TOWOIT #320: Slime ball

April 13, 2018 (yesterday, before the announcement of Syrian airstrikes)

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  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thank you, Sarah. The President came out swinging today, calling James Comey a “liar,” a “leaker,” a “slime ball.” Is he worried about what he’s saying? (Sarah calls Comey a disgraced partisan hack and says firing him will be remembered as one of Trump’s proudest accomplishment)
  • And another topic, quickly, if I may. The Deputy Attorney General was here yesterday. Is the President going to fire Rod Rosenstein? (Once again, she has no announcements at this time)
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, the President, a short time ago, issued a pardon of Scooter Libby, the former Vice President’s Chief of Staff. There are many people who believe that Scooter Libby was the victim of a Special Counsel investigation run amuck. The recent statements that we have heard from the White House would seem to indicate that you feel much the same thing about the Mueller investigation. Was the President sending some sort of signal to the Mueller investigation or about the Mueller investigation by pardoning Scooter Libby? (It’s time to quite Fox News, John. You’re a propaganda beard)
  • In the statement, the pardoning statement today, the President acknowledges he doesn’t know Scooter Libby. What was it that convinced him that Scooter Libby deserved a pardon? (Just thought it was the right thing to do)
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg News) Thanks, Sarah. I have two questions. I wanted to ask about the first — The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision —
  • Sure. The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision within 24 to 48 hours on Syria. On Tuesday, he said a decision would probably come that night. But here we are on Friday, and in a statement last night, you said that no final decision had been reached. So I’m wondering if you could walk through why the President hasn’t met his own timeline there, and specifically, if it had anything to do with the, sort of, Syrian troop movement that we saw after his tweet on Wednesday, sort of threatening a missile strike.
  • And then, because it’s Friday, I’m wondering if —

MS. SANDERS: Friday the 13th.

  • Yeah. (Laughter.) You could walk us through exactly what the President has–(Jesus stop laughing at her jokes)

MS. SANDERS: You guys all groan like that’s a bad thing.

(Just a bad joke)

  • — committed to Senator Gardner in terms of both what the Justice Department would do and what the White House would do in terms of supporting legislation on states that legalize marijuana.
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) You mentioned he’s spoken to President Macron. How big a coalition does he have for this expected action in Syria?
  • And is he satisfied now that Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons attack?
  • (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) It was reported today that Michael Cohen, the President’s personal attorney, helped negotiate a $1.6 million settlement to a Playboy playmate. It also emerged, today, that Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York. Is the President still associated with Michael Cohen? Does he continue to consider Michael Cohen someone he holds in confidence?
  • Is he concerned about these developments? Would the President like to say anything about them?
  • What about Michael Cohen’s actions, though? Does the President have any concern with those?
  • (Jill Colvin, Associated Press) Just a follow-up on that and then another topic. Is Cohen still the President’s personal attorney? (Sarah says she’d have to check) 
  • And I wanted to ask – (then Sarah interrupts to say she can only speak about White House staff) 
  • It looks like Paul Ryan just endorsed Kevin McCarthy for Speaker in an appearance, or an interview, with Meet the Press. Does the President believe that McCarthy should be the next Speaker?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) On the James Comey book, some excerpts came out today. He speaks of the President — writes about the President in very personal terms. Were you surprised by that? Was the President surprised by that? (It’s time to quite Fox News, Jon. You’re a propaganda beard)
  • And just really quickly on the pardon that came out today for Scooter Libby. The President, so far in his time in office, has issued three presidential pardons. One of those was to Joe Arpaio. Is there a commonality, in terms of what the President looks for when he pardons individuals?
  • (Steve Herman, VOA? I’m trying to gauge from the voice and the angle of her gaze which Steve it was.) Yes, Sarah. I’m wondering if the administration has reacted with any message to Moscow after officials there today said that the chemical attack in Douma was faked and staged with Britain’s direct involvement.
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, what part does the President bringing Russia into the Syria equation now cause for the delay in the strike timeline?
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. The Justice Department Inspector General came out with his long awaited report this afternoon on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying that he improperly leaked information about the Clinton Foundation investigation to a reporter, and then lied to James Comey about it and, under oath, to two FBI investigators. Do you have a reaction to that? And does that, in your mind, validate the decision to fire McCabe?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. You said that James Comey was a liar, that he’s a leaker, that he made false representations or claims. Other than what the President tweeted this morning about lying under oath to Senator Grassley, what exactly has he said that’s false or a lie? (When Sarah responds to Comey questions in this briefing, she reads from a screed instead of answering off the cuff. It’s a total doubling-down on the Trump tweets from the morning.) 
  • Sarah, what about the dossier, though? Sarah, what about the dossier? Did he also lie about the dossier in his conversation with President Trump about that? (She doesn’t really answer this question)
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Sarah, what about the content of the President’s attacks on Jim Comey, your attacks on Jim Comey? Isn’t all of that a bit unbecoming of the Presidency of this White House to go after him in such a personal way like that. Calling him a “slime ball” and a “liar” and a “leaker”?
  • Sarah, if I could just follow up —
  • Other folks had two questions. If I could just —
  • — ask a second follow-up question because —
  • Well, it’s Friday, yeah. And you’ve —

MS. SANDERS: And you’d probably get really upset, and I don’t need that

  • No, no, no. Not at all. Not at all. (Laughter.) No, but you’ve probably seen this tweet. It was a tweet that you posted before the election in 2016: “When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing.” What do you make of that now? Isn’t that —
  • But when you go after Comey and Rosenstein and Mueller, doesn’t that mean you’re losing? (She doesn’t answer, scolds him briefly for trying to ask another question, moves away to another reporter, and… boom)
  •  Following up with that, I mean, one of the themes of Comey’s book is the President’s “disdain” for the rule of the law and his continued efforts to publicly undermine federal law enforcement officials. So how would you characterize the President’s attitude towards the rule of law and things that he said publicly about many of his top federal law enforcement officials?
  • But it’s NOT just leakers; it’s his own Attorney General, it’s his own Deputy Attorney General, it’s Special Counsel, it’s the FBI, it’s judges who make decisions that he doesn’t like. There’s a whole list of federal law enforcement officials that he has undermined. It’s not just people who have proven to leak information. (Sarah rails at the press in general for “praising Jim Comey, propping him up” )

(She broke in to say the second part — Sarah had already called on Charlie from Breitbart. I like this reporter’s moxie but I can’t find her full name — she’s from CBS) 

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  • (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart) Thank you, Sarah. This morning, James Comey admitted that he didn’t tell the President about the political source —
  • This morning, James Comey said that he didn’t inform the President of the political source of the dossier. Was the President surprised to hear that? Did Director Comey ever tell him about the sourcing of the political dossier against him?
  • And a second question, because it’s Friday. Did the President speak to former Vice President Dick Cheney about the Scooter Libby pardon either before or after it —
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Yeah. Thank you, Sarah. Three Republican state senators from Missouri wrote the President yesterday saying that the embattled Governor Eric Greitens should resign from office. He has serious charges of sexual abuse against him, faces impeachment, and refuses to resign. They concluded that, as a former Navy SEAL, he would salute and resign if his Commander-in-Chief asked him to. Did the President receive the letter? What is his response? And will he ask Governor Greitens to step down?
  • (Sarah Sorcher, Washington Post) Thank you, Sarah. So, concerning the summit with Prime Minister Abe next week in Florida, does the President plan to push for a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan?
  • Sarah, does the President have another NSC meeting today on Syria?
  • Will the President be having another NSC meeting today on Syria?
  • (Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thanks. I wanted to ask about the pardoning process. It seems like we’ve had these three pardons; they all were somewhat high-profile or had gotten media attention. How is the President deciding when to take action on a case? I mean, with Arpaio, he hadn’t been sentenced yet; the Scooter Libby case was very old. So how are you deciding when to take action on these cases? And can a normal person who feels like they’ve been unjustly convicted, can they get their case to the White House? I mean, there’s a Justice Department process, but it seems like the President is taking special interest in certain cases.
  • (Nadia Bilbassy, Al Arabiya English) Thank you, Sarah. The OPCW is sending inspectors to Syria. Do you think this is a futile exercise, since you already have the evidence that actually they have chemical weapons?
  • (Brian Bennett, LA Times) Thanks, Sarah. I’ll do two. One on Syria and one on the Department of Justice. On Syria, the President has publicly said that he wants to get out of Syria. Has this strike changed his mind on that? And is he considering other options, other than a plan to pull out U.S. forces from Syria? And if you could just —

(I saw Brian’s face way in the back when she called on him, and I was like “and that’s Brian Bennett” — and then I remarked to myself, “wow, you’re getting good at this — how did you know THAT guy’s name?” And then it dawned on me, sort of like horror, that I know his name because I *KNOW* him, because we went to college together. That just bums me out, because I was in classes with so many successful journalists and writers and media people and sometimes I just feel so lame and obscure.)

  • Is he considering other options other than a long-term strategy to get U.S. forces out of Syria?
  • And so I have a question about the Department of Justice. What does the President have to say to Republican lawmakers who believe that firing Mueller would be “suicide,” as Grassley has said, or firing Rosenstein could be the end of the presidency for Donald Trump, as Lindsey Graham has said?
  • Does he have any response for Republican lawmakers who are counseling him not to take an action like that?

