TOWOIT #182

July 21, 2017… Day 183

End of a busy week at the office, and a busy week of watching ourselves careen toward authoritarianism, maybe, or maybe a presidency goes down in flames, or maybe we’re not hurtling but grinding slowly. I don’t know. Can we do this for three and a half more years?

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We were blessed with an on-camera press briefing after Sean Spicer resigned today. It was the first one since June 29. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now the official press secretary. But the briefing was the Anthony Scaramucci show. And that’s why it was on camera. For this confident little Wall Street dude’s song and dance. This guy is the new communications director and the reason Trump was fired. Since I don’t have TV, I’ve managed to pretty much avoid this guy until today. Boy what a slick son of a gun. I’ve never wanted to be a political cartoonist so badly. The man just spawns image after image.

Scaramucci said he wished Sean well, and the way he expressed this was to say, “…and I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money!” The unabashedness. He described the gap between how Trump loyalists see Trump and how the press sees Trump as “an arbitrage spread.” He said he didn’t want to go into an “advertisement or infomercial,” but there was the implication that he didn’t want to go into his spiel right then. Not that he never planned to get salesy.

When asked what he would do first to “right the ship,” Scaramucci said that the ship was “heading in the right direction.” Which just conjured the image of a badly listing ship, far out at sea, storm on the horizon–but with its bow heading in the right direction!

He also said that he learned at Goldman Sachs that if you need to eat an elephant, you have to do it one bite at a time. Then he said that he and Sarah would be eating the elephant. There’s definitely a cartoon in that one, with Don Jr. holding the severed elephant tail as a trophy. And the GOP being the elephant. The only problem is that the cartoonist will probably use the eating megafauna angle to make Sarah Huckabee Sanders look fat and homely in a sexist way, and make her and little Scaramucci will be drawn as Jack Sprat to her Mrs. Sprat. I’m defensive on behalf large women with asymmetrical faces.

More great Scaramucci lines:

“I’m obviously committed to being transparent, because I’m standing here.”

And, when asked if he would be truthful, he said “I sort of feel like I don’t even have to answer that question.”

Before I round up the reporters’ questions, here are some other things that happened today:

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(If this happens it won’t be a drill. I’ll walk out and consult Twitter and we will clump into groups and find each other like water coming together with other water).

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Questions reporters asked at the Scaramucci show (featuring Sarah Sanders): 

Continue reading TOWOIT #182

TOWOIT #181

July 20, 2017… Day 180

Wildest news day yet, in a long string of wild news days. Before plunging into the fray of headlines, I would just like to note that Mick Mulvaney brought visual aids to today’s off-camera press briefing.

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and yet…

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Questions reporters asked Sarah H. Sanders today (off-camera, embargoed audio):

Continue reading TOWOIT #181

TOWOIT #172

July 11, 2017… Day 173

Each morning (most days), the White House Press Briefing used to appear on C-Span’s daily schedule of events around 7:30 or 8:00 my time — two or three hours before it was slated to begin. Now there’s no mention of it whatsoever beforehand. It’s just at some point later in the day, after the fact, after the audio embargo has been lifted, something like this will appear:

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From the (conservative) National Review:

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Breitbart London editor-in-chief:

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Questions they asked SHS today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #172

