CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny complained about his network not getting called on at Monday's White House press conference, calling the absence of questions about Robert Mueller's Russia investigation by two fellow reporters "one of the headlines here."
President Donald Trump and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte held a joint press conference, and Trump called on two American reporters: The Daily Caller‘s Saagar Enjeti and Reuters' Roberta Rampton.
Engeti asked Trump about his threat to shut down the government over funding for his promised southern border wall, while Rampton asked Trump about whether he would meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and whether there would be preconditions—Trump said he would be willing to meet without them.
Zeleny noted Trump's answer about Iran was noteworthy, but he added, "I do think another headline is indeed what was not asked at this news conference." Trump has tweeted multiple attacks over the past three days on Mueller's probe, which he has frequently dubbed a partisan witch hunt.
Zeleny recounted he tried to yell questions about Mueller and whether Trump felt betrayed by his former lawyer Michael Cohen, but to no avail. He added White House aides asked some reporters in the press corps what they planned to ask Trump beforehand, which Zeleny acknowledged was "not untypical."
Most reporters, he said, do not answer the question and only say they will ask about "news of day." Notably, as a New York Times reporter during a press conference marking President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office in 2009, Zeleny asked him, "During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office? Enchanted you the most from serving in this office? Humbled you the most? And troubled you the most?"
Zeleny said he didn't volunteer what he planned to ask on Monday.
"We did not tell the White House what we planned to ask today, and of course we were not called on here … It is clear, I think one of the headlines here at this press conference is the fact that some of the biggest controversies and clouds hanging over this administration were not asked today by the two U.S. journalists who were called on by the White House," Zeleny said.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer said he felt Trump was breathing a sigh of relief before admitting the issues raised by Enjeti and Rampton were significant.
"One asked about a government shutdown, which is an important issue, obviously," Blitzer said.
"No doubt," Zeleny said. "Very important."
"The other asked about Iran, talks with Iran, which is obviously also a very important issue," Blitzer said.
"Indeed," Zeleny said.
"But as you correctly point out, [the] president was not asked about a third very important issue: the Robert Mueller investigation, his personal attacks on the special counsel, which have escalated in recent days, and what his supporters believe is a betrayal by Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer," Blitzer said.
Zeleny wasn't the only prominent reporter to offer criticism of his fellow press members.
NBC national security reporter Ken Dilanian complained on Twitter about Trump choosing Enjeti, writing "He actually called on the Daily Caller" and calling the conservative site "Trump's pet media." Notably, The Intercept reported in 2014 that Dilanian would send drafts of his stories while at the Los Angeles Times to the CIA prior to publication.
What was I saying earlier about Trump’s pet media. He actually called on the Daily Caller. Next up: Sputnik.
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) July 30, 2018
Enjeti quipped afterward the Internet was probably "mad I got a question."
Just left the joint press conference with @realDonaldTrump and the PM of Italy. Let me guess, the internet is mad I got a question
— Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) July 30, 2018