TOWOIT #303: “If this is not the definition of chaotic…”

March 7, 2018

Here are the questions reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders aka Literally The Worst:

  • (Severe-looking white guy sitting next to Cecilia) Sarah, on the tariffs. Does the President expect to sign the tariffs tomorrow? And can countries like Mexico and Canada and allies within the European Union expect to have a pathway to gain an exemption from the tariffs?
  • Specifically, what would they have to do to —
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) So far this year, six top White House staffers have resigned. The President says there are more names to come. Why are so many people leaving this administration?
  • But, actually, it is actually abnormal. No administration in recent history has had this much turnover as in this administration.
  • If this is not the definition of “chaotic,” how would you describe what’s happening in these recent weeks?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) When you talk about potential carve-outs, are you also talking about NATO Allies as possibly getting this exemption?
  • Let me follow up. Today, the President tweeted, “China has been asked to develop a plan for the year for a One Billion Dollar reduction in the[ir]…trade deficit.” What’s he talking about? Did he make this recently, or has he been talking to the Chinese?
  • Have they responded, Sarah?
  • Have they responded?
  • (Jeff–not Jeff Mason) Sarah, you’ve said repeatedly that we’ve addressed our feelings on that situation, in regards to the Stormy Daniels payment. But specifically, can I ask, did the President approve of the payment that was made in October of 2016 by his longtime lawyer and advisor, Michael Cohen?
  • When did the President address, specifically, the cash payment that was made in October of 2016 to —
  • But did he know about that payment at the time, though?
  • I’m not talking about the actual allegations, but about the payment. Did he know about the payment at the time?
  • Has he talked to Michael Cohen about that, since this has become a news story this week? Has he talked to Michael Cohen about it, if I can just ask one more question?
  • Has he talked to Michael Cohen about that this week since this has become news?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t know.  I’m not sure.

  • (Pompous-sounding guy, can’t see who is talking) Yeah, Sarah, this administration has now imposed additional sanctions on North Korea after concluding that Kim Jong-un’s government assassinated his half-brother using VX nerve agent in Malaysia. Now we have authorities in Britain have announced that a nerve agent was used to try to kill a former Russian double agent and his wife. Obviously, Moscow the prime suspect. What does this administration have to say about this attempt at assassination in the UK? And are sanctions against Russia likely, as they were in the case of the North Koreans?
  • (Margaret Talev, Bloomberg) Thank you. A quick clarifying question on the China tweet, and then I had an NEC question. Is there any chance that if China did respond on that $1 billion reduction plan, that that could assuage or affect the shaping of this tariff plan before it is announced at the end of the week? In other words, is China’s piece of this tariff thing negotiable, or are we only talking about tweaking Canada, Mexico, EU countries?
  • Okay. Obviously, you’re going to take your time and space on making the next NEC decision. But can you give us, sort of, a scope of the short list? And there’s two names in particular I wanted to bounce off of you in this room, just among friends here — (laughter) — Larry Kudlow and Andy Pudzer. Can you confirm that those two are among the names under consideration? And how much of a role is Gary Cohn himself going to have in helping the President make that pick to succeed him?
  • (Serious-looking guy in the front row–Jeez, it’s like every network sent in their old heavy-hitting dinosaur white guy for this briefing) With Gary Cohn leaving, Senator Cornyn — Republican Senator Cornyn said today, “I’m concerned who the President will turn to for advice.” Should he be concerned?
  • You said earlier today that we’re continuing to bring in new people every day.  Could you tell us who has come in this week?
  • Senior level in the White House?

MS. SANDERS:  I’d be happy to forward those to you, if you’re not receiving the White House press releases.

So snotty.

