TOWOIT #65

March 22, 2017… Day #62

In case anyone is keeping track at home, today was actually 2 weeks long.

Also, Sean Spicer still hasn’t learned that he shouldn’t ask rhetorical questions:

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 8.18.37 PM

The day was silo-ed into three main things, all of which were HUGE all by themselves. I’ve made  you a visual aid.

screen-shot-2017-03-22-at-6-32-59-pm.png

I got really disheartened in the interlude between #4 and #5, also known as my commute home with menstrual cramps. I summoned courage by remembering the words of Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Weeks ago she flatly told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that 1) She knows that Trump is impeachable, 2) She does not trust the Republicans in the House to do anything about it, and 3) We can trust John McCain and Lindsay Graham in the Senate because they are patriots.

I’m not going to get into the sources, or when it arrived, but I wanted to brief the Speaker, which is what I did this morning, and obviously I briefed, I put in calls to the directors, I’ve spoken to the CIA Director and the NSA Director, and I’m waiting to talk to Director Comey, and I’m going to head to the White House after the votes.

—Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence committee today.

Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, is not even on his list of people to talk to — and found about this at the same time the rest of us did.

More to follow on that, but first I want to give this NYT story some attention:

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 6.47.18 PMscreen-shot-2017-03-22-at-6-46-12-pm.png

They should call that an act of terror.

There was also a terrorist attack in London today, near the parliament building.

AFTER THE JUMP:   Questions reporters asked today to SEAN SPICER… DEVIN NUNES… and ADAM SCHIFF !!!!  Lots of good questions in here about the healthcare bill too.

We’ll go in chronological order, skipping the Trump snippet which is just him at a table with the Congressional Black Caucus, answering a shouted question as the press is herded out of the room. Also, don’t worry if the Nunes stuff is confusing. You can tell the reporters are perplexed as well. For an explainer, go read the lawfare blog post about it.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 7.18.47 PM
C-span rundown from this afternoon

Devin Nunes:

  • Mr. Nunes, were any of these communications potentially picked up at Trump Tower?
  • And was the president also part of that incidental collection?
  • So let me just clarify: the president of the United States’s personal communications were intercepted as an incidental part of—
  • So the president of the United States’s personal communications were intercepted in incidental collection, not in a targeted way?
  • Are you concerned that any of the surveillance was done illegally, or as incidental but a legal, you know, a warrant . . .
  • So you said that the president’s communications were incidentally collected, but then you said it’s also possible, so was it collected or is it possible it was collected?
  • So you don’t know if the president’s communications were—
  • You don’t know if it was the president himself, his communication?
  • Mr. Chairman, did the president’s conversations or anything about the president appear in intelligence reports, is that what you’re saying?
  • You said you have to go and brief the administration—
  • Shouldn’t the administration be briefing you?
  • You said this was not related to Russia investigations? Can you give us some idea—
  • Can you give us a broader sense of what it was related to?
  • Was it incidental collection, or [unintelligible] collection?
  • Wait, so what was found, just to be clear—it was—the material that you have seen so far, doesn’t make any reference or connection to Russia, or are you saying the incidental investigations themselves more broadly were not?
  • And that was [unintelligible] by the person that brought that information to you?
  • Does this change—you’ve said repeatedly that the President was wrong when he said he was wiretapped at Trump Tower.
  • Is this a response to that letter?
  • Do you plan to make this information available now or in the future?
  • Was this surveillance or a criminal investigation?
  • [Unintelligible] surveillance, then they have to have a basis for surveillance, isn’t that correct?
  •  So this was about President Trump, but not necessarily about his communications specifically?
  • You said you’re not confident where collection took place and you’re not confident who it involves—
  •  How can you be confident, then, that it did not have anything to do with Russia and the Russia investigation?
  • Specifically are we talking about Paul Manafort, like here and his communications, or any other senior level Trump officials?
  • Can you say which individuals in particular?
  • You say that this is routine collection, incidental collection. Are you surprised by this today?
  •  Could this have been the result of reverse targeting?
  • You’re confident that this is [unintelligible] information?
  • Did you receive this from members of the intelligence community who are officially communicating it to you, or was this—
  • Which foreign country are we referring to here?
  • Will this broaden the scope of your investigation, and what do you think of Democrats’ calls for an independent commission or counsel?
  • Is there definitely none of this pre-election, is this all during the transition period?
  • Is it the surveillance itself that alarms you or is it the unmasking and dissemination, or both?
  • What is it about the surveillance itself that alarms you if that was possibly just routine incidental collection on a foreign target?
  •  Just to be clear, were these communications actually collected inside Trump Tower?
  • How do you not know if it was Trump’s personal communications? Wouldn’t that be clear?
  • Can you just say, do you think right now, the NSA or a member of the intelligence community was spying on Trump during the transition period?
  • But you think he may have been spied on?

