TOWOIT #275: UFOs

December 19, 2017… Day 333

“We’ve reshaped the judiciary for generations” — Sarah Huckabee Sanders

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Two questions on tax reform. Both are quick, if I could. First of all, what’s the schedule for signing? I understand this may not happen until after the Christmas break?
  • Second question. The carried-interest provision — this is something that — this is a loophole that President Trump promised again, again, and again to close. The carried-interest loophole is still there in this bill. Why did the President not insist on getting rid of that?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Sarah. The President has said that this tax bill is going to cost him a fortune. It’s actually not the case. How does he figure this is going to cost him a lot of money?
  • But he stands to benefit from pass-through deductions, top-rate tax reduction, estate tax exception is doubled. He’s going to make money on that.
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. Early reports are indicating that that fatal Amtrak derailment out in Washington — similar to the 2015 derailment in Philadelphia — could have been prevented by positive train control, which Congress back in ’08 mandated was supposed to be on all lines by 2015. That’s been pushed back and it’s only on a quarter of passenger lines right now. Is this White House considering any steps to speed up the implementation of positive train control to stop these kinds of accidents?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. You ticked off a number of accomplishments that you see the President has made in this first year in office.  Why are his approval ratings mired in the mid- to upper-30s, despite those accomplishments?
  • And separately, Sarah — just if I may — Matthew Peterson, since we last met, withdrew his judicial nomination. There’s been a viral video of his inability to answer some basic legal questions when he went up before his confirmation hearing. How did he sort of slip through the cracks? Why was he nominated? And are you doubling up your effort here at the White House, over at DOJ, to make sure that your judicial nominees can answer those basic questions when they go up to the confirmation hearings?
  • (Dave) Sarah, thanks. Where was the President watching when the House voted? And did you see his reaction? What did he do?
  • One thing on nominations. Can you explain, now that we’re near the end of year, why the President has submitted far fewer names to the Senate for nomination than his predecessors, at this point in his term?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Thank you. Let me ask you a couple questions and pick up where John Roberts left off. He asked you about the carried-interest loophole. You said, essentially, that it fell within the President’s four main principles that he laid out. How is keeping the carried-interest loophole, or at least a portion of it, good for the middle class?
  •  Let me ask you this way:  An individual who makes roughly $83,000 would pay about 24 percent with their rate. Somebody who benefits, a millionaire — tens of millions, potentially hundreds of millions, if not more — still might pay 24 percent on that money. Does the White House believe that somebody who makes $83,000 paying as somebody who has, potentially, hundreds of millions, do you guys believe that is fair?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. I actually wanted to ask about UFOs.  (Laughter.) Several media reports this week — (phone interruption) — sorry.  (Laughter.)
  • Several of these reports have disclosed the existence of a secret Pentagon program that was researching UFOs. Funding ran out for that in 2012. Does the President believe in the existence of UFOs? And would he be interested in restoring funding for that program?
  • (Jennifer) Has the President made sure that the IRS has the resources it needs to implement these new tax reform rules?
  • Just to follow up on a couple of questions. Were you saying that this particular judicial nominee, who’s withdrawn after this viral video of his inept performance at the confirmation hearing, didn’t properly go through your preparation and vetting process?
  • But with this confirmation hearing, based on your process, you thought he was prepared?
  • And to follow up on Cecilia’s question, you don’t disagree with what she said about the personal benefits that will accrue to the President based on provisions in the tax cut bill? You don’t disagree that they will benefit him personally?
  • (Noah) Sarah, you said the focus is on the middle class. Why was one of the last provisions put in lowering the top bracket? And did the President support that? And if he did not support it, why did he not insist that that not be added at the end?
  • Does that help the middle class, to lower the rate for — the bracket for the top individual earners?
  • (Peter) What do you say to the millions of Americans who could, and likely will, end up paying more because the individual mandate is repealed in this tax plan?
