TOWOIT #119

May 15, 2017… Day 116

Where to begin. Where to even begin.

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Found this in a drawer today

Here’s stuff that came out before the Washington Post bombshell news alert:

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SO, here’s a ton of tweets and headlines about this thing which seems to be a bombshell (but inevitably, like always, will never be THE bombshell). Trump gave highly classified info to Lavrov and Kislyak in the Oval Office last week. Info given to us by an ally, which they did not want Russia to have. Washington Post broke the story this afternoon. Two officials confirmed the story later for other outlets. H.R. McMaster came out on the White House lawn and barked at reporters for 90 seconds (literally 90 seconds), and then went back inside without answering a single question. I think that’s all the backstory you need.

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And before all that, these are the questions reporters asked Sean Spicer at the White House Press Briefing today:

  • Thank you, Sean. Just in China, NSC Senior Director  say the U.S. is forming a working group and say the U.S. company have much to offer. So what’s the prospective of the U.S. future collaboration in this —
  • Sean, a couple of topics, but first of all, back to what you said about Syria. Is the official policy of this administration now regime change in Syria?
  • Over the weekend, a lot of complaints from Democrats about the Comey replacement process. First of all, that Jeff Sessions is leading the search — there are a lot of Democrats who think that because he recused himself from the Russia investigation he should not be in that position. Secondly, some Democrats in the Senate are saying that before they will consider the President’s next nominee, they want a special prosecutor appointed to look into the Russia investigation. Can you respond to both of those?
  • And on the special prosecutor?
  • Thank you. Let me pick up where Mr. Bossert left off about this — about the ransomeware attack. In the short term  — a short-term question and a long-term question. In the short term, is it the advice of the administration — should somebody be — who has their computer system infected not to pay the ransom?
  • As it relates to the long term, at the end of the day this is extortion from likely hostile foreign actors. Might the administration set some sort of guidelines or policies as it relates to U.S. individuals, U.S. companies? Should they be approached as to what to do and maybe what not to do?
  • Do you know what — he mentioned FedEx.  Do you know if that was a — something specific happened to FedEx?
  • Thank you. Yeah, I wanted to ask about the election integrity commission. Is the primary goal of this going to be looking for recommending reforms of the federal laws, like the NDRA, or looking at (inaudible) or is it going to be more of an audit of the 2016 election?
  • Okay, and one more. As far as North Korea goes, with the new South Korean government coming in, does the administration advise against their reaching out or (inaudible) that they had towards the North Korean regime?
  • Oh, the new South Korean government — is the administration advising against South Korea reaching out to North Korea after this weekend’s missile test?
  • Thanks a lot, Sean. On the search for the new FBI director, the President today said that it’s “moving rapidly.” One name that was put forward over the course of the past 24 hours by the Senate Majority Leader is that of Merrick Garland. Is that a name that the President would possibly consider in the move to name a new FBI director?
  • Sean, can I follow up on the tape question from last week? As you know, several Republicans have joined Democrats in seeking additional information from the White House, in writing, about the existence of any tapes, producing the tapes, and any further information about the potential taping of conversations. Is the White House intending to cooperate with those requests and furnish that information as requested in writing?
  • Wait, wait — Sean, does that mean that the President will deny the request?
  • You’re describing a situation in which the President would defy the legislative branch’s request. That’s what you’re saying.
  • Sean, people clearly still have concerns about Russia’s role in the election, even though the President has essentially said there’s nothing to it. If there is nothing to hide, why not back a special prosecutor or independent commission just to settle it beyond any doubt?
  • Well, we saw polling this weekend from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal — 80 percent of people want this, and they don’t have confidence in Congress.
  • Sean, two questions for you. On North Korea, is there a new sense of urgency for President Trump to act following the successful ballistic missile test over the weekend?
  • On a quick domestic issue, what characteristics is President Trump looking for in an FBI director?
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions. First one — you told us over and over that, for NAFTA, we were waiting for Lighthizer — Robert Lighthizer — to be confirmed. Now he’s going to be sworn in. Can you give us a better idea on the pace of the renegotiation of NAFTA now that we have a Trade Representative?
  • Can we say like —
  • Last week — quickly — H.R. McMaster touched the topic. But when the President will be with NATO allies, is he going to ask for a larger, bigger involvement in Afghanistan with troops on the ground, from the members?
  • But more allies with soldiers on the ground?
