TOWOIT #253

October 18, 2017… Day 272

While watching Jeff Sessions on C-span today, I got a little weirded out that there were twelve pale disembodied hands tapping away behind him in the frame.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders also came out of her cuckoo clock today, and so shall I.

I had local activism stuff planned for after work today but instead I came home and executed a Wednesday collapse. And washed dishes. And did homework for one of my classes. I’d forgotten my wallet and phone charger at home when I left before the crack of dawn, and I was lugging all this shit around with me on the bus, and a rain and windstorm started up and then my throat was getting sore, and — I struggled for awhile to be that really stalwart person who would just make everything happen — in the end I came home. I’m glad because the storm is making the roads actually perilous now.

So, I don’t have the real life resistance stuff to write about today. Other women (and it does seem to be mostly women) are getting together and doing things and fostering community and being stalwart. Thank you to them.

Meanwhile, here’s what they asked Sarah Sanders at the White House Press Briefing:

  • Sarah, the President stated earlier today that he would not allow insurance companies to pad their pockets with money from the federal government. The White House has some concerns about the Alexander-Murray bill. Can you articulate what those concerns are?
  • Can you articulate specifically what the White House is concerned about and — something about outreach dollars and making sure that the money doesn’t go to insurance companies?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Let’s go to the President’s tweet this morning, if we can. What proof does President Trump have when he says Congresswoman Wilson is not telling the truth? Are there recordings of his phone call with Myeshia Johnson?
  • The President also said that he has called every family of someone who has died. Is that true? There are reports that —
  • There have been families that have since come forward to the Associated Press — the names are in these reports — who say they’ve not actually heard from this White House in any capacity.
  • Sarah, just to follow up on the healthcare question. Is it correct, then, to say that President Trump does not support this deal in its current form?
  • And then just as a follow-up on another issue. He had a conversation today with Governor Reynolds of Iowa. Can you tell us a little bit about what they discussed? And then, did he make any assurances about the renewable fuel standard during that discussion?
  • Today, Secretary Mnuchin was talking about the tax framework, and he said it was “very hard not to give tax cuts to the wealthy” as part of a framework that cuts rates across the board. It seems like an acknowledgement of the realities — math and sort of the independent analysis — of the President’s tax plan. But as recently as a month ago, the President said that this plan would not benefit the wealthy.
  • But you would agree with Secretary Mnuchin, then, that —
  • Sarah, what is the criteria that the White House Military Office uses for presenting names of families to the President after there’s been casualties in combat?
  • Just to follow up on that: So are you saying that if the President hasn’t contacted the family members of every servicemember who’s been a casualty since he came to office, it’s because of the protocols of that office?
  • And just to follow up on this week: Why did the President wait 12 days to speak publicly about the Green Berets in Niger?
  • But I wasn’t just asking about the families. I was asking about why he didn’t make public remarks.
  • So, separate from this controversy about contact, is the President satisfied he has learned everything he wants to know about the situation itself in Niger? Pentagon sources have described it as what was interpreted to be initially as a low-risk mission. The ambush was a big surprise. There was no air cover; 30 minutes for French air cover to arrive. Questions about the speed of the evacuation and having, perhaps, that something to do with whether or not these military personnel survived or not. Is the President satisfied — he knows everything he needs to know about this particular raid, rules of engagement, and everything about it?
  • Is there anything he wants to know more about this that he’s learned so far?
  • Because some of these issues have been raised with him by the families he’s contacted.
  • Sarah, and on tax reform, because Secretary Mnuchin said yesterday —
  • I have a Las Vegas question. Is the administration looking at having the ATF ban bump stocks? Or does the President think that Congress should do it?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. When the Alexander-Murray bill came up at the scrum in the Rose Garden on Monday, there were questions about whether it would contain federal funding for abortions. And these concerns have been raised by several pro-life lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Will the President rule out signing any kind of measure that includes funding for abortion?
  • Will he rule out signing one that does?
  • My second question —
  • Thank you, Sarah. A question about the NFL. Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, earlier today said that all players should stand during the playing of the national anthem. Earlier this week, there was no change in policy as it relates to the NFL mandating that all players in the NFL stand for the national anthem. Does the President believe that he’s winning this argument, or has won this argument, as it relates to what he said about whether players should stand for the playing of the national anthem?
  • Sarah, does the President feel as a matter of principle that it is not adequate to simply send a letter of condolence to the family of a slain serviceperson as President Bush and President Obama typically did? And does he feel that it was not adequate for President Obama to have sent a letter to General Kelly but not call General Kelly on the death of his son?
  • Let me ask you about something Steve Mnuchin had said, since you guys talk about the stock market a lot and the President does, as well. He said, and I quote here: “There’s no question in my mind that if we don’t get it done” — meaning tax reform — “that you’re going to see a reversal of significant amount of these gains.” Essentially saying if tax reform doesn’t happen, there could be a major correction on the corner of Wall and Broad. How concerned is the President at this point of that possibility?
  • And on the healthcare bill, if you don’t mind, what changed —
