TOWOIT #161

June 30, 2017… Day 162

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  • Sarah, the President tweeted this morning about healthcare. In which he said that if the senators can’t get a bill on repeal and replace together, then maybe the best idea would be — as Ben Sasse and Rand Paul have suggested — split them up into a repeal and then a replacement later. This really runs counter to what the President has been promoting all through the campaign and earlier this year where he insisted that the two things had to be done, if not simultaneously, at least very close to each other. What is the basis for his change in thinking on this particular point?
  • So how does it square this idea with repeal it now, replace it later with what you had said on repeated occasions before that these things needed to be done very close to each other in order to maintain continuity of coverage for many Americans?
  • Sarah, in terms of putting some more specifics on the replacement part, one of the issues that they’re having is you got 11 or 12 senators now who are not happy with what’s going on with Medicaid — they can deal with some of the repeal elements.  Can you give us the most specific — you were asked about this a couple of days ago — the most specific articulation of what you want to see in terms of Medicaid?  And do you agree with some of these senators who think what’s in the Senate bill, in terms of Medicaid phasing out, is, to point a phrase, too mean?
  • How about sort of the specifics outlined in the CBO about the potential for, you know, 18 million — what is it — 23 million total, 15 million by next year. Is that just too steep a drop-off for the President?
  • In terms of the CBO articulation analysis of what would happen under Medicaid over the next three or four years, is that too steep a drop off in terms of Medicaid?  Does the President have any objection to what was in the Senate bill with regards to Medicaid?
  • I’d like to follow up with that first. Where did the President actually get the idea of separating them? Was it through conversations with Senator Paul, or was it something that Senator Ben Sasse had said on the television program?   
  • And then I wanted to ask about the Election Commission. Does the President have any thoughts on the fact that so many governors and other state officials have said they’re not going to comply with this request for public information for the Election Integrity Commission?  
  • Thanks, Sarah. Let me expand upon the tweet that John had brought up. You just answered his question in part by saying we’re still focused on trying to push through where we are; the bottom line is we’re focused on the end product here. Is this potential splitting up of the bill, is that plan B at this point?
  • And Ben Sasse said in his letter, and on television had mentioned, the first Monday coming back — which is either — I believe it’s July 10th — as to the date as to when they should do it. Does the White House ascribe to that date?
  • I wanted to ask about two separate policy things. The first one is steel. The President said today that he had secured some assurances from the Koreans on that. I’m wondering if those were actual changes that we might see to KORUS or other trade agreements, or if it’s more “we’ll look at it and get back to you” type of assurance. And then, broadly, if the report in this morning was correct in that the President has determined he’s going to impose tariffs on steel.?
  • And on Korea?
  • And then I have one on food aid.
  • Food aid.
  • The President is moving to require all food aid to be sent on U.S. flag carriers, but it’s a policy that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have actually been moving away from. AEI, which is not a liberal group, said that it would make food aid costs 46 percent more, it may take 14 weeks longer to reach people, unlikely to create new U.S. jobs. We heard yesterday from senior administration officials about the President sees foreign aid as an important part of diplomacy and wants to cut costs here. So I’m just trying to figure out how this is not just kind of a bumper sticker strategy, but why this is actually a good idea for the United States.
  • Why this isn’t just a bumper sticker strategy of, you know, we’re putting it on U.S. ships, but why this actually makes sense from a policy standpoint.
  • Sarah, just to be clear, the preference of the White House is to go forward with the drafting of a repeal and replace in the Senate and see if that can pass. That’s the correct position of the White House, right?
  • And so this idea of separating the two is only a backup, as an emergency, if this other process fails, correct?
  • The reason I ask —
  • Is because if you take — if you separate them, as you know, one is reconciliation and the other one isn’t, which makes it much more difficult, and for people as you’ve identified in Nevada and Ohio, repeal only takes care of one of their problems. It doesn’t deal with them being able to find new carriers or alternative plans as the replacement would. So I’m just trying to figure out how much of an idea this really is that we should be focusing on, or should this attention still be on repeal and replace as the primary White House focus.
  • If you did separate them, it would complicate things.  Not only legislatively
  • What is — I’m asking.
  • What does the President think about the idea of the cancellation of recess in August to focus on healthcare and other legislative ideas and agenda items? That’s something 10 Republican senators suggested today.
  • Cancelling the recess, staying in town, and working on healthcare and the sort of issues — the debt ceiling, tax cuts. Would the President endorse that?
  • On Chicago, with the ATF permanent taskforce there, is that a suggestion or a recognition that at least part of the problem in Chicago is a gun control problem or a firearms access control problem?
  • At his recent rally in Cedar Rapids, President Trump said the situation in the Middle East is worse than it was 16 years ago. Is he concerned about how long the war in Afghanistan is dragging on for?
  • Does he want to see Americans in a combat role there by, say, 2020?
  • Thank you, Sarah. With all the furor and tumult in yesterday’s press conference — or press briefing, some have suggested that maybe it is time for the President to have another news conference and perhaps answer these questions himself, rather than subject spokespeople such as you and Sean to questions about recent controversy. Does he plan an actual news conference in the near future?
  • The other thing is — my other question is: Has the President today read The New York Magazine article by Gabriel Sherman about the White House and its involvement with Joe Scarborough at all?
  • Back to the question of trade, the President said today that he was negotiating with South Korea on the agreement.  Has the KORUS agreement been reopened? And if it has been reopened, what’s the mechanism for that? And how much concern, if any, is there about impacting other relationships, security relationships with South Korea?
  • Any impact on the cooperation over North Korean aggression with South Korea?
  • What concern is there about an impact on the cooperation with South Korea on the military issues and security issues with North Korea?
  • Yes. Yes, yes.
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah.  I wanted to ask you about the travel ban. It’s the first full day that it’s gone into effect, and it’s scheduled to last for 90 days. And my question has to do with what are the next steps. If it lasts for 90 days, that takes you up to the end of September. Are there plans to extend the travel ban before this issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court?
  • Just two quick questions here.
  • On what?

 

TOWOIT #160

June 29, 2017… Day 161

“I’ve been through impeachments, but we can’t wait that long. It is TIME for YOU to RESIGN.” –Sheila Jackson Lee

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Jezebel has a new bulleted list of daily political news scraps. They call it Barf Bag. It’s funny and has links and is more comprehensive and less gratuitously personal than this blog so I recommend it.

Wall Street Journal published an article today about attempts at collusion between a Trump associate and … Russian hackers? I don’t have the full gist yet. Haven’t seen the article. I suppose there’s no need to rush on that. I can’t even tell when something is new anymore.

Trump’s “election fraud commission” wants states to hand over all their voter information for individuals. So far, three states have said no.

