TOWOIT #280: Confusing Tweets

January 12, 2018

Today as Donald Trump finished up his Martin Luther King Jr. day declaration (that dreadful Paris Dennard was there), April Ryan asked him, in a loud, clear voice, if he was racist. He just scooted out of that room. Tomorrow is April Ryan’s 21st anniversary of being a White House reporter.

Mnuchin and Sanders had a press briefing from yesterday. This happened a few hours before Trump asked why we keep taking people “from these shithole countries” like Haiti and El Salvador and said we SHOULD be taking people from places like Norway. This morning, the ambassador to Panama resigned his post.

There was something a little toadying about certain moments of yesterday’s press briefing. I know that people just go along to get along and everyone is just a bunch of humans trying to get through the work day. But I hate it when they are all hyuk hyuk hyuk with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (or Steve Mnuchin for that matter).

Anyway, yesterday is the day the president sent very confusing tweets about his own FISA bill, throwing Congress and the White House into a tizzy until 101 minutes later when he sent another tweet that seemed to contradict the first one. But we all forget that because that was the morning and he said a bunch of white supremacist garbage in the afternoon.

Continue reading TOWOIT #280: Confusing Tweets

TOWOIT #278: Complete Fantasy

January 4, 2018

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Los Angeles Times headine from December 2017

Today they had the head of Trump talking on the TV screen in the briefing room. This was creepy and dear-leaderish. But Sarah always knows how to put the cherry on top. “Thank you, President Trump” she said to the TV screen at the end, even though it had been pre-recorded. Is this idolatry yet?

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The only other photo I have from today’s briefing is of a woman who I don’t often see in the frame, and I never notice her being called on during the briefing–but when I do catch a glimpse of her, I always think–“There she is!! My style icon!!” One day she was wearing head to toe canary yellow and standing and stretching before the briefing started, and she was resplendent. (On the right is a mirror selfie from Tuesday, so you can see that I have a ways to go but may yet get there).

The questions that reporters asked today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #278: Complete Fantasy

TOWOIT #277: Fire and Fury

January 3, 2018

I made a picture of words that were in the press briefing today.

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I isolated some of the more telling questions asked today.

  • Did the President’s son, Don Jr., commit treason?
  • Should the American people be concerned about the President’s mental fitness?
  • What led to this quite dramatic falling out?
  • Isn’t it dangerous for the President to be taunting [Kim Jong Un] on Twitter?
  • Will the press corps be in the room for [the Dishonest Media Awards]?
  • What does it say about the President’s priorities that he unleashed a four-paragraph statement about Steve Bannon and one tweet on North Korea?
  • By attacking critics and key institutions in our democracy, isn’t the President engaging in authoritarian behavior?
  • Is it possible that Americans like him more when he is out of the news and not tweeting?
  •  If the President says [Steve Bannon] lost his mind when he left, why did he continue to talk to him for so many months?

Continue reading TOWOIT #277: Fire and Fury

TOWOIT #276: Meetings on the Course

January 2, 2017

I only had a handful of regular readers I’ve alienated most of them by writing only about the White House press briefing. There’s a lot I could do to write about the White House Press Briefing with more pizzazz, but I’ve been a little busy and preoccupied with other writing projects. But I still like cataloging those events here, even if only for myself. I always mean to get more insightful and funnier about them, and hey–that could happen at any time!

You get all those reporters in the room, and they have twenty minutes to ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders questions. There are all these competing angles and interests. Left-leaning vs. right-leaning outlets. TV vs. radio vs. print. Mainstream vs. wackadoo publications. Quirky journalists vs. very bland ones. The most essential dynamic though is reality-based, truth-seeking journalists vs. the mouthpiece of a corrupt, lying, obfuscating, incompetent administration.  It’s Orwellian to me, so I watch. The reporters are very human to me, so I listen. We are lucky to have a Constitution and a first amendment, so I pay attention.

I like having my commentary on the Trump administration narrowed down to this one event. There’s four walls to the James Brady Press Room, there’s a set cast of characters, there’s an expected series of events. Within these set parameters, little microdramas unfold at every briefing. Inside this little arena the questions themselves contain a chronicle of what is happening week by week in this country. So, that’s what I pin down.

But just the questions, not what Sarah Huckabee Sanders says. Because her answers are worthless and this is not a place to amplify her words.There’s a lot to criticize about the press briefing and the press corps and the media in general — but compared to the Trump administration, they are champions to me.

Here are the questions from yesterday afternoon, before Trump took to Twitter with his nuclear brinksmanship and freaked everybody out last night.

Continue reading TOWOIT #276: Meetings on the Course

TOWOIT #274: The Uncomfortability of Omarosa

December 14, 2017… Day 329

(April Ryan inadvertently named Omarosa’s tell-all today)

“So you’re saying that Omarosa Manigault was NOT fired on Tuesday evening, that she DIDN’T get belligerent in her conversation with General Kelly, she WASN’T yelling at him, she WASN’T cursing at him, and she WASN’T escorted off the property?”   — Francesca Chambers with my favorite question today

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Francesca Chambers–the face you make when you give up trying to get an answer out of Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

As always, here is today’s White House Press Briefing, annotated a little, with SHS stripped out, because we don’t need her wall of lies. I just like to know what the reporters asked.

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, on the taxes, what is the President’s message to those Americans, including some in the middle class, who will face tax increases under this tax bill?
  • But the message to those that will face an increase? I mean, every analysis showed some people, including middle-class Americans, are going to face an increase.
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) On taxes, you got two “no’s” in the Senate so far.  You got Senator Corker who’s been a “no” for a while. Senator Rubio came out and told us a short time ago that he’s a “no” unless he can get an expansion of the child tax credit. Is the President willing to be a little more generous in the child tax credit in order to get Senator Rubio’s vote?
  • Is there more room to move?
  • (Connie Lawn, USA Radio Network–I think) Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.
  • Thank you. What have you learned this past year?  And what changes would you make in the coming year?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR) Thank you, Sarah. Does the President think that Roy Moore should concede? In other words, does he believe he lost the election fair and square, or does he think he was the victim of widespread illegitimate voting?
  • So Roy Moore lost fair and square. That’s what you’re saying?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. There’s some reports out this morning that Speaker Ryan is considering stepping down at the end of this Congress. Has the President spoken to Speaker Ryan about those reports? And does he want to see Speaker Ryan continue in that role?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) So did this catch the President by surprise, the Ryan report that was out today?
  • And let me ask you about Marco Rubio, as well. We have heard folks who might be “no” votes, potentially undecided votes. But Marco Rubio’s potential “no” vote is one that we know it concerns, but him voting no is seemingly here suddenly out of left field. Has that caught the White House by surprise at all?  Or have you braced for the possibility that you might not have Marco Rubio in your corner?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network) Sarah, two things. Should Roy Moore just give his concession speech now, versus holding it out?
  • And the second issue:  Did you watch GMA this morning? And what are your thoughts about this tell-all and the uncomfortability of Omarosa while she was here with some issues?
  • (Jeff Zeleny, CNN) Sarah, if she’s resigned and she’s going to —
  • If she’s resigned, but you said she will stay on — Omarosa will stay on through January 20th — why are the taxpayers continuing to pay her salary for another month if she’s no longer here at the White House?
  • If she has resigned, though, why is she still on the payroll for another month? Is that normal?
  • On a separate matter, on the tax plan, if I could just ask: Will the President ask the House and Senate to stay here in Washington and finish this bill, even if it means bleeding into the Christmas holiday?
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, does the President have any thoughts about the Disney deal to buy 21st Century Fox?
  • And what does the President think about the FCC decision on net neutrality?  There are a lot of Americans, polls show, who are very opposed to that change.
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Getting back to that Alabama result, does what happened down there change the President’s relationship at all with Steve Bannon, given his big support for Moore? And has it changed the President’s thoughts on Moore — on, excuse me, Mr. Bannon’s opposition to other incumbent Republican senators?
  • Well, I’m asking about the President’s relationship.
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I know that you said that you can’t go much further on this personnel matter, but I do want to try to separate out some of the things that we’re hearing here and just be crystal clear.
  • So you’re saying that Omarosa Manigault was NOT fired on Tuesday evening, that she DIDN’T get belligerent in her conversation with General Kelly, she WASN’T yelling at him, she WASN’T cursing at him, and she WASN’T escorted off the property — and Secret Service has said not by them — but she wasn’t escorted off the property by someone or some entity other than Secret Service that evening?
  • (a woman–I can’t see who) In an interview with STAT News this morning, Kellyanne Conway said she and other administration officials have been urging Congress to appropriate additional funding for the opioid epidemic. The President declared a public health emergency earlier this fall, but that fund only has $57,000 in it.  Economists have predicted that it will cost upwards of $190 billion over a decade to treat the crisis. Can you tell us how much money the White House will be urging Congress to appropriate? And what do you have to say to critics who believe that the President hasn’t dedicated enough resources to combatting the epidemic this year?
  • Is it more —
  • Is it around $45 billion that was a part of the Republican healthcare plan?
  • Is that money something that you guys will get done — that appropriation — by the end of this year? Can the President promise that?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, thank you. With Omarosa leaving, how many senior staffers here, at the White House, are African American?
  • Do you have a number on how many are African American?
  • She was really tasked with reaching out to the African American community. Have you identified who is going to take that role? And how critical is it to this President, to this administration, to make sure that that role is, in fact, filled?
  • And just to follow up one of April’s questions. What Omarosa said today was, “I’ve seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people.” Were her concerns ever addressed or dealt with?
  • Do you know if any of the issues or any of her concerns were?
  • (Margaret Brennan, CBS News) Sarah, today is the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in which so many children were killed. That, of course, as a tragedy, was eclipsed by what happened in Las Vegas, which is now the most tragic mass shooting on U.S. soil. Since that time, what has President Trump done to try to protect the American people against a similar type of massacre? Does he think anything has been done? What is the administration trying to do? Is there anything at the executive level that he thinks needs to be undertaken?

