Today I’m recording WH reporter questions from yesterday AND today, but I can’t do the whole hour of the medical doctor from yesterday because that’s just too much, and a lot of it going around in circles. After yesterday’s briefing, one of the reporters could be heard saying “It felt like Josh Earnest was back.” Because Josh Earnest–Obama’s last press secretary–used to do long, patient back and forths with reporters, frequently drawing the briefing out past the hour mark. Of course, that’s not really fair, comparing Josh Earnest to Dr. Ronnie Excellent.
For her part, when Sarah H. Sanders took over yesterday she sounded much more like Sean Spicer than usual, with shades of Stephen Miller. Her voice is starting to pitch higher and she’s talking faster. There’s a strain to being the lying mouthpiece of racist idiocy.
Oh my gosh, I just went to whitehouse.gov to get the briefing transcripts and this is the splash page:
Questions they asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders yesterday:
Sarah Huckabee Sanders held a press briefing today. She wore a pink blouse of a shinier, less structured fabric than usual. The neckline plunged a bit, showing some cleavage. I have not noticed her showing cleavage before and I do not like it when she opens herself up to sartorial criticism because then I feel honor-bound to defend her. I wondered if she felt self-conscious, or if maybe it had not seemed at home like the neckline plunged as much as it did indeed turn out to plunge.
Cleavage notwithstanding, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is like a giant damper pedal. Well, that’s not quite apt. But whereas Sean Spicer used to rattle and hum and spice things up by getting all zesty and testy, Sarah Sanders just takes all the energy and life in the room and absorbs it and keeps it. Everything falls quiet and slow. Just slow quiet lies in a deadened room.
I listened to Sarah Lerner’s podcast Hellbent for the first time, today. It was good. It reminded me of Baby Geniuses.
The parlor game for today on Facebook and Twitter: See whether you’d qualify to be let into into the U.S. under Trump’s newly introduced RAISE Act. My friends aren’t doing very well. I haven’t taken it. I’m worried I’ll pass and I want to stay on the side of the gym where my friends are lined up.
NYT’s Glenn Thrush, defending Hillary Clinton against someone on Twitter who said she’s only showing her religious faith now after the election is over. She did before too, he said, but…
Oh Glenn. Hundreds of days late. Millions of dollars short.
Just a good line:
WaPo book reviewer objects to the anthologization of angst. Boy, do I hear that.
Let’s all try to take a small vacation… from our problem(s).
Jezebel has a new bulleted list of daily political news scraps. They call it Barf Bag. It’s funny and has links and is more comprehensive and less gratuitously personal than this blog so I recommend it.
Wall Street Journal published an article today about attempts at collusion between a Trump associate and … Russian hackers? I don’t have the full gist yet. Haven’t seen the article. I suppose there’s no need to rush on that. I can’t even tell when something is new anymore.
Trump’s “election fraud commission” wants states to hand over all their voter information for individuals. So far, three states have said no.
Here’s what reporters asked freakin Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a liar who complains about being called a liar to her face:
Sarah, in reference to the President’s tweets this morning that have been a matter of some discussion today, you said earlier on Fox News that the President has a right to defend himself when he is attacked and it’s no secret that this particular program has been very critical of him. However, the nature of the tweets this morning has drawn condemnation from people on Capitol Hill, including the Speaker of the House, Senator Graham, Senator Susan Collins — all of whom are allies of the President. Did the President go too far with his tweet in its deeply personal nature?
If I could just follow on that, Sarah, if I could just follow on that. A couple of the criticisms from supporters of the President have been that this particular tweet was beneath the dignity of the office. Where does the President draw that line, on the dignity of the office?
I have a healthcare question, but on this, just one other aspect of it. Some have suggested in their tweet response or public announcements today that the President misconstrued one of the messages that should have been gathered from the shooting that involved Steve Scalise and others, the hostility of the verbal environment can create an atmosphere of violence. I’m not saying that, but members of Congress have said that about this particular tweet. I know that episode affected the President and those here at the White House personally, very importantly and deeply. Do you have any reaction to that sentiment, that conversations like this create an atmosphere that is either dangerous or one we need to avoid?
Sarah, I just had a healthcare question. So you talked about the President’s overall priorities. Last night, late last night, as part of the amendment and evolution on the Senate draft, $45 million was put on the table for opioid treatment and health savings accounts can be used, according to this new draft, to pay premiums in the future. Does the President support those two initiatives, and why does he believe they make the bill better, specifically does he believe that opioid allocation will be sufficient, as many people do not, to address that problem?
How about on health savings accounts? Does he have any particular approach —
Sarah, what about the Republicans who are criticizing the President?
Sarah, thank you. I want to go back to the shooting and remember what President Trump said then. He said, “Our country will perhaps become closer, more unified, so important.” Does his tweet this morning, his series of tweets help to unify the country?
But do his tweets help to unify the country, to do what he said he wanted to see happen in the wake of that shooting?
He’s the President of the United States, Sarah.
Sarah, two questions, to follow up on that. One is that I understand your point, but he’s the President of the United States, they are cable news anchors. So he has to stand to a higher standard, one. And two, you talk about criticism, he said that former President Obama wasn’t born in this country, right? So he clearly was a part of criticizing the past President, who was not immune to criticism himself. So I wonder how you make that argument.
Doesn’t he have to meet a higher standard than cable news anchors, Sarah? Doesn’t he have to meet a higher standard than cable news anchors?
