TOWOIT #269: This is how it all ends

November 30, 2017… Day 315

Questions asked to Sarah Huckabee Sanders during today’s abomination of a press conference.

  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) Thank you. With all these reports about Secretary Tillerson today, could you talk a little bit about the relationship between the President and the Secretary? Does the President have confidence in him? And does the President agree with all of the positions that the Secretary has taken regarding North Korea, the Gulf crisis, et cetera?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News, sitting next to Steve) Can we deduce from that that the President has confidence in the Secretary of State?
  • Is that a yes?
  • What’s his future in the administration?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. A question on taxes. The Joint Committee on Taxation says that, by 2027, people making between $40,000 and $50,000 a year will pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes under the current bill while those earning a $1 million or more will pay $5.8 billion less. And coupled with that, the University of Chicago surveyed 38 economists. Only one said that the bill would lead to substantial economic growth, and all 38 said that the cut will increase the debt. Is it the White House position that these analyses are wrong?
  • The JCT — nonpartisan — their analysis seems to say middle-class taxes would actually go up in a lot of cases
  • Does White House or the Treasury have data that would contradict that?
  • (Another guy named Steve) Based on Ambassador Haley’s speech yesterday at the U.N., and the President’s tweet this morning, does this administration now advocate regime change in North Korea? And if not, why not?
  • (Jill Colvin, Associated Press) Thank you, Sarah. I want to ask about the videos that the President tweeted yesterday. Firstly, does the President feel that he has an obligation to ensure that the information that he shares on his Twitter feed to millions of people is accurate?
  • But does he understand, though, that sharing those videos might incite violence against Muslims? And does he understand that he’s elevated a fringe political group that many people outside of Britain didn’t even know about until he tweeted?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) On that point, Sarah, did the President, when he retweeted Jayda Fransen, know who she was?
  • (Alex Pfeiffer, Daily Caller, baby-faced conservative cub reporter) Yesterday, the President tweeted that NBC should terminate Joe Scarborough because of an “unsolved mystery that took place in Florida years ago.” Why did President Trump think it was appropriate to seemingly reference the death of Lori Klausutis in 2001? And does he think Scarborough is responsible for the death of his former aide?

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 6.14.51 PM

  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network, who wasn’t invited to the WH Christmas Party with the others; why are any of these fuckers going to the Christmas Party?) Sarah, a couple things. One, what was the tipping point between President Trump and Tillerson?
  • Is the President listening to Tillerson as it relates to North Korea, as North Korea is escalating?
  • What about John Conyers? John Conyers is in the hospital.
  • What about John Conyers? He’s in the hospital and there’s a call for him to resign. What does the President have to say about that?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Back to Tillerson. Where does the administration think these stories are coming from? Is it difficult, in your view, for Mr. Tillerson to carry out his job as Secretary of State with all of these questions surrounding whether or not he’s going to be in the administration maybe through January of next year?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, we often hear the President — or see the President talk about the stock market. We haven’t yet heard from him, though, on a separate but similar issue, which is cryptocurrency. Has the President been following this at all — Bitcoin specifically, the major run-up in it? Does he have an opinion on it? Does he feel or does the administration feel that this is now something that needs to be regulated by the government?
  • What kind of monitoring?
  • What kind of monitoring?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) Sarah, I’m sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. Actually — I hope you feel better — I have a question about the President’s health. Mr. Trump’s predecessors, going back — I checked as far as Ronald Reagan — every year would go up to Bethesda to be looked at by the best doctors in the military, and they would report on their health and their vital statistics to the American public. We have a month left in the year. Does President Trump intend to get a physical at Walter Reed?
  • Do you know if the President intends to share any details about his health the way his predecessors have?
  • (Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News) Thank you, Sarah. You read the verse from Luke earlier about how to those who are given much, much is expected. Linking that to tax policy, the President said yesterday that this tax bill is going to cost him a fortune. Independent analysis says that that’s not true; that he’s actually going to save a lot of money and his family could save more than billion dollars. So can you tell us specifically what in the bill is going to cause the President to pay more in taxes than he’s paying now?
  • (Unknown person, maybe in WaPo chair?) The President was pretty definitive yesterday when he said he would pay more, that his wealthy friends would pay more. So what was he referring to?
  • (Margaret Brennan, CBS News) Sarah, you repeatedly said that Tillerson would help to close out a successful year. Are you saying that he will close out the year? Will he serve beyond that? And when you’re talking about “elevating the conversation” here, does the President normally watch these kind of anti-Muslim videos that have been posted by this group? I mean, is that —
  • But that language seemed pretty deliberate by you. Were you really meaning to signal —
  • Shouted, unanswered, “Sarah, what about Prime Minister May?” and “Should he vet those videos… before he posts them?”

    Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 6.25.38 PM

    She’s coughing, she’s wan (she actually looks better without so much make-up –screw you Anthony Scaramucci) and she’s lying and stonewalling like a freaking champ.

TOWOIT #267: April, Cecilia, Jenna & Zeke

November 20, 2017… Day 305

SHS Briefing #34

There was a bit of a hostage situation in the White House Press Briefing today as Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that each reporter must say what he or she was thankful for before a question could be asked. Oh, but first she “joked” that she was thankful for everyone in the room, and then she said “No, but seriously” she was thankful for the military. She really sucks. The whole thing made me cringe down to my toes and called to mind a jovial but sadistic father figure forcing people to do gimmicky things at the dinner table before they can eat.

It must be nice going through life, holding everyone hostage at the lowest common denominator.

I took note of who played along and who didn’t. These things are supposed to be “nice.” Well, it’s not fucking nice. It’s gross and unprofessional and creepy.

Here’s how they responded, in the order of my approval.

  1. April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks: Sugary and poisonous. I think she might have done one of those “bless your heart” maneuvers.
  2. Cecilia Vega, ABC News: Flat-out said she was thankful for the First Amendment and launched unamusedly into a hard question.
  3. Jenna Johnson, Washington Post: Didn’t even thank Sarah for calling on her, launched into hard question with resting bitch face.
  4. Zeke Miller, Associated Press: Straight-faced, did not play along, ignored her teasing, pressed on, gave her a cold stare moments later when the people around him were laughing at a dumb joke of hers.
  5. Matthew Nussbaum, Politico: Ignored the gimmick altogether.
  6. Margaret Talev, Bloomberg Television: Says she’s also thankful for the First Amendment then chickens out and says something ameliorating that leads to widespread giggling.
  7. Francesca Chambers, Daily Mail Online: Somehow snarky yet sincere.
  8. White guy names Steve: Wearily perfunctory, but then asked lame question.
  9. Young Fox News woman: Played along but redeemed herself somewhat by asking a hard question and being assertive about a follow-up.
  10. John Gizzi: Played along, but is sort of in a class of his own.
  11. White guy named Jim: Cheesy, brought up sports
  12. Blake Burman, Fox Business News: Cheesy, brought up sports
  13. Jon Decker, Fox Radio News: Smarmy and all-in

Here’s that Zeke Miller moment. I cut out Mara Liasson’s laughing face because I was ashamed for her.

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 5.53.17 PM

OK, and here are all the questions:

Continue reading TOWOIT #267: April, Cecilia, Jenna & Zeke

TOWOIT #266: Snookered

November 17, 2017… Day 302

Sarah Huckabee’s 33rd press conference as press secretary.

She wore a black dress with a large pale floral image partially visible (podium in the way) and a string of pearls. She looked doleful, as if weighed down by the souls of decapitated elephants and fondled nobodies.

Kevin Hassett, White House Council of Economic Advisers, was there. He smiled like a goon the whole time, smiled through his own words, smiled through the questions. He smiled as he said that trickle-down economics work, and he smiled as he refused to take follow-ups on that.

Questions for Kevin:

  • [John Roberts, Fox News] Kevin, I know you’re an economist but there’s obviously a political component to all of this. You got at least six senators up on the Hill, including Ron Johnson, saying that they can’t support the bill in its current form or they have serious concerns about it. You can only afford to lose two. Are you confident that you can get this passed through the Senate? Or could the President run into another situation, like he did with Obamacare? That he wins the House and then loses everything in the Senate.
  • [Unknown man] What makes you think trickle-down economics is going to work this time when it hasn’t worked before?
  • And the incentive — [No follow-ups!]
  • One of Senator Johnson’s concerns is that this bill does not do enough for medium-sized and small businesses. Can you talk about what the bill does do for medium-size and small businesses?
  • [Young woman on the side] One of the major differences between the House and the Senate bill is the elimination of the non-taxable tuition waivers. So while they’re trying to reconcile their differences on that tax reform bill, what do you foresee which could potentially move this tax burden to a lot of young Americans?
  • [not sure who this is, another man] Kevin, thanks for being here. On one of your TV appearances yesterday, you said that an average family, when this is all said and done, could accumulate a savings benefit of $4,000. That’s a lot of money.
  • Can you walk us through that?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] One of the criticisms, Kevin, of the tax reform proposal is that the corporate tax rate is cut permanently. The individual tax rate phases out after 10 years. Why, in your view, is that such a good idea?
  • Hi, Emma Robinson, One America News. [ultraconservative outlet] The two bills are different in that the House bill repeals or does away with the estate tax and the Senate doesn’t. And I know that was a big point for the administration, and Vice President Pence has voiced his support for repealing the death tax, as they call it. What are your thoughts on that? And do you think a final bill will include a repeal of it?
  • [Eamon Javers, CNBC–another money guy] Thank you, Kevin. I appreciate it. Can you talk about this moment earlier in the week at the Wall Street Journal event? Gary Cohn was on stage, and the moderator asked a group of CEOs, “If tax reform passes, who here is going to increase their investment?” And only a couple of hands went up in the room. Gary Cohn said, why aren’t there more hands going up? Can you answer that question? Why aren’t there more hands going up in a room like that? You would assume that CEOs would say, yes, in fact, we are going to invest more if tax reform passes. Is the administration missing something there?
  • [April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network, not suffering fools] Yes, yes. Gene Sperling, who was once in your position in another administration, says that this tax plan — be it historic — costs $1.5 trillion and it’s a deficit hole. And he says that basically — this is in a tweet. I’m just paraphrasing his tweet. He says, it basically doesn’t justify that cost for 100 million households for a tax increase.
  • [Blake Burman, Fox Business News] I want to pick up where John, right in front of me, left off when he asked about the phase-out on the individual side. You’re an economist; however, the two answers that you gave were both political. One, there’s reconciliation rules. And two, hopefully politicians down the line solve it. But like I mentioned, you’re an economist. So can you not make an economic argument as to why this is good economically for people?
  • Correct. Is there an economic argument as to why this is good for the country as it stands right now to expire within eight years or so?
  • [Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News] I actually want to follow up on that, though. You all made a value judgment to make the corporate tax cuts permanent and to make the individual tax cuts expire, even though you want all of them to be permanent. What’s the rationale for having corporations have that certainty of knowing that they don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen in Washington while families are going to have to worry about what politicians do six, seven years now?
  • You don’t see the value one way or the other, whether the corporate tax cuts versus —
  • [Major Garrett, CBS] Kevin, you’ve melded politics and economics here quite successfully, and I want to ask you a political and economic question. You’ve talked about growth covering what the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Tax Committee say could be a deficit hole, a deficit implication of $1.5 trillion. That is going to be measurable over time. There’s going to be a means by which either dynamic scoring or static scoring answers that question. And since it’s on the mind of some of your undecided Republican senators, is this administration willing to commit to a review five years in to see if the growth models have held along your lines and the deficit implications aren’t as large — or, if they aren’t, to reassess these tax cuts in order not to blow a hole in the deficit?
  • Do you think there would be —

Then Sarah came back. She took questions for 12 minutes. Questions to Sarah:

  • Thanks, Sarah. I have a non-Roy Moore question for you. Can you say definitively — I want to ask you about Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Can you say definitively, from this podium, that he has not been held hostage by the Saudis? And does the President plan to speak to Prime Minister Hariri at all? [She sidesteps this and refers the questioner to the disappearing state department]
  • [Cecilia Vega, ABC News] Thanks, Sarah. If it’s fair to investigate Al Franken and the allegation made by his accuser, is it also fair to investigate this President and the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by more than a dozen women?
  • But how is this different?

MS. SANDERS: I think in one case, specifically, Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing, and the President hasn’t. I think that’s a very clear distinction.

  • [Major Garrett, CBS News] So I want to revisit something we discussed yesterday. You said, one of the ways that Alabama voters might be able to figure out if these allegations against Roy Moore are true is in the court of law. That’s a direct quote from you. There’s no criminal means by which that could happen. So are you suggesting that Roy Moore sue the accusers in order to hash this out in court?
  • But that’s the venue you meant when you talked about “in the court of law.”
  • The only reason I raise that is because, during the campaign, as you well remember, then-candidate Trump said, after the election he would sue all the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, and that you have, from the podium, deemed all liars. He hasn’t done that. Why hasn’t he done that?
  • [The handsome and plaintive-looking Jeff Mason of Reuters] Sarah, some critics have said that it was hypocritical of the President to tweet about Al Franken and not weigh in on Roy Moore.
  • [Sara Murray, CNN, sitting next to Jeff in the front row] Can you tell us whether the President believes the women who are making these allegations against Roy Moore? And would he be willing to ask the Alabama governor to delay the election or take a step like that to try to intervene in this electoral process in Alabama?
  • [Matthew Nussbaum, Politico] Thank you, Sarah. In light of the national discussion about the importance of taking these kinds of accusations seriously, I wanted to check: Is it still the White House position that all the women who have accused the President of sexual misconduct are lying?
  • [Blake Burman, Fox Business News] Thanks, Sarah. Let me ask you about something else — the pending potential AT&T and Time Warner merger. The President had said on the campaign trail, back in October of 2016 — and I quote here — he said it was a “deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” Does the President still feel that way?
  • [April Ryan] Sarah, is this an uncomfortable conversation about these sexual allegations for this White House be it Al Franken or be it Roy Moore?
  • A follow-up. [We’re tight on time, says Sarah and calls on someone else]
  • A follow-up. I talked to Hillary Clinton[April! says Sarah]
  • I talked to Hillary Clinton today about the President’s past — and going back to what Matthew said, she said, look, I worry about everything from his past because it tells you how he behaves in the present and will in the future. What do you say to that as it relates to these allegations against the President?
  • [Alex Pfeiffer, The Daily Caller, conservative wunderkind, was a correspondent already when a freshman in college] Two questions. One on taxes, then immigration. A recent Quinnipiac University poll said 61 percent of voters think the Republican tax plan will benefit the wealthy while the White House has pitched this plan as a working-class tax cut. Why the disconnect?And then on immigration — [she doesn’t allow his second question]
  • [John Roberts, Fox News] Let me come back and ask you the same thing I asked Kevin. You’ve got six Republican senators either “no” or seriously on the fence here. Can you win enough over in order to pass this? And if the President gets snookered again by the Senate, what’s his reaction going to be?
  • The fact that you didn’t get any Democrats in the House, how does that portend for getting them in the Senate?
  • Safe to say the President will not be pleased if he gets snookered by the Senate again?
  • [Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News] Thanks, Sarah. The administration put out a disaster funding request for about $44 billion today. It’s much less than what a number of different governors and officials in the various affected territories and states have requested. Can you explain sort of why the number is so low compared to what the local officials say they need?
  • Are you expecting (inaudible) much more requests forward in the future, specifically for Puerto Rico?
  • [Kristen Welker, NBC News] Sarah, thank you. Steven Bannon is sending a strong message to the establishment to back off of Roy Moore. Does the President’s allegiance to Steve Bannon in any way implicate his response?
  • Has he spoken at all to Steve Bannon or any outside advisors?
  • How concerned is he, Sarah, about losing this seat to a Democratic candidate, who, right now, according to the polls, is leading?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] Thanks a lot, Sarah. Just in regards to that question regarding the supplemental requests: The President and the administration has put forth $44 million. Puerto Rico has requested $94 million. Are they going to get somewhere along that order? I think half of the island is still without electricity.
  • Did the President notify Governor Abbott —
  • Did the President notify Governor Abbott of the lesser amount that he’s put forward? [She won’t answer, keeps moving]
  • [White woman, looks like she is WAPO or NPR from seating chart] Yesterday, the joint investigative mechanism was vetoed by Russia at the U.N. Security Council, and Ambassador Haley tweeted afterward that the veto proves that Russia cannot be trusted as a partner going forward in trying to solve the political situation in Syria. Does the President have any response to the veto, first? What is the U.S. view, going forward, of how chemical weapons will be investigated and dealt with in Syria? And is it the U.S. position now that Russia cannot be a partner in trying to solve, or do a next-day political situation by —
  • [Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News] There’s been some extraordinary pushback on the administration’s decisions with respect to elephant trophies and hunting of lions and elephants in Africa. Can you shed some light on the decisions the administration has made? And will you make that pushback?
  • [Darlene Superville, Associated Press] The senate tax bill has a tax break for corporate jets. How does that help the middle class?
  • [Not sure who is talking, a man] Thank you, Sarah. Yesterday — on Jared Kushner and on his campaign e-mails — that Senate Committee, they’re asking for those e-mails in the Russia investigation. You punted it to Kushner’s attorney. Today, what’s the White House reaction to those previously undisclosed e-mails?

