TOWOIT #112

May 8, 2017… Day 109

The many dubious facial expressions of White House reporter Kristen Welker. (She’s saying “So that didn’t give him pause?” about Obama warning Trump about Flynn. Later she tried to nail down whether or not the Trump administration actually vetted Flynn at all, but Sean Spicer cut her off and moved to another reporter instead of answering.)

I saw these two maps this morning. One was robots and the other was racism.

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Red = Highest increase in Robots
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Red = Most racist places in the U.S.

I think the “adopt-a-district” thing is funny. If a Republican voted for AHCA and won’t do a town hall over recess, then a Democrat from a nearby congressional district will come over and do a town hall on his or her behalf. And explain the whole thing to their constituents. Whoops.

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Of course, sometimes when Republicans humiliate themselves, they humiliate all of us:

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Today was Sally Yates day. She gave as good as she got, especially when Cornyn, Cruz and Kennedy tried to explain the law to her and told her they were disappointed in her. Like the Comey hearings, the Democrats asked important national security questions about Russian interference and collusion–the Republicans just wanted to know who leaked stuff out to the newspapers. One thing we learned today (or had confirmed) was that if it weren’t for the Washington Post reporting, Flynn could still be in his position. Because the White House only cared once it became important to seem like they cared. We also learned this morning, before the hearing, that Obama specifically told Trump not to hire Flynn. Sean Spicer passed it off as Obama just being petty because Flynn knew too much about Obama’s faults.

13 judges are hearing the revised travel ban case this week.

The Trump administration is “huddling” on the Paris Climate Accord.

Something that came out in the White House Press Briefing: We’re 30 days into the 90-day commission on fighting opioid abuse… and the Trump administration hasn’t named anyone TO the commission yet. Sean Spicer said he would look into it.

Questions they asked Sean Spicer today:

  • Sean, thank you. Former President Obama warned then President-elect Trump against hiring Mike Flynn as his national security advisor. Why did he ignore that?
  • I want to follow up on a couple points, because you raised the security clearance. But before that, if a sitting President raises the name of one individual, why wouldn’t that give the President-elect pause? I understand what you’re saying, the caveat about the fact of the campaign, et cetera, but wouldn’t that give the incoming President pause?
  • It didn’t give him any pause at all?
  • And it’s our understanding — and if you could clarify this — did Mike Flynn not need an upgraded security clearance in order to serve as the national security advisor?
  • And you vetted him, as well, correct?
  • But did you not vet him yourselves?
  • What we do know is what we knew at the time. So knowing what the White House knows now, does the White House, does the President think that General Flynn should not have had that clearance reissued last year, number one?   ]And number two, does the White House believe that General Flynn was truthful when he filled out his SF-86 for that reinvestigation last year?
  • Knowing what you know now —
  • His ties to Russia, and his work as a registered foreign agent now — registered foreign agent for the government of Turkey lead to his firing in February?
  • Thank you, Sean. Last week, officials indicated that the Pentagon planned to send the President a proposal to send several thousand additional troops to Afghanistan. Can you confirm whether or not the President has made a decision about sending additional troops to Afghanistan? And if so, when are they going? How many are going? And what is their mission?
  • Thanks, Sean. The President tweeted this morning that senators on the Intelligence Committee should ask Sally Yates about her role in classified leaks about General Flynn. Does the President have evidence that ties Sally Yates to the Flynn leaks? Why did he tweet that?
  • But does the President believe that Sally Yates was the leaker in this?
  • Sean, aside from the announcement today that the President will nominate 10 judges to fill federal vacancies, many conservatives remain concerned the White House is woefully behind on overall appointments. The President recently told the Examiner — to paraphrase him — that he doesn’t need to fill vacant posts in the administration. After these 10, there will still be 110 judicial vacancies. Does the President still believe vacant administration jobs do not need to be filled? And are there any plans to increase the pace of political appointments?
  • — bureaucracy if you don’t fill some of these —
  • Thanks, Sean. Ahead of her testimony today, does President Trump believe Sally Yates is a trustworthy source of information?
  • And following up on Sara’s question, it seemed that the President was implying that Sally Yates may have had something to do with the leaked information to newspapers. Is that what he was implying?
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions on NAFTA. First, the Canadian Prime Minister, on Friday, said that they’re considering, as a reaction to what the Prime Minister calls an unfair, punitive duty on Canadian software lumber — considering banning coal imports from the U.S. Is this the beginning of a trade war between Canada and the U.S.?
  • So you trust the mechanism on this?
  • And 10 days ago, the President said that Mexico and Canada have agreed to fasten the process to renegotiate NAFTA. What has happened in the last 10 days?
  • Thanks a lot, Sean. Did Sally Yates have to run any of her planned testimony by the General Counsel’s office that she’ll deliver later this afternoon?
  • And also, do you have any reason to doubt that her testimony, which will be under oath, will be truthful before the Senate Subcommittee?
  • Thank you, Sean. For weeks during the transition, President Trump was not receiving a daily intelligence briefing; he was receiving his information from General Flynn. Do you think that lack of direct information from the intelligence community contributed to the lapse in vetting with General Flynn?
  • On another thing, I wanted to talk about the signing statement that came out on Friday with the spending bill. Senior administration officials, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, didn’t seem to know about that. Why didn’t she or people working on that issue know about that, know it was coming?  Whose idea was that? And what happened between when Sarah was out here on Friday saying that she didn’t think there was going to be something like that, and then close of business when there was a signing statement? And did you know it was coming?
  • Can I follow with HBCUs, on that signing statement, please? [That was April Ryan. He ignored her.]
  • Thanks, Sean. On the travel ban, a couple questions, if I may.  Back in February, the President said that lifting the travel ban would mean that many bad and dangerous people would be pouring in. Have you seen any evidence that that’s been the case in the three months since this ban was lifted?
  • Well, is that something you’ve been tracking?
  • Okay. In the same vein, if this White House is no longer calling this a “Muslim ban” as the President did initially, why does the President’s website still explicitly call for “preventing Muslim immigration”?  And it says, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
  • Is it worth standing here, though, and completely disavowing the use of that phrase, “Muslim ban”? I mean, it’s still on the website. If the President’s words are being used against him in court today, is it worth you clarifying that once and for all?
  • Well, it’s stuff that’s coming up in court.  And that’s expected to be —
  • Thank you. I’ve got two topics, hopefully fast. So the Kushner family was in China making a pitch for the EB-5 visa program. This came a day after the President signed the omnibus, which of course extended that program without any changes. So two questions on that. One, is it a violation of the conflict of interest agreement that Jared Kushner came to? And also, does the President believe that that investor visa program needs to be modified in any way?
  • And regarding the opioid commission, it’s my understanding that no members of that commission have been named yet. We’re more than 30 days into what was supposed to be a 90-day period for that commission to come back with a report to the President. What’s up with that? And does that send the wrong signal to people who believe that this is a very urgent crisis, where like more than 100 people are dying every day?
  • Sean, can I ask you about the presidential nominees really quickly?
  • Why is it important for the President to get these 10 individuals out there to serve the country? And on a more broad perspective of this question, there are a number of vacancies — 129 — going into today, to say nothing of some of the openings over there in the EEOB that I’m sure could still be filled. The pace seems slow. Is the President aware of that pace?  Is he comfortable with the pace? And what’s the White House doing, not just to fill those important judicial jobs, but others that are related to the administration?
  • I want to ask you a big-picture question about Afghanistan. You were asked about troop levels and don’t have an answer to that, but last week the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction painted a very grim picture.  Security incidents through March reached the highest level in a decade.  Civilian casualties were the highest on record. There’s rampant drug use in Afghanistan. So as the President weighs this request for more troops, what’s going to be his ultimate goal? Is it going to be stability? Is it outright victory in the 16th, 17th year of this war?
  • Is the President displeased with the current state of affairs in Afghanistan?
  • Sean, thank you. Does the President believe that healthcare is a right or a product?  [This was from Fox News]
  • Two questions as it relates to President Trump and former President Obama.  Back to that November conversation, were there specific reasons given, as it relates to Michael Flynn? And if so, was that based on private information?
  • Two clarifications. On the signing statement, broadly, not just the subject of HBCUs, are you saying that the President was not aware of the details of that very long signing statement, and it was just something done at —
  • But a lot of the things that were in that signing statement were things that were essentially carryovers from things that Obama had also objected to. But the President and the senior staff here was aware of what those things were and approved those being —
  • Okay. Second question, on Flynn and the security clearance. You guy have made, both from the podium here and also the President made a big deal of this question of the Obama people gave him the clearance or re-upped the clearance earlier. Are you suggesting now, knowing what you guys know with hindsight and whatever, are you saying that they should have — you believe that the Obama administration should have denied him his clearance back in April based on the information that you’re now aware of — connections with Russia, et cetera, et cetera? Are you suggesting that they should have denied it?

“Dave. Dave. Dave. Dave. Dave. Dave.”

–Sean Spicer not allowing any follow-ups to an answer he just gave smearing Obama for not being careful enough about Mike Flynn’s security clearance (!!). Dave is from conservative paper Washington Times and asked about North Korea.

  • Sean, over the weekend, North Korea detained a fourth U.S. citizen. Are you concerned that they’re trying to escalate tensions even further? Do you consider these Americans hostages? And what are you doing diplomatically, back-channel or otherwise, to try and get them released?
  • Sean, thanks very much. Just to follow up on your answer on Afghanistan, you mentioned ISIS but you didn’t mention the Taliban. Should we read that to mean that the focus will be on ISIS?
  • Are you willing to negotiate with the Taliban?

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