Sarah, how is insulting a woman on Twitter being a fighter?
What about the impact of statements like this on his effectiveness? There was a Maris poll this week that said 68 percent of registered voters say the President’s tweets are reckless and distracting. Only 22 percent say that they’re effective and informative. And Republicans on this question are split down the middle — half of Republicans say that they’re reckless and distracting. So how can you argue that this is something the President must do?
Sarah, as a woman, how do you feel about the President attacking another woman specifically for her looks? And what does that show as an example to how men should be treating other women?
He’s the President, Sarah.
Why can’t he take the heat?
I just have a follow-up, Sarah, and then I have a separate question too. And this kind of gets to the point that’s been made, and —
You’ve been talking about the idea that the President is a fighter. I just want to put it in — because you talk about being personally affected by all of this as well, and that nothing is wrong with the President fighting fire with fire, is the argument that you’re making. So I would ask this to you sort of on a personal level. You have stood here and talked about your family from this podium. Are you going to tell your kids this behavior is okay?
I want to ask you my follow-up, Sarah — a follow-up question just on more policy points, with the G20 coming up next week.
I disagree with that. I think we talk about policy a lot here.
I just did one about five minutes ago, Sarah.
But I want to ask about his meeting with President Putin that is coming up next week that has just been confirmed by Gary Cohn and H.R. McMaster, and a definitive answer from you on whether the President will bring up election interference. It is clearly the biggest topic between the U.S. and Russia right now, the fact that Moscow meddled in the election. Is the President going to press Putin on that?
Okay, thanks a lot, Sarah. The President’s tweet today, does it help his legislative agenda? Does it help him win the votes of those nine senators who have come out against that Senate bill? Senator Collins, Senator Murkowski, for instance? What’s your view on that?
But as it relates to his legislative agenda — I’m not asking about the tweet itself, I’m asking about whether or not this helps his legislative agenda.
All those points that you make, Sarah, about the —
— the positive elements of the President’s agenda are certainly true. All of those things are true. But the President today put out this tweet which takes away from all of that, and do you expect us here in this room to simply ignore that? Now, I think that’s the valid question that should be asked of you right now. Should we just ignore this entirely?
Two questions for you, Sarah. First, did the U.S., did the administration send a representative to the funeral mass for Chancellor Kohl? Or will they send anyone to the official funeral service July 1st?
My other question is this: You’ve had people turn down nominations to be deputy secretary of the Treasury. The President is on his third appointee, I believe, for Secretary of the Army. And the ambassador to Ireland has declined the nomination, and there’s no candidates for ambassador to Germany or France — both major allies — or Greece, for that matter, an important country. Is the President having trouble recruiting people to fill some of the key slots that remain unfilled after six months?
Hey, Sarah. Thank you so much. I don’t want to talk about any tweets. I want to talk about making America great again, and part of that energy dominance in Energy Week. Here’s the thing: During the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, we had some pretty scary times in North Dakota. Just a couple weeks ago, a judge (inaudible) suggesting that the Army Corps of Engineers had prematurely issued some permits. This creates more uncertainty for people. My question is this: What specifically is the administration going to do to give these companies more certainty, more clarity as they make these multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investments to improve our energy? At the same point in time, our tribal leaders and tribal nations (inaudible) feeling honored and respected about this entire permitting process.
Thank you, Sarah. I want to ask you again about this Russia sanctions legislations in Congress. If, as Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said, the administration wants to go to the upper limits of the law in keeping those sanctions on Russia, then why not support this legislation that basically keeps what has been slapped down in place?
Sarah, our question is on healthcare. Specifically, our governor put out a number that perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana will lose their healthcare if this bill goes through. If you add up the other states, that kind of puts it into the millions. Is there an acceptable number (inaudible) behind the scenes of people losing coverage to get the great bill through?
Thanks, Sarah. I had a two-parter. The President had let us know that he had planned on having an ISIS news conference to update people on the situation within the next couple weeks, which is now-ish. But we’re coming up on departure —
Now-ish. I’m wondering, do you expect that we would get that update, whether it’s a news conference or just kind of remarks before the upcoming foreign trip, or whether we need to wait? And I also wanted to ask you — it looked like there might be some coverage of remarks at the fundraiser yesterday. It didn’t work out. But beyond yesterday, are you guys looking at beginning to do that now for fundraisers of a certain size to have some transparency and the ability to hear what he’s telling donors?
So no apology from the president, Sarah? (called after her as she left — and ignored)
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Sean Spicer did a joint briefing. The lies were amazing. Scott Pruitt was a fiery and defiant lying asshole. Sean Spicer just sounded like he had given up on life. The reporters actually got quite a few questions in considering how short the briefing was, because Sean just says some kind of feeble, kill me now “I don’t know” now instead of replying in blustery obfuscating paragraph storms. There was no answering of questions, but here were the questions.
Questions for Pruitt:
Thank you. I have a two-part question. I was hoping you could clear this up once and for all. Yes or no, does the President believe that climate change is real as a threat to the United States?
On climate change, yes or no?
Two-tenths of one percent, a statistic that you’re citing — the MIT scientists who helped with that report say that Trump “badly misunderstood” the findings of that report, and that, in fact, if we take no action, temperatures can rise a devastating five percentage points. So, specifically, what other science did the President rely on.
I’d like to go back to the first question that was asked that you didn’t answer. Does the President believe today that climate change is a hoax? That’s something, of course, he said in the campaign. When the pool was up in the Oval Office with him a couple days ago, he refused to answer. So I’m wondering if you can speak for him.
Thank you. Given the fact that you and other administration officials haven’t been able to outline the President’s views on climate change, why should other countries believe that the President wants to negotiate a new deal in good faith?
Does the President believe that — or does the administration believe that any additional deal on carbon emissions, whether it’s Paris or a subsequent deal, needs —
Does the administration believe that any deal — whether it’s a revised Paris Agreement or another carbon emissions deal — needs congressional approval? Either as a treaty or some other form —
Obviously a lot of people from the White House are not willing to answer this question of what the President’s view is on climate change. So let’s talk about your personal views. In March, you said, there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of human impact, and you would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to global warming. Would you agree that human activity contributes at all to global warming?
If we just look at the —
Can I ask a follow-up question on that, sir? Why, then, is the Arctic ice shelf melting? Why are the sea levels rising? Why are the hottest temperatures in the last decade essentially the hottest temperatures that we’ve seen on record?
But, sir, so there’s — when NASA says that 95 percent of the experts in this area around the world believe that the Earth is warming, and you are up there throwing out information that says, well, maybe this is being exaggerated and so forth, and you’re talking about climate exaggerators, it just seems to a lot of people around the world that you and the President are just denying the reality. And the reality of this situation is that climate change is happening and it is a significant threat to the planet.
That’s true, though, right? About the Arctic iceand the sea levels and —
Critics argue you’re putting your head in the sand, though, Mr. Pruitt. They’re a little worried that you’re putting your head in the sand.
Thank you, Mr. Administrator. Your fellow Sooner Senator Inhofe said that while he has full confidence in the President in this, he is very nervous about lower-level career government employees in the EPA and the State Department in actually executing what it means to exit the Paris Climate Accord. As the Administrator of EPA, what do you say to your own staff?
European leaders have made it very clear the deal can’t be renegotiated. So how does the President renegotiate a deal when the other parties aren’t willing to come to the table?
But a new deal with who, if they’re not going to sit down at the table with him?
And just a quick follow-up. You’re the EPA Administrator. Shouldn’t you be able to tell the American people whether or not the President still believes that climate change is a hoax? Where does he stand?
Thank you. Isn’t it of concern that the United States has broken a promise to 190 countries? And the President did not address that particular point. And second, you’ve several times raised the lowering of CO2 levels. Isn’t the reason for lower CO2 levels because of blocking the smokestack spews that now are not allowed, the kind of regulations that the administration is now opposing?
Isn’t it of concern that we broke a promise to 190 countries? And how does that help our credibility?
Our word is not our bond?
Why did you celebrate at a French restaurant last night? Was that a symbolic gesture?
Questions they asked Sean Spicer:
Thanks, Sean. I want to ask about the push for the travel ban to the U.S. Supreme Court. Is it fair to say that one of the reasons that the President wants to keep this going is obviously now we have a full Court impaneled, but also because it gives the White House perhaps a chance to build on some momentum, especially if you look back at yesterday? It would appear that his base was very pleased with what the President decided to do. Is that part of the calculus?
And I’d also like to ask as a follow about the XL pipeline. Can you give us an update on what’s happening with that in terms jobs and development?
Thank you, Sean. You were asked earlier this week about the President’s personal views on climate change and whether or not he believes it’s a hoax. You said you hadn’t had a chance to have that conversation with him. Now it’s been 48-72 hours. What does the President actually believe about climate change? Does he still believe it’s a hoax? Can you clarify that? Because apparently nobody else at the White House can.
Don’t the American people deserve to know what the President believes on such an important issue?
Quick question for you related to the Paris climate agreement. Why does the President feel it’s important to continue to reduce carbon emissions and export clean energy technology?
Just a quick question as it relates to climate change. Very simple definition of climate change is a change in the Earth’s weather patterns. The EPA Administrator said today that he does feel there is some value to the studies that say the Earth is warming somewhat. Does the President share the EPA Administrator’s thoughts on this topic? And why has the administration sort of backed away from using the words “climate change”?
Thanks, Sean. Yesterday the President painted a pretty dire economic picture if the United States were to stay in the Paris Accords, saying it would be disastrous for the U.S. economy. And yet dozens of the top CEOs of American corporations lobbied the President in order to stay in the Paris Accords. Why would the President argue that this is bad for the economy if all those CEOs are saying, you know what, we need to do this? Is the President right about the economic forecasts and all those private sector leaders wrong?
Is the President going to replace Elon Musk and Bob Iger on the President’s advisory council?
Thank you, Sean. The President’s critics are claiming that pulling out of the accord will lift China as a global leader. Do you agree with that sentiment? What does the White House have to say about that?
Thank you, Sean. Yesterday, President Macron of France delivered a sharply worded speech in English attacking the President on the climate change decision, saying it is bad for all of our children. And he specifically called on scientists to come and move to France. What’s the President’s response to President Macron?
Thank you, Sean. The Washington Post has reported that the administration is considering returning these properties in Maryland and New York to Russia. What is the reason for that? And what would the White House have to see before giving back those properties?
Has the President been following the Kathy Griffin meltdown? And does the family want a personal apology for the beheading photo?
Does the family want a personal apology from Kathy Griffin after the beheading photo?
Sean, it’s been a matter of curiosity in this town for a couple of days now — is the White House going to evoke executive privilege to prevent James Comey from testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week?
