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:

  • Thanks, Sean. Over the weekend, in an interview on Fox, President Trump seemed to acknowledge that he does believe that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. Is that how that statement should be interpreted? Does he believe that Russia interfered in the election?
  • And just a quick follow-up. Over the past 48 hours, he’s really been hitting his predecessor hard for not doing enough to respond to that. So what is he doing?  Or what does he intend to do different?
  • The President tweeted that his predecessor did nothing in response to this Russian meddling. Curious what you think that Barack Obama should have done.
  • At the time, though, what I’m sure a lot of us remember, in August and September and October of last year, the President was saying — Mr. Trump was saying, “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest. We’re running against a rigged system.” On October 19th, at the debate, he was asked by Chris Wallace, “Will you absolutely accept the result of this election?” And he refused to say. Is there any reason to think that Barack Obama, given all of that, should have done more? Does the President believe that, given what Mr. Trump was saying at the time, that Barack Obama didn’t do enough and may have choked — I guess was the way to put it?
  • I wanted to ask you about the Supreme Court decision today. They said that anybody that has a bona fide relationship with another person or another entity is still permitted. So in a way it limited the initial — or the second executive order. So I’m curious if the administration feels that what is now permitted by the Supreme Court does indeed protect the homeland.
  • And let me ask you about healthcare.  John Cornyn said over the weekend that August 1st is the real drop-dead deadline.  Does the White House see it that way, as well?
  • What was President’s involvement over the weekend? How would you characterize that?
  • Does the President still see this version of the travel ban as “watered down” and “politically correct”?
  • And is he still critical of the way the Department of Justice has handled the rollout of it?
  • Thanks, Sean. Can you characterize how the President thinks the Kushner-Greenblatt meetings went in Israel? And specifically, is there any truth to reports out of Israel that relations are strained between the U.S. and the Palestinians due to these demands that they stop sending payments to terrorists?
  • Sean, thank you. On several occasions the President has suggested he wanted the Senate bill improved. He said he was looking forward to making it really special and he said, in Iowa, put more money into it, make it more generous, it should have heart. Does he believe that the Senate has done that, or is he looking for more improvements in the bill?
  • But are his criteria still that we should, as you said in the past, cover everyone with lower premiums and lower deductibles? 
  • So that’s his bar and —
  • Sean. Sean.  Can you answer whether the President still believes —
  • The reports out of Israel —
  • Maybe we should turn the cameras on, Sean. Why don’t we turn the cameras on? Why don’t we turn the cameras on?
  • Why not turn the cameras on, Sean? They’re in the room, the lights are on.

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  •  Is it not true that there were tensions and some strain between the U.S. negotiators which were Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt and the Palestinians? Is it not true that there were tensions on this trip?
  • Okay, so none?
  • The President said two weeks ago that he would have press conference in two weeks on ISIS —
  • And then the antitrust out of the European Union. They’re expected to levy a fine against Google for over $1 billion. Do you have any reaction?
  • Can we have cameras — can the President hold a press conference, Sean? Sean.
  • Senator Corker says he will use his authority as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman to block arms sales to Saudi and Qatar until that crisis is resolved. Is that a constructive step in your view?
  • And one more for you. In one of your answers on the Russia meddling you said other countries were either equally involved or involved.
  • What other countries?
  • Are you guys talking about an intelligence finding? Is that just a hypothetical? I don’t understand where that — 
  • Will President Trump rely on that previous list of potential conservatives for Supreme Court justices for future picks?
  • Will President Trump rely on that previous list of 21 potential Supreme Court justices for future picks?
  • Earlier, in your response to the Russia question, you used the conditional “if this story is true.” I was hoping you could provide some clarity on whether or not the President believes this is an accurate statement. Has he been briefed on that on what President Obama knew, and also given that he was briefed along that same timetable by the intelligence community. And then separately on that, does the President have a response or any retaliatory measures if he believes Russia was behind this?
  • I’m asking, does the President believe that Russia was involved in an attempt to influence the 2016 election? And then, if so, what is he going to do in response to Russia’s doing it?
  • No, he hasn’t said that since January, Sean. He hasn’t. Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 8.16.15 PM
  • And just a separate question. Yesterday, in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu reversed on a deal to create a third — a gender-neutral space on the Western Wall. And a number of American Jewish leaders are blasting the Israeli Prime Minister. Does the White House — has there been any contact on this sensitive issue? And does that the White House take any position on that?
  • I have a couple questions about the Supreme Court decision. I don’t really understand the practicality of it. I understand they’re going to take it up in the fall. But one is, do you still need a 90-day review now or is that — has that 90 days has already passed? And secondly, in the fall when they take it up, I think the Court also addressed, won’t the point be moot by then? I mean, you’ll have a number of months to implement this and have the review process. So what’s the point?
  • Do you know when they’ll get back to us? Like what timing — days?
  • Okay.
  • Quick question about today. They’ll be delivering statements in the Rose Garden this afternoon. I’m just wondering why that ended up being statements and not — the last couple times that the Prime Minister came, for whatever reason President Obama and the Prime Minister did not have statements, nor did they take questions. Today you have statements, no questions. Whose decision was that? Did the Prime Minister not want questions?
  • Two quick questions. First, back to the Russia thing since I know you never tire talking about it. One of the things in the President’s tweets that I’ve noticed is that he doesn’t reference the conclusion that the intelligence agencies have made — that Russia intervened on his behalf, or perhaps, to put a finer point on it, against Hillary Clinton.  Does the President accept that aspect of what the intelligence agencies have said?
  • And the second thing is, just to dig the hole a little bit deeper on his comments in January. Have you ever discussed with him — he has said this in debates, he’s talked about 400-pound kids sitting on edges of beds. Can we cite anything — or if you can’t provide it today, can you provide it in a subsequent briefing — that gives us some sense that other countries may have been involved in this other than Russia?
  • Thanks a lot, Sean. Do you happen to know if the White House has made any progress with those five Republican senators who have already stated they’re opposed to the Senate healthcare bill?
  • Can you tell us who they were?
  • And were those phone calls with those particular individuals?
  • And then one thing that you mentioned at the top in your statement and the President also put in his tweet, you mentioned that the Supreme Court ruling, which came out today, as it relates to the travel ban, was unanimous — 9-0.  Where are you getting that particular number from? Because it was a per curiam ruling by the Supreme Court, meaning we don’t know the actual breakdown of the Court in voting for this particular decision.
  • Sean, thank you. Could you walk me through what Secretary Kelly is going to do to immediately implement the travel ban now that parts of it have been restored?
  • The San Diego Tribune reported that the prototypes for the President’s wall has been delayed. Is that true?
  • So the wall is going ahead as scheduled?
  • Did you guys get the prototype?
  •  Thank you. When asked about what actions President Trump might take against Russia in retaliation for meddling in the election, you cited the cybersecurity executive order. Can you be more specific, though? Does he support, for example, the new bill for a fresh round of sanctions against Russia?
  • Would you support a new round of sanctions?
  • Does he support some type of punitive action directed at Russia specifically?
  • And can you clarify what he meant in his tweet? He accused former President Obama of colluding or obstructing. What evidence does he have?
  •  Well, the report is very extensive. It goes into all of those details — that they were blocked in a number of different measures; that they were concerned about looking like they were intervening in the election on behalf of Hillary Clinton. President Obama did talk to President Putin —
  • So what evidence does he have that President Obama was colluding or obstructing?
  • Well, is there an element of hypocrisy here, Sean? Because this was President Trump on the campaign trail: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” How can you accuse President Obama of obstructing, when [Trump] was egging Russia on?
  • He was joking? He says that as a candidate, and he was pressed during that press conference over and over again.
  • Sean, thank you. Jeff Mason sent an account out of the meeting that he had with you to the members of the White House Correspondents’ Association about the future of the press briefings. Would you say that his account of that meeting was accurate?
  • Could you give us an account, from your perspective, of what happened in that meeting and what we —
  • Well, there has seemed to have been a drastic shift, starting from maybe the week before the President took his first trip abroad, that now we see you on camera about once a week. Is that a new normal that we would expect?
  • Why are the cameras off, Sean?
  • Why did you turn them off?

