October 1, 2017… Day 255

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The passage of time is shrinking the number of Trump supporters who we might have generously assumed were just thoughtless and infected by unexamined latent racism and were sort of incidentally ok with racism. None of that is great but it was what it was. As that pool shrinks, there’s a growing number of people that you now HAVE to consider real goddamn dyed-in-the-wool overt racist bastards. And it’s horrifying.

I just kept adding to this bulleted list over the course of my morning:

  • Woke up to video of masked Spanish police hurling regular-looking people down a stairwell for trying to vote in the Catalan referendum.
  • Trump went hard last night and this morning about how everyone must stand for the national anthem. Or what? We get thrown down a stairwell? Remember that guy who got sentenced to death because we he went back to fixing his bicycle too soon after some kind of official procession had passed in the road?
  • Hugh Hefner laid to rest next to Marilyn Monroe, which makes me want to vomit.
  • Trump’s tweets about Puerto Rico… see vomit, vomit, more vomit
  • CHIP went over a cliff — 9 million children losing health coverage
  • Trump’s tweets about North Korea — just, what the fuck, man.

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This is my weight since November 8. Every line represents a pound. The dotted blue line is a 30-day moving average. So you can see that at first I was so upset by the election that I could barely eat and my weight dropped. And then wow, boy, could I ever eat. Stress eat. Cheese and carbs like nobody’s business. And then around May, I was like, “Trump’s not going to be the reason I can’t fit into my favorite clothes and have achy knees.” So I stopped stress eating and now I am starting to normalize. The other thing I like about this chart is that you can track my menstrual cycle and midcycle pizza attacks from peak to peak. Bloating. It’s just data.

These are the questions that were asked at Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s latest press briefing, which was on Thursday (today is Sunday). Gary Cohn and Tom Bossert were there too.

To Gary Cohn about the proposed tax plan:

  • Gary, the big criticism — well, there’s been some criticism that it’s a giveaway to the rich. But the one criticism that seems to be relevant for your home state, Connecticut, California, and other states is that by eliminating the state and local deductions, there are certain people who will suffer double taxation. These are obviously itemizers. Is that a hard and fast red line with you, or would you be willing to give that up in congressional negotiations?
  • But the criticism is that there are some people in the middle income, for whom this tax cut is supposed to be beneficial — because they itemize — who might be hit by that.
  • A follow-up on what John was asking — the standardized deduction versus itemized. There are people who think that if you dissuade people from itemizing, that you’re going to suppress the real estate market; that people won’t be interested in buying homes because they won’t need to use itemized deductions. Can you address their concerns?
  • How are you going to ensure that wealthy tax payers don’t abuse the lower pass rate plan?
  • Are there any specifics today though on how to do that?
  • Just two things about one thing that you said this morning and something the President said yesterday. You said that you couldn’t guarantee necessarily that no middle-class tax payers would actually pay more taxes under this plan. And because of the details that you were talking about just before that, it is a real possibility. Some of the calculations are that some lower-income people could see a very small cut of a few dollars or not more than that. So is it a red line for you and for the President that all middle-class tax payers see a cut under this plan? And then secondly, the President said yesterday that this tax cut would not help him. In fact, he said in Indiana that it would be bad for him. But based on what we know — what little that we know about his finances — he’d get a big cut on the AMT; I think he’d save something like $31 million. On pass-through income he’d save $16.5 million. He’d obviously save a lot not paying the estate tax; his heirs would. So how can he say that this is not a plan that would help him?
  • Speaking of past years and the President saying that this tax plan wouldn’t benefit him, don’t you think it would be a good idea if the President proved that by releasing his tax returns?
  • If you can’t guarantee that all middle-class Americans wont’ see — or some middle-class Americans won’t see their taxes go up, does that contradict the central promise of this plan to help all middle-class Americans?
  • Can you guarantee that all of them will see a tax cut?
  • Gary, can you walk us through the timeline for how you think the tax writing committees will get through this? And what confidence do you have that, given what’s happened so far this year on Capitol Hill, that they will actually get this done? And secondly, why did you decide to stay the White House in the wake of Charlottesville?
  • Gary, one follow on that, and then my question, which was: Does that mean when you’re done with tax reform, that you will no longer be at the White House? Did you mean to imply that?
  • We’d love to hear what would make you stay.
  • On the child tax credit, which we have heard Ivanka Trump talk about, campaign on, can you give us any kind of description as to what that would look like? I know it’s still being written, but what is the goal here? Will it be refundable? What are some of the broad outlines?
  • But you have a range in mind.
  • Can you give any sense of that?
  • Thank you. The Committee for a Responsible [Federal] Budget said that the plan will add $2.2 trillion to the deficit. Are they wrong?
  • Thank you, Gary. Appreciate the opportunity. On the corporate side, your critics say that on the repatriation of overseas assets, that history would show that companies don’t always use those assets, when they’re repatriated, to invest in manufacturing and jobs and the things that you guys are talking about. They do share buybacks and other financial engineering. How can you guarantee that that won’t happen this time?
  • Gary, you’ve been asked a question twice and you didn’t answer. I’d like to get you to answer this — because I get your messaging on the middle class; you’ve made that very clear. But this tax plan, as it stands now, appears that it will benefit the President and his family. Why not just be candid about that?
  • What about the wealthy folks, is what I’m asking.
  • (Inaudible) what the President’s message is here too, and he’s saying he won’t benefit, yet it appears as though the way this is put together, he actually will. And it gets to the idea of wealthy Americans around this country, which people do care about. So can you just speak to that?
  • Gary, just as a follow-up question on that. In your ultimate appearance of this group, you said that — I cited to you the worry of groups such as Jim Martin and the 60 Plus seniors association — that you are going to drag out repeal of the death tax; that it wouldn’t be immediate. And you said at the time it was immediate. Is that final? Is it going to be an immediate repeal and go off the books as soon as the new tax reform package is passed?
  • It’s immediate?
  • And the same with the alternative minimum tax?
  • Speaking of small businesses, let’s start negotiating, because yesterday Senator Schumer said that Democrats may be willing to work some kind of small business tax relief into whatever comes out of all this. Where do you start negotiating on that? What offer do you want to make, perhaps, to the Democrats?


To Tom Bossert on Puerto Rico efforts:

  • If I can ask you — first of all, thanks for being here. Specifically on the Jones Act, which has been the focus of a lot of attention in the course of the last 24 to 72 hours right now, critics say the White House should have moved more quickly in waiving the Jones Act, lawmakers among them. Why is that an unfounded complaint?
  • So to be very clear, through this point, then obviously distribution is one of the biggest challenges. You talked about 44 of 69 hospitals now being up and running as necessary to bring those people whose lives are at risk. What percentage of the country would you say you really haven’t had a chance to even explore to see how they’ve been impacted by this?
  • A quick follow on John, if I could. Had Governor Rosselló, Tom, not requested — proactively — a waiver in the Jones Act, would you have seen a compelling reason to initiate a waiver?
  • Was this just all overhyped, in simple terms?
  • Tom, your need is immediate, and with all the challenges that are coming, what are the conversations about with airdrops — just airdropping in certain areas? Because people are talking about running out of water, running out of food like in hours or minutes. What’s happening with that conversation? And also, once again, an issue of housing. We’re hearing about ships — cruise ships. What else is going on with this?
  • Wouldn’t airdrops circumvent all of that having to rebuild infrastructure and move things away?
  • Tom, I’ve got a text here from a volunteer who has boots on the ground, and he says that they need helicopters to evacuate people from remote areas of the island. And he says there are people burying their family members in front yards, communication is badly needed, and they look at apocalyptic conditions between 48 and 72 hours. There’s a little bit of disconnect from what I’m hearing here and what they’re telling me there. Can you explain the difference?
  • What is the norm?
  • Senator Rubio, who just got back from the island, says there are significant logistical concerns with the administration’s response. He says there’s no clear command, control, and communication between local and federal agencies. And he says this requires a response led by DOD. Is that option on the table here?
  • If airdrops would help, why are those not happening? Is that a military issue? Is that a problem with them not stepping up?
  • Tom, several aid flights have gotten out of South Florida and managed to get to the island and deliver food and water without having logistical problems. There’s severe criticism coming from South Florida now, saying that there’s mismanagement coming all the way from the President. How do you respond to that?
  • The mayor (inaudible) managed to get an aid flight into the island and get it unloaded. And he says the problems that you’re having logistically are of your own making from not taking action sooner and bringing in the military sooner.
  • How is he able to get supplies through? And why is it that there are 10,000 containers waiting at the port of San Juan?
  • The President has referenced some of the debt and economic problems that Puerto Rico has been struggling with for some time here. When you were talking about the lack of capacity, municipal and state level — I mean, are you faulting local officials for a lack of preparedness?
  • But how is that impacting this response? Because the President brought it up.
  • I wanted to follow that a little bit and ask: As you’re starting to envision, down the road, if any sort of bailout might be part of this sort of broader recovery package, that you look for in a supplemental. And on that supplemental, I know the first crack at it will be relatively soon. Aides on Capitol Hill are suggesting that it could be the first week in October. Is that the timeline that you’re anticipated? And have you started to compile that?
  • I’m not sure if I still understand — why has it taken eight days to get a three-star general on the ground to start organizing this? We know the island situation, et cetera. But why eight days?
  • San Antonio is thousands of miles from Puerto Rico. Why — was it a mistake — would you acknowledge it was a mistake, looking back, to not have this three-star general on the ground earlier?

To Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

  • Has the President looked any further into Tom Price’s use of a private plane? Is he taking any steps to crack down on this practice?
  • Does Secretary Price expect to keep his job in this administration?
  • Can I ask two things? First, the President has, six times over the last couple days, said that a senator is in the hospital. I think that’s a reference to Senator Cochran who is not in the hospital. And the reason that this is a relevant question is that the President said that they have the votes for the healthcare bill to pass. So can you tell us what senator he is referring to? And if it is Senator Cochran, why, if the votes exist, that the Senate isn’t voting on it now?
  • The second thing is, obviously the President didn’t support Roy Moore in the primary, but he has moved to kind of warmly embrace him since then. But I guess what I’m wondering is, Judge Moore has made a series of controversial comments, saying homosexual conduct should be illegal; equating being gay to bestiality; saying that a lawmaker who’s Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to serve. I’m wondering why those comments shouldn’t disqualify him from a presidential endorsement, particularly considering that from the campaign trail the President promised to be an advocate for those groups.
  • Thanks, Sarah. I want to follow up on that, because as he mentioned, Judge Moore said homosexuality should be illegal. He said that Sandy Hook was some sort of divine retribution. He said Keith Ellison should not be permitted to serve in Congress because he’s a Muslim. So without asking about the specifics of the race, does President Trump share any of those views that I just mentioned? And if not, why does he think this person is fit to be a U.S. senator?
  • Are there any beliefs a candidate could hold, or actions a candidate can take that, that if he were still a Republican, the President would not endorse him?
  • Tom did not call on me, so I’m going to ask the question I wanted to understand. He mentioned in response to what Senator Rubio was saying, asking the Pentagon to be in charge, that the Pentagon is in charge of a lot but not everything. I still don’t understand why it’s not in charge of everything, or what the response will be to Senator Rubio, who sent a letter over to the President today.
  • But why is not one entity in charge, I guess, is the question. He said many people were in charge of different things. Why is one person not in charge, or one entity?
  • Sarah, two questions. One, I know you said the White House doesn’t approve charter flights ahead of time, but generally speaking, given the focus of the President on cost-saving — like he said, he wanted to not just drain the swamp, but he wanted people to spend money in more responsible ways — is there a policy of the administration for government employees and Cabinet members to try to fly commercial? Do they have any guidance? Were they given any guidance as to how they should be traveling?
  • I just want to follow up on Roy Moore comments. I know you don’t want to talk about the race, but from the podium do you want to at least condemn some of those sentiments that you said the President, to your knowledge, does not share?
  • One more question on Secretary Price’s flight. You said the White House was not aware of it, but on at least one of those flights, a senior advisor, Kellyanne Conway, was flying with him on a private flight. Are you looking into that one specifically to see if the White House knew about that?
  • Is the President, as he’s watching this coverage in Puerto Rico, is he satisfied with what he sees as the response there? Is he satisfied of what he’s hearing from his advisors? Or would he like to see things moving along faster as some people on the ground have asked for?
  • Sarah, I saw that Secretary Price is here today for an event for the First Lady. Did the President have the chance to sit down and talk with him about this issue of his private jet use? Or has he had a one-on-one conversation with the Secretary about that? And when you said that the White House has ordered a halt on all of these flights, is that administration-wide? White House people? Every agency? You said particularly with regard to HHS.
  • Following up on that, does the President believe, or does anyone at the White House think that there has been a tone set at the top here that has allowed Cabinet members to feel empowered to able take private jet flights when they’re going on official travel? We now have the HHS Secretary, the EPA Administrator, the Treasury Secretary took a flight on a private jet, in an itinerary that’s widely available commercially. Is there something that the President has said or done to set this tone that this is okay? And what is he —
  • Two things. One, I just want to kind of understand the extent of the review process here. And two, Price and others — you said there’s an IG review, there’s an HHS review. Is there a White House component? And is Price dealing with that, or has anyone who’s been accused of —
  • Sarah, the President said that he would donate personal funds — I think $1 million — to Harvey relief. Is he making any kind of personal donation to Puerto Rico?
  • Couple housekeeping things: one, we saw Steve Scalise with that emotional remarks on the House chamber today. Did the President speak to him today or yesterday and welcome him back? And can you tell us about that conversation?
  • A couple other quick items. Given the extent of the disaster in Puerto Rico right now, is the President considering delaying his trip there scheduled for next Tuesday?
  • And then finally, has Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump or any other White House staff member taken a private plane ride since their joining this administration or been given access, in some form, to ride along with somebody else on a private plane?
  • I would like to ask about Cuba. CBS is reporting that the U.S. is prepared to announce a major withdrawal of staff and families from the embassy in Havana. Is there anything you can tell us about that? And how would you describe the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. right now?
  • Cuba says it warned the U.S. against taking any, “hasty actions,” in response to these incidents happening in Havana targeting diplomats. How does the U.S. respond to that?
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President, as you know, has said that players who kneel or take a knee during the national anthem, ought to be fired. And you, yourself have said from the podium, in response to a very critical tweet by an ESPN anchor, that that individual ought to be fired. You said, it was a “fireable offense.” Which brings me to Secretary Price. His extensive use by these private jets — why is that not a fireable offense — is my first question. And has he offered to reimburse the government in any way for his use of those private jets?
  • Sarah, on the taking a knee issue, we’re understanding that many of the NFL players are still very upset with this back-and-forth —
  • Okay. I understand but can I finish my question, please? Thank you.Many NFL players are very upset. Many people have different ideas and opinions on this, but, when the President weighed in, the NFL said we’re going to be united. There’s an anticipation that it could grow even more so this weekend. What is the President anticipating? What should we expect him to say about this? It’s now the NFL against the President.
  • Okay, so the NFL players, from what we are hearing, it’s not about not having pride. They’re saying they’re patriots. They love this country. But their challenge is challenging the system, and they’re looking at history — like the challenge of the system we’re paying to women’s rights issues, as well as civil rights. What does the President say when you look at history and see how people love this country but wanted to challenge the system to make it better?
  • Sarah, wait a minute. Just to clarify on that —
  • Yes, there is. This is a big —
  • People are very divided on this issue. It is a racial issue for some people. And the question is, when the military issue is brought in, the military goes and fights for the freedoms of this nation, and the players are saying they’re thankful for the military’s service to allow them to have the freedoms to do this. I mean, is there some kind of confusion here or is it an us-versus-them kind of scenario?
  • Just to follow on that, the President, this morning, said he believes that NFL team owners are afraid of their players. What did he mean by that?
  • It has been four days since Angela Merkel was reelected in Germany. Has the President had the time to talk to her —
  • Thank you very much. Follow-up, just quickly — two quick questions. Follow-up on the NFL thing. I may not be the brightest guy in the room. Wait a minute, don’t say anything yet —
  • But my question is —
  • Nobody is going to argue. But I really don’t understand. I understand that he’s saying you should stand up. But if a guy is sitting there going, “I don’t want to stand up,” he still recognizes he has a First Amendment right not to, yes? Or his opinion — or is he asking us to carve out an exception to the First Amendment for freedom of expression?
  • Okay, and then the follow-up — wait a minute, I had a second question. The second question was in regards to the private emails that have gone out. Has the President admonished any of his staff on that? Is he concerned about them using private emails for public business?
  • He had said about Senator Cochran and the healthcare vote that it was the White House’s understanding Senator Cochran was not able to physically be here this week. Well, Senator Cochran’s office has said that there have been plans made for Senator Cochran to come to Washington if there was going to be a healthcare bill. Was the White House not aware that those plans had been made?

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