TOWOIT #293: Tuesday

February 14, 2018

Here are the questions they asked her on TUESDAY.

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) As you know, FBI Director Christopher Wray laid out a different timeline than the White House has been telling us, or one that would seem to be in contradiction to the timeline that the White House has laid out, in terms of what we knew when about Rob Porter. Can you speak to what the Director said? He seemed to indicate that the first that you would have known about this might have been in March, then again in June, then November, then in January when the case was actually closed.
  • So just to be clear then — in the July report, if not back to March, was there information contained in those reports about the allegations about Rob Porter?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) I just want to drill down on one important fact, because you and Raj, and you just said this again that the investigation was ongoing.  Christopher Wray said it was closed in January.  So who’s telling the truth here?
  • And let me just clarify one more point. You said yesterday that you didn’t get any paperwork from the FBI. Chris Wray said that he did submit paperwork in all the various months.
  • But you acknowledge that you did receive paperwork.
  • And, Sarah, finally, who allowed John Kelly — or Rob Porter rather, to stay here without a permanent security clearance?
  • And, Sarah, could you answer questions about —
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Is the White House still maintaining that John Kelly really had no idea about these allegations of domestic abuse until this story broke?

MS. SANDERS:  “I can only give you the best information that I have, and that’s my understanding.”

  • And does the President believe the women?
  • But we still haven’t heard him say that himself.  The cameras were in front of him today —
  • (Zeke Miller, AP) Thanks, Sarah. I’ve got two you. First, can you speak to — did anyone at the White House Personnel Security Office have any communication with anyone in the West Wing about Rob Porter’s clearance, between when the FBI started submitting its interim reports and —
  • And then, secondly — on Capitol Hill today, in an interview with the Associated Press, DNI Coates said that those with interim security clearances should not be granted — should have limited access to classified information rather than access to the full gamut that a full clearance would provide. Can you speak to whether that is a current practice right now for the large number — for the significant number of officials, whether it be the West Wing or the broader White House complex? The President’s aides who don’t have permanent security clearances, do they have limited access to classified information?

MS. SANDERS:  “I can’t speak to whether people have interim or permanent security clearances at all, and therefore can’t comment on the process.”

  • But the DNI suggested that it would be changed.
  • (Josh)  Sarah, are you saying that, on four different occasions, the FBI obviously said that it made the White House aware of the allegations, and the White House said — officials said that, until Tuesday night, they did not realize the extent of the allegations. Should someone at the FBI or the Personnel Security Office be punished for not telling White House officials? How can those two things be?
  • Is the President upset, though, that they weren’t told, if everyone knew, but no one in the senior staff found out. Are you guys upset about that?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. Raj, the other day, said, last week, that the situation could have been handled better. Yesterday, you echoed that and said the situation could have been handled better. Today, the Chief of Staff said it was all done right. Can you explain — does the White House think this Rob Porter situation could have been handled differently? Or do you guys think this was all done right?

I’m tempted to put another SHS pull quote here just so I can editorialize it with this tagline I keep seeing on Twitter: “WATCH WHITENESS WORK”

  • Was it appropriate for Hope Hicks to be involved in drafting some of these statements, given her relationship with Mr. Porter?
  • (Steve) Was there some discussion here about promoting Rob Porter to another job at the time that this all blew up?
  • (Jeff) Sarah, you said that the FBI has said it was completed in late July, but you said a follow-up required more fieldwork on that. Was that because of something that Rob Porter said in response to that, that the allegations weren’t true? Or what required more fieldwork follow-up?
  • If I could ask again, though. In an op-ed this morning in the Washington Post, the first wife of Rob Porter said specifically of you, “I expected a woman to do better.” Based on what you know, do you believe you were personally misled? And do you have any regret for how you have explained this to the American people
  • If I could ask one more —
  • — where does John Kelly stand as we sit here today, in terms of — if the President has confidence in him, why does he have confidence in him, based on everything we’ve learned over the last week?
  • (Julie) So a clarification and a question. In July, when the FBI was sent back into the field to get more information, are you telling us that no senior staff — not Don McGahn, not Joe Hagan, not John Kelly — nobody in the senior staff in the West Wing was involved in that decision to tell them to go back and see if they could get more information on what was —
  • And then, are you looking at, now, ways that you could change the process so that, if a senior official in the White House is facing credible allegations of spousal abuse or some other criminal charge, that senior staff would be notified in a more timely way? I mean, this appears to have — if your timeline is accurate — taken more than a year.
  • I’m not talking about their process; I’m talking about the process HERE — where an investigation, where serious allegations could surface, and that nobody in the West Wing would be aware of that.
  • Just following up on what Julie was asking. You’re saying that law enforcement should weigh in, but you’re the White House, you’re in charge, and this is your process. Should you not weigh in and take —
  • Given that it impacts the White House staff, do you not want to request an improved process here?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, a couple questions. In light of everything that’s going on, is there a review now — an internal review — of all of those who have interim security clearances to see if they should stay or should they go?
  • I’m not asking about different staff, I’m asking about the process — all right.  Is there a review of those who have interim passes to see if they’re going to stay or they’re going to go because — in light of what’s happening now?
  • And you spoke of fully funding the Violence Against Women Act. It’s up for reauthorization. Tell me the price — how much the President is trying to put in that.  And was that the price prior to all of this that’s happened with these two people in the last week?
  • The budget. You’re saying the President is going to fully fund the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that’s up in March. How much — what is he putting in his budget proposal?
  • You mentioned it, but is the number, the number that it’s always been, or was it just done? Can you talk to us about the funding?
  • When was it put in?
  • But we just got the budget —
  • I understand that. I understand that. I understand that. But there’s some things in that budget Mr. Mulvaney did not tell us about yesterday.

MS. SANDERS:  “That means you probably didn’t ask those questions. I’m going to keep going.”

  • He didn’t give us an answer. He purposely didn’t give us that information.
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. I wanted to just get some clarification from you regarding the testimony — the sworn testimony today by the FBI Director. He laid out the timeline. And according to the FBI Director’s testimony, the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question of Porter’s background check in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July. And yesterday, when I was asking you about when the White House Counsel learned about Mr. Porter, had he learned before the report in the Daily Mail last week, your reply to me was that, “the process for the background was ongoing, and the White House had not received any specific papers regarding the completion of that background check.” So those two statements — the FBI Director’s statement, Mr. Wray, and your statement yesterday seemed to be at odds with one another. Do you see anything that you’d like to clarify, in terms of what I asked you today, based upon your answer yesterday? (Bet she doesn’t think it’s that cute anymore that he’s a lawyer.)
  • But you said the specific papers regarding the completion of the background check had not been received.
  • And yet, the FBI Director said today, under oath, that the completed background investigation was actually submitted in late July. So which one is it?
  • Could Mr. McGahn come out here and answer —
  • –any questions that we may have regarding what he knew and when he knew it?
  • (Jacqueline Alemany, CBS News) Sarah, you’ve said repeatedly that you and the press team do the very best job you can to relay whatever information you know up there. So is there a feeling that Chief of Staff John Kelly has misled you and his colleagues on what he knew and when, and set up the communications staff for failure to relay credible information to us over the past week in order to cover up the way that he handled the firing of Rob Porter?
  • And can you talk about the other staffers who have been dismissed previously for not passing background checks, and why Porter wasn’t treated in a similarly timely manner?
  • (Toluse) Thank you, Sarah. You’ve talked multiple times about, sort of, wanting to get us the best information that you have. This scandal has been going on for a week now, and we still don’t have answers to the basic questions of, sort of, who knew what, when; whether General John Kelly —
  • So I want to ask you whether you’ve spoken specifically to General John Kelly and to the White House Counsel to ask them these questions. Because you’ve said, I’m not aware or I’m not sure.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, this morning, on the Fox Business Network said we’ve got to get out on entitlements. He talked about a structural deficit problem. He said, we need to “get our other partners in government, White House included, to be willing to do the kind of entitlement reform that we’re willing to do in the House.”  What — does the President disagree with House Speaker Paul Ryan on that question of the structural deficit and the problem of mandatory spending?
  • The Speaker says that it’s the structural deficit for mandatory spending, not the discretionary spending, that is the driver. He’s been saying this for years. Does the President disagree with him? I know he’s said he doesn’t agree with that approach to entitlements. Why does he not agree with that assessment?
  • (Dave) Thanks, Sarah.  Majority Leader McConnell said today that the DACA negotiations have to be done by the end of this week. Did he give the White House a heads-up on that decision? And does that reflect any view from the White House that Democrats are not bargaining in good faith? For example, they didn’t — they blocked a vote on sanctuary cities today.


As the camera followed her stolid trudge out of the briefing room, a man’s voice can be heard calling after her, “Is the President AFRAID to come down here and talk to us?” It sounded like Brian Karem from Sentinel Newspapers, who can be a bit of a shit-stirrer.

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