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(Margaret’s voice quavered a little as she asked this question, but Sarah was perfectly steady as she launched into talk about border security. Border security.)

  • But these were domestic shooters. These weren’t people who entered the United States.
  • But no one issue that the President has highlighted that says he wants to make a priority to push forward?

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  • But there were prescriptions given very quickly just the other day for this failed terrorist attack, which is why in these cases — I mean, this is the worst shooting on U.S. soil on President Trump’s watch.

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  • Does it involve a weapons ban, any kind of regulation, any kind of mental health concerns? Has the President specifically mentioned that as a possibility?
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Thanks for trying to get a real answer, Margaret.
  • (Trey Yingst, One America) Thanks, Sarah.  Has the President expressed any concerns regarding the FCC’s decision today to roll back these Obama-era regulations on net neutrality? And then, moving forward, are there any assurances that the White House can offer to the American people who are concerned that the decision and vote today will lead to a less-free Internet?
  • (Someone named Brian) I’m going to ask a question about taxes. The Federal Reserve, yesterday, said that the tax bill would provide a modest lift to the economy. That’s in stark contrast to words that the President has used, like “rocket fuel” to the economy. What is the data the President is basing his rosier picture of the impact on the economy of the tax bill, versus the experts at the Federal Reserve?
  • Was the President upset the word “modest” was used?
  • For example, your own Treasury analysis used —

 

TOWOIT #273: Do anything

December 13, 2017… Day 327

No briefing today, but April Ryan regaled Twitter with her inside juicy scoops about Omarosa drama.

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Yesterday with all the Alabama hoopla, I didn’t get a post up with yesterday’s White House Press Briefing questions.

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Here are the questions from yesterday. They elicited many lies from the podium.

  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thank you, Sarah. The President said today that Senator Gillibrand would “do anything” for campaign contributions. Many, many people see this as a sexual innuendo. What is the President suggesting?
  • So you’re saying that this quote — “Senator Gillibrand would do anything” — is a reference to campaign contributions in Washington, the swamp? This has nothing to do with her being a female? What is he alleging would happen behind closed doors with her?
  • (Steve) Does the President want Roy Moore to be seated in the Senate if he wins tonight? And does he plan to call him tonight?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, does the President agree with his outside legal counsel that a special prosecutor should be appointed to look into the goings-on at the Department of Justice during the election campaign in 2016 since the revelation about Bruce Ohr, the former associate deputy attorney general?
  • So would he support the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into this?
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. Congressional leaders are saying that they have no plans to re-impose sanctions on Iran by the deadline tomorrow that the President initiated back in October when he decertified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. Is the White House okay with this no-action? And, if so, where are the teeth in the President’s move to decertify them from compliance?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill)  Thanks, Sarah. Senator Grassley said that he’s advised the White House to reconsider the nomination of Jeff McClure to the federal court in Texas and Brett Talley in Alabama. Has the President spoken to Senator Grassley about his concerns? And does the President plan to pull back those nominations?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. Bashar al-Assad and Rodrigo Duterte have both recently have used the phrase “fake news” to dismiss damaging reports about their regimes. And a state official in Myanmar recently said that the Muslim minority, Rohingya, don’t exist and added it’s fake news. Is the White House concerned at all about authoritarian regimes adopting this phrase “fake news” to try to delegitimize the press? And does President Trump bear any responsibility for the popularization of this phrase among some world leaders?
  • But when you hear autocrats using the term “fake news” to describe events that reflect poorly on their regimes, that doesn’t cause concern here?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC) Sarah, thank you. The President tweeted today that the accusations against him are “false, fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met. Fake news.” And yet, the reality is he’s pictured with a number of the women who have accused him of the misconduct. So do you concede that that part of his statement is not true?
  • So (inaudible) of all of his accusers? Because –
  • And, Sarah, members of Congress have called for an investigation into these accusations. Is President Trump as confident that they are not true? Would he support such an investigation?
  • And yet, this moment is an important moment, as well, Sarah. This is a moment that’s getting a lot of attention.
  • And yet, Sarah, this is something that is being discussed in businesses all across the country. There have been a number of people who have been fired over this. So why not allow this congressional investigation to go forward? And if the President, he’s confident in the accusations being involved –
  • (April Ryan American Urban Radio Networks) Is Gillibrand owed an apology for the misunderstanding of the President’s tweet this morning? Because many — including the Senator — thinks that it’s about sexual innuendos.

(Sarah says, “only if your mind is in the gutter” to April Ryan.)

  • No, it’s not. What he said was open, and it was not “mind in the gutter.”

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  • (Hunter Walker, Yahoo! News) Thank you, Sarah. Looking at this issue with the system, the President gave almost $8,000 to Senator Gillibrand over the years. His daughter also gave her $2,000. What specifically did they get for these contributions that she was offered?
  • So he is admitting that he bought access in a corrupt way?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) So Kirsten Gillibrand called for him to resign, and he says over and over again that he’s a counterpuncher. So the next day, after she does that, he wakes up and you’re saying that he’s tweeting about the campaign finance system. Is that what you’re saying?

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  • And what kind of campaign finance reform does the President want?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. You’re familiar with the President’s tweets. He tweets pretty often. In this particular –
  • Yeah, a little bit. In this particular case, his criticism of Senator Gillibrand was very personal. Why must he criticize in such personal terms? He called a sitting, elected U.S. senator a “lightweight.” Why go after her in such a personal manner?
  • (Trey Yingst, One America News Network) Thanks, Sarah. Two quick questions for you. One following up on John’s question from earlier about a second special counsel. Does the President have confidence in the FBI as it exists today?
  • And then a follow-up on foreign policy. Today, Bloomberg has an article out about the Trump administration encouraging Saudi Arabia to consider bids from U.S. companies as it relates to building nuclear reactors. Does the President see this as an opportunity to bring up human rights in Yemen during these talks with Saudi Arabia?
  • (Margaret Brennan, CBS News) Thank you. H.R. McMaster gave some really interesting remarks at a luncheon earlier today. And he spoke in really strong terms about China and Russia. He said they were “undermining the international order and stability” and “ignoring the sovereign rights of their neighbors and the rule of law.” He went on to talk about Russia, in particular. He didn’t use the words “election meddling,” but he talked about subversion, disinformation, propaganda, and basically pitting people against each other to try to create crisis of confidence. So what I wanted to know is: Does the President agree with all of General McMaster’s statements? And is that a foreshadowing of a national security strategy that will take a harder tack on Russia and China than the administration has so far?

Someone calls out as she leaves, “Could we please get the President out here, at the podium? Could we please see the President, Sarah?”

TOWOIT #272: I’m not done.

December 11, 2017… Day 326

Sarah goes to the WTF (Worse Than Fox) trio when things get hairy today. The boys at One America, LifeZette, and racist zine Breitbart are more than happy to help her trammel over pointed follow-ups from other reporters in the room.

Also, Mara Liasson seemed to fall asleep in her chair near the end of the briefing, which is basically how I was at work today.

Lastly, some people on the left are being really ugly on Twitter, calling Sarah Huckabee Sanders ugly. We’ve got a long way to go on our misogyny — our whole culture is a toxic soup of it. She’s not ugly, she’s just kind of average-looking and not overly symmetrical — LIKE MOST OF US. Her outfits are fine. When people harp on her looks with nasty, gross memes (that aren’t even clever), the message to women everywhere is “Look perfect or hide yourself away.”

She’s an amoral henchperson for Trump. That’s enough fodder for criticism.

Here are the questions the reporters in the room asked today:

  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online): Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to ask you about the women who came forward today against the President. They first were on a television show and then they were at a press conference. And they said that he should resign, and then also that there should be a congressional investigation. And I know that you’ve said that this has already been litigated in the last election, but I wanted to get your specific reaction to this idea that there should be a congressional investigation into this.
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, thank you. I want to follow up on that.  But first, a little bit of breaking news we just learned about: The Pentagon apparently will now allow transgender people to enlist in the military beginning January 1st. Your reaction to that?  And any follow-up action you’re going to take?
  • Okay, and one follow-up –
  • One follow-up very quickly on — just very quickly, Sarah.
  • Can I just ask you about Nikki Haley’s comments saying that the President –
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR) I’ll pick that up for you, Kristen.
  • Nikki Haley, as I’m sure you know, said, when asked does the election mean that’s a settled issue — which you’ve been arguing from the podium here — she said, “I know he was elected, but women should always feel comfortable coming forward and we should all be willing to listen to them,” specifically referring to the accusers of the President. Does the President agree with her?
  • But he thinks it’s a good thing that the women who accused him are coming forward now, again?
  • (Jacqueline Alemany, CBS News) I just want to go off of that, Sarah. But the President told Howard Stern in 2005 that he had walked into a teen beauty pageant dressing room where he said that teen contestants had no clothes on because he could sort of get away with things like that. Is that not an admission of sexual harassment—
  • And the American public —   
  • (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart) Two ISIS attacks in New York City — or ISIS-inspired attacks in New York City just recently.  Is the President concerned that there is a growing threat against people inspired by ISIS who have been radicalized online?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thank you, Sarah. The President reacted quite angrily over the weekend to a Washington Post reporter’s tweet about crowd size that was quickly deleted.  I’m wondering if you could help explain the discrepancy between the President’s reaction to incidents like this, which he calls “fake news” and talks quite a bit about, and his silence on actual disinformation campaigns like Russia ran during the 2016 election to deliberately spread false information. So both his silence on that, and does he recognize the difference between these two?
  • Does he see a difference between reporters’ mistakes and a disinformation campaign by a foreign government? Does he see a distinction there?
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) And I would just say, Sarah, that journalists make honest mistakes and that doesn’t make them fake news. But the question that I –
  • We do.
  • The President hasn’t –
  • This wasn’t going to be my question.
  • Okay.
  • You mean like tweeting stuff on the Middle East —
  • He retweeted something that was completely fake, Sarah. Can he admit it?
  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) Are you speaking about the President? [this interjection was after Sarah’s long rant on the media being dishonest]
  • This was not –
  • I know, I know.
  • (Jim Acosta again) This is not the line of questioning that I was going down, but can you cite a specific story that you say is intentionally false; that was intentionally put out there to mislead the American people?
  • Sarah, if I may though, I was going to ask a question about something else.
  • Well, Sarah, if I may –
  • Sarah, if I can ask about the President’s accusations –
  • I know, but I didn’t get a chance to ask the question that I wanted to ask, which is –
  • — can you just say, once and for all, whether these accusations –
  • (Jim Stinson, LifeZette) Sarah, a question about investment — investment taxes.
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) I think I was within my rights to respond to your attacks on the news media. If that’s okay, I would like to ask the question that I had about these accusations of misconduct against the President. You said that he’s denied them. Can you say whether or not they are false?

[Sarah says: “I’m not going to respond”]

  • Sarah, some investors are saying the tax reform package favors mutual funds over individual investors. Other critics who want tax reform say the bill will cause some tax increases for a few middle-class tax filers. By a few, I mean maybe tens of thousands, but maybe more. Will the President sign the tax bill, even if there are inadvertent tax increases and some of the criticisms are correct?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Tomorrow there is a special Senate election in Alabama. Back on September the 23rd, the President went down to Huntsville, Alabama — campaigned alongside of Luther Strange — and since that time, he never went down in the course of the campaign — the campaign, alongside the Republican nominee, Roy Moore. Was the President embarrassed in terms of campaigning alongside Roy Moore? Is that the reason why we didn’t see him down there in Alabama?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, what is the disconnect, as it relates to this White House, when it comes to then-candidate Trump bringing the accusers of Bill Clinton to the debate, against Hillary Clinton, and now the accusers of Roy Moore — making these accusations — and his accusers? What’s the disconnect here?
  • Well, what about his own accusers though? He has accusers as well.
  • Will he address the American public about this? Because this is spinning, and it’s focused on him now as –
  • But will he — it’s coming up new and a fresh, and more people are now speaking out. Will –
  • I understand. But will the President address the nation on this? This is a huge issue, Sarah.
  • Will the President come out and address this, please?
  • Sarah, all you have to say is yes or no.
  • (Trey Yingst, One America News Network) Thank you, Sarah. Today, the suspected terrorist in New York City, he was described as a Bangladeshi immigrant. Bangladesh is not on the President’s travel ban list. Does today’s attack change the way that President Trump is evaluating travel restrictions?
  • (Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News) Thanks, Sarah. At the top of your remarks about ISIS, about the attack today in New York City, you talked about the need to destroy the ideology, intimating would-be attackers and the actual attackers. What policy changes are required to do that?  How do you defeat an ideology that’s been attempted since 9/11 with, really, no great success? What are you doing differently? What can you do differently in order to do that?
  • (Jessica Stone, CGTN (China)) Thanks, Sarah. Two quick ones on Korea. Do you have an update on sanctions? Last week, you said it would be coming in a number of days. And secondly, Victor Cha was just nominated to be the Republic of Korea Ambassador. Do you have any comment?
  • (Margaret Brennan, CBS) Sarah, I’m interested in the comment you made about the suspect in New York. Does the White House have any proof that this suspect was radicalized outside of the United States? He’s been a lawful, permanent resident living here for some time. 
  • But why would his chain migration be an issue unless you were saying that something happened outside the U.S.? [she won’t answer]
  • (Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg) On the directive on space the President is going to announce this afternoon, will he call for an increase in spending for NASA, or will there be commercial partnerships? Or will he reduce NASA funding in other areas such as earth science, which includes the study of climate change?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Sarah. Two questions. Who were the eyewitnesses who dispute these allegations against the President? And can you stand here right now and say, without a doubt — 100 percent certainty — that the more than dozen women who have come forward to accuse this President of misconduct are lying? Do you wrestle with this personally at all?
  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) So let me just follow up on that question a little bit. As a woman standing up there talking to us — I know your job is to relay what the President says — have you ever been sexually harassed? And do you understand — and I’m not saying by the President — I’m saying ever. And secondly, do you have an empathy for those who come forward? Because it’s very difficult for women to come forward.
  • (Zeke Miller, AP) Thanks, Sarah. Following up on the President’s announcement last week on Jerusalem, declaring it’s the capital of Israel, we saw days of protests — sometimes violent protests in the Middle East, changes to the Vice President’s schedule as he goes through the region. Does the White House acknowledge, does the President acknowledge, that that decision increased tensions in an already volatile region?
  • Sarah, but this is about more than violence. This is about meetings being cancelled. It’s about diplomatic outcry from everyone from — you know, the governments of the United Kingdom, the Pope, and the like. So why is it beneficial to the U.S. interest, as the President declared, if all those groups, all those countries and allies are condemning that announcement?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill)  Yeah, following up on that, President Abbas, as you know, has said he will not meet with the Vice President next week. Does the President have a reaction to that? And doesn’t this mean that the U.S. has effectively taken itself out of the peace process when one side won’t even show up to meet with the United States?
  • (Philip Crowther, France24) So the last suspects of terrorism were not training in Syria or Iraq. And Thursday, the Russians stopped their operations, said that they’d gotten rid of ISIS in Syria. Saturday, the Iraqi Prime Minister said this fight against ISIS is won. Why would the U.S. still need to fight on the ground?

Called out as SHS left—(something inaudible) the President misrepresented the facts?

 

TOWOIT #271: Church and State

December 7, 2017… Day 322

This is not ok. This is so far beyond ok. This wasn’t just some off the cuff remark that Sarah Huckabee Sanders made on behalf of herself. It was her prepared remarks as part of her official statement from the White House. This is disgusting.

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Until she said the underlined part, I was just mildly annoyed that she was filling up precious questioning time with her moralizing, like this guy noted today:

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But I wasn’t mad. Not until she said to a captive room of reporters from diverse cultural backgrounds, there for their job, that the “savior” was the “greatest gift.” As a representative of the U.S. government. This is so wrong, I don’t even know where to begin. It didn’t so much offend me as it made me want to vomit.

