TOWOIT #115

May 11, 2017… Day 112

I’m so snowed under by the news this week. I’ve been too mesmerized and overwhelmed to start trying to put a blog post. So I’m just going to put up the usual mishmash of headlines, tweets, and the reporters’ questions at the briefing and not try to get deep or clever or comprehensive.

But first, this iPhone screen cap found on FB:

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I just realized the baby has her curlers in — even better.

Ok, anyway, back to windmilling frantically on a precipice with a slide into impeachment on one side and a slide into authoritarianism on the other. Is it the beginning of the end for Trump, or for the rest of us? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re looking at.

Jeez, the news is breaking every couple minutes. I am going BONKERS. I am trying to stem the flow of new news in order to pin down the old news from 45 minutes ago but the new news is too tantalizing and bizarre to ignore.

So, I mean. My blog post, like the Trump administration, is just going to be a shit show.

Just to stay in vaguely chronological order, the acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe testified in front of a Senate committee about Global Threats. The Democrats on the committee asked questions about the Russia investigation and Comey’s firing, and how things stood. Andrew McCabe contradicted the White House by saying a) the Russia investigation was a huge deal, and b) that the rank and file of the FBI were firmly in Comey’s corner.

Then there was also a wild, rambly interview Trump had with Lester Holt, in which TRUMP contradicted the White House and just flat out said the firing was his idea and related to the Russia investigation.

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Then came the White House Press Briefing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Her answers were even more pathetic lies than Sean Spicer’s. She just says her answers with more of a smug, calm smile. Yesterday I was really irritated at the reporters who laughed at her stupid jokes. And I liked the ones who snort-laughed when she was being serious. There were only a few sycophantic chuckles yesterday though, and almost none today.

Questions asked:

