TOWOIT #120

May 16, 2017… Day 117

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Holy. Moly. When is a bombshell THE bombshell? I’m so tired and confused.

When I was still in bed this morning, I saw Trump’s tweets about his absolute right to share information with Russia. That made me want to throw up. The President getting comfortable with being an autocrat.

Still windmilling, still don’t know which way things are going. Because they’re consolidating power even as they are imploding. And the Republicans just let them do it. What the hell is happening.

H.R. McMaster barks at reporters on camera. It is sad to see H.R. McMaster debase himself so utterly. Later in the day, Sean Spicer sounds wan and haggard off camera. No more bids for chuckles.

Then we find out that James Comey has memos about all his interactions with Trump, including the time Trump suggested the FBI just let the Flynn thing go, and the time that Trump suggested that the FBI lock up reporters.

“This is it,” said my friend at work, who was once a Republican. I said I hoped so but I was too jaded. Also, all this damage and severe Republican fuckery doesn’t get undone just by getting rid of Trump. Could just be part of our merry tumble into autocracy or theocracy?

It came out that it was Israel. And that the Russian reporter who “tricked” his way into the oval office reported it in Russia, and that now a spy’s life is in danger in Isis-held territory.

And then it felt like the wheels were starting to come off, at least according to congressional twitter.

So I don’t know. But I hear it’s nothing but shouting, screaming, and cursing all over the West Wing tonight.

 

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Reporter questions:

Continue reading TOWOIT #120

TOWOIT #119

May 15, 2017… Day 116

Where to begin. Where to even begin.

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Found this in a drawer today

Here’s stuff that came out before the Washington Post bombshell news alert:

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SO, here’s a ton of tweets and headlines about this thing which seems to be a bombshell (but inevitably, like always, will never be THE bombshell). Trump gave highly classified info to Lavrov and Kislyak in the Oval Office last week. Info given to us by an ally, which they did not want Russia to have. Washington Post broke the story this afternoon. Two officials confirmed the story later for other outlets. H.R. McMaster came out on the White House lawn and barked at reporters for 90 seconds (literally 90 seconds), and then went back inside without answering a single question. I think that’s all the backstory you need.

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And before all that, these are the questions reporters asked Sean Spicer at the White House Press Briefing today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #119

TOWOIT #118

May 14, 2017… Day 115

Even now some Sundays still seem quiet… especially if you don’t have TV and can only interpret the Sunday morning political shows through the cheesecloth of Sunday morning Twitter.

I wrote a letter to Chuck Schumer about Arctic drilling, and I listened to the news, scanned Twitter, and watched SNL clips on YouTube. But mostly, it was a day off.

Party of Five on Netflix for background noise while I’m cleaning my apartment. Telecommunications and the news cycle were different then.

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These are my before and after Zumba selfies. They are also before coffee and before coffee.

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This cropped up in my Facebook timeline:

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And this was in my Twitter feed:

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And then once I fell down THAT rabbit hole:

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Tomorrow will be a new day and a new week, with a new crop of calamities, headlines, hopes, fears, rumors, podcasts, White House briefing questions, Congressional floor speeches, Trump tweets, the gazillion real-time data points of the stock markets, infographics, a new daily Gallup poll number, The Daily 202 column from the Washington Post, and The Daily podcast from The New York Times, which alternately soothes me and enrages me without meaning to. There will be so much snipping tool and so much scribbling.

 

 

 

 

TOWOIT #116

May 12, 2017… Day 113

H.R. McMaster came in and yelled at the reporters during the White House Press Briefing. He sounded just like Flynn putting Iran on notice. I don’t know why McMaster wants to mess with his reputation like that. He’s part of the propaganda machine now.

I don’t want to forget, in light of this Comey madness (more madness today), that Jeff Sessions is a total disaster as Attorney General for other reasons. Harsher drug sentencing, and the lack of sympathy for the victims of police brutality — this guy is racist as fuck. As one headline said, this guy is going to fill prisons one way or another.

Tillerson signed a trans-Arctic agreement emphasizing the need for action on climate change, even as the Trump administration is still mulling over withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

Chris Stirewalt, writing for Fox News online today:

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And in another Fox News piece, this one by John Moody, there’s this:

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The first piece is harshly critical of Trump. The second is much much kinder, the paragraph I just clipped notwithstanding. But the second piece seems to be offering Trump a narrative. The title is “Does Donald Trump Want to be President?” It’s laced with Trump flattery and is a sweetly persuasive argument for why it would be better for Trump, and make total sense, if he just bowed out now and let Pence take over. It would still be a success. It would be the best win!

Also, on the Fox News TV channel today they were going full bore on the Comey story. Earlier in the week, they were pretending like it was barely happening.

Vanity Fair included Fox in its rundown of media responses yesterday:

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This morning, a conservative financial blog casually (and straight-facedly) ran the numbers of what they predicted the markets would do if Trump resigned (answer: a 3-5% bump!). One guy at work said he bet that Trump would resign BY MONDAY. Everyone laughed at him, but still. Also, for what it’s worth, the moderate Republicans at work have started throwing around the word “impeachment.”

