May 9, 2017… Day 110
Seems now like I’ll always remember where I was when this alert popped up on my phone.
I’m literally nauseated by this,
and my alarm goes off in 6 hours. I’m just going to put up some of the tweets and headlines I saw today, and then the questions they asked at the White House Daily Briefing.
Speaking of which, this question from a reporter took on new meaning after the Comey news:
“Can you just give us a better sense of what the President has been doing with his time the last few days?
We haven’t had very detailed schedules, we haven’t been seeing him publicly.
He’s only had one or two meetings.
So what is he actually doing all day long?”
And here is what reporters asked Sean Spicer when they came for him earlier in the day:
- Thank you, Sean. I’ve got two questions for you today. First one is, why did the President wait 18 days to fire Mike Flynn after the White House was informed of his conduct and warned that he was a potential target for Russian blackmail? Because you realize, the timing of this makes a lot of people think that he wouldn’t have been fired if the story had not come out in the media.
- Well, you’re saying the President stands by that decision, he made the right decision, but why does he continue to defend Mike Flynn?
- He was defending him. He said it was a “witch hunt” and he “should seek immunity.”
- What was his role at the White House in those 18 days? Was he still fulfilling his role and National Security Advisor duties?
- But don’t you think it’s worrisome that he was still doing that when he was a potential target of Russian blackmail?
- So you think that affected her decision on Mike Flynn?
- How is she a political opponent of the President? She was acting attorney general that he —
- Thank you, Sean. Are the cancelled meetings a sign the President is vacillating on the Paris accord and undecided whether to remain in the agreement or withdraw from it?
- Sean, does the President want to win the war in Afghanistan?
- What would winning mean to him?
- Reducing the threat?
- You do realize there’s a difference.
- I just have a question as he considers what to do next and if he wants to commit more troops. At one point we had 100,000 troops there and we didn’t eliminate the threat. Why would 15,000 do the trick if 100,000 didn’t before?
- And when he makes his final decision will he explain this to the American people, or will it be just something coming out —
- Thanks a lot, Sean. A question about the President’s policy concerning Syria. This morning we learned from the Pentagon that the President has approved the plan to directly arm Syrian Kurds against ISIS. Has the President discussed this plan with the leader of Turkey? And what was the reaction from Turkey?
- The Secretary of State is meeting today with his counterpart from Russia today, the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov. Are you expecting any deliverables from that particular meeting?
- Thank you, Sean. I’ve got two for you. First, do you expect the Afghan review and the ISIS review to be done by the time the President heads to Saudi Arabia?
- One more. In this briefing you’ve talked about the President’s desire to “fully eliminate any threat around the globe to U.S. interests.” You’ve talked about the United States wanting to “reengage and be a leader once again,” and “reasserting its leadership on the world stage.” Some of the President’s supporters are going to hear in those comments maybe a bad omen about the President changing his mind and becoming more interventionist. Not saying he wasn’t going to be an interventionist, because he talked about ISIS a fair amount, but what would you tell them about, uh oh, is he going to embark now on nation-building, is he going to deepen American involvement in conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan and elsewhere?
- Just following up, and correct me if I’m wrong — I know you will — but the day after it was announced that he was under investigation, Flynn, he met with, if I’m correct, with Pence and the Russians on a phone call. So while he’s under investigation, why is he being allowed to participate as the national security advisor?
- But the point being, while he’s under investigation, what is —
- Thanks, Sean. Can you confirm that the meeting today between Ivanka Trump and Mr. Pruitt cancelled, and if so, why?
- And secondly, as it relates to the G7, you said the decision on the Paris Climate Agreement will be made after the G7. So does the President feel that he can extract any concessions while he’s there? Does he feel like he can renegotiate it? Or does he just want more time? Why until after the G7?
- Thank you very much. I just want to get back to Olivier’s point. Why shouldn’t President Trump supporters, if he does decide to add more troops in Afghanistan, see that as running counter to what he campaigned on for so long, the notion of America first, the notion of — the fact that we’re too involved in foreign entanglements abroad? He campaigned on that, and the way he’s governed, I think from what we’ve seen in Syria and Afghanistan, he’s sent a very different message.
- One other question. Can you just give us a better sense of what the President has been doing with his time the last few days? We haven’t had very detailed schedules, we haven’t been seeing him publicly. He’s only had one or two meetings. So what is he actually doing all day long?
- President Trump tweeted yesterday that the story of possible collusion between his campaign and Russia is a hoax, and he questioned whether this “taxpayer funded charade” would end. Is the administration trying to set parameters on what Congress and the FBI should investigate?
