TOWOIT #329: Kill at will

May 14, 2018

Questions reporters asked Raj Shah at the briefing today:

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Raj, a couple, if I could. At the same time there was a celebratory air in Jerusalem as the U.S. was moving its embassy, in the south of Israel, along the border with Gaza, there was a lot of violence that resulted in more than 41 people losing their lives. Is the President concerned about the demonstrations there and Israel’s response to people trying to climb over the fence?
  • Also, what’s the President’s thinking on ZTE? I mean, here is a company that violated U.S. rules regarding doing business with North Korea and Iran. It was, according to the Commerce Department, appropriately sanctioned for that and fined $1.2 billion. You had the heads of six intelligence agencies telling Congress back on February 13th that they wouldn’t use ZTE devices because of counterespionage concerns. They also wouldn’t recommend that American citizens use ZTE or Huawei devices. So what’s the President’s thinking with that tweet over the weekend about wanting to rescue ZTE
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I guess I wanted to follow on that. Did the President give Secretary Ross any specific instructions on how he wanted that case to go?  And when you say that it was “raised,” I assume you mean in the context of the ongoing trade discussions between the U.S. and China. So is there a, sort of, direct linkage there, where China could make a concession on retaliatory tariffs, and so we’d see from the U.S., kind of, easing back on ZTE?
  • (Weijia Jiang, ABC News) A follow on that, Raj. Didn’t the Commerce Department make an independent judgment when they decided to issue this sanction against ZTE? So can you talk about the significance of bringing it up again now? How much does it have to do with the impending summit with North Korea? You know, critics will say that the President wants China’s support, needs China’s support, and THAT is why he is now backing off on this sanction against ZTE.
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Raj. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I [just] wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that” — what Kelly Sadler said — “was inappropriate,” that that’s not who we are as a Trump administration. Why not just apologize, so America doesn’t think that that is an acceptable way of speaking inside this White House?
  • How? (The transcript doesn’t show that a scattering and smattering of assorted HOWs cropped up from several reporters–it wasn’t just Cecilia asking this)
  • Excuse me, but she — Kelly Sadler told Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly, and that has not yet happened. Why has that not happened?
  • Are there any concerns that this White House seems more concerned about the fact that there was a leak than about the content of what was said?
  • (Man’s voice–) But it wasn’t internal–
  • (Sounds like April Ryan’s voice–) IS she being reprimanded–
  • (At least two other voices–) How? How is it being handled–
  • (Pamela Brown, CNN) But can you explain how it’s being addressed internally?
  • But she’s still employed here at the White House?
  • Why hasn’t she PUBLICLY apologized, as she told Meghan McCain that she would?
  • Okay, really quick, Raj — on ZTE, how does the President Trump statement that too many Chinese jobs are at risk square with his campaign promise that China is stealing American jobs?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) Hi, Raj. The death toll is over 50 in Gaza. Is the U.S. calling on Israel to use restraint in dealing with these protests?
  • So there’s no burden on Israel to do something to, sort of, rein it in?

MR. SHAH:  No, we think that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Hamas is the one that, frankly, bear responsibility for the dire situation right now in Gaza.

  • Lastly, Raj, how does this — the United States had been wanting to put out a peace plan. How does today’s situation hurt that?
  • (David Nakamura, Washington Post) Raj, there seemed to be some confusion, given the messages on the Sunday news shows from Secretary Pompeo and National Security Bolton about what exactly the U.S. is asking of North Korea. Is the administration’s position that the U.S. expects the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Peninsula and of North Korea? Or is the administration willing to accept something short of that?
  • And I was wondering also if you could address a little bit the criticism of the President’s, sort of, tone with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, saying that he treated the U.S. detainees excellently. The President’s rhetoric has certainly shifted on Kim Jong-un, and I’m wondering if you could explain why, and whether he thinks that, at all, that he is going too far in sort of praising Kim Jong-un.
  • (Peter Alexander, NBC News) If I can, very quickly, the French Foreign Minister, Raj, said about what’s taking place in Gaza — he urged Israeli authorities to exercise discretion and restraint. So to be clear, does the U.S. not agree with the French that Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint?

