TOWOIT #323: Champions of the free press

April 25, 2018

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) I asked the President yesterday about the allegations that Dr. Ronny Jackson is facing. There are more allegations that have been leveled at him in the last 24 hours, one of which might involve a HIPAA violation, or an alleged HIPAA violation. Do you have anything more on the allegations against Jackson? Is the White House saying anything about it?
  • But what about some of these allegations about overprescribing? The other one that I just mentioned a moment ago.
  • (Darlene Superville, AP) Despite what you just said there, is the White House doing any sort of additional looking into Dr. Jackson’s background in light of all of the allegations?
  • And since you are — since the White House and the President are standing behind him, will he ask the Senate Veterans Committee to reschedule his confirmation hearing?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, I’ve got one on this and a couple on foreign policy. So is it the position of the administration that the people who have raised these allegations are lying?
  • Do you not find them credible, in other words, these allegations?
  • And do you think there’s anything that suggests political motivation behind them?
  • So, on North Korea. During the State of the Union address, the President described the North Korean regime as one that shamefully tried an American, Otto Warmbier; sent him back to the country nearly dead; starves its own people; and is a dictatorship worse than almost any other. That’s what he said in the State of Union. How could that also be true if Kim Jong-un is “honorable” and “open”? How do you reconcile those two assessments of the leader and the regime in North Korea?
  • So he’s changed his appraisal of Kim Jong-un?
  • He thinks the regime has changed?
  • He thinks the regime has changed?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. I wanted to get your reaction to the ruling that came down from a federal district court judge here in Washington concerning DACA. He said that the President’s decision to end DACA was arbitrary and capricious. So what’s your reaction to this ruling? The third federal judge to rule against the President on DACA. (She reads a statement instead of answering the question) 
  • Is it still the main argument by the administration that the reason why it was necessary to cut off the DACA program was because of the threat of lawsuits by Republican attorneys general?
  • (Steve Herman, Voice of America) Yes, Sarah. I’d like to ask you about the drop in the ranking for the United States in the World Press Freedom Index. The United States now down to 45. And according to Reporters Without Borders, much of the blame for that goes to the President for his attacks on the media. What’s the reaction of the White House? And does it accept that the President’s comments has denigrated our freedom of the press in the United States? (Sanders says the fact that she’s up there taking questions is a good example of the freedom of the press and it’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise–strongest argument I’ve seen so far for killing the White House Daily Briefing)
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. One on President Macron’s visit and the other on foreign policy. Yesterday, there was some scuttlebutt late in the afternoon that no Democrats were invited to the dinner last night. And then later, a check of the list showed that there were at least four Democrats invited. However, the accurate report was there were no congressional Democrats invited. Now, going back to state dinners to when President Roosevelt hosted the King and Queen of England in 1939, and invited potential opponents, there have always been congressional Democrats at state dinners. Why the exception last night?
  • But no congressional Democrats. Was there any discussion of that in preparing the list?
  • My other question —
  • — was about the proclamation the President signed regarding Armenia and Turkey. He used the word, “Meds Yeghern,” which is Armenian for “catastrophe” or “atrocity,” but he never used the word “genocide” in this resolution. Does the President believe in Armenian genocide?
  • (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart) Thank you, Sarah. Rap superstar Kanye West has been in the news lately for supporting the President and expressing his admiration for the President. I’m curious whether the President has reached out to Kanye West and whether he’d be willing to meet with him at the White House.
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) In today’s Supreme Court arguments about the travel ban there was much discussion of the President’s proposal during the campaign that all Muslims be barred from entering the U.S.  And it was noted during those arguments that the President has never actually disavowed that proposal.  And it was also noted that he had not made those comments since being sworn in as President.  So I wanted to ask: Does the White House disavow that campaign proposal, or does it stand by it?
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) I just wanted to follow up on Dr. Ronny Jackson. Yesterday, the President suggested that Dr. Jackson does not have the experience to run the Department of Veterans Affairs. Is that a fair assessment, that he lacks that experience? (Trump didn’t just suggest it, he literally said that experience was a problem) 
  • He said experience is an issue.
  • So he thinks Dr. Jackson has all the experience necessary to run the department?
  • It’s a yes or no question.
  • Let me just follow up, if I can. Just since you brought up being taken out of context, if seems to be a press-related question. Are you trying to say that this administration is a champion of a free press? That seems —
  • Isn’t there a certain responsibility on the part of the President —
  • We appreciate that.
  • I fully appreciate that. But, Sarah —
  • But the President’s tone towards the press —
  • The President’s tone towards the press is obviously not helpful at times —
  • — and I think that that’s plain to see.
  • (David, couldn’t see who this was) A Navy inspector general had problems with the way Jackson ran his medical office, which only has 50 people in it. What makes him qualified to run a big department that has 350,000 people
  • (Julie Hirschfeld Davis, New York Times) Are you telling us that the White House was not aware of any of the allegations before the President decided to name Dr. Jackson? Just, first of all, to clarify.
  • Can you describe to us, then, what the vetting process was at the White House before he was named, given that, as David just mentioned, there is an inspector general report and there have been allegations in the past that are now coming to light, but they existed before the President chose him?
  • So the only vetting that was done of him as a nominee was to look at his past background checks, is what you’re telling us?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. Let me ask you a couple questions about the Tim Cook meeting that is either wrapped or going on right now. Do you, by chance, have a readout of what exactly took place? Did the President promise to —
  • Let me ask you. In the last month now, the President has met with Bill Gates, who is the second-wealthiest individual in the world. Now he’s meeting with Tim Cook, who runs the largest company in the United States. Does the President have any intentions, at any point, to meet with the wealthiest individual in the world, Jeff Bezos? And if so, under what conditions would that be?
  • (Ashley Parker, Washington Post) Sarah, Scott Pruitt lived for below-market rent in a Capitol Hill row house owned by an energy industry lobbyist. He reportedly directed staff to give raises to top aides, and then obfuscated about it.  He spent over $150,000 of taxpayer dollars on first-class travel. And he reportedly once even tried to get his security detail to use their sirens so he could get to a reservation at Le Diplomate, among other alleged ethical lapses. I know you’ve said yesterday you were looking at reports about him, but can you sort of explain why he still has a job in the President’s Cabinet, and also how his behavior is in keeping with the values of draining the swamp?
  • (Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thanks. Just to follow up on that — when you say you expect Administrator Pruitt to answer for these accusations, where do you expect that to happen? Like, are you looking for this in hearings? Is the White House asking questions?
  • And also, just to follow up on Jackson. When you say that he’s been through four background checks, can you say — but these allegations have now come up, and some of them are very serious — is the White House going to look into the allegations that have been made against him about drinking on the job and (inaudible)?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to clarify, too, about these four background checks. Were any of these background checks since President Trump took office or since he was named as the nominee for VA Secretary? And has the White House ever been informed of allegations like these — like excessively drinking on the job or passing out medication like candy, as it were — since he was the physician for President Trump?
  • And to follow up on what I was asking about the background check. When was his most recent background check?

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