TOWOIT #100

April 26, 2017… Day 97

Obviously, should have started this string of consecutive posts on Nov. 9 instead of 3 days before the inauguration. Oh well. What’s done is done. TOWOIT is TOWOIT. I made a thing, and I call it TOWOIT.

Today there were rumors that Trump was backing out of NAFTA and then later he said “nah”

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All 100 Senators went to the White House to be briefed on the “grave” North Korea situation. People seemed genuinely confused about whether the briefing was for legitimate reasons or was  just going to turn into a pre-100-day photo op for Trump.

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Today Mnuchin and Cohn introduced the “tax reform plan” that Trump promised would come out today. It is just a high level, one-page wish list. There’s no plan there. They just say “I would never bet against Donald Trump” and “it’s going to be the biggest tax reform deal ever.” Ask them any questions at all and it just reverts immediately to “Well, we’ve got people talking to people on the hill about that…”

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“And do you think softwood lumber might get Michael Flynn’s name off the front pages?”

–White House reporter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross yesterday.

I’ve listened to yesterday’s White House Press Briefing four times now. I think it’s kind of a doozy. Here are the questions the reporters asked. The remarkable thing was how much Sean Spicer was smiling, laughing and sort of chuckle-talking like everyone in the room was preposterous except for him.Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 10.42.52 PM