  •  Sarah, in the Lester Holt interview the President just had he made a number of remarks. Why did the President think that James Comey was a “showboat” and “grandstander”?
  • When were these three conversations that the President had with James Comey about whether he was under investigation? He said one was at dinner, two phone calls. Was that since January 20th, or when?
  • Sarah, two parts of the Comey question regarding the interview the President just gave. First of all, isn’t it inappropriate for the President of the United States to ask the FBI Director directly if he’s under investigation?
  • But one of these conversations the President said happened at a dinner where the FBI Director, according to the President, was asking to stay on as FBI Director. Don’t you see how that’s a conflict of interest — the FBI Director is saying he wants to keep his job, and the President is asking whether or not he’s under investigation?
  • But, Sarah, the other question I want to ask you about is, I asked you directly yesterday —
  • Different subject related to Comey. I asked you directly yesterday if the President had already decided to fire James Comey when he met with the Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General, and you said, no. Also the Vice President of the United States said directly that the President acted to take the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General to remove the FBI Director. Sean Spicer said directly, “It was all him,” meaning the Deputy Attorney General. Now we learn from the President directly that he had already decided to fire James Comey. So why were so many people giving answers that just weren’t correct? Were you guys in the dark? Was the Vice President misled again, as happened with Mike Flynn —
  • Was the Vice President in the dark, too?
  • Sarah, you said from the podium yesterday that Director Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI. On Capitol Hill today, the Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe directly contradicted that. What led you and the White House to believe that he had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI when the Acting Director says it’s exactly the opposite?
  • And a question to what you were saying about the Democrats. Clearly, they didn’t like James Comey too much after the October 28th pronouncement that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Their point now is the timing is different, that this was in the middle of an investigation.  Do they have a point?
  • Thank you. Another comment from the hearing today — the Acting Deputy Attorney General said — I’m sorry, McCabe said that he considers the investigation into Russian meddling in the election to be highly significant. In the past, the President has said that the investigation was a hoax, and he’s questioned even recently whether maybe it wasn’t Russia, it might have been China. Does the President consider this investigation to be highly significant?
  • But in terms of the threat to national security, does he take that seriously? Does he think that’s significant? Putting aside the —
  •  Does the think what Russia did during the election was a threat to U.S. national security?
  • Is he open-minded about that? He doesn’t know —
  • Sarah, I appreciate it. Two questions. First, as has been mentioned, Vice President Pence yesterday said the firing was based on the recommendation of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. We know now that that’s not true. Was the Vice President misled again, or did he mislead the American people?
  • But if you have, I don’t think I caught it, because the Vice President said yesterday that the President chose to accept and support the decision of the Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General.
  • He said he was going to do it either way.
  • So if I may just switch topics slightly. If the President knew he was going to do this, why ask for those memos to begin with? Why not just fire Comey? Why have these memos put out and then explain that he did it because of the memos, but then say that he was going to do it either way? I’m confused as to why we even got those memos.
  • Okay, thank you. Sarah, going back to what you said about Democrats — yeah, you have some Democrats that say that Comey should have been fired, but they’re questioning the timing. Why now? Even though the Deputy Attorney General did do that, they’re questioning why now. He couldn’t wait anymore?
  • Why not day one, when he comes in?
  • And then last question: Monday, Sean Spicer, when he was at the podium, he said after the testimony with Clapper and Yates, he said — he talked about there was no collusion from what Clapper said. But he also said that there needs to be a timeline when the Russia investigation ends. And then yesterday you said it should continue. Which one is it? Should it continue or should it end? Because Spicer said the President wanted it to end, Monday. And now, yesterday, you said it should continue. I mean, I’m just trying to find out which one it is.
  • We now know the President fired the FBI Director with more than six years left on his 10-year term because he was a show-boater, a grandstander. How important is it that the next FBI director not be a show-boater or a grandstander? And how important is it that this person show loyalty to the President?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. First, I want to follow up on what John asked about, the rank and file of the FBI. Don’t you think the acting director of the FBI has a better handle on the rank and file than you do?
  • And I want to also ask about the meeting yesterday between President Trump and the Russian Foreign Minister. Can you walk us through how a photographer from either a Russian state news outlet or the Russian government got into that meeting and got those photographs out?
  • Usually, media — independent media in the U.S. is typically invited into those meetings. Why didn’t that happen in this case?
  •  Has the President been questioned by the FBI with regard to their investigation into Russian interference in the election?
  • Does he expect to be?
  • So, at the Justice Department, there’s a general protocol that discourages conversations with the President of the United States by the FBI director about anything that might involve the President. That’s the general aspect of the protocol that’s usually required to ensure that there is no confusion about political interference of any kind, of even the impression or the appearance of political influence on the FBI. That’s the standard procedure. You just said here it was appropriate for the President of the United States to ask whether or not he was under investigation. Why is it appropriate if that’s not consistent with the guidelines at the Justice Department to avoid that very encounter?
  • So the Justice Department should change its protocol on this?
  • What you think and the President thinks.
  • Would you say, based on the experience that you and Sean and this communications office had Tuesday and Wednesday, that you were given all of the best information to relay to the American public, through us — and your job is to relay that information to the American public; we’re only intermediaries — about what happened with this firing and the rationale for it?
  • And would you say that that information was accurate then or is more accurate now?
  • And so by that standard, should reporters and the country essentially wait for a pronouncement from the President before believing that which is stated on his behalf by the White House communications staff?
  • I don’t think asking you a question and getting an answer is “lost in the process” Sarah, with all respect.
  • Two questions. Following up on this, back in, I think, October of last year, the former President was highly criticized by members of the FBI and other ethical folks outside of the FBI for making some comments on television that sort of suggested that he had an opinion about how the Hillary Clinton email case should go. And the charge was that he was interfering, that he was putting his thumb on the scale of an ongoing, active investigation. There was a lot of criticism from Republicans of the President about that. Talk to me about how that — how what this President did in his series of conversations with the FBI director doesn’t go far beyond what former President Obama did? And to Major’s point, how can you argue — regardless of maybe some pundits on TV who might be saying otherwise — how can you argue that that doesn’t have an appearance of trying to influence an investigation that’s actively going on?
  • But people clearly know which way he wants it to come out, right?
  • And one last question, just to follow up on the FBI thing. And I’m not trying to be overly combative here, but you said now today, and I think you said again yesterday, that you personally have talked to countless FBI officials, employees, since this happened.  I mean, really?  So are we talking —
  • Like 50?
  • Sixty, seventy?
  • Sarah, there’s a report from The Wall Street Journal that the Deputy Attorney General asked the White House Counsel to correct the version of events that was coming out initially after the Comey firing. Is that accurate? And does that contribute to the different version of events that we’ve seen over the last 48 hours?
  • And did the President know that Comey had sought more resources before his investigation, before he made the decision?
  • So, Sarah, was it a mistake for the White House to try to pin the decision to fire James Comey on Rod Rosenstein?
  • — it was on his recommendation.
  •  And just to clarify one thing you said. You said the President has encouraged this investigation into Russia. He wants to see it reach its completion sooner rather than later. How has he encouraged it if he just fired the man who was overseeing the Russia investigation?

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