March 29, 2017… Day 69.
“Like a brown bird nesting in a Texaco sign, I got a point of view”
— Silver Jews song lyric
— (Also, me)
I feel sheepish after I get too angry or emotional in my blog. It makes me feel like I smeared my weakness around on a page and taped it up in the hall of the high school where it isn’t safe for it to be. I have a lot of actual personal essays sketched out (as opposed to blurted TMI non sequiturs). If I can build up enough of a head of steam to last me through the end of my workday until bedtime, I’ll write a couple of those up. These have just been gnarly days of chafing at misogyny, figuring out how to do intersectional feminism, watching our institutions and freedoms crumble, staring into the abyss of my own white complicity, and wedging myself between Republicans and people who call me a corporatist neoliberal. This is my pillow book of Sei Shonagon, ok? This is my tear-soaked sleeve. I am cutting off my hair and moving to a monastery. I don’t know, I just took a seminar on the Tale of Genji when I was a freshman in college and I hearken back to it when I feel myself getting dramatic. I’m sure Devin Nunes is feeling like an embattled Heian prince right now too.
Ivanka Trump will take an official federal job in the White House after all (instead of just being a volunteer). Now if only Carl Icahn would do the same.
Today is Brexit day. Masses of people swamped by their own delusions. Good luck to you, UK.
According to The Hill, people who know Devin Nunes are saying that he is acting unhinged and aggressive, and hasn’t explained to anyone why he canceled those committee meetings. I saw him in the Ways and Means committee footage last night, sort of hunched over and glowering. He didn’t speak, it wasn’t his particular show. He just sat there listening to his colleagues talk about how something is wrong with the administration and Russia.
A lot of other disheartening stuff also happened. But Seattle is suing the federal government over the whole sanctuary city thing. And here’s something from the financial site ZeroHedge which beats back the thorny hedge of our collective self-gaslighting:
So, the green line starts diverging from the red line right after the election last November. The green line, which goes up and up? That’s data based on sentiment, that’s how everybody feels about how things are going economically. How much people want to buy things, for instance. That’s part of what drove the stock market rally that’s been attributed to Trump and his agenda. If you separate out the hard data — which is actual, quantifiable, after-the-fact economic results, you can see that has just gone along like it has been. Meaning that large swaths of the investing class have gone gaga on “Trump is great and will cut taxes” euphoria. But facts still matter, numbers still matter, and the hard data just says “everything is ok, about like it has been.” I find that reassuring.
The Republican chairman and leading Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee gave a joint press conference today. They countered all the House committee drama by being bipartisan, level-headed, and gravely concerned about Russia. They also countered it by referencing it directly and saying “things are different over here” (I paraphrase). And when they said they would get to the bottom of things and follow the facts where they lead, I want to believe them. I am more likely to believe them because Maxine Waters believes them.
Gallup has Trump approval ratings at 35% today.
C-Span screen grab:
OK, here’s the straight skinny. Questions asked of Sean Spicer at the press briefing today:
- Great. Well, Sean, going back to some issues that are in the news — Nunes is not going to recuse himself. In the midst of all of this back-and-forth, what does the White House say about that?
- What are the conversations the President is having with Paul Ryan about this — to include Dems and Republicans are talking about what looks like impropriety in the intel chief’s handling of this so far, particularly as there’s not a hearing right now?
- And second topic. Tax reform and infrastructure — reports are saying you’re going to do it together. And ACA — well, Obamacare, going into Trumpcare, at that time, tax reform and infrastructure were said to be some of the reasons why you did not come up in the budget with eliminating the debt. Do you have cost estimates as it relates to tax reform and infrastructure as of yet.
- Do you trust CBO now?
- Sean, a couple of things that we talked about on Monday. On Monday you said to us from the podium you would look into how Chairman Nunes was cleared to be here and with whom he met. Can you give us — we tried to ask you that yesterday as you walked out. Do you have any information to live up to the commitment you made here on Monday to provide more details about how that happened in a process you just told us yet again is above board and totally appropriate?
- Have you looked into it?
- I have a substantive question about that.
- But I’m just asking you about something you told us —
- Are you going to continue to look into this?
- You’ll live up to that obligation to look into it?
- Okay. So you said yesterday about Sally Yates “show what you know.” Well, one of the reasons that there’s this question about Chairman Nunes is he hasn’t told his own committee members what he knows, how he learned about it, and what the substantive importance of that is. So we are also curious about that. And among the things that might shed light on that is how he got here and who he met with and what he learned.
- We’re trying to figure that out as well.
- Don’t you want to know those things?
- — is going on, and the members of the very committee themselves say they don’t know what is being discussed.
- How is the process going forward? How is that a workable process?
- You have authority about whether he gets into this building and can review secured information on this site.
- Sean, we know that members of the House Freedom Caucus the Tuesday Group, Republican study group are up on the Hill trying to see if they can come to some sort of an agreement to find a way forward on healthcare. How real does the White House think this possibility of resurrecting healthcare is?
- Does the White House share the frustration of many Republicans in Capitol Hill and the sentiments that the House Freedom Caucus “botched” this?
- I just have one more, and on the same thing. The President and members of the White House have suggested that maybe we can get some Democrats onboard on healthcare reform. The fact that no Democrat, not one Democrat supported the last attempt, and given the desires of the Freedom Caucus versus what the Democrats were doing, is it reasonable to think that even one Democrat would come onboard this?
- No, I said, is it reasonable.