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Today is also the day that Trump suggested there were tapes of his conversations with Comey, and told Comey (via tweet) to watch his mouth when talking to the press.

Comey declined to testify to Congress next week. But then it seeped out later that he wanted to testify in public, not in a closed door session. Also that he said he HOPED there were tapes. Cause that’d be perfect.

Bunch of stuff with Paul Manafort and his finances. Bunch of stuff with Trump’s finances. Stupid “certified letter” regarding Trump’s financial ties to Russia. The Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit agreed to hand over financial information on Trump.

Questions the reporters asked Sean Spicer today:

  • Moving on to the news of the week, really, and the day, did President Trump record his conversations with former FBI Director Comey?
  • His tweet.
  • Why did he say that? Why did he tweet that? What should we interpret from that?
  • Are there recording devices in the Oval Office or in the residence?
  • Does he think it’s appropriate to threaten someone like Mr. Comey not to speak?
  •  If I could quote another one of the President’s tweets this morning, he said “Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the U.S. tears itself apart over a Democrat excuse for losing the election.” What did the President mean by that? How specifically is the U.S. tearing itself apart over all of this?
  • I understand all that, but — you’ve said that many times. But how is the U.S. “tearing itself apart” over this?
  • Do you think this is what the Russians wanted all along in interfering with the election?
  • Sean, in the dinner that the President had with James Comey earlier in January, did the President implore him to pledge his loyalty to the President? Is that true?
  • Did that happen? That did not happen?
  • How important is it that the FBI director be loyal to the President? Is that a quality the President wants to see in anyone, particularly his FBI director?
  • Thanks, Sean. On the dinner with James Comey, does anyone in this White House have an audio recording of what unfolded during the January 27th dinner between the former FBI director and the President of the United States?
  • I have one follow-up question for you. What can the administration do better when it comes to communication? Today the President tweeted out that he felt from behind that podium it’s not always possible to present the information with “perfect accuracy.”
  • Is the President considering cancelling the daily press briefings?
  • Can I ask you one final logistical question? On the original question I had about the dinner on January 27th with James Comey, the President wasn’t clear during the NBC interview who invited the FBI director to the White House at that time. How many invitations did the White House send to Director James Comey after January 20th and before the director was fired?
  • Thanks, Sean. I have a question about the Turkish President’s visit next week. He recently called — President Erdogan called for Muslims to rush the Temple Mount. Considering the President has said he’s a mediator for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, what is his response to that? And then I have another question.
  • Are those comments helpful from the Turkish President?
  • My other question is, is the discussion about the refugee crisis, which is fueling problems in Europe — the President has talked about refugees being a problem in the United States and terrorists hiding refugees — or refugees hiding in the — terrorists hiding in the refugee stream, excuse me. Is he going to talk about that with Arab leaders specifically when he visits Saudi Arabia? Or is that not something that he’s willing to bring up to those leaders?
  • But in Saudi Arabia specifically?
  • Thanks a lot, Sean. In that interview that the President conducted yesterday with NBC, he indicated and confirmed that on three separate occasions he asked the director of the FBI, and received assurances from the FBI, that he was not under investigation by the FBI. Why was the President seemingly so consumed by this that he would ask that question on three separate occasions?
  • I would appreciate you getting back to me. And as far as asking that question, did the President ask the White House Counsel whether it would be appropriate to ask such a question, given that it was against, generally, Justice Department guidelines to indicate whether or not investigations are ongoing against any individual, let alone one at the White House?
  • Did the White House Counsel —
  • General McMaster mentioned that, on the trip, the President is going to be raising the issue of religious persecution with the Pope. And I wanted to ask you about a case in the last week, in Indonesia, where a Christian governor in the state of Jakarta was imprisoned for two years for blaspheming the Quran.  Does the President find that case troubling? Does he plan to say anything —
  • Thanks, Sean. I just want to clear up a point on Jeff’s question. I’m hoping you can answer this in a yes-or-no fashion. Is the President of the United States currently recording conversations taking place in the Oval Office?
  • And I wanted to follow up. Since you were involved in this on Tuesday night as well, giving a blanket answer and saying at the time that it was all him regarding Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, why did you come out with information that was later contradicted by the President two days later? Can you explain the tick-tock? When were you brought in? Who else was involved?  Why were the American people given incorrect information that night?
  • Sean, I wanted to follow up on that real briefly. What you said Tuesday doesn’t match what the President was laying out yesterday, in the interview yesterday. Can you walk through why the discrepancy in terms of whose decision this was?
  • Okay, well, did he —
  • Sean, let me ask you about the way forward as it relates to who the President might nominate to be the FBI director. Where does that process stand right now? How many people have been interviewed? Does the President hope to wrap this up before he goes overseas?
  • Sean, Sarah was talking the other day about how somebody, not necessarily being political in that role — if somebody has been a member of Congress, past or present, does that count as an automatic disqualifier as somebody who might be —
  • And lastly, does the President still have — the other day someone asked, does the President have confidence in Andrew McCabe? After the testimony on Capitol Hill the other day, is that still the case? He is the acting director at this moment.
  • Yesterday, Sarah told us that the President expects that the FBI investigation will be wrapped up with integrity — that’s what the White House wants. Today, the President tweeted and called it a “witch hunt.” How does tweeting and calling it a “witch hunt” help wrap that investigation up with integrity?
  • And secondly, I talked to a former FBI official today who said that the President’s tweet, the implicit threat to former FBI Director James Comey, indicates that the President, in his words, is simply “out of control.” I’d like to get you to respond to that. Is he?
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions about the FBI director selection process. You said the names are coming from the Justice Department right now. Is the President consulting with Democratic congressional leaders, as well, or Republican congressional leaders on this? Or is he just getting names out of DOJ?
  • Now, I know that you said you’re not disqualifying anyone on this. You also know there has been considerable mention in the last 24 hours of former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers as the new FBI director.  Does the President have a meeting planned this weekend with Congressman Rogers?
  • I had a couple questions about the President’s remarks to NBC about General Flynn. He said that it wasn’t an emergency, or he didn’t think it was an emergency and that’s why the firing, dismissal didn’t happen right away. So I had a couple questions about that. Why didn’t he think it was an emergency?  And was it because of the messenger? Was it because information came from Sally Yates, who you called an opponent — I think a political opponent of the President? Or is because Don McGahn downplayed the situation? Can you explain what he meant by that? And I have a follow-up.
  • Okay, so then two follow-ups. One, I’m still unclear, and you’ve mentioned this several times, why did it take so long for the White House to get those documents?
  • Is the White House asking?  You couldn’t go get the documents?
  • Is it because she was fired, though, in between?
  • Just explain to us then a little bit, when you compare these two situations with General Flynn and Director Comey, the memo came one day and he was fired that day. That was the review process. And General Flynn was 18 days. That’s a huge difference. Why was one so fast when one was 18 days?
  • Sean, in the tweet about Director Comey, he said — the President says that he “better be careful before he goes leaking to the press.” Yesterday, on NBC News, the President called him a showboat and a grandstander. Does the White House acknowledge that Director Comey has a First Amendment right to speak to the press if he so chooses to set the record straight about any of this, instead of just leaking? It may not be leaking, it may just be his First Amendment right to speak to the press.
  • Okay, and a follow-up. Just in terms of the FBI being in disarray, also the President’s comments, is he concerned that if he continues like this it could jeopardize morale at the FBI instead of actually kind of correcting a problem that he obviously observes there?
  • I want to ask you — President Trump seemed to rely on James Clapper this morning when he tweeted that virtually he and everyone else with knowledge of the “witch hunt” says there’s no collusion. James Clapper himself today told Andrea Mitchell, “I don’t know if there was collusion or not. I don’t know if there’s evidence of collusion or not, nor should I.” On March 5th on “Meet the Press,” when he was asked a similar question, he said, “Not to my knowledge.” So can you describe the discrepancy and explain it?
  • No, between Director Clapper’s comments and President Trump — why is he leaning on Clapper when he said “I have no knowledge” of whether there was collusion?
  • He said he hasn’t been briefed. He said he wouldn’t know because he hasn’t been briefed on the investigation.
  • He was very clear today that — he said, “Nor should I have in this particular context.” He made the case that he’s not briefed on an FBI investigation, that that’s not his purview.
  • But at one point was — he wouldn’t know, right? That there has been no final conclusion. And the President seemed to indicate that there was —
  • The President doesn’t believe that there’s been a final conclusion made about this investigation, right? There’s an ongoing investigation. He’s not making that argument, is he?  
  • His argument is he wants to move forward with the investigation. But I want to move on to just one other question.
  • But the comments are not mutually exclusive, Sean. He’s saying he wasn’t — (inaudible) — “it’s not surprising or abnormal that I would not have known about the investigation or the context of the investigation.”
  • Let’s talk very quickly about the accuracy tweet.
  • He wasn’t saying he wasn’t sure. He said he wasn’t briefed. But moving on to the accuracy tweet.
  • No, but I just am interested in the discrepancy and drawing a final conclusion on the part of the President.
  • No, on the part of the President, drawing a final conclusion about the investigation. In terms of the accuracy tweet, should we take that tweet to mean that you don’t have the full picture when you stand at that podium?
  • Can I — Sean, can I actually pick up there if you don’t mind?
  • So I wanted to ask you about the One Belt, One Road Summit that starts on Sunday in China. You announced yesterday, or Secretary Ross did, that you’re going to send a delegation to that summit. Can you talk about how you came to that conclusion, why it’s important for the U.S. to be represented at what’s ostensibly a major trade initiative by a foreign country?
  • Is the intended signal that the U.S. is going to participate in the One Belt, One Road initiative?
  • Two questions — the first on loyalty and the next one on the visit to the FBI headquarters. So this President does value loyalty. Was there any sort of — before you were hired, any sort of request or hint that you pledge personal loyalty to him at all before you were hired?
  • Is it true that the President was warned that he might not be well-received at the FBI headquarters if he were to visit it?