She completely did not answer with a White House reaction, and left the room.

 

TOWOIT #265

November 16, 2017… Day 301… I think…

Sarah Huckabee Sanders press briefing #32.

Freshly returned from watching Trump laugh along with Duterte as Duterte called the press spies, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was back at the podium today lying her face off.

Here are the questions the reporters asked her:


  • [Cecilia Vega, ABC] Thank you, Sarah. Two questions — two topics, if I may. Does the President believe Roy Moore’s accusers, or does he think Roy Moore should drop out of this race?
  • So that’s a no? He thinks Roy Moore should stay in?
  • [Major Garrett, CBS] How would the President like to see that truth proven?
  • Does the President believe the accusations themselves — that is to say the women themselves and their own credibility — can be established outside of them making these allegations? What’s the mechanism by which the President would be satisfied that the allegations are true?
  • [Woman sitting next to Major Garrett] Sarah, Ivanka Trump says that she has no reason not to believe the women who have come forward. Does the President disagree with her position?
  • [Matthew] Thank you, Sarah. Having the information that we have and the information that the people of Alabama have, would President Trump vote for Roy Moore?
  • I know he’s not, but he endorses candidates all the time in states that he’s not a voter in. And if he says, “I would vote for this person or I wouldn’t,” would he vote for Roy Moore.
  • Would you get back to us on that?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] Thank you, Sarah. A number of Republican senators have pulled their endorsement for Roy Moore. They’ve urged him to step aside. And Senator Sheldon said he wouldn’t even vote for him; he would write someone in on the ballot. Senator Cruz has pulled his endorsement. The President is not only President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief, he’s also leader of the Republican Party. Why won’t he weigh in on this? Why won’t he take the same type of strong position that these other Republican senators have taken on Roy Moore?
  • [James] Thank you, Sarah. I don’t mean by asking about that to suggest it’s necessarily the most important thing facing the country right now, but it happens to be my story assignment for the day. You say that the President finds these allegations against Mr. Moore, Judge Moore, to be very troubling, extremely troubling, et cetera. As we all know, the President faced a number of similar allegations, or somewhat similar allegations during the course of the campaign, and he vigorously denied them. But I wonder what you would assert to be the difference between the two situations such that, on the face of things, we should find one set of allegations very troubling and, on the other, we shouldn’t pay attention to them at all or we should totally disbelieve them.
  • [Jeff] Sarah, I’d like to ask you about two other topics. The tax bill passed the House today. One of the things that the tax bill does is increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion. I know the White House has argued that that will be paid by growing the economy. But if the economy doesn’t grow, how do you square that with the Republican view of — or general principle that deficits are bad?
  • But are you confident that the economy will grow consistently enough to cover these costs that otherwise would lead to a ballooning deficit?
  • [Blake] Sarah, let me ask you about the tax code as well. On the House side, they passed it today. The Senate side still has a ways to go. These are similar but they are also different bills and plans. At this point, does the President have a preference for the House or the Senate bill? And if so, which one?
  • You didn’t say they’re repealing the Obamacare individual mandate. Is that a priority for the President as well?
  • [Mara Liaison, NPR] Sarah, thank you very much. I have a question about the trip. But just, first of all, does his endorsement of Moore still stand?
  • Okay. And my question about the trip is that he’s made a strong argument that having a good relationship with Russia and with Vladimir Putin is a good thing for the United States. Does the President believe that Putin would ever lie to his face?
  • [Steven] Can I ask you another question about tax reform? Thirteen Republicans in the House today broke from the President, broke from their party leaders because they believe that this bill will actually increase taxes for some, if not many or most, of their constituents in California, New Jersey, and New York. Those 13 members represent millions of people who, in theory, voted for the President believing that he would lower their taxes. So what does the President say to those people? And how is this whole tax reform endeavor for them not a bait and switch?
  • [Jim Acosta, CNN] On Roy Moore, would the President campaign with Roy Moore?
  • And can I ask you a follow-up? Do you think he’s a creep?
  • Yeah.
  • [Kristen Welker, NBC] Thank you. Does the President think that Roy Moore is qualified to serve in the U.S. Senate?
  • Sarah, we’ve heard from– Sarah, we’ve heard from you and we’ve heard from Ivanka on this. When are we going to hear from the President himself?
  • But he’s ignored shouted questions for two straight days. He’s the President of the United States, the leader of the Republican Party; I think a lot of people want to hear —
  • But he’s the President.
  • Does he think Senator Al Franken should step down? What does he think of Senator Al Franken?
  • [Man] On the other side of the aisle, does the President have a response to the allegations against Senator Al Franken and also the mistrial over Senator Bob Menendez?
  • [Another man] Could you talk a little about the decision-making behind apparently appointing Mick Mulvaney to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Board, at least on an interim basis, given the fact that he’s been a longstanding critic of the board — and (inaudible) existence in the first place? And what signal should we take from that in terms of the future of that board and the director?
  • [Francesca, NY Daily News] Thank you, Sarah. China has announced that it’s sending a special envoy to North Korea tomorrow. The President was just in Beijing. Is that something that the President talked to President Xi about while he was there? Is that something that the President favors?
  • Sorry, I have another question about China and trade. Yesterday in his remarks, the President said that we can no longer tolerate unfair trading practices that steal American jobs and wealth and intellectual property, and the days of the United States being taken advantage of are over. He specifically mentioned China as he said all those words. Does the President still believe that China is raping the U.S. economy?
  • So on China–
  • [Jordan] Thanks, Sarah. Before the President left for Asia, officials here hinted that North Korea might be added back onto the list of state sponsors of terror. Has the President decided to go forward with that move?
  • [Hunter] Thank you, Sarah. The Fish and Wildlife Service is lifting a ban and will now allow elephant trophies imported from Zambia and Zimbabwe. President Trump has previously said he disagreed with big-game hunting. Why does he want this ban lifted? And has he changed his view on the practice?
  • I did speak to them today. They said that they have a draft of what’s going in the Federal Register tomorrow.
  • So he might change this?
  • [Toluse] Thank you, Sarah. The Senate Judiciary Committee today sent a letter to Jared Kushner alleging that he did not provide all the information that he should have about his e-mails during the campaign, including e-mails regarding WikiLeaks. Do you acknowledge that Mr. Kushner has not been fully forthcoming? And then, secondly, Donald Trump, Jr. sent out all of this correspondence with WikiLeaks on his Twitter account. Do you acknowledge that the campaign was in touch with WikiLeaks during the campaign? And was the President aware that his son was corresponding with WikiLeaks?
  • [Debra] Thank you, Sarah. After the House passed the GOP healthcare law, you had a celebration in the Rose Garden. I’m assuming there’s not going to be a celebration today about the tax bill. What are you doing differently this time around?
  • Yes, you have talked about the tax bill in terms of fulfilling the promise to middle-class people that the President made during the campaign and afterward. Why does the President support a bill, though, where the individual tax rates will — the cuts will expire at the end of 2025, but the corporate rates will never expire, going down from 35 to 20?
  • Does he think that’s a fair bill, to have that one provision expire and the other not?
  • [Jessica] Thank you. One of the other things that happened in China right after the President left was that this announcement about more foreign ownership in the financial sector in China was announced, but it was announced after the President left. I wonder if that came up in the conversations between the Presidents and if that was part of any ongoing conversations or deals that were reached during the visit or before the visit.
  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry has taken issue today with the President’s statement yesterday that he and President Xi agreed that there would be no freeze-for-freeze proposal regarding North Korea. What is your understanding, or the President’s understanding of what he and Xi agreed about that? And does the President stand by that statement yesterday?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Sarah, before the President left for his trip to Asia, he called on the Justice Department to look into the Democrats and that situation, as he put it. And then days later, the Attorney General asked special prosecutors to look into the Uranium One allegations in the Clinton Foundation. Did the President cross any lines and try to influence the Justice Department and the Attorney General to look into the situation of the Democrats?
  • Thank you very much. Going back to Russia just a bit. When he said that he spoke with Putin and he believed that he meant what he said — in other words, there was no collusion with the government —
  • Okay, so the question being, he’s always maintained that it was the Democrats who colluded with Russia. Is he saying that Putin exonerated the Democrats?
  • Sarah, as a New Yorker, is President Trump concerned at the potential tax increases for hardworking New Yorkers who can no longer deduct state and local taxes, and might cause an exodus from New York losing his spot as the U.S. and world financial capital?
  • [Eamon] Thank you, Sarah. So Senator Johnson, a Republican, raised some questions about the fairness of the tax proposal, particularly the disparity between corporate and individuals in the way they’re — big corporations and regional corporations in the way they’re treated as well. So the question is: What concessions is the White House prepared to make to Senator Johnson? And if you do make concessions to him, are you worried that other Republicans will demand their own concessions on issues of importance to them and you’ll have just a revolving door of senators who want something from you in this bill?
  • Did he offer Senator Johnson anything when they spoke?

TOWOIT #264: Facepalm Gaggle

November 11, 2017… Day 295

So, this nightmare garbage dumpster fire was today:

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 7.44.02 PM

There’s a transcript in the New York Times of Trump’s conversation with reporters on Air Force One. He talks about Putin a lot. It’s just a long stream of treasonous bullshit. This exercise is a little intense for me when it’s Trump himself and not SHS. But here are the reporters’ questions:

  • How were your discussions with Vladimir Putin? Did you discuss Syria? And apparently they’ve issued a joint statement that —
  • Did Russia’s attempts to meddle in U.S. elections come up in the conversation?
  • Do you believe him?
  • How did you bring up the issue of election meddling? Did you ask him a question?
  • (Inaudible) do you believe him —
  • Even if he (inaudible) one-on-one, do you believe him?