Sean Spicer:

  • Two questions.  One on Nunes and then healthcare.  Is your understanding that this — none of these unmasked names were leaked?
  • Okay. Today in the pool spray, the President said “keep your doctor, keep your plan” didn’t work out that way. You didn’t get your doctor. You don’t get your plan. This is one of the reasons we have to repeal Obamacare. Is the President assuring people who currently like their plan or like their doctor that under the American Health Care Act they can keep their doctor and their plan?
  • Thanks a lot, Sean.  On the AHCA, Mark Meadows, who appears to be a firm no in terms of his opposition to the replacement bill, said that 25 members of the Freedom Caucus are opposed to this replacement bill. Do you dispute those numbers?
  • And on the confirmation hearing for Judge Neil Gorsuch, I have not seen any Democrat come out in support of Judge Gorsuch just yet. Do you anticipate that you’ll get Democratic support on this particular nomination?
  •  Sean, related to Congressman Nunes, can you explain why the White House has agreed to meet with him at all about what his findings are? And the reason I ask that is because the minute that Director Comey said that there was an official investigation, it might appear as if the White House is interfering with the investigation. And Congressman Nunes should present his information not to the White House but to the FBI. So why is anyone here at the White House agreeing to meet with him about his findings? 
  • Can I just add, is the President concerned at all that there will be an appearance immediately, today, that he has interfered with an ongoing investigation — whether it’s a congressional investigation or the executive branch investigation — by meeting privately with a congressman who says he has information?
  •  Just to close the loop, because the President said that he had additional information that he believed the White House or he or his representatives would present, related to this investigation — what Congressman Nunes has is not related to that?
  • Sean, staying on that, didn’t we already know that there was incidental collection of intelligence involving some members of the transition team? And I point to —
  • No, but didn’t we already know that Flynn was monitored in his conversations with Kislyak?
  • So we know —
  • And on the American Health Care Act, Mark Meadows says they don’t have the votes, they need to start over and do a new bill. That sounds like you’re in pretty serious trouble.
  • Who represents a large contingent of people who oppose the bill.
  • And Heritage Action says you can easily fix this bill simply by removing the regulatory framework — the tax credits and all of that — and you’ll get massive buy-in from conservatives. But can you do that?
  • Sean, I know you can’t get ahead of Nunes, but what he said was, incidental, legal surveillance using a FISA warrant, which would —
  • He did.
  • He did. And that’s why I’m asking this question, which is, does the Trump administration have the presumption that foreign leaders or foreign nationals will not be surveilled when they are in contact with —
  • Well, that’s why I’m trying to clarify that —
  • — was your presumption that foreign nationals —
  • Well, I would presume that foreign nationals are being monitored by U.S. intelligence when they are talking to anyone.
  • Is this what you’ve been — because you’ve said there’s more information to come, more information to come. Is this what you’ve been gesturing towards?
  • Sean, I have a series of questions on a topic. Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, met with an official here at the White House yesterday. She’s looking for fairness and justice in her son’s case. What should we expect to come out of that meeting with this White House official? Should there be a push to make sure that there is an indictment of the police officer’s —
  • Well, along that line, the [White House] official, according to Ms. Carr, reached out to the Department of Justice, the civil rights division, had the wrong number; called another department, had the right number. Now, in previous administrations, to include the Obama administration and other administrations, the Department of Justice had limited the numbers of people [that could] call over to the Department of Justice [from the White House]. Has the Attorney General, this Attorney General Sessions, changed that memo? What has he done?
  • So how many officials here have that right, to call the Department of Justice, even if it’s for —
  • But was there wrongdoing in this effort to call over to the Department of Justice?
