White House hosted a gaggle for the press pool in Sean Spicer’s office, and included reporters from One America News, Breitbart News, The Washington Times, and The Washington Examiner.
CNN was not included in the second gaggle, which prompted a protest that they were being “shut out” by Spicer.
“This is an unacceptable development by the Trump White House. Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts that don’t like,” a statement from the CNN public relations department read. “We’ll keep reporting regardless.”
Similar exclusions of press outlets took place under the Obama administration, which restricted some press meetings to liberal outlets as reported by The New York Times.