Sarah Sanders arrived 16 minutes late, took questions for 13 minutes, avoided giving any meaningful replies, evaded nearly every follow-up question, was snarky to and about everyone, essentially called Democrats lame randos, repeatedly trotted her old canard that she was short on time, refused to say that she didn’t think reporters should be manhandled, and departed.
Here are the questions she was asked.
(Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, do you agree with the South Korean official who said that there would be a 99% chance that this summit with Kim Jong-un comes off? And how will the President ultimately make the decision about whether or not to go?
What preconditions, though, does he have? What does he see that the North Koreans have to do to make that trip? And I’m just asking — you know, the challenge coins were made. Was it premature to make those coins commemorating the summit?
(Pamela Brown, CNN) Thank you, Sarah. Why did the U.S. guarantee the safety of a dictator whose regime is a serial human rights abuser and is responsible for the recent death of an American college student? Why is that the morally right thing to do?
Just to follow up, though, Sarah, really quickly. (Nope. Stuff it, Pamela)
(Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, you talked about preparations for the summit. Can you describe for us how the President himself is personally preparing?(Hoo boy)Who is he working with? How much time does he devote on a daily basis to get ready for the underlying themes, questions, and difficulties of a summit of this magnitude?
(Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask about this meeting the Chief of Staff is setting up with lawmakers regarding the documents that they requested about the Russia investigation. Can you say what specific documents the lawmakers will be allowed to see? Chairman Nunes has requested all documents related to this intelligence source. Will he get to see all of the documents? (So this is the same Devin Nunes who has been scampering over to the White House at all hours to pull shenanigans and was supposedly recused from the Russia investigation)
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Thank you, Sarah. The North Koreans are bringing in some journalists to view what they say is the dismantling of a nuclear test site. I’m curious if the administration believes that site is already damaged, as some are led to believe, and what exactly the administration’s response is to this. (Blake, I thought at first you were a business bro but I don’t know now — you seem so nice, and you’re a new dad, and you ask pretty good questions. Please quit Fox.)
(Steve Herman, Voice of America) Yes, Sarah, can you tell us what was the outcome of the discussions between the South Korean President and President Trump today about the size and cost of U.S. troops in South Korea?
(Darlene Superville) You said that no one from the White House staff will attend the meeting on Thursday. Does that not mean that the Chief of Staff Kelly would not attend the meeting?
SANDERS: He was charged with coordinating and making sure it took place, but at this point is not expected to attend.
(Michael D. Shear, New York Times) Can you ask — can you respond a little bit, though, to why no Democrats would be at that meeting if the White House was putting its imprimatur on it? The Democrats have said that they think it’s inappropriate to have a meeting set up with just Republicans and the Justice Department. Is the White House — would the White House welcome Democrats to be at that meeting?
No, but they say they that to the extent that the White House is, sort of, brokering a deal between the Justice Department and Capitol Hill —(Sarah’s response included this nasty line: “So I would refer you back to them on why they would consider themselves randomly invited to see something they’ve never asked to”)
(Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, the President spoke at length this morning about his vision for a solution to dealing with Chinese company ZTE. Both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill are criticizing that, saying that he is bowing to pressure from Beijing. Senator Schumer, I believe, called it, a wet-noodle solution. What’s the White House’s response to that criticism?
Can you just respond to their criticism, though, about what he has said on Capitol Hill?
(Anita Kumar, McClatchy Newspaper) I wanted to change topics. I wanted to get your comment on this incident that happened at the EPA earlier today. They were having a national summit on water contaminants. At least two reporters were barred from going into the event and one was forcibly removed. I wondered if you had a comment. Do you approve of how that was handled? And will anyone be speaking to the press office over there about it?
Do you approve of how it was handled, though?
(Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Sarah, back on North Korea just for a second. The President, in the Oval Office, said that he was disappointed that after his second meeting with Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un seemed to have a change of attitude. Does the White House have any theories as to why that might be? Is China a spoiler, and why?
(Mike Bender, Wall Street Journal) Could you add anything more about the President’s comments — he said that China, South Korea, and Japan were willing to invest very large sums of money into North Korea. Can you add anything more to that? Is the U.S. planning to add to that very large sum? Can you describe what kind of money he’s talking about there?
Can you talk at all about what President Moon said about Kim, about the new tenor coming out Pyongyang? What President Trump learned in the meeting with President Moon?
(Hallie Jackson, NBC News) Sarah, to follow up on Anita, and then a question as well to you: Is there any situation, barring a security incident, in which you feel, the White House feels, it is appropriate to physically touch or physically handle a reporter?
I’m just asking about the appropriateness or not of touching a reporter.
My other question was actually on the — (denied by Sarah)
–DOJ demand. A couple other got follows, Sarah. (denied again; she forges ahead)
So just quickly, is it appropriate for the President to make a demand to the Department of Justice, Sarah? (This is all just Hallie trying unsuccessfully to follow up)
(John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. There’s been considerable discussion back and forth about the tenure of Speaker Ryan, whether he will relinquish his gavel early and have a new election of a Speaker before the elections. Conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill made it clear that they want Ryan to stay. Congressman Warren Davidson said that’s unfair to the new members coming in. And he also said that there should be a discharge petition so members can have an up and down vote on repeal of the Affordable Care Act and immigration. Does the President agree with the statements of Congressman Davidson and the conservatives among House Republicans?
(Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President earlier today, in that press availability, spoke about the protections that he’s prepared to offer to Kim Jong-un, not only personally but also for his country. In preparing for these meetings, and when the summit actually takes place, does human rights play any consideration in the meeting that the President will have with Kim Jong-un?
(Charlie Spiering, Breitbart News) Following up on John’s earlier question, does the President back Speaker Ryan’s decision to stay in office until after the election? Or is he concerned that there may be a period of time when he’s not getting as much done as he could, serving as a lame-duck speaker?
(Francesca Chambers, Daily Mail) Thank you, Sarah. We heard from President Trump before that meeting with President Moon. But after sitting down with him, does President Trump feel more like this summit is worth having and that it will happen? And what is the White House’s drop-dead date, so to speak, for deciding whether or not to go to the summit?
(Ben Kennedy, Christian Broadcasting Network) Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to ask about Gaza. The violence continued today. Does the White House have any plans to meet with the Palestinian Authority?
The White House Daily Briefing was scheduled and canceled on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then on Thursday, May 17 there was one. It started over 20 minutes late. Sarah had the acting VA secretary up to go on about Trump’s $100,000 paycheck gift. Then Sarah read another fucking letter from another child praising Trump. She then took questions for eleven (11) minutes, admonished the press that she didn’t have much time, and left.
(John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, we haven’t had a chance to hear of any kind of an in-depth analysis here. Where are we with the summit with Kim Jong-un? And the statements that we’ve heard over the last few days out of North Korea, do you think that these throw in jeopardy the idea of a summit? Or is this just North Korea doing what it does in trying to get the best deal possible?
So what North Korea is saying now about the joint military exercises after Moon Jae-in said Kim knows that these take place and he understands that they have to take place. I mean, what game is North Korea playing?
(Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. What leverage does the U.S. have as it relates to having this meeting take place on June the 12th? And to that meeting actually taking place, when it takes place — if it takes place — what leverage does the U.S. have over accomplishing the American goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula?
But on another issue on —
(Steve Herman, Voice of America) If I could just follow up on that. What the North Koreans also announced was they were stopping the dialogue with South Korea. So is it possible that there could be a meeting between the United States and North Korea if that whole dialogue between the North and South is on ice
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, does President Trump believe that the FBI had a spy at one point inside his campaign? (3 out of the first 4 questions have gone to Fox, for those keeping track at home)
And what is — (No follow-ups, Blake! Not even for Fox!)
(Emerald Robinson, One America News) Thank you. Following up on Blake’s question — if it is proven without a shadow of a doubt that there was a spy planted in the Trump campaign, does that change the President’s position on firing Robert Mueller?
(John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. The Iraqi elections are over and it’s very clear that the two big winners — the two top vote-getters — were the party that was linked to Muqtada al-Sadr, a sworn enemy of the United States and someone aligned with the Iraqi Communist Party. And the second-place finisher was the party aligned with Mr. al-Amiri, a warlord who was once backed by Iran. What’s the U.S.’s attitude on a government in Baghdad having either of those individuals as the key player? (Sarah just says, “good thing you said all those names because I probably wouldn’t be able to” Har-de-har, you effing racist)
So you don’t care if either of them is —
(Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, what does the United States expect out of negotiations today with China on trade? And what are the President’s intentions on helping or changing the policy towards Chinese company ZTE?
