TOWOIT #53

March 10, 2017…Day 50!!

The 2018 mid-term elections are NOT that far away. If you got engaged right now, you *might* not get married until the fall of 2018. That is, if you were fancy people, unlike my people who get married at the justice of the peace on short notice for insurance reasons, and take Folger coffee cans to crematoriums to retrieve family ashes.

GETTING IN AND OUT OF HERE: The band Soviet Soviet was supposed to play a live concert on air at KEXP this morning but they had to cancel that, along with SXSW and their whole American tour. As they tried to get into the country from Italy they were separated, interrogated for hours in small rooms, and had their phones taken away. They had all their papers in order, had carefully planned ahead. Their American record label had all its ducks in a row. After being questioned, they were handcuffed and taken to jail in a police car like criminals, made to spend the night in jail, and sent back to Italy. They weren’t given their phones or their belongings back until right before they got on the plane. They were humiliated and relieved to get away from the U.S. Meanwhile, Muhammad Ali’s son said he was detained at the airport AGAIN. An American-born American citizen. It’s not about a travel ban — it has nothing to do with an executive order (which doesn’t even go until effect until March 16). It’s just all around fuckery at the borders. Agents throwing their weight around and being huge dicks to everyone, and especially racist huge dicks to people of color and Muslims. Tonight the AP is reporting that a Wisconsin judge is blocking enforcement of the new executive order for a Syrian woman and her three year old daughter. I’m starting to feel like the wall will be built just as much to keep us in as to keep other people out.

Five states are now suing the Trump administration over the new executive order.

GREENWALD STILL STUCK IN MY CRAW: Why should I believe Glenn Greenwald over other people? I don’t know why he sticks in my craw so badly. Maybe because I think he’s smart, and a lot of people I admire — smart people with integrity — believe in him. So, I have to acknowledge that Glenn Greenwald might be right and the rest of us might be wrong. But I also remember three things 1) Glenn Greenwald is invested in the idea that the intelligence agencies are sinister, 2) Glenn Greenwald’s ego is invested in his own idea of himself as a contrarian, and 3) so many women of color, and black women in particular — community leaders, thought leaders, artists, thinkers, organizers, activists — declared MONTHS ago that they have had it with Glenn Greenwald and his way of looking at the world. And I don’t know why he would be right and they would be wrong.

SEATTLE FUCKERY: “Holocaust is Fake History” spray painted on Capitol Hill synagogue in Seattle. The esses are dollar signs .The synagogue is choosing to leave it exposed for now.

When is it, when a former President’s spillover ends and the new President stands on his own merit? When does that happen?

–April Ryan to Sean Spicer today.

WHERE’S THE BASELINE? I ONLY RECENTLY STARTED CARING THIS MUCH: I can’t tell what’s normal and what’s not normal, because I’m just paying attention for the first time. Dismissing 46 U.S. attorneys seems to be fairly normal. Except maybe when you don’t have their replacements lined up. Calling Dana Boente and Rosenstein personally to ask them to stay on seems a little strange — but I don’t know? The State Department asking the medical examiner not to release the cause of death of the Russian ambassador to the U.N. seems strange, but again — I don’t know? The world is so full of procedural ins and outs that we normally don’t need to pay attention to.

Speaking of not paying attention — on the radio this morning. NPR’s David Greene was asking David Urban, who was a former advisor to the Trump campaign, about the healthcare repeal and replace legislation. Greene was saying, was there something a bit odd or contentious or rushed about the way this bill was going through committees in the middle of the night?

URBAN: I think, look, we’re not there yet. You know, the old saying is you don’t want to watch sausage or legislation being made, and so avert your eyes, America.

GREENE: You’re telling Americans not to pay attention to this debate?

The White House Press Briefing was disturbingly jocular today. Lots of chuckles, laughing, jokes and banter. But most disturbing was when Sean Spicer said that Donald Trump said the economic data used to be fake but it’s real now (strong jobs numbers came out today). The reporters just laughed like “Oh Uncle Donald” and moved on. I listened to the press briefing this morning at work and it stuck with me all day. When I got home and looked at Twitter, I saw I wasn’t alone in that.