So that’s where I’m at with all this.

  • (Kevin Corke, Fox News) Thank you, Sarah. I want to ask you about the possible government shutdown and the optimism that the President might have that he can avert a shutdown. And if I could follow up and ask about the California fires and the very latest the White House has on it.
  • On the fires, I’m sorry.
  • Yeah. Is the White House in coordination with the folks out in California in battling that wildfire? Is there more money to be made available, especially for the areas near Los Angeles, which are under siege right now by so many devastating fires?
  • (Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News) Can you say a little bit about why John Bolton was here at the White House today? And also, on taxes, we’re a little confused on whether the White House would support a 22 percent corporate tax rate. You had the White House economist, Kevin Hassett, talking about — saying it would be okay and it wouldn’t undermine the economy. And then, a few hours later, the Legislative Affairs Director, Marc Short, said something about it needs to be 20. So can you say —
  • And on John Bolton?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, Donald Trump, Jr. refused to talk about his conversations with the President, citing attorney-client privilege. Would the President release him from any such privilege and allow him to speak to the committee?
  • But can you explain to me how it could be attorney-client privilege when neither Donald Trump, Jr. nor President Trump are attorneys?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. Senator Franken today, in announcing his resignation, said that he’s “aware that there is some irony in the fact that I’m leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.” What’s the White House response to that?
  • Can you say anything more broadly about the differences in the way the two parties are handling these accusations of sexual misconduct?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thank you, Sarah. Have any of the President’s counterparts around the world contacted the President, contacted the White House to indicate that they too will follow the President’s lead in moving their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or acknowledging that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?
  • Do you expect any? Do you expect that to happen? Do you expect that others will follow the President’s lead here?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. Last week, the President said that the U.S. would be imposing additional sanctions on North Korea today. Do you have an update on where that stands?
  • (Jennifer Wishon, Christian Broadcasting Network) Thanks, Sarah. What is the President’s reaction to some U.S. allies, particularly in Europe — notably in the United Kingdom — who had expressed opposition to this action recognizing Jerusalem? And also, does the fact that he kept his promise give him more credibility when negotiating in the Middle East?
  • (Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News) Thank you, Sarah. So, yesterday, you guys put out a statement under the President’s name, saying that he was directing other officials in the administration to reach out to Saudi Arabia and urge them to immediately allow the flow of humanitarian supplies into Yemen. I have two questions about that. The first is: Why isn’t the President himself working the phones? And the second is: Are there any consequences for Saudi Arabia if they don’t immediately allow this flow of goods?
  • Any consequences for Saudi if they don’t do this?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Hallie asked on Monday when the President became aware that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI. You referred her to John Dowd, those questions. We’ve tried. John Dowd is not engaging on that. That’s a knowable fact in this building; it’s not a legal matter — not for their attorney to say. Can you just tell us when the President became aware of that?
  • Why is it a legal question for them not about something the President knew and when he knew it?
  • One other question, Sarah. One other question.
  • I think you want to take this one. It’s real simple; it’s very simple. Today, the U.N. Ambassador said it’s an open question whether the United States will participate in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Is it an open question? Is that now in doubt?
  • So it is in doubt?
  • By whom?
  • And it’s all about security?
  • (Mara Liaison, NPR) I just have two government funding questions. First, does he want S-CHIP reauthorized?
  • Okay. The bipartisan leadership is coming up in a much different atmosphere than the last meeting where he tweeted about how he didn’t think a deal was possible because the Democrats were so bad on illegal immigrants pouring over the border. I’m wondering, has the President changed his mind about that? And also, specifically, what was he referring to since, in a government shutdown, ICE and the Border Patrol aren’t affected?
  • But do you think a deal can be reached with the Democrats?
  • (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) On the Hill today, Chris Wray praised the FBI and said it was the finest law enforcement force in the world. The President said, you know, it’s “in tatters” and it’s at its worst place in history. Can you explain that discrepancy?
  • When he undermines —
  • When he undermines the FBI and says it’s in tatters, does the White House fear that that could create ramifications that people won’t trust law enforcement; that people will say —
  • — why should we interact with the FBI when it’s in tatters?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. Two quick ones about a government shutdown. Chuck Schumer, on the Senate floor, said today of the President: His party controls the Senate, the House, and the presidency — speaking of Republicans, rather. And he said a shutdown would fall on his shoulders. How is that not just a reflection — an accurate reflection — of the political realities that Republicans control Washington at this point?
  • nd you said you want a clear CR. At some point, though, DACA is going to have to be brought up, or potentially be brought up. Is the White House willing to mix, at one point, a DACA fix with government spending? And if so, when would that be the case?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax)  Yeah, thank you, Sarah. From that podium, Secretary Mnuchin and Gary Cohn both assured us that, when a final tax reform bill is passed, the alternate minimum tax would disappear immediately. Now, of course, recent statements by the President, as the conference is about to begin, indicate it might not completely disappear and not immediately, certainly. Is the administration still committed to ending the AMT right away?
  • (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart News) A lot of attention on sexual misconduct and harassment by members of Congress. Is the President confident that Congress and its leaders can police and investigate themselves on this issue?
  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) Thank you, Sarah. I just have one question, but I need to clarify something that you said from the podium here on taxes. You said, I think to Matt, on Tuesday, that as long as his taxes are under audit, he’s not going to release them. His 2016 taxes, to our knowledge, are not under audit, unless they are. Can you —
  • Will you get back to us on that? So my question to you, then, more broadly, is on this moment that we find ourselves in, frankly, of a national reckoning when it comes to sexual harassment. And so in, again, a broad 30,000-foot way, does the President believe that he has a credible role in leading this conversation? And can you speak to the specific steps this White House has taken to make sure the women who work here feel like they are in a comfortable environment to talk about these things?
  • A lot of workplaces are having sessions, they’re having seminars. Are you guys doing that here? Are you talking about, in recent days, what people in this work environment can do? Are you taking —
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) A follow-up: We’ve seen Democrats forcefully call for John Conyers’s resignation, and Al Franken’s resignation, which happened today. Do Republicans, and does this President, risk losing their moral authority on this issue — which is a huge issue right now — by endorsing a candidate like Roy Moore, which has now been backed by the RNC as well?
  • Why not call for him to drop out of the race, or a write-in candidate? Sarah, is the President failing to lead at this critical moment?
  • But just a quick follow. Is he failing to lead on this issue?
  • (Unknown man who trampled over Kristen’s attempt to follow up) Was the President’s proclamation on Jerusalem delayed because of concerns expressed by the Secretaries of Defense and State, about security they wanted to get — adequate security in place for U.S. embassies around the world?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) The Palestinians are under the impression that the President pulled out of the peace process yesterday based on the Jerusalem decision. How do you correct that? Did he do that?
  • (Someone named David) Sarah, thank you. Given the recent revelations that at least one prosecutor on Robert Mueller’s team was sending anti-Trump texts to another DOJ lawyer, and given the revelation that yet another one was congratulating Sally Yates for refusing to uphold and defend the President’s travel ban, Chairman Goodlatte, at the hearing this morning, said that even the appearance of impropriety would devastate the FBI’s reputation. So the question is: Does the White House believe that the fix was in that Robert Mueller’s probe was biased from the beginning?

TOWOIT #270: Lockstep

December 5, 2017… Day #320

Questions the reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today:

  • [Major Garrett, CBS] Sarah, one issue that you may have seen this morning: Is the White House, or the President, at any level, considering creating a global or regional spy network that would circumvent the U.S. intelligence apparatus and serve the President outside of the normal and legally defined intelligence-gathering mechanisms?
  • The President would be opposed to that?
  • Do you know if any senior official has been briefed on that idea, or has it been discussed at any level in this administration?
  • Is it possible –
  • No, but is it possible it’s something the President might consider?
  • Is it something the President might consider?
  • [John Roberts, Fox News] World leaders have spoken out, Sarah, in the last 24 hours about the possible move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Mahmoud Abbas says that it would have great consequences for peace and stability in the region. King Abdullah said much the same thing. Saudi Arabia, at least publicly, saying the same thing; though, I’m told privately, they’re saying something different than that. French President Macron said that he thought it was a bad idea. In the face of all of that, would the President ignore that advice from world leaders and go ahead and make the move at this time?
  • Is it safe to say, other than Israel, which thinks that this move is 22 years overdue, that all of the feedback that he’s been getting from world leaders is overwhelmingly negative about this idea?
  • [Cecilia Vega, ABC News] Thanks, Sarah. Yesterday, the President said that he felt very badly for General Flynn. Would he consider pardoning him?
  • So you haven’t talked to him about it, or he said he wouldn’t consider it?
  • You have not —
  • So is it fair to say that it’s on the table?
  • [Steve Holland, Reuters] Back on the embassy. Has the President made up his mind about this, or is the decision still in flux a bit?
  • [April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks] Sarah, a couple questions. One, there are comments from people from the NAACP, black ministers, who plan on protesting and boycotting this weekend for the President’s visit to the Civil Rights Museum. What say you?
  • They feel it’s an insult that he’s coming as we’ve had issues of Charlottesville, the back and forth — the President couldn’t get his statement straight on Charlottesville.
  • [Jordan Fabian, The Hill] Thanks, Sarah. Did the President know that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI at the time that he fired him in February?
  • I have a follow-up. So your predecessor said on June 6th, “…is the President of the United States, so they’re considered official statements by the President of the United States in regards to his tweets.” Does that still — does that standard still apply for the President’s tweets?
  • [Matthew Nussbaum, Politico] Thanks, Sarah. The White House originally said that if the accusations against Roy Moore were true, then Moore should step aside. I’m wondering how the President reached the conclusion that all of Moore’s accusers — including those who have put forward evidence — are lying.
  • Even if that person who would support his agenda has done what Roy Moore’s accusers have said he’s done?
  • [David Brody, Christian Broadcasting Network] Sarah, can you tell me a little bit about the process and timing as how the President got to the potential Jerusalem announcement tomorrow? Do you have somewhat of a backstory on that to the degree that you can at this point?
  • And just a quick follow-up. An evangelical’s role in this, how crucial is that being in terms of the Faith Advisory Council?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] Thanks a lot, Sarah. I have a question for you about the special counsel’s office. Does the President believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or anybody on his staff, is biased in any way against the President?
  • Just a follow-up for you, if I may, Sarah. I think it was about five or six weeks ago that you indicated from that podium, on a few occasions, that you believe and the White House believes that Mr. Mueller’s investigation will be wrapping up shortly. Since that time, we’ve seen that a very high-level aide to the President — former aide to the President — former national security advisor has entered a plea deal with the special counsel’s office. Do you still believe that this investigation is wrapping up soon?
  • [Blake Burman, Fox Business News] Sarah, thank you. Let me ask you two questions on so-called “red lines.” If Robert Mueller ends up looking into the President’s finances, or if he has already looked into the President’s finances, does the President, does this White House believe that is a red line? And, if so, why?
  • Let me ask you — a second red line. This White House has consistently said there are two red lines on tax reform — middle class relief and then a 20 percent corporate rate. But the President, over the weekend, seemed to suggest that he would be amenable for a corporate rate up to 22 percent. Why would he be willing to step over his own red line on that issue?
  • [Michael Shear, New York Times] So two quick things. One, does the President believe, as the lawyer from the solicitor general’s office said at the court today, that a baker could put a sign in his window saying “We don’t bake cakes for gay weddings” and that that would be legal?
  • Yeah, so the solicitor general — the lawyer from the solicitor general’s office for the administration said today in court, at the Supreme Court, that it would be legal, it would be possible for a baker to put a sign in his window saying, “We don’t bake cakes for gay weddings.” Does the President agree that that would be okay?
  • And that would be, that would –
  • And one other question just on Russia, but not one that you would expect. What does the President think of the decision to ban Russian athletes from the Olympics in 2018?
  • [Catherine Lucey, Associated Press] Sarah, House Republican leaders had to push back a vote on a short-term budget bill this week to avert a shutdown. Does the White House think that a shutdown is a possibility?
  • And one follow-up. Then, the President doesn’t think that it would be politically advantageous?
  • [Hallie Jackson, NBC] Two quick ones for you. And just a statement of fact: When did the President know that Mike Flynn lied to the FBI?
  • I’m asking for a date. I’m asking for a date. When did he find out? Was it when the announcement was made Friday? Was it prior to that?
  • Would you mind following up with the President since Dowd has been unresponsive to that?
  • No problem. A point to you, you have weighed in on other special counsel matters before. It’s just a statement of fact of when, during the administration, what day the President discovered this lie issue.
  • My second question is on Roy Moore, Sarah. You said, just a minute ago, that the President would want somebody in the Senate who supports his agenda versus one who does not. And I just want to clarify here that, is it the White House’s position then — sort of formally here — that it is worse to have a Democrat in that Senate seat than somebody who is accused of sexually abusing a teen girl?
  • Then why did the President endorse?
  • [Steven Portnoy, CBS News] Thanks, Sarah. I do want to nail something down with respect to John Dowd and what he’s been telling us in the last couple of days. He’s argued that the President cannot be charged with obstruction of justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer in the country. That’s his opinion. Does the White House share that opinion? Has the White House Counsel’s Office looked into this question? Does it share that perspective?
  • What do you make of the whole notion of obstruction of justice, though? It’s been discussed in the last couple of days. A lot of people have been talking about it. What do you think about it?
  • [Jim Acosta, CNN] I’m not an attorney either. Let me ask you about –
  • Thank you, I appreciate that. This decision on Jerusalem — is the President concerned that there could a violence as a result of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Has that been looked at by this White House?
  • Following up on Roy Moore, just very quickly — other folks got a couple of questions — isn’t there a moral decision that you’re making here? And I’m sure you’ve heard this talked about in the news the last couple of days as the President has decided to endorse Roy Moore. This is somebody who has been accused of child abuse, of molesting children. How can that vote in the Senate be that important that you would take a gamble on somebody who has been accused of molesting kids, of harming somebody who’s underage?
  • Is that something the President has wrestled with in any way? Has he wrestled with that question?
  • [Brian someone] Sarah, thank you. The President said that the tax plan will hurt him individually. Will the President release his taxes to prove that?
  • Why not? I mean, he can release it — even if it’s under audit, he could release his tax returns if he wanted.
  • [Jon Gizzi, Newsmax] Yeah. Thank you, Sarah. A matter of procedure on the Roy Moore endorsement. Did the President have any conversations with Chairman McDaniel of the RNC after he made his position known? Or did he talk to state Chairman Lathan in Alabama or any of the players involved in the Republican National Committee before they decided to get back in the race and support Roy Moore?
  • You can’t say who the officials are?
  • [Hunter Walker, Yahoo! News] Thank you, Sarah. Given the President’s endorsement, does he agree with Roy Moore that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress?
  • But, I mean, you’re saying that their agendas are kind of in lockstep. Does that go both ways?
  • [Eamon Javers, CNBC] Thanks, Sarah. Does the President expect Deutsche Bank or any financial institutions to cooperate with requests for documents from U.S. law enforcement if they get them?
  • What’s the President’s message to the financial institutions themselves? If they get a request, should they comply with that?
  • [Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers] Just to follow up on Roy Moore a bit. Are you saying that — you’re saying let the people decide, but this administration has endorsed Roy Moore. Why endorse him if you want the people to decide? You’re influencing the decision by endorsing him. And secondly, are you saying that no matter who runs as a member of the GOP, it’s okay as long as you are in lockstep with the President and vote the way he wants?
  • For this person. This person.
  • [Dave Boyer, Washington Times] Thanks, Sarah. The administration reported today that illegal border crossings have dropped to a 45-year low. Does that lessen the urgency, as we’re getting down to spending decisions here, about whether to go forward with building the wall in this budget?

TOWOIT #269: This is how it all ends

November 30, 2017… Day 315

Questions asked to Sarah Huckabee Sanders during today’s abomination of a press conference.

  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) Thank you. With all these reports about Secretary Tillerson today, could you talk a little bit about the relationship between the President and the Secretary? Does the President have confidence in him? And does the President agree with all of the positions that the Secretary has taken regarding North Korea, the Gulf crisis, et cetera?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News, sitting next to Steve) Can we deduce from that that the President has confidence in the Secretary of State?
  • Is that a yes?
  • What’s his future in the administration?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. A question on taxes. The Joint Committee on Taxation says that, by 2027, people making between $40,000 and $50,000 a year will pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes under the current bill while those earning a $1 million or more will pay $5.8 billion less. And coupled with that, the University of Chicago surveyed 38 economists. Only one said that the bill would lead to substantial economic growth, and all 38 said that the cut will increase the debt. Is it the White House position that these analyses are wrong?
  • The JCT — nonpartisan — their analysis seems to say middle-class taxes would actually go up in a lot of cases
  • Does White House or the Treasury have data that would contradict that?
  • (Another guy named Steve) Based on Ambassador Haley’s speech yesterday at the U.N., and the President’s tweet this morning, does this administration now advocate regime change in North Korea? And if not, why not?
  • (Jill Colvin, Associated Press) Thank you, Sarah. I want to ask about the videos that the President tweeted yesterday. Firstly, does the President feel that he has an obligation to ensure that the information that he shares on his Twitter feed to millions of people is accurate?
  • But does he understand, though, that sharing those videos might incite violence against Muslims? And does he understand that he’s elevated a fringe political group that many people outside of Britain didn’t even know about until he tweeted?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) On that point, Sarah, did the President, when he retweeted Jayda Fransen, know who she was?
  • (Alex Pfeiffer, Daily Caller, baby-faced conservative cub reporter) Yesterday, the President tweeted that NBC should terminate Joe Scarborough because of an “unsolved mystery that took place in Florida years ago.” Why did President Trump think it was appropriate to seemingly reference the death of Lori Klausutis in 2001? And does he think Scarborough is responsible for the death of his former aide?