(Julie Hirschhorn Davis, New York Times) Thanks, Sarah. Also on trade, the President said yesterday that Mexico does nothing for us, especially for the border. We know there are talks today on NAFTA — today and tomorrow. And I wonder if the administration is going to condition any NAFTA deal on a safe third-country agreement with Mexico, or Mexico stepping up to do more to absorb asylum-seekers and other migrants who are seeking entry to the U.S.
(Jeff Zeleny, CNN) Thank you, Sarah. This morning, the President marked the one-year anniversary of the Mueller investigation, saying it’s disgusting, illegal, unwarranted, and a witch hunt. But his own FBI director yesterday said it’s not a witch hunt. Does the President — why does the White House still believe it’s a witch hunt? And why did he cancel his news conference this afternoon, which was originally set for three o’clock with the NATO Secretary?
(Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. On immigration, there seems to be — we’re moving closer to action in the House of Representatives and I’m wondering what bill the President would accept anything short of the four pillars that he laid out earlier this month. Something like border security and DACA, it seems to be a proposal that is gaining steam. Is that something that the President could support?
(Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thank you. Just going back to North Korea, you have said that the President would be willing to meet with North Korea if North Korea is. So does that put North Korea in the driver’s seat here? Is it North Korea that’s going to decide whether a meeting takes place? And also, the President said yesterday that the White House hadn’t heard anything from North Korea. Has that changed? Have you heard anything since these talks were called off with South Korea?
Well, is the White House setting a standard for “We won’t meet with you unless you do X, Y, and Z”?
(Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg) I know we’ve asked this a few times, but —
SANDERS: That’s okay. That’s kind of what we do here, ask the same question over and over and over again.
Can you say yet when Michael Cohen stopped being the President’s personal lawyer?
Yeah, but you still haven’t been able to answer that.
(Jill Colvin, Washington Post) Thank you, Sarah. Why didn’t the President disclose the reimbursement to Michael Cohen in last year’s financial disclosure report? And just to follow up on other peoples’ questions on North Korea, has any consideration been given at this point to potentially canceling those joint military exercises with South Korea?
(Steven Portnoy, CBS News Radio) I just want to ask you, because so many people around the country have been talking about it in the last 24 hours, what did the President mean when he said some immigrants are not people, they’re “animals”? (Sarah feels no need to make absolutely clear that most immigrants are not the gang MS-13 and that immigrants are NOT animals)
(Peter Alexander, NBC News, maybe, couldn’t see which Peter was) Thank you, Sarah. Are the chances of a summit now less likely than they were a week ago before these statements came out from Kim Jong-un?
Brian Karem’s voice as she leaves: “Sarah, has the President ever lied to us?”
Questions reporters asked Raj Shah at the briefing today:
(John Roberts, Fox News) Raj, a couple, if I could. At the same time there was a celebratory air in Jerusalem as the U.S. was moving its embassy, in the south of Israel, along the border with Gaza, there was a lot of violence that resulted in more than 41 people losing their lives. Is the President concerned about the demonstrations there and Israel’s response to people trying to climb over the fence?
Also, what’s the President’s thinking on ZTE? I mean, here is a company that violated U.S. rules regarding doing business with North Korea and Iran. It was, according to the Commerce Department, appropriately sanctioned for that and fined $1.2 billion. You had the heads of six intelligence agencies telling Congress back on February 13th that they wouldn’t use ZTE devices because of counterespionage concerns. They also wouldn’t recommend that American citizens use ZTE or Huawei devices. So what’s the President’s thinking with that tweet over the weekend about wanting to rescue ZTE
(Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I guess I wanted to follow on that. Did the President give Secretary Ross any specific instructions on how he wanted that case to go? And when you say that it was “raised,” I assume you mean in the context of the ongoing trade discussions between the U.S. and China. So is there a, sort of, direct linkage there, where China could make a concession on retaliatory tariffs, and so we’d see from the U.S., kind of, easing back on ZTE?
(Weijia Jiang, ABC News) A follow on that, Raj. Didn’t the Commerce Department make an independent judgment when they decided to issue this sanction against ZTE? So can you talk about the significance of bringing it up again now? How much does it have to do with the impending summit with North Korea? You know, critics will say that the President wants China’s support, needs China’s support, and THAT is why he is now backing off on this sanction against ZTE.
(Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Raj. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I [just] wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that” — what Kelly Sadler said — “was inappropriate,” that that’s not who we are as a Trump administration. Why not just apologize, so America doesn’t think that that is an acceptable way of speaking inside this White House?
How? (The transcript doesn’t show that a scattering and smattering of assorted HOWs cropped up from several reporters–it wasn’t just Cecilia asking this)
Excuse me, but she — Kelly Sadler told Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly, and that has not yet happened. Why has that not happened?
Are there any concerns that this White House seems more concerned about the fact that there was a leak than about the content of what was said?
(Man’s voice–) But it wasn’t internal–
(Sounds like April Ryan’s voice–) IS she being reprimanded–
(At least two other voices–) How? How is it being handled–
(Pamela Brown, CNN) But can you explain how it’s being addressed internally?
But she’s still employed here at the White House?
Why hasn’t she PUBLICLY apologized, as she told Meghan McCain that she would?
Okay, really quick, Raj — on ZTE, how does the President Trump statement that too many Chinese jobs are at risk square with his campaign promise that China is stealing American jobs?
(Steve Holland, Reuters) Hi, Raj. The death toll is over 50 in Gaza. Is the U.S. calling on Israel to use restraint in dealing with these protests?
So there’s no burden on Israel to do something to, sort of, rein it in?
MR. SHAH: No, we think that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Hamas is the one that, frankly, bear responsibility for the dire situation right now in Gaza.
Lastly, Raj, how does this — the United States had been wanting to put out a peace plan. How does today’s situation hurt that?
(David Nakamura, Washington Post) Raj, there seemed to be some confusion, given the messages on the Sunday news shows from Secretary Pompeo and National Security Bolton about what exactly the U.S. is asking of North Korea. Is the administration’s position that the U.S. expects the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Peninsula and of North Korea? Or is the administration willing to accept something short of that?
And I was wondering also if you could address a little bit the criticism of the President’s, sort of, tone with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, saying that he treated the U.S. detainees excellently. The President’s rhetoric has certainly shifted on Kim Jong-un, and I’m wondering if you could explain why, and whether he thinks that, at all, that he is going too far in sort of praising Kim Jong-un.
(Peter Alexander, NBC News) If I can, very quickly, the French Foreign Minister, Raj, said about what’s taking place in Gaza — he urged Israeli authorities to exercise discretion and restraint. So to be clear, does the U.S. not agree with the French that Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint?
MR. SHAH: We believe that Hamas is responsible for what’s going on.
So there’s no responsibility beyond that on the Israeli authorities? Kill at will?
MR. SHAH: What I’m saying is that we believe that Hamas, as an organization, is engaged in cynical action that’s leading to these deaths.
Let me ask you if I can, and following up on Kelly Sadler today — Matt Schlapp, whose wife you know — Mercedes Schlapp — works here — is the Head of Strategic Communications — portrayed Kelly Sadler as “a little bit of a victim here.” Do you agree that she is a little bit of a victim here? And why?
Is there any environment where that — conveying that thought — would be viewed as appropriate?
So to be clear, was it completed last week? You said it was dealt with internally. Has anything been dealt with since last week when she called the family — the McCain family — for clarity?
(Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) I might ask you an indelicate question. It’s been reported that you were leading the meeting where Kelly Sadler said what she said. How did it strike you? Did YOU find it to be inappropriate? And how did — what was the reaction in the room?
(Anita Kumar, McClatchy) Two questions. First, the White House is hosting some kind of meeting on Wednesday with California officials on sanctuary cities. Can you tell us what that’s about? Will the President attend? And what’s the point of the meeting?
So there’s no negotiation. This is just to solidify your point? I think —
Okay. And my second question is: The President is going to Capitol Hill tomorrow to meet with Senate Republicans. Can you tell us about that meeting and the topic of the conversation? And also, do you think he will not get asked by senators about the Kelly Sadler issue?
Does he have a statement prepared?
Besides the CIA, is there another issue? It’s not solely to talk about Gina.
(Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times) The Trump Organization is involved in a project in Indonesia building hotels, golf courses, residences. It’s getting up to $500 million in backing from the Chinese government. Can you tell or explain the administration’s perspective on, A, how this wouldn’t violate the emoluments clause, and, B, how it wouldn’t violate the President’s own promise that his private organization would not be getting involved in new foreign deals while he was President? (Raj says, you’ll have to talk to the Trump Organization)
No, but I mean the Trump Organization can’t speak on behalf of the President, as the President — the head of the federal government, the one who is responsible — who needs to assure the American people that — they don’t have that responsibility — (Noah is practically stammering. Raj has been taking Smug Crap lessons from SHS)
So, Raj, a couple of things. I need some information — we all need more information about the conversation that the President had by phone with James Shaw Jr. and why wasn’t it here at the White House. And also, what about prison reform? If you could give us a little bit more about prison reform. We understand that that’s working its way and there is a big push from the White House. And also, on Sadler, where does decency and morality come in, into play, in the workplace? I mean, she still has a job. She made that statement about an American hero. No matter what the political feelings are about him, he was broken and bruised overseas for the freedoms of this country. And to say those things, I mean — (April wasn’t interrupted, she just stopped mid-sentence and made these two gestures with her hands and arms that were like “please enlighten me, this is too bananas and low” and then Raj said “It’s an internal matter.” Someone tweeted in response to that, “She got a promotion.”)
She keeps her job, right?
Why not here at the White House? Why not — I mean, he’s saluting heroes.
(Andrew Feinberg, ex-Sputnik, who asks a good question) Thank you, Raj. I wanted to ask you about the embassy opening today. The person who delivered the invocation, Robert Jeffress, he’s made some statements in the past that he believes that Muslims are going to hell, Jews are going to hell, Hindus are going to hell. Do you think that, considering especially his remarks about Jews, that he’s one of the right people to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel? And can you give us a little information on how that came to be?
Do you think it’s appropriate for a person who thinks that — who said that Jews are going to HELL to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel?
(Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) So, I have two questions for you. First on ZTE. Did the Chinese government give ANY specific concession for the President of the United States to tweet in SUPPORT of a Chinese company?
But WHY did he do that?
So just raising the issue was enough to spawn a presidential tweet and directive?
And then another on the President’s tweet on Paris. He said that America needs to change its thought processes. What did he mean by that? What was he hinting at? (Saagar Enjeti is like WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I hope Saagar quits Daily Caller)
(Woman not named or shown on screen) Raj, on the issue of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when was the last time the White House reached out to Palestinian leadership? And will — given the high numbers of casualties, Palestinians calling what has happened today a “massacre,” will the White House be reaching out?
Okay. Can I just follow up then? Jared Kushner, in his speech, pointed a finger at the Palestinians, saying they were responsible for provoking violence. But given the fact that it’s only Palestinians who are being killed, should Israel not shoulder some of the blame?
But people were THROWING ROCKS, 50 meters from the wall and were faced with SNIPER attack. I mean, is the White House in denial of the split-screen reality that’s occurring?
MR. SHAH: Again, we believe that Hamas is responsible for this.
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Let me ask you on ZTE. The congressional hearing that John was talking, in which the intelligence chief said that people should not be using ZTE products because of security concerns, does the President himself believe that there is a security concern using — involved with ZTE?
Speaking of the Commerce Department, Wilbur Ross said at the National Press Club just a little while ago — he said of the meeting this upcoming week with the Chinese, he said, “It wouldn’t surprise me” if they bring up ZTE, but our position is that it would be an enforcement action separate from trade. Is that the position of the White House, that whatever may or may not happen with ZTE, that has nothing to do with trade negotiations? Or does it? (When is this Russian-oligarch-coziness at the Bank of Cyprus finally going to catch up to Sleepy Wilbur?)
And on the Supreme Court decision today on sports gambling that allows, now, states to go forward with that, does the White House have any opinion one way or another on the decision today?
(Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Raj, on Israel, the United States and the White House are hoping to release their peace plan in the next few months. Going back to that split screen, I understand that you’re blaming these on Hamas, but does the White House feel that the position is undermined now by these deaths that have happened today? Last time the count was at 52.
And on a different foreign policy topic, sort of. The President isn’t going to the Royal Wedding this weekend. Today, we saw him deliver a video address at the embassy opening. Will he deliver an address of some sort via video? Is he sending a gift? Is there anything you can tell us about that?
(I don’t know who this old man is, but his voice is beautiful) Last month, Sarah said that the allegations against the Governor —
Last month, Sarah said the allegations against the Governor of Missouri were concerning. The Governor now is on trial this week. Does the President believe he should resign? He’s campaigned with him, he’s been out with him, he’s met him several times. Does he believe he should resign, irrespective of the verdict? Or if the verdict comes down in his favor, should he not resign?
(I can’t figure out who this fragile-looking blonde woman in the back is. I’ve google-imaged so much shit trying to sort it) Thank you, Raj. So, later this week, Thursday and Friday, Chinese officials are supposed to be here in D.C. to have continued trade meetings. Can you tell us which U.S. officials and which Chinese officials are going to be involved in those; what the President hopes to come out of those continued talks — this round of those talks? And has the administration provided — I know Larry Kudlow had mentioned at one point that the administration was considering providing a list of what they would like to see out of these trade negotiations.
(Hunter Walker, Yahoo! News) Thank you, Raj. You said before that you hadn’t heard Pastor Jeffress’s remarks. Among other things he said, “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism…they leave people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.” I also wanted to talk about Pastor John Hagee, who was involved in that ceremony. He once said that Hitler was an instrument of God. Separate from that, on Sunday, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump met with Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel. And he once compared black people to monkeys. (April Ryan is in the frame and looks visibly upset at this) So I’m wondering, in all three of these instances can you tell us anything about how these people were brought into the ceremonies? And do you think it’s regrettable that people with these views were involved with the American government? (No, Hunter, they don’t give a shit. Stop acting like any of this is normal)
(Brian Karem, I believe, as Raj files out like a coward, having not answered the question) Shouldn’t you know whether you come to the podium whether or not that guy is worthy of talking to people at our embassy? … You gotta be KIDDING me….!
God bless Brian Karem, and God Bless C-Span for just letting the sound run so we got all of that last bit too.
Questions for Alex Azar, Health & Human Services Secretary
(John Roberts, Fox News) Mr. Secretary, there’s a tremendous number of moving parts in this blueprint, many of which will require legislative action. How much of this works without the rest? Do you have to do it all, or can you do just a part of it? And how much can be done through executive action versus legislative?
(Kristen Welker, NBC News) Thank you. How soon will consumers actually see lower drug prices?
How soon can —
Is it a matter of weeks or is it months that consumers could actually see that benefit?
(Ragubir Goyal, India Globe, which doesn’t seem to be a real paper any more, but apparently Goyal has been showing up since the Carter administration) Mr. Secretary, thank you very much, sir. India is making a lot of drugs by your company. There are many other companies. How India is going to be affected for this action today? And also, at the same time, next month is Yoga International Day announced by the United Nations and Prime Minister of India. How yoga can help? Maybe you don’t need any drugs if you have yoga. (Laughter.)
(Catherine Lucey, Associated Press) Mr. Secretary, you talked about calling into question the entire rebate structure.
Specifically, what steps are you doing now? And when might consumers see changes on that?
But any timeline for this? How long this might take?
(Stephen Portnoy, CBS Radio) Mr. Secretary, there are a couple of notorious examples in the last couple of years of drug companies buying drugs that have been on the market for years and suddenly raising their prices extraordinarily. Is there anything in this blueprint that addresses that? For example, the EpiPen situation a couple of years ago.
(Blonde woman standing on the side in a blue dress, kind of sets off racist zine alarm bells) Yes. So you’re talking about the increases in drug prices, while in areas like Maryland and Virginia, insurers are talking about double-digit health insurance premium increases. There’s a Maryland regulator that said something like, the ACA is in a death spiral, kind of echoing past words of the President. What are you doing to deal with that? Does HHS just accept these premium predictions as reality? What are you doing to reduce those costs?
