TOWOIT #302: I don’t know how to title these anymore

March 6, 2018

Yesterday, Sarah had two veterans up in front, sitting quietly on either side of her, and she promo-ed like a circus barker how their limbs got blown off and sewn back on. Sometimes I don’t know when I’m just generally grossed out by the Trump administration and when they’ve done something specifically wrong. But this seemed really off to me.

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Major Garrett had the first question and took the show right into Secretary of VA Shulkin’s corruption troubles.

Questions asked of Sarah Sanders yesterday:

  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, under the heading of accountability, have you or the President read in full the IG report on Secretary Shulkin? Are you satisfied with his response? And is he in any jeopardy? And does he retain the President’s confidence?
  • From what you learned in that report, would you say the Secretary’s conduct was consistent with the standards the President has established for the VA?
  • All right. On tariffs, the Speaker of the House said he’s very concerned, urging the President “not advance with this plan” — that’s a direct quote — and that a trade war could, “jeopardize the gains achieved through the tax cuts and tax reform.” What’s your reaction to Speaker Ryan?
  • And nothing about this would jeopardize economic growth, as the Speaker fears?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) So it looks like the deadline on DACA is going to come and go today with no resolution. Clearly, any action that the White House would take has been suspended by the courts. But what’s the next step and what’s your message to Congress that seems so badly to want to fix DACA but hasn’t done anything to do it?
  • When it eventually gets to the Supreme Court, I assume you’re expecting a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court. So then what happens?
  • If the courts reinstates his authority to rescind the DACA protections, and Congress doesn’t act, is the President willing to back off on rescinding DACA.
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. The President had some tough words for U.S. allies today on trade, saying they were ripping off the U.S. just as much as our enemies. So has the President ruled out exceptions under these steel and aluminum tariffs for certain U.S. allies, or are those still on the table?
  • Do you have timing?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. It seems like many Republicans, including the House Speaker, were caught off guard by the President’s decision as it relates to tariffs. Were they caught off guard? Were they given a heads up in any way?
  • And is the President open to discussing this particular issue that he’s at odds with the House Speaker, trying to find some sort of compromise, perhaps, on this?
  • (Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters) Thank you. You had mentioned last week that the White House was going to come out with a proposal on guns or to let Congress know what it wanted to be done on guns. Where is that proposal?
  • And regarding —
  • Regarding moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the President said that it was going to cost $250,000 to build the U.S. embassy there. What was he referring to? Or what did he mean by that?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) On the tariffs, the President tweeted that trade wars are good, “easy to win.” Can you explain what he meant by that?
  • And Paul Ryan is practically pleading with the President to reverse course on this. Are you saying that there’s no way he’s going to reverse course on this?
  • So it’s possible that some of the details may change? Because he said 25 —
  • But the topline, he said 25 percent tariff on steel imports; 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports that would apply to everybody. Are those details going to change?
  • (Ashley Parker, Washington Post) We’ve already talked about Secretary Shulkin, but Secretary Pruitt is under scrutiny for his first-class travel on taxpayer dollars. And Secretary Carson is under scrutiny for the $31,000 dining set he bought.  Can you first —

MS. SANDERS:  I believe that was actually cancelled, just to be clear.

  • After media scrutiny. But I was wondering if you could first — specifically for both of those matters — explain the White House view, and then, taking all three of those secretaries’ behavior, broadly explain how you believe this fits the pattern of draining the swamp.
  • And on draining the swamp?
  • Can you explain how this behavior is consistent with the President’s directive to drain the swamp?
  • (Darlene Superville, AP) Earlier in the Oval Office, the President said that he thought the Palestinians were wanting to come back to the table to talk about Mideast peace. Can you say what he’s basing that on?
  • But is he seeing something that the rest of us aren’t seeing, in terms of —

MS. SANDERS:  He sees a lot of things that everybody else isn’t seeing, but I can’t get in any further than that right now.