  • Thank you, Sean. A two-part question. Is President Trump still committed to his 15-percent corporate tax rate? He’s also under pressure to keep some existing loopholes, such as eliminating the state income tax write-off for high state taxes, such as New York and California. So is he committed to the 15-percent corporate tax rate? And is he also full steam ahead on getting rid of the write-off for high-tax states?
  • Should low-tax states, though, subsidize higher-tax states? Because places like Florida and Tennessee can’t write off zero income taxes.
  • Thanks, Sean. On the search for the new FBI director, there have been some critics who have said in this particular political climate, whoever it is shouldn’t be a current or former politician. We saw the list of people who have been interviewed, and we see that at least two of them are either current or former political figures. Does the President have a feeling on whether or not having held elective office is a plus or a minus to hold that job?
  • Thanks, Sean. I have two questions for you, but I guess I’m just looking for some clarity on one of my colleague’s questions here. Why won’t you just explain whether or not there are recordings of the President’s conversation?
  • That’s not my question, so why won’t you explain it?
  •  So given that you refuse to confirm or deny any of this, how is any senior official supposed to feel comfortable having a conversation privately with the President?
  • Even with these congressional lawmakers calling —
  • So the second question that I have for you then is on the arguments that are happening now in the 9th Circuit regarding the administration’s travel ban. One of the lines of questioning has been why the President has not disavowed his Muslim ban. Will he do that?
  • My question is more, will he disavow the ban? He’s never said it —
  • But given these questions come up, is there any indication the President will come out and say, yes, I disavow what I said about not allowing —
  • Thank you. Considering in contrast to much of the expression during the French presidential election — and that has been reported in France, especially — there may be a lot more in common between President Trump and the new President, Emmanuel Macron of France. Both former successful businessmen, both leaders of two very powerful countries, and two of the oldest allies going, basically. Knowing this, would the President look forward to an opportunity to bring this young President closer to him? Maybe meeting on the borders in — at the G7? Or maybe even inviting him here to the Maison Blanche in the next few months?
  • This is a special one.
  • The oldest one. Before we were a republic.
  • Thank you, Sean. Two brief questions. First, there are reports — and it may be confirmed by now — that Mrs. Callista Gingrich will be the third woman to be U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. Official?
  • All right. Has her name been vetted with the Vatican?
  • The other question is not related to personnel but process with the FBI director.  Sarah spoke last week about an interim or an acting director of the FBI. But with the interviews that you describe with the Department of Justice, can we expect that the name who is nominated for the position from that podium will be for permanent director and promptly submitted to the Senate?
  • So no interim or acting?
  • I have — I know this isn’t on the front burner right now, but I have actually the healthcare question.
  • As it goes to the Senate, I’m wondering if the President’s negotiating strategy will change. Does he want to get involved earlier? Does he want to wait till the Senate kind of comes up with something? Does he have anything in particular he wants them to keep from the House bill, get rid of from the House bill?  What’s his approach to this new chapter in the AHCA repeal process?
  • But he kind of came in at the end to kind of close the deal in the House. Does he want to get involve more in the earlier stages of the process in the Senate, or just stick with the same negotiating strategy?
  • Two things. Just going back to the FBI director search, should we expect the President to begin interviewing personally the short short list before he leaves on the trip?
  • And I want to go back to — you started off with Syria there. The State Department today, of course, announced that the Syrian government has apparently been carrying out mass killings, burning thousands of prisoners. I’m wondering if that crosses any kind of red line for the President and whether we should expect to see any kind of military response to that.
  • Should we expect any direct action by the President —
  • When it comes to vetting for the FBI director, after the experience with Michael Flynn, is the White House recommending doing anything differently with vetting the FBI director? Are you already doing something different with that vetting?
  • But are you going to change things up?
  •  Okay. Two questions. Wanted to follow up on Hallie’s question. How has the President made it clear what his position is on the —
  •  — he made it clear. All I’ve seen is the tweet.
  • Okay, but he had “tapes” in quotes.
  • Okay, I just wanted you to — clarification on it.
  • My second question is, has he made any other inquiries about the Russia investigation to any other FBI officials?
  • Okay, and one small follow-up. Last week, you said you would get back to us on who requested the dinner between him and Comey.
  • Why does he feel that Comey was the wrong person for the American people?

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