TOWOIT #151

June 16, 2017… Day 148

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The man who killed Philando Castile was acquitted today, and people are grieving.

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Steve Scalise called himself “David Duke without the baggage.” Jeff Sessions joked that he thought the Klan was all right until he found out they smoked weed (seriously WTF is up with his weed obsession).

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For the last two days, Trump’s craziest tweets have come in groups of four.

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About Rosenstein’s weird memo last night:

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And the health care travesty continues behind closed doors.

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Meanwhile, there’s some kind of big Naval disaster happening. The USS Fitzgerald is in danger of sinking and 7 sailors are missing.

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There was another off-camera press gaggle today. This time a Mr. Anton was in charge, and it was en route to Miami. Mr. Anton turned it over to someone who is listed in the transcript as Senior Administration Official, or SAO instead of by name. Here’s what the reporters asked:

  • So you are aware of the reports?
  • Are you in touch with the Russians on those reports?  Have you spoken with your Russian counterparts?
  •  Off the record, meaning background as senior White House official?
  • You mean you want to go just completely off the record?
  • (Goes off the record.)  (Returns on the record.)
  • For the new Cuba policy, does that have anything to do with —
  • I’m just wondering if you’re worried about Cuba being a staging ground for terrorists and that’s part of the reason for the new policy.
  • (Goes off the record.) (Returns on the record.)
  • On the Cuba announcement today, you guys are doing it during a meeting of a lot of Latin American leaders who have been against changing the Obama administration policy.  Some might see this as a slap in the face to them during this meeting.  Why the timing?  
  • Mike, explain the significance of the location. The theater is named after the man who led the Bay of Pigs invasion. There’s the notion that this is provocative.
  • The changes that are being talked about seem relatively small compared to what you could have done. How is that going to — are the folks going to be happy with that?
  • The President said in a statement today that he was under investigation. How was he made aware of that?   
  • Michael, if you’re an American wanting to travel to Cuba, what will you need to do before going?
  • How do you square the President’s focus on human rights in Cuba with his apparent lack of interest in human rights in other countries.
  •  — in his speech — just what we’re expected to hear today from him?
  •  Is he going to list the benchmarks that Cuba needs to do for better relations with the United States?
  • And what are those?
  • Do you expect the policy to change which hotels Americans will be able to, under the law, to stay in in Cuba?  In which hotels —
  • Can you address what the administration is doing to get to the bottom of what happened to Otto Warmbier in North Korea and how it is that he was returned to the U.S. in a coma?
  • But is the U.S. satisfied with the explanation that North Korea gave that it was botulism and then a sleeping pill that led to his current condition?
  • Michael, is the President willing to have talks with the Cuban leadership?
  • Why will these changes help bring about change in Cuba when decades of a full embargo did not change significantly the human rights record?
  • Does that mean you agree, essentially, with the Obama administration’s posture toward Cuba, even though you’re refining the policy? Because those are similar arguments that they made.
  • Can you tell us who is aboard?
  • Is Reince on the plane?
  • Will the President do anything in Miami besides the speech and signing the directive?
  • From the group that endorsed him last year?
  • Will anybody from the administration today be able to answer questions on DACA and DAPA and the President’s statements regarding the investigation?

 

 

TOWOIT #149

June 14, 2017… Day 146

A random picture of Maxine Waters, who looks really pretty in that color:

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Mueller (and therefore Rosenstein) live to see another day:

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This is on the White House splash page, and I for one plan to comply:

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This is splashed on the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.:

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The transcript of yesterday’s off-camera press gaggle surfaced today. Here are the questions reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