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  • Can you just give us an answer to that?
  • Can you tell us why you turned the cameras off?  Why are they off, Sean?
  • It is a legitimate question.
  • It’s a legitimate question.
  • You are a taxpayer-funded spokesman for the United States government.  Can you at least give us an explanation as to why the cameras are off?
  • Can we get this out of the way? Can we address the cameras issue? Do you think this will be —
  • Can I ask you about healthcare?
  • Where does the responsibility lie in the success or failure of the Senate healthcare bill? Obviously, the President and this administration have been directly involved. There’s a chance that it may go to the Senate floor and not pass.
  • Once the CBO score is released, do you envision the President going back to the drawing board? There’s a high number of people expected to be uninsured as a result of the Senate healthcare bill. What steps will the President take once he has those numbers?
  • Sean, if I could ask you about the —
  • Could I ask you, Sean, about the goal of U.S. energy dominance, which is being highlighted this week. How is that defined in terms of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East?
  • What does energy dominance mean?
  • Does that mean trying to put pressure — downward pressure on rural oil prices to impact Persian Gulf suppliers?
  • Thank you, Sean. Two great questions. It was widely reported on Sunday that the President is the first person in the White House since Thomas Jefferson not to have the traditional dinner to mark the end of Ramadan. Was there any reason for this, or was it just an oversight?
  • The other thing I wanted to ask — I was a little taken aback by the question on the Supreme Court list. On May the 3rd, I asked Sarah if the President would stick to the list of 21 he had in the campaign from which Judge Gorsuch came, and she said that was her understanding, that he would stay with it and there was no reason to expand it. Has there been any discussion or change of policy in the month between her statement and what you just said?
  • Do you approve of the attacks on Senator Heller by allies of the President? And is there any danger of putting a Republican Senate seat at risk?
  • Do you have a message to those who are attacking Heller?
  • Thanks, Sean. You mentioned that the President had been in touch with some of the senators who had concerns about this healthcare bill. I didn’t hear you mention any Democrats. And Joe Manchin said yesterday that he had not been called by the President yet. Has the President reached out to any Democrats
  • Okay. And then a follow-up on that going back to Joe Manchin, who you had brought up on Friday as somebody who you guys could potentially work with on this bill — he said in his interview that he would be willing to sit down with the White House if you guys were willing to call it a repair bill or repair effort versus a repeal effort. Is that something that you would be willing to do, the President would be willing to do in order to get some Democrats onboard in a working group?
  • One question on India-U.S. relations. This afternoon at the White House, the world’s most two powerful leaders — Prime Minister Modi and President Trump — of the world’s largest and (inaudible) two democracies will be meeting and greeting and have a number of discussions about U.S.-India relations. But Prime Minister Modi said that India will join U.S. to fight against terrorism. At the same time, yesterday, addressing the India-U.S. — Indian American community in Tyson’s Corner, he said that India had been suffering of terrorism for the last 30 years and telling the world to join us. Now time has come that entire world can join India to fight against terrorism. Before it was Taliban and al Qaeda, and now ISIS. What is, do you think, going to happen in fighting against terrorism?

 

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