TOWOIT #161

June 30, 2017… Day 162

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  • Sarah, the President tweeted this morning about healthcare. In which he said that if the senators can’t get a bill on repeal and replace together, then maybe the best idea would be — as Ben Sasse and Rand Paul have suggested — split them up into a repeal and then a replacement later. This really runs counter to what the President has been promoting all through the campaign and earlier this year where he insisted that the two things had to be done, if not simultaneously, at least very close to each other. What is the basis for his change in thinking on this particular point?
  • So how does it square this idea with repeal it now, replace it later with what you had said on repeated occasions before that these things needed to be done very close to each other in order to maintain continuity of coverage for many Americans?
  • Sarah, in terms of putting some more specifics on the replacement part, one of the issues that they’re having is you got 11 or 12 senators now who are not happy with what’s going on with Medicaid — they can deal with some of the repeal elements.  Can you give us the most specific — you were asked about this a couple of days ago — the most specific articulation of what you want to see in terms of Medicaid?  And do you agree with some of these senators who think what’s in the Senate bill, in terms of Medicaid phasing out, is, to point a phrase, too mean?
  • How about sort of the specifics outlined in the CBO about the potential for, you know, 18 million — what is it — 23 million total, 15 million by next year. Is that just too steep a drop-off for the President?
  • In terms of the CBO articulation analysis of what would happen under Medicaid over the next three or four years, is that too steep a drop off in terms of Medicaid?  Does the President have any objection to what was in the Senate bill with regards to Medicaid?
  • I’d like to follow up with that first. Where did the President actually get the idea of separating them? Was it through conversations with Senator Paul, or was it something that Senator Ben Sasse had said on the television program?   
  • And then I wanted to ask about the Election Commission. Does the President have any thoughts on the fact that so many governors and other state officials have said they’re not going to comply with this request for public information for the Election Integrity Commission?  
  • Thanks, Sarah. Let me expand upon the tweet that John had brought up. You just answered his question in part by saying we’re still focused on trying to push through where we are; the bottom line is we’re focused on the end product here. Is this potential splitting up of the bill, is that plan B at this point?
  • And Ben Sasse said in his letter, and on television had mentioned, the first Monday coming back — which is either — I believe it’s July 10th — as to the date as to when they should do it. Does the White House ascribe to that date?
  • I wanted to ask about two separate policy things. The first one is steel. The President said today that he had secured some assurances from the Koreans on that. I’m wondering if those were actual changes that we might see to KORUS or other trade agreements, or if it’s more “we’ll look at it and get back to you” type of assurance. And then, broadly, if the report in this morning was correct in that the President has determined he’s going to impose tariffs on steel.?
  • And on Korea?
  • And then I have one on food aid.
  • Food aid.
  • The President is moving to require all food aid to be sent on U.S. flag carriers, but it’s a policy that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have actually been moving away from. AEI, which is not a liberal group, said that it would make food aid costs 46 percent more, it may take 14 weeks longer to reach people, unlikely to create new U.S. jobs. We heard yesterday from senior administration officials about the President sees foreign aid as an important part of diplomacy and wants to cut costs here. So I’m just trying to figure out how this is not just kind of a bumper sticker strategy, but why this is actually a good idea for the United States.
  • Why this isn’t just a bumper sticker strategy of, you know, we’re putting it on U.S. ships, but why this actually makes sense from a policy standpoint.
  • Sarah, just to be clear, the preference of the White House is to go forward with the drafting of a repeal and replace in the Senate and see if that can pass. That’s the correct position of the White House, right?
  • And so this idea of separating the two is only a backup, as an emergency, if this other process fails, correct?
  • The reason I ask —
  • Is because if you take — if you separate them, as you know, one is reconciliation and the other one isn’t, which makes it much more difficult, and for people as you’ve identified in Nevada and Ohio, repeal only takes care of one of their problems. It doesn’t deal with them being able to find new carriers or alternative plans as the replacement would. So I’m just trying to figure out how much of an idea this really is that we should be focusing on, or should this attention still be on repeal and replace as the primary White House focus.
  • If you did separate them, it would complicate things.  Not only legislatively
  • What is — I’m asking.
  • What does the President think about the idea of the cancellation of recess in August to focus on healthcare and other legislative ideas and agenda items? That’s something 10 Republican senators suggested today.
  • Cancelling the recess, staying in town, and working on healthcare and the sort of issues — the debt ceiling, tax cuts. Would the President endorse that?
  • On Chicago, with the ATF permanent taskforce there, is that a suggestion or a recognition that at least part of the problem in Chicago is a gun control problem or a firearms access control problem?
  • At his recent rally in Cedar Rapids, President Trump said the situation in the Middle East is worse than it was 16 years ago. Is he concerned about how long the war in Afghanistan is dragging on for?
  • Does he want to see Americans in a combat role there by, say, 2020?
  • Thank you, Sarah. With all the furor and tumult in yesterday’s press conference — or press briefing, some have suggested that maybe it is time for the President to have another news conference and perhaps answer these questions himself, rather than subject spokespeople such as you and Sean to questions about recent controversy. Does he plan an actual news conference in the near future?
  • The other thing is — my other question is: Has the President today read The New York Magazine article by Gabriel Sherman about the White House and its involvement with Joe Scarborough at all?
  • Back to the question of trade, the President said today that he was negotiating with South Korea on the agreement.  Has the KORUS agreement been reopened? And if it has been reopened, what’s the mechanism for that? And how much concern, if any, is there about impacting other relationships, security relationships with South Korea?
  • Any impact on the cooperation over North Korean aggression with South Korea?
  • What concern is there about an impact on the cooperation with South Korea on the military issues and security issues with North Korea?
  • Yes. Yes, yes.
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah.  I wanted to ask you about the travel ban. It’s the first full day that it’s gone into effect, and it’s scheduled to last for 90 days. And my question has to do with what are the next steps. If it lasts for 90 days, that takes you up to the end of September. Are there plans to extend the travel ban before this issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court?
  • Just two quick questions here.
  • On what?

