April 7, 2017… Day 78

“72-hour evolution”

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Wilfred Chan photo on Twitter — Union Square today: “We make the refugees we ban”

To each other: “What. I don’t understand.”

Back to the anchor: “So NOW the White House says the briefing will be OFF camera…”

To Sean Spicer: “No, we’ve already been showing the podium on our air.”

— samples of the grumblings of annoyed TV journalists today when Sean Spicer told everyone to turn their cameras off before his Mar-a-Lago briefing on Syria.
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Foreign Policy headline
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I’m one of the ones who don’t know how they feel

Politico headline: Russia retaliates against U.S. strikes by suspending pact to prevent mid-air incidents

The Hill headline: Russian Prime Minister: U.S. and Russia are ‘on the verge of a military clash’

THE PROBLEM WITH LIARS: Sean Spicer said all missiles hit their target. Russia said about half of them did. I honestly have no clue who to believe.

Non-Syria news: 

The requests were withdrawn today.


Rumors are swirling through various news-sites that Trump is considering firing Bannon AND Priebus. Meanwhile #FireKushner is trending in alt-right circles.

Neil Gorsuch was confirmed 55-45 to be a Supreme Court justice. During the vote, Susan Collins circulated a draft letter to both sides of the aisle, reinforcing that the filibuster will be preserved for legislation.

There have been no State Department briefings since March 23. I went to the website to see if I could tell what was up. I found the calendar of briefings for March. All the briefings were clumped in the middle two weeks of the month, which was after the department received flak about having none since the inauguration, and before they abruptly stopped again on March 23. There was a link that said “April.” This is what I got when I clicked it:


Questions reporters asked Sean Spicer today about Syria:

  • Sean, can you talk a little bit about the next steps in Syria. Is this a one-off? Does this change administration policy going forward?
  • How does this fit with his America First foreign policy? Is that still his stated position?
  • General McMaster was briefing last night that the President — the three options.  Can you give us —
  •  — what the three options were?
  • Can you talk about the process that the President went through when he got the three options, who he consulted with, and then what his recommendation to go forward — 
  • Can you just clarify — I think you said that the President informed Xi after the strikes had concluded.  Is that accurate?
  •  — because clearly, the President has said that North Korea is of deep concern.  
  • This is a military action that was taken unilaterally. How did he explain this to Xi Jinping? Was it put that in that context? Was there any broader message that, look, if you don’t help us crack down on North Korea, we are willing to go ahead with similar action?
  • Sean, just to clarify and follow up. H.R. McMaster said last night, I believe, that there were two NSC meetings. I believe you described more meetings than that. How many meetings was the President personally involved in throughout this process?
  • Four, okay.
  • So five.
  • Okay. And secondly, I know you say the President says he’s not going to outline what he’s going to do next, he wants to remain flexible. But members on the Hill say that they want to be brought into the process. So how does that match the President keeping his desire of not announcing things, but folks on the Hill saying, hey, we need to be brought in?
  • There’s some reports out there that there are concerns among U.S. officials that the Russians were involved in the chemical weapons attack that occurred in Syria. What’s the latest on that? What can you tell us about that?
  • Sean, you talk about this as evolution over these last 72 hours. Can you give a little bit of insight into the President’s thinking and how that evolved? We saw publicly the statements that he made where he sort of seemed to become more taken aback by the imagery or what have you by the time he gave that press conference. Did you talk to him privately about what his reaction was in the beginning and then how that evolved and how he got from point A to point B, to launch the strike?  
  • But the question is, was there a sense of the skepticism at the beginning, where he said, look, are you sure that — 
  • So you had a sense that he was there in terms of military strength —
  • What did he see, Sean?
  • What did he see? What did he see in that PDB?  Did he see printed-out images, did he see video?
  • Okay, but how did he take in —
  • And was he seeing those pictures?
  • He was seeing those, too, the public images that were out there?
  • As far as this 72-hour evolution, does the President now believe Assad needs to leave power?
  • Sean, the President, during the campaign, warned that action against the Assad regime could result or devolve into World War III. He talked about the risks of drawing in Russia and Iran into a broader conflict. Is the President at all concerned about that happening, or the fact that as U.S. planes fly over the Syrian skies that they could run into interference from either Russian or Syrian defense systems?
  • But is that not something that he’s concerned about anymore?
  • To follow on that, Sean, also on the campaign trail the President expressed a desire to work with Russia to defeat ISIS.  But this clearly puts a setback on that.
  • Sean, can you give us a sense of what foreign ministers and defense ministers were spoken to last night? And will the President — (inaudible.)
  • One more thing. The Russian foreign ministry statement this morning called this a “clear act of aggression,” suggested that the United States had been planning this strike even before the chemical attack. Can you respond specifically?
  •  That this is a “clear act of aggression.”
  • Are there any specific outcomes that you see from President Xi visit?


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