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The AP’s Jill Colvin wore a really pretty skirt today. I really relate to her in this picture, an average-looking print journalist sandwiched between the slim, TV-ready ladies down in front. I relate because I work in an office where people look polished and run marathons, and I’m just sort of frumping around the place eating pizza for breakfast. (Apparently self-deprecation is a feature of this post, not a bug.)

 

 

TOWOIT #318: “It’s a legitimate question. It’s not ridiculous.”

April 10, 2018

  • (Nadia Bilbassy, Al Arabiya English) Thank you. Thank you, Sarah. The President authorized the use of military force last year after President Assad used chemical weapons. But this didn’t seem to deter him. The President talked yesterday of a very strong and serious response now. How is he going to hold President Assad accountable?
  • How he’s going to hold President Assad accountable now?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, talking about the raid on Michael Cohen’s office, the President said, “It’s an attack on our country…It’s an attack on what we all stand for.” In what way is an FBI raid on Michael Cohen’s office an attack on our country?
  • But that accounts to an attack on our country? (I think he means “amounts”?)
  • Does the President believe he has the power to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Does he believe that’s within his power?

 

SANDERS:  Certainly he believes he has the power to do so.

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) If I could, you have said several times from the podium that the President has neither the intention nor is thinking about firing Robert Mueller. Does that remain the case today?
  • Can I also ask: What about Rod Rosenstein? What’s the President’s thinking about Rosenstein, in terms of his tenure at the Department of Justice? He did not appear to be very happy with him last night. And can you confirm that Rosenstein was the high-level DOJ official that signed off on the FBI raid of Cohen’s office?
  • (Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg) Is the President still open to talking to Mueller? Is he still open to an interview?

 

SANDERS:  That’s something that I would direct you to the President’s personal attorneys to answer that question.

But I mean, who are they now?

  • And we asked about Rosenstein. What about FBI Director Wray? He was the one who signed off, supposedly, on this FBI raid. Does the President still have confidence in him?
  • But specifically on the President’s feelings about the FBI Director, does he have concerns about the FBI Director?
  • (Jill Colvin, Associated Press) Two things. Just to follow up on that, has the President spoken with either Jeff Sessions or Rosenstein since the raid yesterday?
  • Okay. And then I wanted to ask you about the decision to cancel the trip. Can you walk us through a little bit more of the decision-making and why the President felt like he couldn’t make a decision — he couldn’t execute on whatever he decides to do while he’s traveling, considering that the missile strike last year was actually launched while the President was in Mar-a-Lago?
  • What does being in the country — how does that benefit him?
  • (Jackie Alemany, CBS News) Does Michael Cohen still represent the President?

 

SANDERS:  I’m not sure.  I would refer you to Michael Cohen on that.

  • And when did the President first learn of the payment from Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels and their nondisclosure agreement?

SANDERS:  I’m not sure on the exact timing.

  • SANDERS: Kristen.
  • ALEMANY: And did the President –-
  • SANDERS:  Sorry, I’m going to keep moving because we’re tight on time. Kristen.
  • ALEMANY: Just one more question, Sarah. If the President denies having an affair with Stormy Daniels —
  • SANDERS:  Sorry, Jackie, I’m going to keep moving. Go ahead, Kristen.
  • ALEMANY:  — then why did he instruct
  • SANDERS:  Jackie, I’m going to move on to Kristen. Sorry, we’re tight on time with the visit of the Alabama team coming up soon. Go ahead.
  • KRISTEN WELKER: Well, just, can you follow up on that question?
  • SANDERS:  I didn’t hear the question.
  • WELKER: Does he continue to deny having an affair with Stormy –
  • ALEMANY: Then why doesn’t he just instruct Mr. Cohen to —
  • SANDERS:  The President has been clear.  He has addressed this several times.  I don’t have anything else to add. Brian.
  • WELKER: I’d like to follow up —
  • WELKER: Sarah, let me just ask my other question. Can you just say definitively, has the President had any conversations about firing Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, or Robert Mueller in the last 24 hours?
  • SANDERS:  I haven’t had any conversations with him on that. I can’t speak beyond that.
  • WELKER: And can you clarify — can you just clarify his tweet?
  • SANDERS:  Sorry, Kristen. We got to keep going, guys.
  • WELKER: He called it a “witch hunt,” but Rod Rosenstein, who he appointed, signed off on the probe.
  • SANDERS:  Go ahead (to Brian Karem).
  • KAREM: I’m sorry, I can’t — she’s a lady.
  • SANDERS: Go ahead.
  • KAREM: Well, answer her if — go ahead, Kristen.
  • WELKER: Can you just answer the question: If the President appointed Rod Rosenstein, and so how can he call the raid yesterday, a “witch hunt” when it was approved by the Deputy Attorney General he appointed?

 

SANDERS:  Once again, I’m not aware of what the process is and who signs off on those specific types of things.  The President certainly has been very clear about what his position is when it comes to matters of collusion, and that’s what his reference is.  He thinks this entire thing is a witch hunt.  I think we’ve spoken about this at length, ad nauseam. And frankly, I think it’s a big distraction that the media has spent every single day, for the last year, focused on this instead of some of the biggest issues of our day and some of the biggest issues that the President is dealing with, like Syria, like North Korea, like deregulation, tax cuts, defeating ISIS.  Those are the — that’s the focus of this administration, and frankly, that’s what you guys should spend a little bit more time on.
  • KAREM: My follow-up — So, Sarah, my follow-up question —
  • SANDERS:  Hey, guys — time out.  We’re going to take — you yielded your time to Kristen.  I’m going to go to John.
  • KAREM: No, no, wait a minute. I had a follow-up question. Please, if I may, just a follow-up.
  • SANDERS:  Sorry.  All right, I’ll come back to you, Brian, for one.
  • KAREM: Thanks.  You had said that it is a little —
  • SANDERS:  I’m feeling generous today.
  • KAREM: Thank you. Thank you.
  • SANDERS: For Nadia’s birthday.  (Laughter.) (JESUS! STOP LAUGHING AT HER JOKES WHOEVER YOU ARE) 
  • KAREM: Just two quick ones. So you said that it’s a witch hunt and you’ve continued to characterize it as that, but not so much as this administration also has leveled sanctions against the 13 Russians that were indicted by the Mueller investigation. In some point, are you a party to this witch hunt, or is some of it, at least, a legitimate effort?
  • SANDERS:  Just because there many have been involvement by Russia doesn’t mean there was involvement by the Trump campaign.
  • KAREM: No, no, no —
  • SANDERS: And to try to conflate the two is insane.
  • No — no, that’s not the question. The question is: In some ways, aren’t you at least supporting what they’ve done? Because they’ve indicted some of the people that you have leveled sanctions against. So you’re in agreement with Mueller in at least some regards, right?
  • KAREM: That wasn’t my — and then my quick —

(Ok, I’m going back to mostly not including Sarah’s deflections in my transcript) 

  • (Jon Decker, Fox Business News)  Thanks a lot, Sarah.  What is the —
  • What is the nature of the President’s relationship right now with Attorney General Jeff Sessions? He really voiced his displeasure with him last evening in his remarks. Is it a good relationship? Does he risk being fired right now?
  • Another one. Real quick, Sarah, if you don’t mind. It’s about the EPA Administrator, Mr. Pruitt. If it turns out that he lied in the interview that he gave with Fox News — my colleague Ed Henry — would that be problematic for him in terms of holding onto his job?
  • (Michael D. Shear, New York Times) So the President last night seemed to combine his reaction to the Russia investigation — which we’ve heard him say before — and this new investigation that has grown out of the raids in New York of his attorney.  Does he view that as one in the same investigation? In other words, does he think that’s all, kind of, under the umbrella of the Special Counsel? Or does he view the Russia investigation as separate from the probe into the payments by these women that is apparently being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York?
  • (Steve Herman, VOA) Thank you, Sarah. Does the United States expect that, in a response to the Syria chemical weapons attack, that other nations will join in?  Specifically, we’re seeing indications from France and the Saudis that they may also take military action.
  • (April Ryan American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, two questions. The President said yesterday he was compliant; that he turned over a million documents. If he was compliant with these investigation, why was there a search warrant needed?
  • Okay, and the next question. With all of this turmoil, particularly this last week, has the President at any time thought about stepping down before or now?

 

SANDERS:  No.  And I think that’s an absolutely ridiculous question.

  • No, it’s not ridiculous. It’s not ridiculous.
  • It is a legitimate question. It’s not ridiculous.
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. Did the National Security Advisor, John Bolton, force Tom Bossert out of his job?
  • Sarah, the President tweeted favorably today about some of the promises that President Xi has made toward instituting some market reforms in China, but he said this before. Is it going to be enough to avert some of the tariffs that the President has been talking about instituting?
  • (Pamela Brown, CNN) Has the President spoken with Michael Cohen since the raids?
  • And can I just ask you — you said that he believes, he views this as sort of crossing the line. Can you explain a little bit more why these raids on his personal attorney is viewed by the President as crossing the line?
  • (blonde woman in front) I just want to clarify something you said earlier.  You said the President believes he has the power to fire Robert Mueller, because usually, most legal experts believe that he would have to order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller, and Rosenstein could, of course, refuse.
  • They’ve consistently said that it is. They’ve told me; I’ve asked. They’ve said it’s Rod Rosenstein oversees the Special Counsel, and only he has the power to fire the Special Counsel.
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Sarah, thanks. The British government said they’re still looking for confirmation that Assad used chemical weapons last weekend. Is the President still looking for confirmation of that?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah.  Two questions, with brevity, on Ambassador Bolton. With the resignations —
  • With the resignations of Michael Anton and now Tom Bossert, can we expect any other changes of personnel in his family?
  • The other question–
  • Right. A year ago, Ambassador Bolton was highly critical in the op-ed pages about U.S. involvement with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. With the World Bank-IMF meeting coming up within a matter of two weeks, is his position going to affect U.S. support for either institution
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. Yesterday, President Trump said something very interesting about Syria. He said that, “Because of the power of the United States and because of the power of our country, we’re able to stop it.” Now, with bringing in Ambassador John Bolton as well — which is sort of a signal of a more hawkish stance, potentially — I want to know if the President has changed his calculus in any way on Syria and on whether or not he wants to pull out those troops very soon, as he previously said.\
  • (Fred Lucas, Daily Signal) Thanks, Sarah. Yeah, this week, Senator McConnell said they’re taking up six nominations and that they’re going to continue taking up six nominating per week. Do you consider that a major breakthrough for the administration considering there’s been so many blocking —
  • And one other question. On U.S. Attorney Berman, he’s in an interim position now in New York. Reports have been that the President was going to nominate him for full-time. Is that still the case? Will the President nominate him?
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Thanks, Sarah. So all of the evidence so far in the Syrian chemical attack points to the use of chlorine gas. The Assad regime has been suspected of using chlorine multiple times on the battlefield. What makes this particular attack different and warrant the international response and the potential use of lethal force that we’re seeing from this President?
  • (Eamon Javers, CNBC) Yeah, thanks, Sarah. To clarify your comment here on Xi Jinping’s speech last night, it was seen as rhetoric around trade openness. Are you saying that the President didn’t see anything in that speech that would encourage him to back off on his threat to impose tariffs on the Chinese?
  • What specific actions do you want to see from the Chinese?  What could they do here to stave off those tariffs at this point?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) To pick up and end off where Eamon just — what he was just talking about. You said you want to see concrete actions from the Chinese as it relates to trade.  Do you feel that there will actually be, at some point, concrete actions?  Or is all of this right now hope and talk and —
  • I ask because it feels almost today like it’s been somewhat of a lukewarm reception. Is that accurate?

 

TOWOIT #317: “No one found the death threats”

April 9, 2018

Today’s White House briefing came before news broke that the FBI had raided the home, office, and hotel room of Michael Cohen (personal lawyer and fixer to Trump). It’s a real developing situation and Trump is sounding even less hinged than usual. Good thing this is all happening at a time when international conflicts are boiling over.

We’ll see if they send Raj out to do a quick uninformative press briefing tomorrow — it seems like they trot him out on the worst days. Or if there is no press briefing, which seems more likely.

Today’s press briefing was 19 minutes long. Nobody asked about the fire at Trump Tower or whether the smoke alarms were working.

Here’s what reporters asked Sarah Sanders today (4/9/2018):

Continue reading TOWOIT #317: “No one found the death threats”

TOWOIT #316

April 6, 2018

The White House Press Office has not managed to transcribe today’s EIGHTEEN-MINUTE briefing in the 9 hours or so since it aired, but it did find time to release this fact sheet either before or after Sarah’s angry flusterment in the briefing:

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Subhead should be “GODDAMNIT.”

The “Fact Sheet” has some strongly worded and specific condemnation of Russia though.”

At the end of the day, C-Span’s agenda for the day turns from a list of event descriptions to a list of a little chosen nugget from each event.

Behold:

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Questions the reporters asked on 4/6/2018:

  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, what effect did the announcement today on Russia have on the proposed–by the president–summit with Vladimir Putin? Should we consider that off?
  • But would not this suggest a ratcheting up of tensions in the relationship, and wouldn’t a summit have to resolve some of that tension before it could even take place?
  • By identifying these oligarchs though aren’t you sending a very distinct signal to Putin that you have to assume he would respond negatively to and not want to come talk about that?
  • What do you want him to do?
  • Could you name two?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Two questions on China. First of all, what was it that prompted the president last night to come out with a statment–he’s threatening  tariffs on another $100 billion of Chinese goods. Since none of these tariffs have taken effect, what was the purpose of upping the ante, if you will?
  • But what was it that PROMPTED the escalation? He’d already announced $60 billion in tariffs and then he upped it to another $100 billion on top of that last night. (The stock market was tanking throughout the briefing.)
  • And second question — a few minutes ago, on CNBC, Steve Mnuchin said while it’s not intended to, this could ignite a trade war. How concerned is the president that this could tip the balance to a trade war — because the stock market took a look at that statement and didn’t like it at all.

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OK, and here’s my stock market reminder: Markets are hysterical and non-smart, so I don’t think they should be used as some sort of oracle of truth. Still, though.