MR. SHAH:  We believe that Hamas is responsible for what’s going on.

  • So there’s no responsibility beyond that on the Israeli authorities? Kill at will?

MR. SHAH:  What I’m saying is that we believe that Hamas, as an organization, is engaged in cynical action that’s leading to these deaths.

  • Let me ask you if I can, and following up on Kelly Sadler today — Matt Schlapp, whose wife you know — Mercedes Schlapp — works here — is the Head of Strategic Communications — portrayed Kelly Sadler as “a little bit of a victim here.” Do you agree that she is a little bit of a victim here? And why?
  • Is there any environment where that — conveying that thought — would be viewed as appropriate?
  • So to be clear, was it completed last week? You said it was dealt with internally. Has anything been dealt with since last week when she called the family — the McCain family — for clarity?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) I might ask you an indelicate question. It’s been reported that you were leading the meeting where Kelly Sadler said what she said. How did it strike you? Did YOU find it to be inappropriate? And how did — what was the reaction in the room?
  • (Anita Kumar, McClatchy) Two questions. First, the White House is hosting some kind of meeting on Wednesday with California officials on sanctuary cities. Can you tell us what that’s about? Will the President attend? And what’s the point of the meeting?
  • So there’s no negotiation. This is just to solidify your point? I think —
  • Okay. And my second question is:  The President is going to Capitol Hill tomorrow to meet with Senate Republicans. Can you tell us about that meeting and the topic of the conversation? And also, do you think he will not get asked by senators about the Kelly Sadler issue?
  • Does he have a statement prepared?
  • Besides the CIA, is there another issue? It’s not solely to talk about Gina.
  • (Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times) The Trump Organization is involved in a project in Indonesia building hotels, golf courses, residences. It’s getting up to $500 million in backing from the Chinese government. Can you tell or explain the administration’s perspective on, A, how this wouldn’t violate the emoluments clause, and, B, how it wouldn’t violate the President’s own promise that his private organization would not be getting involved in new foreign deals while he was President? (Raj says, you’ll have to talk to the Trump Organization) 
  • No, but I mean the Trump Organization can’t speak on behalf of the President, as the President — the head of the federal government, the one who is responsible — who needs to assure the American people that — they don’t have that responsibility — (Noah is practically stammering. Raj has been taking Smug Crap lessons from SHS)
  • So, Raj, a couple of things. I need some information — we all need more information about the conversation that the President had by phone with James Shaw Jr. and why wasn’t it here at the White House. And also, what about prison reform? If you could give us a little bit more about prison reform.  We understand that that’s working its way and there is a big push from the White House. And also, on Sadler, where does decency and morality come in, into play, in the workplace? I mean, she still has a job. She made that statement about an American hero. No matter what the political feelings are about him, he was broken and bruised overseas for the freedoms of this country. And to say those things, I mean — (April wasn’t interrupted, she just stopped mid-sentence and made these two gestures with her hands and arms that were like “please enlighten me, this is too bananas and low” and then Raj said “It’s an internal matter.” Someone tweeted in response to that, “She got a promotion.”)
  • She keeps her job, right?
  • Why not here at the White House? Why not — I mean, he’s saluting heroes.
  • (Andrew Feinberg, ex-Sputnik, who asks a good question) Thank you, Raj. I wanted to ask you about the embassy opening today. The person who delivered the invocation, Robert Jeffress, he’s made some statements in the past that he believes that Muslims are going to hell, Jews are going to hell, Hindus are going to hell. Do you think that, considering especially his remarks about Jews, that he’s one of the right people to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel? And can you give us a little information on how that came to be?
  • Do you think it’s appropriate for a person who thinks that — who said that Jews are going to HELL to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel?
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) So, I have two questions for you. First on ZTE. Did the Chinese government give ANY specific concession for the President of the United States to tweet in SUPPORT of a Chinese company?
  • But WHY did he do that?
  • So just raising the issue was enough to spawn a presidential tweet and directive? 
  • And then another on the President’s tweet on Paris. He said that America needs to change its thought processes. What did he mean by that? What was he hinting at? (Saagar Enjeti is like WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I hope Saagar quits Daily Caller)
  • (Woman not named or shown on screen) Raj, on the issue of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when was the last time the White House reached out to Palestinian leadership? And will — given the high numbers of casualties, Palestinians calling what has happened today a “massacre,” will the White House be reaching out?
  • Okay. Can I just follow up then? Jared Kushner, in his speech, pointed a finger at the Palestinians, saying they were responsible for provoking violence. But given the fact that it’s only Palestinians who are being killed, should Israel not shoulder some of the blame?
  • But people were THROWING ROCKS, 50 meters from the wall and were faced with SNIPER attack. I mean, is the White House in denial of the split-screen reality that’s occurring?