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Here’s what reporters asked freakin Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a liar who complains about being called a liar to her face:

  • Sarah, in reference to the President’s tweets this morning that have been a matter of some discussion today, you said earlier on Fox News that the President has a right to defend himself when he is attacked and it’s no secret that this particular program has been very critical of him. However, the nature of the tweets this morning has drawn condemnation from people on Capitol Hill, including the Speaker of the House, Senator Graham, Senator Susan Collins — all of whom are allies of the President. Did the President go too far with his tweet in its deeply personal nature?
  • If I could just follow on that, Sarah, if I could just follow on that. A couple of the criticisms from supporters of the President have been that this particular tweet was beneath the dignity of the office. Where does the President draw that line, on the dignity of the office?
  • I have a healthcare question, but on this, just one other aspect of it. Some have suggested in their tweet response or public announcements today that the President misconstrued one of the messages that should have been gathered from the shooting that involved Steve Scalise and others, the hostility of the verbal environment can create an atmosphere of violence. I’m not saying that, but members of Congress have said that about this particular tweet. I know that episode affected the President and those here at the White House personally, very importantly and deeply. Do you have any reaction to that sentiment, that conversations like this create an atmosphere that is either dangerous or one we need to avoid?
  • Sarah, I just had a healthcare question. So you talked about the President’s overall priorities. Last night, late last night, as part of the amendment and evolution on the Senate draft, $45 million was put on the table for opioid treatment and health savings accounts can be used, according to this new draft, to pay premiums in the future. Does the President support those two initiatives, and why does he believe they make the bill better, specifically does he believe that opioid allocation will be sufficient, as many people do not, to address that problem?
  • How about on health savings accounts?  Does he have any particular approach —
  • Sarah, what about the Republicans who are criticizing the President?
  • Sarah, thank you. I want to go back to the shooting and remember what President Trump said then. He said, “Our country will perhaps become closer, more unified, so important.” Does his tweet this morning, his series of tweets help to unify the country?
  • But do his tweets help to unify the country, to do what he said he wanted to see happen in the wake of that shooting?
  • He’s the President of the United States, Sarah.  
  • Sarah, two questions, to follow up on that. One is that I understand your point, but he’s the President of the United States, they are cable news anchors.  So he has to stand to a higher standard, one. And two, you talk about criticism, he said that former President Obama wasn’t born in this country, right? So he clearly was a part of criticizing the past President, who was not immune to criticism himself. So I wonder how you make that argument.
  • Doesn’t he have to meet a higher standard than cable news anchors, Sarah?  Doesn’t he have to meet a higher standard than cable news anchors?
  • Sarah, how is insulting a woman on Twitter being a fighter?
  • What about the impact of statements like this on his effectiveness? There was a Maris poll this week that said 68 percent of registered voters say the President’s tweets are reckless and distracting. Only 22 percent say that they’re effective and informative. And Republicans on this question are split down the middle — half of Republicans say that they’re reckless and distracting.  So how can you argue that this is something the President must do?
  •  Sarah, as a woman, how do you feel about the President attacking another woman specifically for her looks? And what does that show as an example to how men should be treating other women?
  • He’s the President, Sarah. 
  • Why can’t he take the heat?
  •  I just have a follow-up, Sarah, and then I have a separate question too. And this kind of gets to the point that’s been made, and —
  • You’ve been talking about the idea that the President is a fighter. I just want to put it in — because you talk about being personally affected by all of this as well, and that nothing is wrong with the President fighting fire with fire, is the argument that you’re making. So I would ask this to you sort of on a personal level. You have stood here and talked about your family from this podium. Are you going to tell your kids this behavior is okay?
  • I want to ask you my follow-up, Sarah — a follow-up question just on more policy points, with the G20 coming up next week.
  • I disagree with that. I think we talk about policy a lot here.
  • I just did one about five minutes ago, Sarah.
  • But I want to ask about his meeting with President Putin that is coming up next week that has just been confirmed by Gary Cohn and H.R. McMaster, and a definitive answer from you on whether the President will bring up election interference. It is clearly the biggest topic between the U.S. and Russia right now, the fact that Moscow meddled in the election. Is the President going to press Putin on that?
  • Thanks.
  •  Okay, thanks a lot, Sarah. The President’s tweet today, does it help his legislative agenda? Does it help him win the votes of those nine senators who have come out against that Senate bill? Senator Collins, Senator Murkowski, for instance? What’s your view on that?
  • But as it relates to his legislative agenda — I’m not asking about the tweet itself, I’m asking about whether or not this helps his legislative agenda.
  • All those points that you make, Sarah, about the —
  •  — the positive elements of the President’s agenda are certainly true. All of those things are true. But the President today put out this tweet which takes away from all of that, and do you expect us here in this room to simply ignore that? Now, I think that’s the valid question that should be asked of you right now. Should we just ignore this entirely?
  • Two questions for you, Sarah. First, did the U.S., did the administration send a representative to the funeral mass for Chancellor Kohl? Or will they send anyone to the official funeral service July 1st?
  • My other question is this: You’ve had people turn down nominations to be deputy secretary of the Treasury. The President is on his third appointee, I believe, for Secretary of the Army. And the ambassador to Ireland has declined the nomination, and there’s no candidates for ambassador to Germany or France — both major allies — or Greece, for that matter, an important country.  Is the President having trouble recruiting people to fill some of the key slots that remain unfilled after six months?
  • Hey, Sarah. Thank you so much. I don’t want to talk about any tweets. I want to talk about making America great again, and part of that energy dominance in Energy Week. Here’s the thing:  During the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, we had some pretty scary times in North Dakota.  Just a couple weeks ago, a judge (inaudible) suggesting that the Army Corps of Engineers had prematurely issued some permits. This creates more uncertainty for people. My question is this:  What specifically is the administration going to do to give these companies more certainty, more clarity as they make these multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investments to improve our energy? At the same point in time, our tribal leaders and tribal nations (inaudible) feeling honored and respected about this entire permitting process.
  • Thank you, Sarah. I want to ask you again about this Russia sanctions legislations in Congress. If, as Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said, the administration wants to go to the upper limits of the law in keeping those sanctions on Russia, then why not support this legislation that basically keeps what has been slapped down in place?
  • Sarah, our question is on healthcare. Specifically, our governor put out a number that perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana will lose their healthcare if this bill goes through. If you add up the other states, that kind of puts it into the millions.  Is there an acceptable number (inaudible) behind the scenes of people losing coverage to get the great bill through?
  • Thanks, Sarah. I had a two-parter. The President had let us know that he had planned on having an ISIS news conference to update people on the situation within the next couple weeks, which is now-ish. But we’re coming up on departure —
  • Now-ish. I’m wondering, do you expect that we would get that update, whether it’s a news conference or just kind of remarks before the upcoming foreign trip, or whether we need to wait? And I also wanted to ask you — it looked like there might be some coverage of remarks at the fundraiser yesterday. It didn’t work out. But beyond yesterday, are you guys looking at beginning to do that now for fundraisers of a certain size to have some transparency and the ability to hear what he’s telling donors?
  • So no apology from the president, Sarah? (called after her as she left — and ignored)

TOWOIT #159

June 28, 2017…. Day 160

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List of possibly somewhat reassuring things:

