TOWOIT #52

March 9, 2017… Day 49

Matthew Yglesias tweets: “There’s been a lot of —news— since the election, but  not much has changed (yet) in non-immigrants’ lives.”

Hawaii has sued the Trump administration for the new travel ban. Washington and Oregon are joining together in another law suit.

Chilling that reporters keep asking if immigration detainees will be sent to Guantanamo.

Alaska’s Republican Senators are speaking out against budget cuts that would decrease U.S. Coast Guard presence in the Arctic.

EPA Director Scott Pruitt casts doubt on the science on climate change. The word science is also removed from EPA language about clean air and clean water standards. We are beyond screwed.

Chief Medical Officer of Medicaid tweets: “Despite political messaging from others at HHS, I stand with the experts from @aafp @AmerAcadPeds @AmerMedicalAssn in opposition to #AHCA.”

I listened to a lot of podcasts today as I tried to understand the new healthcare bill, the AHCA. The best explainer I got was from Vox’s podcast, The Weeds. One thing I keep noticing now, is how tricky it is to not have a basis of comparison. I hadn’t paid close attention to public policy for years and years. Now I have to scramble to understand the baseline against which the current events are strange. I think of all the people brand new to politics who haven’t tried to understand context, both on the left and the right.

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There’s just too much for anyone to cope with. This chronicling exercise is something that helps me feel more sane, and isn’t much more than scrapbooking. Everything is flying past me all day, and I don’t know what to write about or try to pin down. They say as activists, we need to pick an issue and specialize, or we won’t be effective (or we’ll just go round the bend).

I’m going to try to pay more attention to local and state issues, as a place to start. Alaska issues too. I think that climate change is what’s going to come down the pike — in such a big way that it will take over public attention completely. But I’m fascinated with everything. And if we are going to go down, I just want to do it with integrity, and not be selling out the less fortunate on my way out the door.

I can’t believe the Russian thing is nothing. Masha Gessen says that we are only imagining that there are dots to connect. I don’t know what her angle is. She’s a Putin critic and a journalism expert. I think she’s fantastic. But to me, the dots seem like part of our national emergency — just a piece of it. But it’s an ongoing emergency that spreads out into all the agencies and how this country conducts itself at home and abroad. And how it treats people, and how it dismantles its own institutions.

More U.S. troops bound to Afghanistan today, as Marines arrive in Syria.

Rex Tillerson heads to Asia.

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There’s a clip of Andrea Mitchell forcefully trying to ask Rex Tillerson questions at a photo op. Staff is pushing her back, physically backing her out of the room as she keeps calling out questions to him. This was before the two State Department press briefings this week–the first since Tillerson took over. I still have to watch those on C-Span. But the questions she asked were powerful, even without answers. Or maybe they were especially powerful in their unanswered form.

  • Mister Secretary, China has said there will be consequences for the deployment of anti-missile defenses in South Korea. Can you respond–can you respond–Mister Secretary can you respond to the threats from China?
  • Mister Minister are you sure the Trump administration will be strong against Vladimir Putin?
  • Can you assure us that Russia will not be able to move farther into Ukraine

She also asked Rex Tillerson when he thought he would have a deputy, and whether he was concerned about the steep budget cuts to his department.

This is why I include the list of questions from Sean Spicer’s press briefings. The questions are powerful and fascinating (I mean, when they aren’t lame and bullshitty), and I’m interested in how the reporters do or don’t work together to try to get at answers. You learn a lot of information from the framing of questions, about where things stand on any given day–and then Sean Spicer’s answers are implied in the follow ups and the back and forth. Spicer’s answers are interesting also, of course–as obfuscating and garbled as they tend to be–but I watch the press briefings specifically for the press. Important bits and piece that I’ve left out of my own round-up will show up in the questions asked of Sean Spicer.

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Hallie Jackson, bane of Sean Spicer’s existence

Reporters’ questions from today:

The things they asked Sean Spicer today:

  • Julian Assange says the CIA has lost control of its entire cyber weapons arsenal. Does the President agree?
  • Is he going to talk about that with Mike Pompeo today?
  • And then some Republicans have said Julian Assange should be in prison. Does the President agree?
  • And the second topic is on healthcare. The President tweeted just a little bit ago that he believes that healthcare is coming along great. We’ve also seen Paul Ryan deliver a lengthy power point presentation that seemed to be aimed at convincing Republicans to get on board with this plan. Isn’t that a sign that healthcare isn’t coming along great?
  • Will he for example roll back the Medicaid roll back to 2018?
  • Thanks Sean, New York City first lady Shirlene McCrae said in a statement that Donald Trump should keep his hands off women’s bodies, women’s healthcare, and Planned Parenthood, which has done just fine with President Trump’s advice. I wanted to know what the response from the White House is on this.
  • Just wanted to follow on Hallie. On healthcare, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas today sent out a series of tweets in which he basically said this is dead on arrival in the Senate, go back to the drawing board–adding that it’s absurd for the committees to be voting on something that hasn’t even been scored yet. What does the President think of what Senator said today? Does he plan on having a conversation with him?
  • Was the President aware that Lieut. Gen. Mike Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when he appointed him to be the national security advisor?
  • Had the President had known that, would he have appointed him?
  • Following up on Senator Cotton, he told me just a short while ago that he thought this bill might actually make things worse than Obamacare. What do you say to Senator Cotton?
  • Are you open to major changes?
  • Is the President open to major changes, or–
  • The Senate and House conservatives have said they wanted a return to the 2015 Obamacare repeal effort. If that effort landed on the President’s desk, would he sign it?
  • So if the repeal landed on the President’s desk, he would not sign it?
  • I mean a repeal without replace?
  • Sean, seeing the pushback that you’re getting so far with health care, do you think it’s realistic to get healthcare and tax reform done in 2017? I’m asking because Mitch McConnell was asked about this today and he talked about there being certain constraints and that the tax reform portion could be a 2018 item.
  • So the August portion is still the timeline?
  • Congressman Elijah Cummings was here yesterday–he said the President was enthusiastic about his bill to cut drug prices. Is the President enthusiastic? And if he is, how much pain should drug companies be prepared to take?
  • Democrats said they’re gonna drop this bill in two weeks. Is the President prepared to have that conversation?
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions. First, a Japanese news service is reporting this morning that the President will have a meeting with the President of China in April. Does this mean there is a new meeting before their scheduled G20 meeting in July?
  • All right, thank you. Going back to the meeting and to your opening statement about the banks, in the last campaign, CandidateTrump campaigned hard on restoring the Glass-Steagel act which put a barrier between commercial and major investment banks. It of course was repealed in 1999. Senator Sanders campaigned on this as well, noted that it was in the Republican platform in Cleveland and said in December that he would be happy to work with the President  on restoring Glass-Steagel. Is there any plans for the president to meet with Senator Sanders, and is the repeal of Glass-STeagel on his agenda?
  • And is he still committed to restoring Glass-Steagel?
  • On infrastructure. Do you have a sense of timing, where it is on the priority list, and if these new reports that the state of the nation’s infrastructure is in really bad shape–does that give it a new sense of urgency?
  • The President had a meeting last night at the White House with the conservative groups. Can you tell us if the President was successful in twisting arms, getting these groups to back this healthcare bill. And separately, I see on the President’s campaign website that there’s a campaign-style rally planned in Nashville, Tennessee for next week. Can you confirm that, and why did you choose Nashville, Tennessee. There’s a democratic congressman who represents Nashville, are you hoping to get some Democrats behind this bill?
  • And then on the campaign-style rally?
  • The President promised to immediately terminate DACA when he got in office. It’s been seven weeks tomorrow and he still hasn’t done it. Can you definitively say if he’s going to get rid of DACA and if not, is he giving them legal status, and what’s the plan for DREAMers?
  • So he does still plan to get rid of DACA?
  • Sean, the President has been meeting with conservative groups, but there’s also been criticism on the left. He’s brought bipartisanship to Washington, finally. Does the President plan to meet with groups like the AMA and AARP, who supported Obamacare but not the President’s bill?
  • This morning at the national press club a local business filed a superior court suit against the President in regards to the Trump Hotel. Their feeling is, as much as the President says he supports small business, couldn’t he divest himself from this and support small business in the area?
  • In his speech before Congress, he said it’s not too much to dream at some point in time, our feet could be on foreign soil — I’m guessing he means other planets — with the NASA budget being released yesterday–is there a major initiative by this administration for space exploration, or are we just talking dreams?
  • Does he — when he said —
  • So Sean, just really fast. You’re saying the campaign information for next week — you said “talk to the campaign.” Who is “the campaign”?
  • Now yesterday, going back to Congressman Cummings. You talked about other things they talked about where they found common ground. The voter irregularities–both fraud and voter suppression. Where does this President see this coming together? We understand he’s saying voter fraud is real when other people are saying it’s not. But then there are factual, documented cases of voter suppression. So how is there are a marrying of that in the President’s eyes?