 

TOWOIT #150

June 15, 2017… Day 147

Hidey didey Christ Almighty.

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I didn’t say anything about the Congressional baseball shooting yesterday. It’s not that I wasn’t affected by it. I just had a lot of swirling emotions, and I was biting my tongue a little. Here’s how I feel about it, if anyone cares.

  • I hate violence
  • I hate the idea that we’re tipping into increased political violence here
  • I hate toxic masculinity
  • I hate that this guy has a history of domestic violence
  • I hate that the Cosby jury is deadlocked
  • I hate that everything is related like this
  • I hate that they keep interrupting Kamala Harris in the Senate
  • It really is all related
  • I hate that he had a gun
  • I hate that those people had to live through something so scary
  • I hate that someone’s hip and pelvis got torn apart
  • I hate that two capitol police officers got shot
  • I hate that the shooter is being framed neutrally in the media because he’s white
  • I hate that Senator Scalise was protected by an African-American lesbian officer who took a bullet for him, and yet he (and the other Republicans) will still probably endorse racist policies, make life harder for gay people, and fight against any kind of common sense gun control
  • I hate that we’re this divided, and that this incident seems to just prove it more than ever. I hate that we live in two different realities.
  • I hate that Fox News is trying to pin this on Democrats in general
  • I hate puns and the fact that this is a bulleted list is not a pun

Trump sent four unhinged Tweets today. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in another off-camera briefing, referred reporters to outside counsel when asked about Trump’s tweets.