  • Yes. Thank you, Sean. I have two quick questions. Last November, President Trump dismissed reports he was trying to obtain security clearances for his children as “a typically false news story.” Now there are reports Ivanka Trump is indeed attempting to obtain a clearance. What changed there?
  •  And then the second question on Paul Manafort. The Associated Press has published a report based on documents that he had a plan to “benefit” Vladimir Putin for a client. And with him back in the headlines, I’m just wondering if you still stand by the comment that he had a “limited role” on the campaign. And if you could explain a little bit more about how spending months as the campaign’s top official is a limited role.
  • Thanks, Sean. You and other senior administration officials have sought to assure skeptical Republican lawmakers that phase two of these regulatory modifications will address some of their concerns. So what is Secretary Tom Price waiting for?  Why not roll out phase two now if the vote is looking like it’s going to be a very close marker?
  • Sean, thanks. Do you take the House Freedom Caucus at their word, Mark Meadows at their word? There are at least two dozen or so who are “nos.” So how do you get from this point right now policywise to tomorrow — something, anything that maybe might flip that?
  • And let me ask you today, Patrick McHenry, congressman, deputy whip, described the President, as members of Congress were coming in here to the White House, as the “closer.” Do you embrace that label?
  • Do you embrace that label here as it relates to healthcare?
  • You just said that you’re confident that the healthcare bill will pass tomorrow. I want to get a sense of how confident you are. I don’t know if you want to rate your percentage on it. Like, how confident are you that the bill will pass? And if it doesn’t pass, is there a plan B?
  • And so you’re confident — 100 percent confident?
  • Thanks, Sean. I know you said you didn’t know what information you were going to find out today from Chairman Nunes, but my question for you is, when did the President know about this surveillance that the Congressman brought up today on Capitol Hill? He spoke late last week about — we’ll find out more information that would support these wiretapping claims.  Is this the information he was talking about?
  • And a quick follow-up on healthcare and just a quick follow-up on Asia. Does the President believe the healthcare bill will pass the House tomorrow?
  • Two questions on Paul Manafort. Did the President know that he had worked to advance Putin’s interests previous to becoming the campaign chairman?
  • But is that a problem? You know, now that all this is coming out and there is a whole lot of scrutiny —
  • Well, you didn’t know that Michael Flynn was —
  • We’re all part of the conversation.
Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 7.58.38 PM
A taste of the spice
  • He paid millions of dollars to advance Putin’s interests.  I mean, that’s enough —
  • The documents said —
  •  I’m just saying, given that it was such a focus — you brought it up just then with Hillary Clinton, that these were corrupt arrangements and that the Clinton Foundation was described as a criminal enterprise, and there was all this discussion of Russia. And you’ve pointed out —
  •  I understand.  I’m not conflating the President. I’m just asking, is he disappointed, now that he has found this out, that there was this —
  • That he was working for Putin, for a lot of money.
  • That he was doing work to advance Putin’s interests.
  • Sean, why did the President fire Paul Manafort?
  • Second question on healthcare. As confident and as optimistic as you are — if at this point tomorrow you don’t have the magic number — should the Speaker pull the bill from the floor?
  • Thank you. Wall Street appears to be getting a little nervous about the possibility of tax reform this year. Can you say definitively that the President will present a package of tax reforms this year?
  • What time is the President expected to meet with Chairman Nunes this afternoon?
  • And was there any consideration given to not meeting with the Chairman given the appearance —
  • Thanks, Sean. You said the President is the closer, there is no plan B, tomorrow is it.  So if you —
  • So if tomorrow night’s outcome doesn’t go your way, if the vote fails, what should we then read into the President’s ability to negotiate and close deals; the White House’s ability to plant any sort of legislation and a legislative —
  • Sean, I was going to ask, in terms of after the vote tomorrow night, for those Republicans who decide to not support the White House, what kind of relationship — any change in the relationship — would they see going forward? Would they expect to see maybe a primary challenge later on?  Or this is one of those things where they can vote their conscience if they really believe this isn’t the bill?
