TOWOIT #156

June 25, 2017… Day 157

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Shade the Changing Girl, Issue #8 (Castellucci, Zircon, Parks, Fitzpatrick)

Pride is going on downtown. Black Lives Matter protested and halted the parade, and my queer friends are the sort that supported that.

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I’ve been inside by my fan, looking on by social media and reading the first 9 issues of Shade the Changing Girl (finally).

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Shade the Changing Girl, Issue #7 (Castellucci, Sauvage, Temofonte)

I’m really enjoying this comic.

On the healthcare front, which is currently the everything front, all I can say is COME ON, SUSAN COLLINS. COME ON, LISA MURKOWSKI. As a former Alaskan, I know you flinty, pragmatic Republican ladies of the north can make some reasonable decisions. I know you can dooooo ittttt.

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Susan Collins said she has reservations and doesn’t want to vote on the healthcare bill before the July 4 recess.

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I spent my whole life bending over backwards to not think along the lines of “smart” and “dumb” — always recognizing the different forms of intelligence, the different levels of articulation, still waters run deep, don’t judge a book by the cover, have some fucking humility, you don’t know what’s going on in people’s heads. I don’t know if people are born dumb, but for one reason or another their brains are rotting now. And that’s why I watch the Gallup poll numbers when they update every day at 10:00 am Seattle time.

**UPDATE** I feel sorry for saying this about people’s brains rotting. It is also possible that they are a) REALLY not paying attention, or b) craven.

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That little spike to 42% had me worried.

I just liked this headline:

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And in reply:

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I did get out of the house for awhile, and was sitting in a shady place with my significant other, sipping iced coffee. We had the perfect view of a developing Pokemon birthday party of a small Asian child with a large extended family, and a burgeoning picnic gathering of Muslims in especially beautiful clothes. The kids of both gatherings ran back and forth to the same merry go round in the middle. We were over-heated, but we scraped together our knowledge of religion. “End of Ramadan,” he said. “Eid,” I added. And then nodding in the other direction, “Pikachu.”

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TOWOIT #155

June 24, 2017… Day 156.

Erm, what can I say? It’s hot out and things are bad. I’m just here to keep you company on a daily basis.

A weekend of calling or writing whoever it makes sense for you to call or write, depending where you live. The Senate is breathing down our necks with their tax cut bill masquerading as a health care bill. Last I heard, sounds like CBO score on Tuesday, vote on Thursday?

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy might retire, and no one has the energy left to freak out about this right now.

Sally Yates appeared on Twitter for the first time as a private individual, in order to push this op-ed she wrote:

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(Actually just 133K as of 4:43 pm Seattle time)

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Other digital ephemera:

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TOWOIT #153

June 18-22, 2017… Days 150-154

I am still assembling my notes and thoughts on the Montana road trip so I am just making this start as a placeholder. News was consumed differently, routines were disrupted, signs of political leanings were watched for, whiteness was pondered, Juneteenth was noted, an attempt at a vacation was made.

June 18, 2017        Seattle, Washington to Wallace, Idaho

Driving out of Seattle. It’s misty. We’re getting a late start. Preachin the Blues is on KEXP and they’re celebrating Juneteenth a day early on the show. They play Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come. I say to Andrew, “We’re going into the heart of whiteness. Red state road trip.”

It’s Father’s Day. We’re thinking about the Philando Castile verdict and his fiance’s little girl. This morning Trump’s lawyer said he was NOT under investigation, even though Trump himself tweeted that he was. No no, the lawyer said, Trump was just referring to a Washington Post article. Andrew switches the radio to a show about whiskey. After awhile, we listen to an episode of the podcast The Dollop. The one about Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first openly black baseball player in the Major Leagues. I say something about Colin Kaepernick. Did he just fail to vote in 2016, or did he make a point of it? Whatever, I wanted Seattle to pick him up.

They’re labeling the crops on the fences. Field corn. Potatoes. Sweet corn. Potatoes. Alfalfa. Sewage Lagoon. We see a pick-up truck painted over with a rippling American flag. We’re 21 miles from Moses Lake, Washington. When I get the internet for a moment, I find out that the police in Seattle shot and killed a 30 year old black woman, Charleena Lyles, in front of her children. When we have the internet for a moment, I read Charles Mudede’s call out of Nicole Brodeur. Saying in her columns, she writes as if only white people will read her columns. Nicole is a friend. I think “Am I doing that too?” Probably, yes. Potatoes. Field Corn. Field Corn. Sweet Corn.

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Wait, what is this picture showing? People in Seattle were really upset by the Seattle Times’s coverage and headlines.

We have dinner at the Radio Brewery in Kellogg, Idaho. “I don’t think everyone in here voted for Trump, do you?” I ask Andrew. He says, “Well, I don’t think that guy in the Sublime t-shirt working in the kitchen is *crazy* about Donald Trump, but I’m pretty sure he hates Hillary.”

At the end of the night, we are at The Metals Bar in Wallace, Idaho. A sign in the window says “We support our miners” and in the back of the bar, a circular sign is lit up, “Strike.” There are several regulars in the bar, and an old guy named Bill starts talking to us in a friendly way. Everyone is white. Bill moves a child’s Father’s Day drawing and some empty Miller Lite cans so the bar is clear and tells us to sit down. He’s sitting kitty korner from us and tells us how his father in law died in the Sunshine Mine disaster of 1972. Two women come in, mother and daughter. They aren’t from Wallace, but the daughter says she wants to move here. She’s got a cute camo hoodie, a camo purse and the butt of her jeans are bedazzled. She and her mom look like really nice people. They look at an old black and white photo of a woman working in the mine. Bill says to them, “There weren’t many women working in the mines. We call them betties.” The older woman nods and says, “My mom worked in a coal mine in West Virginia.” I say in Andrew’s ear, “Everyone here seems so nice. Do you think they all voted for Trump?” Andrew looks at me like I just said maybe the Easter Bunny is real.” He says, “Of course they did.” One of the regulars gets up and puts a song on the juke box. It’s Sam Cooke. It’s A Change is Gonna Come.

