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President Trump invites local news reporters to the Oval Office

Posted at 1:11 PM, Feb 01, 2018

Access is everything in Washington, and the Trump White House is letting local news reporters in on the action.

President Donald Trump hosted six local television news reporters inside the Oval Office Wednesday. I was one of them.

The conversation was completely off the record, so I can’t tell you what we talked about. However, what I learned will inform my reporting in the weeks and months ahead.

This is access I never received covering the previous two presidents, and it doesn’t stop in the Oval Office.

Inside a marble library on White House grounds, President Trump’s cabinet got in front of our camera.

I talked about trade with Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

“He wants to renegotiate NAFTA," said Mnuchin.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry echoed the president, “He’s talking about using coal. Using American coal.”

“We want this to be an organization that works for veterans,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin told us.

Our bureau's access to the president and cabinet members is all part of the White House strategy to reach voters, and it doesn’t come with restrictions on what we can ask. That means we get down to the local issues that matter to our viewers all across the country.

We asked about the Alaska LNG pipeline project, public school funding in Maine, the wild horse population in Nevada, and veterans’ emergency service reimbursements in Wisconsin.

The president’s staff gave us some insight into why he is turning to local television news.

“We want everybody who is dealing with making dinner, picking up their kids to understand that their job is more secure. Their paychecks are going to get bigger. They have a lot to be optimistic about,” said Raj Shah, Deputy White House Press Secretary.

The president shared that optimism during our Oval Office meeting. His budget director, Mick Mulvaney, calls him “the billionaire man of the people.”

“He is the same person in private that you see on television. So, when you hear him say, 'I really do care about the factory workers, I really do care about the folks who are unemployed, I care about folks having to deal with drug violence on the boarders,' he really does,” said Mulvaney.

The White House says the president plans to take his concern for everyday Americans to members of Congress. We’ll see if that translates into policy changes that actually make a difference.