(I can’t tell who this is, but I appreciate the question) Mr. Secretary, I have a question about another issue at HHS, actually. The Justice Department has indicated the Department is set to change an Obamacare rule that would bar medical practitioners from denying medical treatment to transgender people, including gender reassignment surgery. Will HHS repeal that rule? (Alex Azar claimed total ignorance of this whole issue and punted, which seemed shabby)
(Andrew Feinberg) Mr. Secretary, thank you. So you talked about Medicare Part B negotiating better prices. That is the same thing that the President referred to when he said that other countries’ socialized medicine systems are ripping us off. Why is that okay for Medicare, but not for other countries?
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Mr. Secretary, thank you. When people hear about this plan, read about this plan over the upcoming days, they’re presumably going to learn about yourself, as well. And they might say, “Wait a minute. Somebody who was a pharma executive is now going to be the one in charge of lowering drug prices. How is that going to work?” Your pitch to Americans that they can trust you to oversee this effort would be what?
Are you suggesting that when you were running a big pharmaceutical, that one of the reasons why you couldn’t lower the price was because you were at a disadvantage? And do you regret that it’s gotten to this point, as somebody who was in that position?
(Justin Sink, Bloomberg) The President said in the Rose Garden that you guys were going to try to stop pharmaceutical companies from using patents to extend their monopolies. I’m wondering if you’d walk through exactly what patent process you plan to change, if it’s going to extend beyond what we saw in the budget proposal a few months ago, and whether we should expect to see, sort of, increased enforcement on pay-for-delay deals.
Questions for Sarah Sanders:
(Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, on the Kim Jong-un summit, we’re told that the summit will be a day long, possibly extending to a second day. What is the best-case scenario for what can be accomplished in a single day? What does the President think can be done in a single day with Kim Jong-un?
Do they think that can actually happen in a day? Or is this —
(Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I wanted to ask about the auto meeting earlier today. I know attendees of these sort of spitball sessions can often leave with the impression that the President agrees with their position. So I wanted to see if you could clarify both if the President or administration has agreed to open negotiations with California on a national CAFE standard, rather than, sort of, the dual system that could exist. And —
(John Roberts, Fox News) If I could come back to North Korea. The President says that he believes that it’s Kim’s intention to denuclearize. But when you listened to Kim Yong-chol, who’s in charge in North Korea of North-South relations, he said, listen, the reason why we’re doing all this is because our nuclear program is complete; the reason why we’re shutting down our test site is because we don’t need it anymore — our nuclear program is complete. I mean, it’s kind of akin to somebody who builds a house and then enters a negotiation to tear it down. What gives you confidence that Kim actually wants to take apart something that he just built?
But again, stopping the ballistic missile testing, stopping all this testing, according to Kim Yong-chol is because they don’t need it anymore; they’re done. It’s kind of like, you can put the saws and the hammers away because the house is done. (Not particularly friendly pushback from Fox News)
(Eamon Javers, CNBC News) Thanks, Sarah. This week, the CEOs of AT&T and Novartis both said that they thought it was a mistake for their companies to work with the President’s lawyer. Does the President think it was a mistake for his lawyer to work with them? (She says this meets the definition of draining the swamp.)
Explain one way this is the definition of draining the swamp. I mean, this is companies paying for information about the President’s– (Eamon is a mild-mannered, wonky, financial reporter, for context)
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. You said in this room the other day that it is unlikely there’s going to be an infrastructure bill this year. That was supposed to be the signature legislative item of 2018 for Republicans and this administration. Can you lay out for us what exactly is this White House’s legislative agenda for this year?(More skepticism from Fox News)
So is it fair to say, from that answer, that immigration is now the signature priority item this year?
(David Martosko, Mail Online) Sarah, thank you. Two questions. We’ve heard a lot about White House aide Kelly Sadler and her comments about Senator McCain, reportedly saying in a meeting that the President shouldn’t worry about the Senator’s opposition to the nomination of Gina Haspel because he is “dying anyway.” Meghan McCain, his daughter, wondered aloud today why Kelly Sadler still has a job here at the White House. DOES she still have a job? (David Martosko is kind of a right-leaning, presidential-butt-kissing presence on Twitter sometimes and was particularly outspoken in defense of Sarah Sanders after the Michelle Wolf thing, if I recall correctly)
And then, secondly President Trump said today that he still has faith in EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Do you know if he was aware, when he said that, about these new Freedom of Information Act documents that showed, last year, Administrator Pruitt had dinner, in Rome, with a Catholic cardinal who was under investigation for child sex abuse.
(Catherine Lucey, Associated Press) Sarah, following up on that question about Kelly Sadler’s comment, does the White House not think that you need to condemn these remarks, or comment, or issue an apology?(Sarah Sanders is 100% refusing to engage)
Are you saying that she didn’t say this?
(Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Does the President regret what he said during the campaign about John McCain, when he said he wasn’t a war hero; he prefers people that weren’t captured? (God, our worst person is president)
(Jeff Zeleny, CNN) If you won’t comment on the specific comment, what does the White House believe about Senator McCain? And is there a tone set from the top here where it is allowed for an aide to say he’s “dying anyway”? (She says “we have respect for all Americans” which is the biggest fucking cop out. It’s like when someone asks her about police brutality against black people and she says, “We are working every day to bring down the unemployment rate for ALL Americans” as if that even lines up appropriately with the question. SMH.)
Why not just apologize to Senator McCain, though? Wouldn’t that be easier for the White House just to apologize?
But why are you digging your heels over this?
(Man’s voice, can’t see who it is) Does the President have confidence in Secretary Nielsen?
(Spectacled, large-eyed… edit: this is Ed O’Keefe of CBS — thank you to Tom for catching that. I wonder if we should start editing the White House Press Corps wikipedia page, which lags reality badly) Sarah, in that regard, what more does the President think Nielsen could do now under the law that she hasn’t done already? Does he really think — really want her to close the U.S.-Mexico border?
Does he support the Republicans pushing to get a vote on the floor of the House to get this issue going?
(Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) The Secretary of Homeland Security made a statement last night in which she said that the President was rightfully frustrated by congressional inaction. Why was that frustration — reportedly — expressed at the Secretary herself? SHE doesn’t serve in Congress and she can only act under what’s enacted in law BY the Congress. So why did the President direct his frustration specifically at her at the Cabinet meeting?
(Mike Bender, Wall Street Journal) On NAFTA, is the White House on track to meet Speaker Ryan’s deadline next Thursday?
Is the White House on track to meet Speaker Ryan’s deadline next Thursday on NAFTA?
If it doesn’t reach it by Thursday, is the President really willing to revisit this after the elections in Mexico and the midterms?
(Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, just a quick follow-up on one of my colleagues. To be clear, does Kelly Sadler still work at this White House?
She does? Okay. And to follow up on that, more broadly, does the President set the tone? Does he bear responsibility for the tone within this White House?
Understood. But my question is a little different. DOES he bear responsibility for the tone set here at the White House, and all of the staffers who work here, frankly?
And just very quickly —
Very quickly — so many of us have spoken —
— to people who’ve said they’ve heard these comments. Do you say that they’re lying? (Sarah won’t answer this)
Are they lying, Sarah?(Won’t answer)
(Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, General Kelly came out and endorsed, in an NPR interview, a pathway to citizenship for temporary protected status recipients who have been in the United States for quite some time. Does the President share General Kelly’s view on that? (Good old right wing rag. Alarm bells about this, but fine that today was also the day that Kelly was callous and cold about separating children from their parents at the border and dumping them into the foster care system.)
But to follow up on that, did General Kelly oppose the administration’s push to end TPS and actually give a deadline to some people who have been here for over 20 years to leave the country? Is he specifically against that? (At least say he wants to get rid of Hondurans! … Joking aside, I’m not sure if that’s his angle. Saagar confuses me and the right-wing Daily Caller does also publish op-eds like this one:
(I don’t know who this guy is, but he looks like he should play a newspaper reporter on TV) Thank you, Sarah. South Korea has a huge stake in whatever Trump and Kim agree upon. Will President Moon or another representative of South Korea be at the talks?
(Hunter Walker, Yahoo News) Thank you, Sarah. On Wednesday, the President tweeted, “The fake news is working overtime.” And he said, “91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake).” Do you have the view that all negative stories about the President are fake? (She says no)
Why would he say that, then?
MS. SANDERS: I’ll take one last question.
(Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thank you. Just to follow up on these payments that Michael Cohen received from AT&T and Novartis. You said that this is a sign that the President won’t be influenced. But just to be — but just to clarify, does the President think it’s appropriate for his personal attorney to be collecting payments from private companies, presumably saying that — or presumably promising to influence policy or to give them strategy on government policy? (These Trump people are fucking off the wall)
At today’s press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders sputtered angrily at the suggestion that the White House wasn’t full-bore for press freedoms (Trump had tweeted just hours earlier that he was thinking of taking press credentials away). She had nothing to say and no opinions and no knowledge about anything and everything. What if Saudi Arabia starts developing nuclear weapons because Iran does? Huge shrug. How about Michael Cohen peddling access to the president to U.S. corporations and Russian oligarchs? Total stonewall. So yes, these are getting really pointless. They just make you despise SHS more and more each time.
(Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, you mentioned the CIA Director nominee. Gina Haspel said today that if the President asked her to do anything to restart the interrogation program that the CIA was criticized for, that she would not do that. Is that something that the President would ever ask?
May I ask you one more question, Sarah? Just on a separate subject, following up on the Iran announcement yesterday from the President. The Europeans are working hard now to keep that deal alive, despite the United States being pulled out. Can you say, will the White House ensure that European companies who trade with Iran will not suffer the sanctions that the United States is going to put back on?
(Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Sarah. The President today on Twitter suggested stripping journalists of their press credentials. Is that a line that, as Press Secretary, you would be willing to cross?
How is the suggestion of taking American journalists’ press credentials away advocating for a free press in this country? Those two do NOT go together. (Sarah basically says, “I’m standing here taking questions aren’t I?” And then she launches into an angry tirade against the press, misquoting the New York Times)
You know we wouldn’t be able to ask those questions without those credentials in this room.
We wouldn’t be able to ask these questions that you’re here to answer without these credentials. (She says, “You’re clearly sitting here right now, asking them.” OH MY GOD. WHAT A — Grrrr.)
(John Roberts, Fox News) Let me ask you this question, Sarah. The confidential financial records of Michael Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants, were made public, prompting the Treasury Department’s Office the Inspector General to launch an investigation as to how that happened. But among the records were payments from AT&T to a person very close to the President at a time when AT&T was looking for government approval of a proposed merger with Time Warner. There were also payments of over $1 million from Novartis Pharmaceuticals at a time that the President was talking about doing something to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals. Is the President concerned about any aspect of what we’ve learned in the last 24 hours? (Sarah refers John to outside counsel. John presses on.)
But is the President concerned that major corporations were giving money to somebody very close to him at a time when they had business before the federal government?
MS. SANDERS: I haven’t heard the President express any specific concerns about that.
(Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) Sarah, do you believe that Michael Cohen was ever in any way qualified to provide insights into this administration? (Sarah says companies can hire whoever they want)
But let me ask you this — because what we know is Michael Cohen received millions of dollars, apparently peddling the insights that he said he could provide into this administration to America’s largest corporations. Is the President in any way embarrassed or ashamed of that? Because it seems to be the definition of swampy behavior —
(Margaret Talev, Bloomberg) Thanks, Sarah. I’m happy to take the answer from the private counsel also, but I have made efforts and haven’t been able to. So I’ll pose it publicly, and if you can address it, I’d appreciate it. Do you know whether Mr. Cohen ever approached the White House as a representative of any of those companies, whether the President was aware of the payments, or whether he was aware that Mr. Cohen was marketing himself that way?
(Kristen Welker, NBC News) Thank you, Sarah. The President promised to drain the swamp. So does he feel it’s appropriate that Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, was selling access to him?
MS. SANDERS: Again, I’m not going to weigh in on this. That’s a determination that individual companies have to make, and I haven’t spoken with the President.
But, Sarah, based on what you know — you’re the Press Secretary, and you’re standing there at the podium. Based on what you know and what’s been revealed over the past 24 hours, does the President think it’s appropriate that his personal attorney was selling access to him, given that he promised to drain the swamp?
Let me ask you one more question.
MS. SANDERS: Sorry, Kristen. I gave you a couple. I’m going to keep moving.
Let me just ask you one more question. Has the President taken any action during his administration to benefit Novartis, AT&T, or Korea Aerospace?
(couldn’t see who this was) Sarah, Saudi Arabia said that they would pursue a nuclear weapons program if Iran were to pursue a nuclear weapons program. Would they have the administration’s support in the event that that occurred? (Sarah gives amazing shoulder shrug of a non-answer)
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. The President said today — about Iran, he said, “We’ll see how we do with Iran. Probably, we won’t do well with them but, that’s okay.” Does the President feel as if he can negotiate with Iran going forward? Or is he resigned to the fact that these two parties might be so far apart on a potential new deal going forward?
And can you tell us — the President had expressed an interest in meeting Kim Jong-un at the DMZ, but today he said that is not going to be the case. Can you walk us through why that’s no longer the case? What were the issues that have not made that possible?
(Steve Herman, Voice of America) Yeah, if I could follow up on that. For this administration, what are the most important criteria for the location for that summit?
(Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. Was the decision to send Secretary Pompeo to North Korea yesterday at the very time the President was ripping up the Iranian nuclear deal, was that meant to reassure North Korea that we can — the United States can make a nuclear deal that will be stuck to?
Was that intended to reassure North Korea that it’s worthwhile getting into negotiations with the United States over a nuclear deal that we will stick to
(Weijia Jiang, CBS News) Sarah, I want to ask you about the tone of this potential summit, because earlier this week, North Korea criticized the President’s claim that his so-called maximum pressure campaign was responsible for the meeting between South and North Korea. And just yesterday, a senior North Korean official reminded Secretary Pompeo that that happened not as a result of outside sanctions. So does President Trump maintain that he had “everything” to do with that meeting? And is he worried that the backlash about that claim could impact the tone of his own meeting with Kim?
And can I ask you another question about the three detainees? Can you give us any details about how and when they were informed they were coming home and their immediate reaction? And if nothing else, their families, how they found out, and whether the President has spoken to any of them directly.
(Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. There were reports this morning that NAFTA negotiations had hit a snag over autos. Is the White House now pessimistic it will reach a deal on NAFTA by the end of this month?
How would he handicap the chances of a deal?
(John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. For a long time, you and the President, and other administration spokesmen, have been saying there will be an infrastructure bill. In fact, you were saying it before Scarlett’s last birthday, when you corrected me on her name. (Laughter.)
Francesca briefed me.
Right. I got it right. And on Capitol Hill, and in business, people doubt that they will see any kind of bill see the light of day. They point out that you could say, maybe the $20 billion in appropriations bill that deals with infrastructure, or the reauthorization of measures such as the FAA, could count as infrastructure legislation. Aside from the concatenation of things in other bills, will there be an infrastructure bill, yes or no?
(Philip Rucker, Washington Post) Sarah, Gina Haspel told the Senate today that she would not reopen enhanced interrogation programs if she becomes CIA Director. And how does the White House square that with President Trump’s long-held belief that torture is acceptable? He, on the campaign trail, repeatedly endorsed torture as a form of interrogating terror suspects.
(Jim Acosta, CNN) But, Sarah, just to follow up on that — does the President still believe that torture works, as he said during the campaign?
MS. SANDERS: You know, honestly, I haven’t had a conversation with him about that recently.
And if I could follow up on the questions about these payments regarding Mr. Cohen. You said that you’re not able to answer these questions in the briefing; that you’d refer us to his outside counsel. Could you possibly work on an arrangement where, perhaps, Mr. Giuliani or somebody who could speak on behalf of the President from a legal standpoint, could they come into this briefing room and answer these questions so we’re not, on a daily basis, trying in vain to ask you about all of these legal troubles facing the President? Could you do that for us?
And then just to follow up on that, Sarah. Don’t you think that — I mean, don’t you think the public has a right to get some answers about these questions; that there are payments coming from Russian-connected entities or Russian individuals connected to the Kremlin through a shell company that is controlled by Mr. Cohen to pay off whoever? I mean, doesn’t the American people have a right to have some information about that?
(This guy eludes me) Thank you, Sarah. On North Korea, before he was the National Security Advisor, John Bolton was critical of the Obama administration for sending Bill Clinton to negotiate the release of American detainees in 2009. Did the National Security Advisor raise any reservations at all about the current negotiations? And can you talk about what circumstances are different now than they were in 2009 to make it more appropriate?
Can I ask another question on DACA? Can you explain what the President’s views are on the discharge petition and efforts by some Republicans to force a vote on DACA?
