The White House on Wednesday revoked the press credentials of a veteran Washington Post journalist in the latest episode of President Donald Trump's administration's aggression towards journalists.
Dana Milbank, who has covered West Wing politics since the early days of Bill Clinton's presidency, has had his access yanked.
Milbank blasted the decision in a blistering editorial in Wednesday's Washington Post.
"I was part of a mass purge of 'hard pass' holders after the White House implemented a new standard that designated as unqualified almost the entire White House press corps, including all seven of The Post’s White House correspondents. White House officials then chose which journalists would be granted 'exceptions.' It did this over objections from news organizations and the White House Correspondents’ Association," Milbank wrote.
Milbank thinks the administration's decision was political retribution.
"The Post requested exceptions for its seven White House reporters and for me, saying that this access is essential to our work (in my case, I often write 'sketches' describing the White House scene). The White House press office granted exceptions to the other seven, but not to me," he said. "I strongly suspect it’s because I’m a Trump critic. The move is perfectly in line with Trump’s banning of certain news organizations, including The Post, from his campaign events and his threats to revoke White House credentials of journalists he doesn’t like."
That Trump is being given a pass on banning reporters is extremely concerning.
"There’s something wrong with a president having the power to decide which journalists can cover him," Milbank said. "Virtually the entire White House press corps is credentialed under 'exceptions,'" he added.
The result is that journalists covering the White House now "all serve at the pleasure of Press Secretary Sarah Sanders because they all fail to meet credentialing requirements — and therefore, in theory, can have their credentials revoked any time they annoy Trump or his aides, like CNN’s Jim Acosta did."
CNN sued the adminstration last November after Sanders tried to have Acosta banned from the press corps.
After a judge ordered Acosta's credentials reinstated, the White House began imposing sweeping limits on who would be granted access to the building.
"No credentials to any journalist who is not in the building on at least 90 out of the previous 180 days — in other words, seven of every 10 workdays," wrote Milbank. This has harmed contractors such as cameramen "who now could lose their livelihood," Milbank noted.
Milbank was notified after the revocation of his credentials that he "had been in the building only seven times in the previous 180 days," but that was because "two foot surgeries during that period kept me at home."
Press access to administration officials has also been significantly stifled in recent months. Press briefings have been reduced to "on the record, but impromptu and haphazard" gaggles in the White House driveway, which lack the structure necessary for reporters to effectively gather information.
These limitations have expanded to outside events as well.
"The White House has also restricted access by allowing only one journalist from a news organization at most events, and by admitting journalists to events only if they register days in advance," Milbank explained. "This has sharply reduced journalists’ attendance at the White House — just in time for the 90-day attendance purge."
Milbank said that the "lesser credential called a six-month pass" he was offered will not provide him sufficient access. But Milbank is determined to do his job no matter what.
"I’ll keep covering the White House, albeit from a distance, and wait for things to return to normal — if they ever do," he concluded.
None of this is normal.
Some people think the press should boycott coverage of the White House altogether.
Moves like this are a frightening sign.
Some see this as a badge of honor; Milbank must have really gotten under Trump's skin.