  • To be clear, though, on the individual mandate specifically, you will acknowledge that many Americans will end up paying more as a result of it being repealed, correct?
  • To be clear, so for the time being, they’ll have to swallow paying more until that resolution comes?
  • Sarah, as women around the country continue to speak up about sexual harassment in the workplace, I wanted to check in with you and see if the President and this administration is considering any legislative fixes to protect women from harassment. There are two notable bipartisan bills that have recently been introduced.  This is Gretchen Carlson’s bill to remove arbitration clauses from employee contracts, and the Congressional Harassment Reform Act, which would require members of Congress to be found personally liable for harassment settlements and allow victims to speak publicly about their cases.  Would the President consider signing either of these bills if they arrived on his desk?
  • So at the moment, though, the White House isn’t considering legislation on this front?
  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) Sarah, I have one on taxes. But because at the top you mentioned “forgotten men and women,” I wanted to ask about Puerto Rico. It’s been more than three months since the hurricane hit. Would the President still give himself right now a 10 out of 10 for the federal government’s response?
  • So you think the President has been doing everything he can? Still a 10?
  • And on the tax situation, Sarah — you’re getting a lot of questions about what will benefit the President, what won’t benefit the President. I get that he doesn’t want to release his taxes. That would obviously put all of these questions to rest.  So can you just elucidate why — for 2016, the President can release his taxes — why won’t he do that and put all of these questions away, back up what you’re saying, prove that what you’re saying is correct?  That’s the way to do it.
  • But I’m asking a different question, right? Not whether he will, but why won’t he.
  • I guess I’m asking the “why” part of it, Sarah. And I don’t mean to belabor it, but I understand that the President wants to wait until after the audit. I’m asking why.
  • Even though these questions (inaudible)?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax)  I have two questions on Russia.  First, the Kremlin has recently threatened Twitter with a complete shutdown throughout Russia if it continues to carry the Twitter account of what they call “Undesirables,” notably the dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia group. They’ve made a similar threat to YouTube recently. What’s the administration’s reaction when the Russian government wants to shut down American-run businesses bringing an expression of opinion to their country?
  • The other thing on Russia. Senator Rubio has introduced legislation to name the street in front of the Russian embassy here after the slain Russian dissident, Boris Nemtsov. Senator Corker has blocked it. Does the administration have an opinion on this at all?
  • (Anita) I wanted to ask you about the path forward on the Export-Import Bank.  Now that a Senate committee is saying that Scott Garett’s name shouldn’t go forward, does the White House think that it needs to name someone else to run —
  • On his name or someone else?
  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) Sarah, just a couple of quick follow-ups.  First, on Matthew, he was asking about Amtrak. There was a budget request, as I understand, from the President for $630 million reduction in the long-distance Amtrak routes. Because of the accident in Washington, do you plan on revisiting that issue?
  • On Matthew Peterson, the three that were turned down — it’s our understanding that they had close ties to the White House.  Are you going to try to change the vetting process?
  • And then finally, on the one on UFOs —
  • The one on UFOs is the last one.
  • Well, the first one was on the Amtrak —
  • But because of their ties to the White House, because it’s looked upon as those were friends of the White House and that’s why they got that nomination, are you going to change the vetting process? Are you going to look at it more closely?
  • (James) Sarah, the new National Security Strategy specifically calls out Russia for using subversive tactics to interfere with the affairs of other countries.  Why didn’t the President use that kind of aggressive language in his speech yesterday?
  • (Jill) Thank you, Sarah. Two things. First, I just wanted to go back to the Scott Garett issue. Does the President, at this point, regret having nominated someone who had advocated, previously getting rid of the Export-Import Bank to lead it?
  • And I also just wanted to ask — the President spoke with Prime Minister May today. Did they have any discussion at all about the President’s planned visit?  Have you settled on any timing of a potential visit?
  • (Jim) The President did say that this tax cut bill would cost him a fortune. That was false, right?
  • Has he looked at how it would balance out corporate versus personal, if he’s going to come out ahead?

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