Reporter's Notebook: Trump Appears to Give Press Access but Not Answers

PHOTO: Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump National Doral, July 27, 2016, in Doral, Fla.PlayEvan Vucci/AP Photo
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On Wednesday morning, speaking in a half-empty ballroom at his golf club in Doral, Florida, Donald Trump boasted that he was having a press conference.

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"You know, I put myself through your news conferences often, not that it's fun. Two hundred thirty-five days, no news conference for Hillary Clinton. You ought to check it out." Trump declared.

He was right. The Republican nominee took over 30 questions from reporters that morning. He also had a press conference in May where he was peppered with queries over contributions he had purportedly given to veterans' organizations, and he took dozens of questions. He regularly appears on morning and Sunday TV news shows, often calling into Fox News, his network of choice, several times a week for interviews.

His assertion about his Democratic rival was correct: Hillary Clinton's last press conference was in December, and she and her campaign regularly shield the candidate from journalists.

But, inasmuch as Trump appears to open himself up to journalists, his availability is cloaked by his apparent disdain for reporters who cover him: Eschewing traditional mores in dealing with the press, Trump bans entire news outlets from his events and berates individual reporters with ease, sometimes leading crowds in chants against the media, and routinely evading journalists’ questions.

For example, on Wednesday, NBC News reporter Katy Tur pushed Trump to reflect on his statement earlier in the press conference inviting Russia to hack into U.S. email systems..

"Does it give you no pause?" Tur asked.

"You know what gives me more pause?” Trump said. “That a person in our government, crooked Hillary Clinton, here's what gives me …," he started as she tried to ask a follow-up question.

Apparently annoyed, Trump then barked at Tur: "Be quiet."

Later in the press conference another journalist began to ask Trump about his position on immigration, noting that immigrants helped to build the enclave of Doral in which his golf club was situated.

Trump deflected the question: "I think I have over 1,000 Hispanics working at Doral, and they're doing a great job." He then ignored the journalist’s repeated requests to finish her question as he moved on to the next reporter.

And, later that day, at a rally for vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence outside Milwaukee, a Washington Post reporter tried to enter the rally.

Trump had earlier this year banned the Washington Post from covering his events, an unprecedented denial of press credentials to a major newspaper by a presidential candidate. On Wednesday, campaign staffers went further.

The Post’s reporters have typically been able to get around the denial of press credentials by entering campaign events through the general admission line.

At the Pence rally, though, reporter Jose DelReal was stopped by private security and told he couldn't enter with his laptop or phone. After leaving the items in his car, when DelReal tried again to enter, local police were summoned to pat him down, an extremely rare occurrence for reporters at campaign events.

DelReal was eventually escorted away from the rally after being told by a security personnel member, "I don't want you here, you have to go."

Asked about this occurrence, the Trump campaign told ABC News, “Our events are open to everyone, and we are looking into the alleged incident.”

Concerns about the accessibility of political candidates to the press is not among the issues that voters cite as their greatest concerns, such as national security and healthcare costs.

But Americans seem to generally view a free and open press as a bedrock of our democracy.

Presidents and their press corps have co-existed for nearly three centuries. The White House holds daily press briefings, and journalists pose questions and report stories to help hold elected officials to account. Trump appears to have an aversion to such accountability and threatens to upend that traditional relationship between the president and the press.

During the press conference in May, Trump called an ABC News reporter, who happened to be male, a "sleaze" and mocked another male reporter as a "real beauty." These remarks came as reporters were seeking to clarify which veterans' organizations had received purported donations from Trump, after weeks of ambiguity on the issue from the campaign.

One reporter asked, "Is this what it's going to be like covering you if you're president?"

"Yeah, it is," Trump said. "We have to read probably libelous stories or certainly close in the newspapers, and the people know the stories are false.”

“I'm going to continue to attack the press,” Trump said. “Look, I find the press to be extremely dishonest. I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest. I will say that."

Clinton is also certainly no fan of the media. But Trump may be the first presidential candidate who has threatened to broaden libel laws to enable him to more easily sue media outlets. Could he unilaterally accomplish this change in libel law as president? Likely not.

But the threat itself is telling.

ABC News' Ines DelaCuetara contributed to this report.

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