TOWOIT #328: “Explain one way this is the definition of draining the swamp”

May 11, 2018

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)
Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 6.31.27 PM
This reporter asked Alex Azar about transgender rights
  • (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.
Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 7.06.37 PM
The question that didn’t get asked.

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:

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  • (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)

TOWOIT #327: Swampy behavior

May 9, 2018

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.

CNN Screen cap with Breaking News banner that says "White House refuses to answer questions regarding Michael Cohen Payments"
April Ryan and Brian Karem, two of the unrepentants, on the right.
  • (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?
  • This year.
  • (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?

TOWOIT #326: BE BEST!

May 7, 2018

  • (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.

TOWOIT #325: Lying or in the dark

May 3, 2018

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.

Continue reading TOWOIT #325: Lying or in the dark

TOWOIT #324: This is my little corner of this shit show, I guess

May 1, 2018

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:

Continue reading TOWOIT #324: This is my little corner of this shit show, I guess

TOWOIT #323: Champions of the free press

April 25, 2018

  • (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?

TOWOIT #322: Breeding concept?

April 23, 2018 

  • (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?
  • He’s not?

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 —

TOWOIT #320: Slime ball

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 10.26.44 AM

  • (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) 

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 10.39.59 AM

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

April 10, 2018

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

 

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

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

 

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

But I mean, who are they now?

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

April 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

TOWOIT #316

April 6, 2018

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

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Subhead should be “GODDAMNIT.”

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

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

Behold:

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Questions the reporters asked on 4/6/2018:

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

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

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

IMG_6539

IMG_6542

IMG_6546

IMG_6548

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

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

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

Sarah interrupts him and YELLS at him.

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

IMG_6545

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

TOWOIT #315: Gaggle

From yesterday, April 5, 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions asked to Trump himself on the plane ride home:

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

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

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

April 4, 2018

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

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

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

Questions asked of Kirstjen Nielsen:

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