TOWOIT #115

May 11, 2017… Day 112

I’m so snowed under by the news this week. I’ve been too mesmerized and overwhelmed to start trying to put a blog post. So I’m just going to put up the usual mishmash of headlines, tweets, and the reporters’ questions at the briefing and not try to get deep or clever or comprehensive.

But first, this iPhone screen cap found on FB:

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I just realized the baby has her curlers in — even better.

Ok, anyway, back to windmilling frantically on a precipice with a slide into impeachment on one side and a slide into authoritarianism on the other. Is it the beginning of the end for Trump, or for the rest of us? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re looking at.

Jeez, the news is breaking every couple minutes. I am going BONKERS. I am trying to stem the flow of new news in order to pin down the old news from 45 minutes ago but the new news is too tantalizing and bizarre to ignore.

So, I mean. My blog post, like the Trump administration, is just going to be a shit show.

Just to stay in vaguely chronological order, the acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe testified in front of a Senate committee about Global Threats. The Democrats on the committee asked questions about the Russia investigation and Comey’s firing, and how things stood. Andrew McCabe contradicted the White House by saying a) the Russia investigation was a huge deal, and b) that the rank and file of the FBI were firmly in Comey’s corner.

Then there was also a wild, rambly interview Trump had with Lester Holt, in which TRUMP contradicted the White House and just flat out said the firing was his idea and related to the Russia investigation.

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Then came the White House Press Briefing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Her answers were even more pathetic lies than Sean Spicer’s. She just says her answers with more of a smug, calm smile. Yesterday I was really irritated at the reporters who laughed at her stupid jokes. And I liked the ones who snort-laughed when she was being serious. There were only a few sycophantic chuckles yesterday though, and almost none today.

Questions asked:

  •  Sarah, in the Lester Holt interview the President just had he made a number of remarks. Why did the President think that James Comey was a “showboat” and “grandstander”?
  • When were these three conversations that the President had with James Comey about whether he was under investigation? He said one was at dinner, two phone calls. Was that since January 20th, or when?
  • Sarah, two parts of the Comey question regarding the interview the President just gave. First of all, isn’t it inappropriate for the President of the United States to ask the FBI Director directly if he’s under investigation?
  • But one of these conversations the President said happened at a dinner where the FBI Director, according to the President, was asking to stay on as FBI Director. Don’t you see how that’s a conflict of interest — the FBI Director is saying he wants to keep his job, and the President is asking whether or not he’s under investigation?
  • But, Sarah, the other question I want to ask you about is, I asked you directly yesterday —
  • Different subject related to Comey. I asked you directly yesterday if the President had already decided to fire James Comey when he met with the Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General, and you said, no. Also the Vice President of the United States said directly that the President acted to take the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General to remove the FBI Director. Sean Spicer said directly, “It was all him,” meaning the Deputy Attorney General. Now we learn from the President directly that he had already decided to fire James Comey. So why were so many people giving answers that just weren’t correct? Were you guys in the dark? Was the Vice President misled again, as happened with Mike Flynn —
  • Was the Vice President in the dark, too?
  • Sarah, you said from the podium yesterday that Director Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI. On Capitol Hill today, the Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe directly contradicted that. What led you and the White House to believe that he had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI when the Acting Director says it’s exactly the opposite?
  • And a question to what you were saying about the Democrats. Clearly, they didn’t like James Comey too much after the October 28th pronouncement that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Their point now is the timing is different, that this was in the middle of an investigation.  Do they have a point?
  • Thank you. Another comment from the hearing today — the Acting Deputy Attorney General said — I’m sorry, McCabe said that he considers the investigation into Russian meddling in the election to be highly significant. In the past, the President has said that the investigation was a hoax, and he’s questioned even recently whether maybe it wasn’t Russia, it might have been China. Does the President consider this investigation to be highly significant?
  • But in terms of the threat to national security, does he take that seriously? Does he think that’s significant? Putting aside the —
  •  Does the think what Russia did during the election was a threat to U.S. national security?
  • Is he open-minded about that? He doesn’t know —
  • Sarah, I appreciate it. Two questions. First, as has been mentioned, Vice President Pence yesterday said the firing was based on the recommendation of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. We know now that that’s not true. Was the Vice President misled again, or did he mislead the American people?
  • But if you have, I don’t think I caught it, because the Vice President said yesterday that the President chose to accept and support the decision of the Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General.
  • He said he was going to do it either way.
  • So if I may just switch topics slightly. If the President knew he was going to do this, why ask for those memos to begin with? Why not just fire Comey? Why have these memos put out and then explain that he did it because of the memos, but then say that he was going to do it either way? I’m confused as to why we even got those memos.
  • Okay, thank you. Sarah, going back to what you said about Democrats — yeah, you have some Democrats that say that Comey should have been fired, but they’re questioning the timing. Why now? Even though the Deputy Attorney General did do that, they’re questioning why now. He couldn’t wait anymore?
  • Why not day one, when he comes in?
  • And then last question: Monday, Sean Spicer, when he was at the podium, he said after the testimony with Clapper and Yates, he said — he talked about there was no collusion from what Clapper said. But he also said that there needs to be a timeline when the Russia investigation ends. And then yesterday you said it should continue. Which one is it? Should it continue or should it end? Because Spicer said the President wanted it to end, Monday. And now, yesterday, you said it should continue. I mean, I’m just trying to find out which one it is.
  • We now know the President fired the FBI Director with more than six years left on his 10-year term because he was a show-boater, a grandstander. How important is it that the next FBI director not be a show-boater or a grandstander? And how important is it that this person show loyalty to the President?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. First, I want to follow up on what John asked about, the rank and file of the FBI. Don’t you think the acting director of the FBI has a better handle on the rank and file than you do?
  • And I want to also ask about the meeting yesterday between President Trump and the Russian Foreign Minister. Can you walk us through how a photographer from either a Russian state news outlet or the Russian government got into that meeting and got those photographs out?
  • Usually, media — independent media in the U.S. is typically invited into those meetings. Why didn’t that happen in this case?
  •  Has the President been questioned by the FBI with regard to their investigation into Russian interference in the election?
  • Does he expect to be?
  • So, at the Justice Department, there’s a general protocol that discourages conversations with the President of the United States by the FBI director about anything that might involve the President. That’s the general aspect of the protocol that’s usually required to ensure that there is no confusion about political interference of any kind, of even the impression or the appearance of political influence on the FBI. That’s the standard procedure. You just said here it was appropriate for the President of the United States to ask whether or not he was under investigation. Why is it appropriate if that’s not consistent with the guidelines at the Justice Department to avoid that very encounter?
  • So the Justice Department should change its protocol on this?
  • What you think and the President thinks.
  • Would you say, based on the experience that you and Sean and this communications office had Tuesday and Wednesday, that you were given all of the best information to relay to the American public, through us — and your job is to relay that information to the American public; we’re only intermediaries — about what happened with this firing and the rationale for it?
  • And would you say that that information was accurate then or is more accurate now?
  • And so by that standard, should reporters and the country essentially wait for a pronouncement from the President before believing that which is stated on his behalf by the White House communications staff?
  • I don’t think asking you a question and getting an answer is “lost in the process” Sarah, with all respect.
  • Two questions. Following up on this, back in, I think, October of last year, the former President was highly criticized by members of the FBI and other ethical folks outside of the FBI for making some comments on television that sort of suggested that he had an opinion about how the Hillary Clinton email case should go. And the charge was that he was interfering, that he was putting his thumb on the scale of an ongoing, active investigation. There was a lot of criticism from Republicans of the President about that. Talk to me about how that — how what this President did in his series of conversations with the FBI director doesn’t go far beyond what former President Obama did? And to Major’s point, how can you argue — regardless of maybe some pundits on TV who might be saying otherwise — how can you argue that that doesn’t have an appearance of trying to influence an investigation that’s actively going on?
  • But people clearly know which way he wants it to come out, right?
  • And one last question, just to follow up on the FBI thing. And I’m not trying to be overly combative here, but you said now today, and I think you said again yesterday, that you personally have talked to countless FBI officials, employees, since this happened.  I mean, really?  So are we talking —
  • Like 50?
  • Sixty, seventy?
  • Sarah, there’s a report from The Wall Street Journal that the Deputy Attorney General asked the White House Counsel to correct the version of events that was coming out initially after the Comey firing. Is that accurate? And does that contribute to the different version of events that we’ve seen over the last 48 hours?
  • And did the President know that Comey had sought more resources before his investigation, before he made the decision?
  • So, Sarah, was it a mistake for the White House to try to pin the decision to fire James Comey on Rod Rosenstein?
  • — it was on his recommendation.
  •  And just to clarify one thing you said. You said the President has encouraged this investigation into Russia. He wants to see it reach its completion sooner rather than later. How has he encouraged it if he just fired the man who was overseeing the Russia investigation?

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TOWOIT #109

May 5, 2017… Day 106

The House health care bill is having shocky ripple effects through my social network.   There’s the grisly awareness of it having happened, and then there’s also the new knowledge of how many of my friends have been raped, sexually assaulted and abused, and/or have PTSD, anxiety, and depression. There’s a collective aggrieved AAARGH and it comes with heavy information.

My brain flips back and forth between worrying about the health, pre-existing conditions and finances of myself and my immediate family members… to then knocking on wood about all the ways we’ve been comparatively fortunate… to then doubling down on worry about everyone else I care about who is in trouble… to then just marveling at the decision 217 people made to pass this bill. All that being said, I’m fine today in Trump-adjusted terms.

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TOWOIT #105

May 1, 2017… Day 102

Glenn Thrush to Sean Spicer today:

First of all, you just described Kim Jong-un as somebody who led his country forward at an early age. The President has invited Duterte, who, as Annie pointed out, has talked about assassinating journalists. The President put out a statement after Erdogan won his referendum congratulating him. He said kind things about Putin during the campaign, said kind things about Saddam Hussein.

