July 20, 2017… Day 180
Wildest news day yet, in a long string of wild news days. Before plunging into the fray of headlines, I would just like to note that Mick Mulvaney brought visual aids to today’s off-camera press briefing.
Questions reporters asked Sarah H. Sanders today (off-camera, embargoed audio):
- Sarah, thank you for the question. Does the President have confidence in his Attorney General? Does he want the Attorney General to stay in this post?
- Sarah, can I follow up on that one? You said the President has confidence in the Attorney General. Does the President believe that the Attorney General serves the President or the Constitution?
- Would the President prefer the Attorney General resign?
- It’s a little bit of a slightly different nuance, so that’s why I’m asking it. You say he has confidence in him. Does that mean he does not want him to resign?
- But clearly there’s a difference of opinion here because the President thinks what the Attorney General did was improper, yet the Attorney General, in recusing himself last spring, believes that he was taking the appropriate action, given the potential conflict of interest in him leading the Russia investigation. So how do you explain that split? And what —
- Thanks, Sarah. A question about healthcare. The President has repeatedly said that 21-year-olds can pay $12 a year for health insurance under the Republican plan. He said it again yesterday to the New York Times. What does he mean by that? Is the White House aware of a health insurance plan that charges only $12 per year? And if not, why does the President keep making that claim?
- Can you get back to me on that — because the CBO estimates that it would be about $1,100 dollars a year, even for the lowest income 21-year-olds.
- The President said that if Robert Mueller were to look at his finances or the family finances, it would constitute a red line. How is that not a threat to the special counsel?
- That should not be viewed as a threat, as a warning to what the special counsel should or should not be looking at as it relates to the President’s and his family’s finances?
Let me try to come at this one different way.
- Why does the President have confidence in his Attorney General? Maybe you can explain it that way.
- It was reported last month that there was this rift between the President and the Attorney General and it ended up that the Attorney General had offered his resignation. Did that happen? How did that process play out? And why did the President at that time decide not to accept the resignation?
- One more question. From his sickbed, Senator McCain today issued a statement that questioned why, six months into the administration, there still is not an Afghanistan strategy. He said they’re still waiting. Why is there still not an Afghanistan strategy, and when can we expect it?
- Sarah, thanks. I want to go back to the President’s comments about Robert Mueller. He was asked if Mr. Mueller does, in fact, look into his finances as part of his special counsel, would he consider firing him. The President said, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen. Does that mean that firing the special counsel is something that’s on the table for this President?
- And, Sarah, if the President is not concerned about this probe, why does it matter? Why does he care if Robert Mueller looks into his finances?
- And just one more about Senator John McCain. The President, like so many others, sent out letters of prayers last night to the Senator. Has he had any time to reflect on some of his past comments about Senator McCain? Does he regret saying he likes people who weren’t captured?
- Sarah, it’s been over a month since the President promised a press conference on discussing the administration’s ISIS strategy. The Daily Beast had an article about this ISIS strategy document, and so can we expect this press conference to take place soon? And if the strategy is completed, then what’s the delay about having this so far?
- Sarah, can you tell us a little bit more about the President’s meeting today at the Pentagon? What was discussed? What was sort of the main focus there?
- So was it a certain part of the world? Or all parts of the world?
- Did North Korea come up?
- Sarah, a finer point on Mueller: The President said if he does investigate his or the family’s finances, that’s crossing a red line. There’s a report today that Mueller is investigating a broad range of the family’s financial transactions. If that report is true, then he has crossed the red line. Does that mean he fires him?
- Even if he crosses the red line? So the red line doesn’t mean anything?
- But he said that. It’s on audio. He said, that’s crossing a red line. That’s not something you read in the paper. You can listen to the audio.
- But if it’s true —
- And if it doesn’t, he fires him.
- Why does the President expect loyalty from his aides, from members of his Cabinet, when he’s constantly criticizing them and undercutting them and contradicting them in — particularly in media outlets that he constantly tries to discredit?
- Sarah, how does the process play out when the President is very candid about what he thinks about his Attorney General, about what he thinks about Mueller? How does this process play out?
- The investigation — the investigation, the whole process of relationships between Sessions and the President; the process of this investigation by Mueller. How does this play out with the President being very upset over the process and openly criticizing everyone and people are in fear?
- I have two more questions.
- Yes, two more. There’s a belief that these conversations with the New York Times, with — whatever reporters — are pieces of intimidation to go to Mueller, to go to Sessions. What do you say to that?
- And then lastly, Baltimore. Does the President regret what he said about Baltimore? He threw Rosenstein under the bus for the wrong city. He’s not from Baltimore, he’s from Philadelphia. And there are people in Baltimore saying there are a lot of Republicans there even though the city is led by a Democratic mayor.
- But it was wrong. The statement was wrong.
- Has President Trump spoken with the Attorney General in the past 24 hours?
- And a follow-up, does he regret appointing Jeff Sessions to be his Attorney General?
- And a quick one on Afghanistan policy: Following his meeting this morning at the Pentagon, is the President any closer to unveiling a policy towards Afghanistan? And should the American people expect that we will be sending more troops to the region?
- Sarah, can we just reconcile what you just said? You said the President does not regret appointing Jeff Sessions, yet he said in that interview with the New York Times that he does regret it because had he known what he was going to do before he appointed him, he would have said, sorry, Jeff, I’m going to get someone else.
- So I just wondering, how do you come to those two thoughts?
- He asked, does the President regret appointing Jeff Sessions —
- So does he regret appointing Jeff Sessions?
- But he also said had he told him that he wouldn’t have appointed him. So does he regret now in retrospect appointing Jeff Sessions?
- When asked about Mueller today a couple of times you’ve used conditional language that “he doesn’t intend to” — it’s “at this time.” How can his independence be guaranteed if you’re saying in conditional tense that he’s not going to try to have him removed?
- Sarah, you’ve been asked multiple times today about the war in Afghanistan. Both times you referred us to the Defense Department. But President Trump is still the Commander-in-Chief. Does he take full responsibility for whatever happens on the conflict in Afghanistan?
- Thank you, Sarah. You spoke earlier about — apparently about confidence in General Sessions staying there. Does the President have the same confidence and lack of regret in naming Ron Brownstein [sic] deputy attorney general? Mr. Brownstein being —