Donald Trump broke with protocol on Tuesday by ditching his press pool for a late-night steak dinner at Manhattan’s upscale 21 Club, where he assured patrons that he would lower their taxes.
Incoming and sitting presidents traditionally travel with a small group of journalists who keep the public informed of their whereabouts and are available to get their first response to breaking news.
“One week after the election, it is unacceptable for the next president of the United States to travel without a regular pool to record his movements and inform the public about his whereabouts,” White House Correspondents Association president Jeff Mason said in a statement.
“Pool reporters are in place in New York to cover the president-elect as he assembles his new administration,” he added. “It is critical that they be allowed to do their jobs.”
An hour after Trump’s team told the pool that the President-elect would remain in Trump Tower for the rest of the night, reporters were caught by surprise when they saw a large motorcade depart the building, according to the Associated Press.
They only became aware of his location after a Bloomberg reporter tweeted a photo of Trump walking through a restaurant clapping along with diners’ applause. The reporter misidentified the restaurant as Keene’s steakhouse, but he was actually at the 21 Club, one of his favorite haunts located a stone’s throw from Trump Tower.
— Taylor Riggs (@RiggsReport) November 16, 2016
The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson said that when they arrived, the famous former speakeasy was barricaded by police and the traveling press were directed to move down the block, where their view was blocked by a dumpster.
NBC’s Hallie Jackson gained access to the 21 Club, a bastion of old-money New York where a filet mignon goes for $58, by making a reservation.
In a short clip she took from inside the restaurant, Trump shakes hands with diners giving him a standing ovation.
“We’ll get your taxes down, don’t worry,” he assured one guest, who replied, “Thank you.”
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) November 16, 2016
The president’s press pool typically accompanies him or her throughout the day, chronicling meetings and standing by in case any major event should occur. This practice was instituted under John F. Kennedy’s presidential administration.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told the AP that she did not know of Trump’s impromptu family dinner plans and said the team would soon set up a protective pool.