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  • Sarah, yesterday the President stuck to the script in his televised remarks. He didn’t lash out at opponents yesterday. He didn’t tweet about the Russia investigation. He stuck to a message of unity. That changed this morning with the President’s tweets. Why did the President decide to weigh in again on the Russia investigation this morning?
  • Can I follow up on that? I mean, the stories that came out, actually, were that Mueller was investigating the President for potential obstruction of justice. Given that the White House has been referring questions to Trump’s personal lawyers, why is it the President feels like he, personally, should be weighing in on this?
  • I just have a follow, and then one more question — and I know you’re going to refer a lot of this to outside counsel — but given the reports that have come out over the last 12 to 18 hours, does the President still feel vindicated?
  • And who are the “bad” and “conflicted” people he mentioned in that tweet?
  • Christopher Wray is your pick for the new FBI director. His nomination has not been formally sent over to the Senate. Can you explain what the holdup has been and where that goes from here?
  • Are you talking about security clearance? Or is it —
  • Was that announced too early then? Or was the President appropriate when he announced that?
  • Well — but is there some messaging confusion there? Why can’t you come out and answer questions about it if he’s tweeting about it? Clearly, he feels comfortable speaking about it.
  • And let me just try one more time on the tweet — to Hallie’s point — “they made up a phony collusion.” Is that Democrats? Who is that? Who is he referencing?
  • Okay. And, Sarah, has anyone at the White House gotten a request from Mueller for any documents related to the investigation?
  • Over the last day, since the shooting occurred yesterday morning, there’s been a lot of talk about rhetoric and the extent that political rhetoric in this country may be fueling the kinds of incidents that happen. You saw the President — it was just referred in the first question — the President took a real, sort of, unity tone in that first statement, but he returned to the kind of divisiveness and tone that he normally does in the tweets this morning. So I guess the question is, does the White House feel like the President and the White House, more broadly, have any responsibility to adapt a kind of different tone going forward, the way that many of the members on both sides of the aisle are calling for in the last 24 hours?
  • Well, I guess, when it comes to a tweet, and not on the substance of the Russia investigation — but when you call people “bad people” and “witch hunt,” and sort of attacking — impugning motives of your adversaries, that’s the kind of rhetoric I think that people are talking about.
  • Sarah, how does he plan to do that? Does he plan to use this moment as a teachable moment and try and urge people to, beyond the speech yesterday, try and urge people to bring down the heat of the rhetoric here? Or how does he view this as his leadership moment?
  • Does he plan to do anything differently, though, in terms of give a speech solely on this or perhaps reach out to Democrats? What specifically does he plan to do different, if anything else?
  • One final thing. Does he still have confidence, or does he have confidence in the special counsel?
  • You said you didn’t know, though, if he had confidence on Air Force One, I think. Do you think he has confidence in Bob Mueller?
  • The Secret Service says that they have no recordings of the President’s conversation while he was in office. Is that case closed for this White House? Does that answer the question of whether there are tapes or not?
  • Is that then where this answer is going to come from? Because, just a few days ago, the President said he would tell America —
  • Should we expect that to happen this week? The President’s legal team said on Sunday that it would happen this week.
  • Today, the Senate passed new sanctions on Iran and then also on Russia as well. Secretary Tillerson said he felt that he didn’t want to be handcuffed by this. White House have a position?
  • Does the White House feel handcuffed, though, in terms of being able to reach out with the Senate action?
  • Why has the President decided to give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authority to increase troop levels in Afghanistan?
  • How many more troops does the President want to see added to U.S. forces in Afghanistan?
  • Two questions. First, on executive privilege. About a week ago, you said that in order to facilitate the swift examination of the facts sought by the House Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege about Jim Comey’s testimony. Does that still hold for the Attorney General, Mr. Sessions? Does the President have any reason to invoke executive privilege or say that Mr. Sessions should not answer the questions from the Intelligence Committee?
  • Okay, thank you. Last week, Sean put out a very strong statement about the Russian crackdown of dissidents, and this won wide applause from the Russia expatriate community, Mr. Khodorkovsky and Vladimir Kara-Murza, both prominent Russian dissidents. Mr. Kara-Murza called on the President to go a step further and bring up the plight of the hundreds of Russian dissidents who have been jailed in the last few days when he meets with President Putin in Hamburg at the G20 Summit. Does he plan to bring that up?
  • Thank you. Was based on — almost within a period of days after the strong statements from the President and Secretary Tillerson about Qatar, that the United States entered into a $21 billion arms deal with Qatar, and that includes $12 billion, I believe, for fighter aircraft. Does this mean that Qatar is following the U.S. example and cutting back on its ties to those the President considered unacceptable?
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President, obviously, based upon his tweets, is not pleased with the investigation that is ongoing by Robert Mueller. Does the President, Sarah, believe it’s in his power to shut down that investigation?
  • On a separate topic, can you give us a little background about the President’s visit with Congressman Scalise last night in the hospital, just beyond what we heard last night from Sean?
  • Sarah, one logistical one and one policy one. The logistical one is, while I love air conditioning, the fact that it’s running and the fact that you’re not on speaker is it would be great if we get the transcript because it’s going to be really hard to get audio off this. And the policy one is, does the President plan to nominate a Cuban ambassador, or will he leave that position vacant during his presidency?
  • Sarah, on Bob Mueller, is there anything you can tell us more about when he came in to interview for the job, what the President was looking at offering him? Was it acting FBI director? Was it actually FBI director? Why didn’t the White House tell us more about that at the time when you did announce other people who were coming in for the director job?
  • But it was a job interview?
  • And does the White House believe that that presents any kind of conflict, that sequence of events you just described? The day before he’s supposed to be the independent, outside counsel, he was meeting, presumably, with the President directly to talk about —
  • Sorry, the President wasn’t aware of —
  • So it’s not a conflict?
  • Thank you, I appreciate it. So a couple of political things. Virginia had its elections the other day. That’s the biggest — big election of this year. I’m wondering if the President would campaign for the Republican nominee for governor, or any of the nominees; if he’s spoken to Ed Gillespie, if they’ve had any conversation or any plans to do anything together.
  • And you don’t know if he would campaign for him later in the year?
  • How about next week for the final week of the Georgia election? Any other —
  • He wouldn’t do anything? Calls?
  • Two questions on healthcare. Is anything the President would be willing to see happen in the Senate bill that would make it more palatable to conservatives? Because right now, centrist Republicans seem to be pushing more in the direction that’s (inaudible) for them —
  • Specifically, is it better for them?
  • And on cost-sharing reductions, has the President made a decision yet — has the White House made a decision yet on whether it will pay the cost-sharing reduction subsidies for the month of June?
  • Who from the administration is planning on going to the baseball game tonight? And is there any other message to people that — the teams that are playing, players in the game?