 

That was all the questions that got out. They mostly just let Trump go on and on saying things that would totally disqualify him from being President of the United States if anything mattered any more.

Oh, and the Kremlin says Trump and Putin didn’t talk about the things Trump said they talked about.

TOWOIT #263: Commodore Fuckface

November 10, 2017… Day #294

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Press gaggle with Sarah Sanders. Roy Moore: “mere allegations” … Putin: no meeting will work out with the schedule.

  • So not even a pull-aside, like in the hallway, possibly?
  • in the Philippines or —
  • What happened, Sarah? Why not?
  • Today? Or through the whole rest of the trip?
  • Does he have a bilateral? There’s one on the schedule that we saw, at four o’clock.
  • Ground rules from here on out are?
  • Is China the main target of the speech?
  • It sounds like there’s going to be an announcement about TPP-11. Is the United States being left behind in this region, in your mind?
  • Could you talk about India’s role in the Indo-Pacific framework?
  • One more thing. We’re landing in Southeast Asia. The President has not actually, publicly, to my knowledge, mentioned what’s going on in Burma, even though the rest of the administration has focused on it. Will he do that? Is he not doing it because it was such a focus of President Obama? Is that why he’s ignoring it?

He did meet with Putin.

TOWOIT #262: Gaggle me with a wooden spoon.

November 9, 2017… Day 293

The press office got in some hot water on Twitter yesterday after SHS admitted candidly that they didn’t let the press ask any questions during the appearance of Trump and Xi because the Chinese insisted there not be questions. Which is not usual. Usually the U.S. is like, “Excuse me, no, our reporters ask questions or this isn’t happening.” Because it’s a lead-by-example, first-amendment thing. But no, not the Trump administration. This on top of John Kelly joking to a reporter that he might get arrested because the rules are different in China. Eff you guys.

IMG_5926

So anyway, they finally put a press gaggle up on Whitehouse.gov. It was conducted on Airforce One between Korea and Beijing by someone called Senior Administration Official, with assistance by someone else who was also called Senior Administration Official. I looked for the hallmarks of Steve-Millerian pomposity but I didn’t see his signature in the remarks. Things did get a bit Who’s On First in the transcript at times.

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It’s kind of weird that transcript never shows any reporter using the name of either S.A.O. Ok, it’s a little fishy! I’m putting my tinfoil hat on.

Here was a sequence of questions I enjoyed:

  • Just for clarification, did the President announce the bit about the state sponsorship of terror and I missed it?
  • One last thing. What does movement toward denuclearization look like?
  • Do you think he should tweet while he’s in China? Do you see any problem with that? Is there any reason why the President shouldn’t tweet while he’s in China?
  • Including in China? [SAO response, verbatim: “Yeah, why not. Why not”]
  • So can he access it? Logistically, can he access it?

Honestly, the syntax reads to me like it’s John Kelly himself. One of them. Read this:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As even the, I guess, head of the National Assembly said, the President was working on it right up until the end. So obviously these are very much the President’s words. He spent the entire time we had today making additional changes; this morning when we were in a hold, continuing to make changes. So these are very much his thoughts, his words, and something that he was engaged in throughout the process.

Did anyone else pick up on a “Fuck my life, P.S. I’m craven” vibe?

Here’s SHS talking to reporters about how the President isn’t going to the demilitarized zone after all:

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Ok, and then in Beijing TODAY, Rex Tillerson briefed reporters. It’s not as fun when he’s not being that Russian asshole Lavrov’s straight man, but here we go.

  • Mr. Secretary, on North Korea, the President was asking Xi Jinping to do more — to close down bank accounts, send North Korean workers back, cut out the oil supplies.  Where did you get on that front?  And will the President meet with Vladimir Putin in Da Nang? [Tillerson says a Putin meeting is “still under consideration”]
  • Mr. Secretary, if I could ask you quickly a little bit on trade. You mentioned the President said this was an unbalanced relationship. So in what way did China promise to balance out that relationship? And then, secondly, the President talked a lot about his personal chemistry with President Xi. Can you sort of bring us inside the room and tell us what that chemistry looked like, and then also how you anticipate that chemistry will help the U.S. get what it wants from China?
  • Thank you, Mr. Secretary. In that vein, the conversation when the President was pressing China to ramp up the pressure on North Korea, if you could get into some detail on that for us. And also, is one of the areas of disagreement North Korea?
  • Mr. Secretary, the President said (inaudible) that he does not blame China for the trade imbalance. He said during the campaign that China was raping the economy and threatened to declare China a currency manipulator.  Why the change of heart here? And can you explain why the President said, “Who can blame a country that is able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.” Does he seem like he’s praising them for taking advantage of the United States? 
  • Mr. Secretary, one question about this agreement between China and the U.S. on North Korea. You said China will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.  Well, clearly it has accepted a nuclear-armed North Korea. North Korea has nuclear weapons now. Are you telling us that China has agreed with the President that the era of strategic patience is over, and they’ve reached a new determination about this threat that they didn’t have before President Trump took office? And when President Xi said sanctions will take a little while, did he give any clarity on what that length of time is? And is the President comfortable waiting however long President Xi thinks sanctions will take?
  • And you said the two nations have their own views on tactics and timing. Would you describe that as a large gap in the two countries’ views on timings and tactics?
  • Another thing the President said today that they agreed on were the solutions when it comes to North Korea.  Could you explain to us a little bit more about that? And then also on that note, on this trip, the President used very strong words for Kim Jong-un’s government when he was in South Korea, but we didn’t hear him use some of the same derogatory language for him that we’ve heard from him in the past, like at the United Nations, like “Little Rocket Man.”  I’m wondering if the Japanese government, or the South Korean government, or even the Chinese government asked him not to use that kind of language and to kind of tone it down while he was so close to North Korea.
  • But that is a different sort of message and tone than we’ve heard the President take to this North Korea situation in the past. So if it wasn’t another government that asked him not to use some of the same kind of derogatory language, what did make him change his approach to that situation? Was the U.S. concerned that that language might be seen as provocatory?
  • Mr. Secretary, I was wondering on the possible meeting with the Russian President on Thursday. Just to follow on John’s question, is it still under possible plan? The President seemed to suggest when he was flying here on Air Force One that he expected to meet him on Thursday. Has something changed since then, or it’s just not nailed down yet?
  • What do you believe is substantive to talk about? What do you want to bring to them?
  • Do you believe that Russian meddling and the investigation is still on that list of things to talk about, or did they say everything they had to say in Germany?

