Donald Trump has confounded journalists assigned to cover his evolving administration since his election.
The pool reports streaming in from the reporters stationed at Trump Tower have included a running commentary of police officers and security guards restricting access for journalists, desperate attempts to track the comings and goings of Trump’s top allies and a stream of no-comments from his top deputies.
But Trump’s surprise trip to a Manhattan steakhouse on Tuesday night triggered a new kind of frustration for the reporters charged with tracking his every move.
The timeline started at 6:14 p.m. on Tuesday, when Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the pool there was a “lid” on the night, meaning no additional significant news was expected from the president-elect. It’s a signal that the waiting press corps can decamp.
The Washington Post’s lead Trump reporter, Jenna Johnson, sent this blow-by-blow account to her journalism colleagues of the three hours that followed that:
Around 7:30pm — A broadcast embed and other reporters were leaving Trump Tower and noticed a massive motorcade leaving Trump Tower. According to a video, the motorcade included at least a dozen vehicles and an ambulance, all with lights on. Several reporters, including myself, reached out to Hope Hicks and others, asking if the president-elect had left Trump Tower.
7:36pm — @RiggsReport tweeted that Trump was at “Keene’s steakhouse.” (She was actually mistaken and later confirmed that Trump was actually at the 21 Club.)
Around 8:20pm — Remaining pool members finally discovered that tweet and decided to hop in a cab to Keens Steakhouse. On the way, we realized that Trump was actually at the 21 Club, so we had the cab take us there instead.
About 8:40pm — We arrived outside the 21 Club, which is barricaded by police. I texted Hope Hicks, telling her we were outside the steakhouse and wanted to be let inside. She then called me.
About 9:05pm — Police divided reporters into two groups: Those with New York City press passes and those without. Local reporters were allowed to stay while many members of Trump’s press pool were told to move down the block. Our view of the restaurant is blocked by a dumpster.
At 9:38pm, the pool peered around a dumpster and watched Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, get into a SUV. A fellow pooler asked if they enjoyed dinner, and Ivanka Trump smiled. Your pooler asked if Ivanka Trump knew her company sent an email promoting the bracelet she wore on “60 Minutes,” which has raised concerns and questions. She didn’t respond as the door closed.
Soon after, the motorcade began rolling.
The White House Correspondents’ Association called this breach of protocol “unacceptable.” More from Jeff Mason, a Reuters reporter who serves as the organization’s president:
“The White House Correspondents’ Association is pleased to hear reassurances by the Trump transition team that it will respect long-held traditions of press access at the White House and support a pool structure. But the time to act on that promise is now,” wrote Mason. “Pool reporters are in place in New York to cover the president-elect as he assembles his new administration. It is critical that they be allowed to do their jobs.”
Read more about the fallout of last week’s election: