TOWOIT #347: “Red lights are blinking”

July 18, 2018. 

Today Sarah Sanders held the first White House Daily Briefing since July 2. It was 26 minutes long. On the White House Live stream, there were more viewers watching live than there have been for any briefing all year. It’s the top line in dashed light blue. The X-axis starts at the actual start time and continues out until the end of the briefing. Anyway, it was a shit show.

image004-3

Continue reading TOWOIT #347: “Red lights are blinking”

TOWOIT #329: Kill at will

May 14, 2018

Questions reporters asked Raj Shah at the briefing today:

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Raj, a couple, if I could. At the same time there was a celebratory air in Jerusalem as the U.S. was moving its embassy, in the south of Israel, along the border with Gaza, there was a lot of violence that resulted in more than 41 people losing their lives. Is the President concerned about the demonstrations there and Israel’s response to people trying to climb over the fence?
  • Also, what’s the President’s thinking on ZTE? I mean, here is a company that violated U.S. rules regarding doing business with North Korea and Iran. It was, according to the Commerce Department, appropriately sanctioned for that and fined $1.2 billion. You had the heads of six intelligence agencies telling Congress back on February 13th that they wouldn’t use ZTE devices because of counterespionage concerns. They also wouldn’t recommend that American citizens use ZTE or Huawei devices. So what’s the President’s thinking with that tweet over the weekend about wanting to rescue ZTE
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I guess I wanted to follow on that. Did the President give Secretary Ross any specific instructions on how he wanted that case to go?  And when you say that it was “raised,” I assume you mean in the context of the ongoing trade discussions between the U.S. and China. So is there a, sort of, direct linkage there, where China could make a concession on retaliatory tariffs, and so we’d see from the U.S., kind of, easing back on ZTE?
  • (Weijia Jiang, ABC News) A follow on that, Raj. Didn’t the Commerce Department make an independent judgment when they decided to issue this sanction against ZTE? So can you talk about the significance of bringing it up again now? How much does it have to do with the impending summit with North Korea? You know, critics will say that the President wants China’s support, needs China’s support, and THAT is why he is now backing off on this sanction against ZTE.
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Raj. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I [just] wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that” — what Kelly Sadler said — “was inappropriate,” that that’s not who we are as a Trump administration. Why not just apologize, so America doesn’t think that that is an acceptable way of speaking inside this White House?
  • How? (The transcript doesn’t show that a scattering and smattering of assorted HOWs cropped up from several reporters–it wasn’t just Cecilia asking this)
  • Excuse me, but she — Kelly Sadler told Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly, and that has not yet happened. Why has that not happened?
  • Are there any concerns that this White House seems more concerned about the fact that there was a leak than about the content of what was said?
  • (Man’s voice–) But it wasn’t internal–
  • (Sounds like April Ryan’s voice–) IS she being reprimanded–
  • (At least two other voices–) How? How is it being handled–
  • (Pamela Brown, CNN) But can you explain how it’s being addressed internally?
  • But she’s still employed here at the White House?
  • Why hasn’t she PUBLICLY apologized, as she told Meghan McCain that she would?
  • Okay, really quick, Raj — on ZTE, how does the President Trump statement that too many Chinese jobs are at risk square with his campaign promise that China is stealing American jobs?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) Hi, Raj. The death toll is over 50 in Gaza. Is the U.S. calling on Israel to use restraint in dealing with these protests?
  • So there’s no burden on Israel to do something to, sort of, rein it in?

MR. SHAH:  No, we think that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Hamas is the one that, frankly, bear responsibility for the dire situation right now in Gaza.

  • Lastly, Raj, how does this — the United States had been wanting to put out a peace plan. How does today’s situation hurt that?
  • (David Nakamura, Washington Post) Raj, there seemed to be some confusion, given the messages on the Sunday news shows from Secretary Pompeo and National Security Bolton about what exactly the U.S. is asking of North Korea. Is the administration’s position that the U.S. expects the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Peninsula and of North Korea? Or is the administration willing to accept something short of that?
  • And I was wondering also if you could address a little bit the criticism of the President’s, sort of, tone with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, saying that he treated the U.S. detainees excellently. The President’s rhetoric has certainly shifted on Kim Jong-un, and I’m wondering if you could explain why, and whether he thinks that, at all, that he is going too far in sort of praising Kim Jong-un.
  • (Peter Alexander, NBC News) If I can, very quickly, the French Foreign Minister, Raj, said about what’s taking place in Gaza — he urged Israeli authorities to exercise discretion and restraint. So to be clear, does the U.S. not agree with the French that Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint?

