Less than three weeks after resuming, the State Department has once again stopped holding press briefings while the agency searches for a new spokesperson.
For at least two weeks, officials at the State Department will not hold a public briefing, according to officials with the department. After that, it is unclear if briefings will resume immediately and what form they will take. In the meantime, the State Department have been briefing reporters on background only, which means officials cannot be quoted by name in any news stories.
The briefings, traditionally televised daily, have been a fixture since the Eisenhower administration, and are watched closely in Washington, D.C., and around the world for guidance on the United States’ foreign policy and reaction to world events.
The State Department did not hold briefings for its first six and a half weeks after Trump took office. Once it did, the department eschewed tradition and held only four each week, two on camera and two over the phone.
Mark Toner, a career foreign service officer who often briefed reporters under the Obama administration, stayed on as acting spokesperson when Trump took office. But now, Toner is transitioning to a new assignment, with no announced replacement.
Fox News anchor Heather Nauert was in talks to come on board and was being vetted, a source told ABC News earlier this month. A State Department official would only confirm this week that a new spokesperson is in the process of being vetted and approved.
Alex Howard, deputy director of transparency advocate the Sunlight Foundation, expressed concern about the lack of briefings, calling it “an unfortunate continuation of what we’ve seen from the very top of this administration.”
“This is a great briefing that has a different quality and depth than any you’ll see in government. … It contains the U.S. position on foreign policy issues that span the world,” he said, pointing out that embassies take their cues…