TOWOIT #70

March 27, 2017… Day 67

Jared Kushner to head “SWAT team” that will reorganize government, privatizing some parts of it. Creepy on several levels. Was it really necessary to use the imagery of violent paramilitary home invasion to describe what’s going to be done to the government

Glenn Greenwald warns that the rules of engagement are changing in dangerous ways, and the military is allowing more civilians to be killed in its operations now. The fact that it’s Glenn Greenwald lends weight because he was already permanently livid (permalivid) at Obama. So if he says things have taken a sharp turn for the worse, he means it.

Washington Post headline: Trump administration weighs deeper involvement in Yemen war.

Bernie Sanders said he and other top progressives will introduce a Medicare for all bill.

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Adam Schiff calls for Devin Nunes to step down as chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Jeff Sessions says we must end sanctuary cities and steps will be taken to punish those cities financially.

A DREAMER in Portland was arrested at his house, although the ICE agents did not have a proper warrant signed by a judge.

Devin Nunes was on White House grounds the night before he called a press conference about information on the White House. Wait, what? I don’t even know. First we heard he disappeared from an Uber. Then we heard he met with *someone* on the White House grounds. What’s next?

I’m still catching up from being out of town and out of the loop. I’m gonna do the White House Press briefing questions and call it a night:

Questions asked of Jeff Sessions:

  • In Montgomery County, right up the road, there was a rape in Maryland at Rockville High School. Has anyone from the Department of Justice had any conversations with anyone in Montgomery County or Rockville, as they describe themselves as a sanctuary county and city?  And there’s also a boatload of federal government in Montgomery County.
  • Mr. Attorney General, so listening to you carefully, it sounds like you’re applying the standards and the policy that the Obama administration put forward on compliance with underlying Justice Department rules. Are you taking any additional steps? And have you asked the President to maybe talk about other federal funds that are not necessarily under your control as a way to punish sanctuary cities or states?
  • Some officials in cities, for example — bigger cities — have said, despite the lack of federal funding, they will continue to be sanctuary cities; that they don’t care that they’re losing money, essentially.  What recourse does the Department of Justice have in those cities that look at what you’re doing and say, we don’t care, we’re going to continue to implement this policy?

Questions asked of Sean Spicer:

  • Is the President serious about working with Democrats going forward after what happened with healthcare?
  • But —
  • But wouldn’t this require a —
  • But wouldn’t this require a serious course correction for the White House? I mean, the President branded Chuck Schumer a “clown,” worked entirely with Republicans on this bill. Wouldn’t this require a serious change of course for the President?
  • Where does the buck stop for this failure? Does the buck stop —
  • Sean, the last Congress passed significant tax reform, it took about five years, and that was 30 years ago, in 1986. After the failure or defeat of the American Health Care Act on an issue where there was broad GOP consensus, what makes the President think he can pass significant tax reform this year?
  • Thank you. Historically, since healthcare has beguiled many Presidents, all the way to Harry Truman, and certainly when Hillary Clinton came to Washington, she went to the Hill and thought that she could get it done. I’m sure there are many lessons you can learn from previous Presidents and perhaps previous First Ladies. Has the President thought about reaching out to Hillary and finding out how she maneuvered and some of the best practices or some of the pitfalls that she came to?
  • Thank you. We got some guidance from the White House earlier about Chairman Nunes’s meeting on the White House grounds, involving (inaudible) any idea that questions about the meeting should be referred to the Committee Chairman. But I wanted to ask a slightly different question, which is, does the White House know now what absolutely happened? Do you have issues with the idea that someone, perhaps in the executive branch, shared information from the White House grounds without you knowing about it? Or are you investigating this? Do you believe there was a leak? Or was it, in fact, someone on the White House staff or NSC staff, or on loan to either, who provided the information and therefore it’s not leaked?
  • Can I just follow up, just to close the circle on it? I’m asking a slightly different question, or at least I’m trying to ask a slightly different question, which is, does the White House know what happened now, beyond public accounts? And are you satisfied that you don’t have an inappropriate leak in the executive branch?
  •  But to come to White House grounds you have to be cleared —
  • Wouldn’t the White House want to know?
  • Sean, a clarification on your answer to Margaret. You said, I don’t know that members of Congress have to get cleared in. There was some question about that.  Who in the White House signed him in, essentially, to be able to —
  • Okay, and my second question is — and it’s related to this — I understand that you’re not going to speak about some of the swirl surrounding this issue with Chairman Nunes. Does the White House believe that he can still lead an impartial investigation? Or would the administration support some of these calls now for an independent committee to investigate this?
  • Will the administration pursue, will the White House pursue a leak investigation into whoever is giving Chairman Nunes this information, if it’s in the executive branch?
  • Why is this leak okay, but other leaks are not?
  • I have two for you. Just a quick housekeeping note. At the beginning of the briefing, you read out what the State Department stated on the protests and arrests in Russia.  Does that reflect the White House’s views?
  • Okay, just wanted to clarify that. And secondly, back on — you mentioned there were lessons learned off of what went down last week, the last several weeks, around healthcare. Can you give us some specifics on what some of those lessons are in terms of the President talked a lot about he learned a lot about loyalty, I think is one of the lines he stated on Friday? Does he believe that some members of his party are no longer loyal to him? Will you go through what are some of the lessons that —
  • Who’s leading that review?
  • Just a quick follow-up on Chairman Nunes, and then I have a question about Jared in a second. So, yes, members of Congress may not need to be cleared in, but to get access to a SCIF, I do believe that requires some cooperation from the executive branch, because there are intelligence places on Capitol Hill that are secure, that his meeting could have taken place. So it creates the impression that Chairman Nunes came over here and, with some degree of cooperation with this White House, was able to carry out this meeting and then make the announcement that he did, which is perceived by some — most of them Democrats, I’ll grant you that — that it was trying to be helpful to this President and this administration. So it appears there was some degree of cooperation in this process that the White House granted Chairman Nunes, making it not just an investigative action, but a cooperative one.
  • That’s not what I asked you. I asked you about cooperation to have access to a SCIF, which is something that has to be carried out with your —
  • Okay.  Let me ask you about Jared. There is an understanding that’s trying to be worked out, as we understand it, between Jared and the Senate Intelligence Committee. Is that a testimony? Is that something that the committee has requested?  Has he volunteered? Does he believe he has something to explain to that committee and, more broadly, the American public about what he did on behalf of the transition with whom he met with, and some of the meetings that he took that are raising questions about Russia and folks that he met with that are outside of diplomatic channels but have other aspects to their Russian business deals that may cause some stir?
  •  (Inaudible) request?
  • And is this going to be a private meeting, or is this going to be —
  • What is he trying to accomplish with that?
  •  And so he doesn’t believe he owes the American public an explanation?
  • I’m just asking.
  • Well, it’s not every day that someone in a senior position like Jared’s volunteers to go talk to the Senate Intelligence Committee about an investigation dealing with meddling by a foreign power in an American election.
  • I’m just asking.
  • Just to be clear, just to kind of follow up on what everyone has been asking about Chairman Nunes — so the White House does not — does the White House have knowledge of the information that Chairman Nunes received when he came to the White House the first time? And if that’s the case, or if that’s not the case, is your position that the White House is not going to look into where he got the information from or who gave him the information until his investigation is complete?
  • Why would Nunes need to brief the President on documents he viewed on White House grounds?
  • One more question. When will the White House resume releasing visitor logs?
  • Just to follow up — I have two questions. One is on taxes. But last week you were advising the press corps that it didn’t make sense for Nunes to come to the White House to brief the President on something that he had obtained from the White House, from the administration. So my question to you is — I know what you just said, but can you say factually, absolutely flatly, that it is not possible that Chairman Nunes came to brief the President on something that he obtained from the White House or the administration?
  • So it’s possible? As far as you know right now, it’s possible?
  • Okay. Here’s my question on taxes. The President has said in the past that he thought maybe tax reform would flow over into 2018 — calendar year 2018. And we know from the President’s admiration of the 1986 tax reform, that took more than two years. Can you answer two questions about tax reform?  Does the President anticipate that it will take that long, going into 2018 or beyond? And who is going to write the tax legislation? Who is going to devise the plan that the President wants to put his name on?
