TOWOIT #297: Arming Teachers

February 22, 2018

Today Raj Shah did the briefing because Sarah Sanders is at the Olympics with Ivanka. He didn’t keep everyone waiting and he seemed like a more decent person than Sarah Sanders again. Then he said some bizarre stuff about how Trump doesn’t like the “branding” of active shooter drills and thinks they should be called something else.

(Ok, this isn’t bizarre. It means, pacify the children who are just preparing for an active shooter. Don’t make them feel like it will really happen. if they don’t think it will really happen, maybe they won’t join the Parkland children in the streets).

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Just because I was bored, I graphed Raj’s briefing against Sarah’s on Monday (X is minutes, Y is live viewers on the White House youtube channel).

Here are the questions that reporters asked Raj today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #297: Arming Teachers

TOWOIT #296: “We have a lot of housekeeping to do”

February 20, 2018

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Minutes vs. People joining the WH youtube channel to watch the first briefing in a week

Last night Rachel Maddow said the White House Daily Briefing is general a total snoozefest for her — a pointless exercise that is her cue to go out and get a sandwich — but that she would be tuning in today for the first briefing in one week.

I was disoriented all day because it wasn’t on the C-Span schedule and I thought they were bailing again. I cued up the White House youtube channel, which tells you how many viewers on the channel waiting to watch, and I also was listening for 80 minutes to the frustrated reporters in the room, waiting for the delayed briefing to actually started. Then it was 20 minutes of lies. Pretty anti-climactic actually.

Still, hats off to Kristen Welker who wouldn’t let Sanders hide behind the Parkland shooting — the reason they gave for *canceling* the last scheduled briefing, and then the shield used at the top of this one. Welker was given the first question and launched right into a Mueller question.

Sanders only took 20-minutes worth of questions. So there wasn’t very much anyone could do. Here are the questions the reporters asked:

Continue reading TOWOIT #296: “We have a lot of housekeeping to do”

TOWOIT #294: Wednesday

February 14, 2018

And finally we get to today.

The White House briefing was scheduled for 1:00

And then for 2:30.

And then it scooted across the rest of the afternoon until it was canceled a couple minutes before 4:00, which was its final resting place on the schedule.

They said the school shooting in Florida was why it was canceled. That seems unlikely since a) they’ve had a remarkably stalwart attitude toward shootings in the past, and b) a big school shooting is actually a reason to go out of your way to HAVE the press briefing and not the other way around.

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TOWOIT #291: Mere Allegations

February 12, 2018

Just minutes ago I left a train car in which a creep aggressively pressed his whole leg against mine, hip to ankle, even though he had a whole empty seat on the other side of him and even though I was struggling and squirming to get a little space between my leg and his — I inched my leg away to get away from that press of contact, and he smashed further into me. Three times. That’s not an accident.

This happens all the time. It happens to nearly every woman. It has happened to me many times. I don’t think I’ve ever ONCE commented on it before. But I am so sick of it. Don’t use your precious balls as an excuse to invade my personal space. I eventually heaved my bag a little so it kind of rammed into his elbow, and he finally moved over, but then he sort of settled himself so his hips and torso were turned toward me, opened his legs wider, and gave a little smirk. He got off at the same stop and stood RIGHT behind me on the escalator. I just wanted to kick him back down the escalator but the people behind him didn’t deserve that.

Anyway, just letting you know that’s the head space I’M in right now as I head into this recap of today’s 18-minute White House press briefing. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was creepy, robotic, and said things like “MERE allegations” and “the president thinks vic- EVERYONE- should get due process.” These people are so dumb they forget the rest of us have reading and listening comprehension. She read her exact script three times, word for word, so we really got it. We got it, Sarah. We got the over tones… we got the under tones. We got the syntax of how looking the other way and absolving abusers was the actual alpha and omega of your statement. When I hear “due process” out of her mouth all I hear is smug comfort taken in people being too afraid to come forward and closets full of unexamined rape kits.

I also wanted to share this tweet from Jay Rosen at NYU:

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It’s made me think. I have argued that the briefings ARE worthwhile because the questions matter as much as the answers in any administration, and MORE than the answers in THIS administration. Jay Rosen might be right though, and that’s uncomfortable.

Could reporters do a better job in there? Yes, absolutely. And do the red-meat MAGA crowd use Trump as a way to bludgeon liberals, and do they care more about that than they do about Trump himself? Yes, I really think so.

Still, I think it’s worth it to continue. Even though the reporters in the room skew left and right to varying degrees, most of them still show quite a bit of adherence to the basic principles of journalism. And those basic principles are in direct opposition to the way the Trump White House operates. And having that gap on display, on the record, in publicly available White House transcripts, and on TV — that still matters to me. I’d miss it if it were gone.

I wrote “I’ll miss it when it’s gone” first and then I changed it.

And then I told you that I did that.

I ran out of time and have to go into class now — I’ll update this with my usual haphazard annotation of reporters’ questions when I can.

 

TOWOIT #290: “How should women feel if they don’t have a photograph?”

February 8, 2018

Today Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah spoke to reporters about the Rob Porter scandal and took questions.

I thought it was very odd that Sarah Sanders wasn’t there on such an important day. Raj Shah had never done a briefing before (he did very well at it though). The White House said it was a pre-planned absence, but I think it’s strange.

Adding to the general sense of things being off, the briefing kept scooting later and later into the day. It was first planned for 1:00, then delayed until 2:30. Then, after the reporters had been sitting around for several minutes waiting, a voice came over the loud speaker (also odd-seeming), announcing that the briefing would now be at 3:15. Loud groans erupted.

John Roberts, Fox News TV ready, jumped up and talked to the cameraman while also talking on the phone to the studio. He decided to go out on the North Lawn to do his next on-camera segment before the briefing was scheduled to start. Then the 3:15 time period passed, 3:21, 3:24, 3:27…

At 3:37, Peter Alexander stood up on his little step-stool to do an on-camera with NBC. He could be heard saying, “They gave us the two-minute warning five minutes ago, so they are definitely struggling with something.” Then at the end of his piece he signed off to say, “…the White House Press Briefing, which is expected to start two hours and twenty minutes ago.” The room, which had gone quiet out of courtesy, erupted in laughter.

Then Jim Acosta with CNN went on air and the waiting reporters became even more the story. “The mood in the room —” he said, and then, gesturing around, “— what’s the mood?” and he was greeted with a mix of groans and whoops.

When Raj finally showed up, it was a relief to have him instead of Sarah, for the change. But you do wonder how someone decent-seeming, who you’ve barely had a chance to begin to despise, could debase himself by working for this White House. Raj broke with Trumpian tradition by saying repeatedly that everyone involved on the White House staff could have done some things differently and handled the Rob Porter situation better. Other than that, he was all over the place. It was a smudgy and squidgy spin job, delivered fairly calmly.

Oh, also, Raj Shah used the phrase “The President’s generals” today.

Here are the questions reporters asked Raj Shah.

Continue reading TOWOIT #290: “How should women feel if they don’t have a photograph?”

TOWOIT #288: “He cried out eleven times”

February 6, 2018

To start Tuesday’s press briefing, Acting Assistant AG John Cronan came in and spoke very slowly and dramatically about MS-13, a “brutal gang of savages.”

Reporters’ questions for Cronan:

  • (Can’t see who asked this question) I had a question, yeah. Given the threat that you’re discussing here, why has Attorney General Sessions renewed a, sort of, increase in the enforcement against marijuana, even though a lot of states have tried to decriminalize or make it legal?
  • But you do have finite resources, correct? So why put a priority, again, in an area that had been deprioritized and had not been considered nearly the threat that this kind of violence you’re talking about is?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) John, people in this community have been reading about MS-13 since 2006. Is it your position that the previous two administrations, Bush and Obama, simply did not prioritize this? Or is it much worse now than it was then, and therefore it is justified to have the focus you’re describing here today?
  • Did the previous two administrations not appreciate this, let this grow, let this become a bigger problem? Two questions. Last year, President Trump talked about MS-13. We saw some graphic detail about MS-13. Now you’ve given the President an update. What, beyond an immigration issue, will the Justice Department be doing to break the back of MS-13? That’s the first question.
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Two questions. Last year, President Trump talked about MS-13. We saw some graphic detail about MS-13. Now you’ve given the President an update. What, beyond an immigration issue, will the Justice Department be doing to break the back of MS-13? That’s the first question.
  • And for my second question — yeah, and on my second question, on another issue. And I’m glad you’re here today. The Eric Garner case — it’s still out there, and there are people waiting for an indictment. His mother is looking for justice. He cried out 11 times, “I can’t breathe.” What’s new? What’s happening? What should we expect on that case? (This is an example where I feel like April is reading these facts back into the record by asking)
  • But it’s in the criminal — we understand that it is in the criminal department — the criminal portion of Justice. So, I mean, is there any movement at all? Because I’m hearing that there should have been an indictment here.
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Jonathan, in the Cabinet Room, where you gave your first presentation, the whole MS-13 issue was wrapped up in the need to increase border enforcement, to change our immigration laws. Do you have any idea how many of the 10,000 gang members of MS-13 in this country are here legally and how many are here illegally?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Isn’t it true that MS-13 makes up just a small fraction of gang members in this country, though?
  • Few people would certainly argue with that characterization that MS-13 targets communities in this country. But what would you say to critics who say you’re using this gang to basically paint a very broad brushstroke against immigrants and scare people here?

There’s a scrum here where the reporters are shouting over each other — this feels unusual, but then it’s been a crazy news week with no briefings — and then you hear a woman’s voice say “I’m going to ask, I’m going to ask” and a man saying “OK” and quieting down.

  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) You talked about the Attorney General’s leadership here, Jeff Sessions’s, what he’s been doing in fighting this gang problem. And I want to ask about somebody else who’s a leader of the DOJ, Rod Rosenstein. Are you comfortable with his leadership? Do you believe the rank-and-file are comfortable? Do you believe he’s being unfairly maligned by the President?

Cronan says, a bit doltishly, “I’m here to talk about MS-13.”

  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) So my question, if you — really quick. May we — look, local law enforcement — one of the biggest problems local law enforcement has is that they believe that your particular rules and what you’re doing now are actually causing more problems, because people in the immigrant communities are afraid to come forward and testify against MS-13 because they believe they’re going to be deported if they do so. Can you at least give them any assurance that the immigrant communities, particularly in Gaithersburg, Maryland — you brought that one up and people had — the police in Montgomery County had a difficult time getting people to come forward as witnesses because they were afraid they would be deported if they did so. So your own rules, your own — what you’re doing is scaring people away. Can you address that?
  • No, well, but they’re afraid that you’re going to ship them out and deport them if they do. That’s a real fear. They’ve expressed that fear.
  • You see where that might be a problem, though, in prosecuting the case?

That was it for Cronan.

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The podium changeover from Cronan to Sanders. Brian Karem is still wrapping up a point about immigrants who are afraid to talk to the authorities about MS-13. We also have Saagar Enjeti with his haircut, and a lackey in a mint-green tie, and the top half of Hallie jackson’s birdlike head, and Sarah Sanders smiling calmly because she doesn’t give a shit. 

Cutesy Sarah Huckabee Sanders is so sinister to me. The idea of keeping the briefings SO short and then holding a roomful of reporters hostage while you slowly smarm your way through a child’s letter (This one ended with “P.S. Our pop-pop says that you’re doing a great job. Thank you for keeping us safe.”) — it’s just unconscionable to me. Every day it gets harder and harder not to use gendered insults against her.

  • (AP) Sarah, on the President’s shutdown comments a few minutes ago, a few weeks ago he said that a shutdown would be devastating to the military. Does he now feel that a shutdown would be worth it even if members of the U.S. military were negatively impacted?
  • But isn’t the President encouraging a shutdown here?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Can you then clarify, would the President rather see a shutdown, or a short-term spending fix this week?
  • And then I’m hoping you can clarify one other thing. Chief of Staff John Kelly said today that some DREAMers were, “Too lazy to get off their asses” to register for DACA protections. Is that the position of this White House that DREAMers are lazy? Who thinks this?
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, what did the President make of the stock market’s volatility yesterday and today? And does he have any regrets about taking responsibility or credit for the stock market’s rise?
  • Does he have any second thoughts about taking credit for when the stock market goes up?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. Has the President had a chance to review the memo from the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee? And is he inclined to release it?
  • Before the review concluded last time, the President had made it clear to lawmakers that he was inclined to release the Republican memo. Has he made any kind of similar comments to you guys about the Democratic memo?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President, on the Republican memo, says that it completely vindicates him. And this weekend we heard from Trey Gowdy, who is on the Intelligence Committee, who had a large part in writing that memo. In what way does the President believe that the Republican memo vindicates him? (A good place to remember that Jon Decker is trained as a lawyer)
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, I would think it’s fair to say that many members of the Senate, including Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, were surprised by the President’s comments. So I’d like to see if I could figure out exactly what he was driving at. Is the President saying that unless there is an immigration compromise that he’s satisfied with, he will not sign the emerging budget compromise on a two-year budget deal that McConnell and Schumer are working out? Or will he deal with that separately from the budget talks that are going on now? And both of those represent — are making substantial progress. (People just literally can’t figure out what the President of the United States is trying to say)
  • Does immigration have to be included in that?
  • But do they have to be together?
  • Will he sign a budget deal that does not include immigration policy reforms?
  • So let me ask one other thing about — Senator Flake said something on the Senate floor just a minute ago. I want to give you a chance to respond. He said, and I quote —

MS. SANDERS: I’m sure this will be eventful.

  • “I have seen the President’s most ardent defenders use the now weary argument that the President’s comments were meant as a joke, just sarcasm, only tongue-in-cheek. But treason is not a punchline.” Can you say for the sake of the future that you agree with Senator Flake on that, that treason, or treasonous, is not a punchline, is not a joking matter?

MS. SANDERS: Look, honestly I’m not going to respond directly to Senator Flake’s comments. I don’t really care what Senator Flake has to say. I don’t think his constituents do either, and I think that’s why his numbers are in the tank.

  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Sarah, I want to ask you a question about —
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, thank you. Sarah, you did call on me.
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask you a question about stocks. On the positive economic news, there is a school of thought among economists that, given the current growth in the economy, to inject the economy with stimulus and the tax cuts could actually spark inflation. So — which means is, when these people have more money to spend, prices necessarily go up, and the prices that people pay, go up. And that’s not a good thing. So how keenly focused is this President on inflation fears? And ahead of next month’s Fed meeting, has the President spoken to Chairman Powell about whether he thinks interest rates should go up or not?
  • Any thought on interest rates, one way or the other?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, as it related to the Republican memo, the President and this White House argued it was important to release it for the sake of transparency. So, therefore, can the American people expect to see the Democratic memo in the sake of transparency?
  • (Unintelligible) determination prior to releasing the Republican memo. So why not the same, as it relates to transparency and —
  • He said, “100 percent.” He said, “100 percent”
  • One question about John Kelly and his comments calling DREAMers — indicating some of them are lazy. Does that type of rhetoric help get a bipartisan deal done?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, also up on Capitol Hill today, Chief of Staff Kelly said that he didn’t think the President would be likely to extend the DACA deadline from March 5th. But twice in Davos, the President said, “If we need a little more time, we’ll take a little more time,” on DACA. And then in a gaggle, when asked if he would extend the deadline, he said, “Yeah, I might do that. I might do that…not guaranteeing it…but I certainly have the right do that if I want [to].” So, which is it? Is he is still open to the idea of extending the deadline, or is it closed? (Again, not even Fox News can tell what the President means when he speaks)
  • Sarah, can you clarify, is he open to extending the deadline, or has that door closed? (John Roberts looks annoyed)
  • (Jennifer Jacobs) Sarah. Thank you so much, Sarah. So on North Korea and the Vice President, when we’ve asked in recent days whether the Vice President — we’ve asked Secretary Rex Tillerson and the Vice President himself — whether he would be interested in meeting with North Korean officials while he is traveling in South Korea for the Olympics, and they both have said, “We’ll see.” Is the administration trying to signal some interest in talks with North Korean officials? Or what is that about?
  • Will the administration rule out that the Vice President will speak with North Koreans while he’s there?
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Can I get back to the Chief of Staff saying that some of the DREAMers may just have been too lazy to get off their asses? Just on the face of it, isn’t that just a wildly offensive comment about these undocumented immigrants who are waiting for some kind of solution to come out of this city?
  • On the surface of that, Sarah, though, isn’t it just a — it’s just an offensive comment, though, isn’t it? Just on its surface.

MS. SANDERS: I think that’s something you would have to decide for yourself.

(Uh yeah… we decided.)

  • (David) Sarah, have the President’s lawyers advised him not to testify before Robert Mueller?
  • It’s possible he won’t testify?
  • Sarah, two things. On the economy and the shutdown, how is a shutdown that the President wants to basically show Democrats that they’re wrong — how is a shutdown going to help the economy and help those who this administration is saying we want to lift out of the situation, the plight that they’re in?
  • And then — okay, and then on the next piece, you said treasonous was a joke. But what about “un-American”? In Washington, over the years with the State of the Union, one side — be it if it’s a Democratic President, the Republicans sit. If it’s a Democratic President — well, whatever, you get it. If it’s a Democratic President, the Republicans sit. If there’s a Republican President, the Democrats sit. What is so un-American about this, this year, after this has been going on for all of these years?
  • But he was specifically talking about the black unemployment rate. But he was specifically, at that moment when he was in Cincinnati, talking about the black unemployment rate.

MS. SANDERS: And that’s something everybody should be excited about.

  • But it’s jumped up from 6.8 to 7.7.
  • It’s still higher.
  • But it’s still higher than it was.
  • But it’s still higher —

(She decides to take one last question after saying April was the last. She calls on John Gizzi who is usually very safe. Before John asks his question a man calls out “What’s unAmerican about disagreeing!?”)

  • Thank you, Sarah. Quick question. There have been numerous published reports that Dave Bowdich, number three in the FBI, would be moved up to be deputy director, under Director Wray. He received both his present appointment and his previous position as head of the Los Angeles office of the FBI under former Director Comey. Given the administration’s almost contumacious criticism of Mr. Comey — (laughter) — is there going to be any objection to Mr. Bowdich moving up to the number-two spot under Director Wray?

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(This was just the diversion she wanted — laughter and jokiness ensued)

As Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked out, something happened that upset me. A man on the side of the room shouted, in a very urgent way, a joke question that was not funny, and was not necessary, and made a mockery out of what the reporters in the room try to do, and he brought April Ryan’s name into it, digging up some beef between April Ryan and Sarah Huckabee Sanders from months ago. April Ryan said “What? I didn’t say anything about that!” And then a few seconds later she just said, “Don’t do that.”

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I like to think that NPR’s Tamara Keith has gone to the French Riviera in her mind

TOWOIT #287: WHPB?

