TOWOIT #289: Military Parades and Black Eyes

February 7, 2018

Reporters’ questions for Secretary Mattis at the White House Press Briefing today:

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC) General, how damaging would a shutdown be — would a government shutdown be, given that if you have this deal — if there was a decision to shut the government down because, for example, the wall wasn’t funded in this deal — how bad would that be to the military?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS) Mr. Secretary, you mentioned you’ve been spending the last day and a half on Capitol Hill. This is a Senate arrangement. Do you have any sense, sir, if the House leadership on the Republican side is equally receptive and as enthusiastic as you are? And, also, service secretaries, particularly the Navy service secretary has said the funding problems are not, maybe, a direct cause, but contributed to the deaths of seamen in the South China Sea in the two most recent accidents. Can you tell the country, if this money is in fact provided, all of the problems associated with training, maintenance that have been plaguing the military will be eliminated?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Mr. Secretary, if I could ask you about the recently released Nuclear Posture Review.
  • It calls for smaller-yield nuclear weapons to be added to our arsenal.  You’re on record as saying there’s no such thing as a tactical nuke. Anytime a nuclear weapon is used, it’s a strategic game changer. So how does this new Posture Review add to global stability? Because there are many people who believe that if you’ve got a smaller-yield nuclear weapon, you might be more inclined to use it.
  • (Sorry, I don’t know who this is and I’m tired) Mr. Secretary, can you talk about where things are in the planning stages for this military parade the President is seeking and what any cost estimates you have at this point are?
  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) Mr. Secretary, I have a question about North Korea, but also a follow-up on Catherine’s question there. You just laid out the argument for fully funding the military, why you think every dollar counts.  So why divert time, energy, financial resources to the planning of a parade, as the President has asked?
  • (A woman in the second row) Let me ask whether you think that war is actually nearer or closer with North Korea than it was at the time the administration took office. And do you support any kind of meeting or communication between Vice President Pence and North Korean officials at the Olympics?

Questions for Sarah Sanders now.

  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) Nancy Pelosi is wanting to add immigration to this emerging budget deal on the Hill.  Is that something the President would like to see?
  • To follow up, is the President committed to this March 5th deadline for DACA, or is he going to extend the deadline?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. To put another point on it, will the President sign the budget agreement that was laid out by the Senate this morning?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Would you like the House to pass the Senate deal?
  • Another question. Could you clarify the status of the security clearance of Rob Porter, and if the President has confidence in him as his Staff Secretary?
  • Sarah, is he going to be leaving the White House anytime soon? There was some conversation a couple of months ago that he was at least contemplating that.
  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC) Thanks. Less than 18 hours ago, the White House released several statements praising Rob Porter and his service. Obviously, he’s somebody who’s very close with the President. So why would the President accept his resignation if the President thinks he did nothing wrong?
  • (Catherine) Can we clear up the matter of the security clearance? Did he have one or not? If he didn’t —
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, can I ask you about the Democratic memo?  We understand — and Chief of Staff Kelly illuminated this yesterday — that this memo is different in terms of its content than the Republican memo was.  General Kelly said it’s not as clean as the GOP memo was. Republicans who have read the memo are saying that it contains a substantial number of references to sources and methods. My question to you is, do you believe that the White House is — I don’t want to say being sandbagged, but being put in a difficult position by the Democratic minority, forcing you to make redactions or hold back this memo so it could draw contrast with your treatment of the GOP memo? (This is kind of acrobatic of you, John Roberts)
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, can you clarify — the President yesterday said that he would like to shut the government down if he doesn’t get funding for the wall, border security. Is what he said yesterday now no longer operative? He’s going to support a two-year spending bill without funding for the wall?
  • But he said he wanted to shut the government down if he didn’t get it. Now that’s no longer operative? Is that no longer the position?
  • But he was the one who said he wanted to shut the government down. I’m not understanding. He said, “I want a government shutdown.”
  • (Pamela Brown, CNN) How can the President still have confidence in his Deputy Attorney General when he said he feels vindicated in the Russia probe by the Nunes memo that mentions Rosenstein, and the fact that Rosenstein oversees the Russia probe?
  • Has he actually read the Democrats’ memo? You said he has seen it, but has he actually read —  (Me: Face palm that we are here. It’s 10 pages long.) 
  • And just really quickly, General Mattis was saying that the President has great affection for the military, but he has yet to visit Iraq and Afghanistan. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate way to honor the troops, by going there rather than a parade?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks. Does the President have any concerns about these domestic violence allegations raised against Rob Porter?
  • You haven’t talked to the President about this —
  • Has he seen the photos of Rob Porter’s ex-wife with a black eye?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t know.

  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President weighed in today on Twitter, on the stock market — the first time this week he’s done so. And he’s done so quite a bit over the course of his first year in office. Can we expect the President to continue to weigh in on the daily fluctuations on the stock market going forward? Or will he, sort of, let the market take its course?
  • On an immigration deal, would the President be open to the idea of just two pillars of what he’s put forward being part of an immigration deal? That being funding for that border wall with Mexico and increased border security, and then, of course, a legislative fix for those DACA recipients.
  • (Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg) The President today called these text messages from the FBI, “bombshells.” Does he believe there was a conspiracy in the FBI to try and undermine his candidacy, to try and help Hillary Clinton?  Can you explain a little bit more his thinking about what he’s seen in these text messages?
  • And just quickly on the FBI. Are there some more specific changes, personnel changes, you would like to see at the FBI?
  • (Steven Portnoy, ABC News) Sarah, I just want to give you a chance to respond to the concerns about the propriety of this parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. A lot of people in the country think that that’s not how the American military should be presented to the world, rolling tanks down America’s Main Street. What do you think?
  • Is it true — the report that the President essentially gave a directive to the Defense Department? “This is something that must happen.”
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, to follow up on these text messages, does the President believe that former President Obama was involved in the investigation — the Russia investigation — against him, which is what alleged between those texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page?

As Sarah Sanders and her retinue filed out of the room, someone called out, “Does the White House condemn domestic violence in all cases?” 

That’s what these last call outs are for — things you are willing to just let hang in the air, unanswered but meaningful. Not for strange shouted jokes at the expense of your colleagues.


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