TOWOIT #351: tear this entire place down

Today is August 21, 2018. It’s the day that Manafort was convicted on 8 counts and Cohen turned himself into the FBI. But this is about last week, Tuesday, August 14, and the first of two press briefings at the White House.

The first part of this briefing was about remains from Korea, and I’m just going to leave that part off and start when it got back to Sarah Sanders.

Questions the reporters asked her:

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC) Sarah, what we’ve heard from the president via Twitter, Omarosa, describing her as “crazed,” a “crying lowlife,” a “dog” — is this any way for a president to talk about any American, let alone somebody that he hired and made the highest-ranking African American woman that served in his White House?
  • But why did he hire her? I mean, why did he hire somebody he’s describing as a “dog,” as a “lowlife”?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) What is the strategy in continuing to respond to the charges in this book? Why doesn’t he just ignore it?
  • (Jill Colvin, AP) Thank you, Sarah. What do you say to critics who see his attacks on Omarosa as part of a pattern of insulting prominent African Americans, people he’s taken — criticized recently — Don Lemon, Maxine Waters. He’s claimed that football players protesting racial injustice don’t know what they’re protesting. (Her response is basically that the president insults everyone)
  • And then, have you signed an NDA?
  • (Annie Karni, Politico) Me?
  • The president said that he kept Omarosa —
  • The president said he kept Omarosa on despite complaints from her colleagues because she was personally supportive of him and said nice things about him.
  • He said he kept her on despite complaints about her behavior because she was personally supportive of him and said nice things about him. Is that true of any other officials that are working in this White House right now?
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg) Since you don’t want to talk about Omarosa, I have a bunch on Turkey that hopefully you’ll let me great through.
  • Do you have a reaction to President Erdoğan calling for a ban on U.S. electronics, like iPhones? And would the president encourage a similar ban on Turkish products by Americans?
  • And in sort of the same vein, there was a report from our colleague at Reuters that the U.S. is warning Turkey of increased pressure. So I’m wondering if you have details on how that was conveyed, what additional steps might look like, and if the U.S. would take additional steps before the hearing for the detained American pastor on October twelfth.
  • From the United States.
  • One last one. The President encouraged Israel’s government to release a Turkish citizen in July. And did that contribute to his frustration with Erdoğan in not releasing this American pastor?
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Thanks, Sarah. Does the President or this White House believe that it is a violation of Department of Justice protocol if the Special Counsel’s investigation goes beyond September first?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Two questions on Turkey. As the relationship between the president and President Erdoğan grows pestiferous, my question very simply is: Are we going to see the restoration of the readouts on calls between the president and other world leaders? That was terminated on the day after President Erdoğan’s election. And although we know that the president made a congratulatory call to him, there have been no readouts since. Is that going to be restored? [Ha! Transcriptionist tried pestiferous. The word was poryphorous (sp?) but I have no idea what that means]
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Ties  Thanks, Sarah. The Taliban in Afghanistan, this week, has been on a surprise offensive that has killed about 100 Afghan Security Forces, a couple dozen civilians as far as we know. The President was visiting with the 10th Mountain Division yesterday at Fort Drum. They’ve served in Afghanistan. Does this new offensive — is he still committed to his strategy that he outlined a year ago for Afghanistan, or does this new offensive give him the idea that maybe a different approach might be needed?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC) Sarah, have you asked the President if he’s ever used the N-word?
  • But have you — have you asked him directly, Sarah?
  • You haven’t asked him?
  • Why haven’t you asked him directly?
  • Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people will never hear Donald Trump utter the N-word on a recording in any context?
  • Just to be clear —

SANDERS: Sorry, Kristen, I’m going to go ahead to Kevin. Kevin, go ahead.

