On Friday, just before the start of the president’s briefing, Collins was ordered to swap seats with Chris Johnson, a reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson was in the sixth row of the seven-row seating area; Collins was in the front row.
…Johnson, who was acting as the pool reporter for the day, described his involvement in one of his pool dispatches: “Earlier today before the briefing, a White House official instructed the print pooler [Johnson] to take CNN’s seat in the briefing room because the seating would be swapped for the briefing. Given the seating assignment is under the jurisdiction of the White House Correspondents’ Association, not the White House, pooler refused to move.”
…The briefing then went ahead as planned, though Trump declined to take any questions from reporters, and walked off after only 22 minutes, making it the shortest briefing since regular sessions began last month.
…[An] official then suggested the matter would be resolved by the Secret Service, though no action was taken, according to several people involved in the episode. [Well, duh! Secret Service is the most professional arm of the government. they may have played hard but at work they don’t play. …And they certainly don’t play politics.]
…Over the WHCA’s objections and in violation of social distancing measures, the president earlier this month gave preferential access to a reporter from the One America News Network. The small cable network has a history of favoring Trump in its reporting.
…CNN has long been a target of Trump’s reprisals. In late 2018, Trump banned Jim Acosta, its chief White House correspondent, but a federal court, acting on a CNN lawsuit, said the president’s action was unconstitutional and ordered Acosta reinstated. Trump has also taken action against Collins, banning her from an open press event in 2018 after objecting to questions she asked earlier in the day.
…Acosta called the White House’s tactics on the seating issue “Soviet-style [and] totalitarian-like.” He said it took “almost an act of civil disobedience [by Collins and Johnson] to foil the White House’s plans.”