TOWOIT #279: Dianne Day

January 9, 2018

So many think pieces on how the White House Press Briefings shouldn’t exist anymore because they have become absurd. Just because they are absurd doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist. You gotta dance with the circus you’re stuck with.

Reporters’ questions from today’s briefing:

  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Can you help us clarify? When the Democrats came out, they applauded the President for organizing the meeting, but said it was their understanding this would be a two-phase process — DACA first, and then other elements that you outlined in your statement second, and that they perceived January 19th, not March 5th, as the deadline for action. Can you explain the President’s interpretation of the meeting and that assessment of the congressional Democrats?
  • So those four things are phase one, from the President’s perspective?
  • And are they tied to January 19th or March 5th?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) How confident are you that those four things will remain part of phase one of this process? Senator Dianne Feinstein posited the idea of doing a clean DACA bill, which the President at first seemed to embrace before —
  • Which is clearly different than her perspective on a clean DACA bill because she clearly stated that she thinks they should do a clean DACA bill, just handle the DREAMers, and then handle border security as part of comprehensive immigration reform.  So is the President setting himself up here for a battle where the Democrats are going to say, no, let’s just do DACA, and he’s on the other side, and then there’s no coming together?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. Two quick questions if I may.  The Democrats said after the meeting that they support border security measures and that their understanding is that the President uses the term “wall” and “border security” interchangeably. Is that true?
  • And then if — just really quickly — is there any update from the White House on the process of deciding if, and if so, how bump stocks should be regulated? That’s something we haven’t touched on in a while.
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News)  Sarah, thank you. During that meeting, the President also talked about earmarks, saying essentially it could lower the hostility here in D.C. and lead to both sides coming together. But is he not concerned also that it could also lead to runaway spending?
  • And then on Davos, Sarah, is the President expected — or is he planning on making this an annual event, him going to Davos? And do you have any details on what days — I believe it’s a four-day event — when he might actually go?
  • (Margaret Talev, Bloomberg) Thanks, Sarah. My question, not shockingly, is also on Davos.  During the campaign, the Trump campaign, the decision not to go — the concern of the time — was that this is viewed by some as a gathering of global elites, and that wasn’t the President’s campaign message or message to his base. And, obviously, you guys have — your thinking on this has evolved a little bit about who it’s a message for and what message you can do.  But is this — has his thinking —
  • What I wanted to ask also is do you have a fuller picture of that U.S. delegation that you could share with us at this time?
  • Will he meet any world leaders, be holding bilats while he’s there?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Sarah. Ivanka Trump praised on Twitter Oprah pretty effusively.  She said, “Let’s all come together, women & men, & say #TIMESUP.” Is that the message from this White House, to support this Time’s Up movement?
  • Having been on the campaign of a political outsider, what advice would you give a political outsider like Oprah, who seems intrigued about the idea of running?
  • Is she qualified?
  • (a white guy with a beard, named Michael) Can I ask just a question about phase two of the immigration issue as the President laid it out today?  So once you get past the DACA debate and some of these other issues, Senator Lindsey Graham seemed to lay on the table the idea of something that Senator Graham supports, which is a comprehensive plan that would include a path to citizenship for all 11 million or 12 million — however many you count them — people that are illegally in this country. And the President seemed to respond, yeah, let’s do it, let’s go for it — something along those lines. So are we to then take away that the President is firmly committed to a path to citizenship, to trying to get to a path to citizenship, for all 11 million illegal immigrants in the country once phase two comes?
  • I understand. But —
  • (Zeke, AP News) Thanks, Sarah. Two for you real quick. Overnight, news came out that the North Koreans will be sending a delegation to the Olympics in South Korea. Does the White House have any response to that? And will it have any impact on American participation in the Games? Firstly. And then secondly, there’s a comment on Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
  • And do you anticipate announcing a delegation soon?
  • And just one more — (inaudible) — Joe Arpaio running for the Senate. The President obviously pardoned him. Is the White House supportive of his candidacy? Would the President like to campaign for him?
  • Does the President believe it’s appropriate for somebody who’s been pardoned for a crime to run for —
  • (Steven) Thanks, Sarah. Just to take another stab at Michael’s question. Can you help us understand the term as the President used it? What does comprehensive immigration reform mean to this White House?
  • Inasmuch as the President today seemed to say, okay, let’s go on to comprehensive immigration reform in the afternoon.
  • Has the President not decided what comprehensive immigration reform means to him?