  • The President tweeted about the California wildfire situation. Does he have any plans at this point to visit California and to survey the damage in person? And if he doesn’t, does that speak to a lack of interest in helping the state recover from the wildfires?
  • Is he going to go to the state, though?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Can you please clarify the President’s position on Kurdistan, especially — on Iraqi Kurdistan — especially given the takeover of Kirkuk? And does the President see Kurdistan as an ally in general?
  • Does that mean that they’re keeping the status quo?
  • Thanks, Sarah. It’s been more than two months since the President said that he would declare the opioid epidemic a national public emergency. On Monday, he said he’d get it done next week, but that to get to that step a lot of work had to be done, and called it time-consuming work. Can you explain why it’s taking so long, and detail some of what this time-consuming work is and what players are involved in this process?
  • Can you talk about that? Is there —
  • Just following on the tax reform meeting today, can you just sort of talk about the strategy from the White House going forward on this? I know that Marc Short had told us before that Democrats were a must-have on this bill or on tax reform. Is that still where things are?
  • Okay, but can you just elaborate a little bit on the Democratic — getting Democrats onboard?
  • Thank you, Sarah. It’s been almost a month since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. Almost 80 percent of the island is without power, and about a million Americans — a third of the population there — still don’t have reliable drinking water. Does the administration consider the current state of affairs in Puerto Rico acceptable? And when it comes to Puerto Rico, does the buck stop with President Trump?
  • Thank you, Sarah. On the Fed Chair search, the President once said that he considers himself to be a low-interest-rate guy. Does he still consider himself to be a low-interest-rate guy? And will that have any bearing on who he selects to run the Fed?
  • Days not weeks?
  • Days not weeks?
  • Are you signaling anything there, Sarah? That’s all I’m trying to get at.
  • Can I clarify — back on the phone call real quick. What exactly is the President denying? Is he denying that he ever spoke these words to the widow, “that he must have known what he signed up for”? Or is he just saying that she took it the wrong way and it was taken out of context, his words?
  • So it was context. It wasn’t that he didn’t say those words. It was that the context — he felt that she put it in the wrong context. Is that it?
  • Sarah, did the President speak to his Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, before invoking his son’s death in what has become a political argument?
  • On this very topic? In other words, did General Kelly know he would be raising the issue of his son’s memory when talking about the outreach?
  • So can you describe how General Kelly feels about it? Is he comfortable with the way his son’s memory has been —
  • The House, a few weeks back, passed the ban on (inaudible) abortions. (Inaudible) has said that the President would sign this legislation. Is the White House putting pressure on the Senate to pass the Lindsey Graham bill that would ban the 20-week —
  • Is the White House putting pressure on the Senate to pass the Lindsey Graham 20-week ban?
  • Sarah, Congresswoman Wilson — I talked to her a couple of hours ago, and she says that this is the President’s Benghazi. She says that Jackson was — and his Green Berets were — in Niger trying to find out information and doing a mission about Boko Haram. And she said that his transmitter was still emitting for two days — emitting a signal when he was located. And she says that makes no sense why he wasn’t located. What say you about that? And also, what do you say about her comment that he did not know, and the wife, the widow, said that the President did not know his name? He kept saying, “Your guy, your guy.”
  • What do you say about what she said about Boko Haram in Niger? What do you say about what she said about the mission and then comparing it to Benghazi?
  • Was she right? Was she right?
  • Thank you. I just want to — setting aside the congresswoman, setting aside the discussion about the politicization of this, the woman who raised Sergeant Johnson spoke to the Washington Post and said she felt like her son had been disrespected. And again, I’m not asking you about what Congresswoman Wilson had to say. I’m not asking you about any of that. But given that somebody who — as you rightly note, making these phone calls is probably one of the hardest things a Commander-in-Chief has to do. Given that, is the President at all reconsidering the way that he communicates with these families? Has General Kelly counseled him on, perhaps, how he might want to choose or change his words in the future?
  • Thank you, Sarah. On NAFTA, Canadian and the Mexican negotiators have rejected the U.S. proposals — proposals that were described as unconventional and troubling. Is NAFTA dead?
  • Thank you, Sarah. In a tweet this morning, President Trump said that former FBI Director James Comey had lied, leaked, and totally protected Hillary Clinton. He also asked, “Where is the Justice Department on this?” What exactly does the President want the Justice Department to do? Is he calling for a prosecution of James Comey? What’s he asking for here?
  • So what’s he asking the Department of Justice to do, though, in his tweet this morning? That’s what I’m asking.
  • Sarah, normally when the President is upset about something, we hear from him pretty quickly about it, whether it’s an issue with a senator, whether it’s an issue with the NFL. So why did it take nearly two weeks for him to say something about this ISIS ambush — not to reach out to the families, necessarily, but even to offer public condolences or to explain to the American public what happened and how the deadliest combat mission involving American troops went so wrong?
  • Sarah, you’ve brought up politicizing a couple of times, in relation to Congresswoman Wilson. But did the President politicize General Kelly’s son’s death by bringing it up as a defense for his claims about what past Presidents did or did not do with fallen soldiers?
  • Just to clarify your earlier answer, you’re not denying that in some point in the conversation the President used the words, “it’s what he signed up for”?
  • Thank you, Sarah. You opened up at the top discussing the liberation of Raqqa. So my question for you is: How does the President envision future U.S. involvement in both Syria and Iraq, post-ISIS?

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