Why would Trump talk to Putin about the investigation?

Anyway, that’s not what Tillerson said.

TOWOIT #261: Anniversary? Check.

November 8, 2017

  • 366 days since THAT election
  • 292 days since the inauguration
  • 1 day since another election, that showed a shitload of American decency and enthusiasm.

I thought there would be a press gaggle from the Asia trip that I could write about — since this blog now ekes out a living* near the eructations of the White House press secretary.

However, there has not been a press gaggle posted since October 3 — I’m sure there were some. They are just dropping the ball and being less complete in sharing things with us on Whitehouse.gov. Typical!

But I came here today to say hello and to be joyful and hopeful on this anniversary. I know election night last night was a bright spot and there are still hard times ahead. Who knows what a more and more desperate Trump administration will try to do.

But let’s consider yesterday to be the anniversary — we did the anxiety, the hope, the elections, the going-to-bed-happy. And today, on the actual anniversary, let’s just consider it done. It’s been anniversaried. The anniversary effect came and now it’s gone. Consider it done. Consider yourself on the slide into the 2018 mid-term elections.

*this blog has 57 followers and is not monetized

 

TOWOIT #260: Laughingstock.

November 1, 2017… Day 286

  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] Sarah, in the hours — and, in fact, the days — after the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, the President repeatedly said now is not the time to talk about policy, now is not the time to talk about politics, and that’s for another time; right now we need to mourn the dead. Yet, this morning, the President launched into a political argument with Senator Chuck Schumer on Twitter, literally hours after this incident yesterday. Why was he so quick to go the political route and point fingers at Chuck Schumer for the fact that this person was in the country at all?
  • We heard today, at about 11:30 this morning, from the mayor and the governor of New York, who had said at that time the President had yet to call. Has the President called his mayor, his governor? He’s a New Yorker.
  • Sarah, why wasn’t Uzbekistan on the travel ban list?
  • Why isn’t the President calling for Uzbekistan to be put on the list?
  • Why? I’m just curious — why? Since he’s clearly looking for ways to —
  • Thank you, Sarah. On Senator Schumer, can you tell us when is the last time he and the President spoke? And more broadly, the President is saying that he is responsible at least in part for this attack. Does the President still see him as someone —
  • Does the President still see Senator Schumer as someone he can work with?
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President was asked a little bit earlier, when he was meeting with his Cabinet, about the possibility of sending this terror suspect to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And he said he is indeed open to that. Does the President believe he has the authority as Commander-in-Chief to send this terror suspect to Gitmo? That’s my first question. And my second question is about Gitmo. What advantages does the President see in sending this terror suspect to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?
  • Are there advantages in terms of sending any terror suspect to Guantanamo?
  • Thanks, Sarah. The President said last night that he’d ordered DHS to step up “our already extreme vetting.” I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit specifically about what extreme vetting entails, and if there’s any indication that it might have had an impact on preventing yesterday’s attack.
  • Sarah, separate from the Guantanamo Bay question, does the President believe this suspect should be classified as an enemy combatant?
  • Would the President therefore instruct the Justice Department not to charge him in federal court, and to therefore use the powers of enemy combatant and that status to treat him differently not only in terms of interrogation, but prosecution? [The DOJ nixed this entire thing within a couple hours]
  • Is the President open to not having him charged at all in federal court?
  • Have you determined that — you said you’re open to the enemy combatant thing. You think he is an enemy — [SHS already looked like a blithering idiot talking about enemy combatants before the DOJ unceremoniously nixed this entire thing]
  • You do so now?
  • And on what basis? [You could tell the press were like, “wow, maybe she doesn’t know what an enemy combatant is”]
  • Does the green card status in any way influence that determination? [But sometimes liars and fools are like sleepwalkers, and you’re almost afraid to wake them up]
  • [Kirsten Welker, NBC News] Sarah, I want to follow up on the question Jon was asking you earlier. You’re making the case that these are not new policies he’s talking about, and yet the question still remains, he is delving into a policy and political discussion. And he and you were very clear after the Las Vegas shooting that it wasn’t appropriate to talk about policy. So what’s the difference now?
  • But, Sarah, the President invoked Chuck Schumer’s name. So how can you argue that it’s not a political argument that he’s making?
  • Schumer and others say he’s not unifying the country —
  • — voted against them for the Gang of Eight. That’s not true.
  • Is he failing to unify the country at this point?
  • [Margaret Brennan, CBS News] When he’s talking about “quicker”, “greater” punishment, is he just talking about better enforcement of laws that currently exist, or is he talking about some sort of extrajudicial process? And are you looking at doing an executive order that would empower him? Would you make something like that public, or would you consider doing a secret order? And, very quickly, I also want to ask you: Is he really serious about tying the Obamacare, Medicaid stuff to the tax thing? That seems like it would just blow the whole deal up — blow right through that Thanksgiving goal.
