Donald Trump Has Broken yet Another Presidential Precedent

November 21st 2016

Mike Rothschild

During his presidential campaign, President-elect Donald Trump broke a number of precedents for how nominees act and what they do. He was the first candidate in forty years not to release his tax returns, and he made public almost no information about his health history. Now that he's been elected, Trump continues to break precedents — and one is an especially troubling sign of how opaque a Trump administration might be.


Unlike every president-elect in the modern era, Trump has not, as of yet, held a press conference. 

Thus far, Trump has given interviews to "60 Minutes" and the Wall Street Journal. He also released a YouTube video on Monday outlining goals for his first 100 days in office:

According to CNN's Tom Kludt, almost every first term president-elect since Jimmy Carter held a press conference shortly after their election. Only Bill Clinton in 1992 was an outlier to this, waiting nine days to hold a press conference.

Even former President George W. Bush spoke almost immediately to the press after the Supreme Court decided the contentious election of 2000, greeting the media three days after the decision was handed down and taking questions about his transition.

However Trump has raised concerns by ditching his press pool on several occasions, as well as failing to provide daily schedules of his meetings and phone calls — another precedent for newly elected presidents.

It was Dwight Eisenhower who first made presidential press conferences an on-the-record event. Previous presidents would often influence and edit quotes about them, and be able to deny they'd said them.

Since rules for covering presidents became more sharply defined, they've been an integral part of the transition process, letting the president-elect set out their agenda, reassure those who didn't vote for them, and lay out their vision for the years to come.

For example, on November 6, 1980, two days after his election, former President Ronald Reagan took a wide range of media questions about everything from cabinet appointments to his thoughts on America's relationship with Turkey to what role Vice President George Bush would take. Eight years later, President George H.W. Bush, in turn, spoke to the media the day after his election to discuss his relationship with the Soviet Union, racial outreach, and ironically, his lack of press conferences during the election. President Barack Obama spoke to the media three days following his election to discuss steps he'd immediately take to rectify the worsening economic situation.

Not only has every other recent newly-elected president spoken to the media quickly, many gave numerous press conferences. Carter gave 10 pre-inauguration press conferences, and Bill Clinton gave 12 — ensuring the press had an almost day-by-day accounting of the ongoing transition.

Even unelected presidents have met the media fairly quickly: Gerald Ford's first press conference after Richard Nixon's resignation was 19 days later, and President Harry Truman met the media just five days after President Franklin Roosevelt died.

As questions about the ethics and efficacy of the Trump transition continue to swirl, so will the questions about why he's not meeting the media — and whether he will any time soon.

Update 11/21/2016 4:12 p.m. PST: This story was updated to include Trump's video outlining his first 100 days.