  • Is he WILLING to fight a trade war on this?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Does the president think that trade wars are easy to win? Is that still his view?
  • And Sarah, if I could ask you to clarify something he said in his remarks in West Virginia. The President said yesterday, with this journey coming up “women are being raped at levels never seen before.” What was he talking about?

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  • You’re saying 80% of the women coming across the border are raped?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) Sarah the DOW is down about 500 points last time I looked. Does that give the president any pause as he pursues these actions?

At which point Sanders gives a soundbite we can all agree with: “Frankly, we shouldn’t BE in this situation.” 

  • What is the next step? What do you want to see happen now? Do you want the Chinese to come forward and ask to negotiate? What do you want to see happen?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Just following up on Steve’s question regarding the stock market. The Dow is down nearly 4000 points since January the 26th. Does the President, that’s the administration, believe that ANY of that decline is attributable to any of the President’s actions? Concerning the tariffs the president has announced on steel and aluminum, perhaps the tariff intends to impose on China, anything the president has said or done since that time period?
  • I understand that, but getting back to my question: ANY actions that the president has taken since January 26th, since that period–anything that he’s done or said that you think is attributable to that 4000 decline?
  • (I’m not sure who this is) Thank you Sarah. On the sanctions, why hasn’t the president spoken out personally on the sanctions and the behavior enumerated by the administration today by Russia–

Sarah interrupts him and YELLS at him.

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  • On THESE sanctions imposed today, he’s NOT spoken out, and there’s been no statement issued in his name. And he’s not spoken out specifically on the issues enumerated by the administration. He hasn’t condemned the alleged subversion of Western democracies, the activities in Syria, a number of things, cybercrimes, all the things that your administration has outlined, he himself has not spoken out on those things, he’s just said that he’s tough on Russia.
  • (white woman named Katie) Yeah, just a question on the president’s stance on Scott Pruitt keeping his post at the EPA. Has he been advised by anyone close to him that Pruitt should step down–where does the president stand?

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  • If everything that has been reported about Mr. Pruitt ends up being true, in the president’s estimation, the security detail, the $50 a day apartment–

(Sanders interrupts her and repeats that the President thinks Pruitt has done a good job.) 

  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg News) Sarah, two quick ones, the first is the Treasury Secretary was on CNBC earlier–was asked about the ongoing feud with Amazon and responded by saying the president was focused on the post office and “in discussion with the post office.” The party line around here has been that there are no additional actions being contemplated by the administration against Amazon so I’m wondering if that’s changed and particularly whether any part of the administration has been in contact with the post office about its Amazon contract?
  • And on the China discussion that we’ve been having — I think we are all trying to get a little clarity on whether the U.S. and China are in negotiations now, or whether they are in routine contact but you’re hopeful that —
  • (Jonathan Lemire, AP) Thank you Sarah, two questions, one following up on that. In terms of negotiations, earlier today Chinese officials said negotiations would not be possible in this current situation with the threats of tariffs. What is your response to that?
  • And then a second question–with the talk of tariffs–there are a number of farmers, particularly in the American Midwest, who have suggested that the volatility of the markets have made it very hard for them to plan for the upcoming season and they’re already thinking there will be a negative impact on them. What does the White House say to those farmers, many of whom supported the president two years ago.
  • (Ayesha Rascoe, who seems to work for NPR now) Sarah, I was wondering if you could kind of speak to this. There seems to be a perception that at times the president makes announcements and then the white house has to come up with policy to match what the president said. Like with the tall about the the military at the border, there weren’t really a lot of details about that at first. And with the issue of Syria, saying he wanted to pull all the troops back. Can you talk about anything about like, that perception and anything that’s going on there?

Sanders: Well I guess that’s a perception of, completely, um, people who don’t understand I guess how civics WORKS.

UGH. I am 100% sure that Ayesha Rascoe knows more about civics than Sarah Sanders. Sarah seems to have a special place in her heart for being shitty to black women.

  • Thank you Sarah, on the border– (she shut down whoever this person was and said she wasn’t pointing at him) 
  • (Anita Kumar, McClatchy News) I wanted to get an update on the national guard sending troops to the border. A couple days ago the DHS secretary was saying it could happen as early as that night. We still haven’t seen them go over. I was wondering if you would update us. I know California is the one that hasn’t said what they plan to do. Will you all still go ahead with the plan if it’s just the three other states and not then, and can you tell us what the hold up is with California?
  • Is there a time?
  • And on the 4000 that the president mentioned?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) a follow up on that and also on Amazon. Really fast. What happens when the caravan gets there an you have this presence of National Guard?
  • OK then on Amazon, what is the administration doing on the issue of faxing and the issue of emails. Administrations before this were dealing with the fact that the post office was losing money because of the internet, because of people being able to correspond versus using a stamp or metered mail. How is the administration targeting that instead of going to Amazon and target and looking at them as part of the problem?
  • And the Amazon contract, I understand–

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(Sarah Sanders cut April off and ran away, at the 17:53 mark after she came into the room. A male reporter called out to her as she left the podium,“Why does the President continue to say millions and millions voted twice when it’s not true?”) 

