TOWOIT#144

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June 9, 2017… Day 141

Sarah Huckabee Sanders had an off-camera press gaggle after (during?) the Comey hearing yesterday. Lots of questions about lying, recording devices, and the attorney general.

  • Sarah, did the President watch any of the hearing today?
  • And do you know if he’ll mention the testimony at all in his speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition?
  • Sarah, former Director Comey essentially said the President lied to him — lied to him, lied about the content of the meetings, said he didn’t trust the President enough to not record in minute detail the aspects of those meetings. Two questions:  Is the President a liar, as former Director Comey says? And is the Director’s testimony truthful to the best of your understanding?
  • Sarah, two things for you. In his testimony, Comey also accused the administration of defaming him and defaming the FBI with his comments about morale. Can you address those?
  • And then, also, there were a lot of questions about tapes that the President claimed that he might have about conversations between the two of them. He said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” and called on the President for them to please be released. Are there tapes of those conversations?
  • Sarah, in all fairness, you said from the podium that the FBI Director had lost the faith of the rank and file of the FBI. That’s got nothing to do with Marc Kasowitz. The FBI Director — former FBI Director — just told the Senate Intelligence Committee that’s not true. Can you help us understand this discrepancy?
  • Can you tell us as a housekeeping matter, is Kasowitz going to read this to the pool, or come back here? And will he take questions?
  • Can you speak to the atmosphere in the West Wing? Obviously you always have TVs on. Today they’re all playing the hearing. In terms of what the President –
  • But it’s on. So it’s in the atmosphere of the workplace here. Can you describe how it’s affecting people in the West Wing today? And did the President watch any of it? I know you said he had meetings, but do you know if he watched any of it?
  • Are you able to say today, does the President have confidence in his Attorney General?
  • I think there was a variation of this question asked about whether there are tapes. Can you say definitively whether there is a taping system that allows the President to record his conversations here at the White House?
  • Two points struck with me from the Comey testimony. One, the President was not personally investigated. And the second one, the point is that they both share the concern about the leakage of classified information. If you know that they both agree on these things, what explains that information that the President was not under investigation has not been leaked out? Because when things are getting leaked then shouldn’t everything gets out? But there is an impression that there is selective kind of leakage right now going on. So how does your administration do that? And are you going to do any kind of investigation when it comes to the leakage of classified information? And who is doing this leakage? And why the selective leakage? There is an impression there is no information that is going to impugn the President. But what about these other types of information that could not get out if he was – 
  • Sarah, back on the recording issue, for security purposes — this is the White House, this is the West Wing — for security purposes, are there recording devices, video or audio, in this West Wing area?
  • I am asking because this is the home of the leader of the free world. This is where he works. This place is a target for anything and everything. We’ve seen that. And within — I mean, there’s a lot of security here and it would not be something out of the realm of possibility that there could be security cameras or security recordings just for the safety of the President and his senior staff. Do you know of any such thing?
  • They would probably know comings and goings and things that happened if they are a nature of concern. If something were to happen, they would look at tapes or figure out — beyond asking questions, they would be able to –
  • Sarah, two questions. First of all, aside from the specifics of the Comey hearing, his testimony was leaked in advance yesterday. You came back from Ohio on the plane with the President. Could you characterize his mood about all the attention that’s being paid to it? Is he frustrated? What’s his attitude about the whole thing?
  • One more. You mentioned that he had discussions this morning with his national security people about the Gulf. He had spoken yesterday to the head of the United Arab Emirates and to the head of Qatar. What is the goal here? What is the President’s goal here?
  • I had some on Qatar, but I did want to ask one on — you said it was a normal day at the White House. Obviously, as much as you guys might be trying to keep a sense of normalcy, this is a day that would seem kind of definitional on the presidency. Can you talk at all about what kind of stuff you guys are doing to prepare for this testimony, to react to the testimony in real time, to prepare for this? Was it really entirely outsourced to outside counsel? I mean, you and Sean had to be out there talking about how you’d address these questions, talking to senior aides about it and that sort of thing.
