TOWOIT #64

March 21, 2017… Day #61

Lisa Murkowski, a Republican Senator from Alaska: 

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Politico headline: Carbon tax debate exposed rift among Trump aides. (Spoiler alert: Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, seems like a reasonable man who wants reasonable things to happen. Steve Bannon, not so much.) (parenthetical asides are my own).

It’s going around Twitter that Rex Tillerson didn’t want to be Secretary of State, but his wife told him that God wanted him to do it. This would explain why Tillerson is always quiet and low-energy and doesn’t care that the President is proposing cutting his department’s budget by 30%. His heart is not in it. And Mitch McConnell said cutting the State Department by that much was not gonna fly. So *someone* is looking out for Tillerson’s department. Meanwhile, good old Andrea Mitchell, shut out of the State Department plane because Tillerson says he doesn’t “need” media coverage, is flying separately and chasing Tillerson down all over the globe. Catching glimpses of him on his way to take naps.

To think of the sexist shredding Hillary would have endured if she talked about things like needing a good night’s sleep or being too fatigued to have dinner with the South Korean foreign minister.

Tillerson! We counted on you to be somewhat normal and awake! You’re letting us all the fuck down. I miss Mitt Romney. I believe he genuinely did feel called to serve.

In other news, Elizabeth Warren said maybe (just maybe) we shouldn’t be going forward with the confirmation process of Neil Gorsuch when the White House is being investigated by the FBI. Meanwhile, Gorsuch does his best to distance himself from Trump without speaking a perfect soundbite for the media.

Cosmopolitan headline: Ivanka Trump’s White House Gig Is an Insult to Working Women

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The Wall Street Journal editorial on Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of Obama wiretap: “the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle”

My most optimistic take on our current situation is that we are going to hobble out on the other side of it gravely battered and diminished, and having lost people along the way. We’ll have lost rights that were hard-won and may not be won back in our lifetimes. Our elections will be less free. Our institutions will be weakened and corrupted. Our standing in the world will have dropped considerably. Our populace will be even less literate and less able to think critically. That’s what I think when I’m feeling optimistic.

When I’m not feeling optimistic, I just think Trumpism reigns supreme until climate change swamps us, then it’s gameover as we descend into violent tribalism over remaining resources.

It’s been a pleasure being in this national emergency with all of you. Goodnight.

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Questions asked of Spicey today at the White House Press Briefing:

  • On healthcare, the President came away from Capitol Hill sounding pretty positive about where he was going to go on Thursday, but then at the same time, Heritage Action came out and said it was going to encourage members to vote “no.” Club for Growth is taking out ads attacking this bill. Jim Jordan said the President’s great, but it’s still a bad bill. This is going to go to a vote day after tomorrow. What gives the President the sense of optimism that he can get this through, and might he request more changes from Speaker Ryan before it goes to a vote?
  • But may he seek more changes in order to further assuage some —
  •  Thanks, Sean. Members of this administration have talked about the stock market as a real-time barometer for how the administration is performing. But this afternoon, though, the stock market has been off as much as 200 points on the Dow. Some commentators on Wall Street are suggesting that’s because traders are starting to sense a lack of progress in the Trump legislative agenda, worried that he might not be able to accomplish everything he set out to do.  Does the President believe that today’s dip in the Dow is the result of his performance as President of the United States?
  •     — feel confidence that President Trump will be able to get a tax cut done this year that would be in place for next year, is that something we should worry about at all?
  • Sean, last month, I guess, you talked to us about the consideration, potentially, of the carbon tax, which I guess was discussed in a meeting at the White House. We’re hearing some reports that there’s a pretty lively internal debate. Gary Cohn might be someone who’s more prone to that. Can you just discuss, is the President considering a carbon tax? And what are sort of the various things that are going on in the White House with that?
  • Thank you, Sean. President Trump has previously indicated that he wanted to appoint pro-life judges who would be willing to overturn Roe vs. Wade, yet in his testimony today Judge Gorsuch said he would have walked out the door if President Trump asked if he had this position. Is President Trump still confident that Judge Gorsuch would be willing to overturn Roe vs. Wade?  And is this position still important to him?
  • Thank you, Sean. I have two questions on the same story. Recently a 14-year-old girl, she was raped in the boy’s bathroom of her high school. A 17- and 18-year-old boy have been charged. One of the boys we know unlawfully entered the country; both of them have outstanding orders with ICE. So here’s my first question about it: Currently, schools are prohibited from denying access to public education based on immigration status. Does the President hear a story like that and think that it should change or be addressed in a future executive order?
  • So I hear you about it being a state issue. Let’s talk about something, though, that the President has implemented and introduced VOICE — VOICE, Victims of Immigration Crime Enforcement — is that enough to support a —
  • Sean, is the President going to hold Republicans who vote against healthcare accountable? Are they going to pay a price if they vote against this bill?
  • Will he campaign against those Republicans?
  • Thanks.  Okay, so I was actually — that’s one I was going to ask, but let me try to —
  • No, that’s okay, I’ve got another one, don’t worry. So my other one — but I’m going to go back to that — is on the laptop restrictions by the U.S. and now the UK, it certainly sounds like that may have been in response to some kind of a specific security threat. What can you talk about from the podium in as much specificity as you can, and if you can’t do specifics at least to help us to understand — are there multiple threats, is there one threat, what is going on here?
  • Can I try what I was going to try out earlier then? Mark Meadows — seems like a nice guy — and the President seemed like he was kind of joking, but has the President decided in his own mind yet whether he thinks it would be appropriate potentially to mount primary opposition, to campaign for primary opposition in Republican congressional midterms?
  • Thanks, Sean. First a follow-up to Margaret’s question.Why wait for the new aviation regulations 96 hours to implement it? Isn’t the President’s mantra on counterterrorism that we have to kind of sneak up on our enemies, not let them know our tactics?
  • Okay, and one more — sorry, I had a follow-up —
  • Sorry. Something totally unrelated. I wanted to ask, has the White House Counsel approved Ivanka Trump getting a West Wing office and clearance?  And so what is the administration’s thinking behind this?  What is she going to do as the —
  • Two for you. One on healthcare, to follow up on the follow-ups. You’ve made very clear that the President was going to be supporting those who supported the bill. And I want to talk about the flip side of that, but when he talked this morning in the closed-door meeting about people paying a price, losing seats, not get the majority — is that an implied threat from the President to the members that don’t back this bill–
  • And the second, just about — will he remember the names of those who don’t back the bill?
  • I do want to ask about the Russia testimony from yesterday. I know you obviously addressed it from the podium hours ago, but there was sort of this interesting moment that happened a little bit after the briefing, where Director Comey was asked about the live tweets coming from the President in his account at the same time that the hearing was happening. And Director was fact-checking the President in real time, essentially saying he was incorrect in what he was tweeting. Is there concern on the part of the White House about the President’s credibility in that situation, that his own Director is correcting his tweets and what he’s saying in real time?
  • That’s not my question.
  • Thank you, Sean. Thank you, Kaitlan. I have two questions. First, the author David Horowitz, in his book, The Big Agenda, writes of what he calls “a deep state,” in which he said these are Obama holdovers in government who are trying to undercut the President’s agenda. This has been widely repeated on social media. Does the President himself believe in this deep state?
  • My other question was, over the weekend, Governor Graco Ramirez, the head of the Mexican Governors Association, was again in Washington, and in a much publicized statement said that Mexico had scored its first victory over the proposed wall. He said that in the President’s budget there’s a line item for $2.6 billion —
  •  — in tax dollars, and no mention of Mexico paying for the wall in any way.  He’s claimed a victory in that. Your response to Governor Graco Ramirez?
  • Thank you. The administration and the President have repeatedly said that over the next few weeks they will present evidence that he was wiretapped. And last week he said it would be coming this week and he may speak on it this week. Can we expect the President to, this week, present evidence that he was wiretapped by Barack Obama? Or will he speak about it? Because he didn’t mention it last night in his rally.
  • Sean, when we heard from the President before talk about the need for this healthcare plan to pass, he’s talked about the important steps of tax reform and the rest. At what point do you think that his agenda could be imperiled as you look at the vote count? Because you’re also going to have a further fight, of course, to get any of this through the Senate.
  • This seems to be such a centerpiece of the rest of the President’s agenda. So given that it’s still not any — there’s no certainty in terms of passage at this point, how concerned are you that Thursday could imperil the President’s agenda?
  • At which point will be it Trumpcare? The President said today it could happen when we asked during the photo spray.
  • Two questions. First, the Kansas legislature is on the verge of possibly passing a Medicaid expansion, and the current version of the healthcare bill does not allow states to pass that. And so I’m wondering — as you know most legislatures are currently meeting across the country. Will there be an exception for states if they expand before any new bill comes to —
  • And secondly, tomorrow — you mentioned the Congressional Black Caucus. Is there a specific topic — healthcare, five topics? What can you tell us about the President’s message to them? And how did it come about? I know there’s been some back and forth on getting a meeting going, how did that come about?
  • Thank you for giving a follow-up. I want to follow up on the CBC, and I have another question on another subject. So with the CBC, since you’re saying you went through all of this prior to the fact that he became President, that there was an effort to reach out to the CBC. So with all of this understanding that they are an important to deal with in handling some of the issues, the urban issues, or issues that pertain to their community, how does the President plan to move forward in working with them, particularly as some just don’t see eye-to-eye with him?
  • And the second subject — as you’re talking about bringing in groups, you’re also bringing in truckers. And there is a concern in the trucking industry about something like e-logs that’s going to happen at the end of the year, where truckers — be it truckers with commercial trucks, or mom-and-pop businesses — all of them are going to have computers to log in, to monitor the time you drive, the stop and speed, et cetera. And many people are saying that it cuts into their income. Where does the President stand on that?
  • But even whether it comes up in the meeting —
  • They’re very concerned about it.  Would he at least —
  • Just a follow-up on the DHS airline issue. If there is a danger to Americans or to fliers generally with having laptops or things that are bigger than a cellphone in planes from those 10 countries, why would that also not be a danger from other countries?
  • The President has traditionally issued a greeting to those celebrating the Iranian New Year, Nowruz. Will President Trump be doing that today?

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