Politico reports: Seven days before Donald Trump took office, the inauguration festivities got off to a low-key start inside a modest conference room at the Capitol Hill offices of the American Trucking Association. There, a hundred-odd familiar faces from the Washington set gathered to fête one of their own, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
The party spilled out into the hallway as entrepreneur Susanna Quinn, ubiquitous Republican consultant Ron Bonjean and Spicer’s wife, Rebecca, a staffer at the National Beer Wholesalers Association, rubbed shoulders with CBS’ White House correspondent Major Garrett and its political editor Steve Chaggaris, Time’s Zeke Miller and several journalists from CNN, including Washington bureau chief Sam Feist. Spicer arrived late, but in good spirits, and after 20 minutes of schmoozing he strode to the front of the room to deliver brief remarks.
In public, Trump’s team and the press had been engaged in bitter clashes for months. Just two days earlier, during a contentious transition-team news conference, Spicer had threatened to eject CNN’s Jim Acosta from Trump Tower. But in the end, ratings were up and Trump was president-elect.
The overlit conference room was a safe space, not a war zone. Spicer made light of the Acosta incident, jokingly threatening to eject Feist from the room. Feist took Spicer’s teasing in stride, briefly turning as if to make for the exit, and the room laughed along. Spicer cracked that he looked forward to serving in his new post for “eight years,” an unheard-of tenure in the notoriously trying job of White House press secretary. This prompted more knowing laughter. One heckler shouted, “Tell the truth!”—an arch reference to the angry chant Trump supporters had been raining down on reporters at campaign rallies.
Then, a week later, a grim-faced Spicer took to the podium in the White House briefing room for the first time and angrily denounced the news media’s reporting of Trump’s inauguration crowd, uttering several easily debunked falsehoods. “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period,” he said, flanked by twin monitors displaying a deceptively flattering overhead photo of the crowd on the National Mall—instantly becoming a national punchline on Twitter and late-night television. He did not take questions, let alone make jokes.
“It was a bit of a shocker,” said one veteran Washington journalist who had attended Spicer’s party. “Especially given what had happened that night at the get-together.” [Continue reading…]