TOWOIT #116

May 12, 2017… Day 113

H.R. McMaster came in and yelled at the reporters during the White House Press Briefing. He sounded just like Flynn putting Iran on notice. I don’t know why McMaster wants to mess with his reputation like that. He’s part of the propaganda machine now.

I don’t want to forget, in light of this Comey madness (more madness today), that Jeff Sessions is a total disaster as Attorney General for other reasons. Harsher drug sentencing, and the lack of sympathy for the victims of police brutality — this guy is racist as fuck. As one headline said, this guy is going to fill prisons one way or another.

Tillerson signed a trans-Arctic agreement emphasizing the need for action on climate change, even as the Trump administration is still mulling over withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

Chris Stirewalt, writing for Fox News online today:

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 7.54.00 PM

And in another Fox News piece, this one by John Moody, there’s this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 7.56.28 PM

The first piece is harshly critical of Trump. The second is much much kinder, the paragraph I just clipped notwithstanding. But the second piece seems to be offering Trump a narrative. The title is “Does Donald Trump Want to be President?” It’s laced with Trump flattery and is a sweetly persuasive argument for why it would be better for Trump, and make total sense, if he just bowed out now and let Pence take over. It would still be a success. It would be the best win!

Also, on the Fox News TV channel today they were going full bore on the Comey story. Earlier in the week, they were pretending like it was barely happening.

Vanity Fair included Fox in its rundown of media responses yesterday:

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 8.44.41 PM

This morning, a conservative financial blog casually (and straight-facedly) ran the numbers of what they predicted the markets would do if Trump resigned (answer: a 3-5% bump!). One guy at work said he bet that Trump would resign BY MONDAY. Everyone laughed at him, but still. Also, for what it’s worth, the moderate Republicans at work have started throwing around the word “impeachment.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 9.08.18 PM

Today is also the day that Trump suggested there were tapes of his conversations with Comey, and told Comey (via tweet) to watch his mouth when talking to the press.

Comey declined to testify to Congress next week. But then it seeped out later that he wanted to testify in public, not in a closed door session. Also that he said he HOPED there were tapes. Cause that’d be perfect.

Bunch of stuff with Paul Manafort and his finances. Bunch of stuff with Trump’s finances. Stupid “certified letter” regarding Trump’s financial ties to Russia. The Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit agreed to hand over financial information on Trump.

Questions the reporters asked Sean Spicer today:

  • Moving on to the news of the week, really, and the day, did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI Director Comey?
  • His tweet.
  • Why did he say that? Why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?
  • Are there recording devices in the Oval Office or in the residence?
  • Does he think it’s appropriate to threaten someone like Mr. Comey not to speak?
  •  If I could quote another one of the President’s tweets this morning, he said “Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the U.S. tears itself apart over a Democrat excuse for losing the election.” What did the President mean by that? How specifically is the U.S. tearing itself apart over all of this?
  • I understand all that, but — you’ve said that many times. But how is the U.S. “tearing itself apart” over this?
  • Do you think this is what the Russians wanted all along in interfering with the election?
  • Sean, in the dinner that the President had with James Comey earlier in January, did the President implore him to pledge his loyalty to the President? Is that true?
  • Did that happen? That did not happen?
  • How important is it that the FBI director be loyal to the President? Is that a quality the President wants to see in anyone, particularly his FBI director?
  • Thanks, Sean. On the dinner with James Comey, does anyone in this White House have an audio recording of what unfolded during the January 27th dinner between the former FBI director and the President of the United States?
  • I have one follow-up question for you. What can the administration do better when it comes to communication? Today the President tweeted out that he felt from behind that podium it’s not always possible to present the information with “perfect accuracy.”
  • Is the President considering cancelling the daily press briefings?
  • Can I ask you one final logistical question? On the original question I had about the dinner on January 27th with James Comey, the President wasn’t clear during the NBC interview who invited the FBI director to the White House at that time. How many invitations did the White House send to Director James Comey after January 20th and before the director was fired?
  • Thanks, Sean. I have a question about the Turkish President’s visit next week. He recently called — President Erdogan called for Muslims to rush the Temple Mount. Considering the President has said he’s a mediator for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, what is his response to that? And then I have another question.
  • Are those comments helpful from the Turkish President?
  • My other question is, is the discussion about the refugee crisis, which is fueling problems in Europe — the President has talked about refugees being a problem in the United States and terrorists hiding refugees — or refugees hiding in the — terrorists hiding in the refugee stream, excuse me. Is he going to talk about that with Arab leaders specifically when he visits Saudi Arabia? Or is that not something that he’s willing to bring up to those leaders?
  • But in Saudi Arabia specifically?
  • Thanks a lot, Sean. In that interview that the President conducted yesterday with NBC, he indicated and confirmed that on three separate occasions he asked the director of the FBI, and received assurances from the FBI, that he was not under investigation by the FBI. Why was the President seemingly so consumed by this that he would ask that question on three separate occasions?
  • I would appreciate you getting back to me. And as far as asking that question, did the President ask the White House Counsel whether it would be appropriate to ask such a question, given that it was against, generally, Justice Department guidelines to indicate whether or not investigations are ongoing against any individual, let alone one at the White House?
  • Did the White House Counsel —
  • General McMaster mentioned that, on the trip, the President is going to be raising the issue of religious persecution with the Pope. And I wanted to ask you about a case in the last week, in Indonesia, where a Christian governor in the state of Jakarta was imprisoned for two years for blaspheming the Quran.  Does the President find that case troubling? Does he plan to say anything —
  • Thanks, Sean. I just want to clear up a point on Jeff’s question. I’m hoping you can answer this in a yes-or-no fashion. Is the President of the United States currently recording conversations taking place in the Oval Office?
  • And I wanted to follow up. Since you were involved in this on Tuesday night as well, giving a blanket answer and saying at the time that it was all him regarding Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, why did you come out with information that was later contradicted by the President two days later? Can you explain the tick-tock? When were you brought in? Who else was involved?  Why were the American people given incorrect information that night?
  • Sean, I wanted to follow up on that real briefly. What you said Tuesday doesn’t match what the President was laying out yesterday, in the interview yesterday. Can you walk through why the discrepancy in terms of whose decision this was?
  • Okay, well, did he —
  • Sean, let me ask you about the way forward as it relates to who the President might nominate to be the FBI director. Where does that process stand right now? How many people have been interviewed? Does the President hope to wrap this up before he goes overseas?
  • Sean, Sarah was talking the other day about how somebody, not necessarily being political in that role — if somebody has been a member of Congress, past or present, does that count as an automatic disqualifier as somebody who might be —
  • And lastly, does the President still have — the other day someone asked, does the President have confidence in Andrew McCabe? After the testimony on Capitol Hill the other day, is that still the case? He is the acting director at this moment.