June 19, 2017             Wallace, Idaho to Missoula, Montana

“Maybe just acknowledging whiteness as a thing at least means you don’t accept whiteness as the norm, or as the invisible air we breathe. If whiteness is a thing, then it is surrounded by other things, and it is not the only thing.” I am getting too metaphysical early in the morning on vacation. Andrew is always nice about this, and I have to remind myself not to monologue too much, because he’s too generous to send me the correct signals about how tedious I’m becoming.

We’re already tired of driving. When I can see internet, my phone tells me that all my friends back home are wrecked. A 17-year old Muslim girl was found dead in a pond in Virginia. Philando Castile. Charleena Lyles. People are wrecked. I’m supposed to be looking at the evergreen trees and mountain sides, and I’m supposed to be another pair of eyes on the road. In case there are suicidal deer or big-horned sheep or whatever. I put my phone away and rummage for what else is in my bag. I find a slim comic I bought at VANCAF and forgot was in my bag, like that time I accidentally took a yellow onion to the beach. The book is Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore.

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from Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore

The sound of NPR is grounding even when the news is bad. A white man in a van mowed down Muslims leaving a mosque in London. Andrew points out that we haven’t actually seen ANY political bumper stickers, signs, or bill boards. We certainly haven’t seen Trump’s name anywhere. There’s a promo for an interview with Roxane Gay. I say “Someone out here is listening to Roxane Gay.” He said, “Sometimes the NPR station is the only one that comes in.”

We get into Missoula and walk around. In historical downtown Missoula, there are signs of liberalism.

That night in the hotel room, I read that the White House press briefing was off-camera again today. I tell Andrew, “I would have been ON this if I were home.” I have access to Fox News now, so I watch Hannity for awhile. The chyron says “Russian Collusion Hysteria.” I click over to CNN. The Democratic Senators are trying to hold the floor tonight over Obamacare repeal and replace. It’s past 11 pm in Washington, D.C. and they look tired.

June 20, 2017… Missoula through Drummond, Phillipsburg, Anaconda, and Butte to wind up in Helena.

We have breakfast burritos before we leave town. When we walk in, a Talking Heads sign is just ending. “I bet this place is run by white people,” says Andrew. A Greg Brown song starts up — Greg Brown! My favorite! I say, “Shhhhh. I’m flying into the heart of my whiteness.” Today is Jon Ossoff day in the Georgia 6th, so I’m nervous. In Drummond, MT there are anti-meth signs. A mural that looks like it was done by school children shows a toilet and the words, “Meth Makes Your Life Go Down the Drain.” The town is bustling though. Men standing around a giant piece of new farm equipment are smiling and waving at us as we drive through. A few miles out of town there’s a billboard that says “Every Addict Needs His Hook-up.” It’s an advertisement for a fly fishing shop. A sign on a house says, “This Family Supported by Timber Dollars.” On the Bible Broadcast Network, which we like to check in with, a man is disputing that the heat wave in Phoenix has anything to do with climate change. I keep looking at my watch and calculating what time it is in Georgia.

We stop in Anaconda and study the informational placards about the giant smokestack left over from a copper mine. We notice the sign saying there have been 69 highway deaths in Montana year to date. We listen to Baby Geniuses–an episode recorded and posted months ago. It was recorded right before the election, and aired right after the election. The hosts come on and talk for a few moments before the recorded episode, saying they know what happened and how everyone is feeling. “We have to hold onto this feeling,” said one of them. They said if you’re white and can slip into normalcy after the dust settles, just don’t. Remember this feeling of being in the thick of it. Remember wanting to help people.

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from Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore

Butte is beautiful and interesting, but it’s the heat of the day and we’re spooked by all the signs announcing mine deaths. Rolling into town we see a bumper sticker on the back of a street sign: “Anyone but Hillary.” We decide to keep driving to Helena. Jon Ossoff loses the special election in Georgia. I text a lament to my mother and she fires back, “you’re supposed to be resting your brain from this stuff.” In the morning she posts Dan Rather’s calming words on her Facebook timeline.

June 21, 2017… Helena to Great Falls to Missoula.

We still haven’t seen anything mentioning Trump by name. And not much political stuff in general. In Great Falls we see this pick-up truck. “Is it… sarcasm?” I ask. We can’t tell.

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Driving on Highway 200 back to Missoula, we see along the highway: “In God We Trust, In Our Country we Trust, In Our Government We Don’t Trust.” We see a sign that says “You want change in government? Let’s try honesty for a change.” We see a Don’t Tread on Me Flag. We still haven’t seen anything about Trump anywhere.

June 22, 2017 … Missoula, Montana all the way back to Seattle, Washington

New dash cam footage is released from Philando Castile’s shooting. Trevor Noah says he is broken. Shaun King says the fight against police brutality is being lost. Senate Republicans release the Better Care Reconciliation Act. It’s pretty bad, but no CBO score until next week. On Facebook, people are saying “I’m not even sure I can do Pride this year.” Leaving downtown Missoula, we see two bumper stickers on a truck. First, “The Precious Metals of Freedom… Gold, Silver, and LEAD.” And then, “NRA: Stand and Fight.” I look at my watch. “Thirty-six minutes till the new Gallup Poll comes out.”

Trump says he does not have any tapes of his conversations with Comey. “Why did he keep us in suspense for 41 days?” someone asks Kellyanne.

