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Trump bans officials from attending White House Correspondents' Association dinner

Chris Baynes

Donald Trump has banned government staff from attending this week’s White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) dinner, the scene of his roasting by comedian Michelle Wolf last year.

The US president has ordered an administration-wide boycott of the event, White House cabinet secretary Bill McGinley told officials on Tuesday.

Mr Trump had already indicated he would personally skip the dinner for a third consecutive year, instead scheduling a political rally in Wisconsin, but many staffers had accepted invitations to attend.

The order to stay away came just four days before Saturday’s event and is said to have taken officials by surprise.

“The president and members of his administration will not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year. Instead, Saturday evening, President Trump will travel to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he will hold a campaign rally,” said a White House spokesman.

The announcement came as Mr Trump launched his latest attack on the press, suggesting he should be “immune from criticism” for presiding over what he falsely claimed was “the greatest economy in history”.

“To the Mainstream Media, it means NOTHING,” he tweeted.

Mr Trump has a fraught relationship with the media, regularly smearing outlets he does not like as “fake news” and “the enemy of the people”.

He has stopped his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, from conducting daily briefings with White House correspondents. On Tuesday his administration set a new record for the longest stretch without a briefing, with the last one held 43 days ago.

Presidents and first ladies have traditionally attended the WHCA dinner, which celebrates the First Amendment and raises funds for university journalism scholarships.

The event has typically featured a comedian who pokes fun the president, who then makes a light-hearted speech of their own. But this year the association opted for historian and author Ron Chernow as headline speaker, following a backlash over Ms Wolf’s perfomance last year.

The comedian ripped into Mr Trump and some of his most controversial polices, as well as his daughter Ivanka and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in a savage 20-minute monologue.

Republicans and some journalists complained about her routine, and the WHCA said it was “not in the spirit” of its dinner. But others praised Ms Wolf for not pulling any punches and the comedian insisted she “wouldn’t change a single word”.

Mr Trump had hinted he may attend the dinner this year after it was announced no comedian would perform, but last month he labelled the event "boring" and "negative".

Responding to the administration’s boycott of this year’s dinner, the correspondent association’s president, Oliver Knox, said: “We’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening of celebrating the First Amendment and great journalists past, present and future.”