  • Burr and Warner working together in the Senate
  • Sally Yates says we should have confidence in Robert Mueller
  • Jim Comey says we should have faith in Robert Mueller
  • Delay of healthcare vote; no one is letting up though
  • Keith Ellison — he just makes me feel better
  • 43% of Republicans think Trump’s Twitter practices are “distracting and reckless” (according to NPR this morning)
  • More GOP defecting from the bill than I expected. Non-craven.
  • Overheard Trump-voter at the office: “I’d rather there be NO healthcare bill than something that caters to Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Anything that Ted Cruz thinks is acceptable, I don’t.”
  • Overheard Republican at the office: “I mean someone can go on TV and say out loud that the president is a moron, and it’s just the truth. It’s discouraging. It’s setting a whole new standard.”
  • Nicholas Burns and the other three panelists in front of Burr and Warner’s committee in the Senate today talking about Russia’s election-meddling. Burns had a lot of sharp words for Trump and the Trump administration. Risch and Cotton were garbagey to the panelists, but many of the Republicans were NOT.
  • 39% of Republicans say they don’t know enough about the health care bill to say whether they like it or not. Joy Reid cited this as a disturbing statistic, but if the approval rating for the bill is 17% with that many Republicans essentially in the dark about it, then this is even worse for the Senate Republicans than I thought. I need to know that some people are just really busy and preoccupied with their lives. It’s either that or they are all completely in the grip of Fox News, and I’ll take the blank slate over that.
  • Seen in Seattle:

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s off-camera press gaggle:

Continue reading TOWOIT #159

TOWOIT #158

June 27, 2017… Day 159

The vote on the Senate health care bill is delayed till after the July 4th recess. I haven’t really known what to do, but I made a couple phone calls today. You feel a bit redundant when your Democratic senators are already ON IT. But you can always say thank you. And I added my name to the finance committee’s tally of people asking for open hearings on the bill.

Trump had all the Republican senators up to the White House. Collins and Murkowski were on either side of him.

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I clipped most of Trump’s head out of the picture so you wouldn’t have to look at it.

I started reading this book on local political history called Seattle Justice by Christopher Bayley. He’s a Republican, a retired prosecutor. I believe he is one of those old-style Republicans we are nostalgic for now. And apparently Seattle was quite the cesspool of corruption.

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Highlight so far: Finding out that in 1926, Seattle actually elected a woman mayor named Bertha Landes. And I love it because my grandmothers were girls in Seattle in 1926, aged 15 and 4. Bertha Landes was planning to shut down the dancehalls that doubled as brothels. The women who worked in them appealed to her personally to keep them open — so she decided to just regulate them! The problem wasn’t so much the prostitution itself. It was the graft.

Sean Spicer was going to be on camera today, but they did a last minute switcheroo and it was Sarah Huckabee Sanders instead. Brian Karem has a lot more followers on Twitter today than he did 24 hours ago after he interrupted proceedings to stand up for the reporters in the room.

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  • Recently, Breitbart News challenged the accuracy of a CNN story, and afterwards it was retracted, deleted and the editors responsible were fired, as well as — the network apologized for the story.  The target of this — one of the targets of the story accepted the apology. The President went on Twitter this morning and repeated that CNN was fake news. Why isn’t their response good enough for the President?
  • Does the President actually expect —
  • Does the President actually expect us not to report on stories of a foreign country trying to influence the presidential election?
  • But, Sarah they can —
  • Sarah, that’s — come on. You’re inflaming everybody right here and right now with those words. This administration has done that as well. Why in the name of heavens — any one of us, right, are replaceable, and any one of us, if we don’t get it right, the audience has the opportunity to turn the channel or not read us.  You have been elected to serve for four years at least. There’s no option other than that. We’re here to ask you questions, you’re here to provide the answers, and what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, see, once again, the President is right and everybody else out here is fake media. And everybody in this room is only trying to do their JOB.  
  • Thank you, Sarah. I just — rapid fire because I don’t — we’ve had a bit of a long briefing here. With the — let me ask it this way — how would you describe the President’s mood on healthcare? Concerned, still encouraged? And what did you make of the CBO score, if you’ve talked to him about that? And then secondly, I want to ask you about the warning to Syria. What’s the message that the administration wants to convey, not just to the world community but also to the American people who see headlines like that and they wonder are we hurtling headlong into a major situation in that part of the world.
  • Syria, the warning to Syria. What’s your message to the international community and also to the American people who may be concerned when they read a headline like that they’re thinking, well, we may be hurtling toward a situation that involves the U.S. in that part of the world?
  • Can you explain — because you went on the record this morning — what the process was that led to that statement last night? Were members of the team at the State Department or the Defense Department taken aback by that statement, or were they fully involved? Can you give us an idea of how the process internally worked to deliberate that statement and then create the statement for public release?
  • Can you give us a timeline from the very beginning? Was that on yesterday or is it —
  • And on healthcare, you just said you accept or find valid the CBO numbers on the budget side. Is that true —
  • In its — assessment yesterday?
  • And for the purposes of the public looking at this, would this administration accept the budget and revenue numbers that were published yesterday as, generally speaking, valid and worth taking seriously?
  • wo things, one on Google and one on the economic forecast. So European officials have slapped Google with this $2.7 billion fine. Is the White House cool with European regulators hitting a U.S. company with a fine when our own Federal Trade Commission hasn’t accused them of anti-competitive behavior?
  • Okay, and also on the International Monetary Fund. So they lowered their forecast for U.S. economic growth down to 2.1 percent, which is lower than what the President has been — hope for. Can you share some reaction on what you think about this new IMF forecast?
  • Thank you. I appreciate it. If Syria is poised to launch another chemical weapons attack, isn’t that an acknowledgement that the airstrikes in April didn’t work, Sarah?
  • Why will a paper statement work, though, when airstrikes didn’t dissuade Bashar al-Assad?
  • And just to follow up very quickly, was there a principals’ meeting, a deputies’ meeting before that statement was issued by Sean Spicer last night?
  • Sarah, two questions, just like NBC. Given the news about CNN’s —
  • Given the news about CNN’s erroneous story about Anthony Scaramucci, does the White House believe there are other Russia-related stories from major outlets that have not been retracted and are just as false, including the February 14th story in The New York Times about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which James Comey called into question, which many believe the CNN story was based upon?
  • On the CNN retraction, does the White House now believe the news media have an obligation to review stories on the Russian-Trump issue and retract questionably sourced stories on the topic?
  • Do you believe that the media should go back and look at anonymously sourced stories on Russia and Trump and maybe start a review process and retract where necessary?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two healthcare questions. Okay, so you accept the budgetary calculations of the CBO, but not the projections on how many people would be insured. What about their projections on what would happen to premiums and deductibles? Is that something you accept or not accept?
  • Well, they also said that for people of certain incomes they would go way up. So you only accept them if they go down? 
  • Okay, and then another question. The President promised that his healthcare plan would not have cuts to Medicaid. Does he believe that a family of four making $60,000 makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid? In other words, that that’s just too high an income to be getting Medicaid?
  • Does he believe — he said the House bill was too mean.  Does he believe that the Senate bill is less mean, as mean, more mean? Like what does he think?

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TOWOIT #157

June 26, 2017… Day 158

Early this morning I watched a Vox video about “democratic backsliding.” How it happened in Venezuela and how it is happening here. It was very scary. But let’s focus on something good — Susan Collins is firmly opposing the Senate “healthcare” bill. YES!! Thank you for being NON-CRAVEN.

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Jim Comey’s friend does this sometimes when something is about to happen:

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Sometimes I just kinda wonder if they are actually frenemies.