  • Is the President considering whether or not he will fire or seek to have Robert Mueller fired as the Special Counsel?
  • Did the President watch any of the Jeff Sessions testimony? And what did he think?
  • Sarah, did the President call the GOP healthcare bill “mean” during his lunch with senators today?
  • Has the President authorized Secretary of Defense Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan?
  • Sarah, the North Koreans sent back a university student who’s in a coma. What does the President think about the fact that this young man is in a coma?
  • Can you give us a little bit more detail on that? What do you mean when you say he worked hard with Tillerson? I know this all sort of came to a head, I guess, on June 6th when the United States was informed about his condition.  But can you give us some detail about meetings or discussions or what the President had?
  • Sarah, the President has said he wants the Republican healthcare plan to be more generous. What does he mean by that?
  • Sarah, he said that in public.
  • That was in a pool report.
  • There has also been talk that a senate bill could even be coming out tonight. Is the President — so far, when he heard from all these senators today, is he happy with the direction that the Senate Republicans seem to be going in? Is he pushing them to be more generous on preexisting conditions? Or — you know, where does he stand in relation to the Senate bill?
  • Sarah, do you have any more details on the announcement that’s expected on Friday about changes to Cuba policy? What parts of the Obamacare administration’s policy is the President planning to roll back? And what is he planning to announce in Miami?
  • Just to follow up on that, you mean there’s no final decisions? Or you just don’t have them to provide for us?
  • But he is going down there despite the fact that no final decision —
  • Has the President decided when he’s going to announce whether he has tapes of the Comey conversations?
  • What are the President’s feelings on Mueller at this point? Did he interview him for FBI director? And does he have confidence in him in his current role?
  • Do you have any more details on the workforce development stuff — whether the apprenticeship program is only in high schools or whether it would be corporations? Any more details on how that would work or how it would be encouraged?
  • The President said something today about wanting to have every high school in the country have an apprenticeship program, and I hadn’t heard that in any of the background information. Is that something that’s going to be part of these announcements too? Or was he just kind of speaking a little off-the-cuff on that?
  • Do you know how much money was raised?

In related news, I’ve started re-watching West Wing just for Allison Janney as press secretary C.J. Cregg. 

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TOWOIT #147

June 12, 2017… Day 144

Today I was thinking about Alexei Navalny and the young people protesting Putin and corruption in Russia. Now that’s bravery.

And I think about DeRay, Brittany, and Sam on Pod Save the People, talking calmly about Jeff Sessions and the justice department — when it’s so awful for black people, it’s been so awful. And now Sessions as AG feels like a five-alarm fire, but these three podcast hosts sound so calm. It makes you realize how brave and seasoned black people have had to be in the face of terrible things long before Trump became President.

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And I think about the voters in the UK who pulled Labour and the voters in France who pulled centrist. I don’t think all those voters were FOR Corbyn or FOR Macron. Not by a long, long shot. But they pulled together and they voted for the person who had the best shot to intervene against the forces pulling Europe rightward. And that was pragmatic and beautiful and good.

Yeah, I didn’t get any of those feelings, none of the above, for what I heard coming out of Bernie’s People’s Summit. Not feeling it, guys. Not. Feeling. It. Get Keith Ellison in here, stat. He’s the person who can bridge this divide if Bernie can stand to stop taking up all the air in the room.

Ok, so other news today. Trump-allies in the media are laying the groundwork for the idea that Trump could fire Mueller and end the Russian probe. If the Republicans let that slide, and it feels like they would — then sayonara, democracy. It was good to know you. We didn’t deserve you.

In other signs of wear and tear, at Trump’s cabinet meeting, the cabinet secretaries went around the room in front of the press and said how wonderful Trump was and how blessed they are to be working for him. He started off by saying he had signed more legislation and done more things than almost any other president. Reporters in the room described the whole interlude as “awkward” and “humiliating.”

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Jeff Sessions will testify in public tomorrow after all, although Chris Cilizza seems to think he’s gaming the system somehow with this decision. I just got that from the headline. I don’t always read Cilizza. Or rather, I reach my personal quota and can’t go on until I have a break from him.

So we’ll see what that’s like tomorrow. Sessions has already lied under oath, so why expect him to tell the truth?

The Republicans in the Senate seem to be secretively hurtling a healthcare bill through it’s various stages, and will be passing it with 50 votes and a tiebreaker from Mike Pence. Indivisible and other organizations are doing what they can to rally the troops, but it feels like a losing proposition. I really want the option of changing jobs. I don’t want to cling like a monkey to my job forever. I don’t want to marry for health insurance like my mom and my sister both did in the early 2000s. Don’t get me wrong — they married wonderful men. But they made that leap for the health insurance.

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The 9th circuit court of appeals upheld the freeze on Trump’s travel ban. I’ve lost track of the whole thread on that travel ban, except that it keeps losing in court. In other court news, Maryland D.C. are suing Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

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Puerto Rico voted overwhelmingly for statehood and everyone seems to be downplaying it. Also downplayed: the Cosby trial. I think we’re just all too sad and worn down for that sad mess.

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Sean Spicer took questions for eleven minutes. And then in those eleven minutes, he managed to be combative, snitty, an obfuscating liar, a bully, a dodger, an evader… it was a sorry display. It was so far beneath the dignity of the journalists in the room. Those people really know their shit. They could swap places with the other people in the White House and do a better job running things. I’m sure of it for this White House.