  • (Jessica) Thanks, Sarah. On trade, there’s a meeting of trade officials, I understand, at the White House today, concerning the trade agenda for 2018. How much will trade and trade action, particularly against China, be part of the Trump administration agenda this year?
  • On North Korea, if you can just clarify. In the delegation we’re sending, are Jared and Ivanka going?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. It’s pretty unusual for us in the press corps to have a front-row seat to those kind of negotiations in the Cabinet Room for about an hour. Whose decision was it to allow the press in to witness that entire negotiation? And what was the goal of having us sit there and watch?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Going back to the wall — last summer, Governor Graco, the head of the Mexican Governors Association, said that when the President started talking about a price tag on building the wall, that meant he’d given up on his idea of making Mexico pay for it. Now, in his remarks in Tennessee, and in his recent speeches, the President has talked about the cost of the wall, and there has been no mention of his standard phrase, “and Mexico will pay for it.”  Has the President abandoned the idea of Mexico paying for the wall?
  • (Philip) Thank you, Sarah. On trade again, negotiations on NAFTA will start again at the end of January in Montreal. Listening to the President in Tennessee yesterday, is he more hopeful — does he still plan on scrapping the deal if he can’t get everything he wants?
  • Is he a little more hopeful than he was six months ago?
  • (Olivier) Thanks, Sarah. So when the President declined to certify the Iran nuclear deal, it was in the U.S. national interest. A couple months ago, he said he needed to see action in Congress and from American allies. Has he seen enough of that action? Senator Corker is under the impression that it’s possible there’s been enough progress on the legislative fix, at least, that the President might be willing to not re-impose sanctions.
  • (Peter) Sarah, just to be clear, if the President wants a bill of love, why doesn’t he drop the demand for a border wall and deal with the DREAMers alone, immediately?
  • So what does the President say to young men like 24-year-old Jesus Contreras — he’s from Houston, he’s a paramedic, he’s been working hard in this country to help other lives better — who are now waiting for Congress to come up with something or they may get shipped to a country they’ve never known?
  • Just a quick one about last night, only because it made sense —
  • (Chris) Sarah, over the holidays, the President terminated the tenure of the members of the President’s advisory council on HIV/AIDS. Does the President want to see those positions re-filled in his administration?
  • (Steve) Is he going to add any stops to the Davos trip? And is he actually going to address the group there?
  • (Trey Yingst, OANN) Thanks, Sarah. Two questions for you. First, does the White House have any reaction to the testimony that was released today by Senator Feinstein’s office regarding the Fusion GPS dossier?
  • Okay. And if I could follow up on the immigration meetings today. Is the President concerned about the differences that Democrats and Republicans have when it comes to defining phrases like “border security”?
  • (Jake) Thank you, Sarah.  First of all, on border security, we’re hearing a lot about immigration. How big of a role, though, does drug trafficking play right now vis-à-vis the President and Congress? And specifically —
  • But surely it’s going to be more than just the wall, because drugs are very easily flung over a wall, right?
  • And about the report that Mueller is expecting to be sitting down with the President in the coming weeks, what do you have to tell us about that?
  • (Charlie) Thank you, Sarah. A lot of immigration critics believe that a DACA deal, by its very nature, is considered to be amnesty. Does the White House believe that that is amnesty?
  • (Steve) Yes, Sarah.  Has President Trump been briefed by President Moon on the negotiations that the South Koreans had with the North Koreans? And what would this White House like to see as the next steps from Pyongyang?
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Just to be crystal clear on this, does the President want a wall in exchange for giving those DREAMers protection?
  • Okay. So what does border security entail? Does it include the wall at this stage, or could the wall wait until later?
  • So the wall has to be part of a deal in order for these DREAMers to have protection?
  • But do you understand why — I mean, there’s a difference, right?
  • I understand that. But you understand how the wall could be different than border security, Sarah? Border security can mean drones.
  • It could mean agents. It could mean more fencing. It doesn’t necessarily mean a physical wall.
  • And you understand Democrats are saying that they may not be in favor of this kind of deal? That they’re not going to exchange a wall for DREAMers.
  • If they say thanks but no thanks for a wall —
  • (Andrew) Thank you, Sarah. I just want to go back to the question of Davos. Can you tell us a little bit about how this decision perhaps came about and what influenced it? Was there any parts of it that had taken into account Xi Jinping’s appearance there last year, and, kind of, seemed to take center stage and step into a kind of space that had been left open by the U.S.?
  • Was it his idea to go there?
  • Does the President have a fixed set of principles and priorities for comprehensive immigration reform? Or does he believe that that’s something he should be flexible on when it comes to that?
  • Sarah, the President said on Saturday that Robert Mueller’s investigation makes our country look foolish, and he’s expressed a similar sentiment a couple times before. But what does he mean specifically about making the country look foolish?
  • Will you take one on the national anthem, Sarah? (shouted after her as she left) 

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