July 18, 2017… Day 180

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Mitch McConnell said, “Ok, we’ll just vote on repeal then.” A critical handful of Republican senators said “nope.” I don’t remember it being this divided along gender lines–there must have been some men speaking too. But I like this tweet anyway:

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Questions reporters asked Sarah Sanders today:

  • Thanks, Sarah. The President seemed fairly blindsided yesterday by the defections on the healthcare bill. As the White House pivots and moves over to tax reform later in the summer, what are you going to change at the White House to make sure that he has a pretty good sense of where the votes are on tax reform as that legislative train tries to move (inaudible)?
  • And as you know, the debt ceiling vote is coming up later this year. Is there any plan to have the President reach out and make a case personally? And if he does, what is that case to lawmakers up on Capitol Hill on the debt ceiling talk?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Let me ask you a couple of questions about healthcare. The President said a couple times in his remarks a little while ago that at this point he’ll just let “Obamacare fail.” Why is it acceptable policy to let Obamacare fail?
  •  I want to ask you — another comment about the timing going forward.  The President said, “Something will happen and it will be good. It may not be as quick as we had hoped, but it is going to happen.” He also started talking about 2018 and the need for more Republicans to get elected. So I guess in the short term, is it realistic for some sort of healthcare agreement to happen before the August recess, even, as the administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill had been hoping for?  Is this a much longer-term horizon now?
  • So is it possible that this is a post-recess — maybe even a 2018 event?
  • Sarah, three Republican senators — Collins, Murkowski, and Capito — have come out against this idea of repeal. Collins, not surprising, she voted against it in 2015. However, Murkowski and Capito both voted for repeal in 2015, and now they’re saying they’re against it. Is this thing dead before it even leaves the barn?
  • So what do you say to these two senators, Murkowski and Capito, who voted for repeal in 2015 but now say they won’t vote for it in 2017?
  • Speaking to members of the House, Paul Ryan a short time ago said it’s pretty difficult to explain to your constituents why you voted for something two years ago but aren’t voting for it now. Is that the tact that this White House will take, as well?
  • Sarah, will the Trump administration take actions to move Obamacare towards collapse, like stopping CSR payments or other things that have been threatened before?
  • But what about the CSR payments to insurance companies?
  • Can I ask one more question about —
  • The Afghan girls’ robotic team is here competing down the street. Ivanka Trump went there and visited today and met the girls. How does the President find out about some of these individual cases that he’s interceded on, like Aya Hijazi or the Afghan girls’ team? And sort of what ends up moving him on these individual cases?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Two questions, if I may. First, who is responsible — primarily responsible for what appears to be the failure of this healthcare legislation?
  • Can you explain to me how — given that they’re in the minority?
  • Great. So then just a quick follow-up. A bipartisan group of governors, including the Republicans John Kasich, Larry Hogan, Charlie Baker, Brian Sandoval, are calling for a seat at the table and a bipartisan process in healthcare reform. Is the President open to that specifically, sort of starting over with a bipartisan look at this, bringing governors to the table?
  • Sarah, what is the President’s level of frustration with Republicans since they control both houses of Congress?
  • And when he says he’s not going to own it, what does he mean by that?
  • Sarah, back during the transition, at the press conference the President had at Trump Tower, he was asked about healthcare. He said that there would be repeal and replace the same week, but probably the same day, could be the same hour. Did this turn out to be a lot more difficult than he anticipated?
  • What did he learn about the way Congress works in this process? What did he learn about this town? What did he learn about the legislative process?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Two statements from the President. One —
  • Sorry. Two statements from the President, one from him a year ago this Friday at the Republican National Convention as he accepted that party’s nomination. He said, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” So if the President knew the system so well, does he owe his supporters an apology?
  • That he couldn’t get healthcare across the finish line?
  • And second question, another statistic (inaudible) your response to Matt. This is from November 8th, 2013, from the President: “Leadership, whatever happens, you’re responsible. If it doesn’t happen, you’re responsible.” So why is the President trying to shunt responsibility over to Democrats? Doesn’t he own any of the blame here?
  • Thank you, Sarah. This seems like a multi-question day, so I’ve got two.
  • We could also do it on camera, but just an idea.
  •  Is the failure of this Senate bill going to change the President’s approach on this at all going forward? Will we see him take a more public role with rallies and speeches calling for healthcare legislation? And also, how much should we expect to see him meeting with senators about this?
  • And the second one. One thing I’ve been hearing a lot is this notion that it might have been smarter to pursue infrastructure first because that had more bipartisan appeal and more likelihood of passage. Do you think there’s any regret about not going for another agenda item first?
  • Sarah, a couple questions. One, is the President going to go to the NAACP convention next week in Baltimore?
  • Is he considering?
  • Okay. When it comes to ACA, you’re blaming Democrats. But Democrats are saying there were 99 amendments by Republicans in ACA. What do you say to that?
  • But 99 written amendments. 
  • And last question. Some congressional leaders — particularly Democrats — are very concerned about the trust factor when it comes to Jared Kushner and his security clearance, and also still remaining in the job. What does the President have to say about his son-in-law, right now, in the midst of this storm — the fact that more information continues to come out after he gave his initial statements, and their concern about the trust factor when he has a critical piece of security clearance that deals with issues of trust? Is the President considering allowing him to stay or leave? And should he keep his security clearance?
  • Sarah, is it fair to say the President was blindsided last night? Can you walk us through a little when he found out, when his senior staff found out?
  • Also, Sarah, can you confirm the President did tell lawmakers again last night that they would look like dopes if they did not vote for repeal and replace?
  • Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask you about the President’s pledge to get more Republicans elected in 2018. He said earlier today that he’s going to be working very hard to make that happen. Does that go for two Republican incumbent senators, Jeff Flake and Dean Heller, who were not onboard for this healthcare plan?