Questions the reporters asked Sean Spicer at the briefing today:

  • I was gonna say, your pin’s upside down.
  • It’s still upside down.
  • House of Cards promo.
  • Our involvement in sending rangers and marines into Syria marks a dramatic change in our presence on the ground there, and I’m wondering how much autonomy is the president giving General James Mattis on the ground there?
  • Now our involvement there really sort of complicates the whole picture because we’re aligned with the Kurds, but then at the same time a NATO ally Turkey sees the Kurds as the enemy. And then there’s what happens with Russia and its involvement with the Syrian government. So the big problem with Iraq was that we never planned for the day after. So what’s the plan here for the day after? What happens after Raqqa falls?
  • But does the President have any idea who should occupy Raqqa? Should it be Kurdish forces, should it be a coalition, should American forces stay there?
  • Sean, the chair and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee have asked the Justice Department to turn over any information that they have that there was any wire-tapping of Trump Tower, candidate Trump, President-elect Trump. If there is no evidence that wire-tapping took place, will the President apologize for making such a serious charge?
  • But if there’s no evidence, I mean what’s he–
  • Thank you Sean. Senator Cory Gardner was reported by Politico yesterday to have said the the doesn’t believe the $14 billion wall along the Mexican border is the best way to provide border security. Does the White House see support for the border wall weakening in Congress?
  • Sean, a lot of action on the hill of course with healthcare lately, but April 28 is right around the corner, government funding expires. Given that during the transition you guys asked for a short-term CR so you could weigh in once you were in office, what’s the White House doing right now to avoid a shut down? I talked to some sources and they couldn’t point to specific talks. What’s the state of play there?
  • This would be to finish out the current fiscal year, so–
  • Do you want cuts for the rest of 17?
  • Thank you Sean. The President has said in the past that he welcomes compromise on the immigration legislation. This morning, when she spoke at the CSM press breakfast, Nancy Pelosi said that she would like to see the comprehensive immigration package that passed the Senate but was stopped in the House brought back. And that was her version of a compromise on immigration. What’s the President’s position on that compromise?
  • Thank you, Sean. Does the White House believe that there’s such a thing as the deep state that’s actively working to undermine the President?
  • Will the director of the CIA or the DNI have a presidential mandate to seek these people out and fire them or purge them from the government?
  • The DNC just put out a statement saying it is President Obama that deserves the credit for the February job numbers. My question is, how much of the credit do you think President Trump deserves for that, and how would you characterize the economy that President Trump was handed by President Obama?
  • Do you believe thought that the policies have already had an impact?
  • Thanks Sean, in the past the President has referred to particular job reports as phony or “totally fiction” does the President believe that this jobs report is accurate and a fair way to measure the economy?
  • (jocular laughing by many reporters)
  • Thanks Sean, could you clear up what appears to be some tension between what you said yesterday about when the administration was made aware of General Flynn’s foreign lobbying ties and the AP reporting today on when the administration was informed that he would need to register.
  • But that advice–if the transition was aware of that advice–why wasn’t the President made aware that–
  • Thanks Sean. Does the Pres. agree with House conservatives that the sunset date for Medicaid expansion should be moved up to this year?
  • The President is willing to negotiate on the sunset of expansion?
  • Thank you, Sean. Piggybacking off John and John. At the breakfast this morning, Nancy Pelosi also said that it couldn’t possibly true, of the allegations against the former president, because that is not  how our system works. She also said that Obama would not do that and that it would be waste of time for the House Intelligence Committee to investigate that allegations. Does the White House have any evidence to refute her claim, and can you explain why the President has not spoken to the FBI chief directly?
  • Sean, on Flynn–can you say that the President was informed at all about this arrangement, the need to register as a foreign agent–and did this set off any alarm bells–
  • What about the need to file?
  • But how did that not raise a red flag? I mean you have an attorney calling–
  • Sean, you  haven’t–but this is important–
  • Because you have an attorney calling the transition, saying that the person who is in line to be the national security advisor may need to register as a foreign agent. And that doesn’t raise a red flag?
  • Moving beyond the legal question, just to follow up with John, this is an issue of judgment about who you guys wanted in your administration. If there were published reports that who your potential national security advisor had dealings with the government of Turkey, a controversial regime at this moment in time, Congressman Cummings sent Mike Pence a letter during the transition informing him of this and raising a red flag, Mr. Pence was on television yesterday saying twice that he had no knowledge of that letter–
