TOWOIT #257: Don’t go to the White House

October 27, 2017… Day 281

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Whirlwind Friday news evening with the talk of Mueller charges and someone possibly being taken in to custody on Monday. I’m seeing jubilation online, but not feeling it myself. This week has been too dark. Too dark! I’m not letting my guard down.

Let us retreat to the familiar confines of the White House Press Briefing, where Sarah Sanders was particularly smug and condescending to reporters, as the reporters’ children looked on and added their small murmurous child sounds to the room noise.

Do not take your children to the White House.

Don’t go to the White House!

God, I hate Halloween anyway.

C-SPAN cut to the briefing from a live call-in about sexual harassment in the workplace. An anonymous caller had just said, with a shaky voice, how a coworker drugged her drink and kept her in his apartment for 18 hours afterward, but she just suppressed it for 5 years and said nothing to anyone. Cut abruptly to Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an emerald green dress, opening her mouth to make one of her snarky, un-funny salutations to the room. She will go on to confirm that the White House’s official position is that all 16 women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment are liars.

It’s hard to refrain from gendered insults, with Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the world.

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Questions:

  • (Jon Karl, ABC, in the front row) Sarah, I want to ask you about the $300 million contract that Whitefish Energy got to do the electrical — rebuild the electrical grid in Puerto Rico. Does the White House have any concerns about the way this contract came down and the fact that this company has apparently no experience of doing anything on this magnitude?
  • Are there red flags raised by this? And can you say definitively that the fact that the primary — one of the primary investors in this company was a major donor to the Trump campaign had nothing to do with the fact this contract was awarded?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. Question on those Russia sanctions that the President signed in August. So the recipients of those sanctions were supposed to be named on October 1st, and that just came out today. I’m wondering if you can explain the delay and how soon the administration will actually act to implement those sanctions.
  • (John Roberts, Fox) May I kindly request two? The President tweeted out this morning regarding the Russia investigation, “After months of costly looking.” Is the President suggesting that more special investigation is a waste of money?
  • Question number two —
  • But this is an important one on 401(k)s. I think you may want to answer. (She doesn’t.)
  • (Zeke Miller, AP) Banking for two here also. First, did you have any comment on the secession of Catalonia, and Spain, more broadly? The State Department put out a very sharp statement saying the United States wants a unified Spain. Would you echo that from the podium? Has the President made any phone calls on that?
  • And, Sarah, there was one more. (she shuts him down too)
  • (not sure who this hapless-looking guy is) Thanks, Sarah. On Whitefish Energy, the President met this morning with Interior Secretary Zinke. He is from the town where that company is based. Did the President ask him directly whether he had any knowledge of this deal?
  • (Jon Decker of Fox News Radio, she calls on a lot of men first, I notice) Thanks a lot, Sarah. On Whitefish Energy — another question on this company. Prior to Hurricane Maria, they just had two employees. And then after Hurricane Maria, it’s awarded a $300 million-plus contract. I realize that you said this was a contract that was awarded by officials in Puerto Rico, but would you acknowledge that it doesn’t look right, just on the surface of things?
  • The President has said there’s a lot of corruption in Puerto Rico. Would you think that this falls under that umbrella of corruption? (the key to getting a second question is to not ask for a second question, I guess) 
  • (Francesca Chambers, Daily Mail online) You mentioned the opioid crisis at the beginning of your remarks and how the President yesterday declared it a national public health emergency. That declaration did not come with a request for money from Congress. How much does the President want Congress to put towards this crisis? And when will he put in a formal request for that money?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, can we say then, therefore, based on your answer just now, that $45 billion is what you would like to see as an initial approach to the opioid crisis, and done during the budget deal that you hope to negotiate in December?
  • Is that a good place to start, with Congress though, is that a good place to start? (ignored)
  • (Roberta Rampton, Reuters) In the meeting that the President had with Secretary Zinke, did he agree with the recommendation to shrink the size of Bear’s Ears National Monument in Utah?
