February 22, 2018
(Update: Correction & apologies to Yamiche below)
Today Raj Shah did the briefing because Sarah Sanders is at the Olympics with Ivanka. He didn’t keep everyone waiting and he seemed like a more decent person than Sarah Sanders again. Then he said some bizarre stuff about how Trump doesn’t like the “branding” of active shooter drills and thinks they should be called something else.
(Ok, this isn’t bizarre. It means, pacify the children who are just preparing for an active shooter. Don’t make them feel like it will really happen. if they don’t think it will really happen, maybe they won’t join the Parkland children in the streets).
Just because I was bored, I graphed Raj’s briefing against Sarah’s on Monday (X is minutes, Y is live viewers on the White House youtube channel).
Here are the questions that reporters asked Raj today:
- (Major Garett, CBS News) Thank you, Raj. Would you summarize for us what the President intends to do in terms of legislation he will propose to Congress on guns? He raised a lot of issues yesterday; he raised them again today in the second listening session. Is he going to send a bill to Congress authored by him and this administration, outlining what he wants? Or is he going to leave it to Congress to decide what to propose and what to vote for?
- But does he think that, for example, on bump stocks, or any of these questions, the best way to approach it is to have Congress write the law and for him to sign it? Because he’s been pretty specific and consistent on that point. Regulations are helpful, but laws are better. Does he believe Congress should rewrite laws in conjunction with, and consistent with, the priorities you just outlined?
- Such as?
- So he would not look at that federally?
- Right. But Congress can do that also.
- (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Hey, Raj, the President has talked about arming teachers who are capable of handling firearms. There are 3.5 million teachers, roughly, in the United States. He said it would be about 20 percent. That’s 700,000 teachers. How would the President propose arming 700,000 teachers?
- But, by his numbers, we’re talking 700,000 teachers or other school personnel, maybe even more, armed in schools. How is that practical? How is that wise to have to have 700,000 more firearms in schools?
- (John Roberts, Fox News) In order for something like that to be effective, you’d have to get buy-in from many, many school boards across this country.
- So far, much of the reaction that we’ve seen to this idea has been negative. Does the President expect that he can get enough buy-in in order to send a signal to potential shooters out there that this is a hardened facility; you walk in the doors, he said, a little while ago, and you’re not going to last very long?
- (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) Raj, I have two questions for you on both of these policies, to follow up on this conversation. There are some districts, as you know, that don’t have enough money to give teachers the school supplies that they need. So how are schools supposed to pay for bonuses for armed teachers, as the President has suggested?
- And a money piece, right?
- So the second question, though, is on the proposal that he talked about yesterday and today of raising the age limit to purchase, as he said today, any weapon, you have to be 21 to do it. The NRA has come out, as recently as last night, and said they oppose that. The President said today, he doesn’t expect to have to go up against the NRA, but this is clearly an instance where the President holds one position, the NRA holds a different position.
- Is the President prepared to take on the NRA? What has he said to them? What assurances has he received from them since he said he doesn’t expect a battle?
- Could he change his mind on that?
- (Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg) Raj, so one solution that the students and family members have called for is a ban on semi-automatic rifles. Is that something that’s on the table that the President is considering?
- Raj, the President had said before — he wrote in his book in 2000 that he was for the assault weapons ban. Is there something that’s changed his thinking in that time? Or (inaudible)?
- (Jacquelyn Alemany, CBS News) Raj, I want to ask you about the rule finalized by the Obama administration that President Trump reversed last February which would have allowed the Social Security Administration to provide information to the gun background check system of people with mental disabilities. CBS News has asked the White House on 15 separate occasions for a participant list of the bill signing, which you guys normally release, along with a picture. Is there a reason that you guys aren’t releasing this photograph — if the President, as he professed today, is proud to work so closely with the NRA? And if not, why not?
- And then I just want to follow up. You’ve been saying the President is doing a lot of listening. Did he watch the CNN town hall last night? And why didn’t he attend in person and listen in person himself?
- (Julie Bickowicz, Wall Street Journal) Hi, how many White House officials are in danger of losing their security clearances under General Kelly’s plan tomorrow?
- You can’t give us even numbers, though, when it goes into effect tomorrow?
- How? Why not?
- Why couldn’t we at least evaluate — the public evaluate how meaningful this change has been? (None of these questions were answered)
- (Pamela Brown, CNN) You keep saying that you’re in the phase of listening to people’s ideas, but just specifically, how can you assure the American people that these ideas will turn into concrete action?
- Can you ensure that action will be taken?
- And is he willing to go against the NRA, ultimately? Because the NRA is standing firm that it does not support age limits for semi-automatic rifles. Is the President willing to stick with his —
- (Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters) So when the President talks about comprehensive background checks, can you tell me exactly what he means by that? Does he mean that he thinks that every sale of firearms should come with a background check? Meaning, closing some of these loopholes, like the gun-show loophole?
- But it wouldn’t be for all sales. So you —
- (Julie Hirschfeld Davis, New York Times) On the age limit or the age threshold for purchase of a weapon, is he thinking about an across-the-board threshold for that or for certain classes of weapons? How specific can you be about —
- Just for semi-automatic weapons?
- And then, can you talk about what motivated him today to come out against active-shooter drills in schools? A lot of districts around the country have been doing these drills to basically prepare students and teachers to survive if there’s an incident like happened last week.
Raj Shah: “He thinks a drill that has a different name and is not — the brand of it, frankly, doesn’t frighten children, might be a better way to approach it.”