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The White House seems to be gearing up for more military action against Syria. The Supreme Court is partially reinstating Trump’s travel ban. And Ivanka Trump says she tries to stay out of politics.

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I hate the White House Press Briefings being off camera. I loved to hear the reporters’ voices, see their faces, listen to their questions in real time.

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Reporters’ questions after the jump:

Continue reading TOWOIT #157

TOWOIT #156

June 25, 2017… Day 157

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Shade the Changing Girl, Issue #8 (Castellucci, Zircon, Parks, Fitzpatrick)

Pride is going on downtown. Black Lives Matter protested and halted the parade, and my queer friends are the sort that supported that.

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I’ve been inside by my fan, looking on by social media and reading the first 9 issues of Shade the Changing Girl (finally).

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Shade the Changing Girl, Issue #7 (Castellucci, Sauvage, Temofonte)

I’m really enjoying this comic.

On the healthcare front, which is currently the everything front, all I can say is COME ON, SUSAN COLLINS. COME ON, LISA MURKOWSKI. As a former Alaskan, I know you flinty, pragmatic Republican ladies of the north can make some reasonable decisions. I know you can dooooo ittttt.

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Susan Collins said she has reservations and doesn’t want to vote on the healthcare bill before the July 4 recess.

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I spent my whole life bending over backwards to not think along the lines of “smart” and “dumb” — always recognizing the different forms of intelligence, the different levels of articulation, still waters run deep, don’t judge a book by the cover, have some fucking humility, you don’t know what’s going on in people’s heads. I don’t know if people are born dumb, but for one reason or another their brains are rotting now. And that’s why I watch the Gallup poll numbers when they update every day at 10:00 am Seattle time.

**UPDATE** I feel sorry for saying this about people’s brains rotting. It is also possible that they are a) REALLY not paying attention, or b) craven.

**UPDATE #2** I do actually know several Trump voters. They don’t seem to be dumb. They seem like nice people. That’s why I want to bang my head into walls.

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That little spike to 42% had me worried.

I just liked this headline:

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And in reply:

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I did get out of the house for awhile, and was sitting in a shady place with my significant other, sipping iced coffee. We had the perfect view of a developing Pokemon birthday party of a small Asian child with a large extended family, and a burgeoning picnic gathering of Muslims in especially beautiful clothes. The kids of both gatherings ran back and forth to the same merry go round in the middle. We were over-heated, but we scraped together our knowledge of religion. “End of Ramadan,” he said. “Eid,” I added. And then nodding in the other direction, “Pikachu.”

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TOWOIT #155

June 24, 2017… Day 156.

Erm, what can I say? It’s hot out and things are bad. I’m just here to keep you company on a daily basis.

A weekend of calling or writing whoever it makes sense for you to call or write, depending where you live. The Senate is breathing down our necks with their tax cut bill masquerading as a health care bill. Last I heard, sounds like CBO score on Tuesday, vote on Thursday?

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy might retire, and no one has the energy left to freak out about this right now.

Sally Yates appeared on Twitter for the first time as a private individual, in order to push this op-ed she wrote:

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(Actually just 133K as of 4:43 pm Seattle time)

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Other digital ephemera:

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TOWOIT #153

June 18-22, 2017… Days 150-154

I am still assembling my notes and thoughts on the Montana road trip so I am just making this start as a placeholder. News was consumed differently, routines were disrupted, signs of political leanings were watched for, whiteness was pondered, Juneteenth was noted, an attempt at a vacation was made.

June 18, 2017        Seattle, Washington to Wallace, Idaho

Driving out of Seattle. It’s misty. We’re getting a late start. Preachin the Blues is on KEXP and they’re celebrating Juneteenth a day early on the show. They play Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come. I say to Andrew, “We’re going into the heart of whiteness. Red state road trip.”

It’s Father’s Day. We’re thinking about the Philando Castile verdict and his fiance’s little girl. This morning Trump’s lawyer said he was NOT under investigation, even though Trump himself tweeted that he was. No no, the lawyer said, Trump was just referring to a Washington Post article. Andrew switches the radio to a show about whiskey. After awhile, we listen to an episode of the podcast The Dollop. The one about Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first openly black baseball player in the Major Leagues. I say something about Colin Kaepernick. Did he just fail to vote in 2016, or did he make a point of it? Whatever, I wanted Seattle to pick him up.

They’re labeling the crops on the fences. Field corn. Potatoes. Sweet corn. Potatoes. Alfalfa. Sewage Lagoon. We see a pick-up truck painted over with a rippling American flag. We’re 21 miles from Moses Lake, Washington. When I get the internet for a moment, I find out that the police in Seattle shot and killed a 30 year old black woman, Charleena Lyles, in front of her children. When we have the internet for a moment, I read Charles Mudede’s call out of Nicole Brodeur. Saying in her columns, she writes as if only white people will read her columns. Nicole is a friend. I think “Am I doing that too?” Probably, yes. Potatoes. Field Corn. Field Corn. Sweet Corn.

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Wait, what is this picture showing? People in Seattle were really upset by the Seattle Times’s coverage and headlines.

We have dinner at the Radio Brewery in Kellogg, Idaho. “I don’t think everyone in here voted for Trump, do you?” I ask Andrew. He says, “Well, I don’t think that guy in the Sublime t-shirt working in the kitchen is *crazy* about Donald Trump, but I’m pretty sure he hates Hillary.”

At the end of the night, we are at The Metals Bar in Wallace, Idaho. A sign in the window says “We support our miners” and in the back of the bar, a circular sign is lit up, “Strike.” There are several regulars in the bar, and an old guy named Bill starts talking to us in a friendly way. Everyone is white. Bill moves a child’s Father’s Day drawing and some empty Miller Lite cans so the bar is clear and tells us to sit down. He’s sitting kitty korner from us and tells us how his father in law died in the Sunshine Mine disaster of 1972. Two women come in, mother and daughter. They aren’t from Wallace, but the daughter says she wants to move here. She’s got a cute camo hoodie, a camo purse and the butt of her jeans are bedazzled. She and her mom look like really nice people. They look at an old black and white photo of a woman working in the mine. Bill says to them, “There weren’t many women working in the mines. We call them betties.” The older woman nods and says, “My mom worked in a coal mine in West Virginia.” I say in Andrew’s ear, “Everyone here seems so nice. Do you think they all voted for Trump?” Andrew looks at me like I just said maybe the Easter Bunny is real.” He says, “Of course they did.” One of the regulars gets up and puts a song on the juke box. It’s Sam Cooke. It’s A Change is Gonna Come.

June 19, 2017             Wallace, Idaho to Missoula, Montana

“Maybe just acknowledging whiteness as a thing at least means you don’t accept whiteness as the norm, or as the invisible air we breathe. If whiteness is a thing, then it is surrounded by other things, and it is not the only thing.” I am getting too metaphysical early in the morning on vacation. Andrew is always nice about this, and I have to remind myself not to monologue too much, because he’s too generous to send me the correct signals about how tedious I’m becoming.

