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Trump backs off moving news briefings from White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump scrapped a proposal to move news briefings out of the White House, but said he wants his team to choose who gets into the press room.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks to diplomats at the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) Chairman's Global Dinner in Washington, U.S. January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump, who will be sworn in on Friday as the 45th U.S. president, has had a contentious relationship with some prominent U.S. news organizations, banning a number of news outlets during the presidential campaign and publicly criticized individual reporters.

The Republican New York businessman has used Twitter as his main tool of communication and did not hold a news conference as president-elect until two months after the Nov. 8 election.

Trump’s aides have discussed moving media briefings and news conferences out of the small West Wing briefing room to the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House. They have also considered changing seating assignments, which have long been determined by the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA).

“The press went crazy, so I said, ‘Let’s not move it.’ But some people in the press will not be able to get in,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

“We have so many people that want to go in, so we’ll have to just have to pick the people to go into the room - I’m sure other people will be thrilled about that,” he said.

“And they’ll be begging for a much larger room very soon, you watch,” Trump told Fox.

It was unclear whether Trump intended to choose the journalists allowed into the room for a given briefing or if the White House would increase the number of credentialed media.

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Wednesday that the first presidential news briefing would be held in that room and “we’ll see what we can do going down the road.”

Outgoing President Barack Obama, a Democrat, held his final news conference in the briefing room on Wednesday. “Having you in this building has made this place work better. It keeps us honest, it makes us work harder,” Obama said.

The current briefing room has about 49 seats. WHCA President Jeff Mason, a Reuters correspondent, has said the group had assumed responsibility for seating at the request of both Democratic and Republican presidents concerned about the appearance of favouritism.

Trump, who has more than 20 million Twitter followers, told Fox he would continue using Twitter as a tool of communication.

“Look, I don’t like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing. But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract,” he said.

Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis