TOWOIT #305: “Reviewing doesn’t count as going strong”

March 12, 2018

  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) The President said Saturday night — he was talking about North Korea — he said, “If the meeting with Kim takes place.” Is there a chance that this meeting won’t take place?
  • And what preparations are being made so far toward this meeting?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, a couple of weeks ago, the President said that he wanted to raise the age on purchasing assault weapons. He talked about supporting universal background checks, about taking guns away from those identified as a threat even without due process. What happened to all those proposals?
  • But is there a single thing in this proposal that’s from the President that is not supported by the NRA? Is there anything in here that the NRA opposes?
  • But it’s not as federal policy, right?
  • And why did he name this DeVos Commission less than 24 hours after ridiculing the idea of Blue Ribbon commissions? He says, “All they do is talk, and talk, and talk, and two hours later they write a report.” And then on this issue, a commission is okay? Why?
  • (Phil Rucker, Washington Post) Yeah, Sarah, picking up where Jon left off, with regarding the National Rifle Association: At that February 28th meeting with lawmakers, President Trump sort of made an example of Republican senators who were afraid of crossing the NRA. And he said, “Some of you [people] are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified.” But based on the plan last night, it seems like President Trump was the one petrified of the NRA because he backed away from some of the ideas that he had brought into the discussion and I’m asking why he chickened out. Why he didn’t go forward with what he has proposed earlier?
  • But President Trump — he could have put out a proposal for legislation. He could’ve advocated for universal background checks. He could have called for raising the ages in the states. Instead he’s tabled that after this commission —
  • For federal policy? Just to clarify. For federal policy?
  • (It feels like someone is missing from the transcript here–the black woman reporter sitting next to Kevin Corke in the front row–she asked about California–I need to look at the video again)
  • (Zeke Miller, AP) Sarah, I was hoping you could comment on news out of Great Britain today. Theresa May saying that the British government believes that Russia was behind the attempted murder and poisoning of a former spy with a nerve agent that has a Russian manufacturer. Is that the assessment of the United States government, number one? Does the United States government plan on designating Russia as — like it did North Korea, earlier this year, regarding the murder of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother — of Russia using chemical weapons?mAnd, three, will there be any repercussions for Russia from the United States, in coordination with its British allies?
  • So you’re not saying that Russia was behind this act?

MS. SANDERS:  Right now, we are standing with our UK ally.  I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that.  And we’re going to continue to work with the UK, and we certainly stand with them throughout this process.

  • Theresa May said it was either Russia using it themselves or that it had given its chemical weapons to a third party to murder a British citizen, the latter being highly unlikely, given the nature of this weapon. So —

MS. SANDERS:  Like I just said, Zeke, we stand with our ally.  And we certainly fully support them, and are ready if we can be of any assistance to them.

  • What was the President’s reaction yesterday to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos going on “60 Minutes” saying that she admitted she has not intentionally visited underperforming schools, then went on another network this morning and said that everything was one the table when it came to schools safety as well as guns?  Clearly, it’s not — everything is not on the table.
  • Did he see the interview last night?
  • (Kevin Corke, Fox News) Thank you, Sarah. I have a question about Congress and possibly blocking or delaying tariff implementation. How concerned is the White House about that? And a follow-up on China, if I may.
  • And then on China, if I might. I know the President sort of made a tongue-in-cheek comment about President Xi having the ability to rule for quite some time, perhaps indefinitely. Is there an administration position on something like that? Is that healthy for the relationship between our countries? (She already punted this in a previous briefing, saying it was “up to the people of China” — as if that weren’t exactly what it is NOT!) 

MS. SANDERS:  That would be a determination for China to make, not something for the United States to weigh in on.

  • But is it healthy, from the administration’s perspective, in terms of our relationship, bilaterally, to have, say, a leader in a country that’s going to be there, potentially, indefinitely.
  • (Mike Bender, Wall Street Journal) Sarah, a couple on the guns issue. On the age restrictions, the President has said a couple of times — he’s criticized his predecessors, saying they haven’t shown leadership on this issue. So I wonder, now, how you can make the political expediency argument for his school safety policy and that he’s explicitly backing only things he thinks can pass and not things that may need some additional leadership —
  • Okay, certainly, but the leader of the party — he’s the President of the United States.
  • He can push that policy forward if he so chooses — if he chose to.
  • On the commission, is Commissioner DeVos going to continue to be the face of the school safety policy and this commission after last night’s interview?