- And if that is the case — so what was — what did the President mean by “when will this charade end”?
- But is it the role of Congress and the FBI to say when a matter should be concluded and not the White House?
- And then also, following up on that, Senator Lindsey Graham has said that he wants to look into President Trump’s business dealings to see if there are any connections to Russia. Would the White House cooperate with that?
- hanks, Sean. Two questions on two different topics. First, you said that Sally Yates was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. What is that based on?
- So on a different topic, I have a question about that fired usher Angella Reid. It was reported that she received a generous severance package. I’m wondering how do you give a substantial severance package to a government employee?
- Yesterday, we learned that — or Sally Yates had said that she learned of the first immigration order, the travel ban by reading the newspaper. And I’m wondering why the Acting Attorney General wasn’t privy to that? Was that because she was a Clinton-Obama — Obama appointee, Clinton supporter? Why was the Acting Attorney General not notified? She had just met that same day that he signed the document, so he could have mentioned, it as well.
- Is it not unusual that the Attorney General —
- She wanted to enforce it until she knew about it —
- It was on purpose, though, is what —
- Thanks, Sean. Yesterday in her testimony, Sally Yates said that she arranged for White House Counsel to view the evidence against General Flynn at the DOJ, but she wasn’t around to see if that happened. You said that that took place seven days after her initial meeting. Was the evidence against Flynn relayed to the President at that time, or did the President learn about the allegations against Flynn through the media 18 days later?
- Was the President informed at that time?
- Sean, two different topics for you. I want to follow up on what a couple of folks have already mentioned here. You’ve described in this briefing what Sally Yates did as a heads-up with Don McGahn. She has testified she came to the White House twice, in-person, to meet with Don McGahn, on the 26th and the 27th, to do more, she says, than simply offer to provide materials. She said she encouraged the White House to act and expressed real concern about Mike Flynn being compromised by the Russians. On the 28th, Saturday, Mike Flynn sat in on that Oval Office phone call with President Putin. Was that the right call?
- Was that the right call?
- So let me raise a second topic. You said it was widely rumored that she wanted to be a part of the Clinton White House potentially, and so that makes you negate her coming to —
- After —
- You stand by — and my second topic for you, though, is just on healthcare. Is the White House asking Senate leadership to put more women on the working group?
- Would the White House like to see that?
- Thanks, Sean. There’s been a number of conversations in Washington this week about the relationship between H.R. McMaster and the President. How does President Trump characterize his relationship with his National Security Advisor?
- Another follow-up question very quickly on Flynn. You’ve spoken from the podium before about the President asking Michael Flynn to resign as a result of him misleading the Vice President. We’ve learned a lot about Michael Flynn this week, a potential investigation, and we know of actual investigations into his actions before coming here to the White House. Was this at all considered in the President’s decision to ask him to resign?
- Thanks, Sean. Can you just be clear on the 18 days? Did the White House put any security restrictions on Mike Flynn at all during that period of time? Was he limited in terms of his access to classified information, national secrets, or decision-making in any way?
- Was that a mistake in retrospect?
- So I just want to go over this timeline again. You have Yates coming to the White House on January 26th and the 27th. You then have McGahn going to the DOJ on February 2nd to see those documents. But it’s not until February 13th that Flynn actually resigns. Tell us what happened between — you got this warning. You then saw documents that backed up that warning, and then you have 11 days that pass. What was happening in those 11 days?
- Are you guys disputing at all how Yates describes those conversations on the 26th and 27th? She’s saying that she came here with great urgency, that she made clear that he had been compromised, that she had evidence that he had been compromised, that this was something that she felt like the White House was going to take action on.
- Thank you, Sean. I have two questions on diverse areas. First, the citizens group known as United Against a Nuclear Iran released a list of 16 American companies a few days ago — among them Volvo, Honeywell, and Schlumberger — all of which are cutting back on jobs employing Americans, but all of which expressed a desire to do business in Iran under the terms of the deal that was made with Tehran. My question is this: What is the administration’s response to businesses who say they want to do business in Iran under a deal the President described as “the worst ever?”
- All right. My other question is this: Two weeks ago Monday, when the President met with some of us, he said — it was on the record — he would have an answer on the administration’s policy toward the International Monetary Fund in a few days. It’s been two weeks. Can we expect any time an announcement on what the administration will do regarding the IMF?
- Sean, the Governor Texas on Sunday signed a law that essentially outlaws sanctuary cities in the state of Texas. Do you view this as a positive step? And would you encourage other states to do the same?
- What does this mean for the administration’s position that these sanctuary cities should not be existing nationally? Will you still take action that denies funding to cities nationwide?
