The incoming Trump administration may move the White House press briefing room to another spacious location nearby, prompting a sharp reaction from correspondents who said the plan would critically affect their ability to do their jobs.
The White House press corps was stunned yesterday by reports of a proposal by the Trump administration to eject reporters from the West Wing a move that, if carried out, would uproot decades of established protocol whereby journalists are allowed to work in the White House close to senior officials.
When asked to comment about an Esquire magazine report that the Trump administration plans to move the press room out of the West Wing to the Old Executive Office Building next door, Priebus said, "The one thing that we discussed was whether or not we want to do conferences in the [Executive Office Building]."
"Which, by the way, is the White House," Priebus added.
"So no one is moving out of the White House. That is the White House, where you can fit four times the amount of people in the press conference, allowing more press, more press coverage from all over the country to have those press conferences.
That's what we're talking about," Priebus told ABC News.
Situated just to the west of the White House at 1650 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Old Executive Office Building houses White House offices and staff, but is a physically separate building.
For jittery White House reporters, it was yet another salvo from an administration that has shown an unusual willingness to berate and belittle the news media, at the behest of a president-elect who has floated the idea of rolling back libel protections and, in a volcanic appearance last week, refused to take questions from CNN after it ran a story he did not like, The New York Times said.
The sense of alarm was clear last week when more than 100 reporters showed up to a routine meeting of the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA).
"I made clear that the WHCA would view it as unacceptable if the incoming administration sought to move White House reporters out of the press work space behind the press briefing room," WHCA president Jeff Mason, said.
Mason, who met with the incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spears for two hours, discussed Spear's interest in increasing participation in White House briefings when President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20.
"That has sparked his team to consider moving daily briefings out of the White House's James S Brady Press Briefing Room to a larger facility on the White House complex," he said.
The White House Correspondents' Association has always advocated for increasing access and transparency for the benefit of all news outlets and the public, he said.
"I emphasised the importance of the White House press briefing room and noted that it is open to all journalists who seek access now," he said.
Mason said access in the West Wing to senior administration officials, including the press secretary, is critical to transparency and to journalists' ability to do their jobs.--PTI