(Charlie Spiering, Breitbart aka racist zine) Thank you, Sarah. At his most recent campaign rally in Michigan, the President mentioned that the unemployment rate was so low that we could bring in more guest workers under H-2B visas. I’m curious whether the President is concerned about wages not rising as quickly if that eventually takes place.
(Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and former President Barack Obama all weighed in on the President’s Iran decision. A sampling of what they said: John Kerry was, it “weakens our security, breaks America’s word, isolates us from our European allies.” President Obama — former President Obama said that — called for, “principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country.” And then Hillary Clinton said, “Our credibility is shot.” And they called it a mistake. What is the President’s response to them? And what does the White House think about those former Obama administration officials commenting on this and the appropriateness of that?
And, Sarah, does the President still have confidence in Rudy Giuliani?
MS. SANDERS: Yes. He thinks he’s done a fine job.
(Andrew Feinberg, Montgomery County Sentinel) Thank you. I have two questions, if you’ll indulge me. First, I want to take us back to one of the President’s tweets from earlier this week when he referred to the “13 angry Democrats” running the Russia investigation. Setting aside the fact that Robert Mueller is a Republican, is the President aware that federal law prohibits discrimination in hiring based on political affiliations? And how does he — does he believe that political affiliation should be taken into account when hiring prosecutors, regardless of this law?
And my second question — thank you. The second question: Today, Senate Democrats, plus Susan Collins, filed a discharge petition to repeal — for CRA to repeal the FCC’s repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The President signed 15 CRAs. Would he sign a 16th?
(Kevin Corke, Fox News) Thank you, Sarah. A couple questions. First, on Gina Haspel. Is it true the President and yourself and others had to, sort of, convince her not to withdraw her name from consideration? And if so, what was that like? And has this circumstance happened before since you’ve been at your position here at the White House?
And a follow-up about Don Blankenship. Why does the President believe he can’t win an election in the state of West Virginia?
And the follow —
— was on Blankenship in West Virginia. Why does the President believe that he can’t win an election in the state of West Virginia? Why not?
(Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thank you, Sarah. We also congratulate Alex and Katherine. Rudy Giuliani said that, if necessary, it’s possible that Michael Cohen could have paid off other women to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with the President. Is that possible? Are there other women out there who received money from the President to stay quiet?
But you’ve been in his circle for a long time now. You were on the campaign. Is that anything that came across your desk?
(Steve Holland, Reuters) The President has got a May 12 deadline on the Iran nuclear deal. Is he wavering on this deal based on the pressure from the Europeans with Boris Johnson here this week?
And John Kerry’s shadow diplomacy — how does that impact the deliberations?
(Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thank you, Sarah. Back to Gina Haspel. Her confirmation hearing is on Wednesday. It’s an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Are there any questions that are off-limits, from the White House’s point of view, as it relates to her career at the CIA?
So, Sarah, if she’s asked any questions regarding enhanced interrogation techniques that took place during her tenure at the CIA — that Democrats say that she was involved with — she can answer them fully in an open hearing. Is that your position?
(Steve Herman, Voice of America) Yes, Sarah. President Putin, in Moscow, was inaugurated today for a new six-year term. Over the weekend, throughout Russia, we saw police arresting, it’s estimated, about 1,600 anti-Putin demonstrators, including organizer and anti-corruption campaigner, Alexei Navalny. We’ve seen the President tweet about other Russia matters today but not about either of these things. What message does the President have for the Kremlin and the Russian people about these events? (she said, well first he says congratulations…and upon re-listening I can confirm that she treats the anti-corruption protesters as a fringe group who yeah, sure, should have some rights to be kooks in public, etc — but this WH is aligned firmly with Putin)
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. The President has said in the past that the Russia investigation is an excuse for Democrats losing the 2016 election. But today he appeared to look forward to the 2018 midterms, and tweeted out, “Is this Phony Witch Hunt going to go on even longer so it wrongfully impacts the Mid-Term Elections, which is what the Democrats always intended?” And he ended that with a question mark. Does the President now believe that the Russia investigation actually has to do with the 2018 midterms, as well?
Is the President pleased with the appearances of Rudy Giuliani over the last few days?
(Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. On that note, Rudy Giuliani said yesterday that the President could plead the Fifth if he’s subpoenaed by the Special Counsel. And I want to know why the President would even go that route if he hasn’t done anything wrong, as he’s said repeatedly that there was no collusion and there was no obstruction of justice.
(Jim Acosta, CNN) In the same vein, does the President believe he is within his executive powers to reject a subpoena from the Special Counsel’s office?
And can I follow up on Gina Haspel? (No Jim, you cannot)
(David someone) The President, this time around, on Iran — Mike Pompeo is Secretary of State, and you’ve got John Bolton, the new National Security Advisor — they’ve been amongst the most prominent critics of the Iran deal. I mean, is there any reason to think President Trump won’t kill the deal when Saturday rolls around?
(Michael Shear, New York Times) On the EPA, Andrew Wheeler has been now confirmed as the second-in-command at the EPA. Does the President think that he would be able to continue the deregulatory agenda that Mr. Pruitt has been in charge of, were he to remove Mr. Pruitt? And given the sort of cascade of ethical problems, how close is — what’s the status of the review that you guys have been saying you’re doing? And is the President closer to removing Mr. Pruitt from office?
(Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I wanted to catch back up with — on China, after the delegation came back. Presuming that the President has had some sort of briefing on that interaction now, can you tell us his reaction to the talks that happened; if the U.S. has plans to talk to China again before the May 22 public comment deadline; and what sort of next steps are there?
(Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Sarah, in its front-page story this morning, the Washington Post, among many things, reported that there are persistent rumors that Mrs. Trump does not live in this White House and that she lives with her parents somewhere in the suburbs. What do you make of those rumors?
(Peter Alexander, NBC News) Sarah, we’re going to hear from the First Lady in a moment. She’s going to promote, among other things, good behavior among children. Part of this effort has to do with cyber bullying right now. Does the President accept any responsibility for American skepticism that the First Lady from the White House would be speaking out against cyber bullying?
Just if you could, the question was about him, not about her. I know that we’ll wait to hear what she says. But does he accept responsibility for this climate that exists right now, that there is the need to sort of address an issue like cyber bullying?
Is he not at all to blame?
(Ayesha Rascoe, NPR News) Thanks, Sarah. There have been some reports that an Israeli intelligence firm was hired to kind of dig up dirt on former Obama administration officials regarding the Iran nuclear deal. Does the White House have any knowledge of that or the idea that any Trump aides were involved in hiring this intelligence firm?
Sarah answered questions for 12 minutes. She scheduled when the briefing would be, was thirty minutes late for it as the reporters sat there, then acted like a total jerk and like it was the reporters’ fault that scheduling between events was tight, refused to actually give any information, and ran away. So, about like usual.
This was the briefing where pundits were afterward like “Oh wow, Sarah Huckabee Sanders has lost ALL credibility.” Right on the heels of acting like it was weird to call her a liar. Like mere days later. I don’t know, is everything unraveling faster? The reporters in the room flirted around The L Word more than usual today.
I am so sick of so many of the people in the briefing room since they kowtowed to Sarah Sanders and threw Michelle Wolf under the bus last week.
I have spent a lot of time studying, being part of, and/or being very skeptical of the press. But since Trump was elected, I started watching this briefing regularly in support of a free press, and because I believed that journalists did still have a bedrock of ethical ideals they were taught, however much they may smudge and drift when they are taken out into real life.
At any rate, their journalistic integrity more or less stood in contrast to Sarah Sanders and her lies, and I endured her visage and voice in order to hear what questions she would be asked, and how the reporters in the room would play off each other to follow up. I felt like the reporters’ questions themselves were telling, even if the answers were obfuscations and lies (that I didn’t and don’t want to give any additional platform to).
I shouldn’t have been surprised or disappointed by how namby-pamby so many of the reporters were after Michelle Wolf called out Sarah Sanders’s lies.
They chuckle at Sanders’s jokes, even when they are really stupid jokes that she’s interrupted their questions to deliver. They take their kids to the White House every time their kids are invited, which is the most shockingly bad faith thing I can think of in these abnormal times. How can I trust that you to see Trump for what he is and trust that you are committed to fulfilling your role in our democracy when you keep delivering your own children to Trump for photo ops?
Do not go to the fucking White House.