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 6.14.51 PM

  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network, who wasn’t invited to the WH Christmas Party with the others; why are any of these fuckers going to the Christmas Party?) Sarah, a couple things. One, what was the tipping point between President Trump and Tillerson?
  • Is the President listening to Tillerson as it relates to North Korea, as North Korea is escalating?
  • What about John Conyers? John Conyers is in the hospital.
  • What about John Conyers? He’s in the hospital and there’s a call for him to resign. What does the President have to say about that?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Back to Tillerson. Where does the administration think these stories are coming from? Is it difficult, in your view, for Mr. Tillerson to carry out his job as Secretary of State with all of these questions surrounding whether or not he’s going to be in the administration maybe through January of next year?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, we often hear the President — or see the President talk about the stock market. We haven’t yet heard from him, though, on a separate but similar issue, which is cryptocurrency. Has the President been following this at all — Bitcoin specifically, the major run-up in it? Does he have an opinion on it? Does he feel or does the administration feel that this is now something that needs to be regulated by the government?
  • What kind of monitoring?
  • What kind of monitoring?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) Sarah, I’m sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. Actually — I hope you feel better — I have a question about the President’s health. Mr. Trump’s predecessors, going back — I checked as far as Ronald Reagan — every year would go up to Bethesda to be looked at by the best doctors in the military, and they would report on their health and their vital statistics to the American public. We have a month left in the year. Does President Trump intend to get a physical at Walter Reed?
  • Do you know if the President intends to share any details about his health the way his predecessors have?
  • (Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News) Thank you, Sarah. You read the verse from Luke earlier about how to those who are given much, much is expected. Linking that to tax policy, the President said yesterday that this tax bill is going to cost him a fortune. Independent analysis says that that’s not true; that he’s actually going to save a lot of money and his family could save more than billion dollars. So can you tell us specifically what in the bill is going to cause the President to pay more in taxes than he’s paying now?
  • (Unknown person, maybe in WaPo chair?) The President was pretty definitive yesterday when he said he would pay more, that his wealthy friends would pay more. So what was he referring to?
  • (Margaret Brennan, CBS News) Sarah, you repeatedly said that Tillerson would help to close out a successful year. Are you saying that he will close out the year? Will he serve beyond that? And when you’re talking about “elevating the conversation” here, does the President normally watch these kind of anti-Muslim videos that have been posted by this group? I mean, is that —
  • But that language seemed pretty deliberate by you. Were you really meaning to signal —
  • Shouted, unanswered, “Sarah, what about Prime Minister May?” and “Should he vet those videos… before he posts them?”

    Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 6.25.38 PM

    She’s coughing, she’s wan (she actually looks better without so much make-up –screw you Anthony Scaramucci) and she’s lying and stonewalling like a freaking champ.

TOWOIT #267: April, Cecilia, Jenna & Zeke

November 20, 2017… Day 305

SHS Briefing #34

There was a bit of a hostage situation in the White House Press Briefing today as Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that each reporter must say what he or she was thankful for before a question could be asked. Oh, but first she “joked” that she was thankful for everyone in the room, and then she said “No, but seriously” she was thankful for the military. She really sucks. The whole thing made me cringe down to my toes and called to mind a jovial but sadistic father figure forcing people to do gimmicky things at the dinner table before they can eat.

It must be nice going through life, holding everyone hostage at the lowest common denominator.

I took note of who played along and who didn’t. These things are supposed to be “nice.” Well, it’s not fucking nice. It’s gross and unprofessional and creepy.

Here’s how they responded, in the order of my approval.

  1. April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks: Sugary and poisonous. I think she might have done one of those “bless your heart” maneuvers.
  2. Cecilia Vega, ABC News: Flat-out said she was thankful for the First Amendment and launched unamusedly into a hard question.
  3. Jenna Johnson, Washington Post: Didn’t even thank Sarah for calling on her, launched into hard question with resting bitch face.
  4. Zeke Miller, Associated Press: Straight-faced, did not play along, ignored her teasing, pressed on, gave her a cold stare moments later when the people around him were laughing at a dumb joke of hers.
  5. Matthew Nussbaum, Politico: Ignored the gimmick altogether.
  6. Margaret Talev, Bloomberg Television: Says she’s also thankful for the First Amendment then chickens out and says something ameliorating that leads to widespread giggling.
  7. Francesca Chambers, Daily Mail Online: Somehow snarky yet sincere.
  8. White guy names Steve: Wearily perfunctory, but then asked lame question.
  9. Young Fox News woman: Played along but redeemed herself somewhat by asking a hard question and being assertive about a follow-up.
  10. John Gizzi: Played along, but is sort of in a class of his own.
  11. White guy named Jim: Cheesy, brought up sports
  12. Blake Burman, Fox Business News: Cheesy, brought up sports
  13. Jon Decker, Fox Radio News: Smarmy and all-in

Here’s that Zeke Miller moment. I cut out Mara Liasson’s laughing face because I was ashamed for her.

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 5.53.17 PM

OK, and here are all the questions:

Continue reading TOWOIT #267: April, Cecilia, Jenna & Zeke

TOWOIT #266: Snookered

November 17, 2017… Day 302

Sarah Huckabee’s 33rd press conference as press secretary.

She wore a black dress with a large pale floral image partially visible (podium in the way) and a string of pearls. She looked doleful, as if weighed down by the souls of decapitated elephants and fondled nobodies.

Kevin Hassett, White House Council of Economic Advisers, was there. He smiled like a goon the whole time, smiled through his own words, smiled through the questions. He smiled as he said that trickle-down economics work, and he smiled as he refused to take follow-ups on that.

Questions for Kevin:

  • [John Roberts, Fox News] Kevin, I know you’re an economist but there’s obviously a political component to all of this. You got at least six senators up on the Hill, including Ron Johnson, saying that they can’t support the bill in its current form or they have serious concerns about it. You can only afford to lose two. Are you confident that you can get this passed through the Senate? Or could the President run into another situation, like he did with Obamacare? That he wins the House and then loses everything in the Senate.
  • [Unknown man] What makes you think trickle-down economics is going to work this time when it hasn’t worked before?
  • And the incentive — [No follow-ups!]
  • One of Senator Johnson’s concerns is that this bill does not do enough for medium-sized and small businesses. Can you talk about what the bill does do for medium-size and small businesses?
  • [Young woman on the side] One of the major differences between the House and the Senate bill is the elimination of the non-taxable tuition waivers. So while they’re trying to reconcile their differences on that tax reform bill, what do you foresee which could potentially move this tax burden to a lot of young Americans?
  • [not sure who this is, another man] Kevin, thanks for being here. On one of your TV appearances yesterday, you said that an average family, when this is all said and done, could accumulate a savings benefit of $4,000. That’s a lot of money.
  • Can you walk us through that?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] One of the criticisms, Kevin, of the tax reform proposal is that the corporate tax rate is cut permanently. The individual tax rate phases out after 10 years. Why, in your view, is that such a good idea?
  • Hi, Emma Robinson, One America News. [ultraconservative outlet] The two bills are different in that the House bill repeals or does away with the estate tax and the Senate doesn’t. And I know that was a big point for the administration, and Vice President Pence has voiced his support for repealing the death tax, as they call it. What are your thoughts on that? And do you think a final bill will include a repeal of it?
  • [Eamon Javers, CNBC–another money guy] Thank you, Kevin. I appreciate it. Can you talk about this moment earlier in the week at the Wall Street Journal event? Gary Cohn was on stage, and the moderator asked a group of CEOs, “If tax reform passes, who here is going to increase their investment?” And only a couple of hands went up in the room. Gary Cohn said, why aren’t there more hands going up? Can you answer that question? Why aren’t there more hands going up in a room like that? You would assume that CEOs would say, yes, in fact, we are going to invest more if tax reform passes. Is the administration missing something there?
  • [April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network, not suffering fools] Yes, yes. Gene Sperling, who was once in your position in another administration, says that this tax plan — be it historic — costs $1.5 trillion and it’s a deficit hole. And he says that basically — this is in a tweet. I’m just paraphrasing his tweet. He says, it basically doesn’t justify that cost for 100 million households for a tax increase.
  • [Blake Burman, Fox Business News] I want to pick up where John, right in front of me, left off when he asked about the phase-out on the individual side. You’re an economist; however, the two answers that you gave were both political. One, there’s reconciliation rules. And two, hopefully politicians down the line solve it. But like I mentioned, you’re an economist. So can you not make an economic argument as to why this is good economically for people?
  • Correct. Is there an economic argument as to why this is good for the country as it stands right now to expire within eight years or so?
  • [Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News] I actually want to follow up on that, though. You all made a value judgment to make the corporate tax cuts permanent and to make the individual tax cuts expire, even though you want all of them to be permanent. What’s the rationale for having corporations have that certainty of knowing that they don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen in Washington while families are going to have to worry about what politicians do six, seven years now?
  • You don’t see the value one way or the other, whether the corporate tax cuts versus —
  • [Major Garrett, CBS] Kevin, you’ve melded politics and economics here quite successfully, and I want to ask you a political and economic question. You’ve talked about growth covering what the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Tax Committee say could be a deficit hole, a deficit implication of $1.5 trillion. That is going to be measurable over time. There’s going to be a means by which either dynamic scoring or static scoring answers that question. And since it’s on the mind of some of your undecided Republican senators, is this administration willing to commit to a review five years in to see if the growth models have held along your lines and the deficit implications aren’t as large — or, if they aren’t, to reassess these tax cuts in order not to blow a hole in the deficit?
  • Do you think there would be —