We’re already tired of driving. When I can see internet, my phone tells me that all my friends back home are wrecked. A 17-year old Muslim girl was found dead in a pond in Virginia. Philando Castile. Charleena Lyles. People are wrecked. I’m supposed to be looking at the evergreen trees and mountain sides, and I’m supposed to be another pair of eyes on the road. In case there are suicidal deer or big-horned sheep or whatever. I put my phone away and rummage for what else is in my bag. I find a slim comic I bought at VANCAF and forgot was in my bag, like that time I accidentally took a yellow onion to the beach. The book is Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore.

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from Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore

The sound of NPR is grounding even when the news is bad. A white man in a van mowed down Muslims leaving a mosque in London. Andrew points out that we haven’t actually seen ANY political bumper stickers, signs, or bill boards. We certainly haven’t seen Trump’s name anywhere. There’s a promo for an interview with Roxane Gay. I say “Someone out here is listening to Roxane Gay.” He said, “Sometimes the NPR station is the only one that comes in.”

We get into Missoula and walk around. In historical downtown Missoula, there are signs of liberalism.

That night in the hotel room, I read that the White House press briefing was off-camera again today. I tell Andrew, “I would have been ON this if I were home.” I have access to Fox News now, so I watch Hannity for awhile. The chyron says “Russian Collusion Hysteria.” I click over to CNN. The Democratic Senators are trying to hold the floor tonight over Obamacare repeal and replace. It’s past 11 pm in Washington, D.C. and they look tired.

June 20, 2017… Missoula through Drummond, Phillipsburg, Anaconda, and Butte to wind up in Helena.

We have breakfast burritos before we leave town. When we walk in, a Talking Heads sign is just ending. “I bet this place is run by white people,” says Andrew. A Greg Brown song starts up — Greg Brown! My favorite! I say, “Shhhhh. I’m flying into the heart of my whiteness.” Today is Jon Ossoff day in the Georgia 6th, so I’m nervous. In Drummond, MT there are anti-meth signs. A mural that looks like it was done by school children shows a toilet and the words, “Meth Makes Your Life Go Down the Drain.” The town is bustling though. Men standing around a giant piece of new farm equipment are smiling and waving at us as we drive through. A few miles out of town there’s a billboard that says “Every Addict Needs His Hook-up.” It’s an advertisement for a fly fishing shop. A sign on a house says, “This Family Supported by Timber Dollars.” On the Bible Broadcast Network, which we like to check in with, a man is disputing that the heat wave in Phoenix has anything to do with climate change. I keep looking at my watch and calculating what time it is in Georgia.

We stop in Anaconda and study the informational placards about the giant smokestack left over from a copper mine. We notice the sign saying there have been 69 highway deaths in Montana year to date. We listen to Baby Geniuses–an episode recorded and posted months ago. It was recorded right before the election, and aired right after the election. The hosts come on and talk for a few moments before the recorded episode, saying they know what happened and how everyone is feeling. “We have to hold onto this feeling,” said one of them. They said if you’re white and can slip into normalcy after the dust settles, just don’t. Remember this feeling of being in the thick of it. Remember wanting to help people.

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from Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore

Butte is beautiful and interesting, but it’s the heat of the day and we’re spooked by all the signs announcing mine deaths. Rolling into town we see a bumper sticker on the back of a street sign: “Anyone but Hillary.” We decide to keep driving to Helena. Jon Ossoff loses the special election in Georgia. I text a lament to my mother and she fires back, “you’re supposed to be resting your brain from this stuff.” In the morning she posts Dan Rather’s calming words on her Facebook timeline.

June 21, 2017… Helena to Great Falls to Missoula.

We still haven’t seen anything mentioning Trump by name. And not much political stuff in general. In Great Falls we see this pick-up truck. “Is it… sarcasm?” I ask. We can’t tell.

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Driving on Highway 200 back to Missoula, we see along the highway: “In God We Trust, In Our Country we Trust, In Our Government We Don’t Trust.” We see a sign that says “You want change in government? Let’s try honesty for a change.” We see a Don’t Tread on Me Flag. We still haven’t seen anything about Trump anywhere.

June 22, 2017 … Missoula, Montana all the way back to Seattle, Washington

New dash cam footage is released from Philando Castile’s shooting. Trevor Noah says he is broken. Shaun King says the fight against police brutality is being lost. Senate Republicans release the Better Care Reconciliation Act. It’s pretty bad, but no CBO score until next week. On Facebook, people are saying “I’m not even sure I can do Pride this year.” Leaving downtown Missoula, we see two bumper stickers on a truck. First, “The Precious Metals of Freedom… Gold, Silver, and LEAD.” And then, “NRA: Stand and Fight.” I look at my watch. “Thirty-six minutes till the new Gallup Poll comes out.”

Trump says he does not have any tapes of his conversations with Comey. “Why did he keep us in suspense for 41 days?” someone asks Kellyanne.

Heading into sun-blasted eastern Washington, we’re listening to the Dollop episode about the boxer Jack Johnson. When he beat the white boxer Jim Jeffries in 1910, there were race riots in 25 states and 50 cities. At least 25 people were killed and hundreds injured. Several white men were reported to have COMMITTED SUICIDE over it. And we wonder sometimes if it’s true that white people would really trash this country because a black man was president for eight years.

Joe Lewis, who came along after Jack Johnson, had a list of do’s and don’ts. One of them was, “Don’t eat watermelon in public.”

Colin Kaepernick announces that he won’t participate in the NFL anymore.

Donald Trump tweets that it’s all a “big Dem HOAX.”

We stop in Ellensburg, Washington for dinner and we see the first Trump sign or sticker we’ve seen in 4 days of driving outside our blue coastal county. And someone’s defaced it.

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Back in Seattle we see Charleena Lyles’s name on the pavement.

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from Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore

TOWOIT #152

June 17, 2017… Day 149

Now Trump’s personal legal people are saying that Trump is NOT under investigation, even though Trump tweeted that himself Friday morning. That was apparently NOT an acknowledgment of being under investigation. Good luck with this one, guys!

I’m going on a weeklong trip to Montana. It’s a road trip. It doesn’t have a lot of structure. I’m going with my boyfriend. It’s our first vacation together. It’s a relationship experiment. I told my coworkers that if I show up at work on Wednesday with a tear-stained face and puffy eyes, just pretend like it’s normal. I’m just kidding. It’ll be fine. I’m just a relationship and vacation pessimist!!

I will backfill some TOWOIT with musings from my red state road trip, but I am leaving my computer at home and attempting to spend time away from the internet. I had to go to the doctor this morning because I thought a spider was living in my ear, but actually it was the neck muscle that attaches to my skull behind my ear, combined with hypochondria and an active imagination — but turns out I have a real neck thing and it’s from computer monitors and sitting at desks and being both tense and schlumpy at the same time.

Au revoir!!

 

TOWOIT #151

June 16, 2017… Day 148

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The man who killed Philando Castile was acquitted today, and people are grieving.

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Steve Scalise called himself “David Duke without the baggage.” Jeff Sessions joked that he thought the Klan was all right until he found out they smoked weed (seriously WTF is up with his weed obsession).

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For the last two days, Trump’s craziest tweets have come in groups of four.

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About Rosenstein’s weird memo last night:

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And the health care travesty continues behind closed doors.

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Meanwhile, there’s some kind of big Naval disaster happening. The USS Fitzgerald is in danger of sinking and 7 sailors are missing.