  • So will it would be the Trump plan?
  • Will it be the President’s plan?
  • Sean, the documents that Chairman Nunes saw here at the White House complex are described by his office as being executive branch documents. In the early days after the President sent out that tweet, the White House was digging around for anything to corroborate what the President had tweeted out. Why did it take the Intelligence Committee Chairman coming here to the White House to view executive branch documents to uncover this information? Why couldn’t the White House?
  •  Did the White House ever search the same documents that the Chairman searched?
  •  Is it possible that these documents were merely surveillance reports that were —
  • Well, let me just finish, if I could. Is it possible that these were surveillance reports from security clearances that were collected after people had filled out Standard Form 86?
  • Thanks, Sean. On tax cuts, it looks like you guys got a little bit of political cover from the House Freedom Caucus over the weekend to do this without paying for all of it — that is, adding to the deficit. What’s the right number from the White House’s perspective to add to the deficit in order to do tax cuts? How high are you willing to go in terms of deficit?
  •  Are you comfortable entirely adding to the deficit? Or do you think something needs to be offset, maybe some other spending cuts somewhere else?
  • Thanks, Sean. There’s been an escalation of the American role in the war against the Islamic State. You’ve seen Marines come ashore in Syria. There have been changes to rules of engagement. I’m trying to understand the relationship between that change and the President’s ISIS strategy review. Has he personally signed off on all the changes in America’s posture in the field since January 20th? Is that something that’s left up to the commanders in the field?  I don’t understand the relationship between —
  • Marines left in, I think, October. They obviously went ashore much more recently than that. So did he have to sign off on that?
  • So, on the review, are you waiting — is the President waiting until the review is complete before you announce sort of a new posture and new strategy? Or is it as conclusions come in you’re adapting day to day?
  • hank you, Sean. President Trump has sent out two tweets now criticizing members of the House Freedom Caucus for preventing Planned Parenthood from being defunded by opposing the AHCA. Is that something that he would want to see tacked on as a rider to next month’s spending bill?
  • On that legislative strategy and the idea of working with Democrats, there’s a school of thought in this town that last week proved that the President is lacking in political capital.  So I have two questions. One is, what’s in it for Democrats to work with the President now? And two, if fully pursued and to get things through the House, Democrats and Republicans work together, wouldn’t that tend to undermine the job security of Speaker Ryan if the House Freedom Caucus is frozen out?
  •  It’s Speaker Ryan who puts bills on the floor, not the President. So what’s in it for Speaker Ryan?
  • You’ve talked quite a bit up there about the wide latitude that Secretary Price has to dismantle Obamacare from this spot. Is that still the case? Will he continue to try to dismantle Obamacare while you’re trying to work with moderate Democrats on healthcare reform? And also, the healthcare bill would have repealed almost all those Obamacare taxes. Do you want to see those repealed as part of the tax reform bill?
  • The tax question, to follow up on the — the healthcare bill would have repealed those Obamacare taxes?
  • Yeah, as far as Jared Kushner’s offer to meet with Chairman Burr and talk with the Senate Intelligence Committee, is there any particular reason why the White House would not be opposed to the idea of Jared Kushner testifying, under oath, before that committee?
  •  But does it set, in the White House’s view, a dangerous precedent in having a senior aide to the President going up? Ordinarily, we see, sometimes, the White House invoking executive privilege. Why haven’t you done this in this particular case?
  •  Is Obamacare repeal dead?
  • Or it would have to be dead if you’re going to have Democrats working with you to address the Affordable Care Act.
  • Why would they work with you if —
  • — you’re still trying to repeal it?
  • A lot of Democrats say it’s not dying.
  • There are repairs that need to be made, they say, but to kill the whole thing might not be the route they want to go.
  • They say repeal has to be put to the side.
  • There might be a middle ground there you think?
  •  A real quick follow-up on Chairman Nunes. Do you reject that there is any kind of perception problem whatsoever in having the Chairman over here the day before he comes out publicly and says, by the way, there’s this information that’s helpful to the President?
  • Sean, several topics.  One —
  • Don’t be. You heard the question that I lobbed at the Attorney General about the hate crime that happened in New York — the white supremacist who went to New York and targeted a black man. Hate crimes are on the rise. What do you say? What is this White House saying about this obvious apparent hate crime?
  • The White House in the past had talked about this. And you talked about issues of hate crimes —
  •  Sean, unfortunately there has been a rise in hate crimes when it comes to different groups, to include anti-Semitic crimes. You’ve commented from that podium — this is clear — this gentleman, in his jailhouse, gave a statement to a reporter talking about he wishes the man were younger and he was a thug that killed. So what do you say to this? This is clear — it’s racism at its ugliest.
  • I’m not calling this —
  • — saying he’s a white supremacist.
  • And my second topic, and I’m done. Someone who was in the room — you like talking about the CBC meeting that happened last week. Someone who was actually in the room, at that meeting, said that the issue of HBCUs came up — and that’s a very sensitive subject right now in the black community and here at the White House. The issue of HBCUs came up, and Omarosa said that she would be the one heading the HBCU Office at the White House, and the President did not make a response confirming or denying. Will this be the case? Is this the case?
  • Sean, thank you. Given that the Freedom Caucus blocked the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, does the President still believe he can work with the Freedom Caucus on future pieces of legislation?
  • So not necessarily?
  • Has he written them off?
  • Let me ask you about this tweet over the weekend.
  • Does he regret tweeting to his followers that they should tune in to Judge Jeanine only to tune in, and then have her call for House Speaker Paul Ryan to step down?
  • But does he owe Speaker Ryan an apology then?
  • Did they talk today?
  •  A lot of people say it’s a lot more than coincidence.
  • So does he owe the House Speaker an apology?
  • And does he still have confidence they can work together, Sean?
  • Two questions. One on the President choosing Jared Kushner for this new Office of American Innovation to reform government across the government. Obviously, Jared Kushner has 60-some days of experience in Washington — never had a prior government job. Does the President view that, somehow, as an advantage in this case?
  • On healthcare, this review that you’ve talked about — what went right, what went wrong — I know you don’t want to name names, but would it be fair to say, at this point, that the President has written off some people?

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