 

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 #148

June 13, 2017… Day 145

Fell asleep last night after obsessing about the possibility of Trump firing Mueller. Woke up with my face in a fist. Not in a “ready for battle” way, but more just in a clenched up and exhausted way. Chasing buses naked through all my anxiety dreams way.

Then Rod Rosenstein’s testimony in front of Congress reassured me a little. He said he didn’t see any cause to fire Mueller, he had no desire to fire Mueller, and he wouldn’t let anyone order him to fire Mueller.

Then Jeff Sessions was such an obfuscatory little racist liar all afternoon, it was a real drag. Kamala Harris got interrupted, shushed and disrespected *again* but her greatness is not to be denied.

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TOWOIT #140

June 5, 2017… Day 137

Today I was squirrelly. Trump shenanigans, plus the nourishment of Wonder Woman (which just keeps on giving as more and more people see it and join the conversation), plus too much coffee, plus a small work kerfuffle that just seemed like ONE INDIGNITY TOO MANY. So I spent the whole day on edge and exuberant but irascible. It wasn’t comfortable at all. Now it’s late and I haven’t done this blog post yet. So I will at least get started tonight.

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Continue reading TOWOIT #140

TOWOIT #138

June 3, 2017… Day 135

Another terrorist attack in London. Trump sends fear-mongering tweets against “political correctness.”

Gallup poll dipped back down to 37%. The 538 poll of polls is at 39% approval. I’m looking for signs of national lucidity.

