TOWOIT #114

May 10, 2017…Day 111

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Questions they asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today:

  • Sarah, I think it would be helpful to establish some of the facts, I have a couple broader questions for you. So, number one, yes or no, did the President direct Rod Rosenstein to write this memo on James Comey?
  • So it’s the White House’s assertion that Rod Rosenstein decided on his own, after being confirmed, to review Comey’s performance?
  • Since we’re establishing the facts — Senator Dianne Feinstein said she was told something different directly from the President. The President said he asked Rosenstein and Sessions to review this.  Is she lying?
  • Then why did Sean say he did? On May 3rd, Sean came out and said that the President had full confidence in his FBI Director? Why did he say that?
  • Then why did the President —
  •  — Republicans say that they —
  •   — Russian investigation, Sarah? Does it have to do with the investigation into Russia? How do you respond to those criticisms?
  • Until you said from the podium just now that the President lost confidence in him over the last weeks and months, we had thought that this was all Rosenstein’s doing. When was it that the President lost confidence in James Comey? What was the tipping point?
  • Well, hang on —
  • To follow on that, you said that he made a lot of missteps and mistakes. Back at the end of October, this President was applauding the FBI Director when he reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. So he seemed quite happy with him at that point.  What changed?
  • And just a real quick question on the meetings this morning. The President is accused by Democrats of trying to circumvent the Russia investigation by firing Comey; he meets with the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the United States. He’s accused of being Nixonian; he meets with Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State. The timing of all of this, is it just ironic or is this the President poking a finger in his critics’ eye?
  • Sarah, isn’t it true that the President had already decided to fire James Comey, and he asked the Justice Department to put together the rationale for that firing?
  • When did he make the decision?
  • But how do you explain what Dianne Feinstein says, that the President told her that he was concerned with the mess at the FBI and asked the Justice Department to look into it?
  • But was the reason for the firing what was written by the Deputy Attorney General? Is that why he did it?
  • What did he mean in the letter that he wrote informing Comey that he was being fired — he said, on three separate occasions Comey had told him that “I am not under investigation.”  What were those three occasions that the FBI Director told the President that he wasn’t under investigation?
  • Following up on that, Sarah, did the President ask Direct Comey whether he was under investigation when they were
    — when they had these meetings?
  • Is the White House concerned that — he obviously made a decision to stick that in the letter and to make that public. Are there any concerns that it was inappropriate that they had that type of a conversation?
  • How important was the FBI Director’s failure to stop the leaks coming out of the FBI to the President? How important was that?
  • Can we expect more firings from the Justice Department?
  • Going forward, does the President want the Department of Justice to shut down what he’s called a “taxpayer-funded charade” investigation?
  • Even if they keep on wasting taxpayer money, he wants it to continue?
  • Sarah, two questions. One, was the White House aware at the time of this decision and announcement that grand jury subpoenas in the case of Michael Flynn had just gone out?
  • Do you know anything about that process?
  • And does the White House believe that if these FBI investigations are going to proceed in these allegations of Russian interference, do you support continued funding, and support who to lead that investigation? Who is going to be running that right now? Are you confident that that could be McCabe, or does it have to be somebody else?
  • Sarah, the President said — or excuse me — Sean Spicer said just a week ago today the President has confidence in the Director. So, again, I’m sorry for not understanding this, but what has happened in the last seven days to shake the confidence? Was Sean lying at that point? Or did something happen in the last seven days?
  • Does he regret not doing it earlier, like on January 20th or January 21st?
  • Why did he do as he did it, if I could ask? Why did he have one of his long-time security advisors hand-deliver a letter to the FBI when the FBI Director was, in fact, in Los Angeles? Didn’t he deserve a phone call or a face-to-face conversation? Why did he decide to do it like that?
  • Does he plan to speak to him?
  • Was the President aware that James Comey asked for more resources in the Russia investigation? And did that factor into his decision to get rid of Mr. Comey, the Director?
  • Can I ask a follow-up? On the campaign trail, President Trump frequently said “lock her up,” and he criticized the Department of Justice for not being harsh enough on Hillary Clinton. He actually praised Director Comey in October for having the guts to reopen the investigation. Why was he moved by a letter that said that Director Comey was, if anything, too harsh on Hillary Clinton? Why does that move the President to fire him?
  • But he already knew that, didn’t he, Sarah? He already knew what Mr. Comey had done.
  • The statement today on the President’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov did not include anything on the reported incidents of violence in Chechnya against people in the LGBT community. Is the reason why that wasn’t included in the readout is because the President is not informed on the issue?
