TOWOIT #77

April 3, 2017… Day 74.

The fact that Trump gave a giant check to the National Park Service, representing a bit over $78,000 (his quarterly pay check) is too embarrassing for our country to really even talk about. I only mention it so that you’ll know Sean Spicer was sputtering about that $78,000 when reporters asked him today whether Trump would reimburse the city of Palm Beach for the costs of his visit to Mar-a-Lago.

I’m propped up in bed with pillows under my knees, listening to the radio. I have a bum knee and a college friend was shot and killed on her way to work this morning. It’s been a long day, and I’ve retreated to my lair. I love journalism and reporters. Remember when we used to be focused on gun violence in general? And improved transportation options? And campus rape? Because we had the bandwidth to care about things besides the deportation of our neighbors and the deconstruction of the administrative state? Now it’s all mashed into a bolus with the survival of marginalized people at the center, and everything else blurred together around that.

That said, this Ezra Klein post on Facebook (which came with a Vox article on the topic), describes why I feel more hope and less abject fear these days. I feel sad, worried, tired, angry–yes. But I don’t feel as despairing. A few days ago when Trump suggested by Tweet that maybe they’d change the libel laws so he could go after the New York Times, I just thought, “Meh. You can’t change the libel laws.”IMG_3811

Democrats have the numbers they need to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation. Mitch McConnell says there will be a confirmation this week one way or another. NPR reports that there was great sadness in the Senate today. It’s an “end of a way of life,” they say. Pat Leahy said he cannot vote solely to protect an institution when he is not sure that the Senate as he knows it will even continue to exist. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii isn’t feeling that sentimental. She said, “I believe in fighting the fights we need to fight” regardless of whether we can win sometimes. She also doesn’t buy the necessity of the rule change.

A giant IMPEACH TRUMP sign was unfurled at a Washington Nationals baseball game.

The Washington Post has a news story about Erik Prince meeting with representatives of the UAE about establishing a back channel between Trump and Russia (before the inauguration).

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He was talking about ProPublica, and about a story about Trump’s trust situation with his businesses. Later in the day, a lot of other reputable publications picked up the ProPublica story. Meanwhile, ProPublica issued a “greatest hits” tweet storm of some of their best reporting on the Trump administration.

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Commenters on a Guardian post. Dozens of people chimed in after this to tell Brittany she was terrible, stupid, ridiculous, out of line, gravely misinformed, etc. etc. The word “ad hominem” was bandied about a great deal, and everyone made sure she knew that saying “Bernie Bro” was the same as saying “fucking Nazi scum” so she should shut her face.

Questions that reporters asked Sean Spicer (and Secretary Zinke) today:

To Secretary Zinke:

  • How is that war on coal been working there?  You’re saying that you’re going to open it up because of the war on coal.  Isn’t that kind of contrary to what Teddy Roosevelt wanted and preserving land?
  • But I think, to the point, are you going to return the land to its original, pristine value when you’re done?
  • Have you thought about re-designating the Gold Butte Monument in Nevada?

 

To Sean Spicer:

  • Thanks. A couple questions on the same topic. Jared Kushner’s trip to Iraq today — why is he there and not the Secretary of State? What is the message that the President is sending by having Jared Kushner be the one to take this trip?
  • His portfolio is jam-packed. It has grown in recent weeks. Among the things that is our understanding that are in his portfolio is to broker Middle East peace and overhaul the federal government. Can he do all of these things?
  • A recent ProPublica report out today revealed that President Trump can draw money from his businesses at any time without disclosing it. So on that, I have two questions. One, has the President withdrawn any money from his businesses since taking office? And two, can the White House commit that the President will disclose future withdrawals if they take place?
  • Then why was this change not made — it was made after — (inaudible) —
  • So just last question on this. So you’re not saying whether or not it has changed? Just to clarify, you’re not sure whether this was —
  • I got a couple for you. One, there are multiple reports that the administration is looking at arms packages for Taiwan, including missile defense and fighter jets.  Can you confirm or clarify?
  • Okay. And then, last August, the President sharply criticized then-President Obama for not making more of a public case for human rights throughout the Muslim world — throughout the Arab world. You guys have now said that it’s better to raise those issues privately; I’m trying to understand the evolution of the thinking there. What changed his mind?
  • The President’s mind.
  • Did he raise them in this meeting, do you know?
  • Thank you, Sean. I have two. One, has President Trump spoken with President Vladimir Putin about the terror attack in Russia?
  • Okay. And secondly, Senator Rand Paul has called the reports that Susan Rice ordered the unmasking of President Trump’s associates a “smoking gun.” Does the President agree with that characterization? And what does he think of these reports?
  • Sean, thanks. Let me pick up here. A couple questions, but I’ll start here. Does the White House believe Susan Rice may have done anything illegal?
  • So let me ask you, as it relates to Neil Gorsuch, is the White House comfortable with the nuclear option potentially being invoked?
  • hank you, Sean. What is President Trump doing behind the scenes to make sure that his pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, ultimately is confirmed by the Senate? And what message does he have for Democrats on Capitol Hill who have said they’re going to filibuster?
  • Can you just take me through what Friday looks like for the President? Obviously, a major meeting with the President of China, but his eyes are going to be here on Washington. Is he going to making phone calls Thursday night trying to gauge the situation?
  • Thanks, Sean. Just a couple questions about the check presentation earlier in the briefing. You mentioned that, when he decided to give the money to the Park Service and had the advice of counsel. Is there going to be an issue with him making a donation to a non-profit?
  • Speaking of giving money to the federal government, the President has been — going to Mar-a-Lago again this weekend — has been facing calls from both officials in New York and in Florida either to appropriate federal funds or request federal funds, which were not in the budget for the additional security burdens that they have faced, given his residence there, travels to those places, or to reimburse those local governments out of his own pocket. Obviously, this President is far wealthier than any President we’ve seen in modern times, and he has the capability to make those outlays. Is that something the President is considering, or has he decided to make those outlays to reimburse the —
  • It’s not comparable, though, that’s a very small —
  • Sean, back on Susan Rice, if I could. The fact that it’s allegedly the former national security advisor who requested the unmasking when it came to the incidental collection of people who were associated with the Trump campaign and the Trump transition puts that now squarely in the White House. When you look at that, combine it with the NSC rules that were promulgated at the end of the Obama administration to more broadly share intelligence, does this White House look at what she allegedly requested as a national security issue or a political issue?
  • Sean, you mentioned that Jared Kushner has a team working with him. Can you help us understand exactly what’s in the portfolio and who’s on the team? And I have a follow to that.
  • So he’s overseeing teams handling all these different issues — whether it’s Mexico, Canada, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Saudi, all of that.
  • But my follow on that is — I appreciate how he’s in such a unique position and so trusted by the President, but there are people who could look at the situation and say, the White House isn’t meant to be run as a family business. There are institutions with experienced diplomats who have years of decades of linguistic and experience on the ground. Why —
  • — with whatever these issues are, the foreign policy issues in particular, that you laid out.
  • That’s partly why I was asking exactly what’s in the portfolio. Because it’s our understanding that Mr. Kushner is involved with Mexico, that he’s involved with Saudi Arabia, that he’s involved with Canada, that he’s involved with a number of different issues — China, in particular.
  • He’s pushing those to the State Department?
  • So he has a direct line to the President, whereas the other institutions do not.
  • On healthcare, has the President been reaching out, or anyone in the administration, to Democrats in Congress? Can you say specifically who? And does he still see the opportunity to work more closely with Democrats given the difficulties with the House Freedom Caucus?

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