February 21, 2017… Day 33
Radio alarm: Praise for General McMaster from all directions. NPR is on the chopping block, so I’ll enjoy my Morning Edition while I can.
Tuesday morning. NBC says Trump has a perfect chance, right now, for a reset. Asks, “Can Trump enjoy a no-drama week?”
Trump visits the Smithsonian Museum of African American History this morning. While there, he tells the press that the recent anti-Semitism has been “horrible” and “painful” and is “going to stop.”
The Anne Frank Center was not amused. They called it a bandaid on the cancer of rising anti-Semitism. Proving they are as good with words as their namesake, they also said “Do not make us Jews settle for crumbs of condescension.” Sean Spicer said in his White House press briefing, that Trump has constantly condemned anti-Semitism, and that he, Spicer, wished that the Anne Frank Center had praised Trump for his leadership on this issue.
Muslims and Jews in the U.S. are continuing their public overtures of kinship. Muslims quickly raised some money to help with the Jewish cemetery in St. Lousi that was vandalized.
President Trump tweets that the angry people at Republican town halls are just “liberal protesters.” Republican congressman Justin Amash tweets back “They are our fellow Americans with legitimate concerns. We need to stop acting so fragile.”
On the radio, local former EPA employees tell KUOW they don’t have high hopes for Scott Pruitt’s reign at the agency.A couple hours later, Scott Pruitt greets EPA employees for the first time. I haven’t heard whether the 3,000 pages of emails between him and the oil & gas industry came out today as expected. In his address to the EPA he comes across as super friendly, folksy, and decent. Like other of Trump’s cabinet picks, he has none of the bombast of Trump. He knows how to dial it down, seem like a normal person, and seem humble. He starts off by quoting Paul Harvey.Then he says that we are living in a “toxic environment” (pun not intended?) and that everyone puts on their “political jerseys.” So apparently, he’s going to address how hated he is coming into the job. He says “general principles of civility, finding answers, listening to each other… I think these are things we should keep in mind.” Then he says, “regulations should keep things regular,” and “process matters.” It is now clear that he is centering everything on “those who are regulated” (a phrase he uses multiple times), and not what is being protected (a word he does not use). He says “We should avoid abuses that occur sometimes,” and he’s talking about regulations, not pollution. He says “federalism matters.” Then he drives it home that his guiding principles are “federalism, process, and rule of law.” Yikes, buddy. Then he goes out with a John Muir quote (“people need beauty as well as bread” — still missing the point that the environment is worth protecting for its own sake). his final words are “I look forward to serving you in the future,” and now his niceness just seems sinister.
People are widely spooked by new DHS rules about rounding up immigrants and deporting them.ICE force will triple, Local police will be deputized, and people can be sent back to Mexico right away, and then later be formally deported by videoconference. When asked about it, Sean Spicer makes a shackle sandwich. He talks about ICE having formerly had “their hands cuffed behind their back” when it came to dealing with illegal immigrants. Then he talks about Trump visiting the slavery part of the African-American museum. Then quite soon after that, he talks about ICE being “in shackles” before this latest executive order.
At one of my community organizing meetings, I brought up the topic of Seattle as a sanctuary city–and that maybe Seattle’s sense of itself as a sanctuary needed to be actively strengthened and reinforced. As a bulwark to whatever shifting political and fiscal winds are ahead. An older woman who retired from the King County sheriff’s office pooh-poohed me. She said I had no idea the levels of bureaucracy involved. She said there was no way, logistically or culturally, the local law enforcement would cooperate. She said there was no way the feds could make that happen. I just said “Thanks! I’m glad there’s something I can move lower on my list of things to freak out about!” And I meant it. A little bit later, she moved away from where I was sitting. As soon as she left, an elderly Japanese-American woman turned to me and said “Do you think neighbors will turn on neighbors?” That white woman hadn’t reassured her.
I’m not sure, but I don’t think Glenn Thrush of the New York Times got a question at the briefing. Spicer shut him down pretty hard, choosing to take another follow-up from the tough Haley Jackson instead of letting Glenn speak. He passed it off as chivalry to Haley, but everyone in the room probably had flashbacks of Melissa McCarthy grabbing a super soaker.