MR. SHAH:  We believe that Hamas is responsible for what’s going on.

  • So there’s no responsibility beyond that on the Israeli authorities? Kill at will?

MR. SHAH:  What I’m saying is that we believe that Hamas, as an organization, is engaged in cynical action that’s leading to these deaths.

  • Let me ask you if I can, and following up on Kelly Sadler today — Matt Schlapp, whose wife you know — Mercedes Schlapp — works here — is the Head of Strategic Communications — portrayed Kelly Sadler as “a little bit of a victim here.” Do you agree that she is a little bit of a victim here? And why?
  • Is there any environment where that — conveying that thought — would be viewed as appropriate?
  • So to be clear, was it completed last week? You said it was dealt with internally. Has anything been dealt with since last week when she called the family — the McCain family — for clarity?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) I might ask you an indelicate question. It’s been reported that you were leading the meeting where Kelly Sadler said what she said. How did it strike you? Did YOU find it to be inappropriate? And how did — what was the reaction in the room?
  • (Anita Kumar, McClatchy) Two questions. First, the White House is hosting some kind of meeting on Wednesday with California officials on sanctuary cities. Can you tell us what that’s about? Will the President attend? And what’s the point of the meeting?
  • So there’s no negotiation. This is just to solidify your point? I think —
  • Okay. And my second question is:  The President is going to Capitol Hill tomorrow to meet with Senate Republicans. Can you tell us about that meeting and the topic of the conversation? And also, do you think he will not get asked by senators about the Kelly Sadler issue?
  • Does he have a statement prepared?
  • Besides the CIA, is there another issue? It’s not solely to talk about Gina.
  • (Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times) The Trump Organization is involved in a project in Indonesia building hotels, golf courses, residences. It’s getting up to $500 million in backing from the Chinese government. Can you tell or explain the administration’s perspective on, A, how this wouldn’t violate the emoluments clause, and, B, how it wouldn’t violate the President’s own promise that his private organization would not be getting involved in new foreign deals while he was President? (Raj says, you’ll have to talk to the Trump Organization) 
  • No, but I mean the Trump Organization can’t speak on behalf of the President, as the President — the head of the federal government, the one who is responsible — who needs to assure the American people that — they don’t have that responsibility — (Noah is practically stammering. Raj has been taking Smug Crap lessons from SHS)
  • So, Raj, a couple of things. I need some information — we all need more information about the conversation that the President had by phone with James Shaw Jr. and why wasn’t it here at the White House. And also, what about prison reform? If you could give us a little bit more about prison reform.  We understand that that’s working its way and there is a big push from the White House. And also, on Sadler, where does decency and morality come in, into play, in the workplace? I mean, she still has a job. She made that statement about an American hero. No matter what the political feelings are about him, he was broken and bruised overseas for the freedoms of this country. And to say those things, I mean — (April wasn’t interrupted, she just stopped mid-sentence and made these two gestures with her hands and arms that were like “please enlighten me, this is too bananas and low” and then Raj said “It’s an internal matter.” Someone tweeted in response to that, “She got a promotion.”)
  • She keeps her job, right?
  • Why not here at the White House? Why not — I mean, he’s saluting heroes.
  • (Andrew Feinberg, ex-Sputnik, who asks a good question) Thank you, Raj. I wanted to ask you about the embassy opening today. The person who delivered the invocation, Robert Jeffress, he’s made some statements in the past that he believes that Muslims are going to hell, Jews are going to hell, Hindus are going to hell. Do you think that, considering especially his remarks about Jews, that he’s one of the right people to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel? And can you give us a little information on how that came to be?
  • Do you think it’s appropriate for a person who thinks that — who said that Jews are going to HELL to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel?
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) So, I have two questions for you. First on ZTE. Did the Chinese government give ANY specific concession for the President of the United States to tweet in SUPPORT of a Chinese company?
  • But WHY did he do that?
  • So just raising the issue was enough to spawn a presidential tweet and directive? 
  • And then another on the President’s tweet on Paris. He said that America needs to change its thought processes. What did he mean by that? What was he hinting at? (Saagar Enjeti is like WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I hope Saagar quits Daily Caller)
  • (Woman not named or shown on screen) Raj, on the issue of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when was the last time the White House reached out to Palestinian leadership? And will — given the high numbers of casualties, Palestinians calling what has happened today a “massacre,” will the White House be reaching out?
  • Okay. Can I just follow up then? Jared Kushner, in his speech, pointed a finger at the Palestinians, saying they were responsible for provoking violence. But given the fact that it’s only Palestinians who are being killed, should Israel not shoulder some of the blame?
  • But people were THROWING ROCKS, 50 meters from the wall and were faced with SNIPER attack. I mean, is the White House in denial of the split-screen reality that’s occurring?

