TOWOIT #298: The Wild West

February 26, 2018

Overheard in the briefing room before the briefing started (thanks to C-Span), “You’re too YOUNG to be so cynical! But you’re right” (off-camera) and “Truth be told, Shep, the White House needs the NRA and the NRA needs this White House” (on-camera).

Questions reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today:

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, does the President believe that Sheriff Israel of Broward County should step down? And also, the Broward County deputy who has been — who resigned, Scot Peterson, has come out with a statement saying he believed that he was acting appropriately. He thought the gunfire was coming from outside the school and that he was taking steps to ensure that he was in a position to be able to respond to this. Can I get your response on both of those?
  • And Sheriff Israel?  Should he step down?
  • (Margaret Brennan, CBS News) Sarah, can you specify, the President did not mention whether he actually wants the age limit still lifted to 21, something he had previously spoken about.  Can you clarify that’s still his position?  Will lawmakers be coming to the White House?  And did the President mean to say today that he will be asking for law to be crafted on bump stocks if it doesn’t follow through this executive directive he’s asked the ATF to craft?
  • Is that why he didn’t mention it today, but he had mentioned it in the past?  Is he reconsidering how that should be implemented?
  • (Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg) Under General Kelly’s new policy on security clearances, can you describe how many people today lost their access to classified information today?
  • Can you say were there any administration officials who lost their access?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Thank you.  Does the President believe that background checks should apply to gun shows and Internet sales?
  • One more question on guns. The House bill, which he has expressed support for in the past, has a provision that the NRA calls “constitutional carry.” Basically, it would allow people with a concealed carry permit in one state to carry into states, even if those other states don’t allow concealed carry. Is the President for that?
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thank you, Sarah. The President has been getting a lot of pushback during the governors’ meetings about his proposal to allow more adults in schools to carry guns. Governor Inslee, this morning, for example.  Has the White House heard from any jurisdiction, any schoolboard, any state that is actively pursuing this, where they don’t already have that authority?
  • What did the President think of Ivanka’s answer to NBC when she said — she didn’t sound completely sold on the idea, either. She said it was something to look at, but she wasn’t sure whether it would work.
  • (Olivier) Thanks, Sarah.  You mentioned North Korea in your opening remarks. The President today said that Russia is flouting international sanctions on North Korea.  Are there going to be any consequences for that? And, as you also mentioned, the possibility of dialogue. Who, from the administration, would take point on that?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. Some conservatives on Capitol Hill want concealed carry reciprocity to be included in a package of gun legislation. Is that something the White House also supports?
  • It wasn’t clear to me, which is why I re-asked it.
  • (Jon Decker) Thanks a lot, Sarah.  It’s on North Korea — and welcome back from your trip.
  • I want to get a sense about whether there are any preconditions for talks that would occur between U.S. and North Korean officials.
  • And then, Sarah, the Vice President led the delegation for the Opening Ceremonies.  Ivanka Trump led the delegation for the Closing Ceremonies. Such high-level administration officials were in South Korea, and there were some North Korean officials that were present. Was it a missed opportunity for both sides to talk to one another during the Olympics?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business) Thank you. I want to get back to the 21 age limit for gun ownership.  The President was pretty forthright about this in the onset. And now you just said that it is something that is still being discussed. It feels like a little bit of a downgrade. Why the downgrade? And to those who would say, “Well, he had lunch with the NRA over the weekend,” did the NRA get a hold of him?
  • (Trey Yingst, OANN) Thanks, Sarah. Two quick questions for you. You just returned from the region. From the perspective of the administration, have the North Koreans been successful at all in driving a wedge between the South Koreans and the United States?
  • And on the Syrian ceasefire, is the President concerned about the continuing violence, despite the fact that there’s been a ceasefire brokered for the region?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I also want to ask about that luncheon with the National Rifle Association that the President revealed today.  Could you say whether that was on Saturday or whether it was on Sunday? And why wasn’t that on the President’s public schedule, given that he’s a pretty open supporter of the NRA and he often talks about it?
  • The reason I ask you about what day that the lunch took place, Sarah, is because, yesterday morning, the NRA’s spokeswoman had said that these are just things that he’s discussing right now when it comes to that age limit that Blake was asking about. And it does seem like there was a softening of the stance from the President between what we heard last week and what we’re hearing now today. And is it — at this point, is the President firmly committed to that if he can see it in a legislative form?
  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) Thank you. I want to follow up to Trey on Syria. But before I do, I want to ask you this — because given a guilty plea from Rick Gates on Friday, I’m wondering what it says, in your view, about the President’s judgment that three people linked to his campaign have now turned out to be criminals.
  • Even though Gates served on his campaign?
  • Let me ask you about Syria, because I think it was last summer — Sean Spicer, who was at this podium, issued a statement in which he said, if “Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.” Given the developments in Syria that we’ve seen over the last few days, should the Assad regime be on notice? And has President Trump talked with President Putin in recent days about the situation there?
  • And on the Trump and Putin discussion —
  • And when you say immediate action, what is immediate?  What is the timeline where you need to see something happen in Syria?
  • (Mike) Two things.  I’d like to follow up, first, on the question about the background checks. The President has talked about making background checks stronger, but that would suggest that he thinks that an effective background check is a useful tool. So can you say, for sure, whether he would support what had been talked about as universal background checks in 2013 — the idea of expanding the existing background check system to also cover private sales at gun shows and on the Internet. Is that something, at least, that he’s open to — or looking at?
  • Has he ruled that out? Has he ruled out looking at —
  • And then just one other thing.  The First Lady, today, in her remarks — her brief remarks to the governors — the spouses, I guess — mentioned the young students from Stoneman Douglas who have been advocating over the past couple of weeks — praised them and said their voices need to be heard. Given that the large majority of those students have been expressing views that run counter to the policies of this administration or the things that this administration would support — for example, assault weapons bans — does the President also agree with the First Lady that these are important voices that need to be heard?
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) When the President said earlier today that he would have run into the school, was he suggesting that he could have saved the day down in Parkland? What —
  • Can I just follow up on that? Is he trained in firing a weapon? Is he trained in using a handgun or a firearm of some sort?
  • There are a lot of parents who are worried that if you have a lot of people inside these schools with weapons that this could turn into a situation like the Wild West.  What would you say to parents out there who are worried about faculty members, coaches, administrators, packing heat in a school?
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Thanks, Sarah. China has moved to get rid of term limits, which would allow President Xi to stay in office indefinitely.  What’s the White House’s reaction to that?


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