- So, Sean, you’ve mentioned Director Clapper’s testimony yesterday, said no evidence of collusion. But then he was also asked if he was aware of the FBI counterintelligence investigation, he said he was not. Therefore, he left the impression before the panel he could not give a definitive answer about the question of collusion. Do you accept that as a valid representation of his knowledge and the fact that this remains an open question?
- I’m asking you if you accept that he testified.
- That they have equal weight; that, yes, at the time he said — and the agencies said they found no evidence, that this — a representative fact that you take as valid, and it’s also representative of the fact that you take as valid he was not aware of an FBI counterintelligence investigation and, therefore, at this time cannot say conclusively there was no collusion. You give them equal weight, correct?
- Okay, fine. On Afghanistan, because I think it’s important what the President is thinking about — you’ve been implying that ISIS is a part of the Afghanistan equation. And what I want to ask you about is, as the President looks on Afghanistan, as a team presents him options, are those options primarily about whatever ISIS component is in Afghanistan, or the larger, more malignant issue in Afghanistan, which has always been the Taliban?
- Okay. And when you suggest that it’s a “Washington question” to ask if 15,000 can do a better job than 100,000, are you suggesting that the ideas the President is being presented with are so original and so out of the box that 15,000 troops can achieve what 100,000 deployed very shortly after 9/11 could not achieve?
- And one last thing. You suggested that when Sally Yates refused to enforce the executive order that vindicated the assumption you had that she might not have been a purely well-motivated government servant bringing over this evidence about Michal Flynn. On the other side of that, after Don McGahn looked at the evidence on February 2nd, was in fact Sally Yates’ warning vindicated?
- But that led — you told us that led to his firing, so it had to have some legitimacy, right?
- But wasn’t that information about those conversations?
- Should the country not assume that she was vindicated by that review of the evidence?
- And one other one. It’s my understanding that the President’s initial inclination was to pull out of the Paris agreement. He suggested as much on the campaign trail. But the situation has become a little bit more complicated. The knock against the Paris Agreement is that it would have a detrimental effect on the U.S. economy if fully implemented. Does the President believe that there is a way to stay in the Paris Agreement — maybe renegotiate the standards? Because he’s under a tremendous amount of pressure from many of his own advisors, other countries, to stay in this agreement to some degree. Does he think he can make changes and still stay in it?
- Well, hang on. I got one other. Also, in the omnibus spending bill that the President signed was a provision to extend the EB5 visa program, and it’s been pointed out that the company that Jared Kushner was recently in charge of has been aggressively reaching out to people in China to say invest in our property in Jersey City, remember the EB5 program — that people that invest a certain amount in this country get the sort of golden visa program. Does the President see any potential conflict of interest there?
- So the President doesn’t see any potential conflicts here?
- Just before the briefing, you put out a statement, Sean, that congratulates — Moon — the liberal who ran in South Korea. He had actively campaigned, suggesting that the President’s idea that South Korea pay its fair share of the THAAD missile system is a bad idea. He wants warmer relations with the North. Do you hope to convince him to change his mind?
- Second question: You did say that the President has an excellent relationship with his National Security Advisor, but there’s been a widely circulating column written by Eli Lake that quotes the President — two sources — saying that his National Security Advisor — is the General undermining my policy? Did the President say that?
- Thank you, Sean. Just a couple more questions on General Flynn. You keep saying that the White House was given a heads up by Sally Yates about what General Flynn had said to the Russians. She describes it differently, saying that she told the White House that General Flynn had been compromised by the Russians and was blackmailed by the Russians. Is that the position of the White House now, after seeing all the same evidence that Sally Yates saw — that General Flynn was compromised and potentially blackmailed by the Russians?
- Don’t the American people deserve to know whether or not their National Security Advisor was —
- — by a foreign adversary?
- Well, Sally Yates came to that conclusion, so I’m asking you —
- Did the White House investigate whether or not their National Security Advisor was compromised by the Russians?
- Sean, a follow-up on that one. But first I wanted to ask you about FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate, which now, apparently it looks like the FBI Director gave inaccurate testimony to the Senate. Is the White House concerned that he greatly exaggerated or misstated what kind of contact Huma Abedin had in terms of her emails and sending them to Anthony Weiner?
- But is the White House concerned that the FBI Director apparently gave inaccurate testimony?
- Does the President still have confidence — full confidence — in FBI Director James Comey?
- And the last time you spoke about it, you said he did have confidence, but you’re not sure to say that again now?
- And then one follow-up on Flynn. The President, of course, had said that Flynn should ask for immunity before agreeing to testify. Does he still believe that?