July 19, 2017… Day 181
So, the New York Times published the transcript of a bananas interview with Donald Trump. As anti-Trump Twitter comes up for air from devouring the transcript tonight, it finds time to swipe Maggie Haberman for being a bad interviewer. Thing is, Trump being who he is — totally atypical as a politician and as a human being — why would typical interviewing techniques be the best strategy? Haberman draws so much out of him. It’s not her moment to grandstand or speak truth to power. There are other venues for that. If you’re going to get him into a flustered, uncooperative dudgeon then get it on live television at least. This is Haberman and two other reporters in the Oval Office, letting our wildebeest president talk. Also note: the two other reporters in the room were men. They don’t seem to be drawing fire for their interviewing skills.
People act like they know so much about journalism and interviewing. I doubt they do.
Questions that reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders (off-camera, but a reporter named Ksenija Pavlovic defied the rules and live-streamed it on Periscope):
- Sarah, the Obamacare repeal has about one trillion dollars in cuts over time. If it doesn’t pass, those cuts would obviously be off the table. How then, can Congress cut taxes and move on to tax reform without jacking up the national debt? And will the President push for tax cuts knowing this will probably balloon the deficit?
- Thanks, Sarah. President Trump said millions of people voted illegally and cost him the popular vote, but it was said repeatedly at today’s Voter Integrity Commission meeting that the committee has no preconceived notions or preordained results, and Trump himself said that the committee should have conclusions already drawn. So which is it? Did millions vote illegally or do you guys not know? Because the White House has now said both.
- Well, you have, as I have just indicated.
- But the President made the conclusion that millions voted illegally and cost him the popular vote. Today he’s saying he doesn’t want this commission that he formed to investigate that to have any of their own conclusions. I’m still not understanding how he —
- So that’s just opinion.
- Sarah, there was a report that just posted that Trump will make the cost-sharing payments to health insurers this month. Is that correct? Has that decision been finalized that he will make those cost-sharing reduction payments?
- Sarah, it’s triple play Wednesday, if you don’t mind. First of all, there’s been a lot of talk about what happened in this chance encounter, or whatever you want to call it, at the G20 dinner. Can you set the record straight as to how long the President spoke with President Putin and to the best of your knowledge, what they spoke about?
- Sarah, how long did they talk? What did they talk about?
- Sorry, triple play Wednesday. Can you confirm that the President has ended the CIA’s program to arm moderate Syrian rebels, which is something that Russia was looking for?
- And then the third question —
- No it’s not. (Laughter.) You force the follow-ups. Does the President support the security (inaudible)?
- Secretary of State on the Russia meeting — the Secretary of State provided a pretty full readout of the President’s conversation with President Putin in the actual one-on-one. Why not provide some sort of inkling of what was said in that conversation at the dinner? And secondly, why did it take so long for the administration to talk about this conversation?
- There’s a great deal of public interest in the candid exchange between these two leaders. Why did it take so long?
- But not pictures of those two together in their private meeting.
- Sarah, is the President confident that the Kremlin translator was accurately conveying what he meant to convey to Vladimir Putin? I mean, it is typical protocol to have another official or translator there so that the Presidents can understand each other properly. Did he trust the Kremlin translator to portray what his thoughts were accurately?
- Do you mean to say, though, that it wasn’t in depth enough or sensitive enough that he felt it a matter of a need to have accuracy and have someone else there? Because obviously there was a staffer — he was staffed for the Japanese translator.
- I’ll go for the double play, Sarah, but let me follow up on Margaret here, and John, because this news from the Washington Post that the President is now going to end this program to arm anti-Assad rebels is obviously significant. Did this come up in that conversation at dinner?
- Okay, so the second question then on the Election Voting Commission. The person that the President has installed to be the vice-chair, Kris Kobach, is now saying that nobody — we may never be sure if Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Also saying it’s possible, if that’s the case, we may never be sure if Donald Trump won the Electoral College. Is that the position of this White House? That it’s unclear whether Hillary Clinton won the popular vote?
- So then does he not trust Kris Kobach to be running this commission given those comments?
- Given those comments and if the President in fact does believe that the vote tally was accurate, does he not trust Kris Kobach to run this commission?
- Sarah, given the private conversations that the President had with the Russian ambassador and the Russian Foreign Minister here in the White House where it was later learned that he revealed some sensitive information — classified information — to those Russian leaders, can you say with certainty that the President revealed no sensitive or classified information in any way to Vladimir Putin during that private conversation?
- Sarah, piggy-backing off of Peter, why didn’t you have a conversation with the President about it? Especially since it has been in the news. It’s, again, another cloud of secrecy, controversy, omission.
- But have you thought about asking the President so that you can put to rest all of these questions?
- And lastly, the NAACP said they sent a letter to President Trump in January for an invitation to be a speaker at their convention next week. Presidents going back to Bill Clinton, George W. Bush — a Republican President — and Barack Obama, have spoken at the convention. They have not received one word from this administration as to the President or any administration official, be it cabinet secretary or what have you, to speak. Is it under consideration or what is it? Because they said they have a lot of issues, to include issues of healthcare, they want to hear from the President about, and it’s not an organization that’s leaning to one party or another. It’s a 501(c)(3).
- When was the organization? When did they get the letter?
- Because as of last night, they had no word of any kind.
- Yesterday you rejected any suggestion that the President would be responsible for the healthcare bill failure.
- Yeah, right. Four years ago he tweeted, “Whatever happened, you’re responsible. If it doesn’t happen, you’re responsible.” If the healthcare repeal doesn’t move forward, will the President shoulder any blame for what happened?
- Thank you, Sarah. You previously said that the President and Vladimir Putin only talked about the sanctions related to election meddling. It now sounds like you haven’t spoken to the President about what they may have discussed at that dinner. So would it be true to say that you don’t know, at this point, whether other sanctions came up?
- And then I had a question about the travel, following up on Mr. Short’s comments. Will the White House commit the President to not taking any personal travel and staying in Washington for anything but the personal travel until the healthcare bill is done? That would specifically include the weekend trips to Bedminster or any of his other golf courses.
- Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. Mark Walker, the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said that the RSC draft budget is pretty much in line with what the administration wants except it wants to reform the three entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The President wants to preserve them, and he hopes to talk to the President about. I believe he’s already talked to Director Mulvaney. Is this something that the President is in cement on or that he would negotiate on?
- Thanks, Sarah. Two questions for you. To follow up on Adrian’s question, where does the responsibility lie from the perspective of the White House on the pace at which the healthcare process has unfolded?
- How quickly it’s unfolded and been addressed.
- You’ve obviously spoken to the President about the healthcare push from the White House. Has he expressed any sort of concern about his domestic policy agenda and the speed at which healthcare has gone through? Is he concerned that this could affect tax reform, immigration, other agenda items that he has?
- Sarah, let me pick up on that. An answer that you gave yesterday — I was hoping you could clarify as it related to healthcare and taxes. You said, “We’re not done with the healthcare battle. We’re going to continue pushing forward on that and hopefully get that completed and then transition fully to tax reform after that’s over.” It sounded like there you were saying that healthcare has to get done in order to move to tax reform. We know that healthcare reform is kind of in this neutral position right now. Is that indeed the case that tax reform still has to wait until whatever happens with healthcare gets settled or are you willing to walk from healthcare at a certain point and say we got to get going on taxes?
- Sarah, thank you. I just want to go back Marc’s answer on the President’s commitment to stay or go to stay in town. What he said was the President will be traveling, but I imagine the members will be traveling too. So why is it not fair to ask that the President stay in town if he’s asked the senators to do the same?
- So we can expect to see the President go to Bedminster, perhaps, during this time?
- Two questions. Just to clarify on the conversation between President Trump and President Putin at the dinner. So you’re saying it was very brief. Is that less than an hour, less than a half-hour? Do you have any timeframe for how long that talk was?
- And then the second question on a different topic. So the U.S. and China were having economic talks today about trade, and there were two press conferences planned for both sides. Both of those press conferences have been canceled. Should we take that as maybe there’s some issues with these economic talks going on — the trade talks going on with China?
- Sarah, just a quick question. I think this was sort of brought up with Marc when he was just here, but did anyone at the White House ask Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie to go to the Hill on the President’s behalf to lobby lawmakers on the healthcare bill?
- Are you guys aware that they are there doing this?
- Is it possible that they were asked to do that from someone in this administration?