Trump, after canceling, will now attend New York Times meeting

Sydney Ember
Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on October 10, 2016.
Jessica Kourkounis | Getty Images

The strained relationship between Donald J. Trump and The New York Times took an odd path on Tuesday when a planned meeting between the president-elect and the newspaper was abruptly canceled by Mr. Trump and then quickly rescheduled.

Spokeswomen for both Mr. Trump and The Times confirmed that Mr. Trump and members of his staff would attend a meeting at midday at the paper's Midtown headquarters.

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"Mr. Trump's staff has told us that the president-elect's meeting with The Times is on again,'' the paper said in a statement. "He will meet with our publisher off the record and that session will be followed by an on-the-record meeting with our journalists and editorial columnists.''

Just hours earlier, it appeared that the meeting was off. Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after 6 a.m. that he had called off the meeting, contending that the ground rules had been changed.

A spokeswoman for The Times, Eileen Murphy, responded that the paper had not changed the arrangements for the meeting and was not aware it had been canceled until reading Mr. Trump's Twitter posts. The company said that Mr. Trump's team had asked on Monday to change the ground rules, but that the paper had declined.

"We did not change the ground rules at all and made no attempt to,'' she said. "They tried to yesterday — asking for only a private meeting and no on-the-record segment, which we refused to agree to."

She added: "In the end, we concluded with them that we would go back to the original plan of a small off-the-record session and a larger on-the-record session with reporters and columnists."

Three people with knowledge of Mr. Trump's initial decision to cancel the meeting said that Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, had been among those urging the president-elect to cancel it, because he would face questions he might not be prepared to answer. It was Mr. Priebus who relayed to Mr. Trump, erroneously, that The Times had changed the conditions of the meeting, believing it would result in a cancellation, these people said.

A spokesman for Mr. Trump declined to comment on Mr. Priebus's role.

The Times has been a frequent target of attacks from Mr. Trump, who chafed at some of the unflattering coverage of him during the presidential campaign. He often refers to the "failing" New York Times and has threatened to sue the company for libel over an article about two women who accused him of touching them inappropriately years earlier.

Mr. Trump followed his tweet on Tuesday about canceling the meeting with two other posts about The Times, one of which said:

Mr. Trump later tweeted: "The meeting with the @nytimes is back on at 12:30 today. Look forward to it!"

The meeting developments came one day after Mr. Trump attacked television network executives and anchors during an off-the-record meeting at Trump Tower. At that meeting, Mr. Trump said that the networks had been dishonest and that they had missed the signs of his impending victory.

Ms. Murphy said Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, talked to The Times's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., around midafternoon on Monday and said Mr. Trump's schedule had become busy and he would have time only for the off-the-record session. Mr. Sulzberger said that would not work, and Ms. Hicks told him she would get back to him.

About 20 minutes later, Ms. Murphy said, Ms. Hicks called again to say Mr. Trump would be able to accommodate both the off-the-record and on-the-record parts of the meeting, and the meeting remained scheduled. Then early Tuesday came Mr. Trump's tweets saying the meeting was off — until it was rescheduled later in the morning.