WH Spox Mercedes Schlapp Snaps at Reporter Over Trump’s ‘Legitimacy’: ‘That’s a Ridiculous Question’


The White House has pretty much given up on conducting daily — or even monthly — briefings (today’s event, the first since Dec. 18, notwithstanding), and an exchange on the driveway to the West Wing Monday morning could illustrate why.

During a four-minute impromptu gaggle with reporters, White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp got into an uncomfortable exchange with Breakfast Media White House reporter Andrew Feinberg.

“Mercy, last week Sarah made very clear that the president did not collude with Russia, but gone is the idea that the campaign definitely didn’t,” Feinberg said. Even Trump’s own attorney has recently claimed (falsely) that he “never said” there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, in the face of evidence that there may very well have been.

“If it’s determined that members of his campaign did conspire or collude with the Russian government, to get him elected…” Feinberg continued.

“It’s a hypothetical question,” Schlapp interrupted.

“If, what does it say about his legitimacy?” Feinberg asked.

“I mean that’s just, oh, that’s a ridiculous question, quite frankly,” Schlapp snapped.

“How is it a ridiculous question?” Feinberg asked.

“The president has been the toughest on Russia, there is no question, when you look at the Russian sanctions that he’s placed,” Schlapp said.

“You guys just lifted sanctions,” Feinberg retorted, a reference to the Trump Treasury Department’s lifting of sanctions on companies with ties to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin.

“The fact that he’s taken action against consulates, against the consulates, that we were expelling over 60 spies,” Schlapp continued. “The mere fact that we’ve assisted Eastern Europe when it comes to military equipment and assistance that we’ve given there, so we’ve been tough on Russia, the president’s been tough on Russia. Thank you.”

As Schlapp walked away, Feinberg pressed the point, asking “Does that toughness include lifting sanctions on Oleg Deripaska’s companies, Mercy? Does that toughness include lifting them?”

Trump’s press shop has not held a briefing in more than a month, and they don’t seem ready to change that anytime soon. Instead, these driveway gaggles have become, more and more, a regular occurrence.

While this may give Trump’s team the “benefit” of not having to get in tough exchanges with reporters on live television, it leaves reporters with little choice but to corral officials on their way into work, and this setting places reporters like Feinberg — who are from smaller outlets and are more likely to be adversarial — on equal footing with reporters who are more likely to be called on during a briefing.

Watch the clip above, via C-Span.

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