TOWOIT #282: Pins & Needles

Reporter questions from the White House press briefing on Monday, January 22, 2018:

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, how is the President going to work with Democrats when he’s running a campaign ad that is calling them “complicit” in murder? How is he actually going to show leadership on this?
  • So is he going to be bringing the Democrats down here and bringing Republicans here, hashing this out? How is this going to be any different? We didn’t see him over the weekend. He was only talking to Republicans. Obviously, if there’s going to be a deal by February 8th, it’s going to need to be a deal with Democrats.
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Senator Schumer, on the floor, claimed that the deal that he had on the table from Mitch McConnell today was much different than the one that he had last week. How did the ball move forward, if it did at all, between Friday night and this morning?
  • So is it your contention that the deal that Chuck Schumer accepted and lauded today is really no different than the deal that he had on the table Friday?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Just so we understand, is there no interaction, and was there no interaction, between the President and the campaign committee in the creation of that ad? Did he approve it?
  • But it’s an important question, Sarah.
  • (woman’s voice) It said, “I’m Donald Trump and I approve this message.”
  • Would you, from this podium, describe that as an accurate representation of his belief about what Democrats are, and what their position was during the shutdown, that they were complicit, and would be complicit, in any future murders because of the shutdown?
  • Just, Sarah, real quick — is a two-year requirement required from the President for defense spending going forward? Is that one of his top goals for the budget negotiations going forward? Not just this fiscal year, but two years on defense
  • (Inaudible) issue expressed on the Hill.
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks, Sarah. The President, several months ago, called on Congress to provide a legislative fix for those 700,000-or-so DACA recipients. Is it his position that he would sign such a bill, a clean bill? Or would he insist upon funding for that border wall with Mexico?
  • On another issue — tomorrow, I believe, is the beginning of the final round of negotiations concerning NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. How are those negotiations going right now? What we’re hearing right now is that they’re not going well. They haven’t been going well for the first five rounds. Is the President prepared to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA?
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Sarah, thanks. After this shutdown episode, does the President feel like he can deal with Democrats anymore? I mean, for example, Senator Coons said over the weekend — he implied that the President didn’t know the difference between authorization and appropriation. And there’s been other leaks about conversations behind closed doors. What is the President’s level of trust with the Senate Democrats moving forward? (Jesus, Dave)
  • Beyond immigration, you have a budget, and you got infrastructure and other big things you want to get done. Is that going to be possible after this?
  • (Peter Alexander, NBC News) Sarah, would the President support a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers?
  • But to be very clear about that, you must have some position on it. The President clearly has conviction on this issue. So does he support this divisive issue — a pathway to citizenship for these individuals?
  • To be clear, legal status versus pathway to citizenship. Or does it not matter to the President?
  • (David Nakamura, Washington Post) Yeah, I just want to follow up on that question. You just said you would be open to legal — a permanent legal solution for the 690,000 people in the DACA program. What about beyond that? Axios had a story last week that said, in the (inaudible), White House administration memo estimated that what the Democrats want would potentially legalize 3 million DREAMers. Where did you get that number? And what is the limit that the President has on how big this population of DREAMers really is? I think the DREAM Act would be — predicted it would legalize 1.7 million. Where do you draw the line?
  • You said this program — again, there’s certain people who had the DACA protections, and other DREAMers decided not to apply for various reasons. Is the White House open to addressing a deal in this go-around for a population that’s larger than just those in DACA?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thanks. One clarification before my question. The President is still planning on going to Davos?
  • And then, my question — the priorities of a DACA fix, where exactly does that rank? Because when you talk about what needs to happen for a deal — diversity visa lottery program, the wall, ending chain migration, DACA, some other components up on the Hill may need to be worked in as well — the actual DACA solution, how big of a priority is that, that one component, for the President?
  • So a DACA fix is on the same level playing field as the wall?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) Sarah, we haven’t seen him in a couple days. What has he been doing behind the scenes as this drama has unfolded?
  • When will we see him?
  • (Inaudible.)
  • But will we see him sign the thing?
  • (David. I can’t see who this is) I’m wondering, are we going to see him today, regardless of what the House does or doesn’t do?
  • (Maggie Haberman, aka The Trump Whisperer, NY Times) Sarah, just going back to the NAFTA discussions, does the President still have faith in Wilbur Ross? There was a report suggesting otherwise (There are reports of Wilbur Ross falling asleep in meetings. He gets over-looked a lot, but this Bank of Cyprus thing is no joke). 
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) The President was very clear back in September when he said that DREAMers have nothing to worry about. Is that still the case?
  • But, Sarah, there are a lot of DREAMers in this country who are, sort of, living on pins and needles not knowing what their fate is and has in store for them. What is this White House’s message to that population of people —

Sarah says “I think they should storm Capitol Hill and protest there.” She says Democrats are the problem. She says nothing sympathetic or human to the DACA population.

  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. The first on the obvious that’s there. Congressman Tom Cole, a member of the Republican leadership, said over the weekend that — to a member — Republicans in the House were committed to the three priorities the President laid out in the process of reopening the government. Is the President in cement on those three, in the negotiations that are going to follow — the ending chain migration, the ending of the lottery, and the appropriations for the wall?
  • (Inaudible) non-negotiable?
  • My other question, Sarah, is on a completely different subject. Monsanto and Bayer — who are two giants in the seed industry — are prepared to — preparing to merge. Their CEOs have met with the President. And many fear that this is going to lead to a monopoly for them in the seed industry and raising the prices, which will hurt the farm community. Is the President in favor of the merger of Monsanto and Bayer?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Thank you. I understand that you guys have laid out your criteria for what you want in a deal. But is the President saying that, on March 5th, if he doesn’t get what he wants from the Democrats in those other areas, that he will begin to deport the DREAMers?

Sarah says “We’re hopeful that we don’t have to do that,” meaning deporting the DREAMers starting March 5. She pins it all on the Democrats again.

  • But the President is the one who removed the deportation protection from the DREAMers.
  • One other question. The President —
  • And just one more. The President’s son, Eric, said that the shutdown was a good thing for us, meaning politically it was a good thing for the President and the party. Does the President agree with that?
  • (The wonderfully named Darlene Superville, Associated Press) What is the guidance on how quickly the government would reopen and how soon workers would be expected to be back at work, and national parks and other facilities that were closed will reopen?
Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 6.52.34 PM
Darlene Superville, AP, asking about the shutdown as NPR’s Mara Liasson mentally face-palms behind her.
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News) I was hoping to give you a chance to respond to the criticism that Senator Schumer lobbed over the weekend. In addition to saying that the President — negotiating with him is like negotiating with Jell-O, today the Senator said that the great dealmaker sat on the sidelines. Was it a concerted effort on the President’s part not to reach out to him this weekend? Was that part of his strategy?
  • You mean Democrat members.
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Just following up on that, in addition to Chuck Schumer saying the President negotiates like Jell-O, even Leader McConnell said he wasn’t completely clear on where the President stood when it comes to some of these immigration priorities. So is the President shifting his policy positions behind the scenes, under pressure from his conservative base?
  • Do Jason Miller and John Kelly have veto power over any immigration deal? (Kristen meant Steven Miller, and in response Sarah did her customary smirk and shirk and turned to leave)

As Sarah Huckabee Sanders leaves the room someone shouts after her: “IS IT STILL TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT GUN CONTROL?”

This briefing took place one day before the mass shooting at the high school in Kentucky.

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