  • Thank you, Sean. Sean, would then-candidate Donald Trump have hired Paul Manafort, such an important and prominent position in his campaign, if he had known that he had had a $10 million contract with somebody so close to Vladimir Putin to “greatly benefit the Putin government”? If he had known that, would he have hired him?
  • And to run the campaign.  I mean, he was chairman of the campaign.
  • And to run the convention.  I mean, you’ll acknowledge it was a very prominent role.
  • $10 million to promote the interests of Vladimir Putin.
  • But he definitely didn’t know.
  • You’re saying he didn’t know.
  • He had no idea that Manafort had done this.
  • Shouldn’t he have disclosed that?  I mean, he did work for —
  • He had worked on behalf of an adversary of the United States. He got a $10 million contract.
  •  — but the President would want to know, wouldn’t he?
  • I want to ask about Paul Manafort here, too. Are you saying he wasn’t disappointed to learn, in the last 24 hours, that his chief strategist worked for Vladimir Putin’s —
  • What was his reaction —
  • Is the President disappointed to learn that this was —
  • Can you say if Paul Manafort played any role in the hiring of any people in the federal government after the election? Did he advise the President?
  • Thank you, Sean. Going back to the American Health Care Act, there was always nervousness that moving too quickly on it would leave some very dangerous points in the details. Several publications, including Sara’s, reported today that as a result of a change of a few words, veterans who benefitted from a program called Veterans Affairs, or had the option of getting tax credits, would not get neither under the new legislation, and that 7 million veterans would be cost healthcare. Is the administration following this, and is it urging Congress to do anything about it?
  • Well — but there’s two programs. One is the Veterans Affairs program, and the other is the option — this is under the current law — to have tax credits. And my understanding, again, from Sara’s publication this morning and several others, is that 7 million veterans could possibly lose both under this program.
  • Sean, thanks. On Monday, the President accused former President Obama and Democrats of rushing through the healthcare law — jamming it through — when, in fact, they actually debated it for about a year. This healthcare law was rolled out about 15 days ago. So don’t you run the risk of rushing this through, of not giving it enough time for public debate?
  • Understood. But you just rolled out the specifics, Sean. You just rolled out the actual
  • Just a few days ago.
  • Let me just ask you a quick question about the terror attack. You said that the President has been briefed. He also spoke with Prime Minister Theresa May. Can you give us any more information about who may have been behind it? And should Americans have any concern, or are there any security changes that they should expect —
  • You mentioned that there is no plan B, that plan A is the only vehicle — the only train leaving the station, I believe you said. Does that mean if the plan fails — if the bill fails, will the President move on to other issues he’s concerned about, like trade, and leave Obamacare in place? And if so, how long is he comfortable with leaving it in place?
  • I’m going to talk about China for moment. Do you now have the ability to formally announce the dates for when President Xi visits the United States?
  • Why not?
  • And are you going to be prepared to talk about the parameters of the bilateral relationship at that time?
  • Sean, has the President asked the FBI director or the NSA or any other agencies involved to come here to the White House and brief him on this new information, or is it just the intel chair? And if so, why not?
  • Is this the first of several meetings, though?  Do you believe he would like to have the FBI director come in?
  • What’s the state of his credibility tonight?  The Wall Street Journal, which has been very supportive of his candidacy and agenda, simply raised a question that he is not doing very well, and they said he could be on the verge of being a “fake President.”  What do you believe the state of his credibility is as we sit here today in week nine?