Anyway, here are the reporters’ questions at the first briefing since the Michelle Wolf kerfuffle:
(John Roberts, Fox News) I asked the President yesterday about the allegations that Dr. Ronny Jackson is facing. There are more allegations that have been leveled at him in the last 24 hours, one of which might involve a HIPAA violation, or an alleged HIPAA violation. Do you have anything more on the allegations against Jackson? Is the White House saying anything about it?
But what about some of these allegations about overprescribing? The other one that I just mentioned a moment ago.
(Darlene Superville, AP) Despite what you just said there, is the White House doing any sort of additional looking into Dr. Jackson’s background in light of all of the allegations?
And since you are — since the White House and the President are standing behind him, will he ask the Senate Veterans Committee to reschedule his confirmation hearing?
(Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, I’ve got one on this and a couple on foreign policy. So is it the position of the administration that the people who have raised these allegations are lying?
Do you not find them credible, in other words, these allegations?
And do you think there’s anything that suggests political motivation behind them?
So, on North Korea. During the State of the Union address, the President described the North Korean regime as one that shamefully tried an American, Otto Warmbier; sent him back to the country nearly dead; starves its own people; and is a dictatorship worse than almost any other. That’s what he said in the State of Union. How could that also be true if Kim Jong-un is “honorable” and “open”? How do you reconcile those two assessments of the leader and the regime in North Korea?
So he’s changed his appraisal of Kim Jong-un?
He thinks the regime has changed?
He thinks the regime has changed?
(Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. I wanted to get your reaction to the ruling that came down from a federal district court judge here in Washington concerning DACA. He said that the President’s decision to end DACA was arbitrary and capricious. So what’s your reaction to this ruling? The third federal judge to rule against the President on DACA. (She reads a statement instead of answering the question)
Is it still the main argument by the administration that the reason why it was necessary to cut off the DACA program was because of the threat of lawsuits by Republican attorneys general?
(Steve Herman, Voice of America) Yes, Sarah. I’d like to ask you about the drop in the ranking for the United States in the World Press Freedom Index. The United States now down to 45. And according to Reporters Without Borders, much of the blame for that goes to the President for his attacks on the media. What’s the reaction of the White House? And does it accept that the President’s comments has denigrated our freedom of the press in the United States? (Sanders says the fact that she’s up there taking questions is a good example of the freedom of the press and it’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise–strongest argument I’ve seen so far for killing the White House Daily Briefing)
(John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. One on President Macron’s visit and the other on foreign policy. Yesterday, there was some scuttlebutt late in the afternoon that no Democrats were invited to the dinner last night. And then later, a check of the list showed that there were at least four Democrats invited. However, the accurate report was there were no congressional Democrats invited. Now, going back to state dinners to when President Roosevelt hosted the King and Queen of England in 1939, and invited potential opponents, there have always been congressional Democrats at state dinners. Why the exception last night?
But no congressional Democrats. Was there any discussion of that in preparing the list?
My other question —
— was about the proclamation the President signed regarding Armenia and Turkey. He used the word, “Meds Yeghern,” which is Armenian for “catastrophe” or “atrocity,” but he never used the word “genocide” in this resolution. Does the President believe in Armenian genocide?
(Charlie Spiering, Breitbart) Thank you, Sarah. Rap superstar Kanye West has been in the news lately for supporting the President and expressing his admiration for the President. I’m curious whether the President has reached out to Kanye West and whether he’d be willing to meet with him at the White House.
(Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) In today’s Supreme Court arguments about the travel ban there was much discussion of the President’s proposal during the campaign that all Muslims be barred from entering the U.S. And it was noted during those arguments that the President has never actually disavowed that proposal. And it was also noted that he had not made those comments since being sworn in as President. So I wanted to ask: Does the White House disavow that campaign proposal, or does it stand by it?
(Jim Acosta, CNN) I just wanted to follow up on Dr. Ronny Jackson. Yesterday, the President suggested that Dr. Jackson does not have the experience to run the Department of Veterans Affairs. Is that a fair assessment, that he lacks that experience? (Trump didn’t just suggest it, he literally said that experience was a problem)
He said experience is an issue.
So he thinks Dr. Jackson has all the experience necessary to run the department?
It’s a yes or no question.
Let me just follow up, if I can. Just since you brought up being taken out of context, if seems to be a press-related question. Are you trying to say that this administration is a champion of a free press? That seems —
Isn’t there a certain responsibility on the part of the President —
We appreciate that.
I fully appreciate that. But, Sarah —
But the President’s tone towards the press —
The President’s tone towards the press is obviously not helpful at times —
— and I think that that’s plain to see.
(David, couldn’t see who this was)A Navy inspector general had problems with the way Jackson ran his medical office, which only has 50 people in it. What makes him qualified to run a big department that has 350,000 people
(Julie Hirschfeld Davis, New York Times) Are you telling us that the White House was not aware of any of the allegations before the President decided to name Dr. Jackson? Just, first of all, to clarify.
Can you describe to us, then, what the vetting process was at the White House before he was named, given that, as David just mentioned, there is an inspector general report and there have been allegations in the past that are now coming to light, but they existed before the President chose him?
So the only vetting that was done of him as a nominee was to look at his past background checks, is what you’re telling us?
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. Let me ask you a couple questions about the Tim Cook meeting that is either wrapped or going on right now. Do you, by chance, have a readout of what exactly took place? Did the President promise to —
Let me ask you. In the last month now, the President has met with Bill Gates, who is the second-wealthiest individual in the world. Now he’s meeting with Tim Cook, who runs the largest company in the United States. Does the President have any intentions, at any point, to meet with the wealthiest individual in the world, Jeff Bezos? And if so, under what conditions would that be?
(Ashley Parker, Washington Post) Sarah, Scott Pruitt lived for below-market rent in a Capitol Hill row house owned by an energy industry lobbyist. He reportedly directed staff to give raises to top aides, and then obfuscated about it. He spent over $150,000 of taxpayer dollars on first-class travel. And he reportedly once even tried to get his security detail to use their sirens so he could get to a reservation at Le Diplomate, among other alleged ethical lapses. I know you’ve said yesterday you were looking at reports about him, but can you sort of explain why he still has a job in the President’s Cabinet, and also how his behavior is in keeping with the values of draining the swamp?
(Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thanks. Just to follow up on that — when you say you expect Administrator Pruitt to answer for these accusations, where do you expect that to happen? Like, are you looking for this in hearings? Is the White House asking questions?
And also, just to follow up on Jackson. When you say that he’s been through four background checks, can you say — but these allegations have now come up, and some of them are very serious — is the White House going to look into the allegations that have been made against him about drinking on the job and (inaudible)?
(Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to clarify, too, about these four background checks. Were any of these background checks since President Trump took office or since he was named as the nominee for VA Secretary? And has the White House ever been informed of allegations like these — like excessively drinking on the job or passing out medication like candy, as it were — since he was the physician for President Trump?
And to follow up on what I was asking about the background check. When was his most recent background check?
(Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, on North Korea: Is the President willing to accept anything short of complete denuclearization before lifting any sanctions?
But does that mean no sanctions lifted until that’s achieved? Are you willing to go incrementally?
When the President said in his tweet that they had agreed to denuclearize, where did they do that? Have they already agreed to do that?
(Steve Holland, Reuters) Sarah, to what extent will the Iran nuclear deal come up in the conversation between the President and President Macron? And what does President Trump want to hear from Macron on this thing?
And is the President still leaning towards decertifying the deal when it comes up again on May 12th?
(Jim Acosta, CNN) Wanted to ask you a question, sort of following up on what you were asked this morning about Michael Cohen. It was noticed by some that you didn’t close the door one way or the other on the President pardoning Michael Cohen. What is your read on that right now?
SANDERS: It’s hard to close a door on something that hasn’t taken place. I don’t like to discuss or comment on hypothetical situations that may or may not ever happen. I would refer you to personal attorneys to comment on anything specific regarding that case, but we don’t have anything at this point.
And can I just ask you about a tweet that the President put out last week? He tweeted a lot over the weekend. But last week, he said — he was talking about sanctuary cities in California and saying, “There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept.” (Jim read this straight and the transcriptionist put the Trumpisms back in–like “sooooo”) We haven’t had a chance to ask you about that tweet. When he used the word “breeding,” was he making a derogatory term about Latinos in California — that they breed a lot or that they’re prone to breeding? Was he talking about —
What does that mean though?
(Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I also wanted to follow up on a couple of the President’s tweets. The first was earlier this morning. I’m wondering if you could explain the President’s tweet that he had ordered DHS not to allow large caravans of individuals into the country. So if you can say both what specifically he ordered DHS to do, and what that would mean for individuals claiming refugee status within the United States.
And then in the other tweet that the President did over the weekend, he said that he didn’t see Michael Cohen flipping to get out of trouble with the government. I guess that prompts two questions. The first is, what the President believes his personal attorney might have done to get him in trouble with the government. And secondly, what the President has done that he is worried Michael Cohen could flip about.
SANDERS: The President has been clear that he hasn’t done anything wrong. I think we’ve stated that about a thousand times. Beyond that, I don’t have anything to add beyond the President’s tweet.
(Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. There have been a number of documented cases in the press recently of EPA Administrator Pruitt at least appearing to be dishonest about requesting raises for aides, about his relationship with a lobbyist who had business before the EPA (inaudible). Is the White House concerned at all about this pattern? And is there concern about him testifying before Congress on Thursday, as scheduled, where these issues are probably going to come up?
(Ashley Parker, Washington Post) Sarah, President Macron is hoping that a proposed side deal between the U.S. and European powers could strengthen the Iran deal enough that President Trump would feel comfortable staying in it. So is that sort of a fool’s errand? And the President has said it’s a bad deal. Does he believe there’s anything that could be done to fix it in a way he’d be comfortable with?
(Mara Liasson, NPR News) Thank you, Sarah. Just to go back to Jonathan’s question about North Korea, the President tweeted pretty flatly, “…they have agreed to denuclearization.” And then, you’re saying that they just agreed to talk about it. What is the President’s definition of complete denuclearization?
Does that mean removing all nukes — our nukes and theirs?
(Guy in CBS chair) Sarah, President Macron appears to have a very robust agenda coming to Washington. He wants to change the President’s mind on a lot of different things — on the Iran nuclear deal, on keeping U.S. troops in Syria, on tariffs, and maybe even on the Paris Climate Accord. Does he have an open mind? Is it possible that he will change his mind after President Macron gets through with him?
So there’s a great negotiator and not-such-a-great negotiator.
Positive for France?
Could the the President change his mind on some of these things?
His mind is open?
(Peter Baker, NBC News) Sarah, why should North Korea believe that the U.S. is an honest broker, when the President has said publicly that he would like to get out of the deal the U.S. and others made with Iran?
So he would never backtrack on this deal?
Sarah, beyond what you said about —
(Steve Herman, VOA) Yeah, Sarah, I just want to follow up on that about North Korea. I’m wondering, what gives you any optimism that the North Koreans are really looking to denuclearize? Because of the statements that they’re making, everybody seems to be jumping on the very positive aspects of the statements. But they were also saying over the weekend that their completion of the nuclear arsenal, which they call their “powerful treasured sword,” firmly guarantees forever the country’s security and well-being. That doesn’t sound like any wiggle room on denuclearization.
(Yamiche Alcindor, NPR) I have two quick questions. The first one is, that the New York Times and others reported that federal prosecutors have recommended charges against the New York police officer involved in Eric Garner’s death. But the Justice Department has expressed some strong reservations. Where do things stand with the case of Eric Garner, and when does the Justice Department — when are they going to make a decision about the police officer and whether or not they’re going to charge him?
And the second question I have is the President tweeted —
Can you let all of us know?
The second question is the President tweeted, “James Comey illegally classified documents to press in order — leaked documents to press [in order] to generate a Special Council? Therefore, the Special Council was established based on an illegal act? Really, does everyone know what that means?” What does the President think that means? And is he indicating that the Special Counsel should be fired because of the way that it was begun? (Again, hilarious that the transcriptionist faithfully preserves the spelling errors of the original tweet)
So what does it mean?
Yeah, but the question that he posed?
(Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Over the weekend, a fourth House Republican called for the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to step down. He said he’s the wrong fit for the EPA. What’s your reaction to that?
Last week, Andrew Wheeler was confirmed by the Senate. He is Scott Pruitt’s deputy at the EPA. Couldn’t he easily implement all of the President’s agenda if Scott Pruitt stepped aside? He wouldn’t have a dark cloud hanging over the agency. What’s your view on that idea?
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Thank you, Sarah. On the Iran nuclear deal, President Macron said don’t leave if there’s not a better option, and then the Iranian Foreign Minister tweeted today, “President Macron is correct in saying there’s no ‘Plan B’… It’s either all or nothing.” So my question to you is, does the White House believe that there is actually a realistic “Plan B” out there?
And then later today, on Mike Pompeo —
SANDERS: Sorry, I’m going to keep moving just because we’re running out of time.
(John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. YOU may not be willing to be specific about the matters that President Trump and President Macron will negotiate on, but the French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was very specific at the World Bank and IMF spring meeting. He said on Friday, the French will insist on, and I quote, “a full and permanent exemption,” of any trade tariffs the United States might want to impose on France. He went on to say that if they are going to be a partner in dealing with China and other countries, they cannot have, what he called, a “sword of Damocles” hanging over them. That’s pretty strong language. Is trade and a permanent exemption —
Is it on the table as Minister Le Maire wishes?
(Kevin Corke, Fox News) Thank you, Sarah. Two quick ones. One on Syria: Is it fair to say the President agrees with the French President that a precipitous or too-quick removal of America’s presence from Syria would be a danger or damaging to the Syrian people? And if there is agreement there, is there a possibility that the two will come to some sort of a formal announcement during his time here? And a follow on Mike Pompeo: What would be the number one issue that the President would like him to tackle assuming that, as expected, he is approved today?
(Richard in the AP seat) Just on Pompeo, does the President consider Republicans who oppose Pompeo’s nomination to be obstructionist? And separately, what does it say to the rest of the world if Pompeo can’t get a favorable recommendation out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?
(Mike Bender, Wall Street Journal) A couple of — one on NAFTA and Iran. On NAFTA, has the administration decided whether to bring — renegotiate the deal back to Congress? Is there a chance that those changes won’t need congressional approval? And just about Iran, that deal has been being looked at by a team that was appointed by —
The President’s Iran team was mostly put in place by McMaster and Tillerson. Does the President still have confidence in that team? Has he been briefed on their developments lately? And does he and John Bolton support where they’re at right now?
(April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, a couple questions. Two questions. Going back to the issue of Eric Garner: A couple weeks ago, when I asked you about Alton Sterling, Stephon Clark, and the issue of Eric Garner, you said it was a local issue. Does this White House give the directive now to the Justice Department that it’s a local matter and that’s why it kind of been held up? Is that what’s going on now with this Eric Garner case?
And last thing, I want to follow up on Jim. What you said — “breeding.” The President was very clear at his statement about this issue. He said, in a tweet, “There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept.” What did he mean by “breeding”? (April did not read the tweet straight, she played it as it laid, drawing out her vowels and adding in the emphasis)
But what does “breeding” mean? What does “breeding” mean to this President? Because when you think of breeding, you think of animals breeding — populating.
SANDERS: I’m not going to begin to think what you think —
But can you tell us what the President thought?
SANDERS: Certainly, I think that it can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. But the President is talking about a growing problem. And I addressed that with Jim, and I don’t have anything else to add.
(Lalit Jha, Press Trust of India) Thank you. I wanted to ask you about Afghanistan. There have been quite a number of attacks in Afghanistan the last few days. This is the first fighting season after President announced his official policy. How do you see the situation in Afghanistan now?
How do you see the situation in Afghanistan now?
(Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) Thank you very much. Two quick questions. One, just to define what the President meant about “breeding.” To be specific, he’s NOT talking about people having babies, yes?
SANDERS: Not that I’m aware of. I’d have to ask him to dig into that deeper.
But how do you know he’s not talking about that?
SANDERS: I just said, “Not that I’m aware of.” And I would have to ask him to be more specific.
Okay. And in regards to the Mueller investigation —
In regards to the Mueller investigation, I understand this administration says that there’s no collusion. So if we take the President at his word, he can’t be aware of everything that went on underneath him by everyone who works for him. So if there’s someone who worked for him underneath him that is guilty or is prosecuted by the Mueller team, would he not support those who did wrong, even if he was unaware of it?
I’m not asking about that.
I’m asking about those who work beneath him.
But he would support — right, he would support the prosecution of —
April 13, 2018 (yesterday, before the announcement of Syrian airstrikes)
(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)
(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?
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.)
(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.
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?
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):