Then Sarah came back. She took questions for 12 minutes. Questions to Sarah:

  • Thanks, Sarah. I have a non-Roy Moore question for you. Can you say definitively — I want to ask you about Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Can you say definitively, from this podium, that he has not been held hostage by the Saudis? And does the President plan to speak to Prime Minister Hariri at all? [She sidesteps this and refers the questioner to the disappearing state department]
  • [Cecilia Vega, ABC News] Thanks, Sarah. If it’s fair to investigate Al Franken and the allegation made by his accuser, is it also fair to investigate this President and the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by more than a dozen women?
  • But how is this different?

MS. SANDERS: I think in one case, specifically, Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing, and the President hasn’t. I think that’s a very clear distinction.

  • [Major Garrett, CBS News] So I want to revisit something we discussed yesterday. You said, one of the ways that Alabama voters might be able to figure out if these allegations against Roy Moore are true is in the court of law. That’s a direct quote from you. There’s no criminal means by which that could happen. So are you suggesting that Roy Moore sue the accusers in order to hash this out in court?
  • But that’s the venue you meant when you talked about “in the court of law.”
  • The only reason I raise that is because, during the campaign, as you well remember, then-candidate Trump said, after the election he would sue all the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, and that you have, from the podium, deemed all liars. He hasn’t done that. Why hasn’t he done that?
  • [The handsome and plaintive-looking Jeff Mason of Reuters] Sarah, some critics have said that it was hypocritical of the President to tweet about Al Franken and not weigh in on Roy Moore.
  • [Sara Murray, CNN, sitting next to Jeff in the front row] Can you tell us whether the President believes the women who are making these allegations against Roy Moore? And would he be willing to ask the Alabama governor to delay the election or take a step like that to try to intervene in this electoral process in Alabama?
  • [Matthew Nussbaum, Politico] Thank you, Sarah. In light of the national discussion about the importance of taking these kinds of accusations seriously, I wanted to check: Is it still the White House position that all the women who have accused the President of sexual misconduct are lying?
  • [Blake Burman, Fox Business News] Thanks, Sarah. Let me ask you about something else — the pending potential AT&T and Time Warner merger. The President had said on the campaign trail, back in October of 2016 — and I quote here — he said it was a “deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” Does the President still feel that way?
  • [April Ryan] Sarah, is this an uncomfortable conversation about these sexual allegations for this White House be it Al Franken or be it Roy Moore?
  • A follow-up. [We’re tight on time, says Sarah and calls on someone else]
  • A follow-up. I talked to Hillary Clinton[April! says Sarah]
  • I talked to Hillary Clinton today about the President’s past — and going back to what Matthew said, she said, look, I worry about everything from his past because it tells you how he behaves in the present and will in the future. What do you say to that as it relates to these allegations against the President?
  • [Alex Pfeiffer, The Daily Caller, conservative wunderkind, was a correspondent already when a freshman in college] Two questions. One on taxes, then immigration. A recent Quinnipiac University poll said 61 percent of voters think the Republican tax plan will benefit the wealthy while the White House has pitched this plan as a working-class tax cut. Why the disconnect?And then on immigration — [she doesn’t allow his second question]
  • [John Roberts, Fox News] Let me come back and ask you the same thing I asked Kevin. You’ve got six Republican senators either “no” or seriously on the fence here. Can you win enough over in order to pass this? And if the President gets snookered again by the Senate, what’s his reaction going to be?
  • The fact that you didn’t get any Democrats in the House, how does that portend for getting them in the Senate?
  • Safe to say the President will not be pleased if he gets snookered by the Senate again?
  • [Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News] Thanks, Sarah. The administration put out a disaster funding request for about $44 billion today. It’s much less than what a number of different governors and officials in the various affected territories and states have requested. Can you explain sort of why the number is so low compared to what the local officials say they need?
  • Are you expecting (inaudible) much more requests forward in the future, specifically for Puerto Rico?
  • [Kristen Welker, NBC News] Sarah, thank you. Steven Bannon is sending a strong message to the establishment to back off of Roy Moore. Does the President’s allegiance to Steve Bannon in any way implicate his response?
  • Has he spoken at all to Steve Bannon or any outside advisors?
  • How concerned is he, Sarah, about losing this seat to a Democratic candidate, who, right now, according to the polls, is leading?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] Thanks a lot, Sarah. Just in regards to that question regarding the supplemental requests: The President and the administration has put forth $44 million. Puerto Rico has requested $94 million. Are they going to get somewhere along that order? I think half of the island is still without electricity.
  • Did the President notify Governor Abbott —
  • Did the President notify Governor Abbott of the lesser amount that he’s put forward? [She won’t answer, keeps moving]
  • [White woman, looks like she is WAPO or NPR from seating chart] Yesterday, the joint investigative mechanism was vetoed by Russia at the U.N. Security Council, and Ambassador Haley tweeted afterward that the veto proves that Russia cannot be trusted as a partner going forward in trying to solve the political situation in Syria. Does the President have any response to the veto, first? What is the U.S. view, going forward, of how chemical weapons will be investigated and dealt with in Syria? And is it the U.S. position now that Russia cannot be a partner in trying to solve, or do a next-day political situation by —
  • [Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News] There’s been some extraordinary pushback on the administration’s decisions with respect to elephant trophies and hunting of lions and elephants in Africa. Can you shed some light on the decisions the administration has made? And will you make that pushback?
  • [Darlene Superville, Associated Press] The senate tax bill has a tax break for corporate jets. How does that help the middle class?
  • [Not sure who is talking, a man] Thank you, Sarah. Yesterday — on Jared Kushner and on his campaign e-mails — that Senate Committee, they’re asking for those e-mails in the Russia investigation. You punted it to Kushner’s attorney. Today, what’s the White House reaction to those previously undisclosed e-mails?

She completely did not answer with a White House reaction, and left the room.

 

TOWOIT #265

November 16, 2017… Day 301… I think…

Sarah Huckabee Sanders press briefing #32.

Freshly returned from watching Trump laugh along with Duterte as Duterte called the press spies, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was back at the podium today lying her face off.