- Do the drills but just don’t call them active shooter drills. Is that what you’re saying?
- (Lalit Jha, Press Trust of India) Last August, the President had announced his (inaudible). It’s about six months now. How did the President see it has moved along? And has it progressed on the lines that he wanted to? Or what are the bumps on the road? (This is funny because I feel like this White House is like, “the Indian guy talks funny” and they just didn’t try very hard to transcribe his question. Because the word they marked (inaudible) is pretty important to understanding what the hell this question is about! At the same time, Raj Shah seems to make a point of calling on Lalit, and always does understand him. He seems to have been asking about a plan against Isis, and I think it was confusing because he said daesh).
- (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Raj. Are there any proposals for, initiatives, the President is considering that he could implement by executive order as it relates to the mass shootings that we’ve seen across our country over the last few years?
- And that’s it?
Raj Shah: “Yeah.”
- Okay. And then as it relates to reaching out to members of Congress, has the President — since the horrific incident that happened last week — reached out to either the leaders, Republican or Democrat of the House and the Senate, to move some of these proposals forward in the House or the Senate?
- (David Jackson, USA Today) During that session, the President seemed to suggest he was thinking about pulling ICE out of California because of the sanctuary city flap. Is that a serious proposal? Is he thinking about doing that?
- Is he seriously thinking about pulling federal law enforcement out of there?
- (Yamiche Alcindor, New York Times) I have a question about the President’s reassurances that he’s going to give to Republican lawmakers. The NRA president said today of people that are trying to change gun control, that they hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment, they hate individual freedom. If there are Republican lawmakers who then come and back the President if he has a difference with the NRA, what assurances is he going to give them that he’s going to support them if the NRA chooses to run a primary challenger against them? (I haven’t forgotten how Yamiche fawned over Bernie and was sneering toward Hillary in her 2016 articles)
Correction, February 25. I was thrown off when Raj called Yamiche’s name, and it turns out that made sense — it was her first question asked in the briefing room, and she no longer works for the New York Times. Now she is a correspondent for PBS News Hour. My bad, Yamiche, and good luck with your new job. I stand by my earlier comment. Which is also tied up with some of my general disgust for the New York Times.
Today, though, Yamiche tweeted this:
Suddenly sober about Bernie.
- (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Raj. Following on several of my colleagues’ questions about the issue of arming teachers in schools, I understand what you’re saying about how this is something that we can get into more of the specifics later. But the President is saying that, not just 20 percent, up to 40 percent of teachers could have these concealed carry permits in schools. And as Jon was noting at that point, that would be more than 700,000. That would be a million-plus at this point. And President Trump said that they would only be going to highly adept teachers, but he used John Kelly, or someone like John Kelly, as an example today when he talked about it. And so does the President really believe that there are up to 20 percent or 40 percent of teachers in schools who are as adept as someone like John Kelly at wielding a weapon?
- And one question on the background checks. The President used the word “comprehensive background checks.” What does he specifically mean? When he says the word “comprehensive,” does that mean universal? And would he be willing to support universal background checks? And just to clear that up, what I mean by that is background checks on all firearms sales.
- (Trey Yingst, OANN) Thanks, Raj. One on foreign policy for you, and one on domestic policy. First, on Syria, we saw the statement from this administration last night. And today, more civilians are dying east of Damascus. What more can President Trump do to stop the killing?
- Does the President believe Bashar al-Assad is committing war crimes?
- And on guns, quickly.
- Sorry, Raj. On school shootings, generally speaking, does the President see this as a guns issue or a people issue?
- (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Raj, thank you. When you look at past school shootings that most Americans can recite at this point — Columbine — the shooters in that case used handguns and a sawed-off shotgun. In Sandy Hook, the shooter used a handgun and a type of AR-15. Stoneman Douglas the other day, an AR-15. When the President is talking about teachers being armed with guns in classrooms, is he talking about being armed with handguns? Is he talking about being armed with AR-15s? Is he talking about being armed, potentially, with shotguns? What exactly is he talking about?
- And just to pick back up on Hallie and Jon and that 700,000 number. If you give these people bonuses, say, a thousand bucks, and you’re talking about $700 million, potentially — maybe it’s north of a billion, maybe it’s less than that; in any event, it’s a lot of money — would the federal government pay for something like this? Do you expect the state and local municipalities to pay for this?
- You mentioned that the President spoke with the NRA’s Chris Cox over the weekend. Did he specifically discuss this idea of raising the legal age to purchase a rifle to 21? Or was this subject not discussed?
- (John Roberts, Fox News) Real quick sec — a question, if I could. It’s all right. I only had one; everybody else had two. Adam Schiff says that he’s like to get his Democratic memo out this week. He’s sent it to the FBI for redactions. If it comes back to the White House with the appropriate redactions, will you expedite its release?
- (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Yeah, just another subject. Last week, the President’s personal lawyer acknowledged giving a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. Is the President aware that his lawyer paid that kind of money to a porn star to buy her silence? Does he approve of that?
- No, not since he acknowledged this. He acknowledged this last week. This is the first time we’ve had a chance to ask about it. So can you go back — can we find out if the President approves of the fact that his personal —
- Will you ask him about that?
- But will you ask him about it, Raj?
- (Ken–sitting in the Reuters chair in front) Thank you, Raj. Police in Israel said last week that they have sufficient evidence to charge Prime Minister Netanyahu with bribery and other charges. Does the President believe that the Prime Minister is innocent? And does he have any concern that this legal issue could affect the peace process?