  • But just in terms of the larger question here. Forget about filling out forms and the legalisms here. What does this say about the transition team’s judgment about still appointing him as national security advisor when you had knowledge of this information?
  • No, no–
  • I mean, beyond the legal issues. We’re moving beyond the papers here. We’re talking about the judgment that the President, Vice President and the team made to select this man as a national security advisor when you had the information that he had these dealings with Turkey?
  • But Vice President Pence said yesterday, that he wouldn’t–
  • But the transition officials were not overly concerned by his relationship with–
  • Sean, I guess the question for you very simply would be, does this raise concerns that there may be other members of this administration that were or are currently lobbying on behalf of foreign governments right now, that may be advising the President of the United States?
  • But he may have been taking actions though–
  • They’re not the President of the United States–
  • So you have full faith in all those people that are advising the President right now?
  • Sean, for the removal of the South Korea’s President, what’s the reaction of the White House. And also we know that there will be a presidential election very soon in South Korea … (harder to hear his question, will get transcript later)
  • Obviously you guys were excited about the jobs report, but maybe a little too excited. You had the President tweeting within an hour of the jobs data coming out, which is a violation of the federal rules. So I’m wondering if there’s counseling in the President’s future. The risk of doing this is that it politicizes what should be non-partisan, by the books–
  • Sure, the Obama White House for instance, went out of their way not to comment during that hour-long period, they would change the President’s schedule–just, going forward–
  • Sean, Congressman Cummings letter to the Vice President in November did lay out that General Flynn was being paid to lobby for Turkish interests during the campaign. Why did that not raise a red flag?
  • But I’m asking about the Vice President specifically, not not saying you should go to this attorney or giving legal advice. But why when this information was brought to his attention, didn’t he raise questions, bring it to the President, look into it further?
  • I have a health care question for you. Is the President flexible about the refundable tax credit portion of the House bill. Would he be willing to sign legislation that voided that particular provision, because as you know, conservatives are concerned that that’s an additional entitlement.
  • So the President wants it to stay?
  • Four House Republicans wrote a letter to the White House asking why IRS (inaudible) is still in his job. Do you have any response to that?
  • Thank you Sean, the other day the President tweeted that for the last 8 years, Russia ran over the United States and picked off Crimea and ran missiles, which the President said was “Weak!” Given that he seems to be focused on Crimea, at least as far as his Tweet is concerned, will the President send lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine as was called for by the House and Senate armed service committees and was in both party platforms — if the President doesn’t want to do it, is that because he would rather focus his efforts on Russia to partnering to try to fight Isis?
  • Why would sending weapons to Ukraine have anything to do with sanctions?
  • Going back to–we’ve got several dozen emails saying if you’re gonna repeal and replace Obamacare, why wouldn’t you give everyone what Congress gets? Will you address that, since Congress won’t?
  • But specifically, the perception that somehow Congress and Senators get better care than the rest of us — can you address that.
  • Sean, did the White House sign off on Secretary Tillerson’s decision not to take the press with him on what should be an important trip to Asia, and what are his marching orders?
  • They can’t possibly get to all three of those cities commercially and cover them–
  • Was that something he was advised to do?
  • Would you like though, public diplomacy to be covered fully going forward? Shouldn’t reporters be allowed on the plane with the Secretary as they have been for many many years?
  • Are you going to get him a bigger plane?
  • President Trump was very critical of German Chancellor Merkel on the campaign trail. I’m just wondering, how does the White House think that will effect the tone of the meeting and what tone does the President expect to take?
  • Just following up on all this Flynn discussion. Are you saying that the President was not aware that Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when he appointed him to be a national security advisor?
  • My understanding is that he filed a lobbying disclosure with Congress in November?
  • The other question is, did Flynn disclose that he was acting as a foreign agent in the security clearance review before he became NSA?
  • When is it, when a former President’s spillover ends and the new President stands on his own merit? When does that happen?
  • The numbers from jobs.
  • Over the last couple of weeks we’ve heard a lot of negatives about the ACA and how you’re looking to make it patient care. So are there any positives the you can identify in ACA that will carry over–
  • That’s going to the states, I understand. I’m asking if-

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