  • Yesterday, Sarah told us that the President expects that the FBI investigation will be wrapped up with integrity — that’s what the White House wants. Today, the President tweeted and called it a “witch hunt.” How does tweeting and calling it a “witch hunt” help wrap that investigation up with integrity?
  • And secondly, I talked to a former FBI official today who said that the President’s tweet, the implicit threat to former FBI Director James Comey, indicates that the President, in his words, is simply “out of control.” I’d like to get you to respond to that. Is he?
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions about the FBI director selection process. You said the names are coming from the Justice Department right now. Is the President consulting with Democratic congressional leaders, as well, or Republican congressional leaders on this? Or is he just getting names out of DOJ?
  • Now, I know that you said you’re not disqualifying anyone on this. You also know there has been considerable mention in the last 24 hours of former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers as the new FBI director.  Does the President have a meeting planned this weekend with Congressman Rogers?
  • I had a couple questions about the President’s remarks to NBC about General Flynn. He said that it wasn’t an emergency, or he didn’t think it was an emergency and that’s why the firing, dismissal didn’t happen right away. So I had a couple questions about that. Why didn’t he think it was an emergency?  And was it because of the messenger? Was it because information came from Sally Yates, who you called an opponent — I think a political opponent of the President? Or is because Don McGahn downplayed the situation? Can you explain what he meant by that? And I have a follow-up.
  • Okay, so then two follow-ups. One, I’m still unclear, and you’ve mentioned this several times, why did it take so long for the White House to get those documents?
  • Is the White House asking?  You couldn’t go get the documents?
  • Is it because she was fired, though, in between?
  • Just explain to us then a little bit, when you compare these two situations with General Flynn and Director Comey, the memo came one day and he was fired that day. That was the review process. And General Flynn was 18 days. That’s a huge difference. Why was one so fast when one was 18 days?
  • Sean, in the tweet about Director Comey, he said — the President says that he “better be careful before he goes leaking to the press.” Yesterday, on NBC News, the President called him a showboat and a grandstander. Does the White House acknowledge that Director Comey has a First Amendment right to speak to the press if he so chooses to set the record straight about any of this, instead of just leaking? It may not be leaking, it may just be his First Amendment right to speak to the press.
  • Okay, and a follow-up. Just in terms of the FBI being in disarray, also the President’s comments, is he concerned that if he continues like this it could jeopardize morale at the FBI instead of actually kind of correcting a problem that he obviously observes there?
  • I want to ask you — President Trump seemed to rely on James Clapper this morning when he tweeted that virtually he and everyone else with knowledge of the “witch hunt” says there’s no collusion. James Clapper himself today told Andrea Mitchell, “I don’t know if there was collusion or not. I don’t know if there’s evidence of collusion or not, nor should I.” On March 5th on “Meet the Press,” when he was asked a similar question, he said, “Not to my knowledge.” So can you describe the discrepancy and explain it?
  • No, between Director Clapper’s comments and President Trump — why is he leaning on Clapper when he said “I have no knowledge” of whether there was collusion?
  • He said he hasn’t been briefed. He said he wouldn’t know because he hasn’t been briefed on the investigation.
  • He was very clear today that — he said, “Nor should I have in this particular context.” He made the case that he’s not briefed on an FBI investigation, that that’s not his purview.
  • But at one point was — he wouldn’t know, right? That there has been no final conclusion. And the President seemed to indicate that there was —
  • The President doesn’t believe that there’s been a final conclusion made about this investigation, right? There’s an ongoing investigation. He’s not making that argument, is he?  
  • His argument is he wants to move forward with the investigation. But I want to move on to just one other question.
  • But the comments are not mutually exclusive, Sean. He’s saying he wasn’t — (inaudible) — “it’s not surprising or abnormal that I would not have known about the investigation or the context of the investigation.”
  • Let’s talk very quickly about the accuracy tweet.
  • He wasn’t saying he wasn’t sure. He said he wasn’t briefed. But moving on to the accuracy tweet.
  • No, but I just am interested in the discrepancy and drawing a final conclusion on the part of the President.
  • No, on the part of the President, drawing a final conclusion about the investigation. In terms of the accuracy tweet, should we take that tweet to mean that you don’t have the full picture when you stand at that podium?
  • Can I — Sean, can I actually pick up there if you don’t mind?
  • So I wanted to ask you about the One Belt, One Road Summit that starts on Sunday in China. You announced yesterday, or Secretary Ross did, that you’re going to send a delegation to that summit. Can you talk about how you came to that conclusion, why it’s important for the U.S. to be represented at what’s ostensibly a major trade initiative by a foreign country?
  • Is the intended signal that the U.S. is going to participate in the One Belt, One Road initiative?
  • Two questions — the first on loyalty and the next one on the visit to the FBI headquarters. So this President does value loyalty. Was there any sort of — before you were hired, any sort of request or hint that you pledge personal loyalty to him at all before you were hired?
  • Is it true that the President was warned that he might not be well-received at the FBI headquarters if he were to visit it?

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