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Meanwhile, this crossed my timeline and i am here for it:

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Other than naming our girl babies after RBG, and defending Maxine Waters’s person on Twitter, we are streaming out of our houses to go see Wonder Woman this weekend, with daughters and nieces (and I hope some sons and nephews) in tow. I love that it was directed by a woman. I love that there are no jiggling boobs, just battened-down armored boobs. I love the cheesy symbolism of a goddess who believes in mankind’s power to choose love over hate. And here’s a theme from Wonder Woman that I haven’t noticed in hot takes yet: She has to be told, or has to learn (repeatedly) that she is stronger than she thinks or knows that she is. Ask women in your life if they want to run for office. Will they say, “I wouldn’t want to put my family through that” or “I’m still having too much fun in the private sector”? Nah. They’ll explain to you why they personally either lack the right traits to do it, or have a bunch of other bad traits that will blow the whole thing up.

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TOWOIT #137

June 2, 2017… Day 134

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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.

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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 ice and 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?

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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?
  • Are you going home early? (Laughter.)

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TOWOIT #111

May 7, 2017… Day 108

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Griff Witte and I went to a dance together when we were 18 or 19, and I borrowed my roommate’s friend’s red sparkly dress, and we danced to “The Summer of 69.” Anyway, now he’s a Washington Post bureau chief and I have this WordPress blog with 39 followers.

Today, while on a pleasant walk with two old friends from home who were chattering across me about kids and child care and distribution of household chores, one of them pulled out her phone and said “It’s Macron by a landslide.” We hadn’t even talked about the French presidential election. We would NEVER previously have talked about the French presidential election. I wouldn’t have, and I am several times more political and more of a news junkie than my friends. But this is who we are now. Dialed in.

And thank god Macron won.

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TOWOIT #100

April 26, 2017… Day 97

Obviously, should have started this string of consecutive posts on Nov. 9 instead of 3 days before the inauguration. Oh well. What’s done is done. TOWOIT is TOWOIT. I made a thing, and I call it TOWOIT.

Today there were rumors that Trump was backing out of NAFTA and then later he said “nah”

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All 100 Senators went to the White House to be briefed on the “grave” North Korea situation. People seemed genuinely confused about whether the briefing was for legitimate reasons or was  just going to turn into a pre-100-day photo op for Trump.

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Today Mnuchin and Cohn introduced the “tax reform plan” that Trump promised would come out today. It is just a high level, one-page wish list. There’s no plan there. They just say “I would never bet against Donald Trump” and “it’s going to be the biggest tax reform deal ever.” Ask them any questions at all and it just reverts immediately to “Well, we’ve got people talking to people on the hill about that…”

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“And do you think softwood lumber might get Michael Flynn’s name off the front pages?”

–White House reporter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross yesterday.

I’ve listened to yesterday’s White House Press Briefing four times now. I think it’s kind of a doozy. Here are the questions the reporters asked. The remarkable thing was how much Sean Spicer was smiling, laughing and sort of chuckle-talking like everyone in the room was preposterous except for him.Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 10.42.52 PM