  • Also, Congressman Cummings said when he brought up the issue of funding for HBCUs, President said to Congressman Cummings, that the presidents did not ask for money. They came here with the intent that they were going to get some money from this executive order. That’s what their belief was. I understand there was talk of investment in these colleges by Steve Bannon. And they are looking for full funding for Title 3, Pell grant full funding fall, spring and summer as well as a one-time $25 billion investment. What does the White House think about this plan, especially at a time when you’re trying to cut down on domestic spending.
  • Is this funding request realistic?
  • Thanks Sean. Circling back to what you said, about critics characterizing the budget reconciliation phase as the entirety of repeal-replace, how quickly does the President want to see Republicans move on the companion legislation–does he envision those unfolding simultaneously? And then given opposition to the early reconciliation bill, does he want to see Republicans recalibrate on the companion legislation?
  • Thanks Sean, what is the assessment of the situation in Pakistan. Because they had a terrorist attack there. And will the President send troops to Afghanistan?
  • Today hundreds of Marines were deployed to Syria. Was the President involved to that process and is this part of his overall plan to fight Isis?
  • To follow up on Hallie’s first line of questioning, on Wikileaks. My question is, the Republicans are calling for Julian Assange to be in jail, or to be arrested. What about the tech companies he says he will work with, or give them the CIA leaks. Should there be any legal repercussions for tech companies willing to use this technology that you’re taking a stance against?
  • Back to General Flynn–how concerning is it to the President and to the White House that a registered foreign agent was the national security advisor for a short period of time?
  • He was being compensated.
  • Several reports out of the State Department from o ur colleagues there that on Secretary Tillerson’s upcoming trip to Asia, he will not be taking any press with him. That will be a breach of precedence certainly the last several bipartisan administrations. IS it concerning to the White House that American public policy may not be effectively communicated because there isn’t a press corp with the Secretary of State?
  • Sean, yesterday you said there was no reason to believe there was any type of investigation with respect to the Dept. of Justice. Did the Justice Department give you that assurance, because they are telling the New York Times they did not.
  • You haven’t been told by the Justice Department that there is no investigation. So there might be one. You just don’t know.
  • To discover if there is an investigation?
  • The justice department is saying that they never gave you the assurances that you gave us.
  • So when you said “no reason to believe” it was “I’m not aware.”
  • What’s that based on?
  • But the question was whether he was the target of a counterintelligence probe?
  • So the answer is that the White House is not aware if the president is the target of a counterintelligence probe?
  • Because I think yesterday when you came out and corrected, and clarified, people took that as a definitive answer.
  • Can you elaborate a little bit on to what extent Michael Flynn was involved in shaping the current Turkey policy for President Trump–was he engaging in Turkish leaders–
  • First, is there any official response to the lawsuit in Hawaii over the revised travel ban?
  • Thank you, and Nigel Farage was at the Ecuadorian embassy in London today, where Julian Assange is staying. We don’t know if they met or not. But, I mean, he’s a close ally of President Trump, was he there in any official capacity, was he delivering a message, do you know if there was contact?
  • Can you just tell us that Farage wasn’t there on behalf of the White House?
  • He’s not a leader.
  • And he had dinner with the President.
  • Secretary Mnuchin sent a letter to Congress saying Congress should raise the debt ceiling. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney voted against raising the debt ceiling several times. Is he going to support the raising of the debt ceiling, does the President support that, and will he push Congress to do that?
  • Second question–Scott Pruitt said today that Carbon dioxide was not a primary contributor to global warming, which is obviously at odds with global scientific consensus. Does the President agree, that uh–
  • I think you mentioned at the top, but I’m not sure, that apprehensions are down at the border. Is the wall still needed if apprehensions are down?
  • I think you’ve been asked this before but have been reluctant to say, whether President Obama and President Trump have spoken since the inauguration, although President Trump was very forthcoming about it during the transition so I’m not sure why you wouldn’t mention it. I’m just asking that again, and there was a report yesterday that aides for both presidents have spoken–could you follow up on both those things?
  • Can you tell us about policy now in Guantanamo–how it might have changed. Whether it might be expanded, whether detainees will be brought to Guantanamo, whether they’ll be transferred out.
  • As far as attacks on the indian American community across the nation… any presidential message to the Indian-American community?
  • As far as U.S.-Indian relations are concerned, they have been great in the past, and now we have two businessmen–(…)– what is the future of U.S.-Indian relations?
  • During the campaign, President Trump was not shy about his desire to get the U.S. out of these middle Eastern wars, but we just sent 250 Marines into Syria. Is President Trump committed to going to Congress to receive authorization for a declaration of war if we continue to deploy United States troops overseas?
  • Two questions. One clarifying the difference between the campaign stop and the healthcare roll out. How will the White House pick and choose whether that will be about the healthcare roll out or about the campaign?
  • I know Senator Cruz was here for dinner last night. Can you characterize the relationship between the two men? 2018 will be here before you know it.
  • Has the President spoken to the FBI Director about the wire tapping <unanswered as Spicer leaves the room.>

 

 

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