“One of the beauties of history is that we don’t repeat itself”
— Sean Spicer, February 21, 2017
On NBC: As a reporter asked Pence yesterday at a NATO news conference, “You’ve given your assurances today here in Brussels to European leaders that the U.S. is committed to working with Europe. President Trump says very different things. He has said that the EU is a vehicle for Germany, that the UK was smart to get out of the expected other countries to follow. Who should European leaders listen to, you or President Trump?” Pence’s answer: “The United States is expressing strong support for NATO even as we challenge NATO and challenge our allies to evolve to the new and widening challenges. And further meet their responsibilities.” But can you express strong support when an administration is saying different things?
On Saturday, the New York Times had a story about Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, meeting with a foreign Putin-friendly politician and then delivering a sealed envelope to Michael Flynn personally. The Washington Post had a follow up story the next day. Both papers talked to Michael Cohen but he changed his story between the two articles. Rachel Maddow asked last night whether Jeff Sessions would follow through with the U.S. DOJ efforts to extradite a Ukrainian oligarch who is Paul Manafort’s business partner. Today a court in Vienna ruled that he could be extradited from Austria to the U.S. Now all eyes are on Jeff Sessions, who will not recuse himself from investigations into the Trump campaign and/or administration.
Sweet, civil moment between strangers in the middle of a conservative vs. liberal argument on a Trump Facebook comment thread:
White House press briefing without Sean Spicer:
- I was curious if the President regrets or wants to clarify his characterization of the media as a public enemy.
- Speaking of the media, I’ve noticed two times in the last week that you’ve been directly contradicted by two members of the media. One of them was Bill Maher at HBO who said that in front of guests at Mar-a-Lago, the President was briefed on classified information on North Korea—I just want to clarify. Did that happen?
- Question about the resignation of the ten members of the Asian-American counsel. They said they could no longer serve a president whose policies create outcomes diametrically opposed to their goals. Will you appoint your own members to the counsel?
- On the statement today about the anti-Semitic acts, what specifically is the President going to do to address that issue and along those lines, there were reports that he was considering changing the mandate of this Countering Violent Extremism program to focus just on Islamic extremist groups. Is he still considering that? Or would he leave the scope of the program to—
- The next big piece in the immigration profile here in the white house here is going to be the new executive order. Is the President confident that this one will pass legal muster? And if he is, what gives him that confidence?
- Will this administration send American terrorism suspects, picked up overseas, to Guantanamo Bay?
- I just wanted a clarification… after that statement was made by the President, the Anne Frank center released a pretty strongly worded one saying that his statement was a bandaid on the cancer of anti-Semitism, saying there was xenophobia in this administration—
- On that, Southern Poverty Law Center said that the number of anti-Muslim groups in the U.S. has tripled during the time of the campaign. Is this message from the administration – anti-Semitism isn’t allowed, xenophobia isn’t allowed. Anti-Muslim sentiment within the administration—has the President been forceful about that particular issue?
- Sean, you talked about how the manufacturing CEOs are coming on Thursday so let me ask you about the border adjustment tax. The President said it was “too complicated.” Does he still feel that way?
- I have a question—there are doubts in Brazil right now about what’s going to happen to the relationship between the two countries, especially about immigration and trade deals. How does the administration see the current economic and political turmoil in Brazil? President Trump has spoke with some foreign leaders from South America but it was the Vice President who spoke to Brazil – why is that?
- One on the NSC meeting later this afternoon—is that the first meeting with all the principles later?
- Is that with staff or—
- When will be the first formal meeting of the NSC?
- What’s the President’s goal for his address next week?
- Let me ask you a question about the VP’s European trip. I’m curious if he received any commitments from our European allies to commit more in terms of NATO?
- Is that an ongoing process, or–?
- The DHS memos today—obviously these enforcement efforts cost money. Do you think the current budget is sufficient? Will you have to go to Congress—
- There was an election record report out today that the President raised more small campaign donations in 2016 than both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders combined—has he seen that? Is there a comment?
- Will the Trump administration rescind the guidance prohibiting discrimination against transgender students?
- In the wake of the VP’s trip to Europe, there’s questions as to the administration’s position on the future of Europe—wanted to see if you could clarify the President’s position on the future of the EU.
- On the DHS memo—is one of the goals here mass deportation?
- Not at all?
- Is the White House message today to undocumented people in this country whose only crime is being in this country illegally, “Don’t worry”?
- But what about the others who aren’t [criminals]? They are all fearful right now.