- Isn’t this kind of a Boehner tactic, to say, okay, if you’re not going to work with us, House Freedom Caucus, we’re going to go to the Democrats?
- Thank you. I have sort of a lightning round about opioids Is a commission being created? Is Chris Christie the head of that commission? He was sort of talking about it, but I haven’t seen anything on it. And what sort of timeline will that commission have in terms of presenting findings? What’s the goal of this thing?
- Two very short ones. The timeline for them coming back with findings. And then, the President, when he was campaigning, seemed to endorse the STOP Act, which would prevent fentanyl from being imported — help to prevent fentanyl from being imported from countries like China. Would he use his presidential bully pulpit to sort of push for that legislation now, which has not really gotten off the ground yet over in the conference?
- Thank you, Sean. Yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May signed the letter that began the process for Brexit. A week ago, on Friday, Jean-Claude Juncker, who is the President of the European Commission, used some unusually strong language about the President, saying that his comments encouraging other Brexits could lead to war among the Balkan countries. And he also said in the end, and is quoted on page one of The Financial Times, that the President does not know a lot about Europe. What is the President’s response to that?
- To the comments by President Juncker of the European Commission on Brexit?
- Sean, thank you. I have two questions, or topics. But just the first: What’s the White House reaction to the shooting today at the Capitol?
- A second topic — last weekend, the President spent the weekend here, not in Mar-a-Lago. I’m wondering, was that in any way in response to some of the pushback he’s received about the cost associated with those trips. And part two of that — does he plan to be here again this weekend?
- Does he feel any concern about that pushback?
- Thank you, Sean. President Trump is reportedly expected to sign legislation that would allow Internet service providers to monitor Internet activity and sell that information without users’ permission. Will he be signing that legislation? And why does think it’s good for America? I’m wondering who this benefits apart from ISPs and their executives.
- Doesn’t this erosion of protections create major risks for people to use that information for nefarious purposes? Also hostile nations potentially looking at what congressmen are browsing online — is that concerning to the White House?
- I’ve got two questions on two topics for you. The commander of CENTCOM was up on the Hill earlier today and testified that the U.S. government believes that Russia has been supplying material (inaudible.) I was wondering if the White House has any response to that testimony, and does it believe that that’s a constructive effort.
- The commander of CENTCOM. Is that a constructive effort on the part of the Russian government in that region?
- — on the action of the Russians right now.
- And a second topic for you: About a month from now, the government will run out of money without another CR, as I’m sure you’re aware. The President talked a lot about it in the campaign, and in his budget request funding for a border wall on the southern border with Mexico. Is that a deal-breaker for the President in any sort of government funding measure in the next month or so?
- $1.6 billion is in there —
- Thanks, Sean. A couple on healthcare. The President here, last night, speaking to senators, said — quoting here — “I know that we’re all going to make a deal on healthcare — that’s such an easy one… I have no doubt that that’s going to happen very quickly.” What is the renewed sense of optimism, and what exactly is “very quickly”?
- And let me ask you real quickly — you say that you embrace the House Intelligence Committee review of all of this. John McCain said earlier today that because of the potential schism within that committee, that there should be a select committee that goes from this. Would you embrace that if that happens, and what would your response —
- Sean, thanks. Two questions. You mentioned Senator Udall opposing the Gorsuch nomination. He was here at the party last night. Did the President try to work with the room, with him and other Democrats, about the nomination last night?
- And secondly, two-thirds of the Democratic senators did not attend the party last night. Did that disappoint the President?
- Sean, the President’s got in his inbox a letter from Senate Democrats, and they say — the Democrats say they are ready and willing to work with the President on improving Obamacare, they just have a couple of conditions. First, the President has to abandon his effort to completely repeal the law and rescind the executive order. This letter is signed by the vast majority of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. What does the President say?
- But they’re saying they want to take full repeal off the table.
- But they say, as a first step, they want him to repeal that executive order. Is that something he is willing to do?
- But just to clarify, was he joking when he said that making a deal on healthcare would be an easy one?
- He doesn’t think it’s easy to —
- The other thing that the President said last night was our soldiers are fighting like never before in Iraq. But as you know, Sean, U.S. troops there are in a support role — an advise-and-assist role. What does he mean? What does the President mean when he says they’re fighting there like never before? Obviously —
- — that doesn’t take into consideration what happened during the Bush administration and the Obama administration —
- — fighting house to house.
- I was going to follow up. If you couple that comment with the comment on healthcare, it being the easy one to get that done, it just — it sounds like — you’ve probably heard this and come across this notion — that he’s just detached from reality in making those comments.
- And one quick thing on Chairman Nunes.
- But he doesn’t think they’re in combat, they’re engaged in combat?
- And I was just going to ask you very quickly on Chairman Nunes. Do you personally know who the source of Chairman Nunes’s information is?
- Sean, one on both — on two topics. First on healthcare. Does the President want to start a new healthcare bill or tweak the one that did not go last week?
- And on a separate topic. The President did not mention the Paris agreement yesterday when he went to the EPA. Can you update us on his current thinking about that? Does he want the United States to stay in? And if he does, how does he expect the United States to meet its commitments without the Clean Power Plan?
- Do you have a deadline on when you’ll know?
- Thank you, Sean. Early voting has begun in the Georgia Sixth Congressional District special election to fill the seat of Secretary Price. Some Democrats are billing this is a referendum on the President, the early days of the presidency. What does the White House think of that? And does President Trump plan to be involved at all in this race?