At his first press briefing Thursday morning, President-elect Donald Trump's incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer rudely and aggressively shut down a reporter's question about Trump's business conflicts, then illustrated moments later why those sorts of questions need to be asked by using his taxpayer-funded podium to promote Trump's Washington, D.C. hotel.
Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer continued the Trump administration-in-waiting's pattern of brilliantly making the case for warranted concern about Trump's business conflicts when he took to a taxpayer-funded transition podium to answer questions for the first time.
First, Spicer defensively responded to a question by NBC News reporter Katy Tur by asserting that Trump has complied with the law (a falsehood), then curtly shut down her attempts to follow up:
TUR: Ethics experts and former White House lawyers have expressed deep concern over Donald Trump's plan to separate himself from his business. The OGE director said that handing over control to his sons is not enough, he called it 'wholly inadequate.' Given that he hasn't released his taxes, given that 74% of Americans want him to release his taxes, will he at least give a list of who he is in debt to, and if not, why not?
SPICER: I think that question has been asked and answered a hundred times. He stood in front — Katy, no, I heard the question. I think the president-elect has made it very clear, he has no conflicts by law. He has gone above and beyond in terms of making sure that he separates himself from his business, hands it over to his kids, then put in place a very, very vigorous plan to ensure that no conflicts of interest occur. He has gone above and beyond what is ever required of him. He has no conflicts by law. What he has done is extraordinary to ensure that his focus is entirely on the cab— on helping this country move forward. Francesca.
TUR: What about the indebtedness?
SPICER: Francesca. Thank you.
TUR: Why not release —
SPICER: Thank you. Francesca.
Just moments later, Spicer responded to a second question on the matter, from Politico's Shane Goldmacher, with an actual demonstration of Trump's unavoidable conflicts, using his taxpayer-funded position to literally advertise Trump's Washington, D.C. hotel on national television:
GOLDMACHER: Sean, last week Trump's lawyer talked a lot about separating from his business interests. Both last night and today he scheduled a visit to his own hotel to promote the dining room there. How do you square those two things?
SPICER: That he's going to his own hotel? I mean, I think that's pretty smart. Again, I think the idea that he's going to his own hotel shouldn't be a shocker. It's a beautiful place. It's somewhere that he's very proud of, and I think it's symbolic of the kind of government that he's going to run, on time, under budget — or excuse me, ahead of time, and under budget. The same kind of theme that the vice president-elect expressed earlier. This transition, 20% under budget, $1.2 million returned to the treasury. He's very proud. It's an absolutely stunning hotel. I encourage you to go there if you haven't been by. But I don't think the idea that President-elect Trump is having a reception at the Trump hotel should be a shocker to anybody.
The fact that Trump's unethical behavior does not shock anyone is exactly the problem.
Further, as my colleague Melissa McEwan noted: "Spicer's very public recommendation to the press corps that they drop by Trump's hotel to admire it conveniently conceals that Trump's D.C. hotel has banned press leading up to the inaugural."
I tried to have breakfast at the Trump Hotel in DC w/ friends. But bc I'm a journalist, I was banned from going in: https://t.co/QkfTdQnezF
— Daniel Lippman (@dlippman) January 18, 2017
Trump's alleged efforts to resolve his conflicts of interest and impending violation of the U.S. Constitution have done nothing to meaningfully accomplish either. Every ethics expert, up to and including the independent Office of Government Ethics, agree that Trump is still poised to commit an impeachable offense on day one. Tomorrow.