- On immigration, just to follow up – the President has a carve out himself, for DACA. Can you explain the process the administration is taking?
- The President has also had reservations about undocumented people who are beneficiaries of public assistance—what is the President going to be doing to either issue guidance or executive action of some sort to indicate that he would like to preclude that from happening?
- John Kasich has been a very vocal critic of President Trump, even during the campaign, saying his immigration plan was crazy, his claims that the election was rigged is silly—what does the President hope to accomplish from their meeting?
- But did Kasich ask for the meeting?
- What did the President gain from his tour today? You talked about the exhibits that he visited. Did he also visit the slavery exhibit? Because during the campaign, he said things like “We made this country,” meaning white America, not necessarily black—
- No, no, no, I heard him say that—
- And is there any advancement on the CBC meeting with the President? And also the head of the CBC was wondering if the President saw anything on the current and past CBC at the museum?
- What did he think about the members that he saw in the meeting?
- I have two questions. The first one is on undocumented immigrants—you just made very clear that the President’s priority is to deport those that pose a threat to public safety. I know you’re familiar with the case in Arizona, with the mother Guadalupe Garcia—is she a threat to public safety?
- But she’s a symbol, right? Is she a threat to this country?
- But that’s different from what you just said—a prioritization—
- That 13 million number, where did you get that number—
- Did you want to take that now?
- Ok, the second question is on anti-Semitism comments. You said though that he has taken opportunities in the past. Just last week though, right, he had the opportunities to deliver the message to the American people about anti-Semitism. He made clear that he is not anti-Semitic and he was insulted by that. But in terms of a broader message to the American people—he declined to offer one. Is the President comfortable with his obligation as the leader of this country, to deliver that broad and forceful to Americans? And if he is, why didn’t he do it sooner?
- Following the DHS memo this morning, the ACLU said it will not allow these orders to become a reality. How is the administration preparing for this legal battles and do you have any message to the ACLU?
- The Australian foreign minister is meeting the Vice president today and the Sec. of State tomorrow. I guess we can assume the refugee deal will come up. Can you just update us on—
- If you could just update us on the current status of the deal. And will Australia be expected to return the favor?
- I have two questions. One on the immigration and refugee executive order that we are expecting in the coming days—so that it withstands legal challenges, can you tell us what the language will look like as it refers to Syrian refugees?
- Will there be a ban on Syrian refugees?
- One more on the comments the President made on anti-Semitism, about the timing. They also came after his daughter sent out that tweet. Did Ivanka counsel him that it was important to make that statement?
- Does he regret not making his comments last week?
- The New York Times is reporting that Trump’s budget director is preparing a budget that eliminates the Export-Import bank. But several lawmakers have said he supports the Export-Import bank. So which is it?
- To square the circle on Alexis’s questions. Since the DHS guidance does not eliminate DACA, does that mean that the program is remaining in place, that it’s a settled matter and is not going away?
- So that means a decision on DACA could come at any time?
- Two questions please. One—it’s been one month on the job for you and the president, and you are already talk of the town around the globe. It looks like President’s order is working around the globe, because more than 60,000 Pakistanis have been deported from Saudi Arabia—but they say they are illegals. Any presidential message?
- As far as illegal immigration is concerned, millions of illegal immigrants have waited for the last 8-10 years that they might see a light in the dark tunnel and are hoping that President Trump will have a light for them. And they don’t have any criminal records. So what is the presidential message for them?
- At the beginning of the month, Senator John McCain sent a letter requesting that the administration provide arms to the Ukrainians fighting Russian separatists within their country. When will the President respond and what is the position on lethal aid to Ukrainians fighting Russian separatists?
- Yeah, on Russia. Critics of the president have said at times he doesn’t talk tough enough on the subject. General McMaster however has been labeled as being pretty hawkish. I’m curious what if any difference in tone or strategy can we expect now that they are working together?
- Another question on General McMaster. How much leeway will he get to hire his own people?
- Can we expect that he may replace any senior people at the NSC?
- You said he has the full authority to structure his office—does that extend to the principles committee as well? If he advises the president that he would rather not have the chief strategist on the principles committee, would the president—
- One more clarification—when the new EO comes out, he won’t rescind the first one?
- Are you referring the anti-Semitic attacks to the Department of Justice? (unanswered as Sean leaves the room)