Heading into sun-blasted eastern Washington, we’re listening to the Dollop episode about the boxer Jack Johnson. When he beat the white boxer Jim Jeffries in 1910, there were race riots in 25 states and 50 cities. At least 25 people were killed and hundreds injured. Several white men were reported to have COMMITTED SUICIDE over it. And we wonder sometimes if it’s true that white people would really trash this country because a black man was president for eight years.

Joe Lewis, who came along after Jack Johnson, had a list of do’s and don’ts. One of them was, “Don’t eat watermelon in public.”

Colin Kaepernick announces that he won’t participate in the NFL anymore.

Donald Trump tweets that it’s all a “big Dem HOAX.”

We stop in Ellensburg, Washington for dinner and we see the first Trump sign or sticker we’ve seen in 4 days of driving outside our blue coastal county. And someone’s defaced it.

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Back in Seattle we see Charleena Lyles’s name on the pavement.

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from Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore

TOWOIT #152

June 17, 2017… Day 149

Now Trump’s personal legal people are saying that Trump is NOT under investigation, even though Trump tweeted that himself Friday morning. That was apparently NOT an acknowledgment of being under investigation. Good luck with this one, guys!

I’m going on a weeklong trip to Montana. It’s a road trip. It doesn’t have a lot of structure. I’m going with my boyfriend. It’s our first vacation together. It’s a relationship experiment. I told my coworkers that if I show up at work on Wednesday with a tear-stained face and puffy eyes, just pretend like it’s normal. I’m just kidding. It’ll be fine. I’m just a relationship and vacation pessimist!!

I will backfill some TOWOIT with musings from my red state road trip, but I am leaving my computer at home and attempting to spend time away from the internet. I had to go to the doctor this morning because I thought a spider was living in my ear, but actually it was the neck muscle that attaches to my skull behind my ear, combined with hypochondria and an active imagination — but turns out I have a real neck thing and it’s from computer monitors and sitting at desks and being both tense and schlumpy at the same time.

Au revoir!!

 

TOWOIT #151

June 16, 2017… Day 148

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The man who killed Philando Castile was acquitted today, and people are grieving.

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Steve Scalise called himself “David Duke without the baggage.” Jeff Sessions joked that he thought the Klan was all right until he found out they smoked weed (seriously WTF is up with his weed obsession).

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For the last two days, Trump’s craziest tweets have come in groups of four.

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About Rosenstein’s weird memo last night:

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And the health care travesty continues behind closed doors.

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Meanwhile, there’s some kind of big Naval disaster happening. The USS Fitzgerald is in danger of sinking and 7 sailors are missing.

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There was another off-camera press gaggle today. This time a Mr. Anton was in charge, and it was en route to Miami. Mr. Anton turned it over to someone who is listed in the transcript as Senior Administration Official, or SAO instead of by name. Here’s what the reporters asked:

  • So you are aware of the reports?
  • Are you in touch with the Russians on those reports?  Have you spoken with your Russian counterparts?
  •  Off the record, meaning background as senior White House official?
  • You mean you want to go just completely off the record?
  • (Goes off the record.)  (Returns on the record.)
  • For the new Cuba policy, does that have anything to do with —
  • I’m just wondering if you’re worried about Cuba being a staging ground for terrorists and that’s part of the reason for the new policy.
  • (Goes off the record.) (Returns on the record.)
  • On the Cuba announcement today, you guys are doing it during a meeting of a lot of Latin American leaders who have been against changing the Obama administration policy.  Some might see this as a slap in the face to them during this meeting.  Why the timing?  
  • Mike, explain the significance of the location. The theater is named after the man who led the Bay of Pigs invasion. There’s the notion that this is provocative.
  • The changes that are being talked about seem relatively small compared to what you could have done. How is that going to — are the folks going to be happy with that?
  • The President said in a statement today that he was under investigation. How was he made aware of that?   
  • Michael, if you’re an American wanting to travel to Cuba, what will you need to do before going?
  • How do you square the President’s focus on human rights in Cuba with his apparent lack of interest in human rights in other countries.
  •  — in his speech — just what we’re expected to hear today from him?
  •  Is he going to list the benchmarks that Cuba needs to do for better relations with the United States?
  • And what are those?
  • Do you expect the policy to change which hotels Americans will be able to, under the law, to stay in in Cuba?  In which hotels —
  • Can you address what the administration is doing to get to the bottom of what happened to Otto Warmbier in North Korea and how it is that he was returned to the U.S. in a coma?
  • But is the U.S. satisfied with the explanation that North Korea gave that it was botulism and then a sleeping pill that led to his current condition?
  • Michael, is the President willing to have talks with the Cuban leadership?
  • Why will these changes help bring about change in Cuba when decades of a full embargo did not change significantly the human rights record?
  • Does that mean you agree, essentially, with the Obama administration’s posture toward Cuba, even though you’re refining the policy? Because those are similar arguments that they made.
  • Can you tell us who is aboard?
  • Is Reince on the plane?
  • Will the President do anything in Miami besides the speech and signing the directive?
  • From the group that endorsed him last year?
  • Will anybody from the administration today be able to answer questions on DACA and DAPA and the President’s statements regarding the investigation?

 

 

TOWOIT #150

June 15, 2017… Day 147

Hidey didey Christ Almighty.

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I didn’t say anything about the Congressional baseball shooting yesterday. It’s not that I wasn’t affected by it. I just had a lot of swirling emotions, and I was biting my tongue a little. Here’s how I feel about it, if anyone cares.

  • I hate violence
  • I hate the idea that we’re tipping into increased political violence here
  • I hate toxic masculinity
  • I hate that this guy has a history of domestic violence
  • I hate that the Cosby jury is deadlocked
  • I hate that everything is related like this
  • I hate that they keep interrupting Kamala Harris in the Senate
  • It really is all related
  • I hate that he had a gun
  • I hate that those people had to live through something so scary
  • I hate that someone’s hip and pelvis got torn apart
  • I hate that two capitol police officers got shot
  • I hate that the shooter is being framed neutrally in the media because he’s white
  • I hate that Senator Scalise was protected by an African-American lesbian officer who took a bullet for him, and yet he (and the other Republicans) will still probably endorse racist policies, make life harder for gay people, and fight against any kind of common sense gun control
  • I hate that we’re this divided, and that this incident seems to just prove it more than ever. I hate that we live in two different realities.
  • I hate that Fox News is trying to pin this on Democrats in general
  • I hate puns and the fact that this is a bulleted list is not a pun

Trump sent four unhinged Tweets today. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in another off-camera briefing, referred reporters to outside counsel when asked about Trump’s tweets.

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  • Sarah, yesterday the President stuck to the script in his televised remarks. He didn’t lash out at opponents yesterday. He didn’t tweet about the Russia investigation. He stuck to a message of unity. That changed this morning with the President’s tweets. Why did the President decide to weigh in again on the Russia investigation this morning?
  • Can I follow up on that? I mean, the stories that came out, actually, were that Mueller was investigating the President for potential obstruction of justice. Given that the White House has been referring questions to Trump’s personal lawyers, why is it the President feels like he, personally, should be weighing in on this?
  • I just have a follow, and then one more question — and I know you’re going to refer a lot of this to outside counsel — but given the reports that have come out over the last 12 to 18 hours, does the President still feel vindicated?
  • And who are the “bad” and “conflicted” people he mentioned in that tweet?
  • Christopher Wray is your pick for the new FBI director. His nomination has not been formally sent over to the Senate. Can you explain what the holdup has been and where that goes from here?
  • Are you talking about security clearance? Or is it —
  • Was that announced too early then? Or was the President appropriate when he announced that?
  • Well — but is there some messaging confusion there? Why can’t you come out and answer questions about it if he’s tweeting about it? Clearly, he feels comfortable speaking about it.
  • And let me just try one more time on the tweet — to Hallie’s point — “they made up a phony collusion.” Is that Democrats? Who is that? Who is he referencing?
  • Okay. And, Sarah, has anyone at the White House gotten a request from Mueller for any documents related to the investigation?
  • Over the last day, since the shooting occurred yesterday morning, there’s been a lot of talk about rhetoric and the extent that political rhetoric in this country may be fueling the kinds of incidents that happen. You saw the President — it was just referred in the first question — the President took a real, sort of, unity tone in that first statement, but he returned to the kind of divisiveness and tone that he normally does in the tweets this morning. So I guess the question is, does the White House feel like the President and the White House, more broadly, have any responsibility to adapt a kind of different tone going forward, the way that many of the members on both sides of the aisle are calling for in the last 24 hours?
  • Well, I guess, when it comes to a tweet, and not on the substance of the Russia investigation — but when you call people “bad people” and “witch hunt,” and sort of attacking — impugning motives of your adversaries, that’s the kind of rhetoric I think that people are talking about.
  • Sarah, how does he plan to do that? Does he plan to use this moment as a teachable moment and try and urge people to, beyond the speech yesterday, try and urge people to bring down the heat of the rhetoric here? Or how does he view this as his leadership moment?
  • Does he plan to do anything differently, though, in terms of give a speech solely on this or perhaps reach out to Democrats? What specifically does he plan to do different, if anything else?
  • One final thing. Does he still have confidence, or does he have confidence in the special counsel?
  • You said you didn’t know, though, if he had confidence on Air Force One, I think. Do you think he has confidence in Bob Mueller?
  • The Secret Service says that they have no recordings of the President’s conversation while he was in office. Is that case closed for this White House? Does that answer the question of whether there are tapes or not?
  • Is that then where this answer is going to come from? Because, just a few days ago, the President said he would tell America —
  • Should we expect that to happen this week? The President’s legal team said on Sunday that it would happen this week.
  • Today, the Senate passed new sanctions on Iran and then also on Russia as well. Secretary Tillerson said he felt that he didn’t want to be handcuffed by this. White House have a position?
  • Does the White House feel handcuffed, though, in terms of being able to reach out with the Senate action?
  • Why has the President decided to give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authority to increase troop levels in Afghanistan?
  • How many more troops does the President want to see added to U.S. forces in Afghanistan?
  • Two questions. First, on executive privilege. About a week ago, you said that in order to facilitate the swift examination of the facts sought by the House Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege about Jim Comey’s testimony. Does that still hold for the Attorney General, Mr. Sessions? Does the President have any reason to invoke executive privilege or say that Mr. Sessions should not answer the questions from the Intelligence Committee?
  • Okay, thank you. Last week, Sean put out a very strong statement about the Russian crackdown of dissidents, and this won wide applause from the Russia expatriate community, Mr. Khodorkovsky and Vladimir Kara-Murza, both prominent Russian dissidents. Mr. Kara-Murza called on the President to go a step further and bring up the plight of the hundreds of Russian dissidents who have been jailed in the last few days when he meets with President Putin in Hamburg at the G20 Summit. Does he plan to bring that up?
  • Thank you. Was based on — almost within a period of days after the strong statements from the President and Secretary Tillerson about Qatar, that the United States entered into a $21 billion arms deal with Qatar, and that includes $12 billion, I believe, for fighter aircraft. Does this mean that Qatar is following the U.S. example and cutting back on its ties to those the President considered unacceptable?
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President, obviously, based upon his tweets, is not pleased with the investigation that is ongoing by Robert Mueller. Does the President, Sarah, believe it’s in his power to shut down that investigation?
  • On a separate topic, can you give us a little background about the President’s visit with Congressman Scalise last night in the hospital, just beyond what we heard last night from Sean?
  • Sarah, one logistical one and one policy one. The logistical one is, while I love air conditioning, the fact that it’s running and the fact that you’re not on speaker is it would be great if we get the transcript because it’s going to be really hard to get audio off this. And the policy one is, does the President plan to nominate a Cuban ambassador, or will he leave that position vacant during his presidency?
  • Sarah, on Bob Mueller, is there anything you can tell us more about when he came in to interview for the job, what the President was looking at offering him? Was it acting FBI director? Was it actually FBI director? Why didn’t the White House tell us more about that at the time when you did announce other people who were coming in for the director job?
  • But it was a job interview?
  • And does the White House believe that that presents any kind of conflict, that sequence of events you just described? The day before he’s supposed to be the independent, outside counsel, he was meeting, presumably, with the President directly to talk about —
  • Sorry, the President wasn’t aware of —
  • So it’s not a conflict?
  • Thank you, I appreciate it. So a couple of political things. Virginia had its elections the other day. That’s the biggest — big election of this year. I’m wondering if the President would campaign for the Republican nominee for governor, or any of the nominees; if he’s spoken to Ed Gillespie, if they’ve had any conversation or any plans to do anything together.
  • And you don’t know if he would campaign for him later in the year?
  • How about next week for the final week of the Georgia election? Any other —
  • He wouldn’t do anything? Calls?
  • Two questions on healthcare. Is anything the President would be willing to see happen in the Senate bill that would make it more palatable to conservatives? Because right now, centrist Republicans seem to be pushing more in the direction that’s (inaudible) for them —
  • Specifically, is it better for them?
  • And on cost-sharing reductions, has the President made a decision yet — has the White House made a decision yet on whether it will pay the cost-sharing reduction subsidies for the month of June?
  • Who from the administration is planning on going to the baseball game tonight? And is there any other message to people that — the teams that are playing, players in the game?

 

TOWOIT #149

June 14, 2017… Day 146

A random picture of Maxine Waters, who looks really pretty in that color:

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Mueller (and therefore Rosenstein) live to see another day:

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This is on the White House splash page, and I for one plan to comply:

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This is splashed on the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.:

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The transcript of yesterday’s off-camera press gaggle surfaced today. Here are the questions reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

  • Is the President considering whether or not he will fire or seek to have Robert Mueller fired as the Special Counsel?
  • Did the President watch any of the Jeff Sessions testimony? And what did he think?
  • Sarah, did the President call the GOP healthcare bill “mean” during his lunch with senators today?
  • Has the President authorized Secretary of Defense Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan?
  • Sarah, the North Koreans sent back a university student who’s in a coma. What does the President think about the fact that this young man is in a coma?
  • Can you give us a little bit more detail on that? What do you mean when you say he worked hard with Tillerson? I know this all sort of came to a head, I guess, on June 6th when the United States was informed about his condition.  But can you give us some detail about meetings or discussions or what the President had?
  • Sarah, the President has said he wants the Republican healthcare plan to be more generous. What does he mean by that?
  • Sarah, he said that in public.
  • That was in a pool report.
  • There has also been talk that a senate bill could even be coming out tonight. Is the President — so far, when he heard from all these senators today, is he happy with the direction that the Senate Republicans seem to be going in? Is he pushing them to be more generous on preexisting conditions? Or — you know, where does he stand in relation to the Senate bill?
  • Sarah, do you have any more details on the announcement that’s expected on Friday about changes to Cuba policy? What parts of the Obamacare administration’s policy is the President planning to roll back? And what is he planning to announce in Miami?
  • Just to follow up on that, you mean there’s no final decisions? Or you just don’t have them to provide for us?
  • But he is going down there despite the fact that no final decision —
  • Has the President decided when he’s going to announce whether he has tapes of the Comey conversations?
  • What are the President’s feelings on Mueller at this point? Did he interview him for FBI director? And does he have confidence in him in his current role?
  • Do you have any more details on the workforce development stuff — whether the apprenticeship program is only in high schools or whether it would be corporations? Any more details on how that would work or how it would be encouraged?
  • The President said something today about wanting to have every high school in the country have an apprenticeship program, and I hadn’t heard that in any of the background information. Is that something that’s going to be part of these announcements too? Or was he just kind of speaking a little off-the-cuff on that?
  • Do you know how much money was raised?

In related news, I’ve started re-watching West Wing just for Allison Janney as press secretary C.J. Cregg. 

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TOWOIT #148

June 13, 2017… Day 145

Fell asleep last night after obsessing about the possibility of Trump firing Mueller. Woke up with my face in a fist. Not in a “ready for battle” way, but more just in a clenched up and exhausted way. Chasing buses naked through all my anxiety dreams way.

Then Rod Rosenstein’s testimony in front of Congress reassured me a little. He said he didn’t see any cause to fire Mueller, he had no desire to fire Mueller, and he wouldn’t let anyone order him to fire Mueller.

Then Jeff Sessions was such an obfuscatory little racist liar all afternoon, it was a real drag. Kamala Harris got interrupted, shushed and disrespected *again* but her greatness is not to be denied.

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TOWOIT #147

June 12, 2017… Day 144

Today I was thinking about Alexei Navalny and the young people protesting Putin and corruption in Russia. Now that’s bravery.

And I think about DeRay, Brittany, and Sam on Pod Save the People, talking calmly about Jeff Sessions and the justice department — when it’s so awful for black people, it’s been so awful. And now Sessions as AG feels like a five-alarm fire, but these three podcast hosts sound so calm. It makes you realize how brave and seasoned black people have had to be in the face of terrible things long before Trump became President.

