Donald Trump abandons press pool again as he plays golf at Florida club
President-elect heads to his club in Jupiter in what aide calls 'last-minute trip' ahead of New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago club
Associated Press in West Palm Beach, Florida
President-elect Donald Trump ditched his press pool once again on Saturday, causing frustration among journalists on hand to ensure the public had knowledge of his whereabouts by travelling without them to play golf at one of his clubs.
Before he went golfing, Trump used Twitter to send an unusual New Year's message: "Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!"
The president-elect planned to spend New Year's Eve at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, throwing a private party expected to draw hundreds of guests.
The action star Sylvester Stallone was expected to be present, although a spokesman for Quincy Jones, who a Trump aide said on Friday would attend the party, said the music producer and Clinton donor would actually see in the new year with his family in Los Angeles.
The party, for which invitations cost up to $575, has attracted criticism regarding potential conflicts of interest and the alleged selling of access to the president-elect and his family.
"The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict," said spokeswoman Hope Hicks in a call with reporters on Friday. "This is an annual celebratory event at the private club, like others that have continued to occur since the election.
"Additionally, the president cannot and does not have a conflict."
A member of Trump's golf club in Jupiter, Florida, posted a photo on Twitter of the president-elect on the green on Saturday morning and said about 25 Secret Service agents were present. Reporters had not been advised of the visit.
A transition press aide, Stephanie Grisham, confirmed that Trump had made a "last-minute trip" to Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, about a half-hour drive from his Mar-a-Lago estate. He returned in mid-afternoon.
Grisham said she and other aides had not been aware of the trip and "appreciate everyone's understanding".
"We are in the home stretch of this transition period and don't anticipate any additional situations like this between now and inauguration," she said in a statement.
"We hope this one incident doesn't negate all the progress we have made and look forward to continuing the great relationships we have built."
Trump, who has not held a formal press conference since July, made distrust and criticism of the press a feature of his presidential campaign and the "thank you" rallies he held in states which voted for him.
Both as a candidate and during the transition he has often scoffed at tradition, including allowing a pool of reporters to follow him at all times. Not long after his victory over Hillary Clinton, he went out to dinner with his family in Manhattan without informing the pool of his whereabouts.
The practice is meant to ensure that journalists are on hand to witness the activities of the president or president-elect, rather than relying on secondhand accounts.
The White House also depends on having journalists nearby at all times to relay the president's comments on breaking news.
Trump aides appear to have made an effort in recent weeks to offer additional access, allowing reporters to camp out at Mar-a-Lago to document the arrival and departures of staff and cabinet candidates. Aides also are providing information about Trump's meeting schedule.
Every president and president-elect in recent memory has travelled with a pool of journalists. News organizations take turns serving in the small group, paying their way and sharing the material collected in the pool with the larger press corps.