  • (Jacqueline Alemany, CBS) Thanks, Sarah. Obviously, sexual harassment has been in the news. At least 16 women accused the President of sexually harassing them throughout the course of the campaign. Last week, during a press conference in the Rose Garden, the President called these accusations “fake news.” Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Last weekend, former President Jimmy Carter offered his availability as a go-between to the North Korean regime in the hopes of resolving the differences between this country and Pyongyang. He has a history with the family of the current leader in North Korea, meeting with his grandfather in 1994. Is the administration in contact with President Carter? And does it have any plans to use him as a go-between or an envoy to Pyongyang?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business) Sarah, thanks. I’ll ask the 401(k) question.
  • Helping my colleague out.
  • I’ve got John’s back.
  • Is the President considering dropping the amount of pre-taxed contributions that Americans can put into their 401(k)? Currently, that’s at about $18,000. It seems as if this whole issue is up for negotiation. Does the President support taking that $18,000-or-so level and potentially lowering that?
  • (Trey Yingst, One America News Network — he is 23, and OAN is very pro-Trump and waded deep into the Seth Rich conspiracy theory)  Thanks, Sarah. There’s been a number of politicians over the past week, including Chris Christie here at the White House yesterday, who have said that Rob Mueller should step aside from certain investigations within the special counsel. Does the President share those views?
  • (young white guy reporter) Sarah, the lawmakers in Egypt are preparing a measure that would criminalize homosexuality, with up to five years in prison. Will you condemn the measure?
  • (Toluse Olorunippa, Bloomberg) Thank you, Sarah. At the risk of wasting my question, I’m going to ask you about the Fed. Since the last time you were up here, there have been a couple of reports. One, that the President is going to make an announcement next week. Can you confirm that he’s going to make an announcement and, if so, give us a little timing? And then, secondly, there have been reports that Chairman Yellen is out of the running and that Jerome Powell is at the top of the list. Can you confirm any of that?
  • (young white woman, not sure who?) I want to ask you about a comment that Sebastian Gorka made on Fox News. I know that he doesn’t work for the White House anymore, but he claims to be very — still involved in knowing what’s going on here.He was talking about the Uranium One deal and Hillary Clinton, and said, “If this had happened in the 1950s, there would be people up on treason charges right now…This is the equivalent to what the Rosenbergs did, and those people got the chair. Think about it.” Does the President agree with that statement? (Sarah Sanders dodged this question, but she smirked as soon as it began to be asked, and her eyes twinkled, like what a merry joke it all is)
  • (Jessica Stone, CGTN — China Global Television Network) Question on the President’s upcoming Asia trip. Can you talk a little bit more about the criteria that you used to decide which of the many multilateral meetings that he attended? And can you confirm that he’s not going to be at the East Asia Summit, and why?
  • (Olivier Knox, Yahoo!News) Thanks, Sarah. The President said on Twitter that he congratulated Chinese President Xi on his “extraordinary elevation.” Does the President have any misgivings, either the way that elevation occurred or its potential impact on American interests in Asia?
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN– long-dissed and dismissed by the administration, but he’s still in the front row because he’s CNN). I was wondering, why did the President involve himself in the Uranium One investigation? Are you trying to gin up your own Russia investigation to rival the one up on Capitol Hill? And where is the President’s evidence that Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians, as he tweeted this morning?
  • How about evidence of collusion and Hillary —
  • Sarah, no, the President made a charge that Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians — 
  • So you’re saying that, Hillary Clinton —
  • Okay, well, you didn’t really address that question.  (At this point, Sarah Sanders shrugged, smirked, AND rolled her eyes — Jim has tried harder than anyone this day to hold Sarah Sanders to account. But she’s just a big calm obstructive smirking liar who only does 16 minute press briefings and only does them once or twice a week)
  • (young white guy in Wall Street Journal chair) One of the PACs affiliated with Majority Leader — the Senate Majority Leader is attacking Steve Bannon. I wondered if the White House has an opinion on that. Is Mr. Bannon fair game? Is he still viewed as helpful to the President’s cause? And has the President had any success in talking Steve out of some of the — backing him off some of the incumbents, as he suggested from the Rose Garden?
  • (Debra J. Saunders, Las Vegas Review-Journal) Hi. Sunday, it’s going to be the one-month anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting — four weeks. The shooter enhanced the speed of his fire by using bump stocks. At first, you didn’t want to comment on that, but I’m curious to know, does the President think the ATF should prohibit their sale? Is he going to ask them to? Does he think only Congress can do it? Or does think that bump stocks are not the problem and that there is no need to —

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