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

April 10, 2018

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

 

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

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

 

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

But I mean, who are they now?

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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