News & Politics

Here's How Sarah Sanders Uses a Loophole to Avoid Answering the Media's Questions

"The press corps tried to get some answers today. Here's how that went."

Photo Credit: PBS Newshour

Reporters have no shortage of questions to ask the White House, whether on the President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, the secret shell company used to pay of adult film star Stormy Daniels, secret payments from Russian-linked, or whatever Rudy Giuliani just said, but press secretary Sarah Sanders frequently has little interest in answering.

Jon Berman, hosting CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" Wednesday night, broadcast a clip of reporters attempting to ask Sanders about Cohen's apparent attempt to sell access to the president and his payment from a company backed by a Russian oligarch. Sanders batted the questions away each time. 

"I would refer you to the outside counsel for anything that has anything to do with Michael Cohen," Sanders said. She different variations of this statement when she was asked repeatedly.

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This had been a consistent refrain from Sanders. Every time the latest story breaks that seems to legally imperil the president, she directs questions to outside counsel. Even when Trump himself makes remarks about the investigations into him or the lawsuits he faces — often blatantly lying — Sanders says she is not authorized to speak on the matter.

As Berman notes, however: "We have taken Sarah Sanders' encouragement — and thank you for that — and reached out to the so-called appropriate venues and channels. We asked the president's outside counsel, Jay Sekulow, and were told he is unavailable, as he has been since last fall."

So while Sanders holds press briefings, she does little to actually brief the press on subjects of deep concern to the American people. Her direction to outside counsel is a farce because they refuse to answer, but since they don't stand at a podium when they stonewall, they get away with it. Because of this dynamic, we continually lack an official statement from the White House on many of the most serious issues that have recently been brought to light.

Were Sanders to stop holding briefings at all, as Trump previously threatened to do, there would be a public outcry, and the White House would likely face criticism from some of its allies. But in effect, Sanders has canceled the briefings. She stands there, but she refuses to offer answers on crucial matters of the day that directly implicate the president — and she often even admits that she didn't ask Trump about an obviously pressing issue.

It makes it difficult for reporters trying to accurately represent the White House's viewpoint to do their jobs, and it prevents the population at large from holding the president to account.

Watch the clip below:

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.