Does the President have a thing with these totalitarian leaders? 

May Day. Everyone in my office got out of downtown early. I’m sorry I missed the Aztec dancers, and I especially hope these kids are feeling good and empowered about their day:

I was feeling bad for not treating May Day like any other resistance event. I’ve marched for Black Lives Matter, for the catch-all women’s march, for science, for climate, for immigrants and refugees. How is this not just another in the sequence? Just because it’s entrenched in my pre-45 brain and starts to get violent as night falls, that doesn’t mean the daytime peaceful marches aren’t important.

Looking at the #MayDaySea hashtag, I’m seeing a lot of this:

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In other news, I started listening to the second season of Politically Re-active today (getting over my anger at the hosts for supporting and normalizing Jill Stein as a viable ballot option). Hari and Kamau are interviewing the social and racial justice leaders that I need to be listening to, so I’m going to pretend I don’t know what I know about 2016. We’ll see how it goes.

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You might not be able to tell from these questions, but at the press briefing today, a) there was more shouting and bids for attention from the reporters throughout the questioning, b) Sean Spicer was especially salty and curt in not allowing follow-ups, and c) as Sean left the room someone yelled “WHAT ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR??!! WHAT ABOUT THE PRESIDENT’S COMMENTS ON THE CIVIL WAR??!!” and then when the door slammed shut behind Sean Spicer, another reporter started to cackle maniacally.

  • Thank you very much. So I wanted to go back to the comments that the President made this weekend on “Face the Nation” on healthcare regarding preexisting conditions. He said specifically that the bill he wants to sign would “mandate” the preexisting conditions be covered. Can you talk us through a little bit of what he meant there? Was he referring to something he wants to push to include in the bill? Was he talking about the language that’s already in there?
  • How does he ensure, though, that those people actually are treated affordably?  I mean, there was an estimate from AARP that if you’re looking just at the high-risk pool, the premiums can be as high as over $25,000 for somebody. What is he doing to ensure that that doesn’t happen?
  • Couple things for you, Sean, if I could. First of all, what do you say to conservatives who feel like they didn’t get a whole lot out of this spending bill?  There was no money for the wall, no cuts to sanctuary cities, funding for Planned Parenthood was maintained. What do you say to those conservatives?
  • But clearly, he did give up on some things.
  • And the other — I had, on the pending visit of Duterte from the Philippines.  Chris Coons said that the President is giving his stamp of approval to human rights abuses. Governor John Sununu, on the other hand, said this is part of the unpleasant things that Presidents have to do. What’s the White House’s perspective on Duterte and him coming here?
  • I wanted to ask you about the tax deductions. The White House has talked a little bit about that as a way to curb big tax breaks for the rich. Are you looking at any other policy changes when it comes to limiting breaks for the top 1 percent?
  • On healthcare, there seems to be a new optimism from the White House. How confident is the President that he will get a healthcare bill past the House this week?
  • On North Korea, today the President told Bloomberg he was open to meeting with Kim Jong-un if the conditions were right. How does the President define the right condition to have this meeting?
  • Thanks, Sean. Picking up on healthcare, it’s believed possibly that you might be down — Republicans might be down to maybe just a handful of votes away.  Here we are at 2:00 p.m. Monday afternoon. Is this the closest that you think you’ve gotten? I know you don’t want to talk about timelines, but is this as close to maybe getting to that magic 216 number that you’ve talked about?
  • Dodd-Frank — the President just gave an interview in which he said, “I am looking at that right now.” He goes on to say “There’s some people that want to go back to the old system, right, so we’re going to look at that,” meaning potentially breaking up the banks. So breaking up the banks, going back to Glass-Steagall, is that something that he’s just looking at, or is that something that is a preference of his at this point?
  • Thanks, Sean. So you’re saying that you’re not confident that the votes are lined up behind the healthcare bill. So this morning when Gary Cohn said that the bill was ready to be brought to the floor, did Gary Cohn misspeak?
  • Thanks, Sean. The President on the campaign trail raised alarm about federal debt and deficits. His spending bill get us through the end of the fiscal year doesn’t include any of the offsets really that the President requested in this year’s budget. Is the President — will the President sign this agreement that does increase the federal deficit?
  • He called for keeping that balance, essentially keeping —
  • On President Duterte, he made comments when asked about press freedom, he said that journalists are not exempt from assassination. Did the President know about those comments and about his record on human rights when he extended the invitation for him to visit the White House?
  • I wanted to ask you about the future of Sebastian Gorka. Can you tell us why he’s leaving the White House?
  • Thank you, Sean. I have a healthcare and Israel question. On healthcare, when the President talks about a guarantee for preexisting conditions, current law says insurance companies have to sell to people with preexisting conditions, and they can’t charge them more than someone else in that area. Is that the guarantee that the President wants?
  • Right, but people with preexisting conditions would continue to get access but not at the same price as other people.
  • Right. But high-risk pools could still charge them much more.
  • The President turned to Bibi Netanyahu at that press conference and famously said, settlements are not helpful. Israel is going to build 15,000 new homes in East Jerusalem. Does he think that Netanyahu is snubbing him?
  • Is he aware of that?
  • Thank you, Sean. I wanted to ask about some news the President made this morning in an interview that he conducted with Bloomberg. In that interview, he talked about the possibility of raising gas taxes to pay for infrastructure spending. Of course, the President has put forward the idea of a trillion-dollar infrastructure spending plan. Can you talk a little bit more about this possibility of raising gas taxes?
  • As it relates to this idea that the gas tax in America hasn’t been raised for some time, what makes the President believe that now is the time that Republicans who have been opposed to this idea would be open to this idea?
  • You have not foreclosed this possibility of raising —
  • I have two questions, one foreign policy and one on domestic politics. First, last Wednesday, the Kremlin outlawed the Open Russia movement, the premier opposition group to the ruling regime in Russia. And the following day, security forces were forcibly closing down Open Russia’s office in Moscow and other places. Does the administration have a statement on this?
  • All right. My second question is, on Sunday, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a 14-term veteran of the House, past Chairman of the House, foreign affairs committee, announced her retirement. Her statement comes on the heels of a similar announcement by Congressman Chaffetz, and before that, only a few weeks ago, Lynn Jenkins of Kansas. That’s three respected Republican House members all calling it quits. Is the President concerned about the number of Republican House members who do not want to be on the ballot next time and are leaving Congress?
  • Sean, the President opted not to continue Obama’s tradition of holding an Easter prayer breakfast, but he is holding a National Day of Prayer event. Was that a scheduling issue, or did he think — what was the thought process there?
  • Thanks, Sean. Back to Glass-Steagall for a second. As you can imagine, the President’s comments today are getting a lot of attention on Wall Street, so can we be just very clear about this — does the President favor breaking up the big banks?
  • — take any steps toward that behind the scenes that we’re not aware of?
  •  Thanks, Sean. So the lack of border wall funding raises a question of just how serious the President is about getting the border wall constructed. Is it not urgent? Is it not an emergency anymore to build this barrier? What is the timetable and deadline that he has in mind?
  • So it will be built. Is there a time certain? Is there a deadline by the 2018? By?