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There was another off-camera press gaggle today. This time a Mr. Anton was in charge, and it was en route to Miami. Mr. Anton turned it over to someone who is listed in the transcript as Senior Administration Official, or SAO instead of by name. Here’s what the reporters asked:

  • So you are aware of the reports?
  • Are you in touch with the Russians on those reports?  Have you spoken with your Russian counterparts?
  •  Off the record, meaning background as senior White House official?
  • You mean you want to go just completely off the record?
  • (Goes off the record.)  (Returns on the record.)
  • For the new Cuba policy, does that have anything to do with —
  • I’m just wondering if you’re worried about Cuba being a staging ground for terrorists and that’s part of the reason for the new policy.
  • (Goes off the record.) (Returns on the record.)
  • On the Cuba announcement today, you guys are doing it during a meeting of a lot of Latin American leaders who have been against changing the Obama administration policy.  Some might see this as a slap in the face to them during this meeting.  Why the timing?  
  • Mike, explain the significance of the location. The theater is named after the man who led the Bay of Pigs invasion. There’s the notion that this is provocative.
  • The changes that are being talked about seem relatively small compared to what you could have done. How is that going to — are the folks going to be happy with that?
  • The President said in a statement today that he was under investigation. How was he made aware of that?   
  • Michael, if you’re an American wanting to travel to Cuba, what will you need to do before going?
  • How do you square the President’s focus on human rights in Cuba with his apparent lack of interest in human rights in other countries.
  •  — in his speech — just what we’re expected to hear today from him?
  •  Is he going to list the benchmarks that Cuba needs to do for better relations with the United States?
  • And what are those?
  • Do you expect the policy to change which hotels Americans will be able to, under the law, to stay in in Cuba?  In which hotels —
  • Can you address what the administration is doing to get to the bottom of what happened to Otto Warmbier in North Korea and how it is that he was returned to the U.S. in a coma?
  • But is the U.S. satisfied with the explanation that North Korea gave that it was botulism and then a sleeping pill that led to his current condition?
  • Michael, is the President willing to have talks with the Cuban leadership?
  • Why will these changes help bring about change in Cuba when decades of a full embargo did not change significantly the human rights record?
  • Does that mean you agree, essentially, with the Obama administration’s posture toward Cuba, even though you’re refining the policy? Because those are similar arguments that they made.
  • Can you tell us who is aboard?
  • Is Reince on the plane?
  • Will the President do anything in Miami besides the speech and signing the directive?
  • From the group that endorsed him last year?
  • Will anybody from the administration today be able to answer questions on DACA and DAPA and the President’s statements regarding the investigation?

 

 

TOWOIT #150

June 15, 2017… Day 147

Hidey didey Christ Almighty.

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I didn’t say anything about the Congressional baseball shooting yesterday. It’s not that I wasn’t affected by it. I just had a lot of swirling emotions, and I was biting my tongue a little. Here’s how I feel about it, if anyone cares.

  • I hate violence
  • I hate the idea that we’re tipping into increased political violence here
  • I hate toxic masculinity
  • I hate that this guy has a history of domestic violence
  • I hate that the Cosby jury is deadlocked
  • I hate that everything is related like this
  • I hate that they keep interrupting Kamala Harris in the Senate
  • It really is all related
  • I hate that he had a gun
  • I hate that those people had to live through something so scary
  • I hate that someone’s hip and pelvis got torn apart
  • I hate that two capitol police officers got shot
  • I hate that the shooter is being framed neutrally in the media because he’s white
  • I hate that Senator Scalise was protected by an African-American lesbian officer who took a bullet for him, and yet he (and the other Republicans) will still probably endorse racist policies, make life harder for gay people, and fight against any kind of common sense gun control
  • I hate that we’re this divided, and that this incident seems to just prove it more than ever. I hate that we live in two different realities.
  • I hate that Fox News is trying to pin this on Democrats in general
  • I hate puns and the fact that this is a bulleted list is not a pun

Trump sent four unhinged Tweets today. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in another off-camera briefing, referred reporters to outside counsel when asked about Trump’s tweets.