MR. SHAH:  Again, we believe that Hamas is responsible for this.

  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Let me ask you on ZTE. The congressional hearing that John was talking, in which the intelligence chief said that people should not be using ZTE products because of security concerns, does the President himself believe that there is a security concern using — involved with ZTE?
  • Speaking of the Commerce Department, Wilbur Ross said at the National Press Club just a little while ago — he said of the meeting this upcoming week with the Chinese, he said, “It wouldn’t surprise me” if they bring up ZTE, but our position is that it would be an enforcement action separate from trade. Is that the position of the White House, that whatever may or may not happen with ZTE, that has nothing to do with trade negotiations? Or does it?  (When is this Russian-oligarch-coziness at the Bank of Cyprus finally going to catch up to Sleepy Wilbur?)
  • And on the Supreme Court decision today on sports gambling that allows, now, states to go forward with that, does the White House have any opinion one way or another on the decision today?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Raj, on Israel, the United States and the White House are hoping to release their peace plan in the next few months.  Going back to that split screen, I understand that you’re blaming these on Hamas, but does the White House feel that the position is undermined now by these deaths that have happened today? Last time the count was at 52.
  • And on a different foreign policy topic, sort of. The President isn’t going to the Royal Wedding this weekend. Today, we saw him deliver a video address at the embassy opening. Will he deliver an address of some sort via video? Is he sending a gift? Is there anything you can tell us about that?
  • (I don’t know who this old man is, but his voice is beautiful) Last month, Sarah said that the allegations against the Governor —
  • Last month, Sarah said the allegations against the Governor of Missouri were concerning. The Governor now is on trial this week. Does the President believe he should resign? He’s campaigned with him, he’s been out with him, he’s met him several times. Does he believe he should resign, irrespective of the verdict? Or if the verdict comes down in his favor, should he not resign?
  • (I can’t figure out who this fragile-looking blonde woman in the back is. I’ve google-imaged so much shit trying to sort it) Thank you, Raj. So, later this week, Thursday and Friday, Chinese officials are supposed to be here in D.C. to have continued trade meetings. Can you tell us which U.S. officials and which Chinese officials are going to be involved in those; what the President hopes to come out of those continued talks — this round of those talks? And has the administration provided — I know Larry Kudlow had mentioned at one point that the administration was considering providing a list of what they would like to see out of these trade negotiations.
  • (Hunter Walker, Yahoo! News) Thank you, Raj.  You said before that you hadn’t heard Pastor Jeffress’s remarks. Among other things he said, “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism…they leave people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.” I also wanted to talk about Pastor John Hagee, who was involved in that ceremony. He once said that Hitler was an instrument of God. Separate from that, on Sunday, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump met with Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel. And he once compared black people to monkeys. (April Ryan is in the frame and looks visibly upset at this) So I’m wondering, in all three of these instances can you tell us anything about how these people were brought into the ceremonies? And do you think it’s regrettable that people with these views were involved with the American government? (No, Hunter, they don’t give a shit. Stop acting like any of this is normal)
  • (Brian Karem, I believe, as Raj files out like a coward, having not answered the question) Shouldn’t you know whether you come to the podium whether or not that guy is worthy of talking to people at our embassy? … You gotta be KIDDING me….!

God bless Brian Karem, and God Bless C-Span for just letting the sound run so we got all of that last bit too.

 

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