  • Coming back to North Korea, the President didn’t just say he would be open to meeting with Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances.  He said he would be “honored” to meet with him. This is somebody who has starved his own people, somebody who has threatened to destroy the United States. Just last week he put out a video showing the Capitol getting destroyed by North Korea fighters. How could he be “honored” to meet with Kim Jong-un?
  • How could that be an honor?
  • What did he mean when he called him one smart cookie or a pretty smart cookie?

  • Sean, on North Korea and then on Philippines.  On North Korea, both of the President’s comment on Kim Jong-un and what Secretary Tillerson said, you seem to be making the offer that we could have direct talks with North Korea.  Who is going to be leading those?
  • Is that the White House?
  • But who would lead that? Is that the White House or the State Department?
  • And on the Philippines, when you have been asked about President Duterte and his human rights record, you continue to say the effort here is to isolate the Philippines from the North Korea, part of this coalition to isolate North Korea.
  • Are you suggesting that the Philippines has some sort of inappropriate contact with North Korea? Are you suggesting that we are requesting greater access perhaps to their military bases? What is it exactly —
  • Are you suggesting now that they are trading or conducting some kind of financial transactions —
  • When you say economic piece, that’s what I just want to clarify —
  • Sean, two quick, related questions. First of all, you just described Kim Jong-un as somebody who led his country forward at an early age. The President has invited Duterte, who, as Annie pointed out, has talked about assassinating journalists. The President put out a statement after Erdogan won his referendum congratulating him. He said kind things about Putin during the campaign, said kind things about Saddam Hussein. Does the President have a thing with these totalitarian leaders? Does he admire something about the way these guys conduct themselves?
  • What about this whole package —
  • One follow-up question. On Sunday, Chief of Staff Priebus, talking to this gentleman right here, said, with respect to the libel laws and the First Amendment, talking about news outlets that printed false articles, “I think it’s something that we’ve looked at. How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story.” Is that a project that is currently being worked on by the counsel’s office? Can you just tell me the status of that? Who is pursuing that?
  • Is the counsel actually investigating this?
  • Sean, two questions. One on — just to clarify on North Korea, were those conditions that you laid out to the earlier question, are those the conditions that would have to be met before there was any meeting — i.e. that North Korea would have to agree to totally disarm its nuclear program, stop threatening their neighbors? Are those the conditions?
  • Sean, on a separate subject. The chief executives of United Airlines will be on the Hill tomorrow. Is the President at all — does the President think that Congress should pass any laws after the incident last month where the passenger was dragged off? Should there be some — should there be more done to protect passengers on airplanes from those type of incidents?
  • Thanks. I just want to ask you to clarify something else the President said. He said, “I don’t stand by anything.” How is the American public supposed to digest that, supposed to trust what the President says when he himself says of his own comments “I don’t stand by anything”?
  • Just in this CBS interview with John Dickerson in the Oval Office.
  • About wiretapping.
  • It was about wiretapping. He was asked to — if he still believes President Obama is a bad or evil guy, do you still stand by those comments, and the President said “I don’t stand by anything.”  
  • Sean, I have two questions on the Philippines. First, is President Trump comfortable with the leader’s support of extrajudicial killings of drug users in the country?
  • But what —
  • Sean, I have a second question, if you don’t mind.
  • Looking at — there are three open patents with the Philippines government, one from Trump trying to get the Trump patented to — from Ivanka Trump for her clothing line. How do you respond to concerns about potential conflicts of interest with the leader of the Philippines?
  •  I just want to clarify something you said to Zeke. Is there a possibility that the President would not sign this spending agreement?
  • Are you still on track to issue the full fiscal year ’18 budget? Is it mid-May, or do you have a date for that?
  • Thanks, Sean. Just wanted to first ask what your expectation and what’s your hope for the meeting with President Abbas on Wednesday? And secondly, is the President still considering moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and will that be discussed?
  • Abbas.
  • The first question is your expectations going forward. What’s the hope from this.
  • Sean, quick follow-up on infrastructure. The President has been talking about a major infrastructure package for more than a year and in the campaign, but it doesn’t seem very clear right now what the mechanism is for the construction of whatever it is that he wants to push forward. He talked about maybe attaching it to the reconciliation package for healthcare. He talked about maybe doing that with the tax package. Can you update us on — is that still very preliminary in its invention? Does he have clear ideas? And what’s the mechanism and timing to get that done?
  • This year?

