March 28, 2018


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Ok, so the White House is doing a passive-aggressive thing (I think!) where it doesn’t get around to transcribing its daily briefings in a timely manner… so I am giving up waiting on yesterday’s briefing and will transcribe it myself. And then I’ll do today’s. Today’s was a doozy. Yesterday’s was also doozy and set the scene for today.

The lying is shifting from Sanders’s standard variety: wall-like smirking obfuscation as a default mode of being. Now it’s become more like careful, strange, OBVIOUS lying to VERY pointed questions.

The whole thing is still a shit show — the White House briefings and the White House writ large — but there have been some hard-punching questions and illuminating lies in the last couple days.

Questions from yesterday (3/27/2018):

  • (Jill Colvin, Associated Press) Thanks, Sarah. I wanted to talk a little about the census decision here. A lot of critics have concerns that including the citizenship question will discourage immigrants from participating. Can you talk us through how the government is going to address those concerns?

Sarah says the question has been included in every census since 1965 except 2010, which is a bald-faced lie. Then she says the point of it is to help the government comply with the Voting Rights Act, which is a laugh-in-your-face lie from the vote-suppressors themselves.

  • Has there been any talk of trying to do some campaign or some other sort of outreach to ensure that immigrants participate so that states like California, for instance, who have large immigrant populations, or counted appropriately?

Answer, shorter: I don’t know and nobody gives a shit. Commerce wants it.

  • (Phil Rucker, Washington Post) Yeah, Sarah, the president in the last few weeks has reached out to a number of high profile lawyers to take him on as a client in the Russia probe. Dan Webb took a pass recently, Ted Olsen took a pass recently, others have as well. I’m wondering why the president is having so much trouble finding an experienced lawyer willing to take him on, and who at this hour is his lead counsel in negotiating with Robert Mueller and the Special Counsel?
  • Who does he consider his lead counsel now?
  • (Jericka Duncan, CBS) Ambassador Nikki Haley said in reference to Syria that Russia cynically negotiated a ceasefire it instantly denied. You say the only way we can cooperate with Russia is if they change their behavior. What about their actions recently speak to them changing their behavior?
  • (Kevin Corke, Fox News) Thank you, Sarah. A question about Russia and a follow if I might. On Russia, I heard you say previously that we as an administration have been exerting “maximum pressure” on North Korea, for example. I’m curious — is the administration applying maximum pressure on Russia? Do you believe that’s what happening by way of what we saw yesterday and beyond? And if not, why not?
  • Let me ask a quick follow if I might, and I understand the irony in asking you this so if you’ll indulge me anyway. The President, at least on social media, has been somewhat silent, dating back more than 15, 17 hours. And I only ask because with all the things going on — Russia, Stormy Daniels — usually he likes to communicate directly with the American people. He has chosen not to. Is that part of a new strategy the White House is employing or is it just the President taking a break?

Sarah’s answer sounds like she’s talking about a President that is actually in a coma and everyone is covering for. “He’s totally still running the country, guys!”

  • (Stephen Portnoy, CBS Radio News) Speaking of silence. We asked Raj yesterday why it is the president and those associated with him offer payments to people to essentially buy their silence. Raj said that “false claims are settled out of court all the time.” I’m hoping you can explain why the president’s attorney paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the days before the election if her claims were false.
  • But the president’s attorney is NOT here, and as you say — you do speak for the president. Can you explain why this payment was made in the weeks before the election?
  • One more question if I may, on this topic. The president’s attorney, Michael Cohen–there was a line for DD that the president was supposed to sign. Why did he not sign on that line on the NDA?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) One very quickly to follow up and then one on the census. To be clear, he continues to deny the fundamental charge that she has, which is that she had this sexual encounter with him in 2006. He denies that?
  • And then on the census, what do you say to critics who argue that ultimately this is a way to target — that it’s gonna mean fewer resources for immigrant communities?
  • Well, but there’s a sense that ultimately this is going to disproportionately affect blue states — do you acknowledge as much when you talk about voting rights?
  • The census ultimately determines how resources are allocated, so doesn’t this mean that fewer resources will be allocated to immigrant communities–that’s one of the big concerns.
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg News — wow this guy looks so much handsomer now that he has a beard) I wanted to ask one about the wall, but first, the president is meeting now or just finished a meeting with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and I wondered if you could talk a little bit about what was on the agenda for that meeting and specifically if they’re discussing the president’s request to find new ways to limit Chinese technology investments. I know that is certainly something that has been on the forefront of his mind recently.
  • On the wall, I wanted to ask about the president’s tweet over the weekend, about the military building the wall, and I’m wondering if the president believes he can reprogram funds from the Defense department for wall construction without a vote of Congress or if he’s asked anyone at the White House to examine that? And what military programs included in the omnibus could he see cutting in order to pay for what he says is a defense priority in the wall?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) I’m going to follow up on that and then something you said earlier. Did that tweet this weekend, does he mean that he wants the military to pay for the border wall–can you speak generally to that?
  • And isn’t it true at this point that Mexico is just not gonna pay for that wall?
  • You had said earlier that the president gives you messages to come up here and convey to the American people. Have you sat down with the president to talk about Stormy Daniels? What has he told you that he wants us to know about this topic?

There will be absolutely zero questions answered about this, apparently. Sarah tries to move away but Cecilia darts in with another follow up.

