TOWOIT #343: Pawns for a wall

June 19, 2018.

Tonight was the night Rachel Maddow cried on air after just reading breaking news from the AP about babies bussed to “tender age shelters” that are basically disorganized orphanages. No plan in place to reunite parents and children.

Last night was the night Kirstjen Nielsen flew in from New Orleans and said she wasn’t sure where the girls and toddlers were. We’ve only seen pictures of the older boys.

Here are the questions reporters asked Kirstjen Nielsen:

Continue reading TOWOIT #343: Pawns for a wall

TOWOIT #342: Neither of these women deserve a fun insult

June 18, 2018.

There’s no White House transcript up yet for today’s briefing. That’s not too surprising. That thing chased itself across the length of a long afternoon. First it was going to be at 1:15. Then at 3:30. The reporters waited for an hour, and then at 4:30, someone came in with a note saying the briefing would be at 5:00. Someone kept sighing in overheated distress off camera on c-span. Several minutes past five, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen came in.

Word is, Kirstjen flew in from New Orleans to be there short notice.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 5.13.38 PM

And in the words of my favorite Crooked Media man after Ira Madison:

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More to follow.

TOWOIT #341: “That’s not true, sir. That’s not true.”

June 18, 2018.

Best Trump line from Friday morning: “When it’s my fault, I’ll tell you.”

Questions reporters asked Trump in that bananas press avail outside the White House on June 15:

  • Do you think James Comey’s actions were unfair to Hillary?
  • (can’t hear question)
  • Mr. President, there was a Fox news report this week that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is pushing back and threatening to investigate the congressional investigators who just want documents (hahaha — they just want to obstruct justice — that’s all!!). Do you think that that is appropriate
  • On North Korea —
  • Are you going to suspend Mueller? Are you thinking of suspending Mueller?
  • Mr. President, you have spoken so passionately about the circumstances that led to Otto Warmbier’s death.
  • In the same breath, you’re defending now Kim Jong Un’s human rights records. How can you do that?
  • By the way, you declared the nuclear threat from North Korea is over.
  • You say the threat is over. Is it over?
  • Sir —
  • How can Kim love his people if he’s killing them?
  • Mr. President, why did you offer to halt the military exercises with South Korea?
  • Yeah.
  • That’s North Korea’s term. “War games.”
  • They use it too.
  • What did you mean just now when you said you wished Americans would sit up at attention when you spoke
  • CNN.
  • Mr. President —
  • (Inaudible.)
  • So there’s some high-profile court cases going on. You’ve got a former campaign manager, your former lawyer. They’re all dealing with legal troubles. Are you paying close attention —
  • You say that you feel badly. Is there any consideration at any point of a pardon for any of the people that you —
  • What about those who don’t have a celebrity talking for them?
  • What about all those folks who don’t have Kim Kardashian speaking on their behalf?
  • Do you worry that Michael Cohen might flip?
  • Are you worried that Michael Cohen might flip?
  • Is Michael Cohen still your friend?
  • Is he still your friend?
  • Is he still your lawyer?
  • Your personal lawyer
  • Are you worried he will cooperate?
  • I just want to know if you’re worried —
  • I just want to know if you’re worried if he’s going to cooperate with federal investigators.
  • Got it. Got it.
  • Mr. President, did you tape that statement about Don Jr.? Did you dictate the statement about Donald Trump, Jr.?
  • But can you tell us?
  • Well, just to clear it up. To clear it up.
  • Did you dictate?
  • Understood.
  • Thank you, sir. On the IG report, you’ve said TWICE now that it exonerated you and it proved there’s no collusion. The IG report —
  • It had nothing to do with collusion. It had nothing to do with that.
  • Sir, that has nothing to do with collusion. Why are you lying about it, sir? (I think this was Andrew Feinberg)
  • Should he be fired?
  • Mr. President, are you going to fire Scott Pruitt?
  • You don’t see any problems with his ethical —
  • Are you going to fire him?
  • Do you think he’s used his position for private gain?
  • Mr. President, do you agree with children being taken away from (inaudible)?
  • Sir, that’s your own policy. That’s your own policy. Why do you keep lying about it, sir?
  • You’re the President.
  • You can change it right now.
  • Jeff Sessions said —
  • Mr. President, you control both chambers of Congress. The Republicans do.
  • AND the White House–
  • What about executive action?
  • On North Korea, sir.  On North Korea.
  • Mr. President, why —
  • Do you support the immigration compromise, Mr. President?
  • But then, Mr. President — but then why did Jeff Sessions announce a zero-tolerance policy at the border on May 7th? Is that not a Republican —
  • Is that not a Republican policy?
  • Is that not a Republican policy?
  • But that was a direct order to —
  • That’s not true, sir. That’s not true.
  • But there’s no law that says families have to separated at the border. There’s another way to go about it, Mr. President.
  • Mr. President, at the end of the “Fox & Friends” interview, you said that you were going to spend Father’s Day weekend doing work, and you said that you were going to have a call with North Korea. Who are you going to talk to in North Korea?
  • Can you tell us about the verification process?
  • What’s the verification process?
  • You told Americans that they can sleep well at night, and you declared there’s no more nuclear threat.
  • What’s verification process going to look like?
  • What’s it’s going to look like?
  • How long will you give Kim Jong Un to follow through on denuclearization before you —
  • Is he coming to the White House soon?
  • — before you put sanctions back on?
  • Is he visiting the White House, Mr. Trump?
  • Are you planning to meet with Putin this summer?
  • Is Crimea part of Russia? Do you —
  • So it’s his fault? (His = Obama’s)
  • How is it not Putin’s fault, sir?
  • How is it not Putin’s fault, sir? How is it not Putin’s fault? He invaded them.

TOWOIT #340: “Go ahead, Jill”

June 15, 2018.

At yesterday’s briefing, Brian Karem had an outburst. I appreciate it in this age of gaslighting and mindfuckery, when someone gets upset in a human way about basic decency. So I say thank you to Brian Karem. Also to Jim Acosta of CNN and Paula Reid of CBS, who both pushed back and said “No” when Sarah said something untrue.

Also a thank you to the White House transcriptionist who still faithfully records unflattering and sometimes aurally muddled cross-talk. I think this is a small act of integrity by someone I like to think is a holdover from previous administrations.

This might be a good time to add that I’m tired of hearing people on the left wring their hands about the nature of expression and tone — for instance, complaining about Robert De Niro saying “Fuck Donald Trump” at the Tonys. Who cares. Trump supporters hate our guts no matter WHAT we do. Let’s say Fuck Donald Trump while it’s still legal.

Here are the questions reporters asked Sanders at yesterday’s heated briefing:

Continue reading TOWOIT #340: “Go ahead, Jill”

TOWOIT #338: Attacking the U.S. press on foreign soil

June 13, 2018.

The G7 and Singapore stuff has been so stupid and painful and full of moronic pageantry that I admit my brain just shut down a little over this last week. I’m meeting with Washington State Democrats tonight, i’m thinking about the midterms, I’m listening to political podcasts about the midterms and how to get out the vote. I haven’t abdicated my responsibility or my existential dread. I just can’t watch the towers go down in slow motion day after day.

This morning I flipped back through the news page on Whitehouse.gov to see if I had missed a press gaggle — I thought surely in all these days of flying around, there would have been a press gaggle. I had seen Sarah Huckabee Sanders looking dour and complicit on the edges of various Trumpian photographs from recent international events — but no, nothing. Nary a gaggle. Nothing on the docket yet for today either, but it’s early.

Trump himself gave press conferences in Quebec and Singapore, where he attacked the U.S. press. This falls in the zone of what I’ve been avoiding exposing myself to too much of. If I get up the gumption later, I’ll watch so I can identify which reporter asked which question in the transcript. In the meantime, here are the questions from the June 9 transcript:
Continue reading TOWOIT #338: Attacking the U.S. press on foreign soil

TOWOIT #337: His favorite piñata

June 6, 2018.

April Ryan was incredible at yesterday’s briefing when she kept persistently asking about whether the president even understands that the players take a knee because of police-involved shootings. Get it all on the record, April. Sarah Sanders is the worst. She sounds like she’d love executing people who go back to fixing their bicycle too soon after the military parade passes.

C-span’s got its video frozen at quite a facial expression.

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 6.33.51 PM

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, on the President’s decision to disinvite the Eagles, he’s suggesting this is about the National Anthem. Is the President aware that not a single player on the Eagles, through the entire season, knelt for the National Anthem?
  • But why is he acting like this is about the National Anthem? And is he concerned — we heard from Steph Curry and from LeBron James the suggestion that whoever wins the NBA Championship, they’re unlikely to be here. Is this about something more than the National Anthem? Something other than the National Anthem?
  • (Pamela Brown, CNN) To be clear on that point: This isn’t about the National Anthem; it’s about so few players coming in the end, correct?
  • Just to follow up, Sarah. Really important. The other day, on the statement that you made — (Sarah tries to cut her off but she keeps going)
  • — you referred us to the outside counsel on the Don Jr. statement that the President was involved in. The outside counsel did weigh in, saying that, yes, the President did dictate the statement. Rudy Giuliani was on CNN saying it was a mistake to say that the President didn’t dictate it. So do you want to correct the record on your statement from August when you said, “He certainly didn’t dictate”?
  • But you commented in August, and there was outside counsel in August, as well, but you still talked about it. So why can’t you correct the record now?
  • Are you being advised not to answer the question?
  • (Catherine Lucey, Associated Press) Sarah, President Trump won Pennsylvania by a narrow margin. The GOP is looking to pick up a Senate seat there. Does he risk alienating key voters in that state by disinviting the Eagles, but also by the statement that the team abandoned the fans?
  • (Sarah — I can’t tell who this is) Thank you, Sarah. On Thursday, Prime Minister Abe will be here to meet with the President. What will be on his agenda going into the meeting? Will they discuss trade issues? And the President said the other day that Japan, China, and South Korea can provide economic assistance to North Korea. And does the President plan to raise this issue with Prime Minister Abe?
  • And on the — (follow-up denied)
  • (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asked an aide, we reported today, to help his wife get a Chick-fil-A franchise. Does the President think that’s ethical behavior?
  • One follow-up for you, Sarah. (He muscled through her calling on Matthew Nussbaum) Back to her question. We’re not asking really about the Special Counsel or the outside counsel. The only question is, do you think your statement in August was accurate? Your statement; not his. Was your statement accurate or inaccurate?
  • No, not a back-and-forth. You said something. We just want to know if it was accurate or not. Was the statement accurate?
  • But, Sarah, not about the outside counsel. You said something from the podium. Was it accurate or not? That’s all we want to know. (Defensive angry bullshit lies come out of Sarah’s mouth at this point)
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I wanted to ask about OMB. But just to follow on this quickly — and I think you were asked the question earlier — is the reason that you’re unwilling to engage on this because either you have already or you anticipate yourself having to talk to the Special Counsel about this statement?
  • So on OMB, they issued a revised rescission request today, and it withdrew the proposed cuts on Hurricane Sandy recovery funds and Ebola funding. I’m wondering if we should see those retreats as the administration inaccurately concluding at first that these were money that was no longer needing. And if that’s happened just in the last couple months, why that wouldn’t be true for other areas of the budget that the administration has targeted going forward.
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, the President again took a stick to his favorite piñata, Jeff Sessions, today. (Laughter.) What is the President’s goal here? Is it just simply to remind the Attorney General that he’s really PO’ed at him and he’s not going to let him forget it?
  • Is he trying to get him to quit? Is he trying to emasculate him, holding him up? I mean, what is the President trying to do?
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, the President tweeted today that he was concerned that the FBI was weakening or slow walking the DOJ IT investigation into the Hillary Clinton email investigation handled by FBI Director James Comey. What is he basing that concern on? Is it based on conversations that he’s had with FBI personnel currently, or is it simply an observation based on the past?
  • Does he think it’s appropriate to encourage the Inspector General to release it based on his timeline rather than their own?
  • (Andrew Feinberg, Breakfast Media) Thanks, Sarah. I wanted to follow up on Josh’s question and Sarah’s question, but in a larger sense. The President, whether it’s on his Twitter account or otherwise, keeps saying things that are not borne out by the facts, whether it is the Eagles thing is about the National Anthem, or we’ve got $6 billion for opioids and getting rid of that scourge that’s taken over our country and the numbers are way down; we have thousands of immigration judges. And so the President keeps saying things that aren’t true. And this thing with dictating the statement —

MS. SANDERS: State the question. Sorry, Andrew. If you could get there.

  • Why, if things that you keep saying from the podium turn out to not be true, and things the President keeps saying in a number of venues keep saying — are turning out not to be true, why should we be able to trust that the information we’re getting from this administration is accurate? And more importantly, why should Americans be able to trust that what they hear from this White House is always the truth? (This is the part where Sarah says her credibility is higher than the media’s and that the reporters in the room spend all their time trying to tear her down)
  • Respectfully, I’m not trying to tear you down, and neither are any of us. 
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. I just wanted to get your reaction, the administration’s reaction, to a statement that was put out by a player on the Eagles, Malcolm Jenkins. He’s a strong safety on the Philadelphia Eagles. Very well respected on the team and throughout the league. He put out a statement today in which he said that the decision that was made by the President to cancel this event celebrating the Super Bowl victory by the Eagles paints “the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag, and anti-military.” What is your response to what Malcolm Jenkins put out in a statement today?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News)  Are you saying the President bears zero responsibility in this cancellation? This is a President who called NFL players S.O.B.s, who implied that some players who don’t stand for the National Anthem do not belong in this country. Does he bear zero responsibility for players like the Warriors and the Cavs not wanting to come and the Eagles bailing on this?
  • (Steve Herman, VOA) Sarah, the President, last year, broke with recent tradition and did not host an Iftar dinner. Is the President hosting such a dinner this year? And can you tell us how the invitees were selected?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. Let me ask you about two possible trade deals — the one involving the Chinese in which it would be $70 billion of buying American products. The United States would back off its threat of tariffs. Is that something that President Trump would support?
  • Real quick on NAFTA. Larry Kudlow said today — Eamon referenced it — that maybe the President wants to deal with Canada solely, with Mexico solely, and that the idea of negotiating NAFTA might be gone at this point. Is the possibility of getting to a NAFTA deal done as this administration sees it?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Back to the issue of presidential pardons. There’s been considerable furor in Illinois among Republicans, particularly supporters of the President and allies in Congress, such as Congressman Randy Hultgren, about him even suggesting commuting the sentence of former Governor Rob Blagojevich. Several party activists and colleagues of Congressmen Hultgren are becoming increasingly outspoken. Is he going to go ahead with the commutation, or is he backing down? And is he aware of the criticism from supporters of his?
  • (Dave) Thanks, Sarah. The President is also meeting with lawmakers here this afternoon. What’s on the agenda?
  • (Hunter Walker, Yahoo News) Thank you, Sarah. Does the President still think his response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico deserves a 10 out of 10 score now that estimates say almost 5,000 people died there?
  • Any concern about the massive volume of the death toll there? (He said this after Sarah called on someone else, muscling through but she ignored him) 
  • (Peter Alexander, NBC News) Thanks, Sarah. The administration came out in support of the baker’s freedom of expression in yesterday’s Supreme Court case. I guess I’m asking, why are athletes’ rights to express themselves freely any different than the baker’s?
  • So I guess my question is simple: So if the White House supports the BAKER’S right of free speech, why doesn’t the White House support the PLAYERS’ right to free speech?
  • (April Ryan jumps in without being called on) It’s about police-involved shootings, Sarah. Why not deal with —
  • Sarah, why not deal with the underlying issue of police-involved shootings?
  • (Peter again) Sarah, this is — will he commit to a roundtable? Will he commit — will the President, then, if it is about free speech and he supports these ideas, will the President commit to a roundtable with America’s athletes on topics of social injustice?
  • (April again) Yes.
  • Has he not — just for clarity, has he not — is it not something that has had any discussion to this point, given all the division in this country over this topic of social justice?
  • (April Ryan, uncalled on) Why won’t you answer about police-involved shootings? Is the President aware that this is about police-involved shootings and not about disrespecting the flag?

MS. SANDERS: Sorry, Steven. Go ahead.

  • Is the President aware of that, Sarah, please?

MS. SANDERS: Steven, if you could go ahead.

  • Please answer that. Please answer that.
  • (April keeps fighting through it and Steven Portnoy doesn’t try to start talking so finally Sarah is quiet and lets April ask a question) I’m asking, this is — there’s an underlying issue and it just keeps going about disrespect of the flag and soldiers. There are black and brown soldiers that fight in the military, as well, who feel that taking a knee, bringing attention to police-involved shootings is something that this White House should deal with. Is the President aware that taking the knee is about police-involved shootings?

MS. SANDERS: The President has made his position crystal-clear. And that is about —

  • Is he aware that this is about police-involved shootings

MS. SANDERS: I let you rudely interrupt me and your colleague.

  • I’m sorry, but this is important that this question get answered.

MS. SANDERS: I’m going to ask that you allow me to finish my answer. I would be happy to answer it if you would stop talking long enough to let me do that.

(FUCK YOU, SARAH SANDERS)

 

  • (Sarah says regurgitory stuff about living in a great country but doesn’t answer the question, so April continues) but will he deal with the issue of police-involved shootings?

MS. SANDERS: April, I’ve addressed your question. I’m not going to continue to engage with you.

  • I understand. But people are now standing — the NFL is now telling people they have to stand. Will the President deal with the issue of police-involved shootings?

MS. SANDERS: I’m going to deal with the issue of addressing your colleague’s question.

  • But it’s a real question. Can you take it to the President and come back to us with it?

MS. SANDERS: Steven, go ahead.

  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio) Always happy to yield to a colleague.
  • (April Ryan) Thank you.
  • (Steven) But let me ask you about Scott Pruitt, because the two Republicans who represent Iowa in the Senate have had it with the EPA Administrator. Chuck Grassley said that Pruitt has betrayed the President. Joni Ernst says that Pruitt is as swampy as you can get. Josh and his colleagues report in the Washington Post today new elements of just how swampy that is. So let me ask you how is it, in the face of ALL that we’ve learned, how is that President Trump continues to have confidence in the EPA Administrator, assuming that he still does?

 

TOWOIT #336: Used mattress

June 4, 2018.

Number of times in 19 minutes that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the President has done nothing wrong:  

The meeting was 19 minutes long and started 40 minutes past schedule. I think Sarah Huckabee Sanders is trolling reporters with her late start times. I have the chart of the last many briefings to show it.

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The dotted line is time spent waiting divided by actual briefing time. The pink bars represent minutes of waiting time. 
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, just a short time ago, the President said that, “I have an [sic] absolute right to pardon myself.” Why does he think that? And does he also agree with Rudy Giuliani, his lawyer, that a pardon for himself would be unthinkable and would lead to immediate impeachment? (She’s about to say “the President has done nothing wrong” #1)
  • But does he absolutely rule out doing that? I mean, does he rule out ever issuing a pardon for himself? (Whoop, #2 is already fast upon us!) 
  • (Steve) How does the President respond to this criticism from Republicans about these tariffs against the EU, Canada, and Mexico? How do you reassure these senators and various people who were complaining about this?
  • Sarah, what was the contents of Kim Jong Un’s letter to the President that he received last week? And what did the President take away from that? Is he more encouraged, based on receiving that letter?
  • There’s a separate report that Vladimir Putin has reached out to Kim Jong Un and wants to meet with him. Is that a meeting that the President thinks would be constructive to this process? Does the President support Vladimir Putin meeting with Kim Jong Un as well?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Sarah, the President tweeted that the Special Counsel law was totally unconstitutional. If that’s the case, why is he allowing his own Justice Department to abide by it?
  • This is something new. He’s never said the law itself was unconstitutional. How can he allow his own Justice Department to participate in something that’s unconstitutional?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I did want to follow up on that and try and figure out what exactly the basis was for the President’s claim that it is unconstitutional. But I wanted to ask you about something else, as well. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been accused of enlisting a taxpayer-funded staffer to not only shop for apartments around Washington, D.C. but also to shop for a used mattress from the President’s hotel just around the corner. And I wanted to know if any of that gives the President pause at this point, or causes his confidence in Scott Pruitt to waver. (Francesca’s questions are WAY better than her Daily Mail colleague David Martosko’s, but this is a wasted opportunity. All Sarah Sanders does is make a joke about furniture and move immediately to another person.)

SANDERS:  Certainly looking into the matter.  I couldn’t comment on the specifics of the furniture used in his apartment.  (Laughter.)

  • (John) You said that significant progress is being made in the diplomatic talks at the DMZ between U.S. and North Korean officials. The big question here is denuclearization. The President would like it to happen all at once — he said that before — but that it could also be a phased-in process. I know that the meeting has yet to take place, but certainly they’re trying to iron out some details here. Does it look like it will be an all-at-once, or is the phase-in more likely?
  • (Steven) Sarah, no matter what you call it, is maximum pressure still the policy of the United States toward North Korea?
  • (Peter Alexander, NBC News) Sarah, let me ask you, if I can: Does the President believe that he is above the law?

SANDERS:  Certainly not.  The President hasn’t done anything wrong.

  • The question isn’t if he’s done anything wrong. I guess, the question is, does the President believe the Framers envisioned a system where the President can pardon himself, where the President could be above the law? (She says again that he hasn’t done anything wrong)
  • But you, just a moment ago, said it’s not that clear. So I guess, simply put, does the President believe he is above the law?
  • Let me ask you a question, if I can follow.  Just because I haven’t been here in a while. (She says no and calls on someone else)
  • Sorry, I’m going to keep going. Right here.
  • I just want to ask, and this is an important one because it’s about —
  • I’ll just keep asking, if I can — (she says “No, you can’t actually”)
  • The President —
  • Well, Sarah — I’m going to, Sarah. I think this is important. I haven’t had a chance to ask this question — (she says “I’m going to continue to move on”)
  • (   ) Sarah, what’s the status of the tariffs on China? Does the administration still plan to move ahead with the June 15th deadline, as they stated?
  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) Thank you. Two quick questions. One, I’ve asked this before: Is there any chance we could ever see the President come out here and take some questions from us in this briefing room? (He hasn’t done this even one time. It’s a fairly normal thing for presidents to do) And secondly, has anyone in this administration ever asked the President — last week, you had, on your agenda — you had an agenda where you have more jobs coming out — I mean, lower unemployment coming, and you also had — the Second Chance Act, I think it was. And instead of those, we had to respond to presidential tweets. Has anybody ever in this administration asked him to back away from Twitter just for a day?
  • Extend him our invitation.

SANDERS:  In terms of Twitter, the President uses Twitter to communicate directly to the American people.  Frankly, you have the ability to choose what you want to write about, and you guys choose to write about things that the American people don’t care about —

(Wait did she just say the American people don’t care about his tweets?)

  • But we don’t have the ability to ask him a question in regards to that.
  • We do not have the opportunity to ask him a question about that, though, Sarah. (She ignores this and moves on)
  • Can we at least get an opportunity to ask him a question about what he tweets? (Still ignoring)
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill)  Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask you about the lawyer’s letter to the Special Counsel. You said, last August, that the President did not dictate a statement about the Trump Tower meeting during the campaign. But the lawyers wrote to the Special Counsel that the President did dictate that statement.  What’s the reason for that discrepancy? (She refers him to outside counsel and ignores that she was caught in a big lie)
  • (Deborah) After Kim Kardashian’s visit, is President Trump considering a commutation for Alice Johnson, who already has served 21 years of a life-without-parole sentence?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Since Robert Mueller was named the Special Counsel over a year ago, the President’s team, his legal team, the Justice Department has never challenged the constitutionality of the Special Counsel. Yet, the President today is doing just that. Why hasn’t either the Justice Department or the President’s legal team challenged the constitutionality? They have the right to do so in federal court, and yet they haven’t done so. (We all know the answer to this one)
  • (Inaudible) but specifically those two entities have not done it. The President’s own lawyers have not done it, Sarah, and they can do so. Why haven’t —
  • What about the Justice Department? Can you speak on behalf of the Justice Department? (nnnope, turns out she can’t)
  • (Steve) Yes, Sarah, I’m wondering if the White House stands by the comments that were made by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, who said that he was backing anti-establishment conservatives to take power in Europe. Seems like a very unusual thing for a U.S. diplomat to say towards friendly countries.
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, let me ask you — turn your attention back to trade. For the farmers out there who could care less about the politics, who have to run a business every day, there was a farmer in Iowa who told one of our crews out there this morning — he said, “It’s hard to know which way to jump right now.” As in, they don’t know what decisions they should make for their businesses because of what is playing out here in Washington, here in China, NAFTA negotiations as well. What would you tell those folks out there who are trying to run these businesses, who are trying to make a decision on which way to jump right now?
  • On the political front — (she shuts him down) 
  • (Peter Baker, New York Times) Thanks, Sarah. I just want to come back to — in August, you said he certainly didn’t dictate the statement. I wonder if you could tell us the basis of your comment when you made that in August. And do you think that still stands? Is that still an operative statement? Or do you retract that? (She refuses to answer a question about her own statement)
  • But in August, you said it. (Refuses to answer)
  • What was your basis for saying it in August, though? (Refuses to answer)
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Sarah, Rudy Giuliani, the President’s outside lawyer, said to the Huffington Post, “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted. I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is. If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to [do to] him.” Is that appropriate language coming from the President’s outside lawyer to be talking about the President shooting Jim Comey in that fashion? (Get ready for another the President has done nothing wrong)
  • If I could ask a follow-up question. (Fuck no you can’t, Jim)
  • Sarah, if I could ask a follow-up question. (Fuck off, Jim)
  • If I could ask a follow-up question. Who — (Fuck off, Jim) 
  • Well, others have had follow-up questions, Sarah.  If I could ask —
  • They have had follow-up questions. If I could ask who these legal scholars are that you are citing, that would be great.
  • (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) If you say, though, one thing from the podium — that it wasn’t dictated by the President — and his lawyers are saying something entirely different, contradicting, how are we supposed to know what to believe?  How can we believe what you’re saying from the podium if his lawyers are saying it’s entirely inaccurate? (Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Oh but don’t worry, she just won’t fucking answer) 
  • But, Sarah, the words are literally — you said he did not dictate. The lawyer said he did. What is it? It’s either one or the other. (No answer) 
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. A question about pardons. Eleven days ago, the President issued the posthumous pardon for boxing great Jack Johnson.  The leading proponents of this for more than a decade have been Congressman Pete King in the House and Senator John McCain in the Senate, both big boxing fans.  Senator McCain tweeted his support for the pardon. Will the President use this opportunity to call Senator McCain and try and patch things up with him at this moment of his life?
  • (Philip the Quebecois) Sarah, thank you. I just wanted to check something with you.  What in tariffs that were imposed against Canada reinforce the U.S. national security? (She can never understand anyone with an accent, so she asks him to repeat) 
  • What — you know the tariffs that were imposed against Canada — aluminum and steel.  What in that reinforce the U.S. national security?  In what form the U.S. feels more secure now that Canada has been targeted by tariffs? (There is like zero need for SHS to be polite to these fuckers)
  • (Hallie Jackson, MSNBC News) Sarah, thanks. The Special Counsel didn’t seem so unconstitutional when the President was calling on one to investigate his political opponent during the campaign. So is it only unconstitutional if the President doesn’t like it? (Sarah Sanders has nothing to add)
  • (Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg) A trade question for you, Sarah. Thank you. The President, on Friday, said that he’s open to bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada.  Is he still leaning towards bilateral deals as he heads up to Canada at the end of this week? Or is he thinking that he’d like to save NAFTA and just renegotiate it?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Last week, Missouri Governor Greitens stepped down. Did President Trump or anyone at the White House ever reach out to encourage him to step down?
  • And if so, why not, considering he’s the leader of the party?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, you said the President hasn’t done anything wrong and wouldn’t need a pardon. But he said in his tweet that he has the absolute right to pardon himself. Does he assume that the Special Counsel will find him guilty of something? (You can guess what Sarah says next…)
  • But he said in his tweet that he could pardon himself. So there seems to be an assumption that Mueller will find him wrong for something. And if so, what would it be?
  • I have two questions on the Justice Department and pardons. For example, the Office of Legal Counsel has said that the President can’t actually pardon himself. Has the President requested a new opinion that may inform his tweet today? And also, there are some concerns about whether the President is still fielding those traditional pardon recommendations from the Justice Department.  Some people are concerned that instead of relying on the Justice Department, he’s relying on sort of rich and famous people to recommend pardons.
  • On OLC, has he asked for a new OLC opinion?
  • Has he asked for a new OLC opinion on the pardon power?
  • (Lalit Jha) Thank you. What does the President think is his top foreign policy achievement in the first 500 days? (Quit carrying water, Lalit)
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, can you give us a little bit more background on the pardon process? Is there a process in place at this White House to review pardons? And how did the pardon ideas of Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart come up? Is it simply a matter of who can gain the President’s ear in order to get a pardon process? Or is there an attorney here in the White House through which these requests are funneled through, which eventually make their way up to the President? (You’re too good for the racist zine you write for, Saagar. I know you can do better!) 
  • (Eamon Javers, CNBC) Thanks, Sarah. I wanted to ask you about the President’s call today with Theresa May, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who said that the President’s tariffs on the EU were, quote, “unjustified and deeply disappointing,” according to the British readout of their phone call today. That’s what she said to the President. How did the President respond to that? (Pretty sure he doesn’t give a fuck, Eamon. This is the Honey Badger White House after all.) 

TOWOIT #335: Texas Gaggle

May 31, 2018

Questions asked in the air between Houston and Dallas:

  • What was the President’s reaction to the Russians visiting North Korea?
  • Who exactly is coming tomorrow? Is it just the same people that met with Secretary Pompeo?
  • Will the President be meeting with these officials, or is it a lower-level meeting?
  • And still no idea of what the content of the letter might be?
  • Would the President make the content of the letter public no matter what it says?
  • Do you expect the President to meet with him in the Oval Office for extended talks, or is just a handover of the letter?
  • Can you tell us who the President met with in Houston at the meeting, at the airport hangar, and how it went and how he received them?
  • Can you just give us a sense as to, were these the families of people who were killed, were they first responders? Do you have kind of — even just — even not names, but can you categorize the kind of people he met with?
  • Two of the people the President mentioned for pardons — he’s considering Blagojevich and Martha Stewart — they both have connections to “Celebrity Apprentice.” Is there a reason he’s thinking about them and not some of the other 3,000 people on the list?
  • The people you mentioned, though, were all celebrities. Is that a fair way — in their own right and in different ways. Is that a fair way to view the commonalities?
  • (Inaudible) Ted Cruz was one of the people who did make the President more aware of the D’Souza case. I think there’s been some reports about that, and I think we saw Cruz tweeting about it. I know the President didn’t comment on that. But can you talk any more about —
  • Can you speak to who else may have impacted his thinking on it?
  • How did he see the case? It hasn’t been in the news recently, I don’t believe.
  • You said he saw the case. But like how did get on his radar? It hasn’t been a particularly buzzy issue recently, unless I missed it.
  • What about the case that Kim Kardashian raised yesterday? How serious is he looking at that one?
  • Last week, there were two different meetings for lawmakers to get briefed on materials by that informant who was connected to the Trump campaign. Has the President himself asked for a readout or some sort of briefing of those meetings and what was discussed?
  • Does he agree with Trey Gowdy that basically the FBI did what was right? Or does he have reason to believe that Trey Gowdy is not telling the truth there?
  • One more about Kim Yong Chol. He’s under sanctions in the U.S. He’s been accused of causing the deaths of thousands of South Korean troops, of various other human rights atrocities. Does the President have any misgivings with sitting down with him in the Oval Office? Does that lend him a certain amount of credibility?

MR. GIDLEY:  Again, no one is saying they’re sitting down in the Oval Office yet. The details are still being worked out.  That’s something that I have to defer you to State on.

The next day:

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To be fair, we don’t know whether they actually sat down in chairs.

TOWOIT #334: “But based on what evidence?”

May 30, 2018.

Today Sarah Sanders was 10 minutes late to the room, gave non-answers for 15 minutes, and departed. She seemed especially brusque about not taking follow-ups, and it really laid bare the way she uses that tactic to never actually answer a question or clear anything up.

It wasn’t just me that noticed it. Later in the day, the Washington Post put up a funny (irritating) video showing her over and over again brushing off reporters to say that she had to keep moving because time is short.

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“… manufactures urgency to avoid answering reporters’ questions”

Part of the reason she’s “short on time” is because she’s chronically late. I started this graph earlier in 2018 to show in RED the amount of time the reporters sit waiting for her after the appointed start time, and in TEAL the amount of time she takes questions. They often sit and wait for longer than she is at the podium.

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The Washington Post video also included this bar chart:

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Sean Spicer’s were so long because of his long-winded accusatory rants between the questions.  Also he’d read for 12 torturous minutes at the top of the briefing.

The thing that seemed most talked about after the briefing is that there was a child reporter in the room, and he asked what the administration was doing about school shooting. Sarah Sanders choked up as she gave a non-answer.

I like to track the number of viewers on the White House youtube channel in real time throughout the briefing. Normally the number of viewers continues upward throughout the briefing, albeit at different rates. I am pretty sure that the people watching are mostly there to watch Sarah own the libs. Because of the ratio of thumb’s up to thumb’s down, and because I think non-Trumpists aren’t in the habit of going to White House media for ANYTHING.

Today’s briefing had middle of the road viewership compared to other days, but as the little boy was talking about school shootings, the numbers of viewers just started to plummet. I was imagining all these indignant senior citizens just turning that crap right off (“I didn’t come here for this! I came here to watch Sarah own the libs!”). Here’s what it looked like:

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Anyway, here are the questions from the reporters today, from those glorious fifteen minutes of one question only, no follow-ups, fuck you:

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, now that Trey Gowdy, who has actually seen all the classified information on what the FBI was doing, says that there is nothing to the allegations that they were spying on the Trump campaign. And, in fact, Gowdy says that the FBI was doing exactly what they should have been doing. Given what Trey Gowdy has said, is the President prepared now to retract his allegation that the FBI was spying on his campaign?
  • But Gowdy was in the briefing. He knows what was done. And he is saying that these allegations are baseless, that there was no spying on the Trump campaign. (She says here, for the second time, that deputy director of the FBI was fired for misconduct)
  • But that has nothing to do with — 
  • But based on what evidence? What evidence does he have?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) What does Secretary Pompeo need to hear from the North Koreans today at the meeting in New York for the summit to go forward? (Steve, you should have asked Jonathan’s brushed-aside question again — what evidence?)
  • And a follow-up. Do you think it will take place now — the summit? Or is there a denuclearization plan taking shape?
  • (Zeke Miller, Associated Press) Sarah, two questions for you. First, on North Korea.  In addition to their nuclear program, North Korea also maintains other weapons of mass destruction — chemical and biological weapons. Does the President intend to raise those in a summit with Kim Jong Un?
  • And —
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I do have two, if you’ll indulge me quickly. Number one, going back to —
  • Okay, I’ll make it all one question. (Laughter.) On North Korea and the possible summit, can you tell us what your deadline is at this point for deciding whether or not that will or will not happen? And on a completely separate topic, Kim Kardashian is supposed to be at the White House today.  Can you tell us a little bit more about that?  Who she plans to meet with.  It’s being reported that she’ll be meeting with Jared Kushner, as well as President Donald Trump.
  • (woman, unseen) If the Attorney General is not living up to the President’s expectations, if he is so frustrated with him, why doesn’t he just fire him instead of sort of nursing this grievance so publicly?

SANDERS:  Look, the President has made his viewpoint very clearly known, and I don’t have any personnel announcements at this point.

  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) Sarah, the President said during his Right to Try legislation signing that drug makers will soon be announcing what he called a voluntary massive drop in their prices. Is there anything more you can tell us on exactly when this is going to happen, and how widespread this massive drop in prices will be?
  • (Kelly — not sure who this is) Has the President spoken to Roseanne Barr, who we know has been a longtime friend of his? And why did he choose to address the ABC apology, instead of the underlying issue of concerns about a racist comment that she tweeted out? (Sarah’s answer: unemployment is down and the President is the President of everyone…also the press is super unfair… super long, weird, specific, warbly rant… apparently, A LOT of people owe TRUMP an apology, and that is the REAL issue)
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thank you, Sarah. Does the White House have any evaluation of its own of the recently released study estimating that more than 4,600 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria? And if that number is accurate, does this indicate the administration’s response to the storm was inadequate?
  • (Emerald Robinson, One America News) Thank you, Sarah. Does the administration have any concerns or fear any risk in continuing to push China on these tariffs in trade, considering their relationship with North Korea ahead of talks and what the President has said about that second meeting between President Xi and Kim Jong Un?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Given the turbulent political situation in Italy right now, is the administration monitoring it, as well as the devastating effect it appears to be having on the markets in Southern Europe? And will the President consider strong intervention in that situation through the IMF, very much as the previous administration did with Greece two years ago?
  • (Jennifer, but can’t see her) On the steel and aluminum tariffs, the extension ends again soon.  When do you think you’ll have an announcement on what will happen next?  And is there any chance that there will be another extension?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Can you just clarify the comments about Trey Gowdy?  You said there’s still cause for concern, meaning about what the President says is a spy who infiltrated his campaign? Or a cause for concern, in general, about the FBI? (This is a poorly worded question for Sarah Sanders. Makes it even easier for her to not answer)
  • Can you just explain who was in the campaign? What is he referring to when he said they were in the campaign? What does that mean?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business) Thank you. Something appeared to have happened on trade, because last weekend Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the trade war was on hold. Fast-forward a few days after that, there was the threat of tariffs now on auto imports. Fast-forward a few days after that, there’s now going to be this $50 billion in tariffs. So what exactly happened from the trade war being on hold, to a week later, now it appears the trade war might be back on?
  • (Philip) Sarah, two things. First off, my young colleague here, he has a very interesting question. Second, I just wanted to know, how confident does the President feel that he’s going to have an agreement on NAFTA before the summit?
  • At my school, we recently had a lockdown drill. One thing that affects mine and other students’ mental health is the worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school. Specifically, can you tell me what the administration has done and will do to prevent these senseless tragedies?
  • (Eamon Javers, CNBC) Sarah, you mentioned Bob Iger a moment ago and asked where is his apology to the White House for criticism of the President and some of the incidents that you cite. Has anyone at the White House been in touch with Bob Iger or anyone at ABC on those incidents in specific and the cancellation of the Roseanne program, specifically, as well?
  • (Andrew Beatty, AFP) Thank you very much. You talked about denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula being the subject of discussion — the main subject of discussion in Singapore. Does that include the positioning of U.S. nuclear bombers and submarines that aren’t necessarily on the Peninsula but cover the Peninsula, as it were?
  • When you talk about that, you’re talking about North Korea, though, not U.S. weapons systems, correct?
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, has the President received any classified briefing on the details of the intelligence that were presented to Trey Gowdy? And if he still believes that there is cause for concern, why doesn’t he just declassify the documents? (Weird question, Saagar. The president shouldn’t be able to see that information. Also what are you doing at the Daily Caller? Who made you read Ayn Rand and forgot to tell you she a phase for teenagers? Who hurt you, Saagar???) 

Postscript: This briefing was outdone by one in Ukraine today:

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headline clipped from the WaPo

TOWOIT #333: Roseaggle Gaggle

 

May 29, 2018.

Press Gaggle with Sarah Sanders on Air Force One en route to Nashville.

Questions asked:

  • Sarah, the President has been a big supporter of Roseanne Barr. What is his and the White House’s reaction to her comments today and to ABC’s decision to cancel her show? (Sanders replies by saying the President is very focused on North Korea. Spoiler alert: She will launch into a reading a defensive rant when asked a similar question in the briefing room the next day)
  • Because he’s been focused on that show before. I mean, he called her after the show did really well. Does he have a reaction to what she said? (I’m just imagining this was Hallie Jackson but I have no way of knowing)
  • Does he think the show should have been cancelled? (Still, focus is on North Korea)
  • You kept saying “upcoming summit,” and I think there’s just — to kind of put a button on it, at this point, is the President’s letter operative? Or is it operative that he expects a summit to occur after the G7 in Singapore?
  • What determines whether or not the summit is back on? What determines whether or not that gets rescheduled?
  • Sarah, can you talk about why the President said the New York Times had made up that senior White House official when that White House official was someone that was in a press office-organized sanctioned briefing? (sometimes I wish they would pose their questions more succinctly)
  • Sarah, when the President visited Puerto Rico, he said it wasn’t a “real catastrophe” because there were only, I think, 16 people who had died in the official government count at the time. There’s a Harvard study today that I think said 4,600 people died as a result of the storm. So I’m wondering if that’s changing the President’s thought about whether this is a real catastrophe or the grade that he gave himself for the U.S. response to — the federal government response to the storm.
  • Sarah, this weekend the President tweeted that the policy of separating children at the border is “horrible.” But that is a policy that was instated by his own administration. Why would he say that?
  • Sarah, is the President concerned about the political turmoil in Italy and the effect that that’s had on the stock market and the markets in general?
  • This weekend, Rudy Giuliani basically admitted that calling Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt” is part of a public opinion effort — an effort to sway public opinion.  Is that what the President is trying to do? Is he trying to discredit this investigation when he says that? (In her response, Sarah Sanders says “Hillary Clinton was terrible.” I had one of those moments where you can’t believe any of this is happening. Just how ungracious and inappropriate and low it is to say that as the White House Press Secretary.)
  • Sarah, if the President doesn’t want these families to be separated, does that mean that he opposes the zero-tolerance policy laid out by the Attorney General earlier this month?
  • Sarah, has the President had any conversations with Kevin McCarthy about a leadership succession in Congress? Let me amend that to say McCarthy or any of his allies or anybody on his staff?
  • The President tweeted this morning that he believes Robert Mueller’s team is going to interfere with the midterm elections. I’m wondering if you can flesh out how he believes the Special Counsel’s work is going to interfere with the midterm elections.
  • Well, a quick one to follow on Jeff. You were talking about the long-term economic situation in Italy. The President obviously was a big supporter of Brexit. Does he believe that Italy should stay in the Eurozone?
  • Does he believe Italy should stay in the Eurozone? (The amazingness of Sanders simply having nothing to say as an answer to this. Like, have to check, sorry, I don’t know)
  • And one more. Students have started to go back to school in Santa Fe, Texas today.  Will the President stop there when he goes to Texas later this week?
  • When will the North Korea decision be made, whether the Singapore summit is going to go ahead? Do you have a deadline for when you have to say yay or nay?
  • Has he had — has the President — sorry — had any direct communications with Kim Jong Un? (She ends by saying “Again, we’re not going to comment on those comments.” Perfect.)

TOWOIT #332: just ONE of today’s big lies

May 26, 2018

It’s Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, but thanks to a bald-faced lie from Donald Trump on Twitter this morning, many familiar briefing room characters piped up in response. Also Chrissy Teigan, always a friend of the blog.

Here’s the tweet:

Donald Trump's tweet about a senior white house official not existing

So, Donald Trump said a number of his own team didn’t exist and a briefing in the briefing room didn’t happen.

When the White House communications staff does background briefings, a stipulation is that whoever is talking will be referred to as a senior White House official instead of by their name. It’s a normal part of the deal.

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 11.56.04 AM

Ashley Parker’s was the first tweet I saw — before even Trump’s. She writes for the Washington Post and I’ve been looking at her sideways ever since she glibly said on Pod Save the America that she was pleasantly surprised that covering this White House was “really fun” and “like covering a campaign.” I’ve been like, “Oh good, glad you’re enjoying our dystopian hellscape, ASHLEY.” But I appreciated that she jumped right on this situation this morning.

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Outspoken Brian Karem, he of the shouted end-of-briefing questions from the sideline, said the name of the official.

Another White House reporter:

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Chrissy Teigen swiping at the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman (the Trump Whisperer) was one of my favorite things of the day.

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Maggie Haberman pushed back against Boris Epshteyn about it.

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And then a bunch of other stuff happened that I missed, but I can only imagine that people were giving Maggie Haberman a hard time for being kind of a slippery Trump semi-apologist even though she knows better.

Chrissy Teigen was still on the case when I popped back in.

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Other people who weighed in… Peter Baker, also of the New York Times.

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And Andrew Feinberg, whose story I find so baffling, but who still has that press credential I guess?

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TOWOIT #331

May 22, 2018

Sarah Sanders arrived 16 minutes late, took questions for 13 minutes, avoided giving any meaningful replies, evaded nearly every follow-up question, was snarky to and about everyone, essentially called Democrats lame randos, repeatedly trotted her old canard that she was short on time, refused to say that she didn’t think reporters should be manhandled, and departed.

Here are the questions she was asked.

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, do you agree with the South Korean official who said that there would be a 99% chance that this summit with Kim Jong-un comes off? And how will the President ultimately make the decision about whether or not to go?
  • What preconditions, though, does he have? What does he see that the North Koreans have to do to make that trip? And I’m just asking — you know, the challenge coins were made. Was it premature to make those coins commemorating the summit?
  • (Pamela Brown, CNN) Thank you, Sarah. Why did the U.S. guarantee the safety of a dictator whose regime is a serial human rights abuser and is responsible for the recent death of an American college student? Why is that the morally right thing to do?
  • Just to follow up, though, Sarah, really quickly. (Nope. Stuff it, Pamela)
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, you talked about preparations for the summit. Can you describe for us how the President himself is personally preparing? (Hoo boy)Who is he working with? How much time does he devote on a daily basis to get ready for the underlying themes, questions, and difficulties of a summit of this magnitude?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask about this meeting the Chief of Staff is setting up with lawmakers regarding the documents that they requested about the Russia investigation. Can you say what specific documents the lawmakers will be allowed to see? Chairman Nunes has requested all documents related to this intelligence source. Will he get to see all of the documents? (So this is the same Devin Nunes who has been scampering over to the White House at all hours to pull shenanigans and was supposedly recused from the Russia investigation)
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Thank you, Sarah. The North Koreans are bringing in some journalists to view what they say is the dismantling of a nuclear test site. I’m curious if the administration believes that site is already damaged, as some are led to believe, and what exactly the administration’s response is to this. (Blake, I thought at first you were a business bro but I don’t know now — you seem so nice, and you’re a new dad, and you ask pretty good questions. Please quit Fox.) 
  • (Steve Herman, Voice of America) Yes, Sarah, can you tell us what was the outcome of the discussions between the South Korean President and President Trump today about the size and cost of U.S. troops in South Korea?
  • (Darlene Superville) You said that no one from the White House staff will attend the meeting on Thursday. Does that not mean that the Chief of Staff Kelly would not attend the meeting?

SANDERS: He was charged with coordinating and making sure it took place, but at this point is not expected to attend.

  • (Michael D. Shear, New York Times) Can you ask — can you respond a little bit, though, to why no Democrats would be at that meeting if the White House was putting its imprimatur on it? The Democrats have said that they think it’s inappropriate to have a meeting set up with just Republicans and the Justice Department. Is the White House — would the White House welcome Democrats to be at that meeting?
  • No, but they say they that to the extent that the White House is, sort of, brokering a deal between the Justice Department and Capitol Hill —(Sarah’s response included this nasty line: “So I would refer you back to them on why they would consider themselves randomly invited to see something they’ve never asked to”)
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, the President spoke at length this morning about his vision for a solution to dealing with Chinese company ZTE. Both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill are criticizing that, saying that he is bowing to pressure from Beijing. Senator Schumer, I believe, called it, a wet-noodle solution. What’s the White House’s response to that criticism?
  • Can you just respond to their criticism, though, about what he has said on Capitol Hill?
  • (Anita Kumar, McClatchy Newspaper) I wanted to change topics. I wanted to get your comment on this incident that happened at the EPA earlier today. They were having a national summit on water contaminants. At least two reporters were barred from going into the event and one was forcibly removed. I wondered if you had a comment. Do you approve of how that was handled? And will anyone be speaking to the press office over there about it?
  • Do you approve of how it was handled, though?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Sarah, back on North Korea just for a second. The President, in the Oval Office, said that he was disappointed that after his second meeting with Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un seemed to have a change of attitude. Does the White House have any theories as to why that might be? Is China a spoiler, and why?
  • (Mike Bender, Wall Street Journal) Could you add anything more about the President’s comments — he said that China, South Korea, and Japan were willing to invest very large sums of money into North Korea. Can you add anything more to that? Is the U.S. planning to add to that very large sum? Can you describe what kind of money he’s talking about there?
  • Can you talk at all about what President Moon said about Kim, about the new tenor coming out Pyongyang? What President Trump learned in the meeting with President Moon?
  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) Sarah, to follow up on Anita, and then a question as well to you: Is there any situation, barring a security incident, in which you feel, the White House feels, it is appropriate to physically touch or physically handle a reporter?
  • I’m just asking about the appropriateness or not of touching a reporter.
  • My other question was actually on the — (denied by Sarah)
  • –DOJ demand. A couple other got follows, Sarah. (denied again; she forges ahead)
  • So just quickly, is it appropriate for the President to make a demand to the Department of Justice, Sarah? (This is all just Hallie trying unsuccessfully to follow up)
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. There’s been considerable discussion back and forth about the tenure of Speaker Ryan, whether he will relinquish his gavel early and have a new election of a Speaker before the elections. Conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill made it clear that they want Ryan to stay. Congressman Warren Davidson said that’s unfair to the new members coming in. And he also said that there should be a discharge petition so members can have an up and down vote on repeal of the Affordable Care Act and immigration. Does the President agree with the statements of Congressman Davidson and the conservatives among House Republicans?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President earlier today, in that press availability, spoke about the protections that he’s prepared to offer to Kim Jong-un, not only personally but also for his country. In preparing for these meetings, and when the summit actually takes place, does human rights play any consideration in the meeting that the President will have with Kim Jong-un?
  • (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart News) Following up on John’s earlier question, does the President back Speaker Ryan’s decision to stay in office until after the election? Or is he concerned that there may be a period of time when he’s not getting as much done as he could, serving as a lame-duck speaker?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Daily Mail) Thank you, Sarah. We heard from President Trump before that meeting with President Moon. But after sitting down with him, does President Trump feel more like this summit is worth having and that it will happen? And what is the White House’s drop-dead date, so to speak, for deciding whether or not to go to the summit?
  • (Ben Kennedy, Christian Broadcasting Network) Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to ask about Gaza. The violence continued today. Does the White House have any plans to meet with the Palestinian Authority?

 

TOWOIT #330

May 17, 2018

The White House Daily Briefing was scheduled and canceled on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then on Thursday, May 17 there was one. It started over 20 minutes late. Sarah had the acting VA secretary up to go on about Trump’s $100,000 paycheck gift. Then Sarah read another fucking letter from another child praising Trump. She then took questions for eleven (11) minutes, admonished the press that she didn’t have much time, and left.

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, we haven’t had a chance to hear of any kind of an in-depth analysis here. Where are we with the summit with Kim Jong-un? And the statements that we’ve heard over the last few days out of North Korea, do you think that these throw in jeopardy the idea of a summit?  Or is this just North Korea doing what it does in trying to get the best deal possible?
  • So what North Korea is saying now about the joint military exercises after Moon Jae-in said Kim knows that these take place and he understands that they have to take place. I mean, what game is North Korea playing?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. What leverage does the U.S. have as it relates to having this meeting take place on June the 12th? And to that meeting actually taking place, when it takes place — if it takes place — what leverage does the U.S. have over accomplishing the American goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula?
  • But on another issue on —
  • (Steve Herman, Voice of America) If I could just follow up on that. What the North Koreans also announced was they were stopping the dialogue with South Korea. So is it possible that there could be a meeting between the United States and North Korea if that whole dialogue between the North and South is on ice
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, does President Trump believe that the FBI had a spy at one point inside his campaign? (3 out of the first 4 questions have gone to Fox, for those keeping track at home)
  • And what is — (No follow-ups, Blake! Not even for Fox!)
  • (Emerald Robinson, One America News) Thank you. Following up on Blake’s question — if it is proven without a shadow of a doubt that there was a spy planted in the Trump campaign, does that change the President’s position on firing Robert Mueller?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. The Iraqi elections are over and it’s very clear that the two big winners — the two top vote-getters — were the party that was linked to Muqtada al-Sadr, a sworn enemy of the United States and someone aligned with the Iraqi Communist Party. And the second-place finisher was the party aligned with Mr. al-Amiri, a warlord who was once backed by Iran. What’s the U.S.’s attitude on a government in Baghdad having either of those individuals as the key player? (Sarah just says, “good thing you said all those names because I probably wouldn’t be able to” Har-de-har, you effing racist)
  • So you don’t care if either of them is —
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, what does the United States expect out of negotiations today with China on trade? And what are the President’s intentions on helping or changing the policy towards Chinese company ZTE?
  • And ZTE?
  • (Julie Hirschhorn Davis, New York Times) Thanks, Sarah. Also on trade, the President said yesterday that Mexico does nothing for us, especially for the border. We know there are talks today on NAFTA — today and tomorrow. And I wonder if the administration is going to condition any NAFTA deal on a safe third-country agreement with Mexico, or Mexico stepping up to do more to absorb asylum-seekers and other migrants who are seeking entry to the U.S.
  • (Jeff Zeleny, CNN) Thank you, Sarah. This morning, the President marked the one-year anniversary of the Mueller investigation, saying it’s disgusting, illegal, unwarranted, and a witch hunt. But his own FBI director yesterday said it’s not a witch hunt. Does the President — why does the White House still believe it’s a witch hunt? And why did he cancel his news conference this afternoon, which was originally set for three o’clock with the NATO Secretary?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. On immigration, there seems to be — we’re moving closer to action in the House of Representatives and I’m wondering what bill the President would accept anything short of the four pillars that he laid out earlier this month. Something like border security and DACA, it seems to be a proposal that is gaining steam. Is that something that the President could support?
  • (Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thank you. Just going back to North Korea, you have said that the President would be willing to meet with North Korea if North Korea is.  So does that put North Korea in the driver’s seat here? Is it North Korea that’s going to decide whether a meeting takes place? And also, the President said yesterday that the White House hadn’t heard anything from North Korea. Has that changed? Have you heard anything since these talks were called off with South Korea?
  • Well, is the White House setting a standard for “We won’t meet with you unless you do X, Y, and Z”?
  • (Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg) I know we’ve asked this a few times, but —

SANDERS:  That’s okay. That’s kind of what we do here, ask the same question over and over and over again.

  • Can you say yet when Michael Cohen stopped being the President’s personal lawyer?
  • Yeah, but you still haven’t been able to answer that.
  • (Jill Colvin, Washington Post) Thank you, Sarah. Why didn’t the President disclose the reimbursement to Michael Cohen in last year’s financial disclosure report? And just to follow up on other peoples’ questions on North Korea, has any consideration been given at this point to potentially canceling those joint military exercises with South Korea?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News Radio) I just want to ask you, because so many people around the country have been talking about it in the last 24 hours, what did the President mean when he said some immigrants are not people, they’re “animals”? (Sarah feels no need to make absolutely clear that most immigrants are not the gang MS-13 and that immigrants are NOT animals)
  • (Peter Alexander, NBC News, maybe, couldn’t see which Peter was) Thank you, Sarah. Are the chances of a summit now less likely than they were a week ago before these statements came out from Kim Jong-un?

 

Brian Karem’s voice as she leaves: “Sarah, has the President ever lied to us?”

TOWOIT #329: Kill at will

May 14, 2018

Questions reporters asked Raj Shah at the briefing today:

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Raj, a couple, if I could. At the same time there was a celebratory air in Jerusalem as the U.S. was moving its embassy, in the south of Israel, along the border with Gaza, there was a lot of violence that resulted in more than 41 people losing their lives. Is the President concerned about the demonstrations there and Israel’s response to people trying to climb over the fence?
  • Also, what’s the President’s thinking on ZTE? I mean, here is a company that violated U.S. rules regarding doing business with North Korea and Iran. It was, according to the Commerce Department, appropriately sanctioned for that and fined $1.2 billion. You had the heads of six intelligence agencies telling Congress back on February 13th that they wouldn’t use ZTE devices because of counterespionage concerns. They also wouldn’t recommend that American citizens use ZTE or Huawei devices. So what’s the President’s thinking with that tweet over the weekend about wanting to rescue ZTE
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I guess I wanted to follow on that. Did the President give Secretary Ross any specific instructions on how he wanted that case to go?  And when you say that it was “raised,” I assume you mean in the context of the ongoing trade discussions between the U.S. and China. So is there a, sort of, direct linkage there, where China could make a concession on retaliatory tariffs, and so we’d see from the U.S., kind of, easing back on ZTE?
  • (Weijia Jiang, ABC News) A follow on that, Raj. Didn’t the Commerce Department make an independent judgment when they decided to issue this sanction against ZTE? So can you talk about the significance of bringing it up again now? How much does it have to do with the impending summit with North Korea? You know, critics will say that the President wants China’s support, needs China’s support, and THAT is why he is now backing off on this sanction against ZTE.
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Raj. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I [just] wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that” — what Kelly Sadler said — “was inappropriate,” that that’s not who we are as a Trump administration. Why not just apologize, so America doesn’t think that that is an acceptable way of speaking inside this White House?
  • How? (The transcript doesn’t show that a scattering and smattering of assorted HOWs cropped up from several reporters–it wasn’t just Cecilia asking this)
  • Excuse me, but she — Kelly Sadler told Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly, and that has not yet happened. Why has that not happened?
  • Are there any concerns that this White House seems more concerned about the fact that there was a leak than about the content of what was said?
  • (Man’s voice–) But it wasn’t internal–
  • (Sounds like April Ryan’s voice–) IS she being reprimanded–
  • (At least two other voices–) How? How is it being handled–
  • (Pamela Brown, CNN) But can you explain how it’s being addressed internally?
  • But she’s still employed here at the White House?
  • Why hasn’t she PUBLICLY apologized, as she told Meghan McCain that she would?
  • Okay, really quick, Raj — on ZTE, how does the President Trump statement that too many Chinese jobs are at risk square with his campaign promise that China is stealing American jobs?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) Hi, Raj. The death toll is over 50 in Gaza. Is the U.S. calling on Israel to use restraint in dealing with these protests?
  • So there’s no burden on Israel to do something to, sort of, rein it in?

MR. SHAH:  No, we think that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Hamas is the one that, frankly, bear responsibility for the dire situation right now in Gaza.