So is that — that’s not a no?
Two questions, Sean, one on the tax bill and one on the debt ceiling. In the Rose Garden yesterday, the President said something about our tax bill is moving along in Congress very well. We’ve heard something about a bill being drafted in House Ways and Means. Is that what he was talking about? Or what tax bill was he referring to?
And then on the debt ceiling, we’ve been getting some mixed messages from administration officials on whether you’d like to see a clean debt bill or whether you’d be — can you explain what the President’s feeling is on whether he’d like to see riders attached on a decrease in spending or whatever? What is his feeling?
Thanks, Sean. Two questions. Number one, when we heard the Administrator talk about this decision on the Paris Climate Accord he said it’s not a signal that the U.S. wants to disengage on climate policy. So what are the steps that the administration is taking to engage internationally on climate?
And on China? The relationship with China, the point of cooperation — have you guys given some thought to how you’ll manage? Because the model was, you manage tensions with China as the U.S. government by having areas of cooperation, and this was previously an area of cooperation. There’s obviously other areas that the White House is working on now with China, but do you envision some other cooperation on the area of climate with the Chinese government?
Thank you, Sean. In a recent statement by Senator McCain, he said that Vladimir Putin is a greater threat to the United States — security of the U.S. than ISIS. Has the President had any conversation with you about that comment?
Sean, thank you. Secretary Mnuchin has said that he wants the debt ceiling raised before the August recess, that we’re going to run out of money by then. This morning — he wants it clean as well. This morning, Gary Cohn said that the administration was willing to do whatever with Congress to get it passed before August, and the Freedom Caucus has said they want spending cuts. So what does this look like? It doesn’t sound as if the Treasury Secretary is going to get a clean bill. What is the administration willing to take as far as spending cuts to get the debt ceiling raised?
Sean, could you tell me, how is the President dealing with the fact that there are several mayors — many mayors — from a bipartisan group, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, who are against the President’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement? How does this President move forward with what he’s saying about making coal great again and taking the — walking away from the economics of clean energy, and then walking out of Paris, when you have mayors who are saying, we’re going to continue with the Paris Agreement?
— bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic mayors who are very upset by this.
Okay. And last topic — there are a number of reports on hate crimes. Nooses have been found at the museum — the new museum the President toured, the African American History and Culture Museum. And also there was a very negative word, one of the worst that you could say, spray-painted on LeBron James’s home. What is the President saying about this? Specifically, people are saying over the last 130-plus days people are feeling that there has been a divide that is perpetuated from this White House.
Thank you. Did Secretary of State Rex Tillerson endorse withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement?
We were told he wasn’t at the announcement yesterday.
Can you clarify the nature of the conversations that Jared Kushner had with Russian officials and a banker in December? And what was the date of the meeting with the banker?
But how can you not answer questions about it when the President himself tweets about it?
Thanks. Firstly, noting that you’re not responding to any of those questions — if you guys are actually finding a new spokespeople or people who will respond to this, that would be helpful. Two things. Do you have any update on the search for the FBI director?
And you said you haven’t talked to the President yet about whether he still believes if climate change is a hoax. Can you — would it be possible for you to have that conversation with him and then report back to us at the next briefing?
Even though Administrator Pruitt can’t say where the President stands on climate change, does it mean that members of his administration helped the President make this decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord without knowing where the President stands, without knowing whether or not he thinks climate change is real?
Sean, we know that the President heard a lot of points of view on this on both sides of the issue, and there was an impression — maybe a false impression — that it was a difficult decision and that he was wavering. In the end, though, yesterday, he was emphatic about getting out of the agreement. In the end, was this an easy decision, or was it a close decision?
One other thing. There’s a lot of talk about renegotiation. Why renegotiate? The United States has the authority to simply reduce the targets. Why not just do that?
Sean, the President signed a waiver yesterday that delays a campaign promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem. I know you said that this was to not hinder any sort of peace deal. But how confident can his supporters be that this is a campaign promise that he’s going to keep?
But he promised in the campaign to do it on day one. I mean, is there a time frame now for when he will do this?
Thank you, Sean. Following up on Kaitlan’s question, — and I have a second thing after that — is it still the administration’s position, though, that Jared Kushner was in the meeting with the Russian banker as a representative of the transition, representing the President?
Well, something you may be able to answer directly, does the President still have confidence in Jared Kushner?
Thank you, Sean. One of the ethics waivers the White House released applied to all White House appointees concerning discussions with the news media was retroactive. Was that aimed as — did the White House have Steve Bannon’s communication with Breitbart News in mind? Was that applied retroactively to address those communications? And any response to Director Shaub’s claim that if you (inaudible) retroactively you have violated the rule?
“Can you give an example of fake news, Sean? Could you give us an example?”
At long last, another Sean Spicer briefing. From now on, each one will be treated like it could be the last. Not just the last Sean Spicer briefing, but the last White House briefing period. Because they are straying so far into Our Dear Leader territory, I’m not sure how long this can go on.
A lot of savvy people on Twitter have said that the White House Press Briefing has been pointless for a long time. But those reporters together asking intelligent questions matter to me. A lot. And I don’t care that Sean Spicer answers back in aggro gobbledy gook. The questioning itself is what matters to me.
Here’s what they asked today:
Yes, so the issue with the Russia probe, I’m wondering, Sean, if you can tell us when the President knew –whether the President knew at the time that Jared Kushner was seeking to establish back-channel communications at the Russian embassy through the Russian government. And if he didn’t know at the time, when did he find out?