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And I think about the voters in the UK who pulled Labour and the voters in France who pulled centrist. I don’t think all those voters were FOR Corbyn or FOR Macron. Not by a long, long shot. But they pulled together and they voted for the person who had the best shot to intervene against the forces pulling Europe rightward. And that was pragmatic and beautiful and good.

Yeah, I didn’t get any of those feelings, none of the above, for what I heard coming out of Bernie’s People’s Summit. Not feeling it, guys. Not. Feeling. It. Get Keith Ellison in here, stat. He’s the person who can bridge this divide if Bernie can stand to stop taking up all the air in the room.

Ok, so other news today. Trump-allies in the media are laying the groundwork for the idea that Trump could fire Mueller and end the Russian probe. If the Republicans let that slide, and it feels like they would — then sayonara, democracy. It was good to know you. We didn’t deserve you.

In other signs of wear and tear, at Trump’s cabinet meeting, the cabinet secretaries went around the room in front of the press and said how wonderful Trump was and how blessed they are to be working for him. He started off by saying he had signed more legislation and done more things than almost any other president. Reporters in the room described the whole interlude as “awkward” and “humiliating.”

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Jeff Sessions will testify in public tomorrow after all, although Chris Cilizza seems to think he’s gaming the system somehow with this decision. I just got that from the headline. I don’t always read Cilizza. Or rather, I reach my personal quota and can’t go on until I have a break from him.

So we’ll see what that’s like tomorrow. Sessions has already lied under oath, so why expect him to tell the truth?

The Republicans in the Senate seem to be secretively hurtling a healthcare bill through it’s various stages, and will be passing it with 50 votes and a tiebreaker from Mike Pence. Indivisible and other organizations are doing what they can to rally the troops, but it feels like a losing proposition. I really want the option of changing jobs. I don’t want to cling like a monkey to my job forever. I don’t want to marry for health insurance like my mom and my sister both did in the early 2000s. Don’t get me wrong — they married wonderful men. But they made that leap for the health insurance.

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The 9th circuit court of appeals upheld the freeze on Trump’s travel ban. I’ve lost track of the whole thread on that travel ban, except that it keeps losing in court. In other court news, Maryland D.C. are suing Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

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Puerto Rico voted overwhelmingly for statehood and everyone seems to be downplaying it. Also downplayed: the Cosby trial. I think we’re just all too sad and worn down for that sad mess.

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Sean Spicer took questions for eleven minutes. And then in those eleven minutes, he managed to be combative, snitty, an obfuscating liar, a bully, a dodger, an evader… it was a sorry display. It was so far beneath the dignity of the journalists in the room. Those people really know their shit. They could swap places with the other people in the White House and do a better job running things. I’m sure of it for this White House.

The questions reporters asked today:

  • Thank you. Following up on your India announcement, the President, in his speech in New Jersey had said if he’s elected he would be the best friend of India ever in the White House. What steps does the President want to take in his next four years, or eight years, to implement his promise he made to the community here?
  • Sean, thank you. Two questions on trade. Number one, you talked about the beef arrangement. Is that beginning today? And can you flesh out a little bit more about what it looks like? I understood there was going to be an announcement from USDA. Are we waiting for that to actually make this is a fact? Or where are we in the process?
  • And secondly, my other quick question is on steel and aluminum, and the review that the administration is doing. The President said — and was quoted in one of the pool reports as saying that there is legislation being drafted on antidumping. The 232 process goes to Congress anyway.  Was he referring to additional legislation, or this 232 review that you had already initiated as reported by Secretary Ross?
  • Thanks, Sean. A couple questions for you. First, does President Trump have audio recordings of his conversations and meetings with the former FBI Director, James Comey?
  • Do you have any sort of timeline on when that announcement will be?
  • And a quick follow-up on the Attorney General. From the perspective of President Trump, what role did Attorney General Jeff Sessions play in the firing of James Comey?
  • Sean, to that end, when Jeff Sessions testifies tomorrow, do you believe that he should invoke executive privilege on conversations between himself and the President as it relates to Jim Comey?
  • In any way, did Jeff Sessions, folks at the DOJ ask for the White House’s permission, in essence, for him to testify publicly tomorrow?
  • Is the President okay with him testifying in this open setting tomorrow?
  • But just to follow on that, the President seemed to indicate that he thought that it was a mistake for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself in the Russia investigation. He said that his preference would have been to the contrary, off-camera.  What does the President think about the fact that Sessions will be testifying tomorrow and, according to the Department of Justice, wanted to testify in an open session rather than closed classified session?
  • If I could ask you about the other headline of the day — the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia filing a lawsuit against the President, seeking rulings on two points in the emoluments clause in the Constitution. The RNC thinks that this is a bogus lawsuit. What is the President and what is the White House’s perspective on that?
  • Thanks, Sean. I wanted to just — two questions. But first, why leave open this question of whether there are tapes? Don’t the American people — do they deserve to know whether Comey was lying to the Senate? Why leave this question open?
  • But is — I mean, it’s an open question that —
  • Okay, but to follow up on — speaking of lawsuits, for the Ninth Circuit — they just came out and they upheld the block of the travel ban. Any response to that?
  • Hey, Sean. So two questions for you then. I want to follow up on the tapes issue. If the President does have evidence that the FBI Director lied under oath, what is he waiting for?
  • Right, but so what is he waiting for? What’s the delay?
  • On the travel ban, Sean — this is the second question — you just mentioned you obviously responded to the Ninth Circuit ruling today. That ruling also cites the President’s tweets from June 5th on the travel ban. And it cites your statements — this administration’s statement that the President’s tweets are official statements. So given that measure, given that the travel ban is obviously a priority for the President, how is it that the President is not putting his own agenda in danger when it comes to his Twitter habits?
  • The Twitter question, Sean — it’s a different question, though.
  • It comes to the Twitter issue.  So I just want to —
  • Sean, what is the President’s reaction to the Russian government’s crackdown on anti-corruption protests today?
  • Well, Mr. Navalny in particular, but I assume that would be part of your overall —
  • Thank you. One more. The President mentioned a press conference in a couple weeks on the ISIS review. Can you say where and when? And has he made a decision about changing the policy?
  • Thank you, Sean. You said that the President wants to see this Russia investigation and all these investigations wrapped up as soon as possible. He said on Friday that he would be willing to testify under oath. Can you say when he would be willing to do that? Would he be willing to do that before Congress goes into recess to get this done as soon as possible?
  • So he would — sorry, just wanted to be very clear about this.  So he’s not saying that he would go before Congress —
  • Does he have confidence in Director Mueller, Sean? <<This question was ignored>>
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions. Does the President have a reaction to the vote in Puerto Rico yesterday — the nonbinding measure calling for statehood as the first choice of the people for their future?
  • My other question was, there are widespread stories and speculation that when the President goes to Miami this Friday he will undo the executive orders from the Obama administration that eased relations with Cuba. Can you confirm whether he will undo all of them or some of them?
  •  Thanks.  Following on some of the stories over the weekend in England, when the President signs off on a foreign trip, how much does he factor in his personal popularity in that country?

