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

April 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

TOWOIT #316

April 6, 2018

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

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Subhead should be “GODDAMNIT.”

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

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

Behold:

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Questions the reporters asked on 4/6/2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah interrupts him and YELLS at him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

TOWOIT #313: Racist asshole gives non-denial denials

March 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOWOIT #312: “ALL WILL BE HAPPY”

March 28, 2018

Hello!

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

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

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

Questions from yesterday (3/27/2018):

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

TOWOIT #310: Not a news conference

March 23, 2018

There wasn’t a White House daily briefing yesterday, but Mick Mulvaney snuck in and talked about the spending bill for 15 minutes with reporters. When asked if the president would sign it, he replied VERY confidently, that YES, he would! He did the Mulvaney thing where he goes, “Why, you ask?” and then he said because it funds the president’s priorities!

Then the next morning President Genius went on Twitter and said he was thinking about vetoing the spending bill.

Mind you, it’s down to the wire to avoid a government shut down.

There’s nothing on the C-span schedule for most of the morning about a White House Daily Briefing with Sarah Sanders, but then one pops up for a briefing at 1:00 and reporters scramble to be there.

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Then suddenly, it wasn’t with Sarah Sanders it was with Donald Trump and it was about the omnibus bill. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman put her two cents in.

Tweet saying that the President will give a press availability at 1 pm

C-span still said it would be a daily briefing with Sarah Sanders, but they put up a photo of Donald Trump. On the White House You Tube channel, it said that Trump would give a press conference on the omnibus bill.

People got excited.

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Then it became clear that it wasn’t going to be in the briefing room. Except nothing was really made clear. Trey Yingst made smoldering eye contact with Eamon Javers across the crowded briefing room.

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No briefing after all, no conference. No veto. No questions.

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People accused Sarah Sanders of participating in a charade on getting away with only having one daily briefing in an incredibly eventful week, while tricking people into thinking that canceling a Friday briefing was an unavoidable misfortune.

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The White House you tube video window went all “broken link!” and then the title suddenly changed and from “President Trump gives a news conference to discuss the omnibus bill” to “President Trump Participates in a Bill Signing.” Participates!

So the ones that were allowed into the diplomatic room to hear Trump ramble went in there to wait to hear Trump ramble.

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Alexandra Petri wasn’t there, she’s just funny.

Various news outlets on Twitter and You Tube were still heralding an imminent “news conference” with Trump, several minutes after the reporters had been tweeting that that wasn’t what it was.

C-span kept scooching back the start time in five-minute increments as if they really didn’t know what was happening.

People kept piling into the White House You Tube channel to watch. Twenty-six minutes after the “press availability” was scheduled to start, Trump wandered in and commenced rambling.

He read through a laundry list of cool military stuff, and implied that stealth planes are actually invisible, which he has done before.

He said stuff like, we got “one hundred percent of our land back from ISIS” (what?)

And also stuff like “the tanker aircraft is very important, based on everything.”

After 18 minutes, he thanked everyone and left the podium, definitely not planning to ask a single question. He responded off mic to one guy who yelled a question and then he left.

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Once again, he forgot to sign the bill.

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The funny thing to me was that viewers piled into the White House You Tube channel, and the viewership climbed and climbed… until a couple minutes after Trump started talking, and then people just started BAILING out of the live stream.

There’s a standard pattern with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (or Raj Shah). The viewership slowly builds as people wait for the briefing to start (actual start marked as “B”) and then the curve gets steeper and veers up when the briefing actually starts, then gently approaches an asymptote and gets more flat until the end of the briefing. But it never TANKS while the event is still happening!. I imagined all the people being like “Screw this guy. This isn’t a news conference!”

I liked that.

A graph with a bunch of lines showing viewership across minutes on the White House you tube channel.

People REALLY got worked up beforehand. The briefing started just after the line surpassed 20,000 viewers.

And that’s the end of my story.

Back to our regularly scheduled shit show, folks.