Did the President discuss this, though?
Does he approve of that action?
Does the White House dispute that that happened?
Thank you, Sean. But the President retweeted this morning an article about that back channel that was based on an anonymous source that said that there was an effort to set up a back channel, that it was the Russians who suggested that, and that it was to talk about Syria. Was the President not confirming that that effort — that there was an effort in the facts that I just said when he retweeted that?
But he was — but you said that, first of all, that the article was based on anonymous sources —
But the Fox article that the President retweeted was also based on anonymous sources. Why are those sources — or the source, rather, that they used more credible than the one in The Washington Post article?
Thank you, Sean. I have two questions. First, the President, for the second time in a month, retweeted his desire for the Senate to reduce the votes to pass anything to 51, which would effectively scuttle the filibuster for legislation as it has been scuttled for nominations. Is this something he discussed with Majority Leader McConnell or any of the Senate leadership before he tweeted it?
But he wants to scrap the filibuster entirely —
And my second question, I did want to mention that before he left to go abroad, the President praised Philippine President Duterte for his action against drug dealers and dealing with them. Various human rights groups have condemned President Duterte, saying that a lot of the executions of drug dealers have been done without trial. Does the President stand by his words of praise for the Philippine President?
Tomorrow is the deadline for the Jerusalem embassy act — the last Obama waiver, six-month waiver. Has the President made a decision about whether or not he will sign another waiver?
And so that decision will be made in the next 24 hours?
And, secondly, we’re also waiting on a few other reviews — the ISIS review, as well as the Afghanistan review. What is the status of those? You mentioned that Paris — we’ll be hearing this week, the President said. What about the other two?
Thanks, Sean. The President tweeted on Sunday that he thinks Republicans should “add more dollars to healthcare and make it the best anywhere.” What did he mean by that?
But “add more dollars” — did he mean to the high-risk pools? Did he mean to the cost-sharing reduction payments? Where did he want to add them?
Thanks, Sean. Following on one of Zeke’s questions, Afghanistan is now the country’s longest war. How much more American blood and treasure is the President willing to expend? And does he think it’s a winnable conflict?
Sean, let me ask you a couple, if you don’t mind. First on tax reform. The President tweeted over the weekend that it was going “very well.” You just used the word “progress.” However, Republicans on the Hill still appear to be divided. The President tweeted today that maybe they should reverse the filibuster rule. So I’m wondering what the progress is and what is it that is going very well at this point in time.
And let me ask you about the FBI director. Before the foreign trip, Joe Lieberman was the leading candidate identified by the President. Mr. Lieberman is out. Where does the FBI director search stand? John Pistole — he is at the White House interviewing today. Is he the leading candidate at this point?
Are they THE two finalists at this point, or two of —
Thanks, Sean. The President tweeted that tax reform is going well, but you just said that he’s actually very frustrated with the lack of progress in the Senate. So does the White House still stand by its August deadline for tax reform? And does the White House still believe that healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure is going to get done this year?
Sean, where do you see the state of the U.S.-German relationship right now? And how important is that relationship to the White House and the President and the American public?
And how did he view her comments that she felt that Europe could no longer depend on the United States?
Sean, has the President been meeting with lawyers specifically about defending himself in the special counsel investigation into Russia? And I’m sure you’ve probably seen the reports that Congressman Adam Schiff would like to see Jared Kushner before his committee, and possibly to go over his clearances.
And about the President, whether or not he’s had any meetings with —
Sean, a couple things. First, welcome back, by the way. Thanks. Two quick questions. This weekend, while you all were gone, someone shot up the Lexington Herald-Leader, and of course we understand what happened in Montana with now-Congressman Gianforte — I think it’s a misdemeanor charge of assault. Will this administration take a stand against violence aimed at reporters?
Well, and so would you — all right, second, let me follow THAT up with, would you support legislation — you all have been the ones that have come out screaming against fake media — would you support legislation that would support real reporting, such as this shield law? I’ve asked you before, such as —
The second question: When you say that you’re going to try to defeat ISIS and al Qaeda, what are you doing to eliminate the abject poverty that is the breeding ground for the terrorists?
You said that a back channel is an appropriate part of diplomacy.
Add more to that. How is it that it’s appropriate for someone who’s a private citizen, not sworn in as an official of the U.S. government, to conduct any kind of negotiation or diplomacy with a foreign official?
But, at the time, there was no one who was close to the President who was working in an official government capacity. How is that appropriate?
I know the President hasn’t made a public decision on the Paris agreement, and I know you don’t want to get out ahead of him, but on the more broad issue of climate change, can you say whether or not the President believes that human activity is contributing to the warming of the climate?
And do you feel like that is a decision he’s still trying to make?
And just real quick on healthcare, to follow up on question back there. So as part of the tweet about wanting to add more money to get better healthcare, would the President consider putting back some of the Obamacare taxes that were taken out of the health bill as it goes into the Senate? Would he be in support of keeping taxes in there to help pay for healthcare?
Let me finish, please —
Thank you, Sean, for calling on me — Angela Merkel’s quote: “We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands…” How did the President react to that? And will this have any effect on what he decides to do with Paris?
And will it affect his decision on Paris?
Will it have any effect on his decision on Paris?