  • Sarah, John Miller, the Deputy New York City Police Commissioner, said the suspect committed the attack in the name of ISIS. Governor Cuomo said the suspect was associated with ISIS. How can the President make the case that we are annihilating ISIS when an attack like this occurs? Are his policies emboldening the remnants of ISIS?
  • The President said earlier, today he’s starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program. What did he mean by “starting the process”?
  • Okay, sorry, just to follow up on Margaret’s question: So the President isn’t considering any broader criminal justice reform?
  • Thank you, Sarah. A follow-up question on Jon Decker’s question. The criterion that you listed for enhanced vetting sounds very much like that for a national I.D. card — a subject that comes up every few years in Congress but which has never been acted on. Is the administration in favor of a national I.D. card as part of the enhanced vetting?
  • You’re not ruling out a national I.D. card as part of the —
  • [Blake Burman, Fox Business News] Between the time the President sent the tweet out last night saying that he’s called for a step-up of extreme vetting until now, can you lay out exactly what has been stepped up in that timeframe?
  • [Still Blake] And then going forward on tax reform real quick, if I can, do you mind? It’s possible that one of the things that Republicans are looking at right now is drastically lowering the cap for 401(k)s. The administration has consistently said that this tax plan has to help the middle class. So how would bringing down the cap on 401(k)s help the middle class?
  • [Eamon Javers, CNBC] Thanks, Sarah. On the tax cut bill, what does the President want that bill to be called? There are reports that he wants to call it the “Cut Cut Cut Act.” Are those accurate?
  • Can you tell us if his Federal Reserve Chair pick is a man or a woman? (Laughter.)
  • Sarah, the President talked about wanting merit-based immigration today and criticized the diversity visa program. Is he aware that the diversity visa program actually does have a merit-based component to it?
  • They’re ranked by their job that they have had and they have to have a minimum education.
  • They have to meet certain criteria and have certain rankings. It’s not entirely random.
  • So the 350,000 people have come in since the Uzbek gentleman yesterday came in — 350,000 people come into the country on this program. One of them now, apparently, has been accused of a terrorist act. One of the 350,000 create a problem then for that program?
  • Why did the President call the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughingstock during his comments in the Cabinet? [SHS said “That’s not what he said.” I shrugged it off at the time, but later I heard his comments and there was no room for doubt. He said exactly that. Orwell alert.]
  • He said that the system of justice in this country was a joke.
  • If I could follow up on a separate subject if I could. Other folks had a couple of questions each. Getting back to George Papadopoulos, does the President recall at that March 31st, 2016 meeting of his National Security Advisory Board, Mr. Papadopoulos suggesting a meeting behind then-candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin? Does he recall that?
  • [April Ryan, AURN] Sarah, two questions. First, Mary Frances Berry, the former head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, says everyone wants vetting, but to stop people from coming because they come from different countries is totally wrong. What say you?
  • But the diversity lottery is specifically for those coming from other nations that you are not favoring right now because you believe that there is a possibility of terrorism.
  • And second question, last question. Compromise, the issue of compromise — what is the definition of “compromise” as it relates to slavery and the Civil War?
  • There were a lot of questions still lingering when you left. And I’m going to ask the question again, and respectfully —
  • I’m not accusing; I’m asking a question, Sarah. Seriously. The question is: Does this administration believe — does this President believe slavery was wrong? And before you answer, Mary Frances Berry, a historian, said, in 1860 there was a compromise. The compromise was to have Southern states keep slavery, but the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter that caused the Civil War. And because of the Civil War, what happened — [Sarah Sanders cuts her off to say “I think it is disgusting and absurd to suggest that anyone inside of this building would support slavery.” I think she’s disgusting and absurd.]
  • Yesterday, from that podium, you said all of our leaders have flaws — Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Kennedy. What are President Trump’s flaws? [SHS says Trump’s greatest flaw is that he has to deal with the press everyday. This makes zero sense. Has she not ever had a job interview in her life? Did she not take the SAT?]
  • In fairness, he doesn’t deal with us on a daily basis. So what would you say in sincerity?
  • What are his flaws then, I guess? Simple question.
  • Thanks, Sarah. Two questions for you. What does the future of Guantanamo Bay look like under the Trump administration?
  • And if I could follow up on last night — could you give us a little bit more of the tick-tock of how the President found out about this terror attack in New York City — how he immediately responded, who he got on the phone with right away? Just trying to get a better understanding of where he was at this time, what he was doing, and what actions he took, following the news.
  • Thank you, Sarah. Will President look for — will President Trump look for enhancing anti-terror measures with other foreign countries during his visit to Asia? And also, will President Trump call the leaders of Argentina and Belgium to express his condolences?