  • You’ve also called him a counter-puncher many times. Why does he not punch back on this one? (Sarah basically says “he has a country to run”)
  • (Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters) Thank you. So, dozens of Chinese naval vessels and a Chinese aircraft carrier participated in exercises in the South China Sea in a large show of force. Does the U.S. have any response to these exercises–has the U.S. government been monitoring what’s going on there? Does the U.S. have any concerns?
  • (David — not shown and there are a lot of Davids, but the direction she was looking in indicated it could have been David Jackson of USA Today) So the New York Times reports that President Trump is still speaking to Rob Porter and is even talking about bringing him back to the White House–is that true?
  • Just one time?
  • (Jeff Zeleny, CNN) Sarah, I still don’t know that I understand why the president’s responses have been so different in this case. On October 13, 2016, he said “these claims are all fabricated.” The next day, he said “I have no idea who these women are–they’re lying.” Mrs. Trump has said “he will push back 10 times as hard, no matter if you’re a man or a woman — he treats everyone equal.” Why the silence? Is someone advising him to be silent or is he following his own advice here? (Sarah Sanders says testily that it’s already been “addressed extensively” which is of course an AMAZING bald-faced lie as it hasn’t been addressed AT ALL.)

“Just because you guys ask the same question over and over again doesn’t mean that we have to keep coming up with new things to say”

  • (Unknown man) can you give us an update on trade talks with South Korea?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Back to the border wall which was of course one of the president’s biggest campaign promises. $655 billion has been earmarked for defense spending in the omnibus bill and the president appears to believe he can take some of that money to build the border wall with Mexico–is the president aware that he would be overstepping his executive authority if he did such a thing without congressional approval?
  • Has the White House counsel informed him that notwithstanding that tweet he put out over the weekend, it may be unconstitutional to do what the president is contemplating?
  • (Trey Yingst, OAN) Thanks Sarah. On Kim Jong Un, has the president been briefed on the North Korean leaders’ reported trip to China, and does this affect how he’s preparing for a potential visit with Kim Jong Un in the future?
  • If I could follow up briefly on the question about the border wall — can you give us a few specific ways in which the president is still considering having Mexico pay for the wall? I think a lot of the base is wondering and a lot of his supporters have come out and asked questions, people such as Ann Coulter, have come out and said the president is NOT keeping his promise on this — so I’d like to ask you, what ways is he considering having Mexico pay for the wall? (OAN’s readership is pretty much Trump’s base, so this is an earnest question — but I’d also like to think that Trey Yingst knows what’s up as an intelligent reporter who pays attention to unfolding events. I assume Yingst knows that Sarah Sanders was bluffing earlier when she responded to Cecilia that maybe, just maybe, Trump still had tricks up his sleeve to get Mexico to pay for the wall)

Sarah Sanders: “When we have an announcement on that, I’ll let you know.”

  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. One question. Secretary Ross, while he was in business school, worked on the 1960 census when this question about citizenship was included. Is this his idea to revive it after 22 years, or did that originate in the White House. (John Gizzi is from a very conservative and probably anti-immigrant outlet that was founded by Trump’s buddy Chris Ruddy. Still, you can see in the premise of his question, he calls out the lie of Sanders’s framing of the citizenship question as something that was always mostly around).
  • But not the White House?
  • Not the White House?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks Sarah. Jared Kushner’s attorney said yesterday that the White House Counsel had conducted an investigation into loans that were given by companies whose executives he met with–they cleared them, said no issues were involved. Can you confirm that, that there was an investigation and that the White House cleared those loans?
  • One follow up though–Democrats on the oversight committee requested some information on this investigation today. Do you plan to comply with that request?

She swats away this question without answering it.

  • (Dave Boyer, for my money one of the biggest bastardy worldviews in the room, from the conservative Washington Times) Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stephens wrote an op-ed today where he called for the Second Amendment to be repealed. First of all, did the President see that, have a reaction to it, and in the current political climate after Parkland, Florida does the White House feel there’s any chance that that kind of movement could take hold in Washington?
  • (ANOTHER mystery David, but based on where she’s looking and how far back he sounds, it could be David Brody from Christian Broadcasting Network) Sarah, former president Jimmy Carter said on CBS that most people want to see a president with basic moral values. What reaction does have the White House have to that?
  • What reaction does the White House have to Jimmy Carter saying people want a president with basic moral values? (Blah blah, shoot someone on fifth avenue) 
  • (Richard Latendresse, TVA Group) Thank you, Sarah. Two questions on trade. The first is on a tweet that the President sent last night saying trade talks went on with numerous countries that for many years have not treated the U.S. fairly. “In the end, ALL WILL BE HAPPY” What does he mean by “ALL WILL BE HAPPY?
  • And the press release on the conversation he had with Prime Minister Trudeau yesterday focused on the Russian diplomats, but on the Canadian side they also said that they discussed NAFTA and that the Canadian prime minister reiterated his belief that the two countries would benefit from an agreement quickly signed. Does the president share this point of view that things should go faster from now on?
Canadian reporter's long-suffering face as he listens to Sarah Sanders talk about NAFTA
Canadian reporter Richard Latendresse as he listens to Sarah Sanders talk about making sure trade deals are “GOOD for THIS country”

So, I don’t know about you, but this reads like the White House left something big out of its readout of a call with a foreign leader again.

  • (Saagar Enjeti, The Daily Caller — Get out, Saagar) Sarah, yesterday Raj was careful to say that the meeting with Kim Jong Un would happen in the next couple of months. Does the White House still stand by its May deadline for that meeting between the president and Kim Jong Un?

Sarah leaves the podium after delivering her last non-answer for the day.

APRIL RYAN, loudly and clearly as Sarah Sanders leaves the room: Where does the president stand on the police involved shootings that have been in the news lately, Sarah? Where does the president stand on the police involved shootings that have been in the news, lately, Sarah?

BRIAN KAREM: Sarah, why won’t the president come out here and speak to us?

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