  • Lastly, Raj, how does this — the United States had been wanting to put out a peace plan. How does today’s situation hurt that?
  • (David Nakamura, Washington Post) Raj, there seemed to be some confusion, given the messages on the Sunday news shows from Secretary Pompeo and National Security Bolton about what exactly the U.S. is asking of North Korea. Is the administration’s position that the U.S. expects the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Peninsula and of North Korea? Or is the administration willing to accept something short of that?
  • And I was wondering also if you could address a little bit the criticism of the President’s, sort of, tone with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, saying that he treated the U.S. detainees excellently. The President’s rhetoric has certainly shifted on Kim Jong-un, and I’m wondering if you could explain why, and whether he thinks that, at all, that he is going too far in sort of praising Kim Jong-un.
  • (Peter Alexander, NBC News) If I can, very quickly, the French Foreign Minister, Raj, said about what’s taking place in Gaza — he urged Israeli authorities to exercise discretion and restraint. So to be clear, does the U.S. not agree with the French that Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint?

MR. SHAH:  We believe that Hamas is responsible for what’s going on.

  • So there’s no responsibility beyond that on the Israeli authorities? Kill at will?

MR. SHAH:  What I’m saying is that we believe that Hamas, as an organization, is engaged in cynical action that’s leading to these deaths.

  • Let me ask you if I can, and following up on Kelly Sadler today — Matt Schlapp, whose wife you know — Mercedes Schlapp — works here — is the Head of Strategic Communications — portrayed Kelly Sadler as “a little bit of a victim here.” Do you agree that she is a little bit of a victim here? And why?
  • Is there any environment where that — conveying that thought — would be viewed as appropriate?
  • So to be clear, was it completed last week? You said it was dealt with internally. Has anything been dealt with since last week when she called the family — the McCain family — for clarity?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) I might ask you an indelicate question. It’s been reported that you were leading the meeting where Kelly Sadler said what she said. How did it strike you? Did YOU find it to be inappropriate? And how did — what was the reaction in the room?
  • (Anita Kumar, McClatchy) Two questions. First, the White House is hosting some kind of meeting on Wednesday with California officials on sanctuary cities. Can you tell us what that’s about? Will the President attend? And what’s the point of the meeting?
  • So there’s no negotiation. This is just to solidify your point? I think —
  • Okay. And my second question is:  The President is going to Capitol Hill tomorrow to meet with Senate Republicans. Can you tell us about that meeting and the topic of the conversation? And also, do you think he will not get asked by senators about the Kelly Sadler issue?
  • Does he have a statement prepared?
  • Besides the CIA, is there another issue? It’s not solely to talk about Gina.
  • (Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times) The Trump Organization is involved in a project in Indonesia building hotels, golf courses, residences. It’s getting up to $500 million in backing from the Chinese government. Can you tell or explain the administration’s perspective on, A, how this wouldn’t violate the emoluments clause, and, B, how it wouldn’t violate the President’s own promise that his private organization would not be getting involved in new foreign deals while he was President? (Raj says, you’ll have to talk to the Trump Organization) 
  • No, but I mean the Trump Organization can’t speak on behalf of the President, as the President — the head of the federal government, the one who is responsible — who needs to assure the American people that — they don’t have that responsibility — (Noah is practically stammering. Raj has been taking Smug Crap lessons from SHS)
  • So, Raj, a couple of things. I need some information — we all need more information about the conversation that the President had by phone with James Shaw Jr. and why wasn’t it here at the White House. And also, what about prison reform? If you could give us a little bit more about prison reform.  We understand that that’s working its way and there is a big push from the White House. And also, on Sadler, where does decency and morality come in, into play, in the workplace? I mean, she still has a job. She made that statement about an American hero. No matter what the political feelings are about him, he was broken and bruised overseas for the freedoms of this country. And to say those things, I mean — (April wasn’t interrupted, she just stopped mid-sentence and made these two gestures with her hands and arms that were like “please enlighten me, this is too bananas and low” and then Raj said “It’s an internal matter.” Someone tweeted in response to that, “She got a promotion.”)
  • She keeps her job, right?
  • Why not here at the White House? Why not — I mean, he’s saluting heroes.
  • (Andrew Feinberg, ex-Sputnik, who asks a good question) Thank you, Raj. I wanted to ask you about the embassy opening today. The person who delivered the invocation, Robert Jeffress, he’s made some statements in the past that he believes that Muslims are going to hell, Jews are going to hell, Hindus are going to hell. Do you think that, considering especially his remarks about Jews, that he’s one of the right people to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel? And can you give us a little information on how that came to be?
  • Do you think it’s appropriate for a person who thinks that — who said that Jews are going to HELL to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel?
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) So, I have two questions for you. First on ZTE. Did the Chinese government give ANY specific concession for the President of the United States to tweet in SUPPORT of a Chinese company?
  • But WHY did he do that?
  • So just raising the issue was enough to spawn a presidential tweet and directive? 
  • And then another on the President’s tweet on Paris. He said that America needs to change its thought processes. What did he mean by that? What was he hinting at? (Saagar Enjeti is like WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I hope Saagar quits Daily Caller)
  • (Woman not named or shown on screen) Raj, on the issue of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when was the last time the White House reached out to Palestinian leadership? And will — given the high numbers of casualties, Palestinians calling what has happened today a “massacre,” will the White House be reaching out?
  • Okay. Can I just follow up then? Jared Kushner, in his speech, pointed a finger at the Palestinians, saying they were responsible for provoking violence. But given the fact that it’s only Palestinians who are being killed, should Israel not shoulder some of the blame?
  • But people were THROWING ROCKS, 50 meters from the wall and were faced with SNIPER attack. I mean, is the White House in denial of the split-screen reality that’s occurring?

MR. SHAH:  Again, we believe that Hamas is responsible for this.

  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Let me ask you on ZTE. The congressional hearing that John was talking, in which the intelligence chief said that people should not be using ZTE products because of security concerns, does the President himself believe that there is a security concern using — involved with ZTE?
  • Speaking of the Commerce Department, Wilbur Ross said at the National Press Club just a little while ago — he said of the meeting this upcoming week with the Chinese, he said, “It wouldn’t surprise me” if they bring up ZTE, but our position is that it would be an enforcement action separate from trade. Is that the position of the White House, that whatever may or may not happen with ZTE, that has nothing to do with trade negotiations? Or does it?  (When is this Russian-oligarch-coziness at the Bank of Cyprus finally going to catch up to Sleepy Wilbur?)
  • And on the Supreme Court decision today on sports gambling that allows, now, states to go forward with that, does the White House have any opinion one way or another on the decision today?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Raj, on Israel, the United States and the White House are hoping to release their peace plan in the next few months.  Going back to that split screen, I understand that you’re blaming these on Hamas, but does the White House feel that the position is undermined now by these deaths that have happened today? Last time the count was at 52.
  • And on a different foreign policy topic, sort of. The President isn’t going to the Royal Wedding this weekend. Today, we saw him deliver a video address at the embassy opening. Will he deliver an address of some sort via video? Is he sending a gift? Is there anything you can tell us about that?
  • (I don’t know who this old man is, but his voice is beautiful) Last month, Sarah said that the allegations against the Governor —
  • Last month, Sarah said the allegations against the Governor of Missouri were concerning. The Governor now is on trial this week. Does the President believe he should resign? He’s campaigned with him, he’s been out with him, he’s met him several times. Does he believe he should resign, irrespective of the verdict? Or if the verdict comes down in his favor, should he not resign?
  • (I can’t figure out who this fragile-looking blonde woman in the back is. I’ve google-imaged so much shit trying to sort it) Thank you, Raj. So, later this week, Thursday and Friday, Chinese officials are supposed to be here in D.C. to have continued trade meetings. Can you tell us which U.S. officials and which Chinese officials are going to be involved in those; what the President hopes to come out of those continued talks — this round of those talks? And has the administration provided — I know Larry Kudlow had mentioned at one point that the administration was considering providing a list of what they would like to see out of these trade negotiations.
  • (Hunter Walker, Yahoo! News) Thank you, Raj.  You said before that you hadn’t heard Pastor Jeffress’s remarks. Among other things he said, “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism…they leave people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.” I also wanted to talk about Pastor John Hagee, who was involved in that ceremony. He once said that Hitler was an instrument of God. Separate from that, on Sunday, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump met with Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel. And he once compared black people to monkeys. (April Ryan is in the frame and looks visibly upset at this) So I’m wondering, in all three of these instances can you tell us anything about how these people were brought into the ceremonies? And do you think it’s regrettable that people with these views were involved with the American government? (No, Hunter, they don’t give a shit. Stop acting like any of this is normal)
  • (Brian Karem, I believe, as Raj files out like a coward, having not answered the question) Shouldn’t you know whether you come to the podium whether or not that guy is worthy of talking to people at our embassy? … You gotta be KIDDING me….!

God bless Brian Karem, and God Bless C-Span for just letting the sound run so we got all of that last bit too.