The presidential news conference, a time-honored tradition going back generations, appears to be no longer. More than a year has passed since President Trump held the only solo news conference of his administration. Instead, the president engages the press in more informal settings: Trump often answers shouted questions at so-called pool sprays, in which a small group of rotating reporters is given access to events such as bill signings and Cabinet lunches. Trump has also taken to answering shouted questions on the White House lawn as he arrives at and departs the White House, reports the AP. But the format also gives the president far more control: Trump can easily ignore questions he doesn't like and dodge follow-ups in a way that would be glaring in a traditional news conference.
On Friday, for instance, Trump answered several questions in the Oval Office about North Korea and Iran. But when a reporter asked about his threats regarding intervening in the Justice Department, Trump responded with a curt "thank you" that signaled to reporters that he was done. The pattern marks a dramatic departure from historic precedent, according to records dating back to President Coolidge. In the first year in office alone, President Obama held 11 solo news conferences, President George W. Bush held five, and President Clinton a dozen. But Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for Bush, thinks it doesn't really matter: "So long as the president is held accountable as a result of frequent pool sprays, as a result of frequent press conferences with heads of state, one-on-one interviews, the public gets its accountability through other tactics beyond formal long-winded news conferences."