MR. SHAH:  Again, we believe that Hamas is responsible for this.

  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Let me ask you on ZTE. The congressional hearing that John was talking, in which the intelligence chief said that people should not be using ZTE products because of security concerns, does the President himself believe that there is a security concern using — involved with ZTE?
  • Speaking of the Commerce Department, Wilbur Ross said at the National Press Club just a little while ago — he said of the meeting this upcoming week with the Chinese, he said, “It wouldn’t surprise me” if they bring up ZTE, but our position is that it would be an enforcement action separate from trade. Is that the position of the White House, that whatever may or may not happen with ZTE, that has nothing to do with trade negotiations? Or does it?  (When is this Russian-oligarch-coziness at the Bank of Cyprus finally going to catch up to Sleepy Wilbur?)
  • And on the Supreme Court decision today on sports gambling that allows, now, states to go forward with that, does the White House have any opinion one way or another on the decision today?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Raj, on Israel, the United States and the White House are hoping to release their peace plan in the next few months.  Going back to that split screen, I understand that you’re blaming these on Hamas, but does the White House feel that the position is undermined now by these deaths that have happened today? Last time the count was at 52.
  • And on a different foreign policy topic, sort of. The President isn’t going to the Royal Wedding this weekend. Today, we saw him deliver a video address at the embassy opening. Will he deliver an address of some sort via video? Is he sending a gift? Is there anything you can tell us about that?
  • (I don’t know who this old man is, but his voice is beautiful) Last month, Sarah said that the allegations against the Governor —
  • Last month, Sarah said the allegations against the Governor of Missouri were concerning. The Governor now is on trial this week. Does the President believe he should resign? He’s campaigned with him, he’s been out with him, he’s met him several times. Does he believe he should resign, irrespective of the verdict? Or if the verdict comes down in his favor, should he not resign?
  • (I can’t figure out who this fragile-looking blonde woman in the back is. I’ve google-imaged so much shit trying to sort it) Thank you, Raj. So, later this week, Thursday and Friday, Chinese officials are supposed to be here in D.C. to have continued trade meetings. Can you tell us which U.S. officials and which Chinese officials are going to be involved in those; what the President hopes to come out of those continued talks — this round of those talks? And has the administration provided — I know Larry Kudlow had mentioned at one point that the administration was considering providing a list of what they would like to see out of these trade negotiations.
  • (Hunter Walker, Yahoo! News) Thank you, Raj.  You said before that you hadn’t heard Pastor Jeffress’s remarks. Among other things he said, “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism…they leave people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.” I also wanted to talk about Pastor John Hagee, who was involved in that ceremony. He once said that Hitler was an instrument of God. Separate from that, on Sunday, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump met with Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel. And he once compared black people to monkeys. (April Ryan is in the frame and looks visibly upset at this) So I’m wondering, in all three of these instances can you tell us anything about how these people were brought into the ceremonies? And do you think it’s regrettable that people with these views were involved with the American government? (No, Hunter, they don’t give a shit. Stop acting like any of this is normal)
  • (Brian Karem, I believe, as Raj files out like a coward, having not answered the question) Shouldn’t you know whether you come to the podium whether or not that guy is worthy of talking to people at our embassy? … You gotta be KIDDING me….!

God bless Brian Karem, and God Bless C-Span for just letting the sound run so we got all of that last bit too.

 