Because he’s an authoritarian jackass, that’s why. Because he may literally be our worst person.

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I cropped out the still of her face that went with this tweet.

 

 

TOWOIT #315: Gaggle

From yesterday, April 5, 2018:

Questions asked to Hogan Gidley on the way to West Virginia:

  • President Trump said on the way in that he does have confidence in Scott Pruitt. Can you tell us what that means? Is there still some kind of review into his behavior? Should we expect that he’ll be here several months from now, several weeks from now? What does that mean?

(Wait. I was really curious whether Hogan Gidley was a man or a woman so I did a quick Google search)

Hogan Gidley wearing an Ole Miss t-shirt and holding a turkey by its feet

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  • Is the President concerned about the way that Administrator Pruitt came off on some of the interviews that he’s done? Did he feel like that was not the best showing for the administration?
  • Can you just be specific about, A, what the White House is looking at? And when you say the reports that are out there raise questions, what conduct in particular is of concern to the President? Does it have to do with the rental of the property in D.C.? Does it have to do with the flights? Does it have to do with other conduct? What is the main concern about what may or may not be a firing offense for Scott Pruitt?
  • Hogan, what sort of preparations are being made right now for talks with China about trade? Who’s involved? And what things do you have, or what things is the President considering bringing up with them?
  • Has the President made a decision on whether to send Secretary Mnuchin to Beijing?
  • Hogan, I know that these tariffs aren’t in place yet, but, I mean, pork prices have already dropped. Farmers — soybean farmers are trying to plan their crops for this summer. I mean, people are already making decisions in their life. Small communities are already looking and seeing how their economy could change. They’re upset about it. They’re worried about it. And when the White House tells them, “Well, it hasn’t gone into place yet,” they’re already feeling it in their lives. What’s the White House response to that?
  • Any more details on the plans for the border? How many National Guard might be going down there? When? What kind of timing we might see?

MR. GIDLEY:  Yeah.  There is no specificity on the amount.  It’s as many as we need, as many as it takes.

  • Have all the governors — all the border state governors agreed to work with DOD and DHS to deploy the Guard? Or are there some — I know California; there are some issues there — who have not yet agreed to negotiate on an MOU for that?

Questions asked to Trump himself on the plane ride home:

  • How are you feeling about Scott Pruitt, Mr. President?  Is he —
  • Are you bothered by the reports about him, sir?
  • Yeah
  • What did you think of his interview?
  • Yes.
  • Yes. With Fox.
  • Are you thinking about switching him out for Attorney General?
  • How many National Guard do you want to see at the border?
  • How much do you think that’s going to cost?
  • (Inaudible) — about Amazon. You’ve been tweeting a lot about that. Are you going to actually take some action to change the law that would affect Amazon?
  • Would you like to make changes to make that level playing field?
  • Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
  • Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?
  • Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
  • Did you ever set up a fund of money that he could draw from?
  • I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear your response earlier about Scott Pruitt.  Are you still
  • About Pruitt.  I was — I couldn’t hear it.

I didn’t get a chance to screen cap it, because I was at work, but in Jenna Johnson’s first version of her Washington Post story on the Stormy Daniels news, she sort of shaded that reporter who switched the topic back to Pruitt as people were still trying to ask follow-up questions about Stormy (and that follow-up didn’t make it into the WH transcript of the gaggle) which then Trump could ignore because another reporter barged in and asked again about Pruitt. It made me laugh to see how shady that was in the article, but when I went back just now to get it for this post, the text of the article had been changed and that bit was taken out.

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TOWOIT #314: “something the president saw on television on Sunday morning”

April 4, 2018

The White House Press Briefing today was 44 minutes late, the White House youtube channel didn’t stream it for some reason, it started with Kirstjen Nielsen, Homeland Security Secretary, announcing that Trump is sending the National Guard to the southern border indefinitely, and it ended with (which reporter) calling after Sarah Sanders, “How is he ‘privately honoring’ Dr. King today?”

Secretary Nielsen spoke for 13 minutes about the threat on the borders, with several permutations of her opening statement: “border security IS homeland security which IS national security.” I really never thought I would spend so many of my waking hours thinking about fascism and authoritarianism. I was unnerved by her pinpoint pupils as she ginned up fear and dehumanized people in need. I guess at least her eyes weren’t dilated? She said the families arriving are fake families with borrowed children and she called them aliens over and over and over again.