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TOWOIT #304: “You don’t come back from that.”

March 9, 2018

Questions they asked SHS today:  Continue reading TOWOIT #304: “You don’t come back from that.”

TOWOIT #303: “If this is not the definition of chaotic…”

March 7, 2018

Here are the questions reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders aka Literally The Worst:

Continue reading TOWOIT #303: “If this is not the definition of chaotic…”

TOWOIT #290: “How should women feel if they don’t have a photograph?”

February 8, 2018

Today Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah spoke to reporters about the Rob Porter scandal and took questions.

I thought it was very odd that Sarah Sanders wasn’t there on such an important day. Raj Shah had never done a briefing before (he did very well at it though). The White House said it was a pre-planned absence, but I think it’s strange.

Adding to the general sense of things being off, the briefing kept scooting later and later into the day. It was first planned for 1:00, then delayed until 2:30. Then, after the reporters had been sitting around for several minutes waiting, a voice came over the loud speaker (also odd-seeming), announcing that the briefing would now be at 3:15. Loud groans erupted.

John Roberts, Fox News TV ready, jumped up and talked to the cameraman while also talking on the phone to the studio. He decided to go out on the North Lawn to do his next on-camera segment before the briefing was scheduled to start. Then the 3:15 time period passed, 3:21, 3:24, 3:27…

At 3:37, Peter Alexander stood up on his little step-stool to do an on-camera with NBC. He could be heard saying, “They gave us the two-minute warning five minutes ago, so they are definitely struggling with something.” Then at the end of his piece he signed off to say, “…the White House Press Briefing, which is expected to start two hours and twenty minutes ago.” The room, which had gone quiet out of courtesy, erupted in laughter.

Then Jim Acosta with CNN went on air and the waiting reporters became even more the story. “The mood in the room —” he said, and then, gesturing around, “— what’s the mood?” and he was greeted with a mix of groans and whoops.

When Raj finally showed up, it was a relief to have him instead of Sarah, for the change. But you do wonder how someone decent-seeming, who you’ve barely had a chance to begin to despise, could debase himself by working for this White House. Raj broke with Trumpian tradition by saying repeatedly that everyone involved on the White House staff could have done some things differently and handled the Rob Porter situation better. Other than that, he was all over the place. It was a smudgy and squidgy spin job, delivered fairly calmly.

Oh, also, Raj Shah used the phrase “The President’s generals” today.

Here are the questions reporters asked Raj Shah.

Continue reading TOWOIT #290: “How should women feel if they don’t have a photograph?”

TOWOIT #288: “He cried out eleven times”

February 6, 2018

To start Tuesday’s press briefing, Acting Assistant AG John Cronan came in and spoke very slowly and dramatically about MS-13, a “brutal gang of savages.”

Reporters’ questions for Cronan:

  • (Can’t see who asked this question) I had a question, yeah. Given the threat that you’re discussing here, why has Attorney General Sessions renewed a, sort of, increase in the enforcement against marijuana, even though a lot of states have tried to decriminalize or make it legal?
  • But you do have finite resources, correct? So why put a priority, again, in an area that had been deprioritized and had not been considered nearly the threat that this kind of violence you’re talking about is?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) John, people in this community have been reading about MS-13 since 2006. Is it your position that the previous two administrations, Bush and Obama, simply did not prioritize this? Or is it much worse now than it was then, and therefore it is justified to have the focus you’re describing here today?
  • Did the previous two administrations not appreciate this, let this grow, let this become a bigger problem? Two questions. Last year, President Trump talked about MS-13. We saw some graphic detail about MS-13. Now you’ve given the President an update. What, beyond an immigration issue, will the Justice Department be doing to break the back of MS-13? That’s the first question.
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Two questions. Last year, President Trump talked about MS-13. We saw some graphic detail about MS-13. Now you’ve given the President an update. What, beyond an immigration issue, will the Justice Department be doing to break the back of MS-13? That’s the first question.
  • And for my second question — yeah, and on my second question, on another issue. And I’m glad you’re here today. The Eric Garner case — it’s still out there, and there are people waiting for an indictment. His mother is looking for justice. He cried out 11 times, “I can’t breathe.” What’s new? What’s happening? What should we expect on that case? (This is an example where I feel like April is reading these facts back into the record by asking)
  • But it’s in the criminal — we understand that it is in the criminal department — the criminal portion of Justice. So, I mean, is there any movement at all? Because I’m hearing that there should have been an indictment here.
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Jonathan, in the Cabinet Room, where you gave your first presentation, the whole MS-13 issue was wrapped up in the need to increase border enforcement, to change our immigration laws. Do you have any idea how many of the 10,000 gang members of MS-13 in this country are here legally and how many are here illegally?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Isn’t it true that MS-13 makes up just a small fraction of gang members in this country, though?
  • Few people would certainly argue with that characterization that MS-13 targets communities in this country. But what would you say to critics who say you’re using this gang to basically paint a very broad brushstroke against immigrants and scare people here?