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) The European Union is being very shrewd in its threats of retaliation against these tariffs, saying that they would slap tariffs on things like bed linens, which would include the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Georgia; his manufacturers — chewing tobacco, which includes North Carolina; cranberries, the leading producer of which is Wisconsin; orange juice, again Florida. Is the President concerned that he could hurt his political fortunes in some of these swing states if he goes ahead with these tariffs?
  • But the EU is going to hit him where it hurts. Is he prepared to take the hit?
  • And if I could ask one just about Gary Cohn. He was a noted free trader, a globalist.  Will the President seek another globalist, another free trader for that position?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) A follow-up on Gary Cohn. The President has often touted the strength of the markets. There has been some volatility today. The U.S. markets opened down; so did the Asian markets. Is he concerned about the volatility in the markets in the wake of Gary Cohn’s resignation announcement?
  • Isn’t the message from the markets, though, that they’re concerned about Gary Cohn’s departure and what it might mean for the stability of this White House and the U.S. economy?
  • And the President called Gary Cohn a “rare talent.” Does that mean that he’s open to having him come back in some other capacity, perhaps a Cabinet-level role?
  • Is that a yes?
  • Sarah, one more, quickly. One more, quickly. Can you confirm —
  • Can you just confirm or comment on the ABC News report that a number of staffers have had their — (no one did follow up on this; I think it was about security clearances) 
  • (Steve Portnoy, ABC News) I do have a question about something you said earlier in response to Jeff’s question. You said that there’s arbitration that’s already been won. By whom and when?
  • But you’re aware of them, so what more can you share with us?
  • A follow-up, a separate question. Tomorrow, the President will be meeting with video game executives. What does he hope to accomplish? And why is he bringing them in?
  • Does he think they’re too violent? Is that why?
  • Does he think that video games are too violent? Is that why he wants to bring them here?
  • (Andrew–British or Scottish accent? I’m terrible at accents) Thanks very much. I was wondering — the President tweeted earlier about — saying the U.S. is acting swiftly on intellectual property theft. Should we understand that to mean that the 301 report is imminent? And can you, kind of, give us some detail about whether it might lean into tariffs or damages for intellectual property theft?
  • (Saagar Enjeti–I swear Sarah is pronouncing his name totally haywire every single time, The Daily Signal), Sarah, given the President’s criticism of the Attorney General in the past referring matters to the IG, does he then concur with several of the GOP congressmen who are calling for a second special counsel to look into FISA abuse in the Department of Justice?
  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) On a separate topic, I want to ask you about the VA, but I do want to follow up on something you have said twice now this week, which is, when asked about that payment to the President, you said, “Not that I’m aware of.” Have you asked the President this question?
  • Sure. Sure. To both Jeff, as well as, Monday, to the Wall Street Journal reporter, you were asked about whether the President knew about this payment his longtime lawyer made to — facilitated, rather — to Stormy Daniels. You said then, and again today, not that you’re aware of. Have you asked the President this question?
  • But I just want to — is there a reason why you’re not answering the actual substance of the question on the payment itself? Because it’s come up a few times now.
  • (Inaudible), which is the new IG report coming out. This is an issue that the President has been passionate about — veterans’ care. It finds that Secretary Shulkin was a part of failed leadership at the VA. So why is he still a part of this administration?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Jordan, and then me. Jordan, and then me.
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) All right, thanks, Sarah. I want to ask about —

MS. SANDERS:  April, that was very polite of you.

  • (April) I’m always polite.  (Laughter.)
Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 8.30.32 PM
Jordan is the young guy behind April on the left side of the picture. I don’t mind that they are laughing because April was being funny and shady. A lot of the laughing in that room falls under the general auspices of DON’T GO TO THE WHITE HOUSE. I don’t think anyone should go who doesn’t absolutely have to. The reporters have to, but they don’t have to be sycophantic toward Sarah’s doltishly cutesy humor. At that point they’ve gone to the White House. Don’t go to the White House.
  • (Jordan) All right, thanks, Sarah. I wanted to ask you about elephant trophies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put out new guidance saying it would evaluate all permit requests on a case-by-case basis. This comes after the President had suspended the previous guidance lifting the trophy ban. The President called that practice of collecting trophies a “horror show.” So I’m wondering what does the President think of this latest policy of relaxing the ban? And did he sign off on it?
  • Does the President want them to further curtail that, given his thoughts about —
  • (April Ryan) You’re all right. All right, three topics, really fast. The President was a businessman before he became a politician. And understanding business — if there’s high turnover in a business, it’s considered a management issue at the top. What’s the issue here?
  • Do you have any confidence in this administration, with top — I mean, you’ve had a lot of people — 10 to 13 people — in top-tier positions — leave.
  • And the second, going back to Jared. You know, we heard a tape of the President with Billy Bush, and now we hear about Stormy Daniels, and you’re saying that it’s not true. What should the American public believe? And what does the President want the American public to believe after hearing that before the election, and now this? (I’m not sure how this went back to Jared)
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thank you, Sarah. Two quick questions on two separate topics. Have any countries notified the administration of their intent to file complaints with the WTO regarding the imposition of the steel and aluminum tariffs?
  • And then, on the other question I wanted to ask you. Michael Cohen has indicated that he was not reimbursed in any way by the Trump organization or the Trump campaign for the $130,000 that he paid to Stormy Daniels. At the same time, he is being reimbursed for this legal fees by the Trump campaign.  They’ve already paid $214,000 in legal fees to a firm that’s representing Mr. Cohen. I don’t want to get you in trouble with the Hatch Act, but do you happen to know why it is that the Trump campaign is paying his legal fees?
  • (Unknown David) Sarah, can you confirm this trip to California next week? And also, why has it taken so long for the President to visit California?
  • It’s been 14 months. It’s a pretty big state.
  • (Unknown Alex — kind of a different crew in here tonight and C-Span doesn’t always show the speaker, which makes it harder to look up who it might be based on the chair they are sitting in) Sarah, bouncing off John’s question on the Hatch Act, the White House is reasoning that Kellyanne Conway did not violate the Hatch Act when she said that a candidate in Alabama would be “a vote against tax cuts, weak on crime, weak on borders, and strong on raising your taxes.” How do you see that as not advocating against a candidate?

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