TOWOIT #296: “We have a lot of housekeeping to do”

February 20, 2018

Minutes vs. People joining the WH youtube channel to watch the first briefing in a week

Last night Rachel Maddow said the White House Daily Briefing is general a total snoozefest for her — a pointless exercise that is her cue to go out and get a sandwich — but that she would be tuning in today for the first briefing in one week.

I was disoriented all day because it wasn’t on the C-Span schedule and I thought they were bailing again. I cued up the White House youtube channel, which tells you how many viewers on the channel waiting to watch, and I also was listening for 80 minutes to the frustrated reporters in the room, waiting for the delayed briefing to actually started. Then it was 20 minutes of lies. Pretty anti-climactic actually.

Still, hats off to Kristen Welker who wouldn’t let Sanders hide behind the Parkland shooting — the reason they gave for *canceling* the last scheduled briefing, and then the shield used at the top of this one. Welker was given the first question and launched right into a Mueller question.

Sanders only took 20-minutes worth of questions. So there wasn’t very much anyone could do. Here are the questions the reporters asked:

  •  (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Yes, thank you. Does the President now acknowledge what the Special Counsel indictments made clear, which is that Russians not only tried to meddle, but interfere and influence the 2016 election?
  • Sarah, if that’s the case, why hasn’t the President implemented the sanctions which Congress passed last year?
  • But he hasn’t implemented the sanctions, has he?
  • But, Sarah, Democrats and Republicans have said the President could be much tougher. Why not implement the sanctions now?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Yeah, I’ll pick up. First, a clarification from some of the President’s tweets over the weekend.The President doesn’t really think that the FBI failed to stop the Parkland shooter because it was too involved with the Russia investigation, does he?
  • So did he mistweet when he said that? Because he was pretty direct. He says, “This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion.”
  • You just agreed that the evidence is there — that the Russians interfered with our election.
  • But this investigation is obviously about what Russia did, and raises the question — now that you’ve said the President agrees; the National Security Advisor says, the evidence is incontrovertible — what is the President going to do about it? What is he specifically doing about the fact that Russia interfered with our election and has every intention, we are told, of doing it again? What is he doing about it?
  • It happened over a YEAR ago. What’s he DONE about it?
  • How?
  • But the President hasn’t even criticized Vladimir Putin about this. He hasn’t even called out Putin.  He criticized Obama, he criticized the FBI; he didn’t even criticize Vladimir Putin.
  • (Anita Kumar, McClatchy) Last week, the Florida governor, Rick Scott, called for the FBI Director’s resignation. The Governor and the President were together over the weekend, or last week. Did the — did Governor Scott talk to him about that? But more importantly, what does the President think? He obviously tweeted about this, but what does he think about the Director’s — should the Director go? What is the consequence of their missing the tip on the shooter?
  • By the White House? Is the White House reviewing it?
  • Does he have confidence in the Director?
  • A quick clarification on what you said before about the event tomorrow. You mentioned who was coming. What is the topic exactly? Is it mental health? Is it guns? What are they going to be talking about with the parents and the students and the teachers?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR) Thank you, Sarah. The President, in 2000, did support an assault weapons ban. What’s his position now?
  • Is he open to reinstating the ban?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. In the aftermath of the indictment, which was handed down by the Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s office on Friday, the President tweeted quite a bit and tweeted quite a bit over the weekend. He was critical of the FBI; he was critical of Democrats; critical of the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff; even critical of his predecessor. But he was not critical of Russia. He was not critical of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. I didn’t get a sense of outrage in what the President put out there in his tweets — that he’s angered that another country, Russia, tried to interfere in the U.S. Presidential election, tried to interfere in our system–
  • Sarah, is he angered by this or outraged by the fact that Russia tried to interfere in our system?
  • (Zeke Miller, AP) Thanks Sarah, if I could indulge you with three questions — just, we have a lot of housekeeping to do. First, you mentioned the President’s support of background checks. The House passed a bill that includes concealed carry reciprocity. Is that a provision the President would consider after this tragedy?
  • Separately, last week, there was news made by Administrator Pruitt, as well as Secretary Shulkin.  Do they both have the President’s — about their private travels and use of — whether it be first-class flights or inappropriate use of federal resources — do both of them still have the confidence of the President?
  • And finally, the Chief of Staff, on Friday, issued that memo on security clearances — that those with interim security clearances, by the end of this week — that have been outstanding since June of last year — would lose their access to view classified information. One of those people, we know from his attorney, is Senior Advisor Jared Kushner. Can you talk about whether or not — how he’ll be able to do his very senior job in the White House if he does not have access to classified information?
  • Does he not need classified information to do his job?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, you mentioned a “deranged individual” took the lives of 17 people at Parkland. That’s after a deranged individual took dozens of lives in Las Vegas, in the wake of which the President offered some support for the idea of banning bump stocks, which then seem to have fallen by the wayside. And it was preceded by a deranged individual snuffing out the lives of nearly an entire classroom at Sandy Hook, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Other than supporting a bill that would encourage state and federal governments — government agencies — to do what they’re supposed to do, does the President have any ideas — any ideas AT ALL — on how to address this? Or is he starting from scratch?
  • And on the broader problem of deranged individuals getting a hold of weapons and killing people indiscriminately, does he have ANY ideas on how to deal with this?
  • Which suggests he started from scratch here.
  • If he has to listen to a bunch of people, and he doesn’t have any ideas of his own, that would suggest that he doesn’t have any ideas.
  • Well, could you explain it?
  • Well, go ahead. (Damn, this is still Fox News here, and it’s the second Fox News reporter of the briefing to go hard at Sarah Sanders)
  • (Julie–possibly Julie Pace with AP but the camera didn’t show her) Can I follow up on Jared Kushner? Would the President consider granting Mr. Kushner a full clearance, even if the red flags in his background check suggested otherwise?
  • Has the President ever overruled the Personnel Security Office on a recommendation (inaudible)?
  • (Roberta Rampton, Reuters) Former Speaker Gingrich has put forward a proposal that he’s sort of promoting quite a bit about training more teachers and administrators to use firearms, and having more people with firearms in schools. I’m wondering if that’s in the range of ideas that the President is open to, and if you explain a little bit more about how the President, how the White House is going to run this process, in terms of taking in ideas from everybody, and having these listening sessions.
  • (David–can’t tell who this is, but I can see it’s neither Nakamura nor Boyer) What does the President think about Secretary Shulkin’s handling of his travel — the Wimbledon tickets and all that thing? What did Trump think about that?
  • (Pamela Brown, CNN) Does the President believe there should be an age limit for those who buy an AR-15? As you know, the shooter in Florida was a teenager when he first bought an AR-15.
  • But will he look at that? Is that something that he’s going to look at?
  • And let me just ask you. Over the weekend, he tweeted about his National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, suggesting that he seemed to forget to say that Russia didn’t impact the outcome of the election. Has he spoken to him since?  And does he still have confidence in him to do his job?

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