There’s a scrum here where the reporters are shouting over each other — this feels unusual, but then it’s been a crazy news week with no briefings — and then you hear a woman’s voice say “I’m going to ask, I’m going to ask” and a man saying “OK” and quieting down.

  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) You talked about the Attorney General’s leadership here, Jeff Sessions’s, what he’s been doing in fighting this gang problem. And I want to ask about somebody else who’s a leader of the DOJ, Rod Rosenstein. Are you comfortable with his leadership? Do you believe the rank-and-file are comfortable? Do you believe he’s being unfairly maligned by the President?

Cronan says, a bit doltishly, “I’m here to talk about MS-13.”

  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) So my question, if you — really quick. May we — look, local law enforcement — one of the biggest problems local law enforcement has is that they believe that your particular rules and what you’re doing now are actually causing more problems, because people in the immigrant communities are afraid to come forward and testify against MS-13 because they believe they’re going to be deported if they do so. Can you at least give them any assurance that the immigrant communities, particularly in Gaithersburg, Maryland — you brought that one up and people had — the police in Montgomery County had a difficult time getting people to come forward as witnesses because they were afraid they would be deported if they did so. So your own rules, your own — what you’re doing is scaring people away. Can you address that?
  • No, well, but they’re afraid that you’re going to ship them out and deport them if they do. That’s a real fear. They’ve expressed that fear.
  • You see where that might be a problem, though, in prosecuting the case?

That was it for Cronan.

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The podium changeover from Cronan to Sanders. Brian Karem is still wrapping up a point about immigrants who are afraid to talk to the authorities about MS-13. We also have Saagar Enjeti with his haircut, and a lackey in a mint-green tie, and the top half of Hallie jackson’s birdlike head, and Sarah Sanders smiling calmly because she doesn’t give a shit. 

Cutesy Sarah Huckabee Sanders is so sinister to me. The idea of keeping the briefings SO short and then holding a roomful of reporters hostage while you slowly smarm your way through a child’s letter (This one ended with “P.S. Our pop-pop says that you’re doing a great job. Thank you for keeping us safe.”) — it’s just unconscionable to me. Every day it gets harder and harder not to use gendered insults against her.