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 4.45.19 PM

  • (this is?) Sarah. Thanks a lot, Sarah. I have two questions. One on guns, and the other on the President’s trip to California tomorrow. On guns, the President, here in the White House, met with six students from Parkland, Florida and said, specifically, that he would go strong on the age limits.  And this proposal doesn’t have the President stepping forward and demanding action from Congress on those age limits. Why is the President backing away from that promise to those six students that he would go strong on gun age?
  • Reviewing doesn’t count as going strong.
  • (Brian Bennett, LA Times) Can you tell us some more about the President’s trip to California tomorrow? Why is he going to the wall, to see the wall prototypes first? And also, this is a state that did not vote for the President. Is the President going to make an opportunity to reach out to people who didn’t vote for him by going to this state?

This is part of what Sarah Sanders said: “While California may not have — he may not have won that state, there is certainly a lot of support for this President, not just there but across the country. And he looks forward to being there and presenting a lot of the specific policies.” So you see, he is NOT reaching out to people who didn’t vote for him–still all that matters are the people that did, and that she say toward the cameras that a lot of people support him, so that he can see that from the room where he watches the TV.

  • The President — there’s a lot of Republican lawmakers in California that think that the wall would be too expensive and could be a waste of money. Is the President concerned that he might be putting undue political pressure on Republican lawmakers by visiting the wall in California?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Since Kim Jong-un’s overture to meet with President Trump last Thursday and his proposal to denuclearize, the North Korean media has mentioned nothing. They haven’t referenced the overture; they haven’t referenced this idea that North Korea would get rid of its nuclear weapons. I heard what you said a little bit earlier about how you believe that a meeting will still take place. What makes you think that, based upon the fact that Kim Jong-un hasn’t even mentioned this to his own people, that anything of substance will come out at such a meeting?
  • Being nuclearized is a point on pride, we are told —
  • Being a nuclear country is a point of pride, we are told, for North Koreans. To just simply get rid of their own nuclear weapons, it seems, would be something that would undercut what that country and what Kim Jong-un stands for. Again, why would he get rid of his nuclear weapons?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. First, following up on what Jon asked, we know that Kim Jong-un has been using a special envoy to Seoul to send messages. Has he sent any special messages through any special envoy to the President?
  • The other thing is that, regarding tomorrow’s election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, the President’s campaign visit notwithstanding, he is reported in several sources today to have referred to Republican Rick Saccone as “weak” and said he’s run a poor campaign. This seems a little unusual in light of what he said Saturday, in light of Mr. Saccone’s praise of him as a friend. Did he actually say that about Mr. Saccone?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) To double down on your answer to Brian’s question, is it the President’s intent, tomorrow, to pick a winning design for the wall? Is that we he’s going down there?
  • A quick question, there was a report this morning that the Saudi government inflicted physical abuse on the people who were held captive for the time at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Is this something that the White House intends to bring up with the Crown Prince?
  • (Toluse Olorunippa, Bloomberg News) Thank you, Sarah. I have two questions. First, on guns: The President, during his campaign, said “nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” But it sounds like now you’re saying that, because certain things that he supports does not have support in the Congress, that he’s only going to push forward on the things that are already sort of —

MS. SANDERS:  That’s not actually what I said, but — you guys continue to misunderstand and misrepresent the comments that I’m making.

Shades of Spicerian frustration.

  • Let me ask you about the Manchin-Toomey universal background check legislation because it’s not yet clear whether or not the President actually supports having universal background checks. Obviously, in this proposal, he supports the Fix NICS bill, but can you tell us whether or not he does support the idea of background checks for online purchases and private sales?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Sarah, thank you. The President tweeted — he said, “…not much political support (to put it mildly)” for raising the age. I mean, I’ve looked at every single poll, and the support for raising the age is like 78 percent and 82 percent. Rasmussen was the lowest, with 67 percent. So what is he talking about?  There’s tremendous support for it.
  • So he has determined that there is no support in Congress for this?

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?”