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  • Sarah, yesterday the President stuck to the script in his televised remarks. He didn’t lash out at opponents yesterday. He didn’t tweet about the Russia investigation. He stuck to a message of unity. That changed this morning with the President’s tweets. Why did the President decide to weigh in again on the Russia investigation this morning?
  • Can I follow up on that? I mean, the stories that came out, actually, were that Mueller was investigating the President for potential obstruction of justice. Given that the White House has been referring questions to Trump’s personal lawyers, why is it the President feels like he, personally, should be weighing in on this?
  • I just have a follow, and then one more question — and I know you’re going to refer a lot of this to outside counsel — but given the reports that have come out over the last 12 to 18 hours, does the President still feel vindicated?
  • And who are the “bad” and “conflicted” people he mentioned in that tweet?
  • Christopher Wray is your pick for the new FBI director. His nomination has not been formally sent over to the Senate. Can you explain what the holdup has been and where that goes from here?
  • Are you talking about security clearance? Or is it —
  • Was that announced too early then? Or was the President appropriate when he announced that?
  • Well — but is there some messaging confusion there? Why can’t you come out and answer questions about it if he’s tweeting about it? Clearly, he feels comfortable speaking about it.
  • And let me just try one more time on the tweet — to Hallie’s point — “they made up a phony collusion.” Is that Democrats? Who is that? Who is he referencing?
  • Okay. And, Sarah, has anyone at the White House gotten a request from Mueller for any documents related to the investigation?
  • Over the last day, since the shooting occurred yesterday morning, there’s been a lot of talk about rhetoric and the extent that political rhetoric in this country may be fueling the kinds of incidents that happen. You saw the President — it was just referred in the first question — the President took a real, sort of, unity tone in that first statement, but he returned to the kind of divisiveness and tone that he normally does in the tweets this morning. So I guess the question is, does the White House feel like the President and the White House, more broadly, have any responsibility to adapt a kind of different tone going forward, the way that many of the members on both sides of the aisle are calling for in the last 24 hours?
  • Well, I guess, when it comes to a tweet, and not on the substance of the Russia investigation — but when you call people “bad people” and “witch hunt,” and sort of attacking — impugning motives of your adversaries, that’s the kind of rhetoric I think that people are talking about.
  • Sarah, how does he plan to do that? Does he plan to use this moment as a teachable moment and try and urge people to, beyond the speech yesterday, try and urge people to bring down the heat of the rhetoric here? Or how does he view this as his leadership moment?
  • Does he plan to do anything differently, though, in terms of give a speech solely on this or perhaps reach out to Democrats? What specifically does he plan to do different, if anything else?
  • One final thing. Does he still have confidence, or does he have confidence in the special counsel?
  • You said you didn’t know, though, if he had confidence on Air Force One, I think. Do you think he has confidence in Bob Mueller?
  • The Secret Service says that they have no recordings of the President’s conversation while he was in office. Is that case closed for this White House? Does that answer the question of whether there are tapes or not?
  • Is that then where this answer is going to come from? Because, just a few days ago, the President said he would tell America —
  • Should we expect that to happen this week? The President’s legal team said on Sunday that it would happen this week.
  • Today, the Senate passed new sanctions on Iran and then also on Russia as well. Secretary Tillerson said he felt that he didn’t want to be handcuffed by this. White House have a position?
  • Does the White House feel handcuffed, though, in terms of being able to reach out with the Senate action?
  • Why has the President decided to give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authority to increase troop levels in Afghanistan?
  • How many more troops does the President want to see added to U.S. forces in Afghanistan?
  • Two questions. First, on executive privilege. About a week ago, you said that in order to facilitate the swift examination of the facts sought by the House Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege about Jim Comey’s testimony. Does that still hold for the Attorney General, Mr. Sessions? Does the President have any reason to invoke executive privilege or say that Mr. Sessions should not answer the questions from the Intelligence Committee?
  • Okay, thank you. Last week, Sean put out a very strong statement about the Russian crackdown of dissidents, and this won wide applause from the Russia expatriate community, Mr. Khodorkovsky and Vladimir Kara-Murza, both prominent Russian dissidents. Mr. Kara-Murza called on the President to go a step further and bring up the plight of the hundreds of Russian dissidents who have been jailed in the last few days when he meets with President Putin in Hamburg at the G20 Summit. Does he plan to bring that up?
  • Thank you. Was based on — almost within a period of days after the strong statements from the President and Secretary Tillerson about Qatar, that the United States entered into a $21 billion arms deal with Qatar, and that includes $12 billion, I believe, for fighter aircraft. Does this mean that Qatar is following the U.S. example and cutting back on its ties to those the President considered unacceptable?
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President, obviously, based upon his tweets, is not pleased with the investigation that is ongoing by Robert Mueller. Does the President, Sarah, believe it’s in his power to shut down that investigation?
  • On a separate topic, can you give us a little background about the President’s visit with Congressman Scalise last night in the hospital, just beyond what we heard last night from Sean?
  • Sarah, one logistical one and one policy one. The logistical one is, while I love air conditioning, the fact that it’s running and the fact that you’re not on speaker is it would be great if we get the transcript because it’s going to be really hard to get audio off this. And the policy one is, does the President plan to nominate a Cuban ambassador, or will he leave that position vacant during his presidency?
  • Sarah, on Bob Mueller, is there anything you can tell us more about when he came in to interview for the job, what the President was looking at offering him? Was it acting FBI director? Was it actually FBI director? Why didn’t the White House tell us more about that at the time when you did announce other people who were coming in for the director job?
  • But it was a job interview?
  • And does the White House believe that that presents any kind of conflict, that sequence of events you just described? The day before he’s supposed to be the independent, outside counsel, he was meeting, presumably, with the President directly to talk about —
  • Sorry, the President wasn’t aware of —
  • So it’s not a conflict?
  • Thank you, I appreciate it. So a couple of political things. Virginia had its elections the other day. That’s the biggest — big election of this year. I’m wondering if the President would campaign for the Republican nominee for governor, or any of the nominees; if he’s spoken to Ed Gillespie, if they’ve had any conversation or any plans to do anything together.
  • And you don’t know if he would campaign for him later in the year?
  • How about next week for the final week of the Georgia election? Any other —
  • He wouldn’t do anything? Calls?
  • Two questions on healthcare. Is anything the President would be willing to see happen in the Senate bill that would make it more palatable to conservatives? Because right now, centrist Republicans seem to be pushing more in the direction that’s (inaudible) for them —
  • Specifically, is it better for them?
  • And on cost-sharing reductions, has the President made a decision yet — has the White House made a decision yet on whether it will pay the cost-sharing reduction subsidies for the month of June?
  • Who from the administration is planning on going to the baseball game tonight? And is there any other message to people that — the teams that are playing, players in the game?

 

TOWOIT #149

June 14, 2017… Day 146

A random picture of Maxine Waters, who looks really pretty in that color:

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Mueller (and therefore Rosenstein) live to see another day:

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This is on the White House splash page, and I for one plan to comply:

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This is splashed on the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.:

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The transcript of yesterday’s off-camera press gaggle surfaced today. Here are the questions reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

  • Is the President considering whether or not he will fire or seek to have Robert Mueller fired as the Special Counsel?
  • Did the President watch any of the Jeff Sessions testimony? And what did he think?
  • Sarah, did the President call the GOP healthcare bill “mean” during his lunch with senators today?
  • Has the President authorized Secretary of Defense Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan?
  • Sarah, the North Koreans sent back a university student who’s in a coma. What does the President think about the fact that this young man is in a coma?
  • Can you give us a little bit more detail on that? What do you mean when you say he worked hard with Tillerson? I know this all sort of came to a head, I guess, on June 6th when the United States was informed about his condition.  But can you give us some detail about meetings or discussions or what the President had?
  • Sarah, the President has said he wants the Republican healthcare plan to be more generous. What does he mean by that?
  • Sarah, he said that in public.
  • That was in a pool report.
  • There has also been talk that a senate bill could even be coming out tonight. Is the President — so far, when he heard from all these senators today, is he happy with the direction that the Senate Republicans seem to be going in? Is he pushing them to be more generous on preexisting conditions? Or — you know, where does he stand in relation to the Senate bill?
  • Sarah, do you have any more details on the announcement that’s expected on Friday about changes to Cuba policy? What parts of the Obamacare administration’s policy is the President planning to roll back? And what is he planning to announce in Miami?
  • Just to follow up on that, you mean there’s no final decisions? Or you just don’t have them to provide for us?
  • But he is going down there despite the fact that no final decision —
  • Has the President decided when he’s going to announce whether he has tapes of the Comey conversations?
  • What are the President’s feelings on Mueller at this point? Did he interview him for FBI director? And does he have confidence in him in his current role?
  • Do you have any more details on the workforce development stuff — whether the apprenticeship program is only in high schools or whether it would be corporations? Any more details on how that would work or how it would be encouraged?
  • The President said something today about wanting to have every high school in the country have an apprenticeship program, and I hadn’t heard that in any of the background information. Is that something that’s going to be part of these announcements too? Or was he just kind of speaking a little off-the-cuff on that?
  • Do you know how much money was raised?

In related news, I’ve started re-watching West Wing just for Allison Janney as press secretary C.J. Cregg. 

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TOWOIT #148

June 13, 2017… Day 145

Fell asleep last night after obsessing about the possibility of Trump firing Mueller. Woke up with my face in a fist. Not in a “ready for battle” way, but more just in a clenched up and exhausted way. Chasing buses naked through all my anxiety dreams way.

Then Rod Rosenstein’s testimony in front of Congress reassured me a little. He said he didn’t see any cause to fire Mueller, he had no desire to fire Mueller, and he wouldn’t let anyone order him to fire Mueller.

Then Jeff Sessions was such an obfuscatory little racist liar all afternoon, it was a real drag. Kamala Harris got interrupted, shushed and disrespected *again* but her greatness is not to be denied.

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TOWOIT #147

June 12, 2017… Day 144

Today I was thinking about Alexei Navalny and the young people protesting Putin and corruption in Russia. Now that’s bravery.

And I think about DeRay, Brittany, and Sam on Pod Save the People, talking calmly about Jeff Sessions and the justice department — when it’s so awful for black people, it’s been so awful. And now Sessions as AG feels like a five-alarm fire, but these three podcast hosts sound so calm. It makes you realize how brave and seasoned black people have had to be in the face of terrible things long before Trump became President.