  • (AP) Sarah, on the President’s shutdown comments a few minutes ago, a few weeks ago he said that a shutdown would be devastating to the military. Does he now feel that a shutdown would be worth it even if members of the U.S. military were negatively impacted?
  • But isn’t the President encouraging a shutdown here?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Can you then clarify, would the President rather see a shutdown, or a short-term spending fix this week?
  • And then I’m hoping you can clarify one other thing. Chief of Staff John Kelly said today that some DREAMers were, “Too lazy to get off their asses” to register for DACA protections. Is that the position of this White House that DREAMers are lazy? Who thinks this?
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, what did the President make of the stock market’s volatility yesterday and today? And does he have any regrets about taking responsibility or credit for the stock market’s rise?
  • Does he have any second thoughts about taking credit for when the stock market goes up?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. Has the President had a chance to review the memo from the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee? And is he inclined to release it?
  • Before the review concluded last time, the President had made it clear to lawmakers that he was inclined to release the Republican memo. Has he made any kind of similar comments to you guys about the Democratic memo?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President, on the Republican memo, says that it completely vindicates him. And this weekend we heard from Trey Gowdy, who is on the Intelligence Committee, who had a large part in writing that memo. In what way does the President believe that the Republican memo vindicates him? (A good place to remember that Jon Decker is trained as a lawyer)
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, I would think it’s fair to say that many members of the Senate, including Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, were surprised by the President’s comments. So I’d like to see if I could figure out exactly what he was driving at. Is the President saying that unless there is an immigration compromise that he’s satisfied with, he will not sign the emerging budget compromise on a two-year budget deal that McConnell and Schumer are working out? Or will he deal with that separately from the budget talks that are going on now? And both of those represent — are making substantial progress. (People just literally can’t figure out what the President of the United States is trying to say)
  • Does immigration have to be included in that?
  • But do they have to be together?
  • Will he sign a budget deal that does not include immigration policy reforms?
  • So let me ask one other thing about — Senator Flake said something on the Senate floor just a minute ago. I want to give you a chance to respond. He said, and I quote —

MS. SANDERS: I’m sure this will be eventful.

  • “I have seen the President’s most ardent defenders use the now weary argument that the President’s comments were meant as a joke, just sarcasm, only tongue-in-cheek. But treason is not a punchline.” Can you say for the sake of the future that you agree with Senator Flake on that, that treason, or treasonous, is not a punchline, is not a joking matter?

MS. SANDERS: Look, honestly I’m not going to respond directly to Senator Flake’s comments. I don’t really care what Senator Flake has to say. I don’t think his constituents do either, and I think that’s why his numbers are in the tank.

  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Sarah, I want to ask you a question about —
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, thank you. Sarah, you did call on me.
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask you a question about stocks. On the positive economic news, there is a school of thought among economists that, given the current growth in the economy, to inject the economy with stimulus and the tax cuts could actually spark inflation. So — which means is, when these people have more money to spend, prices necessarily go up, and the prices that people pay, go up. And that’s not a good thing. So how keenly focused is this President on inflation fears? And ahead of next month’s Fed meeting, has the President spoken to Chairman Powell about whether he thinks interest rates should go up or not?
  • Any thought on interest rates, one way or the other?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, as it related to the Republican memo, the President and this White House argued it was important to release it for the sake of transparency. So, therefore, can the American people expect to see the Democratic memo in the sake of transparency?
  • (Unintelligible) determination prior to releasing the Republican memo. So why not the same, as it relates to transparency and —
  • He said, “100 percent.” He said, “100 percent”
  • One question about John Kelly and his comments calling DREAMers — indicating some of them are lazy. Does that type of rhetoric help get a bipartisan deal done?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, also up on Capitol Hill today, Chief of Staff Kelly said that he didn’t think the President would be likely to extend the DACA deadline from March 5th. But twice in Davos, the President said, “If we need a little more time, we’ll take a little more time,” on DACA. And then in a gaggle, when asked if he would extend the deadline, he said, “Yeah, I might do that. I might do that…not guaranteeing it…but I certainly have the right do that if I want [to].” So, which is it? Is he is still open to the idea of extending the deadline, or is it closed? (Again, not even Fox News can tell what the President means when he speaks)
  • Sarah, can you clarify, is he open to extending the deadline, or has that door closed? (John Roberts looks annoyed)
  • (Jennifer Jacobs) Sarah. Thank you so much, Sarah. So on North Korea and the Vice President, when we’ve asked in recent days whether the Vice President — we’ve asked Secretary Rex Tillerson and the Vice President himself — whether he would be interested in meeting with North Korean officials while he is traveling in South Korea for the Olympics, and they both have said, “We’ll see.” Is the administration trying to signal some interest in talks with North Korean officials? Or what is that about?
  • Will the administration rule out that the Vice President will speak with North Koreans while he’s there?
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Can I get back to the Chief of Staff saying that some of the DREAMers may just have been too lazy to get off their asses? Just on the face of it, isn’t that just a wildly offensive comment about these undocumented immigrants who are waiting for some kind of solution to come out of this city?
  • On the surface of that, Sarah, though, isn’t it just a — it’s just an offensive comment, though, isn’t it? Just on its surface.