Because the White House didn’t stream the briefing on YouTube like it usually does, I clicked between several livestreams by right-leaning and left-leaning websites. My god, the comments were terrible everywhere. I am sure it was from men across the political spectrum. Their disgustingness seemed totally decoupled from whether they agreed or disagreed with the politics of Nielsen and Sanders. Since the two speakers today were both women, you can just imagine. Yep. Men are still canceled.

Questions asked of Kirstjen Nielsen:

Continue reading TOWOIT #314: “something the president saw on television on Sunday morning”

TOWOIT #313: Racist asshole gives non-denial denials

March 28, 2018

It’s always a drag listening to Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the briefings, but today my blood really boiled. There was a lot to get upset about, since we are living through a shitshow free-for-all. But what I really couldn’t take today — and couldn’t help tweeting about venomously in real time — was Sarah Sanders’s racism.

She’s not just a mouthpiece for racism. A mouthpiece for racism could offer condolences to the surviving family. A mouthpiece for racism could know not to “all lives matter” at every little turn. Would know not to say “yeah but the economy is doing great” in response to specific black men’s lives cut short by police.

Someone on twitter said Sanders didn’t understand. That she doesn’t know that saying the president is working to arm teachers and suggesting that means he cares about the lives of black children is a gigantic oxymoron since black children suffer disproportionately at the hands of armed authority figures. I think that was too kind. It’s not that she doesn’t understand. It’s that she does nooooooootttt give a shit.

OK. You guys know all that. It’s old news that she’s awful. I just can’t take it sometimes.

Here’s what went down at the briefing today, and I’ll leave out as much of the lying non-answers as I can, except a few pull quotes when her non-denial denials are especially careful and revealing and obvious.

Continue reading TOWOIT #313: Racist asshole gives non-denial denials

TOWOIT #312: “ALL WILL BE HAPPY”

March 28, 2018

Hello!

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Ok, so the White House is doing a passive-aggressive thing (I think!) where it doesn’t get around to transcribing its daily briefings in a timely manner… so I am giving up waiting on yesterday’s briefing and will transcribe it myself. And then I’ll do today’s. Today’s was a doozy. Yesterday’s was also doozy and set the scene for today.

The lying is shifting from Sanders’s standard variety: wall-like smirking obfuscation as a default mode of being. Now it’s become more like careful, strange, OBVIOUS lying to VERY pointed questions.

The whole thing is still a shit show — the White House briefings and the White House writ large — but there have been some hard-punching questions and illuminating lies in the last couple days.

Questions from yesterday (3/27/2018):

Continue reading TOWOIT #312: “ALL WILL BE HAPPY”

TOWOIT #311: “Have you been able to find a workaround to that Supreme Court ruling?”

March 26, 2018

Today Raj Shah did a press conference and “senior administration officials” did a background teleconference on the expulsion of 60 Russian nationals. Usually I leave out the press secretary’s answers since they are just big balls of lying nothing, but because it was Raj and because he seems to have a harder time than Sarah Sanders being a liar who manages to say nothing, I included a few more pull quotes from his side of the podium than I usually do.

Here are the questions Raj Shah was asked:

Continue reading TOWOIT #311: “Have you been able to find a workaround to that Supreme Court ruling?”

TOWOIT #308: “Does the president enjoy the drama?”

March 17, 2018

Yesterday’s briefing!

It was 33 minutes altogether. 8 minutes of legislative director Marc Short monologuing about Democrats being obstructionists, 10 minutes of reporters asking him questions, and then 15 minutes of Sarah Sanders Q&A.

Continue reading TOWOIT #308: “Does the president enjoy the drama?”

TOWOIT #307: Bad actors and bowling balls

March 16, 2018

Oddly, yesterday’s press briefing wasn’t transcribed by the White House. Today’s has shown up, but not yesterday’s.

I’ll type out the questions below. Good thing the briefings are so short. I will note that it had been three incredibly news-filled days since her last briefing, she made the reporters wait in the room for an hour after the original start time, and then when she showed up she made them sit there and listen to fan mail for Trump from a ten year old before they could collectively ask 17-minutes worth of questions. This woman. This woman is just like some beastly, ridiculous authority figure out of a Roald Dahl novel.

Continue reading TOWOIT #307: Bad actors and bowling balls

TOWOIT #306: Raj Gaggle

March 15, 2018  

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Well, everything is bananas. Like, turning-into-a-dictatorship level bananas. I don’t think the White House transcriptionist has gotten to today’s briefing yet, and my chronicling life is easier with the transcript. But I did see that Raj Shah actually did a press gaggle yesterday. So I’ll put those questions up. This was before it was announced that there would be sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Russia.

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Questions asked of Raj Shah on the flight to Missouri yesterday:

Continue reading TOWOIT #306: Raj Gaggle