 

 

 

 

TOWOIT#144

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June 9, 2017… Day 141

Sarah Huckabee Sanders had an off-camera press gaggle after (during?) the Comey hearing yesterday. Lots of questions about lying, recording devices, and the attorney general.

  • Sarah, did the President watch any of the hearing today?
  • And do you know if he’ll mention the testimony at all in his speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition?
  • Sarah, former Director Comey essentially said the President lied to him — lied to him, lied about the content of the meetings, said he didn’t trust the President enough to not record in minute detail the aspects of those meetings. Two questions:  Is the President a liar, as former Director Comey says? And is the Director’s testimony truthful to the best of your understanding?
  • Sarah, two things for you. In his testimony, Comey also accused the administration of defaming him and defaming the FBI with his comments about morale. Can you address those?
  • And then, also, there were a lot of questions about tapes that the President claimed that he might have about conversations between the two of them. He said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” and called on the President for them to please be released. Are there tapes of those conversations?
  • Sarah, in all fairness, you said from the podium that the FBI Director had lost the faith of the rank and file of the FBI. That’s got nothing to do with Marc Kasowitz. The FBI Director — former FBI Director — just told the Senate Intelligence Committee that’s not true. Can you help us understand this discrepancy?
  • Can you tell us as a housekeeping matter, is Kasowitz going to read this to the pool, or come back here? And will he take questions?
  • Can you speak to the atmosphere in the West Wing? Obviously you always have TVs on. Today they’re all playing the hearing. In terms of what the President –
  • But it’s on. So it’s in the atmosphere of the workplace here. Can you describe how it’s affecting people in the West Wing today? And did the President watch any of it? I know you said he had meetings, but do you know if he watched any of it?
  • Are you able to say today, does the President have confidence in his Attorney General?
  • I think there was a variation of this question asked about whether there are tapes. Can you say definitively whether there is a taping system that allows the President to record his conversations here at the White House?
  • Two points struck with me from the Comey testimony. One, the President was not personally investigated. And the second one, the point is that they both share the concern about the leakage of classified information. If you know that they both agree on these things, what explains that information that the President was not under investigation has not been leaked out? Because when things are getting leaked then shouldn’t everything gets out? But there is an impression that there is selective kind of leakage right now going on. So how does your administration do that? And are you going to do any kind of investigation when it comes to the leakage of classified information? And who is doing this leakage? And why the selective leakage? There is an impression there is no information that is going to impugn the President. But what about these other types of information that could not get out if he was – 
  • Sarah, back on the recording issue, for security purposes — this is the White House, this is the West Wing — for security purposes, are there recording devices, video or audio, in this West Wing area?
  • I am asking because this is the home of the leader of the free world. This is where he works. This place is a target for anything and everything. We’ve seen that. And within — I mean, there’s a lot of security here and it would not be something out of the realm of possibility that there could be security cameras or security recordings just for the safety of the President and his senior staff. Do you know of any such thing?
  • They would probably know comings and goings and things that happened if they are a nature of concern. If something were to happen, they would look at tapes or figure out — beyond asking questions, they would be able to –
  • Sarah, two questions. First of all, aside from the specifics of the Comey hearing, his testimony was leaked in advance yesterday. You came back from Ohio on the plane with the President. Could you characterize his mood about all the attention that’s being paid to it? Is he frustrated? What’s his attitude about the whole thing?
  • One more. You mentioned that he had discussions this morning with his national security people about the Gulf. He had spoken yesterday to the head of the United Arab Emirates and to the head of Qatar. What is the goal here? What is the President’s goal here?
  • I had some on Qatar, but I did want to ask one on — you said it was a normal day at the White House. Obviously, as much as you guys might be trying to keep a sense of normalcy, this is a day that would seem kind of definitional on the presidency. Can you talk at all about what kind of stuff you guys are doing to prepare for this testimony, to react to the testimony in real time, to prepare for this? Was it really entirely outsourced to outside counsel? I mean, you and Sean had to be out there talking about how you’d address these questions, talking to senior aides about it and that sort of thing.
  • And one shot on Qatar, just because it’s a big issue and what the President apparently spent his morning on. Do you guys see the demands that the Saudis and other Gulf countries made as being reasonable of Qatar? And does the President stand by his tweets from earlier this week in which he suggested that they were financing terrorism in the Middle East, especially in light of CNN’s report that the sort of root cause of all this might have been a story that was planted by Russian intelligence services?
  • Can I go back to one other thing? I want to see if you can comment on this aspect of the hearing. All during the election campaign the President pointed to the meeting that then Attorney General Loretta Lynch shared with Bill Clinton on the tarmac. And we learned from Comey today that Loretta Lynch had asked him as Director of the FBI to refer to the Hillary Clinton investigation as a “matter,” and not an investigation. And he felt that the Department of Justice was trying to align the language of the FBI’s investigation with that of the Clinton campaign. Can you give us something on that?
  • Sarah, you and others in the administration have said for a while the President is his own best messenger. Should we expect to hear from the President at any point today regarding former Director Comey’s testimony? And at what point will we hear from him?
  • About this subject.
  • — you said you had no idea whether or not there was a taping system in the Oval Office. Could you try to find out? A lot of people are interested, as you might imagine.
  • Could you characterize — not specifically about these meetings with the former FBI Director — but when the President comes out of a meeting with anyone, does he take notes? Do his aides takes notes? Does he in any way record the conversation in writing or in audio format to look back on?
  • I’m just trying to get a better understanding of how the President comes out of meetings. Does he take notes? Does someone take notes for him, generally speaking?
  • A quick follow-up on today — have you met with the President today?
  • Sarah, the President just named a new FBI director. This is adjacent to Comey in the sense that he noted that he had nine one-on-one conversations with the President either in person or on the phone. Is that a level of contact with the FBI Director that this White House thinks is appropriate? Or is it something that the President intends to change in terms of his contact with whoever ends up becoming the next FBI Director — Christopher Wray, in this case, potentially?
  • Right, but the context here is that, with President Obama, it was two conversations over three years. With President Bush, it was one. It seems like the level of contact is enormous by comparison, in this short span of time — it was about four months. So is that something that you all believe is appropriate with Comey? And is it something that will continue?
  • So what would be the consequence for someone that leaked an internal memo through a professor in order to, say, have a special counsel appointed, as Comey did today? But I know that you’re referring to that there’s going to be a statement. So can you speak to that in a general sense?
  • Would the White House take any particular action if they found out? Because there’s been this question of leaks, so what would be the White House response if they found out that, say, an FBI Director has leaked an internal memo?
  • I want to ask a follow-up on Attorney General Sessions. What changed in the last couple days that allows you to now say the President has confidence in him? Especially because you said you didn’t have a conversation with him today, so, I guess, what changed in the past 72 hours that now allows you to
  • You did? Okay.
  • Sarah, why was Jeff Sessions involved in the firing of James Comey if he had recused himself from the Russia investigation?
  • Okay. So to follow up, today James Comey said he never initiated contact with the President the nine times they spoke. Does the President agree with that, that he initiated contact with James Comey all nine times?
  • He said Comey called him –
  • Let me ask you two, if you don’t mind. Obviously, the President has one-on-one conversations with staff members, people he’s hired. But as it relates to folks that he hasn’t hired, is there any sort of policy as to not put him in a one-on-one situation so it doesn’t create a “he said, he said, he said, she said” whatever type environment? Or is that something that the White House might look at?
  • Okay. And let me ask you, secondly — the President had spoken and tweeted a lot about the Russia investigation. And know we know throughout that, as early as January 6th and as late as March 30th, he had been assured by Jim Comey that he personally was not under investigation. So I’m wondering if you could say why the President never said that detail? Why he never came out and said, hey, look, I’ve been assured — he waited all the way until the Comey firing. Do you know why he waited up until that moment to say it?
  • Sarah, thank you. Looking to the future, one overriding element in today’s hearing was that Comey said — and both sides agreed — that Russia still is coming after American elections and will continue to in the future. Does the President agree? And what will he do about this important question?
  • Thanks, Sarah. A couple questions about business in the Senate right now. In connection with Iran sanctions legislation, there is an effort to link to it or to add an amendment that would make that legislation contingent on also a provision that would require congressional approval of any effort to change sanctions — to remove sanctions on Russia. Is that something that the White House would support?

