TOWOIT #255: Empty Barrels & Sonic Attacks

October 20, 2017… Day 274

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Questions that reporters asked Sarah Sanders today:

  • Sarah, I’d like to open with a question about the Fed. The President finished his interviews this week and said in an interview with Fox Business that he would consider having Powell and Taylor come to the Fed together. Should we take that a signal that the other candidates are not going to get the job?
  • What else is he looking for as he makes his decision?
  • On that note, Janet Yellen — the President was extremely critical of her during the campaign, saying at one point she was too political, that she should be ashamed of herself, essentially said she was a political arm of the President and Hillary Clinton. Now he’s said some rather nice things about her, most recently, a couple times, that he respects her. What has changed in his thinking as it relates to Janet Yellen over the last year? And can you shed some light on their relationship?
  • Sarah, when is the President himself going to weigh in on what happened with those four special-ops soldiers in Niger?
  • Will the President address publicly — and if so, when — what exactly happened to these four special-ops soldiers?
  • Sarah, the South Florida Sun Sentinel released a video of Congresswoman Wilson’s speech in 2015. In the speech, it doesn’t appear that she referenced funding for the FBI building in South Florida. Does General Kelly still stand by the statement that he made yesterday that he felt that she was grandstanding and that she was taking credit for funding?
  • Well, in fact, have you seen the speech?
  • Then you know that most of it was heard effusively praising these FBI agents. And when she was talking about what she did in Congress, she was not talking about securing the $20 million; she was talking about naming the building for these FBI agents who she then went on to effusively praise. And that was the bulk of the speech.
  • like what?
  • Well, tell us specifically. Because if he’s going —
  • Can he come out here and talk to us about this at some point so that he can get the facts straight?
  • No, he was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money. The money was secured before she came into Congress.
  • Well, shouldn’t he have to come out here and get the facts straight? That would be great if he could come out here and do it. That would be wonderful.
  • Thank you, Sarah. When President Trump spoke at the CIA building in January, in front of the stars of 117 CIA agents who had fallen and been killed in the line of duty, he talked about a number of different things, including a lot about himself. He talked about the fake news attacking him. He talked about the MLK bust and the controversy over that. He talked about the crowd size at the inaugural.
  • Thank you, Sarah. Putting the congresswoman aside for a second, I want to focus on what the mother of Sergeant Johnson said. She said that she felt that the President disrespected her in his comments. Now, regardless of the President’s intentions, is the President concerned that what he said might have come across as disrespectful? And does he plan to follow up with her and repair that relationship?
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. The 43rd President of the United States, President George W. Bush, made some comments up in New York City yesterday. And I’d like you, if you could, just to address some comments that he made just concerning the issue of Russia, specifically Russian influence in the United States. He said, “The Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other.” And he also said that Russian interference will not be successful. “Foreign aggressions, including cyberattacks, disinformation, and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated.” Do you agree with those sentiments expressed by the former President?
  • And I just want to follow up with a question I’ve asked you a few times, but most recently in July. It relates to our relationship with Russia, and I’ve never gotten an answer for you on that. Does the President — President Trump — view Russia as an ally, a partner, or an adversary?
  • And I just want to follow up with a question I’ve asked you a few times, but most recently in July. It relates to our relationship with Russia, and I’ve never gotten an answer for you on that. Does the President — President Trump — view Russia as an ally, a partner, or an adversary?
  • Thanks. I also have a question about that George W. Bush speech. But first, just to clarify, are you saying the White House is no longer saying that the congresswoman talked about the funding? She just talked about legislation in general?
  • Okay, and then on the George W. Bush speech. He said at one point, “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seem more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.” Does President Trump agree with this assessment? And if so, what does he see as his role in addressing that?
  • That bigotry seems emboldened and our politics seem more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. Those were for — President Bush’s words.
  • What about the bigotry?

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  • The President signed the executive order today, and what it appears to do is it allows the Pentagon to recall retired officers into duty under the 9/11 authority that he has. What’s the reason for this executive order?
  • General Kelly was obviously very upset that this has now become a political conversation — the President’s call with the widow, and I think, more broadly, the fallout of the soldiers that were killed in Niger. So why did he feel like it was appropriate to come out here, to call a congresswoman an empty barrel, rather than calling her privately like he has done with other members of Congress who have been critical of the President? And why did President Trump feel the need to take that even further today and tweet about her?
  • In one of those questions that the President was asked earlier today — I know there’s an investigation —
  • And one other question the President was asked earlier today [was] whether he authorized this mission in Niger. Can you give us any information on whether this was something he authorized or even something he was aware of before finding out that American soldiers were killed?
  • Sarah, thanks. On Niger, a senior congressional aide who was briefed on the matter said that there is an indication that there was a massive intelligence failure. Is that the assessment of the White House?
  • And one more question, Sarah.
  • One more question, Sarah.
  • Lara said she saw a transcript of the phone call. Can you just answer that question, Sarah?
  • Did the President authorize explicitly the operation in Niger, or was that delegated down in the DOD?
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is going to —
  • Given all of the reaction to the content of the President’s phone call, does President Trump intend to make phone calls to families of the fallen in the future should other Americans die while he is Commander-in-Chief?
  • The Los Angeles Times has reported — we reported that the military operating in Niger had requested additional overwatch capacity and medical response assistance in the months leading up to this ambush on October 4th. Is the President satisfied that that Special Forces unit, when it went out there that day, had all the resources that it needed to operate there?
  • Thank you, Sarah. And I have to keep it to one question today?
  • I will obey. (Laughter.)
  • Reluctantly. (Laughter.) Several London publications have said that the President’s visit to London, when and if the details work out, will be a working visit with Prime Minister May and not an official state visit, which means he will not be received by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. What will be the nature of his visit to London and to Prime Minister May — a working visit or a state visit?
  • They’ve made it. Now that means —
  • So 10 Downing Street has made the invitation.
  • Thanks, Sarah. The State Department announced today that it’s now up to 24 people who have been impacted by the sonic attacks in Havana. I wanted to ask: Is the President satisfied with the investigation into what’s happening? And has he reached out or considered reaching out to any of the victims?
  • On the call to Sergeant Johnson, Lara Trump seemed to suggest in an interview this morning that there was a transcript of the call and that she read it. Is there a transcript? And has it been shared with members of the President’s family?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Senator John Cornyn confirmed today that he is blocking the nomination for the OMB (inaudible) to try to get more relief funds for Texas after Hurricane Harvey. Does that come as a surprise or a disappointment to the White House that the number-two Republican would be blocking a nominee?
  • Sarah, given President Bush’s comments yesterday that you were asked about, in general, does the White House feel it’s appropriate for past Presidents to be critical of the sitting President? And when was the last time President Trump spoke to President Bush?
  • The United Nations, of course, is following, very carefully, the refugee situation along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. And President Trump today met with the UN Secretary-General. Did they speak about the Rohingya refugee situation? Was the President asked for any further help? What was the tenor of their conversation?

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