TOWOIT #352: Thirteen percent of the country is African American

August 15, 2018. The next day. We were wealthy in White House Press Briefings last week. This is the day that Sanders read a written statement from Trump that impugned former CIA director John Brennan’s character and revoked his security clearance. No president has ever done that before. Sanders also listed off others whose security clearances were being reviewed.

This was also the exciting time when Sarah Sanders worked really hard to not admit that there are no senior black employees in the White House.

Questions reporters asked Sarah Sanders:

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, first, I’ve got a question I wanted to ask you. But first, just to follow up on that, it seems like everybody that you mentioned has been a political critic of the President. Is he going after his political opponents with this?
  • I want to ask you about something the president’s attorney said. Rudy Giuliani said, of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he needs to “write the damn report so we can see it and rebut it.” And he said if it’s not written within the next two or three weeks, quote, “we will just unload on him like a ton of bricks.” Is the president okay with his attorney threatening the Special Counsel in this way?
  • Was that authorized by the President — we’ll come after him with a ton of bricks?
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Hey, Sarah. Following up Jon’s question, how is this announcement by the president — how can Americans not interpret that as a “getting back against his critics”? And isn’t it also an attempt to curtail their freedom of speech by penalizing them for being critical on television?
  • Is this the kind — I’m sorry.
  • Is this the kind of precedent he wants to set for future Presidents when his administration is out of office? And why are there no Republicans on that list?
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I wanted to ask about Turkey, but just to buttonhole on what Jeff said. I guess the reason people would say that this argument strains credibility is there is obvious examples, even from this administration; your former national security advisor admitted to lying to the FBI. Why is this only a list of Democrats who have been critical of the administration? And why should Americans have confidence that you are taking this seriously if there’s not a single Republican on that list?
  • So, on Turkey — Turkey announced today that they’re going to slap tariffs on about a billion dollars of American goods. So I’m wondering if you have a response to that and if there’s any discussion internally about retaliation towards that continuing to escalate this?
  • An appeals court in Turkey today denied Pastor Brunson’s appeal to try to be released. Does the administration view that as a new setback, or as sort of maintaining the status quo?
  • (Jake Turx, Ami) Thank you, Sarah. So the administration has put out a robust defense of Pastor Brunson, but at the same time, there are tens of thousands of Christians in North Korea who have been imprisoned almost exclusively because of their religion. Open Doors USA considered North Korea to be the number-one country when it comes to persecution of the Christians. Is this something that the administration has also been looking into?
  • Has it been brought up, though?
  • And my second — that was a follow-up.
  • That was just a follow-up. My question —
  • Although territory held by ISIS has been reduced by over 90 percent, a recent U.N. report suggests that as many as 30,000 ISIS members still exist in Iraq and Syria. So, first of all, what’s the administration’s take on this specific U.N. report? And secondly, what would the administration consider an overall victory against ISIS?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Closing arguments are taking place across the river, in Alexandria, for the tax fraud trial of Paul Manafort. And in mid-June, the president said that he felt badly for Mr. Manafort and that he believes he’s being treated unfairly. Is the president still friends with Mr. Manafort? When was the last time he spoke with Mr. Manafort?
  • And why does he believe he’s being treated unfairly?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. You just said, a couple minutes ago, that the increased tariff levels with Turkey were out of the national security interest. But when the president announced it on Twitter last week, or earlier this month, he said, quote — at the time, he said, “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time.” The suggestion there being that this has to do with the pastor that is being held in Turkey. Simply put, if Pastor Brunson is allowed to leave Turkey, do those tariff levels go away? Is that kind of the deal that could be in place? Is that a deal that could be on the table?