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TOWOIT #143

June 8, 2017… Day 140… aka Comey Day.

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Whoa, everything is flooding past quickly. I had a lot more to add to yesterday but time is sweeping on and today was Comey Day.

I wish I didn’t have to be at work all day, and I could have live-blogged my impressions as I listened to the hearing at my desk. That would be much more fun and immediate. Now it’s late, and the day has been too much of an emotional journey already, and I’m tired of it all.

Also, after Comey, I was infuriated by the right wing spin and the fact that the GOP is allowing Trump to do whatever he wants without oversight. And I was let down, because briefly, Comey’s testimony had been comforting and refreshing. He said that the Trump administration lies. He said he was afraid Trump would lie about their encounters. It felt good to hear someone say that. At the end of his testimony, the Republican Senator Richard Burr made it sound like he believed Comey over Trump. And when Comey said we should all feel good about Robert Mueller being in charge of the investigation — I was so relieved that someone told me I could feel good about something. And that I sort of believed it for a second.

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But the Comey hearing also felt like a bunch of guys questioning a rape victim, listening to the questions the Senators asked and how they asked them. And just knowing the awkwardness and imbalance of power in the room when Comey was alone with Trump. And knowing Trump doesn’t respect people’s autonomy and is a sexual predator. It was stomach-turning.

After the hearing I listened to Ezra Klein’s conversation with Masha Gessen in which she talks about how the left is just turning into conspiracy theorists and the Russia investigation is gonna drag on forever and probably be inconclusive so everyone just needs to calm down and get over it. This is the same Masha Gessen who has been terrifying me with visions of the U.S. turning INTO Russia (erosion of press freedoms, for instance).

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But after work I sat in on an ACLU conference call about immigration and policing in sanctuary cities, and I also saw the signal fires going up around the internet about the Senate healthcare bill. And I started to feel a little better again.

In other news…

Continue reading TOWOIT #143