Here are the questions the reporters asked her:


  • [Cecilia Vega, ABC] Thank you, Sarah. Two questions — two topics, if I may. Does the President believe Roy Moore’s accusers, or does he think Roy Moore should drop out of this race?
  • So that’s a no? He thinks Roy Moore should stay in?
  • [Major Garrett, CBS] How would the President like to see that truth proven?
  • Does the President believe the accusations themselves — that is to say the women themselves and their own credibility — can be established outside of them making these allegations? What’s the mechanism by which the President would be satisfied that the allegations are true?
  • [Woman sitting next to Major Garrett] Sarah, Ivanka Trump says that she has no reason not to believe the women who have come forward. Does the President disagree with her position?
  • [Matthew] Thank you, Sarah. Having the information that we have and the information that the people of Alabama have, would President Trump vote for Roy Moore?
  • I know he’s not, but he endorses candidates all the time in states that he’s not a voter in. And if he says, “I would vote for this person or I wouldn’t,” would he vote for Roy Moore.
  • Would you get back to us on that?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] Thank you, Sarah. A number of Republican senators have pulled their endorsement for Roy Moore. They’ve urged him to step aside. And Senator Sheldon said he wouldn’t even vote for him; he would write someone in on the ballot. Senator Cruz has pulled his endorsement. The President is not only President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief, he’s also leader of the Republican Party. Why won’t he weigh in on this? Why won’t he take the same type of strong position that these other Republican senators have taken on Roy Moore?
  • [James] Thank you, Sarah. I don’t mean by asking about that to suggest it’s necessarily the most important thing facing the country right now, but it happens to be my story assignment for the day. You say that the President finds these allegations against Mr. Moore, Judge Moore, to be very troubling, extremely troubling, et cetera. As we all know, the President faced a number of similar allegations, or somewhat similar allegations during the course of the campaign, and he vigorously denied them. But I wonder what you would assert to be the difference between the two situations such that, on the face of things, we should find one set of allegations very troubling and, on the other, we shouldn’t pay attention to them at all or we should totally disbelieve them.
  • [Jeff] Sarah, I’d like to ask you about two other topics. The tax bill passed the House today. One of the things that the tax bill does is increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion. I know the White House has argued that that will be paid by growing the economy. But if the economy doesn’t grow, how do you square that with the Republican view of — or general principle that deficits are bad?
  • But are you confident that the economy will grow consistently enough to cover these costs that otherwise would lead to a ballooning deficit?
  • [Blake] Sarah, let me ask you about the tax code as well. On the House side, they passed it today. The Senate side still has a ways to go. These are similar but they are also different bills and plans. At this point, does the President have a preference for the House or the Senate bill? And if so, which one?
  • You didn’t say they’re repealing the Obamacare individual mandate. Is that a priority for the President as well?
  • [Mara Liaison, NPR] Sarah, thank you very much. I have a question about the trip. But just, first of all, does his endorsement of Moore still stand?
  • Okay. And my question about the trip is that he’s made a strong argument that having a good relationship with Russia and with Vladimir Putin is a good thing for the United States. Does the President believe that Putin would ever lie to his face?
  • [Steven] Can I ask you another question about tax reform? Thirteen Republicans in the House today broke from the President, broke from their party leaders because they believe that this bill will actually increase taxes for some, if not many or most, of their constituents in California, New Jersey, and New York. Those 13 members represent millions of people who, in theory, voted for the President believing that he would lower their taxes. So what does the President say to those people? And how is this whole tax reform endeavor for them not a bait and switch?
  • [Jim Acosta, CNN] On Roy Moore, would the President campaign with Roy Moore?
  • And can I ask you a follow-up? Do you think he’s a creep?
  • Yeah.
  • [Kristen Welker, NBC] Thank you. Does the President think that Roy Moore is qualified to serve in the U.S. Senate?
  • Sarah, we’ve heard from– Sarah, we’ve heard from you and we’ve heard from Ivanka on this. When are we going to hear from the President himself?
  • But he’s ignored shouted questions for two straight days. He’s the President of the United States, the leader of the Republican Party; I think a lot of people want to hear —
  • But he’s the President.
  • Does he think Senator Al Franken should step down? What does he think of Senator Al Franken?
  • [Man] On the other side of the aisle, does the President have a response to the allegations against Senator Al Franken and also the mistrial over Senator Bob Menendez?
  • [Another man] Could you talk a little about the decision-making behind apparently appointing Mick Mulvaney to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Board, at least on an interim basis, given the fact that he’s been a longstanding critic of the board — and (inaudible) existence in the first place? And what signal should we take from that in terms of the future of that board and the director?
  • [Francesca, NY Daily News] Thank you, Sarah. China has announced that it’s sending a special envoy to North Korea tomorrow. The President was just in Beijing. Is that something that the President talked to President Xi about while he was there? Is that something that the President favors?
  • Sorry, I have another question about China and trade. Yesterday in his remarks, the President said that we can no longer tolerate unfair trading practices that steal American jobs and wealth and intellectual property, and the days of the United States being taken advantage of are over. He specifically mentioned China as he said all those words. Does the President still believe that China is raping the U.S. economy?
  • So on China–
  • [Jordan] Thanks, Sarah. Before the President left for Asia, officials here hinted that North Korea might be added back onto the list of state sponsors of terror. Has the President decided to go forward with that move?
  • [Hunter] Thank you, Sarah. The Fish and Wildlife Service is lifting a ban and will now allow elephant trophies imported from Zambia and Zimbabwe. President Trump has previously said he disagreed with big-game hunting. Why does he want this ban lifted? And has he changed his view on the practice?
  • I did speak to them today. They said that they have a draft of what’s going in the Federal Register tomorrow.
  • So he might change this?
  • [Toluse] Thank you, Sarah. The Senate Judiciary Committee today sent a letter to Jared Kushner alleging that he did not provide all the information that he should have about his e-mails during the campaign, including e-mails regarding WikiLeaks. Do you acknowledge that Mr. Kushner has not been fully forthcoming? And then, secondly, Donald Trump, Jr. sent out all of this correspondence with WikiLeaks on his Twitter account. Do you acknowledge that the campaign was in touch with WikiLeaks during the campaign? And was the President aware that his son was corresponding with WikiLeaks?
  • [Debra] Thank you, Sarah. After the House passed the GOP healthcare law, you had a celebration in the Rose Garden. I’m assuming there’s not going to be a celebration today about the tax bill. What are you doing differently this time around?
  • Yes, you have talked about the tax bill in terms of fulfilling the promise to middle-class people that the President made during the campaign and afterward. Why does the President support a bill, though, where the individual tax rates will — the cuts will expire at the end of 2025, but the corporate rates will never expire, going down from 35 to 20?
  • Does he think that’s a fair bill, to have that one provision expire and the other not?
  • [Jessica] Thank you. One of the other things that happened in China right after the President left was that this announcement about more foreign ownership in the financial sector in China was announced, but it was announced after the President left. I wonder if that came up in the conversations between the Presidents and if that was part of any ongoing conversations or deals that were reached during the visit or before the visit.
  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry has taken issue today with the President’s statement yesterday that he and President Xi agreed that there would be no freeze-for-freeze proposal regarding North Korea. What is your understanding, or the President’s understanding of what he and Xi agreed about that? And does the President stand by that statement yesterday?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Sarah, before the President left for his trip to Asia, he called on the Justice Department to look into the Democrats and that situation, as he put it. And then days later, the Attorney General asked special prosecutors to look into the Uranium One allegations in the Clinton Foundation. Did the President cross any lines and try to influence the Justice Department and the Attorney General to look into the situation of the Democrats?
  • Thank you very much. Going back to Russia just a bit. When he said that he spoke with Putin and he believed that he meant what he said — in other words, there was no collusion with the government —
  • Okay, so the question being, he’s always maintained that it was the Democrats who colluded with Russia. Is he saying that Putin exonerated the Democrats?
  • Sarah, as a New Yorker, is President Trump concerned at the potential tax increases for hardworking New Yorkers who can no longer deduct state and local taxes, and might cause an exodus from New York losing his spot as the U.S. and world financial capital?
  • [Eamon] Thank you, Sarah. So Senator Johnson, a Republican, raised some questions about the fairness of the tax proposal, particularly the disparity between corporate and individuals in the way they’re — big corporations and regional corporations in the way they’re treated as well. So the question is: What concessions is the White House prepared to make to Senator Johnson? And if you do make concessions to him, are you worried that other Republicans will demand their own concessions on issues of importance to them and you’ll have just a revolving door of senators who want something from you in this bill?
  • Did he offer Senator Johnson anything when they spoke?

TOWOIT #264: Facepalm Gaggle

November 11, 2017… Day 295

So, this nightmare garbage dumpster fire was today:

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 7.44.02 PM

There’s a transcript in the New York Times of Trump’s conversation with reporters on Air Force One. He talks about Putin a lot. It’s just a long stream of treasonous bullshit. This exercise is a little intense for me when it’s Trump himself and not SHS. But here are the reporters’ questions:

  • How were your discussions with Vladimir Putin? Did you discuss Syria? And apparently they’ve issued a joint statement that —
  • Did Russia’s attempts to meddle in U.S. elections come up in the conversation?
  • Do you believe him?
  • How did you bring up the issue of election meddling? Did you ask him a question?
  • (Inaudible) do you believe him —
  • Even if he (inaudible) one-on-one, do you believe him?

 

That was all the questions that got out. They mostly just let Trump go on and on saying things that would totally disqualify him from being President of the United States if anything mattered any more.

Oh, and the Kremlin says Trump and Putin didn’t talk about the things Trump said they talked about.