CNN's Manu Raju vs. Jeff Flake: Cat and mouse

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It’s one of the most demanding jobs in Washington: Tracking down a lawmaker. For the Congress press corps, scoring that story-making quote might mean standing on a marble staircase for hours — if the senator decides to talk at all. Playbook co-author Rachael Bade takes us inside the media “scrum” as reporters like CNN’s Manu Raju reveal their tricks of the trade… and former Senator Jeff Flake discloses all the times he pretended to talk on his phone while walking past press.

On the unique challenge of covering Congress:

“It is not just mentally draining, it's physically draining. Unlike any other beat, you are just on your feet all day long … You have to know what to ask because you only have two minutes, maybe one minute, maybe 10 seconds to ask a question, to get a newsmaker to say something, and you have to be prepared. If you're not prepared, it's a big problem.” — Manu Raju, CNN’s chief congressional correspondent

On whether Senators enjoy the attention:

“For those who say they don't enjoy being in the limelight, you wouldn't be in politics if you were ready to shun the limelight. Let's get real: You enjoy it to a certain extent. There are days that you don't, and there are times that you don't and the attention that it draws, if that leads to things like death threats or being shot at. I've had both. You don't enjoy that, obviously. But having the press wanting to talk to you? Yeah, you enjoy that. Those who say they don't probably are fibbing to you.” — Former Sen. Jeff Flake

On ‘smoke filled rooms’:

“I'm sure a lot of this happened during the recent negotiations on the infrastructure. It certainly happened during the time of the Gang of Eight … We were doing immigration reform, where you simply don't want things [leaked] out … There is something to smoke-filled rooms that are useful. And it's nice to keep some information closely held more so than the media would like. It's their job to get it out. But I think in the end, politicians recognize that sometimes you have to hold back.” — Former Sen. Jeff Flake

On Flake’s strategy to avoid the media:

“Typically if I wanted to avoid the media, I’d go outside; the media tends to congregate in the tunnel as soon as you get off a trolley. If you take it or you are near the Capitol itself, you're usually besieged by the press. And if you want to avoid that, you can avoid some of it at least by going outside … That doesn't always succeed, but sometimes it works, and sometimes you have to take tougher measures, go through the Capitol Visitor Center and slip up through the kitchen. I've done that. You name it, I’ve tried it.” — Former Sen. Jeff Flake.

On how the relationships between media and lawmakers have deteriorated:

“I think particularly among some of the more conservative members in the House who, some of them taking their cues from Trump to be as combative as Trump was towards the press, which is, I think, unfortunate … You know, we're not going to be your friends. I mean, I'm not friends with members. I cover them, but some of them can be a little hostile. There's no need to be hostile.” — Manu Raju, CNN’s chief congressional correspondent

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