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.

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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.

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