White House Bars Times and Other News Outlets From Briefing

Image: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/us/politics/white-house-sean-spicer-briefing.html?_r=0

WASHINGTON — Journalists from The New York Times and several other news organizations were prohibited from attending a briefing by President Trump’s press secretary on Friday, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.

Reporters from The Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times and Politico were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer, for the scheduled briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer only allowed in reporters from a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed.

Those organizations included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended.

Reporters from Time magazine and The Associated Press, who were set to be allowed in, chose not to attend the briefing in protest of the White House’s actions.

“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement. “We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and the other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents the press corps, quickly rebuked the White House’s actions.

“The W.H.C.A. board is protesting strongly against how today’s gaggle is being handled by the White House,” the association president, Jeff Mason, said in a statement. “We encourage the organizations that were allowed in to share the material with others in the press corps who were not. The board will be discussing this further with White House staff.”

The White House move came hours after Mr. Trump delivered a slashing attack on the news media in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The president denounced news organizations as “dishonest” purveyors of “fake news” and mocked journalists for claiming free speech rights.

“They always bring up the First Amendment,” Mr. Trump said to cheers.

A White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, played down the events in an email on Friday afternoon.

“We invited the pool so everyone was represented,” Ms. Sanders wrote. “We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool. Nothing more than that.”

Mr. Spicer’s small-group Friday session, known as a gaggle, was scheduled as a no-camera event, less formal than his usual briefings that are carried live on cable news. But past administrations have not hand-selected outlets that can attend such sessions.

“It was clear that they let in a lot of news outlets with less reach who are Trump-friendly,” said Noah Bierman, a White House reporter for The Los Angeles Times, who was barred. “They let in almost every network but CNN. That’s concerning, the handpicking aspect of it.”

Two of the barred outlets, CNN and The Times, have been a particular focus of Mr. Trump’s ire. And during the presidential campaign, some journalists from BuzzFeed News and Politico were prohibited from attending Trump rallies.

Representatives of the barred news organizations made clear that they believed the White House’s actions on Friday were punitive.

“Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don’t like,” CNN said in a statement.

Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, called it “the White House’s apparent attempt to punish news outlets whose coverage it does not like.”

In: nytimes 

What’s Next For The Affordable Care Act? Your Questions Answered

The one thing that’s certain is that there will be changes in the Affordable Care Act.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, health care under the Affordable Care Act is going to change in the next few years. The Republican-led Congress has vowed to “repeal and replace” the health law known as Obamacare.

That has left many people anxious and confused about what will happen and when. So NPR’s Morning Edition asked listeners to post questions on Twitter and Facebook, and we will be answering some of them here and on the radio in the weeks ahead.

Many of the questions so far have to do with timing.

For example, Steva Stowell-Hardcastle of Lewisburg, Penn., says: “I’m confused about what parts of the ACA have been repealed and when those changes take place.”

First, despite social media headlines, nothing substantive has been changed in 2017. That’s because making these changes is harder than it looks.

In January, Republicans in Congress passed a budget resolution that called for major changes to the law to be made in a subsequent bill.

Even though that process would allow them to pass a bill without Democratic votes, they haven’t been able to agree on what those reforms should look like.

And there are several other obstacles.

First of all, they won’t be able to repeal everything in one go, which counters a lot of the rhetoric coming out of the election. And they would be limited in what parts of the law they can replace.

That said, the Trump Administration has taken some action, but no concrete changes – yet. In January, Trump signed an executive order calling for federal agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the act” that would “impose a fiscal burden” on states, individuals, healthcare providers, and others in the health industry.

While that could be widely interpreted, so far the only federal action in response to that order has come from the IRS. The IRS says it will not strictly enforce the “individual mandate” that requires most Americans to have health insurance. The agency noted, however, the requirement is still law.

A related question comes from Kathryn Henry of Iowa City, Iowa. She asks “if it is repealed, what happens to people like me who currently have insurance through it and when?”

Both President Trump and GOP congressional leaders have insisted that they want a smooth transition from the current system to a new one, particularly for the 11 million or so people who purchased coverage on the federal or state health insurance exchanges since the law took effect.

“We don’t want to pull the rug out from under people while we’re replacing this law,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., in January. Trump has insisted that repealing the law and replacing it be done “essentially simultaneously,” so as not to leave people without insurance.

Unless something unexpected happens, people who purchased insurance for 2017 should be covered through the remainder of the year.

The bigger question is what happens in 2018. The uncertainty alone is prompting some insurers to pull out of the individual insurance market the market in which people don’t get insurance through their employer. The individual market is the most affected by the health law.

For example, the insurance company Humana has already said it won’t participate in the health insurance exchanges next year, and the CEO of Aetna told reporters that his company might drop out, too. If Congress deadlocks over how to overhaul the health law, more insurance companies could follow suit.

Insurers were supposed to tell the federal government if they planned to participate in the insurance exchanges by May 3, but the Trump Administration has now given them until the end of June.

Got more questions about what’s happening to the ACA? I’ll be back next week with answers. Just tweet @MorningEdition using the hashtag #ACAchat.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

In: npr