  • Sean, does the White House believe that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn broke any laws in filling out his Standard Form-86 disclosure? And furthermore, why is the White House apparently stonewalling the committee on oversight and government reform on its request for some of the documents that should be in the White House’s possession on Mr. Flynn?
  • Well, in the letter that Marc Short — and I know that SF-86 was referred to the DIA, and apparently —
  • Well, I know — but they were referred to the DIA for the SF-86, and apparently they have gained access to that document. But there were other documents that should be in the White House’s possession that Marc Short, in the letter to the committee, said the White House can’t provide because of its sensitive nature.  It also said that there were no documents that were available prior to the 20th.
  • But I also ask the question: Does the White House believe that Lieutenant General Flynn might have broken the law when he filled out the SF-86?
  • So was it the sheer volume of it, or —
  • Sean, is it your position that during the transition, the Trump transition has no custodial possession of any of these documents that Flynn filled out as part of a process to become the President’s National Security Advisor? I mean, what you seem to be suggesting is an arms’ length relationship.
  • Okay.  So —
  • Right. I’m just trying to find out from your perspective, is there no obligation either from the transition or the White House to do anything more than you have done or has been done in this matter?
  • How about these calls made when he was working during the transition on behalf of a future President Trump? Aren’t those things that you should have some either responsibility or obligation to provide if you can?
  • Those calls were made on behalf of the Trump transition, were they not?
  • When he was in the — I mean —
  • Yes, but he was working for the transition. And I’m saying, is there any obligation you have —
  •  — the delivery of those documents?
  • But you’re acting as if you had no custodial responsibility of your own transition. That’s all I’m trying to —
  • He wasn’t making calls as a private citizen. He was making them as a future National Security Advisor.
  • Two weeks ago, when General Flynn’s attorney wrote to the Senate Intelligence Committee suggesting some sort of immunity deal for General Flynn, I asked you a question about whether the White House would be invoking executive privilege, and your response at that time was, no, we have no problem with General Flynn testifying, he’s free to do so, we won’t be invoking any type of privilege. Does that also apply to any documents that the White House may have related to General Flynn’s service, the short service as the National Security Advisor to the President, and the time in which he served in the transition period as an advisor to the President-elect?
  • What about prior to his service at the White House?
  • And the overall issue of privilege, would you be open to —
  • Sean, generally speaking, within the Trump administration, how important is it for the President that everyone working for this administration is honest on their security clearance forms?
  • Do you know if the President is aware of the comments that were made by the House Oversight Chairman today? And does he agree at all with the assertion that it seems as though General Flynn was not in compliance with the law?
  • Does the White House consider Mike Flynn’s payment from Russia today to be a payment from a foreign government?
  • YOUR White House, does THIS White House consider a payment from Russia today to be a payment from a foreign government?
  • If it was to happen today, do you consider that to be a payment from a foreign government?
  • If someone took money from Russia today — today —
  • To follow up on that, why didn’t he — why wasn’t he more closely vetted during the transition period?
  •  — the White House and the Trump transition team should have known about this before they were having him come to the White House.
  • I have two questions, but I want to follow up on that. So you’re saying that it’s a problem with the process of vetting — the vetting process, and not —
  • I do want ask you really quickly about the wall. Yesterday, President Trump reportedly said that he’s going to delay pushing the wall through. And so can you just clarify what the status of that is — what’s happening, when?
  • So it’s delayed for now?
  • So use that partial funding —
  • Can I ask a follow-up on healthcare? The President has threatened to withhold cost-sharing payments from insurance companies. So is that still the case?
  • So just to follow up on the two, three topics — the wall and on — first, on the wall, I just want to be clear — so is the President no longer insisting that there is money for the wall in this current appropriations bill?
  • So the President is not insisting that he has money for actual construction of the wall in this current bill?
  • And the actual construction can wait until the fall?
  • Before you start construction.
  • And on Michael Flynn, does the President feel that he was misled by General Flynn?
  • But does he now feel that he also wasn’t straight with him in the beginning during —
  • At the time he made that decision, he said he was the victim of a media witch hunt and said he was a good man that had been a victim of —
  • — a witch hunt.  Does he still feel that?  Or is —
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions:  Last night the President said — and some have reported it — some pretty sensational charges about the Iran treaty.  We know he’s called it the worst agreement in history, and the worst he ever saw himself. But he also said that at the time of the treaty, the government in Iran was on the verge of collapsing. And that is something I don’t believe that has ever been reported before. He also said that the unfrozen assets — the billions were not used to fund terrorists, but they were in Swiss bank accounts.  Is this based on intelligence reports he’s received or other information?
  • I had a second question.
  • Okay. On General Flynn, anyone who is at his level and some levels below undergoes an investigation by the FBI with a final report. Was the President ever given a final security report by the FBI on General Flynn?
  • If you could just talk a little bit more about the overall efforts that the administration is making. We note the United Nations meetings yesterday. Now you’ve got an upcoming meeting with Congress. Are you as an administration trying to get a coalition together to build a stronger diplomatic case around actions against Pyongyang?
  • How would you characterize the administration’s overall strategy on the DPRK?
  •  — strategy on Wednesday when you have the meeting with the senators?
  • Will you be able to articulate that strategy and put a finer point on it for the senators?
  • Well, you —
  •  — it’s YOUR administration —
  •  — characterize it as you presenting your strategy to the U.S. Senate?
  • — the strategy will be articulated then?
  • So the senators should not expect —
  • Thanks, Sean. How long would you reasonably expect the government to take to be fully staffed with essential personnel to draft, negotiate, and implement complicated policies like tax reform, and put forward something that’s a little bit more meaty than just broad principles?
  • But what progress have agencies been able to make in carrying out the executive orders that the President has put forward? Because today is actually the deadline for the regulatory reform offices to be in place. How many of those are there?
  • Thanks, Sean. Staying on taxes for a minute, can you give us a sense — the President said he’s going to present this plan tomorrow. Can you give us a sense of what we’re going to see and when we’re going to see it?
  • Just a bit of color. The President, on Friday, when he announced that it was going to happen on Wednesday, aides here at the White House and over at Treasury seemed a little bit surprised to find out that this was coming as early as Wednesday. Can you tell us who inside the White House and at Treasury the President told he was going to announce this on Wednesday before he made the announcement?
  • The Secretary of Treasury actually said that the goal on tax reform is to spur growth of 3 percent of more, but already people are worried about deficits and that’s — Taxpayers For Common Sense put out a statement saying that growth — “Hogwash. Growth is the magic pixie dust policymakers throw on economic plans to make them appear fiscally sound when they are not.” What would you say to Republicans on Capitol Hill who are worried about this being a tax reform that would blow a hole in the deficit and the debt?

