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

April 10, 2018

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

 

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

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

 

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

But I mean, who are they now?

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

TOWOIT #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 #257: Don’t go to the White House

October 27, 2017… Day 281

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 7.36.29 PM

Whirlwind Friday news evening with the talk of Mueller charges and someone possibly being taken in to custody on Monday. I’m seeing jubilation online, but not feeling it myself. This week has been too dark. Too dark! I’m not letting my guard down.

Let us retreat to the familiar confines of the White House Press Briefing, where Sarah Sanders was particularly smug and condescending to reporters, as the reporters’ children looked on and added their small murmurous child sounds to the room noise.

Do not take your children to the White House.

Don’t go to the White House!

God, I hate Halloween anyway.

C-SPAN cut to the briefing from a live call-in about sexual harassment in the workplace. An anonymous caller had just said, with a shaky voice, how a coworker drugged her drink and kept her in his apartment for 18 hours afterward, but she just suppressed it for 5 years and said nothing to anyone. Cut abruptly to Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an emerald green dress, opening her mouth to make one of her snarky, un-funny salutations to the room. She will go on to confirm that the White House’s official position is that all 16 women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment are liars.

It’s hard to refrain from gendered insults, with Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the world.

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Questions:

Continue reading TOWOIT #257: Don’t go to the White House