 

 

 

 

 

TOWOIT #104

April 30, 2017… Day 101

I’ve been catching up on the American version of Shameless, which takes place in Chicago and features a working poor Irish-American family. They are always trying to maneuver their way into a better life and always sliding backwards. If one of them has a little success, it helps all of them. But that help is not equal to the harm that befalls all of them if one of them gets into trouble. The math just doesn’t ever pencil out, and they end up running to stand still. It reminds me of a headline I saw a few days ago. It said that in order for a family to rise out of poverty, it needs a 20-year stretch when nothing major goes wrong. 

Continue reading TOWOIT #104

TOWOIT #103

April 29, 2017… Day 100

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As Jon Lovett said last night, if Trump’s term were a marathon, we haven’t even run 2 miles yet. Uggghh.

I’m glad the climate march was robust in Washington, D.C….

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… because it was real sad in Seattle.

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Not just because the crowd was small. But because the crowd was subdued and because at least half the speakers seemed like guilting activists with bad and conflicting information. Come on. I hate that.

I was at the office early, trying to catch up stuff. I was planning to join the march but I thought there would be more of a milling around period at the start before the marching began. When I went to look down in the direction of the starting point, all I saw was eight people with signs slipping around the corner onto Fourth Avenue. I went over to the other side of the building and saw the tail end of the crowd, heading up the canyon between buildings. I’d already been alone way up in that building all morning, so it was a lonely feeling. My people were disappearing up the street and they just looked kind of sad. Collectively sad.

I went downstairs and fell in with the stragglers on the sidewalk. More stragglers joined us. People honked in support and yelled “Thanks for marching!” out the window at us. We eventually caught up with everyone, loosely pooled down at Westlake Center.

One thing I appreciated was that it was the first time in “the resistance” that I’ve seen a certain demographic rise to prominence: Old white guys. Old white guys, I rag on you all the time. But when you showed up today you showed up for all of us, so thank you.

And some old white guys in training:

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But yeah, it feels a little depressing:

And then there’s this:

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MEANWHILE, over in Trump world:

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Here are the questions the reporters asked Sean Spicer on the press gaggle en route to Atlanta on Air Force One yesterday:

  • Can you confirm that Senator Ted Cruz is on the plane?
  • What’s he doing?
  • Sean, what’s the status of the healthcare effort?
  • There’s no vote —
  • Sean, obviously, the President tomorrow night is holding this rally during the Correspondents’ Dinner. Is there any message he’s trying to send with those two things happening concurrently?
  • Can you give us an update on where things are with the spending plan? I know there was a bill for one week. But what about the long-term progress?
  • When we talked to him last night about South Korea, he mentioned the THAAD missile system. Is he going to ask the South Koreans to pay for that?
  • Can you give us an update on — there was a meeting yesterday about the Paris agreement, where things stand. What’s the state-of-play in the White House on that?
  • When will they do that?
  • Can you talk more about the NRA and the speech? About the NRA, about the forum, about his relationship with the NRA or about firearms policy, about guns? Anything?
  • Is he going to thank — that kind of speech, where he’s thanking —
  • Conceal and carry?
  • — his own views about guns? His sons are hunters.
  • Sean, what about the trip to Israel?  Is that something that you guys can firm up?
  • And what are the other options? Rome, Israel, Saudi?
  • (Inaudible) some things about FEMA director. Is that coming soon?