Sean, does the departure of Michael Dubke signal some kind of broader reorganization in the West Wing? Obviously, we’re hearing that more campaign aides, like Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie might be returning; that there’s a “war room” he might be setting up to deal with the Russian investigations.
Is the White House considering changing how you communicate the President’s message at all? I mean, be it him communicating directly more or different faces at the podium.
But do you think that he is happy with the messaging that’s been done thus far?
Can you give an example of fake news, Sean? Could you give us an example?
Can’t reporters make mistakes?
Sean, none of that was in the newspaper. None of that was on the front page. Your trip was all over the front page. You’re making something out of one tweet instead of the vast majority of the coverage.
You gave it more prominence than anybody ever did originally.
That’s something insignificant, though. That’s just so minor.
It’s frustrating when you —
Are you saying that reports that there’s going to be an overhaul of the communications operation are fake news? That’s the question —
Sean, we reported on the counterterrorism center.
Come on —
Is Kushner fake news?
It’s unusual that the White House transcriptionist left a few of the trailing questions on at the end after Sean dismissed everyone:
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.
This last week before day 100 is dizzy. Day 100 is also potential government shutdown day to boot. It’s like this circus doesn’t realize I’m trying to hold down a job, maintain relationships, and get better at sleep hygiene.
Crawling toward Day 100. It used to seem like every day was 10 days. Now it’s down to about two days per day. When I found out Trump was going to win, the first thing I cried for was the fact that I didn’t want to see his face or hear his voice any more. I hadn’t realized how desperate I was for him to be shuffled out of my daily eyeshot and earshot. And in that moment, I didn’t think I could bear another day of Trump on national television, let alone Trump as President. Well, I’m fucking stronger now. We all are.
Trump also didn’t seem to know or remember that Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un were different people.
Four years ago, in tweets, Trump seemed to have a better handle on things.
“You got a fly on your head.”
—John Roberts to Sean Spicer during today’s White House Press Briefing
Questions they asked Sean Spicer today at the WHPB:
“Like a brown bird nesting in a Texaco sign, I got a point of view”
— Silver Jews song lyric
— (Also, me)
I feel sheepish after I get too angry or emotional in my blog. It makes me feel like I smeared my weakness around on a page and taped it up in the hall of the high school where it isn’t safe for it to be. I have a lot of actual personal essays sketched out (as opposed to blurted TMI non sequiturs). If I can build up enough of a head of steam to last me through the end of my workday until bedtime, I’ll write a couple of those up. These have just been gnarly days of chafing at misogyny, figuring out how to do intersectional feminism, watching our institutions and freedoms crumble, staring into the abyss of my own white complicity, and wedging myself between Republicans and people who call me a corporatist neoliberal. This is my pillow book of Sei Shonagon, ok? This is my tear-soaked sleeve. I am cutting off my hair and moving to a monastery. I don’t know, I just took a seminar on the Tale of Genji when I was a freshman in college and I hearken back to it when I feel myself getting dramatic. I’m sure Devin Nunes is feeling like an embattled Heian prince right now too.
Ivanka Trump will take an official federal job in the White House after all (instead of just being a volunteer). Now if only Carl Icahn would do the same.
Today is Brexit day. Masses of people swamped by their own delusions. Good luck to you, UK.
According to The Hill, people who know Devin Nunes are saying that he is acting unhinged and aggressive, and hasn’t explained to anyone why he canceled those committee meetings. I saw him in the Ways and Means committee footage last night, sort of hunched over and glowering. He didn’t speak, it wasn’t his particular show. He just sat there listening to his colleagues talk about how something is wrong with the administration and Russia.
A lot of other disheartening stuff also happened. But Seattle is suing the federal government over the whole sanctuary city thing. And here’s something from the financial site ZeroHedge which beats back the thorny hedge of our collective self-gaslighting:
So, the green line starts diverging from the red line right after the election last November. The green line, which goes up and up? That’s data based on sentiment, that’s how everybody feels about how things are going economically. How much people want to buy things, for instance. That’s part of what drove the stock market rally that’s been attributed to Trump and his agenda. If you separate out the hard data — which is actual, quantifiable, after-the-fact economic results, you can see that has just gone along like it has been. Meaning that large swaths of the investing class have gone gaga on “Trump is great and will cut taxes” euphoria. But facts still matter, numbers still matter, and the hard data just says “everything is ok, about like it has been.” I find that reassuring.
The Republican chairman and leading Democrat on the Senateintelligence committee gave a joint press conference today. They countered all the House committee drama by being bipartisan, level-headed, and gravely concerned about Russia. They also countered it by referencing it directly and saying “things are different over here” (I paraphrase). And when they said they would get to the bottom of things and follow the facts where they lead, I want to believe them. I am more likely to believe them because Maxine Waters believes them.
Gallup has Trump approval ratings at 35% today.
C-Span screen grab:
OK, here’s the straight skinny. Questions asked of Sean Spicer at the press briefing today:
On the day Sally Yates was supposed to testify but didn’t, Hillary was back on stage in a black leather jacket over a floral collar shirt. While giving a talk about women in diplomacy (or something like that), she stood up for two black women in the public eye– the reporter April Ryan and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Why did she have to do that? Just white Republican guys being assholes.
Bill O’Reilly said Maxine Waters’s “James Brown wig” was too distracting for him to be able to hear what she was saying–as she spoke earnestly about democracy. Sean Spicer told April Ryan to stop shaking her head at him. But the worst I thought was right before that, when he said “I’m sorry if that disgusts you” for no reason. April Ryan felt bad that her fellow reporters didn’t speak up for her, and that makes me sad.
