August 25, 2017… Day 218

My angry fascination is verging into plain weariness this week. But today was especially a doozy. It’s pretty simple, really.

  • It’s a Friday night near the end of August
  • A giant, especially destructive hurricane is pounding the Texas coast as we speak. But there are still immigration checkpoints on the evacuation paths away from the coast.

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  • Also, Trump actually pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of a contempt of court charge for defying a judge’s ruling that he not impinge the civil rights of Latinos.
  • And Trump actually issued an official order banning transgender people in the military.
  • And he made very ominous noises about doing away with DACA altogether, which would put 800,000 young people at risk.
  • Trump is off to Camp David. As he walked to the helicopter, reporters asked him if he had any words for the people in Texas. He gave a thumb’s up and said “Good luck!”
  • Also, Seb Gorka was fired/resigned (??) which was below the radar in the headlines, even for me
  • And MANY things happened on the Russia front… you really can’t keep up with this stuff. But Rachel Maddow seems on top of it. Not to mention Robert Mueller.
  • Every few days there’s a think piece about how liberals have wishful thinking that something is going to happen to cause Trump to resign.
  • The alternative to Trump resigning looks like a backslide into dictatorship. I think this is true and a possibility. We are already backsliding away from democracy. Things get more ridiculous everyday. If he can get away with being this ridiculous, then he can dismantle our democratic institutions completely. It gets harder to believe that he can get away with it. But it also gets harder to believe that he’s gotten away with it all so far.
  • Oh yes, and North Korea fired more missiles
  • And Trump wants to diminish or do away with national monument designation for some public lands.
  • If you ever feel a lack of confidence, just remember that almost every week, the Pod Save America guys emphatically mispronounce the word percolate as though it’s perk-yoo-late. Jon Favreau also says ca-shay for the word cache (like storage cache). On the other hand, Jon Favreau is handsomer than you and I will ever be.

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Here are the questions that reporters asked at the press briefing today:

Selected questions to Mnuchin:

  • Thank you, sir. This is a pretty strongly worded statement, and you describe President Maduro as a dictator who disregards the rule of law and things like that. I’ll ask you again, because I asked you this last time you guys were up here on this subject: How is what’s happening in Venezuela with President Maduro any different from the situations with dictators in Turkey, in the Philippines, and in Russia that also routinely step on the rule of law and ignore democratic norms? And yet President Trump and his administration can’t seem to bring themselves to criticize them. Why is this dictator worse than all the other dictators?
  • Mr. Secretary, going back to the debt ceiling, you sound completely confident the debt ceiling will be raised in September.
  • So what did the President mean when he said in a tweet this morning, now it’s a mess? He said, “It could have been easy if it was attached to the VA.  Now a mess.” What did he mean by that?
  • And, Mr. Secretary, if I could ask you — your colleague, Gary Cohn, had remarks — an interview with the Financial Times this morning in which he said he felt compelled to express his distress about the President’s remarks last week. He said he felt intense pressure to resign. He said that he won’t do so, but he believes that the administration must do better confronting hate groups. Do you associate yourself with those remarks? And did you feel the same pressure that Gary Cohn said he felt, to resign?
  • Mr. Secretary, while you’re here, if you don’t mind — on tax reform, yesterday Mitch McConnell said that this would happen during the Congress, suggesting that potentially this could be a 2018 event.  Paul Ryan was much more certain, saying that this is going to happen in 2017. As you see it, the timeline, do you still believe that this can get done in 2017? And, secondly, now that this is being put in the hands of the committees from here on out to kind of do the work and come up with the figures, how confident are you that Congress can kind of handle this so you don’t get burned on tax reform like you did with healthcare reform?

Selected questions to McMaster:

  • General McMaster, just to clarify on the question of options for the President that’s asked of you.  When the Vice President was in the region, almost every nation he went to expressed reservations about U.S. military involvement in Venezuela.  Will that be enough to dissuade the President from taking any military action?  And if military action is contemplated, what is the national security implication to the United States of the situation in Venezuela?
  • If I could ask each of you gentlemen a question now that you’re here.  General McMaster, if you could help us all understand what the President meant on Monday night when he said that we’re looking for an honorable and enduring outcome in Afghanistan.
  • General McMaster, following on that, given the history and the ideology of the Taliban, are you confident that a political solution settlement could ever be reached with the Kabul government that wouldn’t end up once U.S. forces leave Afghanistan and the Taliban reneging on their agreement and trying to take over Afghanistan?
  • For General McMaster, could you define “winning” in Afghanistan?  What does winning in Afghanistan look like for the United States?

Selected questions to Bossert:

  • Tom, give us an idea of what the President is doing to monitor the developments of the storm and what he’ll be doing as he moves to Camp David this weekend.  How is he going to be in touch with federal officials and local officials?
  • Tom, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley urged the President not to repeat the mistakes of the past — 2005 Katrina, specifically.  How much is that in the back of your mind as you prepare for landfall of Harvey?
  • Thank you, sir.  The President tweeted out a photo of you briefing him this morning.  What questions did President Trump have for you about the preparations that are underway?
  • Thank you. Can you tell us specifically who is going to be traveling with the President this weekend?  You mentioned that you will be. Who will be accompanying you? And is there any discussion about the President canceling his trip, in light of everything that you’re saying? And then can you just give us a sense of how he and you and your teams are thinking about this? Is this a storm, are you anticipating, that will be of the magnitude of Katrina, given all the comparisons?
  • The nation’s fuel supply chain may be impacted by this hurricane.  What are you doing to prepare for that?  Give me a sense about the concerns that you’ve expressed to the President about that particular issue.
  • You mentioned in your opening statement that now is not the time to lose faith in your government institutions. That struck me as a very interesting line coming from somebody behind the White House podium. Can you talk a little bit — expand on that a little bit?  Is there a fear that you have or the administration has that either political climate or rhetoric being used either in this town or more broadly could have real impact on lives — in this case, people maybe not listening to a government if they lost faith in their government, as you warned?
  •  Related question on that. There’s been some concern that patrol checkpoints for the Border Patrol north of the border in Texas are being maintained and that could dissuade some people from getting a shelter.  Are you addressing that?
  • No, not across the border. North of the border there are immigration inspection checkpoints, and supposedly those are being maintained, as well as the fears that there could be checks at shelters.  So that would dissuade people from evacuating from –
  • Tom, you have described your experience and Director Long’s experience, but this is the first time President Trump will be in charge for a national disaster of this — natural disaster of this scale. What do you think he has to project in terms of leadership or skillset for the country to feel that he has led well in this situation?
  • Was there any discussion with the President about him coming out and addressing the nation, given the magnitude, potential magnitude, of this storm?  Should people be hearing from their Commander-in-Chief about the preparations the government is taking, and just hear it from his mouth that he believes that you should be listening to state and local officials and offer assurances at a time like this?

Questions asked of Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

  • Sarah, has the President spoken to Gary Cohn about his comments? He said that the administration “can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning hate groups.”
  • What did the President mean — <shut down by Sarah>
  • What did the President mean when he said there were very fine people on both sides? Who were the very fine people who were protesting with the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville? <shut down by Sarah>
  • Who were the very fine people — <shut down by Sarah>
  • I’m just wondering, was the President aware of the content of Gary Cohn’s interview before it was published?
  •  Was he —
  • Two quick tax questions. For the Missouri trip next week, do you expect the President will reveal any new details about what he’d like to see in the tax reform overhaul?
  • And then on the corporate tax rate —
  • Sarah, the President mentioned two weeks ago possible military action in Venezuela, but H.R. McMaster just said that there’s nothing in the near future. Does the President now feel that way? Or is he still pushing towards possible military action?
  • Sarah, thank you. I want to ask you about DACA. Has the President made a decision about whether to end or phase out DACA? And is that imminent?
  • Is the decision imminent, Sarah?
  • Thanks, Sarah. A number of charities and other groups have cancelled events scheduled at Mar-a-Lago in the wake of the President’s Charlottesville comments. Does that, coupled with these Mr. Cohn comments that we’ve discussed, the disbandment of the business council, does that make him rethink and reconsider at all his remarks and his reaction in the wake of Charlottesville?
  • Sarah, the President today took to Twitter to criticize Senator Bob Corker. And in just the past month, he’s criticized a number of Republican senators. He’s criticized Leader McConnell on Twitter, Senator John McCain, Senator Flake, Senator Graham of South Carolina, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. What is the end game for the President? What does that do for him in terms of trying to move his legislative forward when he criticizes these important people, given the majorities are so slim in the Senate that are necessary to move his legislative agenda forward?

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