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And I think about the voters in the UK who pulled Labour and the voters in France who pulled centrist. I don’t think all those voters were FOR Corbyn or FOR Macron. Not by a long, long shot. But they pulled together and they voted for the person who had the best shot to intervene against the forces pulling Europe rightward. And that was pragmatic and beautiful and good.

Yeah, I didn’t get any of those feelings, none of the above, for what I heard coming out of Bernie’s People’s Summit. Not feeling it, guys. Not. Feeling. It. Get Keith Ellison in here, stat. He’s the person who can bridge this divide if Bernie can stand to stop taking up all the air in the room.

Ok, so other news today. Trump-allies in the media are laying the groundwork for the idea that Trump could fire Mueller and end the Russian probe. If the Republicans let that slide, and it feels like they would — then sayonara, democracy. It was good to know you. We didn’t deserve you.

In other signs of wear and tear, at Trump’s cabinet meeting, the cabinet secretaries went around the room in front of the press and said how wonderful Trump was and how blessed they are to be working for him. He started off by saying he had signed more legislation and done more things than almost any other president. Reporters in the room described the whole interlude as “awkward” and “humiliating.”

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Jeff Sessions will testify in public tomorrow after all, although Chris Cilizza seems to think he’s gaming the system somehow with this decision. I just got that from the headline. I don’t always read Cilizza. Or rather, I reach my personal quota and can’t go on until I have a break from him.

So we’ll see what that’s like tomorrow. Sessions has already lied under oath, so why expect him to tell the truth?

The Republicans in the Senate seem to be secretively hurtling a healthcare bill through it’s various stages, and will be passing it with 50 votes and a tiebreaker from Mike Pence. Indivisible and other organizations are doing what they can to rally the troops, but it feels like a losing proposition. I really want the option of changing jobs. I don’t want to cling like a monkey to my job forever. I don’t want to marry for health insurance like my mom and my sister both did in the early 2000s. Don’t get me wrong — they married wonderful men. But they made that leap for the health insurance.

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The 9th circuit court of appeals upheld the freeze on Trump’s travel ban. I’ve lost track of the whole thread on that travel ban, except that it keeps losing in court. In other court news, Maryland D.C. are suing Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

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Puerto Rico voted overwhelmingly for statehood and everyone seems to be downplaying it. Also downplayed: the Cosby trial. I think we’re just all too sad and worn down for that sad mess.

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Sean Spicer took questions for eleven minutes. And then in those eleven minutes, he managed to be combative, snitty, an obfuscating liar, a bully, a dodger, an evader… it was a sorry display. It was so far beneath the dignity of the journalists in the room. Those people really know their shit. They could swap places with the other people in the White House and do a better job running things. I’m sure of it for this White House.

The questions reporters asked today:

  • Thank you. Following up on your India announcement, the President, in his speech in New Jersey had said if he’s elected he would be the best friend of India ever in the White House. What steps does the President want to take in his next four years, or eight years, to implement his promise he made to the community here?
  • Sean, thank you. Two questions on trade. Number one, you talked about the beef arrangement. Is that beginning today? And can you flesh out a little bit more about what it looks like? I understood there was going to be an announcement from USDA. Are we waiting for that to actually make this is a fact? Or where are we in the process?
  • And secondly, my other quick question is on steel and aluminum, and the review that the administration is doing. The President said — and was quoted in one of the pool reports as saying that there is legislation being drafted on antidumping. The 232 process goes to Congress anyway.  Was he referring to additional legislation, or this 232 review that you had already initiated as reported by Secretary Ross?
  • Thanks, Sean. A couple questions for you. First, does President Trump have audio recordings of his conversations and meetings with the former FBI Director, James Comey?
  • Do you have any sort of timeline on when that announcement will be?
  • And a quick follow-up on the Attorney General. From the perspective of President Trump, what role did Attorney General Jeff Sessions play in the firing of James Comey?
  • Sean, to that end, when Jeff Sessions testifies tomorrow, do you believe that he should invoke executive privilege on conversations between himself and the President as it relates to Jim Comey?
  • In any way, did Jeff Sessions, folks at the DOJ ask for the White House’s permission, in essence, for him to testify publicly tomorrow?
  • Is the President okay with him testifying in this open setting tomorrow?
  • But just to follow on that, the President seemed to indicate that he thought that it was a mistake for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself in the Russia investigation. He said that his preference would have been to the contrary, off-camera.  What does the President think about the fact that Sessions will be testifying tomorrow and, according to the Department of Justice, wanted to testify in an open session rather than closed classified session?
  • If I could ask you about the other headline of the day — the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia filing a lawsuit against the President, seeking rulings on two points in the emoluments clause in the Constitution. The RNC thinks that this is a bogus lawsuit. What is the President and what is the White House’s perspective on that?
  • Thanks, Sean. I wanted to just — two questions. But first, why leave open this question of whether there are tapes? Don’t the American people — do they deserve to know whether Comey was lying to the Senate? Why leave this question open?
  • But is — I mean, it’s an open question that —
  • Okay, but to follow up on — speaking of lawsuits, for the Ninth Circuit — they just came out and they upheld the block of the travel ban. Any response to that?
  • Hey, Sean. So two questions for you then. I want to follow up on the tapes issue. If the President does have evidence that the FBI Director lied under oath, what is he waiting for?
  • Right, but so what is he waiting for? What’s the delay?
  • On the travel ban, Sean — this is the second question — you just mentioned you obviously responded to the Ninth Circuit ruling today. That ruling also cites the President’s tweets from June 5th on the travel ban. And it cites your statements — this administration’s statement that the President’s tweets are official statements. So given that measure, given that the travel ban is obviously a priority for the President, how is it that the President is not putting his own agenda in danger when it comes to his Twitter habits?
  • The Twitter question, Sean — it’s a different question, though.
  • It comes to the Twitter issue.  So I just want to —
  • Sean, what is the President’s reaction to the Russian government’s crackdown on anti-corruption protests today?
  • Well, Mr. Navalny in particular, but I assume that would be part of your overall —
  • Thank you. One more. The President mentioned a press conference in a couple weeks on the ISIS review. Can you say where and when? And has he made a decision about changing the policy?
  • Thank you, Sean. You said that the President wants to see this Russia investigation and all these investigations wrapped up as soon as possible. He said on Friday that he would be willing to testify under oath. Can you say when he would be willing to do that? Would he be willing to do that before Congress goes into recess to get this done as soon as possible?
  • So he would — sorry, just wanted to be very clear about this.  So he’s not saying that he would go before Congress —
  • Does he have confidence in Director Mueller, Sean? <<This question was ignored>>
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions. Does the President have a reaction to the vote in Puerto Rico yesterday — the nonbinding measure calling for statehood as the first choice of the people for their future?
  • My other question was, there are widespread stories and speculation that when the President goes to Miami this Friday he will undo the executive orders from the Obama administration that eased relations with Cuba. Can you confirm whether he will undo all of them or some of them?
  •  Thanks.  Following on some of the stories over the weekend in England, when the President signs off on a foreign trip, how much does he factor in his personal popularity in that country?