TOWOIT #320: Slime ball

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 10.26.44 AM

  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thank you, Sarah. The President came out swinging today, calling James Comey a “liar,” a “leaker,” a “slime ball.” Is he worried about what he’s saying? (Sarah calls Comey a disgraced partisan hack and says firing him will be remembered as one of Trump’s proudest accomplishment)
  • And another topic, quickly, if I may. The Deputy Attorney General was here yesterday. Is the President going to fire Rod Rosenstein? (Once again, she has no announcements at this time)
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, the President, a short time ago, issued a pardon of Scooter Libby, the former Vice President’s Chief of Staff. There are many people who believe that Scooter Libby was the victim of a Special Counsel investigation run amuck. The recent statements that we have heard from the White House would seem to indicate that you feel much the same thing about the Mueller investigation. Was the President sending some sort of signal to the Mueller investigation or about the Mueller investigation by pardoning Scooter Libby? (It’s time to quite Fox News, John. You’re a propaganda beard)
  • In the statement, the pardoning statement today, the President acknowledges he doesn’t know Scooter Libby. What was it that convinced him that Scooter Libby deserved a pardon? (Just thought it was the right thing to do)
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg News) Thanks, Sarah. I have two questions. I wanted to ask about the first — The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision —
  • Sure. The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision within 24 to 48 hours on Syria. On Tuesday, he said a decision would probably come that night. But here we are on Friday, and in a statement last night, you said that no final decision had been reached. So I’m wondering if you could walk through why the President hasn’t met his own timeline there, and specifically, if it had anything to do with the, sort of, Syrian troop movement that we saw after his tweet on Wednesday, sort of threatening a missile strike.
  • And then, because it’s Friday, I’m wondering if —

MS. SANDERS: Friday the 13th.

  • Yeah. (Laughter.) You could walk us through exactly what the President has–(Jesus stop laughing at her jokes)

MS. SANDERS: You guys all groan like that’s a bad thing.

(Just a bad joke)

  • — committed to Senator Gardner in terms of both what the Justice Department would do and what the White House would do in terms of supporting legislation on states that legalize marijuana.
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) You mentioned he’s spoken to President Macron. How big a coalition does he have for this expected action in Syria?
  • And is he satisfied now that Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons attack?
  • (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) It was reported today that Michael Cohen, the President’s personal attorney, helped negotiate a $1.6 million settlement to a Playboy playmate. It also emerged, today, that Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York. Is the President still associated with Michael Cohen? Does he continue to consider Michael Cohen someone he holds in confidence?
  • Is he concerned about these developments? Would the President like to say anything about them?
  • What about Michael Cohen’s actions, though? Does the President have any concern with those?
  • (Jill Colvin, Associated Press) Just a follow-up on that and then another topic. Is Cohen still the President’s personal attorney? (Sarah says she’d have to check) 
  • And I wanted to ask – (then Sarah interrupts to say she can only speak about White House staff) 
  • It looks like Paul Ryan just endorsed Kevin McCarthy for Speaker in an appearance, or an interview, with Meet the Press. Does the President believe that McCarthy should be the next Speaker?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) On the James Comey book, some excerpts came out today. He speaks of the President — writes about the President in very personal terms. Were you surprised by that? Was the President surprised by that? (It’s time to quite Fox News, Jon. You’re a propaganda beard)
  • And just really quickly on the pardon that came out today for Scooter Libby. The President, so far in his time in office, has issued three presidential pardons. One of those was to Joe Arpaio. Is there a commonality, in terms of what the President looks for when he pardons individuals?
  • (Steve Herman, VOA? I’m trying to gauge from the voice and the angle of her gaze which Steve it was.) Yes, Sarah. I’m wondering if the administration has reacted with any message to Moscow after officials there today said that the chemical attack in Douma was faked and staged with Britain’s direct involvement.
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, what part does the President bringing Russia into the Syria equation now cause for the delay in the strike timeline?
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. The Justice Department Inspector General came out with his long awaited report this afternoon on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying that he improperly leaked information about the Clinton Foundation investigation to a reporter, and then lied to James Comey about it and, under oath, to two FBI investigators. Do you have a reaction to that? And does that, in your mind, validate the decision to fire McCabe?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. You said that James Comey was a liar, that he’s a leaker, that he made false representations or claims. Other than what the President tweeted this morning about lying under oath to Senator Grassley, what exactly has he said that’s false or a lie? (When Sarah responds to Comey questions in this briefing, she reads from a screed instead of answering off the cuff. It’s a total doubling-down on the Trump tweets from the morning.) 
  • Sarah, what about the dossier, though? Sarah, what about the dossier? Did he also lie about the dossier in his conversation with President Trump about that? (She doesn’t really answer this question)
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Sarah, what about the content of the President’s attacks on Jim Comey, your attacks on Jim Comey? Isn’t all of that a bit unbecoming of the Presidency of this White House to go after him in such a personal way like that. Calling him a “slime ball” and a “liar” and a “leaker”?
  • Sarah, if I could just follow up —
  • Other folks had two questions. If I could just —
  • — ask a second follow-up question because —
  • Well, it’s Friday, yeah. And you’ve —