  • And one shot on Qatar, just because it’s a big issue and what the President apparently spent his morning on. Do you guys see the demands that the Saudis and other Gulf countries made as being reasonable of Qatar? And does the President stand by his tweets from earlier this week in which he suggested that they were financing terrorism in the Middle East, especially in light of CNN’s report that the sort of root cause of all this might have been a story that was planted by Russian intelligence services?
  • Can I go back to one other thing? I want to see if you can comment on this aspect of the hearing. All during the election campaign the President pointed to the meeting that then Attorney General Loretta Lynch shared with Bill Clinton on the tarmac. And we learned from Comey today that Loretta Lynch had asked him as Director of the FBI to refer to the Hillary Clinton investigation as a “matter,” and not an investigation. And he felt that the Department of Justice was trying to align the language of the FBI’s investigation with that of the Clinton campaign. Can you give us something on that?
  • Sarah, you and others in the administration have said for a while the President is his own best messenger. Should we expect to hear from the President at any point today regarding former Director Comey’s testimony? And at what point will we hear from him?
  • About this subject.
  • — you said you had no idea whether or not there was a taping system in the Oval Office. Could you try to find out? A lot of people are interested, as you might imagine.
  • Could you characterize — not specifically about these meetings with the former FBI Director — but when the President comes out of a meeting with anyone, does he take notes? Do his aides takes notes? Does he in any way record the conversation in writing or in audio format to look back on?
  • I’m just trying to get a better understanding of how the President comes out of meetings. Does he take notes? Does someone take notes for him, generally speaking?
  • A quick follow-up on today — have you met with the President today?
  • Sarah, the President just named a new FBI director. This is adjacent to Comey in the sense that he noted that he had nine one-on-one conversations with the President either in person or on the phone. Is that a level of contact with the FBI Director that this White House thinks is appropriate? Or is it something that the President intends to change in terms of his contact with whoever ends up becoming the next FBI Director — Christopher Wray, in this case, potentially?
  • Right, but the context here is that, with President Obama, it was two conversations over three years. With President Bush, it was one. It seems like the level of contact is enormous by comparison, in this short span of time — it was about four months. So is that something that you all believe is appropriate with Comey? And is it something that will continue?
  • So what would be the consequence for someone that leaked an internal memo through a professor in order to, say, have a special counsel appointed, as Comey did today? But I know that you’re referring to that there’s going to be a statement. So can you speak to that in a general sense?
  • Would the White House take any particular action if they found out? Because there’s been this question of leaks, so what would be the White House response if they found out that, say, an FBI Director has leaked an internal memo?
  • I want to ask a follow-up on Attorney General Sessions. What changed in the last couple days that allows you to now say the President has confidence in him? Especially because you said you didn’t have a conversation with him today, so, I guess, what changed in the past 72 hours that now allows you to
  • You did? Okay.
  • Sarah, why was Jeff Sessions involved in the firing of James Comey if he had recused himself from the Russia investigation?
  • Okay. So to follow up, today James Comey said he never initiated contact with the President the nine times they spoke. Does the President agree with that, that he initiated contact with James Comey all nine times?
  • He said Comey called him –
  • Let me ask you two, if you don’t mind. Obviously, the President has one-on-one conversations with staff members, people he’s hired. But as it relates to folks that he hasn’t hired, is there any sort of policy as to not put him in a one-on-one situation so it doesn’t create a “he said, he said, he said, she said” whatever type environment? Or is that something that the White House might look at?
  • Okay. And let me ask you, secondly — the President had spoken and tweeted a lot about the Russia investigation. And know we know throughout that, as early as January 6th and as late as March 30th, he had been assured by Jim Comey that he personally was not under investigation. So I’m wondering if you could say why the President never said that detail? Why he never came out and said, hey, look, I’ve been assured — he waited all the way until the Comey firing. Do you know why he waited up until that moment to say it?
  • Sarah, thank you. Looking to the future, one overriding element in today’s hearing was that Comey said — and both sides agreed — that Russia still is coming after American elections and will continue to in the future. Does the President agree? And what will he do about this important question?
  • Thanks, Sarah. A couple questions about business in the Senate right now. In connection with Iran sanctions legislation, there is an effort to link to it or to add an amendment that would make that legislation contingent on also a provision that would require congressional approval of any effort to change sanctions — to remove sanctions on Russia. Is that something that the White House would support?

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