  • In the interest of national security, what’s changed over the last month or so with Turkey that you’re justifying national security concerns?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. I was going to ask about Turkey, but based on your opening statement, I have to point out that the attorneys for former Director Comey and former Deputy Director McCabe say that their passes were automatically demagnetized the day that they were separated from their offices. Two others, Mr. Clapper and General Hayden, have said they do not use the pass at all. And also, it’s my understanding, from a historical standpoint, this would be the first time the president himself removed the passes from anybody; that that has normally been done by agency heads or immediate superiors to people. Have you considered all these things in the process you say you’re going to (inaudible)?
  • (Major Garrett, ABC News) Sarah, just so I understand the standard that the president is applying, you outlined two areas of either contradictory or erroneous testimony from Brennan. Is that the only standard by which this administration is asserting he should have his security clearance revoked?
  • But you cited those two instances.
  • So my question is, is that the standard? If you give erroneous testimony, you say something and you have to correct at a certain date in the future — if you work for this administration, for example — does that mean you could lose your security clearance?
  • Does this administration have any reason to believe, or evidence to suggest, Brennan has misused classified information or monetized his access to it, as was alleged earlier by this administration?
  • Can we assume by the absence of you not saying those things, you didn’t find any evidence of that?
  • (Andrew Beatty, Agence France Presse) Thank you very much. I wanted to follow up on a question yesterday about Afghanistan. Today, there was another suicide attack in Kabul, which killed 37 people in a school. A military base in the North has been overrun by the Taliban. They have also seized parts of an eastern provincial capital. Why do you think President Trump’s strategy in Afghanistan is working?
  • I just wanted to follow up on a Turkey question, if I may. Have you guys assessed whether the liquidity situation in Turkey’s financial sector is a risk, in light of the fall of the lira? It’s fallen like a quarter in the last three or four days.
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Thank you, Sarah. One of the individuals that you listed on that list of clearances that is under review is Bruce Ohr. He’s a current employee of the Department of Justice. So instead of putting him under the review, does the president believe he should be fired?
  • But why put his security clearance under review, which would render him unable to do his job, and not just fire him?
  • (Peter Nicholas, Wall Street Journal) Thank you, Sarah. If people who criticize the president publicly on TV or are public in their criticisms, are they at greater risk of losing their security clearances than people who stay silent?
  • (Kevin Cork, Fox News) Thank you, Sarah. A question about the return of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and then a follow-up very quickly. Now that they are back, can you sort of lay out the White House strategy for moving forward with this agenda? We’ve talked about wall funding. Obviously, a lot of people are very curious about the Kavanaugh nomination moving forward, DACA and other issues. Is there a strategy in place to begin to work with lawmakers now that they’re back?
  • My very quick follow-up was: First of all, you didn’t mention anything about a possible shutdown. Is that still something that the president is continuing? And my follow was going to be on the farm bill. There are a great number of people and a great number of states that are curious about this work requirement that the USDA is trying to implement. In some places, they already have it; they say you have to work. In other areas, you don’t have that requirement. Is that something the White House still supports?
  • Farm Bill?
  • (Catherine Lucey, Associated Press) Thank you, Sarah —
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman was the highest-ranking African American staffer in the West Wing. No black —
  • Well, no staffer had been appointed at that level since her absence. Can you tell us exactly how many African American staffers there are in this building? And is it a priority for the administration to reflect the diversity of the country?
  • But how many black staffers are there in this building, Sarah? (Sanders: “Look, I’m not going to go through and do a COUNT….”)
  • Thirteen percent of the country is African American.
  • (Raquel Krahenbuhl, Globonews) Sarah, thank you very much. About the election last night — we are seeing the Democrats embracing more diversity, choosing Muslims, also candidates — transgender candidates, rejecting the president’s agenda. So my question is, what do you think will be the impact of his agenda, and also these recent controversies about race and minorities on the election in November?
  • (Eamon Javers, CNBC News) Thanks, Sarah. I’d like to ask a couple questions about the President’s recent comments, if I could. One is on Harley Davidson. The president commented earlier in the week, “Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great!” Is the President of the United States endorsing a boycott of an iconic American company here?
  • Does he want to see a boycott of Harley, though?

Someone, maybe Brian Karem, calls out “Has the president authorized Mark Burnett to release any tapes he may have, Sarah?”

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