I listened to the c-span briefing live and Sean Spicer leaves abruptly after talking to April, with many people yelling after him for follow-up questions. After he left the room, one man said “REALLY?!… ok…” And someone else said, “April got him mad” and the first guy said, “Oh yeah. He just runs, man.”
Maxine Waters told Chris Hayes tonight that she could not be intimidated and wasn’t going anywhere.
The House Ways and Means committee killed another resolution that called for President Trump’s tax returns. Representative Bill Pascrell from Patterson, New Jersey was full of fire, thunder, and righteous indignation. I never heard of him before, and I appreciated him greatly. Suzan Del Bene from Washington piped up in the debate, and deposited a rather demure statement in support of Pascrell and his resolution. But she came across as rather a real person–like if I were a congresswoman, I might speak like her and with less sturm und drang. But who knows, I might be a real barn-burner. I especially appreciated the committee members who cited the protests in Russia as all the more reason we need to promote transparency and democratic institutions. At the end of the debate, they vote on whether or not to pass the resolution along with disapproval. The Republican ayes are so anemic and mumbled. Then the Democratic NOs ring out so forcefully, several times louder. It means something, though they knew the vote would split down party lines and they would lose. It still means something.
Trump joined the House Republicans in taking away Internet privacy protections. I know from my job, that this is seen as quite a revenue opportunity.
It was a sad day for the whole world, and all the things living on it. Trump rolled back initiatives to fight climate change.
Obama’s record is being erased. Hope for our species to continue in functioning societies is also being erased. Yeah, I’m sure someone survives after climate change really hits — but not most of us. And not with civil societies intact. It’s the biggest health issue, the biggest social justice issue that there is. It’s the biggest economic inequality issue. It’s the biggest foreign relations issue, the biggest national security issue, and the biggest issue for families with children.
With Sean Spicer’s lies and Devin Nunes obstructing his own committee’s investigation of Russia ties to the White House, and the Republicans just spinning and spinning and spinning to protect Donald Trump — it feels to me again like they will get away with all this. Maybe because I had hope, briefly, I feel nauseated again today, revisiting the grief of just after the election.
The lion’s share of that grief was NOT specifically about Hillary Clinton’s loss. That was sad enough on its own, but was dwarfed by the bigger picture. For Bernie Bros and Republicans, it is all still about Hillary. That came up today online with her back in the public eye again. And it has always hurt to have the sexism of leftist guys nipping at our ankles in hard times. We can’t count on all our brothers. I work hard to overcome this thought that was ingrained in me by my childhood circumstances: that men hate women and children. This election is hurtling me back through time to re-fight all these old battles for my emotional health and wholeness. Anyway, when it comes to Bernie Bros of various intensities — I have to be allies with them, but I don’t have to forget or forgive.
By the way, I’ve noticed that some male Bernie supporters love to say that the Clinton campaign invented and propagated the term Bernie Bro. Naturally, the lived experiences of real live female Democrats online can’t be seen as real.
OK, but enough white feminist tears for one day. People got real problems. I heard a story on NPR about how people are withdrawing from food stamp programs (even if their children are American citizens) because they are afraid of the government. There was a story in the New Yorker about how kids are afraid to go to school after an ICE raid.
Politico headline:Carbon tax debate exposed rift among Trump aides. (Spoiler alert: Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, seems like a reasonable man who wants reasonable things to happen. Steve Bannon, not so much.) (parenthetical asides are my own).
It’s going around Twitter that Rex Tillerson didn’t want to be Secretary of State, but his wife told him that God wanted him to do it. This would explain why Tillerson is always quiet and low-energy and doesn’t care that the President is proposing cutting his department’s budget by 30%. His heart is not in it. And Mitch McConnell said cutting the State Department by that much was not gonna fly. So *someone* is looking out for Tillerson’s department. Meanwhile, good old Andrea Mitchell, shut out of the State Department plane because Tillerson says he doesn’t “need” media coverage, is flying separately and chasing Tillerson down all over the globe. Catching glimpses of him on his way to take naps.
To think of the sexist shredding Hillary would have endured if she talked about things like needing a good night’s sleep or being too fatigued to have dinner with the South Korean foreign minister.
Tillerson! We counted on you to be somewhat normal and awake! You’re letting us all the fuck down. I miss Mitt Romney. I believe he genuinely did feel called to serve.
In other news, Elizabeth Warren said maybe (just maybe) we shouldn’t be going forward with the confirmation process of Neil Gorsuch when the White House is being investigated by the FBI. Meanwhile, Gorsuch does his best to distance himself from Trump without speaking a perfect soundbite for the media.
Cosmopolitan headline:Ivanka Trump’s White House Gig Is an Insult to Working Women
The Wall Street Journal editorial on Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of Obama wiretap: “the President clings to his assertion like a drunk to an empty gin bottle”
My most optimistic take on our current situation is that we are going to hobble out on the other side of it gravely battered and diminished, and having lost people along the way. We’ll have lost rights that were hard-won and may not be won back in our lifetimes. Our elections will be less free. Our institutions will be weakened and corrupted. Our standing in the world will have dropped considerably. Our populace will be even less literate and less able to think critically. That’s what I think when I’m feeling optimistic.
When I’m not feeling optimistic, I just think Trumpism reigns supreme until climate change swamps us, then it’s gameover as we descend into violent tribalism over remaining resources.