  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, I want to ask you about some breaking news that we’re just getting. Sam Nunberg, the President’s former campaign aide, is refusing a subpoena by a grand jury. And he just said on MSNBC, moments ago, “I think he,” meaning the President, “may have done something during the election, but I don’t know that for sure.” Your reaction?
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Sam Nunberg was just all over the place on live TV during and after the briefing, saying to Ari Melber and Erin Burnett and any other anchor that would listen that Sarah Sanders better shut her fat mouth. And that she’s unattractive. This guy was really in absolutely no position to cast aspersions on anyone’s person. Even though I struggle every day not to call her a bitch or use words like “galumphing” in relation to her, I still cry foul whenever someone says she is ugly or fat or dresses bad.
  • What’s your reaction of him not cooperating with the grand jury, refusing this subpoena? Would you encourage all of these witnesses to come forward and tell their story?
  • Let me just ask you one on trade. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was asked if there was any possibility that the President could change his mind on these new tariffs. He said, “Whatever his final decision is, is what will happen. What he has said, he has said. If he says something different, it’ll be something different.” If this was a carefully thought-out policy, Sarah, why the mixed messaging?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t think there is mixed messaging.  This is a decision that —

  • His own Commerce Secretary doesn’t seem to know what the final decision is going to be.
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Thanks Sarah, Two questions. Two topics. What, if any, of a shift was there today in Jared Kushner’s position at it relates to the meetings with Netanyahu today?
  • So as it relates to the security clearance, he’s still — I mean, he doesn’t have the security clearance that he had —
  • Is he still allowed to carry on duties today in that meeting, as —

MS. SANDERS:  His role wasn’t impacted today.

  • Okay. And second question: Father Pfleger, from St. Sabina Church in Chicago, has written President Trump at least twice in reference to Chicago and guns. And you say that you’re going to continue conversations about guns. Would he be someone that you would bring to the table as he is someone who is on the ground, with gangs, and dealing with the issue of guns —  something that’s a focal point of this President, and Chicago as well?
  • (Toluse Olurunippa, Bloomberg) Thanks, Sarah. Does the President believe we should take guns from people who are dangerous, before due process, as he said last week?
  • (Someone named Peter) Thank you, Sarah. We reported today that the President’s private attorney, Michael Cohen, had trouble reaching him before the end of the campaign to talk about the $130,000 payment to Stephanie Clifford. Did the President and Michael Cohen talk about this payment at any time during the campaign or thereafter?
  • (Steven Portnoy, ABC News) I want to ask a follow-up about the Mideast peace process. In the Oval Office, the President referred to the difficulty in reaching a deal. It’s been more than a year since Prime Minister Netanyahu’s first visit here with President Trump. He said, a year ago, that if the administration were to achieve a great peace deal, he’d be doing it very diligently. Why hasn’t the administration put forward a proposal yet, a framework, for how he sees peace in the Middle East playing in?
  • But it doesn’t seem as though there’s been any progress, at least within this administration, toward achieving some kind of proposal. Why would that be?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Two brief questions. First, The New Yorker is carrying a story in which the former British agent, Christopher Steele, claims that Russian sources within the Kremlin torpedoed the nomination of Governor Romney to be Secretary of State because he’s a sworn enemy of the Putin regime. The administration’s response to that claim?
  • Yeah. When the President announced the tariffs on China, he said that they would be in effect for a very long time. I’m curious, why didn’t he simply say, “until China relents on its policy on steel,” and give, you know, a set goal for the tariffs that he’s proposing?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. And to end with trade, there was a study released today showing that this would be a — the President’s proposal is a net loss of 146,000 jobs. Has the White House studied how many jobs may be lost or created because of its policies?
  • No study?
  • And lastly, the President’s close friend, Carl Icahnit’s out there that he sold $31 million worth of stock of a company related to this whole issue just before the President made his announcement. Can you tell us the last time the President has spoken with Mr. Icahn, and whether or not he told Mr. Icahn of what he was planning to do?
  • (not sure who this is) Sarah, can you speak to the morale in the White House, Sarah, after Scaramucci said Friday that morale has never been lower?

Sarah had said the Marines could make a quick comment if they felt like it, but then someone asked her the morale question and then she swept all her people out of the room.

  • (Jim Acosta, CNN — not getting an answer) Hey Sarah, that’s the third briefing in a row that you haven’t taken a question from CNN. Do you expect the Justice Department to enforce all subpoenas, Sarah?

The White House youtube channel immediately cut off Jim’s question as soon as he started talking, and didn’t put it in the transcript. But C-Span captured all of it, and captured the reporters shaking hands with the veterans after Sarah Huckabee Sanders left and thanking them for their service.

Jim Acosta and Sarah Sanders got into a back and forth on Twitter later in the day, when he tweeted at her that she hadn’t been taking his questions, and used the hashtag #courage. She sniped back at him that courage wasn’t taking questions from CNN, courage was being like the Marine Corps veterans who had come to the briefing.

Two of the more renegade members of the Press Corps jumped into the fray.

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