Sarah Huckabee Sanders has finally returned to the podium, facing reporters for the first time in almost six weeks.
The White House press secretary was the first to acknowledge how long it had been since her last press briefing, cheekily telling reporters, “Missed you guys”, as she took to the podium.
It marked her first on-camera press briefing in 41 day — having conducted two briefings last October, and just one each in November and December.
Ms Sanders was not quizzed on her hiatus, instead fielding questions on the recent US government shutdown, funding for the US-Mexico border, the recent indictment of Mr Trump’s confidante Roger Stone, and China.
But while it was mostly business-as-usual, she did manage a sly dig at a reporter.
Before asking about immigrants seeking a path of status to the US, Fox News journalist John Roberts said: “Since I know so little about this, let me ask you a couple of questions and maybe I can educate myself.”
Ms Sanders cut across him saying: “Well at least we’re on agreement about something.”
“Joke,” she added, as members of the press laughed and gasped.
Roberts came under Mr Trump’s wrath yesterday, with the President criticising his coverage of border wall negotiations in a tweet yesterday:
Never thought I’d say this but I think @johnrobertsFox and @GillianHTurner @FoxNews have even less understanding of the Wall negotiations than the folks at FAKE NEWS CNN & NBC! Look to final results! Don’t know how my poll numbers are so good, especially up 19% with Hispanics?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019
Asked by another reporter if Mr Trump really was willing to go through another shutdown, Ms Sanders said he doesn’t want to do so.
“The goal is border security and protecting the American people,” she said. “Ideally the Democrats would take these next three weeks to negotiate in good faith, as they’ve indicated they would, and come up with a deal that makes sense — that fixes the problem.”
Ms Sanders did not confirm whether or not Mr Trump would be willing to go through another shutdown if politicians cannot reach an agreement by February 15, instead saying: “Ideally Democrats would take these next three weeks and negotiate in good faith … and come up with a deal that makes sense so we don’t have to go through the process.”
Asked what advice she would give to the 800,000 federal workers worried about another shutdown, she said: “My advice would be to call your Democrat members of Congress and ask them to fix the problem.”
There has also been speculation Mr Trump will call a state of emergency. Asked why he would wait three weeks to declare it, she said: “The best fix is to be able to do it legislatively, but if the Democrats and Congress won’t do their jobs and fix the problem, he’ll be forced to make up for their shortcomings.”
Ms Sanders was also asked if Mr Trump had ruled out a pardon for Roger Stone, his longtime associate who was last week indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
On Mr Trump’s postponed State of the Union address, Ms Sanders said Ms Pelosi did not act in good faith by requesting the delay, but said Mr Trump was still looking forward to addressing the American people.
Fox News was the only American news outlet to broadcast the briefing, with CNN and MSNBC sticking to their regularly scheduled programming.
Mr Trump said he had instructed Ms Sanders “not to bother” giving briefings for a while.
Her last briefing was on December 18 last year, just days before the government slid into the longest partial shutdown in US history.
Last week, Mr Trump revealed he directed White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to stop holding regular briefings, claiming she was treated too unfairly by the media.
The reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the “podium” much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately, in particular certain members of the press. I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway! Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019
Mr Trump’s tweet came shortly after White House spokesman Hogan Gidley’s appearance on Fox News, in which he was asked why briefings had gradually tapered off last year.
Mr Gidley argued Mr Trump’s social media posts made regular briefings unnecessary.