MS. SANDERS: I think that’s something you would have to decide for yourself.

(Uh yeah… we decided.)

  • (David) Sarah, have the President’s lawyers advised him not to testify before Robert Mueller?
  • It’s possible he won’t testify?
  • Sarah, two things. On the economy and the shutdown, how is a shutdown that the President wants to basically show Democrats that they’re wrong — how is a shutdown going to help the economy and help those who this administration is saying we want to lift out of the situation, the plight that they’re in?
  • And then — okay, and then on the next piece, you said treasonous was a joke. But what about “un-American”? In Washington, over the years with the State of the Union, one side — be it if it’s a Democratic President, the Republicans sit. If it’s a Democratic President — well, whatever, you get it. If it’s a Democratic President, the Republicans sit. If there’s a Republican President, the Democrats sit. What is so un-American about this, this year, after this has been going on for all of these years?
  • But he was specifically talking about the black unemployment rate. But he was specifically, at that moment when he was in Cincinnati, talking about the black unemployment rate.

MS. SANDERS: And that’s something everybody should be excited about.

  • But it’s jumped up from 6.8 to 7.7.
  • It’s still higher.
  • But it’s still higher than it was.
  • But it’s still higher —

(She decides to take one last question after saying April was the last. She calls on John Gizzi who is usually very safe. Before John asks his question a man calls out “What’s unAmerican about disagreeing!?”)

  • Thank you, Sarah. Quick question. There have been numerous published reports that Dave Bowdich, number three in the FBI, would be moved up to be deputy director, under Director Wray. He received both his present appointment and his previous position as head of the Los Angeles office of the FBI under former Director Comey. Given the administration’s almost contumacious criticism of Mr. Comey — (laughter) — is there going to be any objection to Mr. Bowdich moving up to the number-two spot under Director Wray?

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(This was just the diversion she wanted — laughter and jokiness ensued)

As Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked out, something happened that upset me. A man on the side of the room shouted, in a very urgent way, a joke question that was not funny, and was not necessary, and made a mockery out of what the reporters in the room try to do, and he brought April Ryan’s name into it, digging up some beef between April Ryan and Sarah Huckabee Sanders from months ago. April Ryan said “What? I didn’t say anything about that!” And then a few seconds later she just said, “Don’t do that.”

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I like to think that NPR’s Tamara Keith has gone to the French Riviera in her mind

TOWOIT #285: —and he screamed with caps, all caps—

January 29, 2018

Andrew McCabe is stepping down or being forced out (one or the other), a hollow SOTU is scheduled, black people should be grateful to Trump, reporters are getting a runaround on the sanctions deadline, and the nationalized 5G network is going over like a lead balloon.

Here are the questions the White House press corps asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the 14 minutes she allotted for Q&A.

Continue reading TOWOIT #285: —and he screamed with caps, all caps—

TOWOIT #280: Confusing Tweets

January 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

Continue reading TOWOIT #280: Confusing Tweets

TOWOIT #274: The Uncomfortability of Omarosa

December 14, 2017… Day 329

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 7.06.24 PM

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

 

TOWOIT #273: Do anything

December 13, 2017… Day 327

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

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

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 5.22.47 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOWOIT #272: I’m not done.

December 11, 2017… Day 326

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TOWOIT #270: Lockstep

December 5, 2017… Day #320

Questions the reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today:

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