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  • Two questions. Even before Senator McConnell’s statement last night and Speaker Ryan’s press conference, the concept on an outright repeal was cause du jour in the House of Representatives at least. There was this meeting of conservative lawmakers on Thursday who were adamant about it.  Congressman Biggs has since introduced the bill for a direct repeal. Is there any possibility the administration would at least sit down and join the cause for a direct repeal before it pursued any new kind of legislation?
  • All right, my second question —
  • One of the things — it’s been concluded that the meeting that Ms. Veselnitskaya had with Donald Trump, Jr. was about eventually lifting all of the Magnitsky sanctions, which targeted top officials in the Kremlin. Now, since January, Secretary Tillerson has said none of the sanctions will be lifted. Many of the Russian expatriates and opponents of the Kremlin regime had suggested that if the President could put this issue behind him by supporting further Magnitsky sanctions. Are there any plans to do that?
  • Sarah, thanks. The President has said many times in the past six months that we needed to get the healthcare legislation done first so we could go on to massive tax reform to help the economy. Can you now proceed with massive tax reform that will give the biggest bang to the economy without having done the Obamacare part of it?
  • Sarah, thank you. You continue to say that this is the Democrats’ fault. The reality is, they were willing to sit down at the table with you guys and negotiate and try to improve Obamacare.
  • But they said they weren’t going to work with you guys on repeal and replace. So isn’t it fair to say that you guys were dug in and wouldn’t find common ground with them as well?
  •  In 2012, @RealDonaldTrump’s Twitter account tweeted, “Obama’s complaints about Republicans stopping his agenda” — and I’m quoting — “are BS since he had full control for two years. He can never take responsibility.” Doesn’t the President need to take some responsibility for this moment, Sarah?
  • And I understand what you’re saying, but this moment is not about the legislation that was passed before the President took office.  This moment is about the President and Republicans who campaigned on a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare for seven years — the President for the time he was on the campaign trail — not living up to that promise to the American voters. Doesn’t he need to take responsibility?
  • Just curious whether the President would be willing to sign a repeal-only legislation if that ended up on his desk.
  • The President earlier today had a luncheon with servicemembers and said he wanted to hear ideas from them about the war in Afghanistan. Can you tell us any of the ideas that he heard? Also, he’s clearly not happy about how long the U.S. has been in Afghanistan. Would he reject a plan from Mattis of keeping the U.S. there long term?
  •  And (inaudible) Mattis came forward with a plan that kept the U.S. there long-term. Trump has been complaining — President Trump has been complaining that the U.S. has been there for 17 years. Would he be supportive of a plan that kept the U.S. there longer?
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act was perhaps the biggest campaign promise that the President made when he was President. Does the President believe, does he fear, that failing to do so will impact the Republicans’ ability to hold on to the House and the Senate in 2018?  Is this something that he’s conveyed to members of Congress in his conversations with them?
  • And then, Sarah, also, in terms of what the President said a little bit earlier and also what he tweeted earlier, he spoke about coming together. Does that indicate that the President is open to some sort of bipartisan solution to fixing what is wrong with the Affordable Care Act?
  • Thank you, Sarah. You said that the administration would want Congress to finish work on healthcare and then it would move on to taxes. Previously, the White House had said that it wanted to see a draft plan for that tax reform before the August recess. Is that still the case? And do you still expect to get tax reform done this year, in light of what we learned about the healthcare bill yesterday?
  • In terms of getting it done before the end of the year?
  • One other topic, since it’s multiple-question day. I wanted to ask about the legal fees. Is the President paying for his lawyers that are defending him in the Russia case or in the Russia allegations that are outside of this White House?  And is the President paying Mark Corallo, the spokesman, for — Marc Kasowitz and Jay Sekulow and the lawyers on his team?