MS. SANDERS: And you’d probably get really upset, and I don’t need that

  • No, no, no. Not at all. Not at all. (Laughter.) No, but you’ve probably seen this tweet. It was a tweet that you posted before the election in 2016: “When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing.” What do you make of that now? Isn’t that —
  • But when you go after Comey and Rosenstein and Mueller, doesn’t that mean you’re losing? (She doesn’t answer, scolds him briefly for trying to ask another question, moves away to another reporter, and… boom)
  •  Following up with that, I mean, one of the themes of Comey’s book is the President’s “disdain” for the rule of the law and his continued efforts to publicly undermine federal law enforcement officials. So how would you characterize the President’s attitude towards the rule of law and things that he said publicly about many of his top federal law enforcement officials?
  • But it’s NOT just leakers; it’s his own Attorney General, it’s his own Deputy Attorney General, it’s Special Counsel, it’s the FBI, it’s judges who make decisions that he doesn’t like. There’s a whole list of federal law enforcement officials that he has undermined. It’s not just people who have proven to leak information. (Sarah rails at the press in general for “praising Jim Comey, propping him up” )

(She broke in to say the second part — Sarah had already called on Charlie from Breitbart. I like this reporter’s moxie but I can’t find her full name — she’s from CBS) 

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 10.39.59 AM

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 10.50.20 AM

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

 

 

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

April 4, 2018

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

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

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

Questions asked of Kirstjen Nielsen:

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

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!

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 5.31.30 AM

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 #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 #273: Do anything

December 13, 2017… Day 327

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

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 8.55.10 PM

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.”

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 5.33.15 PM

  • (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?

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 5.35.36 PM

  • 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 #267: April, Cecilia, Jenna & Zeke

November 20, 2017… Day 305

SHS Briefing #34

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 5.53.17 PM

OK, and here are all the questions:

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

the only way out is through #8

January 24, 2017… Day 5

Radio alarm: coal miners will have a hard time getting treated for black lung when the ACA is repealed.

Facebook: commercial fishermen upset at news that Trump wants to push through the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay.

Huckabee, Ryan, and Graham all say that there’s no reason to think that Donald Trump’s voter fraud claims are true.Bernie Sanders says “regarding Mr. Trump’s delusional statement… he is sending a message to every Republican governor in the country to go ahead with voter suppression.”Then he suggested to Trump that he bring his three overseas manufacturing plants back to the U.S.

New York Post headline: Trump Brings Up Bogus Voter Fraud claims–Again. The New York Post is a Trump-friendly publication and were given the first question at Sean Spicer’s “first” press conference yesterday.

White house briefing: Reporters in the Whitehouse Press Corp today ask Sean Spicer why Trump wouldn’t want to investigate 3-5 million fraudulent votes. “That would be a scandal of huge proportions” said one. Eventually, after much dodging, Spicer said maybe it would be investigated in the future. One reporter said, “What do you think that means for democracy?” and Spicer said, “It means I already answered your question.”

At another point in the press conference Spicer said, “He has NO conflicts. By law he CAN’T have conflicts.”

NBC headline: What Happens When a President Can’t Handle Bad News?

On the highways and byways: A man walking across the U.S. barefoot to spread awareness of climate change, was killed on his 101st day of walking. An SUV swerved on to the shoulder and took him out.

Twitter: The twitter handle of the Badlands (part of the National Park Service) briefly went rogue, tweeting facts about climate change. Hailed as a hero. The tweets were deleted soon afterward

Many agencies, including the EPA and USDA, were silenced by the Trump administration, forbidden to make any blog posts or tweets or communicate with the public over social media at all. The administration calls it a “temporary media blackout”

The Guardian reports that four journalists were charged with felony incitement of riots because they were caught up by police while covering unrest on inauguration day. Usually reporters that are caught up with rioters are not charged once things are sorted out.

I policed myself once today–not wanting to sign a petition on the Whitehouse website because I didn’t want to give my name to a sinister organization. Never mind that this URL is my name and they have plenty of ways to know I’m not a supporter. It wasn’t rational. Just a really bad feeling.

Trump signed an executive order to get construction on the Dakota Access pipeline underway again. I felt sad and defeated over Standing Rock and DAPL. I am afraid those people are just going to break themselves against the rocks of the Trump administration. It is wrong to be defeatist at this point, and wrong not to rally to their side as this may be an important test case. But if it was so bad against Obama, I am afraid they will break themselves now under Trump.

Trump to sign an executive order targeting sanctuary cities.

Governor Jerry Brown says “California is not turning back. Not now, not ever.”

Subjective assessment: This is worse and going faster than I expected.

Questions reporters asked at the WH press briefing (1/24/2017):

Continue reading the only way out is through #8