It’s been a pleasure being in this national emergency with all of you. Goodnight.
Questions asked of Spicey today at the White House Press Briefing:
I listened to the latest podcast episodes from 538 and Slate TrumpCast yesterday, and they both *really* irritated me.
On 538 they were all glib… first, like “Is the resistance to Trump losing steam?” and then, asking one another, “What could Trump do to quell the resistance?” Oh great, brainstorm for Trump!! Thanks guys. But I also had a visceral reaction to the woman on the podcasting team, who I think is Clare Malone. It wasn’t necessarily fair to her, and I know there was some kind of uncomfortable self-recognition at play. But she drove me NUTS. She kept making stupid jokes but not fully committing to them. So she would start to launch into it and then feebly curl away from her own joke. It was weak. It bothered me that the one woman on the podcast would be the one to do that. Stupid jokes should be done with joyful confidence, like a black lab jumping off a dock on a hot day. Men seem to know how to do that. But don’t start to make a stupid joke and then lose heart and pretend you were saying something smart but snide instead.
Speaking of snide, that was the whole problem with Virginia Heffernan on Slate’s TrumpCast. She was committed to tearing into Rachel Maddow for Rachel’s presentation of Trump’s 2005 tax form, beyond any usefulness at all. She was so in love with her own takedown that she ignored all the usual rules of writing for the ear, loading her sentences down with adjectives and barely giving herself space to breathe. It sounded smug, it was gross, and it reeked of internalized misogyny.
But shit, now we’re talking about internalized misogyny. I was really frustrated that I was so disgusted by the presentation of these two female podcasters, when I give the Pod Save America guys, the Vox guys and Michael Barbaro at The Daily every pass!
Was I trapped in some sickening ouroboros of internalized misogyny?
Since I was already so unsettled and deeply rubbed the wrong way, it felt like the time to listen to Tommy Vietor’s interview of Glenn Greenwald on Pod Save the World. I wanted to listen to be fair to Greenwald, but I was worried about getting too agitated. Perfect solution. I was already agitated.
Amy Siskind is doing a great job of writing a list of strange things happening, changing, and shifting in the U.S. since the election. I want to print them all out and put them in a three-ring binder. And also I should pick up a copy of that book that helps you skip the middle ages and get back to 19th century technology if everything goes totally blammo.
Things don’t seem to be going great for Rex Tillerson in Korea. He’s got one lone reporter with him. His budget got cut almost as much as the EPA.
The budget has been a ghastly spectacle today. Mick Mulvaney and Sean Spicer, feeling plucky and Irish throughout, managed to be so blatantly, cheerfully heartless on live television. It’s all been trending on Twitter all night. Stuff like feeding poor children and the aged. Stuff like that. Terrible optics. I don’t know. I’m in a real “we’re all gonna die” mood, but before I go, I’m going to write about podcasts and the White House Press Briefing.
“Sean, wait, listen–can we put it to REST, Sean ?!”
–a reporter to Sean Spicer as he left the Briefing Room without giving any reasonable answers on what the hell is the deal with Trump’s wiretapping claims.
Oh yeah, I have to tell you that the White House Press Corp was kept jammed in their tiny room in a state of readiness for over an hour, waiting for Sean Spicer to keep his appointment with them. Fifteen minutes before the briefing was supposed to start, the House and Senate Intelligence committees released their bluntly worded statement that they did not believe there was surveillance of any kind of Trump Tower, before or after the election.
I had C-span running and one earbud in, but had minimized the screen and was just doing my work. I lost track of time so was really surprised when I looked up and realized that 42 minutes had gone by since the briefing was supposed to start and everyone was still just in the room waiting.That’s when I brought the screen back up and started paying attention.
42 minutes— reporters standing at the front communicating with their networks. They are talking about a Spicer call earlier today on the conservative Laura Ingraham talk radio show, trying to intuit what he would say about the intelligence committees and what was going on behind the closed door of the briefing room.
There’s also talk of college basketball and brackets.
50 minutes— John Roberts’s cell phone rings, and the ring tone is “I want it all” by Queen and everyone bursts into laughter.
Someone sings a few bars in a low alto–it sounds like a spiritual.
A hush falls on the room, and then a semi-maniacal, half-stifled giggle rises up.
Someone yawns loudly.
53 minutes— Peter Alexander is standing at the front, facing the camera and saying to his network, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts it back on the media today,” and then later, “I think he’ll probably come out and say something scripted.”
54 minutes— the room looks so small, so cramped. No one has even updated them.
55 minutes–they’ve started to talk about how their phones are dying, and beginning to look into the outlet situation.
56 minutes— a woman’s voice saying “everybody stretch.”
57 minutes— the sound of something falling with a thud and a woman groans. It’s starting to feel like they are trapped in an elevator.
58 minutes— a man’s voice, gasping “wa-a-a-a-t-er…. w-a-a-a-a-ah-ah-ah-ter.” Someone’s reading a physical newspaper cover to cover.
59 minutes–“Can we order a pizza?”
60 minutes–Peter is talking to NBC again and saying, “I think we can presume that they’re formulating what they’ll say” and then “…increasingly appearing to be a made-up claim.”
61 minutes–Jim Acosta is saying to the CNN audience, “I’m not sure if they’re trying to run out the clock or what.”
Somebody hums “Final Countdown”
And then the briefing started. I will add in the Mick Mulvaney budget stuff later.