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Reporters play by Trump’s rules, smile for camera over potato chips and champagne

Journalists hang with Trump during off-record confab at Mar-a-Lago.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond posted this image from the Mar-a-Lago event to his Instagram page. CREDIT: Jeremy Diamond
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond posted this image from the Mar-a-Lago event to his Instagram page. CREDIT: Jeremy Diamond

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump regularly smeared reporters as “disgusting,” “dishonest,” “corrupt,” and egged rally-goers to jeer and heckle reporters covering his events. He broke with decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns and hasn’t held a press conference since July 27, when he encouraged Russian hackers to target Hillary Clinton, adding that media coverage would result in the hackers being “rewarded mightily by our press.”

During a rally late last year, Trump, speaking about journalists, said that “I hate some of these people, but I’d never kill them.” NBC’s Katy Tur was protected by the Secret Service after Trump singled her out by name during a rally. Trump regularly threatened to sue those who spoke out against him or covered him critically, including the New York Times. Weeks before the election, Trump said he thinks the First Amendment provides “too much protection” for free speech because “our press is allowed to say whatever they want.”

But now that Trump is president-elect, journalists are more hungry than ever for access. And on Sunday night, Trump played along by hosting an off-the-record confab at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Springs, Florida.

Trump didn’t answer questions about his conflicts or interest or provide an update about when his tax returns might be released. But according to photos of the events shared by Politico co-founder Mike Allen, attendees were treated to cold cuts, potato chips, and Trump-branded champagne.

Allen also shared a shot of Trump posing with the select group of journalists, which included Hallie Jackson of NBC, Ali Vitali of NBC, Jeremy Diamond of CNN, and Adrian Carrasquillo of BuzzFeed, according to the New York Post.

The official pool report says Trump appeared with his wife Melania, incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, campaign director Kellyanne Conway, adviser Stephen Miller, and spokesman Jason Miller. After hanging out for about 30 minutes, Trump went to dinner at a private club at his nearby golf course.

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The gathering occurred days after Trump canceled a news conference where he was supposed to address his conflict of interest problems. Instead, Trump simply dismissed the issue with a tweet.

It’s now been 144 days and counting since Trump held a press conference.

Trump’s refusal to conduct press conferences breaks with modern president-elects. With the exception of Ronald Reagan, every president-elect dating back to at least Jimmy Carter held a press conference after winning the election but before being inaugurated. President-elects Obama, Clinton, and George W. Bush all held regular press conferences to discuss their cabinet choices.