  • (Kevin Cork, Fox—to Kristen) Go ahead. (little bit of a moment here as the black Fox News reporter makes way for Kristen to keep going at this.) 
  • (Kristen) Just to be clear: You can’t guarantee it?
  • (Kevin) Thank you, Sarah. Just a very quick one on something that Omarosa said today. She called the President “unfit” — “mentally unfit” for the office. As someone who worked with her, how surprised are you at the level of her animus toward this President and toward this White House? And if I could follow up.
  • If I could follow very quickly. I wanted to ask you, just very briefly, we read earlier this afternoon that the Trump campaign has made an arbitration action against Omarosa. And I’m just curious — and I know they’re separate entities — but is it likely that the White House is considering pursuing something in the way of possible action toward Omarosa for violating a non-disclosure?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS) Sarah, a moment ago, you said one of the motives for Omarosa was to “tear this entire place down.” What do you mean by that? And do you have — or others here have ongoing concerns that, while she was here, she taped other conversations that could either be damaging to the reputation of this White House or revelatory as something you’d rather keep private?
  • One thing that — one other thing, Sarah. She played a tape recording of a conversation with the president. Do you have any doubt that that is an authentic conversation that she had with the President?
  • Okay, then related to that — the president said he was “unaware” in that conversation. Is that — was that a truthful representation of what he knew at the time? Or was he just trying to make Omarosa feel better? So he was making her feel better? Because he knew what had happened and he knew he’d approved it.
  • (Steve Herman, Voice of America) Yes, Sarah. Repeatedly, we’ve heard the president declare that the so-called “Islamic State terror group” has been practically vanquished, especially in Iraq and Syria. Well, the Defense Department yesterday — the lead inspector general for Operation Inherent Resolve, in fact — says that their forces are estimated to be anywhere between 28,600 and 31,600 fighters, which would be about the number that they had at their peak. So has ISIS been practically vanquished?
  • (Michael D. Shear, New York Times) Can I go back to the race question again? I get that you can cite things — statistics that might be positive statistics for policies the president has done vis-à-vis African Americans and other minorities. What do you say to people who look at the pattern of comments that the president has made, specifically about African Americans, and feel like he is singling those folks out because of their race? Are they missing something? Are they deluding themselves? What do you say to them? Because there are lots of people out there who look at the pattern and say, “Yes, he says negative things about a lot of people but there seems to be a particular pattern of singling out African Americans and commenting in particular about their intelligence, or lack thereof, and their looks.” (Here, amazingly, Sarah Sanders cites the Clintons’ presence at Trump’s wedding as proof that he isn’t racist)
  • Do you think all of those are appropriate too?
  • Do you think that — I mean — (Long answer, which works around to everything being the media’s fault)
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Yeah, thanks a lot, Sarah. You expressed how you feel about Omarosa since the publication of this book. How was she viewed by fellow staff members here at the White House while she worked here? Did she pull her own weight? Was she viewed as untrustworthy? Did you trust her? I’m just trying to get a sense about whether your view of her has changed with publication of this book.
  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) Different topic, if you can, and then a follow-up. When — the first time the Mueller investigation indicted some Russians, this administration sanctioned those Russians. The 12 that were recently indicted — the 12 Russian nationals — does this administration plan to also level sanctions against them?
  • Quick follow-up. You said you would like everyone to stop talking about this particular subject, including the administration. So are you saying you would like the president to stop tweeting about Omarosa?
  • (Raquel Krähenbühl, Globonews) Hi, Sarah. Thank you so much. I want to ask question about Secretary Mattis. He’s in Brazil right now, and visiting other countries in South America. And how much does his trip have to do with countering the growing presence of China in the region?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News Radio) Bearing in mind that the Trump campaign’s announcement that it’s pursuing arbitration of Omarosa necessitates attention and a major national focus, can we talk — and can I ask you once more about the practice of signing people to nondisclosure agreements? Because let me ask you what it says about the expressions of loyalty, or lack thereof, of people who work behind that wall. Why do people need to be contractually obligated to forever after, in perpetuity, never say anything negative about the president, any member of his family, any product they should produce? Why is that necessary?
  • Of corporations. To protect the corporate interest. What’s the particular necessity of this? (Because she said it was common)
  • To protect national security and classified — (there’s a huge uproar in the room, because Sarah Sanders said it was normal in government and it’s not)
  • — the distinction between classified and non —
  • (Inaudible) in keeping someone like Omarosa silent? Because right now, what the Trump campaign is doing is he’s forcing her, essentially, to defend herself and potentially even pay damages. Why is that necessary? (Sarah says she can’t answer this question in her official government capacity)


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