TOWOIT #343: Pawns for a wall

June 19, 2018.

Tonight was the night Rachel Maddow cried on air after just reading breaking news from the AP about babies bussed to “tender age shelters” that are basically disorganized orphanages. No plan in place to reunite parents and children.

Last night was the night Kirstjen Nielsen flew in from New Orleans and said she wasn’t sure where the girls and toddlers were. We’ve only seen pictures of the older boys.

Here are the questions reporters asked Kirstjen Nielsen:

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Secretary Nielsen, if you could, what you talked about there — DHS is no longer ignoring the law — you’re calling on Congress to change the law. I mean, that is the big message here. Members of Congress on the Democratic side say that you’re using children as a lever to try to get them to take legislative action. What do you say to that? (She says it’s cowardly)
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Have you seen the photos of children in cages? Have you heard the audio clip of these children wailing, that just came out today? (It was after a roomful of reporters got this audio that the overdue 1:15 pm briefing mysteriously disappeared from existence.)
  • But is that the image of this country that you want out there — children in cages?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS) Madam Secretary, I’d like to give you a chance to respond to Laura Bush. In an op-ed, she says this is cruel. She supports an application of the law. Even the current First Lady, Melania Trump, has said we should be a nation of laws but we should do so “with heart.” Do you have anything you want to tell them? Do you believe they’re misunderstanding the situation? Or do you believe there’s any component of this policy which, as you’ve outlined, other administrations have done, but you’re using in a way that is more intense and creates this separation issue?
  • And this policy is not, by your definition, in any way, cruel? (She says “it’s not a policy“)
  • (The C-Span camera isn’t flipping around to show the reporters but I think this is Jeff Zeleny of CNN) Following up on Major’s question there, Former First Lady Laura Bush compared this to Japanese internment during World War II — one of the darkest days in the nation’s history. Do you believe that the effect of this policy — so not the law — but the effect of it on separating children from families in those specific instances is moral, is ethical, is American?
  • How is this not child abuse? (She says “Be more specific, please.”) 
  • The images that Cecilia was talking about, and the sounds that we’ve seen from these big box stores — the Walmarts, the other stores — when you see this, how is this not specifically child abuse for these innocent children who are indeed being separated from their parents?
  • If I could follow up, though. For the hundreds that are not included in there — you said 10,000 — but for the hundreds that we have seen — perhaps up to 2,000 — are there any examples of child abuse, do you believe? And how could this not be child abuse for the people who are taken from their parents? Not the ones who are sent here, with their parents’ blessing, with a smuggler, but the people who are taken from their parents?  (blah blah blah… “of course we don’t want any situation where the children are not completely adequately taken care of.” Sheesh!)
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC) A couple of questions. One, why is the government only releasing images of the boys who are being held? Where are the girls? Where are the young toddlers?
  • You don’t know where they are? Do you know where the girls are? Do you know where the young toddlers are?
  • We’ve seen images of boys, but we just haven’t seen any of the girls or any of the young toddlers. And you’re saying that they are being well cared for.  So how can you make that claim if you don’t know where they are?
  • The pictures have been released to public; they’ve been aired all over national television.
  • By DHS.
  • They were released by your department. I mean, they’ve been aired all over national television throughout the day — the kids who are being held in the cages. We’ve only seen the boys.
  • (Still Kristen Welker, she’s insisting) Secretary, let me just follow up very quickly, because you continue to insist that this is something that Congress can change — (the Pod Save America guys said she was the standout reporter who did a good job in this briefing — they said there should have been a lot more teamwork)
  • — and yet this is something that was enacted after the Attorney General announced the zero-tolerance policy. This never happened before he announced the zero-tolerance policy.
  • Well, we’ve never seen this under previous administrations.
  • We didn’t see kids separated from their parents.
  • There were unaccompanied minors, there’s no doubt about that.  But this —
  • — separating kids at this rate from their parents is something new and specific to this administration once the Attorney General announced the zero-tolerance policy. So why doesn’t the President pick up the phone and change the policy? He said he hates it.
  • (Inaudible.)
  • (Philip Rucker, Washington Post) Yeah. Madam Secretary, President Trump has had a lot to say the last few days about immigration, but he’s offered no compassion to the families that are being separated at the border. Do you know why that is? And why won’t he simply pause your department’s enforcement of this administration policy until Congress reaches that long-term fix so that these families can be reunited?
  • That didn’t answer the question. And does he feel any compassion for the families that are being separated? He has talked about the parents being possible criminals. He has blamed it on Democrats. He has offered no words of compassion.
  • (Margaret Talev, Bloomberg) Madam Secretary, it seemed like a couple days ago, both the President and in your tweets, that the main posture or point was to say that this is not the administration’s policy. But it seems like, in the last couple — well, today — that the message is a little different; is to say, well, this is our policy, but it’s our policy because either we believe it’s a deterrent or we don’t believe we have the resources to move families entirely. And I’m just wondering — I want to make sure we get the reporting right — which of those is the most precise way to describe how the administration feels? And given the blowback by a number of Republicans as well as Democrats, are you considering rethinking this based on feedback? Or is this the administration’s position going forward — period, paragraph? (… “the only option is to not enforce the law at all) 
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network) Okay, so going back to these two questions from Kristen and Margaret, you said that you want Congress to close some loopholes. With that, you also said that you want to make this work. Now, are these kids being used as pawns for a wall? Many people are asking that. And Democrats are saying this is your discretion and there is no law that says that this White House can separate parents from their children.
  • When did —
  • Just let her finish.
  • (April assertively insisting on a follow-up despite Nielsen trying to move on) Madam Secretary. Madam Secretary, can you definitively say, are the children being used as pawns against — for a wall. Yes or no? Can you say yes or no to that?
  • (Maybe Stephen Portnoy, CBS Radio) (Inaudible) as the legal framework for the decisions that your administration has made. What we’re seeing — the pictures, the audio, the stories — are they an intended consequence of the administration’s decision-making or an unintended consequence?
  • People are being turned away from ports of entry, Madam Secretary. (She says that’s not true and then listed off several excuses that they tell people they “have to come back” later. Jesus)
  • Thank you very much. Are you INTENDING for this to play out as it is playing out? Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children? Are you intending to send a message? (Whichever man this is, his voice got really high every time he said “intending” — still sounds like Stephen Portnoy)
  • Perhaps as a deterrent.
  • AG Sessions says it was a deterrent.
  • The Attorney General said it was a deterrent.
  • Will the administration refrain from its current policy if Congress were to pass something that’s close to what you want? Or will it continue to require the separation of parents from their children until the President gets exactly what he wants?
  • Do you believe the policy is a deterrent ?? (shouted at her as she left)
  • WHY? (shouted at her as she left)