  • Sarah, didn’t the President, though, himself, as a candidate and as President, raise significant expectations about this legislation, saying it was going to be a beautiful plan, everyone was going to be covered? And did he ever really have a plan? And what does that say about his true knowledge regarding the healthcare system?
  • Can I just clarify:  As long as the Affordable Care Act remains law and replacement legislation is in abeyance, is the President committing, through HHS, to support the subsidies, the executive sustenance that the law — the existing law requires?
  • And can I follow up? You just said a few minutes ago, “we are taking responsibility in terms of pushing new legislation through.” That sentence seemed to conflict with what you were saying earlier. Can you clarify what you mean by “we’re taking responsibility”? What happened last night is the President’s responsibility — that’s what you’re saying?
  • So, outside of the White House, a couple of weeks ago, Mitch McConnell said either Republicans will agree to change the status quo or the markets will continue to collapse and we’ll have to sit down with Senator Schumer. So he was suggesting that sitting down with Democrats would be a consequence of Republicans failing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Is McConnell and the President — are they on the same page about whether or not they really do want to work with Democrats on this? McConnell seemed to indicate that that was the plan B, not the plan A.
  • But do you guys believe that that’s the way the process has actually unfolded in the Senate?
  • In terms of whether the Senate Republican leaders have been open to Democrats participating in the process.
  • Sarah, I want to ask you about the Iran deal. It’s been reported that the President was reluctant to certify that Iran is in compliance. Can you give voice to that reluctance? Just how reluctant was he?
  • One more question. To follow up on the lunch today, he sat with enlisted men and he heard from them what they think should happen. Was the President seeking a second opinion from what he’s hearing from the commanders? I’m just curious why he wanted to hear from the enlisted men.
  • Sarah, both you and the President have suggested that Obamacare is simply dead. In fact, though, there are millions of people who still depend on it. And the President has decisions to make — as was noted earlier, the payments to insurance companies and subsidies. He can push this over the cliff. As Senator Schumer said a short time ago, he has the power to do that. It’s not simply going to fail on its own. He has the power to do it.
  • Well, if it’s already failed, it can’t fail day after day after day. You’re saying it’s dead. You’re saying it’s dead. It’s not dead. There are still millions of people — many of them, the forgotten men and women you like to talk about — who still depend on it. And he has the power to kill it, dead. He has the power to push it over the cliff. Are you saying he’s already made the decisions on subsidies and payments to insurance companies that would finally kill it?
  • So you’re saying it’s dying, you’re not saying it’s dead. There are people who depend on it, millions of people, many of them your supporters, his supporters.
  • How could it be dead?
  • Is he going to help push it over the cliff?
  • Sarah, when you’ve spoken, you’ve spoken to the President earlier today — said that this system will continue to collapse and we’ll get to a point where Democrats have to come back to the table and join in trying to find a way to fix it. What specifically does the administration think would be that point where he would get a group conversation that has not happened yet?
  • No, no, no, it’s your —
  • No, you’re the ones who keep saying that there’s going to arrive a point at which the system has failed to such a degree that suddenly there’s a willingness to compromise. So, like, what are you envisioning?
  • Failures of individual plans?

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  • But you’re saying you’re going to arrive at that point —
  • But what specifically is going to happen to bring them back to the table?  You’re saying it’s unsustainable, it can’t be supported. And the President is saying it’s going to get to a point —
  • Sarah, you spoke before of — a question about Syria. You spoke before about progress made (inaudible) ISIS. And U.S.-backed forces have taken a couple more neighborhoods in western Raqqa recently. I was wondering, does the President have an opinion on who should control the city after ISIS is expelled?

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