Despite being in D.C., Trump appears at press conference via pre-taped video

Trump's strange on-screen appearance left us with more questions than answers

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published January 4, 2018 6:48PM (EST)

Donald Trump during Press Briefing with Press Secretary Sarah Sanders (YouTube/The White House)
Donald Trump during Press Briefing with Press Secretary Sarah Sanders (YouTube/The White House)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders stood in front of journalists and announced there would be a “special guest” during the Jan. 4 press briefing — then turned their attention to the two screens behind her. Lo and behold, Donald Trump appeared.

In a pre-recorded video, he delivered a message about the flawed tax cut bill he signed into law right before Christmas.

"Thank you for being with us today. The historic tax cut I signed into law just two weeks ago, before Christmas, is already delivering major economic gains,” he said on the screen. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans are seeing larger paychecks, bigger bonuses, and higher pension contribution, and it's all because of the tax cuts and the tax reform.

He went on to thank AT&T, Bank of America, and Comcast, among others, alleging that their workers are already receiving bonuses “of $1,000 or more.”

Sanders then thanked the pre-taped video version of the president. While Trump's words were untruthfully superlative as usual, more surprising is that Trump chose to appear in the White House briefing room on a screen. According to Trump’s public schedule, he was in town, likely walking distance from the White House briefing room.

So, why didn’t he make an in-person appearance? One year into his presidency, Trump has yet to make a public appearance and field questions from journalists at a press briefing — something former presidents would do occasionally. (Trump has fielded public questions from journalists, but never at a press briefing.)

Yes, the East Coast is currently facing a “bomb cyclone” that may be affecting his travel plans, yet it’s not like the Oval Office is far from the press briefing room — according to the White House website, they’re both on the ground floor. Could it be that Trump simply wanted to avoid questions regarding Michael Wolff’s new tell-all book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which Trump is clearly incensed over? Or is it because Trump is afraid of saying something to the media that would dig him into a deeper hole?

Whatever the case may be, his appearance in the press briefing room was odd, and left us with more questions than answers. Strange, too, was the president's squint — which seemed to be more pronounced in one eye than the other. Take a look at his speech and behavior in the video below.

By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Donald Trump Donald Trump Press Briefing Gop Tax Reform Bill Sarah Huckabee Sanders Tax Cut Bill