TOWOIT #292: Monday

February 14, 2018

Today is Wednesday. Here are the reporter’s questions from MONDAY’s briefing:

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, Rob Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, spoke with the FBI as part of his clearance process on January 25th, 2017, during which she says that she laid out all of the allegations that have since been aired against Rob Porter and provided the FBI with the photographs that were the turning point in his termination last week. At any time, between January 25th of last year and last Wednesday, did the FBI make anyone here at the White House, whether it was at the Counsel’s Office, the Chief of Staff’s office, or anyone else — did the FBI make anybody here aware of the allegations that had been raised against Porter by Colbie Holderness and his second wife, Jennie Willoughby?
  • The allegations that were raised against him would make him a prime candidate for blackmail, which would leave any responsible person at the FBI to come to the White House to say, “Just want to let you know, this person will likely never get a permanent security clearance.” Was that concern ever raised to anyone here at the White House?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Sarah. Why haven’t we heard the President say exactly what you just said right there, that he takes domestic violence very seriously?
  • But why hasn’t he said that? He had the opportunity. He’s, as you know, been active on Twitter.
  • Does he believe Rob Porter’s accusers? Or are they lying? (Sanders answered “Yes” months ago when asked whether the official White House stance was that Trump’s accusers are all lying)
  • That doesn’t answer the question.
  • (Ayesha Rascoe) Does the President still wish Rob Porter well? Does he still believe that he wants him to have a great career ahead of him? Because that would seem —

SARAH SANDERS: …the President wants success for all Americans, and that he was elected to serve all Americans, and he hopes for the best for all American citizens across the country.

  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) What about the President’s tweet over the weekend? “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.” It seems like the President was believing Mr. Porter as opposed to his alleged victims. Why did the President tweet that over the weekend? Why is he seemingly defending Mr. Porter publicly? Is it because he has faced his own allegations? Is there some sensitivity there? Is that why that is?
  • But is there some tone —
  • But is there a tone deafness there? Is there just a being on the wrong side of things?
  • I mean, he had the opportunity to talk about it on Friday, and tweeted —
  • But I think these alleged —
  • Sarah, but I think these alleged victims were hoping that there would be something for them.
  • The Vice President said he was appalled by the allegations. Why did the President not use this as an opportunity to say something like that? Why does he have to speak through you?
  • He has not said it. Why has he not said it?
  • Why does the Vice President have to say it? Why didn’t he say it?
  • His views are that he wishes Porter well and that he believes that people should have due process. But he hasn’t addressed the victims of domestic violence at all.
  • Where is he? Where is he?
  • Is he afraid to say it himself?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Two questions, if I may. Does the White House have a rule or policy regarding how long an employee is permitted to operate with an interim security clearance?
  • (Darlene Superville) To follow on that, can you say whether the White House is beginning to examine or review cases of staffers who are operating under an interim clearance or —
  • — examine their cases more closely, in light of the Rob Porter situation?
  • Do you have any more information for us on Vanessa Trump? How was the President informed of what happened in New York?
  • (Jacqueline Alemany, CBS News) Sarah, I want to just go back to Cecilia’s point, which is that the President has a history of defending men who have been accused of sexual assault and harassment and abuse, including Mike Tyson, Bill O’Reilly, Steve Wynn, Corey Lewandowski, Roy Moore, and, now, Rob Porter. Would the White House like to say, today, unambiguously, that the President believes women making these accusations?
  • I just want to get back to the timeline, Sarah. So, the Intercept reporter, Ryan Grim, tweeted out photos of Colbie Holderness’s black eye at 1:53 a.m. on Wednesday. And The Daily Mail published them at 8:30 on Wednesday morning. Then the White House sent CBS’s statement at 1:45 on Wednesday afternoon, 12 hours after all of these photos were already published and out. Why was the White House still saying that Porter was a man of integrity and honor after these photos had circulated?

MS. SANDERS: “The comments that were made by members of the White House were based on our personal experience, and we could only speak to the interaction that we had personally had.”

  • (Not sure who?) Sarah, thanks. Why are high-level aides allowed to work with classified information without a permanent security clearance?
  • Can you guarantee that you are protecting classified information given that you have someone like Rob Porter who didn’t have a permanent security clearance?
  • Can you guarantee that you are protecting classified information given that you have someone like Rob Porter who didn’t have a permanent security clearance to access classified information?
  • Is this White House jeopardizing national security?

MS. SANDERS: “….And I think if anyone is publishing or putting out, publicly, classified information, it’s members of the press, not the White House.”

  • At the end of last week, the White House (this was Raj Shah, not SHS) said that there are things that — everyone could have done a better job handling this situation. Have you identified anything specific other than — I know you mentioned law enforcement agencies and the FBI, and their process. What about your process? Has the White House identified anything it could have done better in this situation to prevent something like this from happening again?
  • (Josh.) Thanks, Sarah. Tuesday night, when the initial story came out, the White House praises Rob Porter. Wednesday morning, photos come out. The White House stands by its statement. Wednesday afternoon, the White House continues to praise Rob Porter. And Chief of Staff John Kelly says he acted 40 minutes within knowing the allegations. Can you explain that?
  • The Chief of Staff said 40 minutes. I don’t understand that. Can you explain that?
  • And additionally, we’ve reported, and others have too, that Don McGahn, over a period of months, was told repeatedly by the ex-girlfriend, by the FBI, by others in the White House, about these accusations, and didn’t do anything. Can you explain why no action was taken by Don McGahn, the chief White House lawyer?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, you keep saying the President says you take domestic violence very seriously. Moving forward, how seriously will he take it? What will he do to raise awareness about it, combat against it, particularly as — again, I asked this last week of Raj — as this administration ended the Violence Against Women office, as well as closing down the Women and Girls office? What will be new and different as it relates to combatting this?
  • Okay, I have another question, real fast. On infrastructure. Infrastructure is about jobs, job creation, and you’re talking about rural America. When you’re talking about these jobs, are there going to be guidelines as to who can and who won’t be hired?
  • Because a lot of the infrastructure projects during the Obama years, when Hilda Solis was Labor Secretary, a lot of those jobs went to Hispanics. And the —
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. I just wanted to get you to clarify something. I think you’ve answered this, but I just wanted to have you clarify it, if you could. It’s about the White House Counsel, Don McGahn. Are you saying that the White House Counsel never learned, until last Tuesday, that there was any allegation, of any sort, that was ever leveled against Rob Porter?
  • Who’s “we”? When you say “we,” who’s “we”? Because I want to get to Don McGahn, specifically.
  • Okay. And to Don McGahn, specifically, though, had he learned, at any time before last Tuesday, when this story was broken by The Daily Mail, that there was any allegation of any sort leveled by any person against Rob Porter?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Two brief questions. As a follow -up to the last two questions, what is Don McGahn’s status as counsel right now?
  • All right. And the other question is, Senator Corker said last night he was reconsidering and possibly will reverse his decision not to seek reelection. Already, a Republican primary is in process in the state. What’s the President’s view? Should Senator Corker run again? Would he try to persuade him to? Or just let him — urge him to go back home to Tennessee?
  • (Frank) Last year, the administration said that the national debt is a crisis not just for the nation but for every citizen. Does the President still believe that it is a crisis? And if it is a crisis —
  • The national debt.
  • And if it is — if the national debt is a crisis, why hit the gas pedal, instead of the brake, when it comes to spending?


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