  • Sean, does the White House believe that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn broke any laws in filling out his Standard Form-86 disclosure? And furthermore, why is the White House apparently stonewalling the committee on oversight and government reform on its request for some of the documents that should be in the White House’s possession on Mr. Flynn?
  • Well, in the letter that Marc Short — and I know that SF-86 was referred to the DIA, and apparently —
  • Well, I know — but they were referred to the DIA for the SF-86, and apparently they have gained access to that document. But there were other documents that should be in the White House’s possession that Marc Short, in the letter to the committee, said the White House can’t provide because of its sensitive nature.  It also said that there were no documents that were available prior to the 20th.
  • But I also ask the question: Does the White House believe that Lieutenant General Flynn might have broken the law when he filled out the SF-86?
  • So was it the sheer volume of it, or —
  • Sean, is it your position that during the transition, the Trump transition has no custodial possession of any of these documents that Flynn filled out as part of a process to become the President’s National Security Advisor? I mean, what you seem to be suggesting is an arms’ length relationship.
  • Okay.  So —
  • Right. I’m just trying to find out from your perspective, is there no obligation either from the transition or the White House to do anything more than you have done or has been done in this matter?
  • How about these calls made when he was working during the transition on behalf of a future President Trump? Aren’t those things that you should have some either responsibility or obligation to provide if you can?
  • Those calls were made on behalf of the Trump transition, were they not?
  • When he was in the — I mean —
  • Yes, but he was working for the transition. And I’m saying, is there any obligation you have —
  •  — the delivery of those documents?
  • But you’re acting as if you had no custodial responsibility of your own transition. That’s all I’m trying to —
  • He wasn’t making calls as a private citizen. He was making them as a future National Security Advisor.
  • Two weeks ago, when General Flynn’s attorney wrote to the Senate Intelligence Committee suggesting some sort of immunity deal for General Flynn, I asked you a question about whether the White House would be invoking executive privilege, and your response at that time was, no, we have no problem with General Flynn testifying, he’s free to do so, we won’t be invoking any type of privilege. Does that also apply to any documents that the White House may have related to General Flynn’s service, the short service as the National Security Advisor to the President, and the time in which he served in the transition period as an advisor to the President-elect?
  • What about prior to his service at the White House?
  • And the overall issue of privilege, would you be open to —
  • Sean, generally speaking, within the Trump administration, how important is it for the President that everyone working for this administration is honest on their security clearance forms?
  • Do you know if the President is aware of the comments that were made by the House Oversight Chairman today? And does he agree at all with the assertion that it seems as though General Flynn was not in compliance with the law?
  • Does the White House consider Mike Flynn’s payment from Russia today to be a payment from a foreign government?
  • YOUR White House, does THIS White House consider a payment from Russia today to be a payment from a foreign government?
  • If it was to happen today, do you consider that to be a payment from a foreign government?
  • If someone took money from Russia today — today —
  • To follow up on that, why didn’t he — why wasn’t he more closely vetted during the transition period?
  •  — the White House and the Trump transition team should have known about this before they were having him come to the White House.
  • I have two questions, but I want to follow up on that. So you’re saying that it’s a problem with the process of vetting — the vetting process, and not —
  • I do want ask you really quickly about the wall. Yesterday, President Trump reportedly said that he’s going to delay pushing the wall through. And so can you just clarify what the status of that is — what’s happening, when?
  • So it’s delayed for now?
  • So use that partial funding —
  • Can I ask a follow-up on healthcare? The President has threatened to withhold cost-sharing payments from insurance companies. So is that still the case?
  • So just to follow up on the two, three topics — the wall and on — first, on the wall, I just want to be clear — so is the President no longer insisting that there is money for the wall in this current appropriations bill?
  • So the President is not insisting that he has money for actual construction of the wall in this current bill?
  • And the actual construction can wait until the fall?
  • Before you start construction.
  • And on Michael Flynn, does the President feel that he was misled by General Flynn?
  • But does he now feel that he also wasn’t straight with him in the beginning during —
  • At the time he made that decision, he said he was the victim of a media witch hunt and said he was a good man that had been a victim of —
  • — a witch hunt.  Does he still feel that?  Or is —
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions:  Last night the President said — and some have reported it — some pretty sensational charges about the Iran treaty.  We know he’s called it the worst agreement in history, and the worst he ever saw himself. But he also said that at the time of the treaty, the government in Iran was on the verge of collapsing. And that is something I don’t believe that has ever been reported before. He also said that the unfrozen assets — the billions were not used to fund terrorists, but they were in Swiss bank accounts.  Is this based on intelligence reports he’s received or other information?
  • I had a second question.
  • Okay. On General Flynn, anyone who is at his level and some levels below undergoes an investigation by the FBI with a final report. Was the President ever given a final security report by the FBI on General Flynn?
  • If you could just talk a little bit more about the overall efforts that the administration is making. We note the United Nations meetings yesterday. Now you’ve got an upcoming meeting with Congress. Are you as an administration trying to get a coalition together to build a stronger diplomatic case around actions against Pyongyang?
  • How would you characterize the administration’s overall strategy on the DPRK?
  •  — strategy on Wednesday when you have the meeting with the senators?
  • Will you be able to articulate that strategy and put a finer point on it for the senators?
  • Well, you —
  •  — it’s YOUR administration —
  •  — characterize it as you presenting your strategy to the U.S. Senate?
  • — the strategy will be articulated then?
  • So the senators should not expect —
  • Thanks, Sean. How long would you reasonably expect the government to take to be fully staffed with essential personnel to draft, negotiate, and implement complicated policies like tax reform, and put forward something that’s a little bit more meaty than just broad principles?
  • But what progress have agencies been able to make in carrying out the executive orders that the President has put forward? Because today is actually the deadline for the regulatory reform offices to be in place. How many of those are there?
  • Thanks, Sean. Staying on taxes for a minute, can you give us a sense — the President said he’s going to present this plan tomorrow. Can you give us a sense of what we’re going to see and when we’re going to see it?
  • Just a bit of color. The President, on Friday, when he announced that it was going to happen on Wednesday, aides here at the White House and over at Treasury seemed a little bit surprised to find out that this was coming as early as Wednesday. Can you tell us who inside the White House and at Treasury the President told he was going to announce this on Wednesday before he made the announcement?
  • The Secretary of Treasury actually said that the goal on tax reform is to spur growth of 3 percent of more, but already people are worried about deficits and that’s — Taxpayers For Common Sense put out a statement saying that growth — “Hogwash. Growth is the magic pixie dust policymakers throw on economic plans to make them appear fiscally sound when they are not.” What would you say to Republicans on Capitol Hill who are worried about this being a tax reform that would blow a hole in the deficit and the debt?

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