  • Sean, if I could ask you about the conversation we’ve been having about Paul Manafort, but not specific to Paul Manafort. When Michael Flynn’s name came up at the time, having not registered as a foreign agent, there was a lot of focus on the vetting process that goes into individuals. Back then you said, “We trust people to fill out the appropriate forms that they need to.  He has been very” — referring to the President — “he has been very committed to making sure we institute high standards here and we’re held to them.” So given your words, is it sufficient to trust the information that the people you hire give you? And can you say with certainty that right now that there isn’t anybody else that’s working in the interests of another foreign government working for this government right now?
  • And Michael Flynn still got through, I guess.  
  • I’m not asking about Paul Manafort —
  • I’m not asking about Paul Manafort at all.
  • In fact, what I’m asking is, can you say with certainty that right now — that there’s nobody working for this White House that is presently working in the interest of a foreign government?
  • So you trust that the information is —
  • And then very quickly, in regards to Devin Nunes and the fact that he’s going to come today and the comments that you began the briefing by telling us — on March 4th, the President tweeted:  “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process.  This is Nixon/Watergate.  Bad (or sick) guy!”  Does the President stand by his statement that President Obama is a “bad (or sick) guy”?
  • So he thinks he’s a “bad (or sick) guy.”
  • Okay, but you said it stood for itself, so I was asking.
  • Thanks, Sean. On the executive order on energy independence, that’s been delayed for several weeks now. Can you —
  •  Your office said that it was going to be released several weeks ago. It wasn’t. And then there were reports consequently that said it would be released, and it hasn’t been. So can you give us —
  • Okay. Can you tell us when it will be released?
  • And also, in it, it addresses the Clean Power Plan, which is the Obama-era climate change regulation. And there is apparently no replacement opportunity in that executive order.
  • This is a policy question —
  • No, no, I just haven’t been able to finish my question.
  • Thank you. So apparently there’s no replacement for it. That is the answer to a Supreme Court ruling in 2007. Does the administration feel that it is legally bound to regulate greenhouse gases?
  • Sean, will President Trump hold a news conference on the attack? And also, on his upcoming travel, do you have any guidance on other rallies that he may have? Because that’s where he sends his message out to the American people, including social media.
  • Sean, when you learned that the members of the President’s team may have been in contact with someone who the intelligence community and a federal judge has deemed to be a little bit dodgy, does that give you any pause at all?
  • The people who are subject to the FISA order.
  • It’s a reference to Nunes. Members of the President’s team, whether it’s the transition or the campaign, are said to have been in contact — being picked up by when they were in contact with someone who was the subject of a FISA order. Does that give you any pause at all given the things that you haven’t known before about Manafort and Flynn, et cetera?
  • Hi, Sean, thanks. Last year, Louisiana suffered one of the worst flooding disasters in our nation’s history. Today, thousands of people remain displaced, and communities are struggling to rebuild. With support from the Obama administration, the state received about $1.6 billion in flood assistance through the CDBG program. The state is seeking $2 billion more in federal aid, and our governor has asked for President Trump’s support. So my question is twofold. What is the Trump administration’s position exactly on the federal government’s role in long-term disaster recovery efforts? And also, can Louisiana count on this administration’s support for additional flood recovery assistance?
  • This is actually — this is aid separate from FEMA. It’s the long-term part to this.
  • Can you say today, with certainty, that Paul Manafort never tried to pressure or encourage the campaign to take on a more pro-Russia position on any issues?
  • And on Nunes, from what you know about what he has said so far, is the White House viewing this, in any way, as vindication of the President’s wiretapping tweets?
  • Thanks, Sean. On the border wall, the President’s budget blueprint calls for a couple of dozen lawyers who are going to be dedicated to acquiring land. And I think people are wondering just how aggressive the eminent domain effort is going to be, and how that squares with respect for private property rights.
  • Is there any update on how the wall will be financed?
  • But that’s general. I’m talking about where the money will come from.
  • Has he given up on Mexico paying for it?