At this point she ran off and Shuckabee took over.

  • (Steve Holland, AP, I think?) The President said he would talk with the North Korean leader, Kim, yesterday. Do you know if that happened? (Way to fucking drop the ball, Steve) 
  • To follow up — there’s a report that the United States and South Korea have agreed to suspend joint military drills in August. Is that real?
  • That they’ve agreed to suspend joint military drills in August. Are you aware of this? Is this true?
  • (Philip Rucker, Washington Post) Yes, Sarah. Has the President discussed the family separation policy with the First Lady, in light of her statement yesterday? And does he have any plans to come out and address the American people? Maybe take some questions about how his administration is enforcing the policy?
  • (Jeff Zeleny, CNN) Why did you decide to have Secretary Nielsen answer questions instead of you?
  • I have a real question, though. Would the President sign a bill that did not —
  • Would the President sign a bill that did not include border funding if it did indeed close this loophole that Secretary Nielsen talked about? Would he sign that specific bill? Or does he require an entire bill with that $25 billion in border funding?
  • He would require border funding then?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Thanks. On the IG report and the hearings in Congress with Mr. Horowitz and Director Wray: The President tweeted several times, today and yesterday, that the Mueller investigation continues to be “a witch hunt.” He said on Friday that, after reviewing the IG report, it shows that there’s no evidence of collusion. His own FBI Director today said that Mueller is not on a witch hunt and that the report doesn’t speak to the special counsel investigation. How is there that disconnect there between what the President believes another branch of his administration is doing? (You know how, John. Also, resign from Fox News. You seem decent.) 
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. The governor of Massachusetts, who’s a Republican, today reversed course and ordered the National Guard not to send assets or personnel to southwest border because he said, in his words, actions of the federal government “are resulting in the inhumane treatment of children.” Would you comment on that? And have you seen any other impact on border operations from this whole situation? (This is a conservative reporter from a pretty conservative paper)
  • (Debra Saunders, Las Vegas Review Journal) Sarah, what was the President’s reaction to Laura Bush’s piece in the Washington Post?
  • What was the President’s reaction to Laura Bush’s piece in the Washington Post?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. I have here in my hands figures from the German Ministry of the Interior, under Minister Seehofer, who says that crime has gone down 5.1 percent in Germany. In fact, it’s the lowest rate in a quarter century in Germany — violent crime down 2.4 percent, burglary down 23 percent, and theft down 11.8 percent. Where did the President get the statement that crime was way up in Germany under the Merkel plan for admitting refugees? (Again, this is a buddy outlet for Trump)
  • It’s from the German Ministry of the Interior.
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. I read the First Lady’s statement that was put out and she seems very troubled by this zero-tolerance policy. Is there any daylight between the President and the First Lady on this issue? (Please quit Fox, Jon) 
  • Also critical of this particular policy, besides the people that you mentioned on the Democratic side, are a number of Republicans, and also some very prominent members of some of the President’s base — evangelical Christians. Do you know if the President has heard from those members of his base? Evangelicals, in particular — had discussions with the President about this particular policy? And can you sort of fill us in on discussions the President may have had in that regard?
  • (Steve Herman, Voice of America) Thank you.
  • (Someone else, upset) Sarah, can you just —
  • There’s some confusion about this Space Force that the President announced today. Did he actually sign anything? Does he believe that this can be done without the approval of Congress? The Air Force appears opposed to it. Where is the support for this coming from besides the President? (Jesus Steve, you also dropped the ball) 
  • (Francesca Chambers, Daily Mail) Thank you, Sarah. If the administration is, as it says, not using the children as pawns in this situation, then why not just have Congress pass legislation that narrowly deals with this family separation issue, and sign it, and then deal with the other aspects of the immigration system that the President wants to overhaul at a different time?
  • I understand, ideally, Sarah, that you would like to see all these other things change about the immigration system.  But we’re dealing with this particular situation right now.  Why not —
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Thank you, Sarah. So Secretary Pompeo came out today and he said that, in exchange for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, that the United States had committed to updating the armistice agreement that’s currently in place. Can you confirm that the President did make this commitment to Kim Jong Un? And what exactly does updating the armistice mean? Does it put the future of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula in question? And just any more information you could update us on in that regard.


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