February 5,  2018

Update (Feb. 6) — There was totally a press gaggle with Raj Shah on the plane on the way to Ohio, but the WH hadn’t got it up yet when I looked. And there was a WHPB today–a total shit show. More to follow.

I’ve been covering only the White House Press Briefing because it’s my particular interest and because it’s all I can handle with work and school exploding into more complexity than I was prepared for.

But what the heck, White House? The last briefing was on Monday, January 29. It was a VERY eventful week. The President hasn’t been out of the country. He also hasn’t been answering questions on “press avails” (when the press gets invited in to a room to briefly register that the President is indeed being the President, and then they are all herded back out again).

Is this fear of reporters’ questions? An acceleration of the slow death of the White House Press Briefing as an institution?

I checked the White House website to see whether there were any informal press gaggles that might have flown under the C-span radar. Nope. Nothing.

Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s an oddly subversive-feeling set of tweets from Trey Yingst. Trey’s publication, OANN, is pretty right-leaning. It’s one of the newer, smaller conservative outlets that the Trump administration credentialed to be in the White House briefing room.

But something about these back-to-back tweets quoting the President verbatim saying something dictatorially buffoonish… and then citing verifiably true stock market numbers that aren’t fantastic… (the end of that sentence would something like “…doesn’t feel too blindly propagandic”)

Tweets by Trey Yingst. One quotes the president for saying the Dems were treasonous for not clapping for him. One says the Dow is down over 1000 points for the day.

And I did think it was sweet that Trey put his press corps colleagues in his Twitter header photo.

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L to R: Blake Burman (FOX Business), Major Garrett (CBS), John Roberts (FOX News), Peter Alexander (NBC), Jonathan Karl (ABC), Hallie Jackson (NBC), Jim Acosta (CNN), Eamon Javers (CNBC), and Trey Yingst (OANN)

TOWOIT #286: SOTU, STFU

I’m happy to report that I missed the State of the Union yesterday.

There was  no White House press briefing yesterday or today, but lots happening–so I went on Twitter to see what the WHPB cast of characters has been saying there.

Margaret Talev gave a sneak preview of the speech.

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So I’m learning more and more about how this works. Apparently some reporters had the job of being outside the White House waiting for Trump to get in the car and drive away, and they relay back to the other reporters what’s going on.

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John Gizzi live-tweeted the State of the Union, with gusto.

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And then retweeted this:

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Meanwhile, April Ryan:

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Cecilia Vega last night, after she mis-spelled Stephen Miller’s name in a tweet about the

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Well, this seems like some misplaced optimism

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John Roberts from Fox wrote this:

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Lots of nuts-and-bolts reporting about today’s train crash:

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Trey Gowdy is retiring from Congress

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Margaret Brennan retweeted a story about the Nunes memo

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I think this was sarcasm?

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And then there’s this matter about the was-going-to be ambassador to South Korea. I’m still confused about it. Mara Liasson retweeted this:

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We’ll see if there’s a briefing tomorrow.

 

TOWOIT #285: —and he screamed with caps, all caps—

January 29, 2018

Andrew McCabe is stepping down or being forced out (one or the other), a hollow SOTU is scheduled, black people should be grateful to Trump, reporters are getting a runaround on the sanctions deadline, and the nationalized 5G network is going over like a lead balloon.

Here are the questions the White House press corps asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the 14 minutes she allotted for Q&A.

Continue reading TOWOIT #285: —and he screamed with caps, all caps—

TOWOIT #283: Dead on Arrival

January 23, 2018

At the top of the January 23 briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the Graham-Durbin-Flake bipartisan compromise on immigration is “completely unacceptable” to the President, and would be dead on arrival.

Before the briefing starts in earnest, Gary Cohn (globalist cuck) and H.R. McMaster (earnest yeller) come to the podium to talk about Davos. The big message? The United States is open for business. Also, “The U.S. is pulling back from nothing.”

Highlights of questions asked to Cohn and McMaster:

Continue reading TOWOIT #283: Dead on Arrival