  • Sure. Is the reason why that wasn’t included in the readout is because the President isn’t informed about the reports of anti-gay violence in Chechnya?
  • Has the President been briefed on this issue generally?
  • Has the President been briefed on this issue generally?
  • You said you want the Russia investigation to continue at DOJ. Would the White House oppose the appointment of a special prosecutor to continue to look into — to continue the investigation?
  • What gives you such confidence that the rank and file within the Bureau lost faith in the FBI Director? There’s a special agent who is inside, who wrote us, who said: “The vast majority of the Bureau is in favor of Director Comey. This is a total shock. This is not supposed to happen. The real losers here are 20,000 front-line people in the organization because they lost the only guy working here in the past 15 years who actually cared about them.” So what’s your response to these rank-and-file FBI agents who disagree with your contention that they lost faith in Director Comey?
  • The organization that represents FBI agents is asking for a voice in the selection process of Mr. Comey’s successor. Is that something the President supports?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Who did the President consult before making the final decision to fire James Comey?
  • And in between Monday night and Tuesday, when he decided to fire the FBI Director, did he speak again with the Deputy Attorney General or the Attorney General?
  • Just to be clear, so is it accurate to pull away from the information that we have that Monday night the President made the final call, said I want this in writing as a recommendation, and then took that recommendation as the evidence that he wanted to provide to fire James Comey?
  • Sarah, thank you. You say you want to move on and focus on the thing that Americans care about. So let me ask you about that. You’re somewhat halfway home on healthcare. You still have tax reform to do, a spending bill, debt ceiling, and infrastructure. That’s just a handful.
  • Pretty big list, right? But what happened yesterday, you could argue, just widened the divide and made D.C. politics more toxic. So how do you go about accomplishing all of those things with, now, the heightened political environment that we’re in?
  • Was he surprised by the Democratic backlash? Did he anticipate it, considering some of the past statements?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Two questions. One, there’s a report in Israel that indicates the President has made a decision not to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Can you confirm that? Has he made a decision on that?
  • Also, President Erdogan, in his speech, I think, this morning, warned the President against moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Does that warning and warning from other Arab leaders play into his decision as he’s considering this move?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two questions, both related to the selection of a successor to Director Comey. When President Carter chose a FBI director, he had a blue ribbon panel advising him. Presidents Clinton and Obama interviewed several candidates. Is the President going to follow this pattern, or does he have some individual in mind at this point?
  • And the other question I was going to ask was —
  • I was going to say it is a fact that the Association of Former FBI Agents and Veterans of the Bureau generally prefer people who have been agents themselves or have a background in the FBI. Only two former agents have been director in the last four decades. Will the President consider current or former agents for the position?
  • Should the Attorney General, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation, have any role in the selection of a successor? And given the fact that in his 100-day interviews, the President himself said he had confidence in Director Comey, at this podium the American people were told he had confidence in Director Comey, can people take at face value what the President says about personnel issues like this, or his views on things, if just two weeks later, he’s out?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Does the President have confidence in the Acting Director?
  • Okay. And secondly, you mentioned earlier that you’re encouraging the FBI to move on from the investigation. Is it appropriate for the White House to be directing the FBI what to do with any investigation they’re currently investigating?
  • What exactly precipitated the Monday meeting? Was that because of the hearing last week and what he said there? Or did the Monday meeting that the President had with the DOJ officials come out of a longer process of consideration of Comey?
  • Did the President previously talk to Attorney General Sessions or Deputy Attorney Rosenstein about the possibility of going this way with Comey?
  • Did it come up in the discussion process before the confirmation that the President was considering nominating Rosenstein — did he talk about Comey with Rosenstein then?
  • The President’s statement that he talked to Comey about whether or not he was being investigated raises several questions. Can you talk about why you’re not willing to add any more to that about who asked for that and why that was discussed?
  • About whether or not — I mean, the President seems to be trying to exonerate himself in this. I mean, can you talk about why you won’t add anymore to what that conversation was, how that took place, when it took place — The three occasions — could you clarify those three occasions and who initiated?
  • Why was it in the letter? If you don’t want to clarify or comment, why was it put in the letter in the first place?

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