TOWOIT #98

April 24, 2017… Day #95

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.

But first, this snippet:

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Woman efficiently handles male commenters

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Things reporters asked Sean Spicer today: Continue reading TOWOIT #98

TOWOIT #86

April 12, 2017… Day 83

Oh yeah, last night it was in the papers that there was a FISA warrant for Carter Page. I thought it was just the drip drip drip of Russia-Trump and didn’t realize it was a big deal until today. Today they’re also talking about Paul Manafort setting up a shell company on the day he left the Trump campaign and then something like $13 million of Trump-related moneys went in it.

Tillerson ditched the press pool in Moscow and met with Putin (which was up in the air). Maxine Waters pointed out on Twitter that yesterday Tillerson said “Why should the U.S. taxpayers care about Ukraine?” Rachel Maddow pointed out that he said this right after the G7 meeting, which is called the G7 because Russia got kicked out of the G8 because of Ukraine.

Tillerson and his counterpart, Lavrov, had a press briefing afterward. Tillerson didn’t mention Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Lavrov interrupted Andrea Mitchell mid-question, essentially to ask her if she was born in a barn.

From Reuters:

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Trump said today that after talking to Chinese President Xi for 10 minutes, he found out that North Korea is actually a complicated situation. Also, NATO is *NOT* obsolete now. And China’s not a currency manipulator after all. Leading to this screen capture.

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Trump also said some non-committal, not-very-loyal stuff about Steve Bannon last night.

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And I just found this comment on Facebook to be poetic.

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I thought a lot today about what I said yesterday about Sean Spicer being a bumbling, bad talker–and I don’t want anyone to think I was making an excuse for him. It’s just that in the particular case of “holocaust centers” I can really imagine that he meant to say concentration camps, wanted to say concentration camps, but his brain just couldn’t fight its way there to the correct term, so a weird and inappropriate facsimile came out. He is just toweringly bad at his job all around. That said, there’s just way too much damning evidence about this White House and anti-Semitism. If they cared at all after the first several hints they dropped, if any of that was actual innocent errors, then they would have got their acts together and buttoned up shit like what we saw yesterday. OK, enough about that.