The questions reporters asked today:

  • Thank you. Following up on your India announcement, the President, in his speech in New Jersey had said if he’s elected he would be the best friend of India ever in the White House. What steps does the President want to take in his next four years, or eight years, to implement his promise he made to the community here?
  • Sean, thank you. Two questions on trade. Number one, you talked about the beef arrangement. Is that beginning today? And can you flesh out a little bit more about what it looks like? I understood there was going to be an announcement from USDA. Are we waiting for that to actually make this is a fact? Or where are we in the process?
  • And secondly, my other quick question is on steel and aluminum, and the review that the administration is doing. The President said — and was quoted in one of the pool reports as saying that there is legislation being drafted on antidumping. The 232 process goes to Congress anyway.  Was he referring to additional legislation, or this 232 review that you had already initiated as reported by Secretary Ross?
  • Thanks, Sean. A couple questions for you. First, does President Trump have audio recordings of his conversations and meetings with the former FBI Director, James Comey?
  • Do you have any sort of timeline on when that announcement will be?
  • And a quick follow-up on the Attorney General. From the perspective of President Trump, what role did Attorney General Jeff Sessions play in the firing of James Comey?
  • Sean, to that end, when Jeff Sessions testifies tomorrow, do you believe that he should invoke executive privilege on conversations between himself and the President as it relates to Jim Comey?
  • In any way, did Jeff Sessions, folks at the DOJ ask for the White House’s permission, in essence, for him to testify publicly tomorrow?
  • Is the President okay with him testifying in this open setting tomorrow?
  • But just to follow on that, the President seemed to indicate that he thought that it was a mistake for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself in the Russia investigation. He said that his preference would have been to the contrary, off-camera.  What does the President think about the fact that Sessions will be testifying tomorrow and, according to the Department of Justice, wanted to testify in an open session rather than closed classified session?
  • If I could ask you about the other headline of the day — the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia filing a lawsuit against the President, seeking rulings on two points in the emoluments clause in the Constitution. The RNC thinks that this is a bogus lawsuit. What is the President and what is the White House’s perspective on that?
  • Thanks, Sean. I wanted to just — two questions. But first, why leave open this question of whether there are tapes? Don’t the American people — do they deserve to know whether Comey was lying to the Senate? Why leave this question open?
  • But is — I mean, it’s an open question that —
  • Okay, but to follow up on — speaking of lawsuits, for the Ninth Circuit — they just came out and they upheld the block of the travel ban. Any response to that?
  • Hey, Sean. So two questions for you then. I want to follow up on the tapes issue. If the President does have evidence that the FBI Director lied under oath, what is he waiting for?
  • Right, but so what is he waiting for? What’s the delay?
  • On the travel ban, Sean — this is the second question — you just mentioned you obviously responded to the Ninth Circuit ruling today. That ruling also cites the President’s tweets from June 5th on the travel ban. And it cites your statements — this administration’s statement that the President’s tweets are official statements. So given that measure, given that the travel ban is obviously a priority for the President, how is it that the President is not putting his own agenda in danger when it comes to his Twitter habits?
  • The Twitter question, Sean — it’s a different question, though.
  • It comes to the Twitter issue.  So I just want to —
  • Sean, what is the President’s reaction to the Russian government’s crackdown on anti-corruption protests today?
  • Well, Mr. Navalny in particular, but I assume that would be part of your overall —
  • Thank you. One more. The President mentioned a press conference in a couple weeks on the ISIS review. Can you say where and when? And has he made a decision about changing the policy?
  • Thank you, Sean. You said that the President wants to see this Russia investigation and all these investigations wrapped up as soon as possible. He said on Friday that he would be willing to testify under oath. Can you say when he would be willing to do that? Would he be willing to do that before Congress goes into recess to get this done as soon as possible?
  • So he would — sorry, just wanted to be very clear about this.  So he’s not saying that he would go before Congress —
  • Does he have confidence in Director Mueller, Sean? <<This question was ignored>>
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions. Does the President have a reaction to the vote in Puerto Rico yesterday — the nonbinding measure calling for statehood as the first choice of the people for their future?
  • My other question was, there are widespread stories and speculation that when the President goes to Miami this Friday he will undo the executive orders from the Obama administration that eased relations with Cuba. Can you confirm whether he will undo all of them or some of them?
  •  Thanks.  Following on some of the stories over the weekend in England, when the President signs off on a foreign trip, how much does he factor in his personal popularity in that country?