TOWOIT #192

July 31, 2017… Day 193

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The first big thing that happened today is that the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly, started work and immediately fired Anthony Scaramucci (on his 10th day on the job). The other big thing that happened was that the Washington Post published an involved article that peels away a lot of Donald Trump’s plausible deniability re: knowledge that his team took meetings with Russians. It’s pretty damning. But so many things have been damning that it is hard to get excited about any new damning thing. Still, as they say, “drip, drip, drip.”

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(seen in a political tweet today)

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Questions asked to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Steve Mnuchin, and General McMaster (who talked about sanctioning Venezuela):

Asked of Mnuchin and McMaster:

  • Yes, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. If these sanctions don’t work, what would the next step be? And I guess, General McMaster, a question to you. Have we ruled out, or is anything on the table, other than economic sanctions?
  • And to General McMaster?
  • Thank you very much. How many times has OFAC sanctioned a head of state before? And does Maduro have any assets in the U.S.?
  • I have two questions. One on the sanctions and another one about the election yesterday. And about the election, I want to know if you see the election as an attempt by Nicolás Maduro to consolidate power and dismiss election next year. And also, some say — especially the opposition and also the Washington Post editorial board say that the Venezuelan regime is on the direction of a coup — is moving to the direction of a coup. Does the American government fear there is a coup underway in Venezuela?
  • Thank you, sir. Actually, this is goes to either or both of you. How is this different from what happened in Turkey when President Erdogan also seized — expanded powers in a referendum that some considered to have questionable results? You know, President Trump congratulated President Erdogan on that, and he later came to the U.S. and his people beat protestors in front of his embassy. What’s the difference?
  • Is the administration contemplating any action at the U.N. Security Council in terms of multilateral sanctions against the Maduro regime?
  • Have you spoken to other allies of the U.S. in terms of punishing the Maduro regime? General, can you please answer that?
  • Have you spoken to any other American allies about the issue of punishing the Maduro regime?
  • What conversations, Secretary Mnuchin, have you had or has the administration had or the President had with President Maduro or anybody at the senior level of Venezuela? Do you expect those conversations to happen over the next 24 or 48 hours?
  • You had said before — pardon me, the President had promised strong and swift economic sanctions. This is not really economic, this is more individual. Will the President carry out strong and swift economic sanctions?
  • There was some talk of maybe making some changes in terms of our export of light crude oil to Venezuela or curbing Venezuelan oil imports. Is that still on the table, or is that something that would be seen as hurting the Venezuelan people?
  • And would sanctions against oil hurt the Venezuelan people?
  • Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Sixteen years ago, Secretary Powell signed an agreement in South America in which the U.S. completely ruled out support of coups that would have an indirect change of government throughout Latin America, and supported direct succession. This occurred in Haiti when President Aristide was overthrown. Are you still abiding by the agreement Secretary Powell signed, and ruling out and U.S. support of a coup or of an uprising against the Maduro regime that brings in new leadership?
  • Yes, are there going to be sanctions on the Minister of Defense or people linked to the military?

Questions asked of Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

  • Sarah —
  • What happened, Sarah? What happened? (Laughter.)
  • Can you say, is Anthony Scaramucci still in the administration? Does he have another role now, besides Communications Director? And can you talk a little bit about the circumstances of his departure this morning?
  • He’s not at the Ex-Im Bank?
  • Can you say — did General Kelly ask him to leave? Or did the President ask him to leave? Did he volunteer his resignation? Or how did that come about?
  • Sarah, was it a chain of command issue? Because Scaramucci said that he had a direct line of communication with the President. Now, there’s been some speculation that General Kelly may try to tighten up the number of inputs that the President has. So was it something about the chain of command? Or did it have anything to do with that interview that Scaramucci had last week?
  • When you say he didn’t want to burden him with that line of succession, you mean the chain of command?
  • And if we could just clarify one point about this chain of command.  Apparently, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have said they look forward to following General Kelly’s lead. When it comes to the people who have access to the President, will that conduit be narrowed down now? Will everything flow through Kelly, or will some things still flow around the Chief of Staff’s office?
  • Sarah, this statement that was released by the White House says Mr. Scaramucci felt that it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team, but you just said the President felt that his comments were inappropriate.
  • And a follow-up to that. With the new hierarchy with General Kelly, tell us what it looks like in this administration.
  • So Steve Bannon, Kellyanne, everyone reports under him instead of going straight to the President with issues? Does every special assistant go to General Kelly first?
  • Thanks, Sarah. A real quick one first. I have two for you. A real quick one; it regards Sean Spicer. Will he be in the administration in any way now that Anthony Scaramucci has announced that he will not be a part of the Trump administration?
  • And then, my second one is this: Ten days ago, Anthony Scaramucci was introduced as the new White House Communications Director. Ten days later, he’s out of a job. The President announced on Twitter that there’s no chaos at the White House. How would you describe what has happened over the course of the past 10 days? Obviously, you will agree with your boss, the President, that there’s no chaos. But how do you explain that not to be the case?
  • Does the President regret hiring Anthony Scaramucci?
  • You said you don’t want to get into the process, but you already did. The statement says that Scaramucci “felt,” so you’re basically laying this on him.  You’re saying that it was his decision. Was it his decision?
  • Two questions. One on this, and then a different topic. Just to clarify, because I want to make sure I understand the word “he” here, who this refers to. You said a minute ago, “he” didn’t want to burden General Kelly also with that line of succession. The “he” there —
  • That’s the President. So you were saying that it’s the President who is deciding that —
  • Just on Russia and Russia sanctions. Do you know whether the President has, or intends to soon, sign the Russia sanctions bill? And why hasn’t the President taken the opportunities he’s had today — several public opportunities — to say something in response to Vladimir Putin’s retaliation with the 755 diplomats?
  • Will that happen today?
  • Why hasn’t he taken the opportunity to say something forceful to President Putin? I mean, I’ve talked to folks today who said it’s kind of striking the silence from the President, with no sort of response out of his own mouth. He has a couple of opportunities today to say something about it, and he didn’t.
  • Not to beat a dead horse, but to go back to April’s question —
  • — you said earlier, all staff will report to the new Chief of Staff. Does that include Jared Kushner? Does that include Steve Bannon? Everyone reports to Kelly?
  • Okay. And then I want to also ask on just a question about tax reform. Will the administration absolutely support the version of tax overhaul that comes out of the Ways and Means Committee?
  • Thank you, Sarah. When Sean Spicer resigned, it was for a clean slate. Now that Anthony Scaramucci resigned, that’s also for a clean slate.  Has the slate been totally cleaned at this point? (Laughter.) Can we expect any more staff shakeups? Everybody else in senior staff positions is planning to remain for this time?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two very brief questions. Is there any chance you will just leave the job of communications director alone, having had two people who held it leave rather abruptly, in both cases?
  • The other thing I wanted to ask was, when the President made his speech to police officers on Friday, almost within minutes, statements came from police chiefs across the country criticizing his remarks that seemed to endorse the use of force by police in certain arrests. Was the President joking when he said this, or did he check his remarks out with the International Association of Police Chiefs or maybe the Attorney General?
  • So to be clear — because the statement says that Anthony Scaramucci is no longer with the administration — was Scaramucci fired by the President, or was he asked to resign?
  • Quick follow-up from the President’s perspective. You said this was a back-and-forth conversation. Can you take us through a little bit of what the President is looking for in his communications shop — why he might make this decision to make a clean slate?
  • Are reports that Attorney General Sessions is being considered for Homeland Security chief accurate? How soon will that search be complete? How essential is it for the White House to fill that in a quick manner?
  • Two questions for you. One, on the Scaramucci issue — you said the President found his remarks inappropriate. Obviously, the President is not a stranger to salty language. Can you specify what exactly he found inappropriate or disturbing about that?
  • To do what?
  • Okay. Is it is a betrayal, sort of, of the rest of the staff? I’m just trying to find out, because you talk about the messaging being important for the President here, and obviously the head of the communications department is crucial to that effort. So just trying to figure out what exactly went wrong between this morning, when Scaramucci was here, and this afternoon.
  • On North Korea, obviously, events over the weekend have unfolded. There has been some discussion from outside analysts who are increasingly speculating about the possibility of a first strike. Is that an option on the table for this White House?
  •  Thank you, Sarah. The President, the week before last, signed an executive order on infrastructure. Does that mean that the President has no — not an intention, but is not going to prioritize working with Congress on the infrastructure bill? Is there any discussion at this point of moving forward on any sort of legislative plans for infrastructure, especially digital, since he mentioned in Iowa —
  • Thanks, Sarah. Just kind of big picture here:  We’ve seen the Chief of Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff, handful of communications directors, a press secretary, the national security advisor all leave in the first six months of this administration. Can you tell us a little bit about why there’s been all this turbulence? I know you don’t like to get into the process, but just — all of those things together, what’s going on?
  •  If I may, a quick follow-up on healthcare.
  • Mick Mulvaney said the White House doesn’t want any votes in the Senate until they’re voting on healthcare. With John McCain out, Pence out of the country, they don’t appear likely to vote on healthcare. And you guys are also pushing for the confirmation of some nominees. Is it the White House position that they will accept the Senate voting on non-healthcare things over the next few weeks and months?
  • The President’s legislative affairs director was talking today at the Newseum about the President’s tax reform ambitions. And I wanted to ask if you could elaborate on the President’s hope to travel in August to begin talk about tax cuts and tax reforms, and his interest in maybe getting some Democratic senators interested in supporting legislation. Do you have any details that you could supply about where he might go and the message he wants to impart?

 

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