Devin Nunes, round 2:

 

  • Can I ask you a question? Why is it appropriate for you to brief President Trump given that it’s his own administration or campaign associates that are a part of this investigation? Doesn’t it appear to be interference in some form?
  • Is it appropriate to be drawing conclusions before it was completed?
  • Are the subjects of surveillance under FISA orders?
  • The surveillance—if it wasn’t related to Russia or anything like that, are you saying that it was political surveillance of political opponents, as suggested in his tweets?
  • We knew that there was some incidental collection, because Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was caught talking to Sergey Kislyak. Does this go beyond that, and does this qualify as the kind of wiretapping the President was tweeting about?
  • And again, does this seem to describe what the President was talking about, he was talking about, quote, wiretapping, which he then said was broader?
  • So the President was correct in what he tweeted?
  • The President said that President Obama tapped his phones. Did you see anything—
  • Did you see anything to suggest that President Obama ordered any kind of surveillance on the President-elect?
  • Did you have permission to put out this information today, did the Justice Department give you the OK to do that?
  • How many people are you seeing in these reports, and do any of them currently work at the White House?
  • What did the President tell you after you briefed him about it?
  • Do you believe the President appropriately used the word wiretap, was it used correctly in his tweets, based on the information that you have seen?
  • But the physical act of wiretapping, do you see anything in the information that—
  • Can you rule out the possibility that senior Obama administration officials were involved in this?
  • Given that you have said there was a FISA warrant which would have been approved by a judge, are you concerned that essentially you’re saying that members of the Trump team were in contact with people who were the target of a counterintelligence or some form of investigation?
  • So your issue is the unmasking, not that there was [unintelligible]
  • Chairman, if I could just clarify and ask a few things. Are you suggesting that Mr. Trump [unintelligible] And third, why did you not take this up with Representative Schiff before going to the White House?
  • Just to clarify, you’re concerned about this but you’re not calling for an additional investigation?
  • You just said no.
  • You said it has nothing to do with Russia and you’re folding this in—
  • So an ongoing investigation and you thought it was appropriate to come and talk to the President about that.
  • So Mr. Trump’s communications were in fact monitored? Can you tell us what he was communicating about or who he was communicating with?
  • You also said somebody brought you this communication. Can you tell us anything—
  • To be clear, you talk about this as being collected incidentally. But you say it had nothing to do with Russia. Are you suggesting these communications could have been collected as part of a criminal investigation, a criminal warrant?
  • Was it information that was looked at it in real time, or was it information that was collected, held, scored –
  • If it’s legal collection, wouldn’t it be inappropriate of you to talk about it, and are you attempting to give the president political cover in his talk about wiretapping?
  • But just to clarify, this is not intentional spying on Donald Trump or anyone in his—
  • You’ve said legal and incidental. That doesn’t sound like a proactive effort to spy.
  • Was the president unmasked? Was his name unmasked?
  •  We don’t know that yet.

(after he walked off, one of the reporters said, “Gee thanks for clearing that up.”)


Adam Schiff.

“But I can say this: the chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation… or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both.”

  • Two questions. One, what is the Democrats’ next step here? Are you planning to pul out of this investigation the way you did from the Benghazi inquiry? And two–did Chairman Nunes reveal any classified information today by his disclosures to the press?
  • To follow up on this question. On Monday we heard from several committee members about improper unmasking. What is the fundamental difference between what the chairman did today and what was discussed on Monday?
  • But did he unmask the President today?
  • On this point, had the committee been previously briefed on intercepts in general. Had you been briefed on background material? You said you didn’t have these intercepts but were you aware?
  • Is there any reason to believe that the President or members of his family were people present in these documents?
  • Did he express that to you?
  • What assurances did you receive from Chairman Nunes that the committee can move forward in a bipartisan manner?
  • Did Chairman Nunes how or where or in what way he viewed these documents or was alerted to these documents? Are you pursuing more formal censuring of him?
  • Do you have any concerns about the way in which he got this information or who it might have come from? He says he doesn’t have the documents in his possession, but he knows where they are.
  • He said he also called the NSA, CIA, and I think the FBI.
  • Do you have any idea of how many names were in there, masked or unmasked?
  • It seems like the decision for an independent commission is in the hands of Paul Ryan. Have you talked to him, or do you intend to do so?
  • Did the Chairman give you any indication why he decided to go to the White House before he came to you?
  • What did he say to you in response to that?
  • Did he tell you when you’ll get to see that?

 

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