TOWOIT #262: Gaggle me with a wooden spoon.

November 9, 2017… Day 293

The press office got in some hot water on Twitter yesterday after SHS admitted candidly that they didn’t let the press ask any questions during the appearance of Trump and Xi because the Chinese insisted there not be questions. Which is not usual. Usually the U.S. is like, “Excuse me, no, our reporters ask questions or this isn’t happening.” Because it’s a lead-by-example, first-amendment thing. But no, not the Trump administration. This on top of John Kelly joking to a reporter that he might get arrested because the rules are different in China. Eff you guys.

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So anyway, they finally put a press gaggle up on Whitehouse.gov. It was conducted on Airforce One between Korea and Beijing by someone called Senior Administration Official, with assistance by someone else who was also called Senior Administration Official. I looked for the hallmarks of Steve-Millerian pomposity but I didn’t see his signature in the remarks. Things did get a bit Who’s On First in the transcript at times.

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It’s kind of weird that transcript never shows any reporter using the name of either S.A.O. Ok, it’s a little fishy! I’m putting my tinfoil hat on.

Here was a sequence of questions I enjoyed:

  • Just for clarification, did the President announce the bit about the state sponsorship of terror and I missed it?
  • One last thing. What does movement toward denuclearization look like?
  • Do you think he should tweet while he’s in China? Do you see any problem with that? Is there any reason why the President shouldn’t tweet while he’s in China?
  • Including in China? [SAO response, verbatim: “Yeah, why not. Why not”]
  • So can he access it? Logistically, can he access it?

Honestly, the syntax reads to me like it’s John Kelly himself. One of them. Read this:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As even the, I guess, head of the National Assembly said, the President was working on it right up until the end. So obviously these are very much the President’s words. He spent the entire time we had today making additional changes; this morning when we were in a hold, continuing to make changes. So these are very much his thoughts, his words, and something that he was engaged in throughout the process.

Did anyone else pick up on a “Fuck my life, P.S. I’m craven” vibe?

Here’s SHS talking to reporters about how the President isn’t going to the demilitarized zone after all:

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Ok, and then in Beijing TODAY, Rex Tillerson briefed reporters. It’s not as fun when he’s not being that Russian asshole Lavrov’s straight man, but here we go.

  • Mr. Secretary, on North Korea, the President was asking Xi Jinping to do more — to close down bank accounts, send North Korean workers back, cut out the oil supplies.  Where did you get on that front?  And will the President meet with Vladimir Putin in Da Nang? [Tillerson says a Putin meeting is “still under consideration”]
  • Mr. Secretary, if I could ask you quickly a little bit on trade. You mentioned the President said this was an unbalanced relationship. So in what way did China promise to balance out that relationship? And then, secondly, the President talked a lot about his personal chemistry with President Xi. Can you sort of bring us inside the room and tell us what that chemistry looked like, and then also how you anticipate that chemistry will help the U.S. get what it wants from China?
  • Thank you, Mr. Secretary. In that vein, the conversation when the President was pressing China to ramp up the pressure on North Korea, if you could get into some detail on that for us. And also, is one of the areas of disagreement North Korea?
  • Mr. Secretary, the President said (inaudible) that he does not blame China for the trade imbalance. He said during the campaign that China was raping the economy and threatened to declare China a currency manipulator.  Why the change of heart here? And can you explain why the President said, “Who can blame a country that is able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.” Does he seem like he’s praising them for taking advantage of the United States? 
  • Mr. Secretary, one question about this agreement between China and the U.S. on North Korea. You said China will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.  Well, clearly it has accepted a nuclear-armed North Korea. North Korea has nuclear weapons now. Are you telling us that China has agreed with the President that the era of strategic patience is over, and they’ve reached a new determination about this threat that they didn’t have before President Trump took office? And when President Xi said sanctions will take a little while, did he give any clarity on what that length of time is? And is the President comfortable waiting however long President Xi thinks sanctions will take?
  • And you said the two nations have their own views on tactics and timing. Would you describe that as a large gap in the two countries’ views on timings and tactics?
  • Another thing the President said today that they agreed on were the solutions when it comes to North Korea.  Could you explain to us a little bit more about that? And then also on that note, on this trip, the President used very strong words for Kim Jong-un’s government when he was in South Korea, but we didn’t hear him use some of the same derogatory language for him that we’ve heard from him in the past, like at the United Nations, like “Little Rocket Man.”  I’m wondering if the Japanese government, or the South Korean government, or even the Chinese government asked him not to use that kind of language and to kind of tone it down while he was so close to North Korea.
  • But that is a different sort of message and tone than we’ve heard the President take to this North Korea situation in the past. So if it wasn’t another government that asked him not to use some of the same kind of derogatory language, what did make him change his approach to that situation? Was the U.S. concerned that that language might be seen as provocatory?
  • Mr. Secretary, I was wondering on the possible meeting with the Russian President on Thursday. Just to follow on John’s question, is it still under possible plan? The President seemed to suggest when he was flying here on Air Force One that he expected to meet him on Thursday. Has something changed since then, or it’s just not nailed down yet?
  • What do you believe is substantive to talk about? What do you want to bring to them?
  • Do you believe that Russian meddling and the investigation is still on that list of things to talk about, or did they say everything they had to say in Germany?

Why would Trump talk to Putin about the investigation?

Anyway, that’s not what Tillerson said.

TOWOIT #261: Anniversary? Check.

November 8, 2017

  • 366 days since THAT election
  • 292 days since the inauguration
  • 1 day since another election, that showed a shitload of American decency and enthusiasm.

I thought there would be a press gaggle from the Asia trip that I could write about — since this blog now ekes out a living* near the eructations of the White House press secretary.

However, there has not been a press gaggle posted since October 3 — I’m sure there were some. They are just dropping the ball and being less complete in sharing things with us on Whitehouse.gov. Typical!

But I came here today to say hello and to be joyful and hopeful on this anniversary. I know election night last night was a bright spot and there are still hard times ahead. Who knows what a more and more desperate Trump administration will try to do.

But let’s consider yesterday to be the anniversary — we did the anxiety, the hope, the elections, the going-to-bed-happy. And today, on the actual anniversary, let’s just consider it done. It’s been anniversaried. The anniversary effect came and now it’s gone. Consider it done. Consider yourself on the slide into the 2018 mid-term elections.

*this blog has 57 followers and is not monetized

 

TOWOIT #159

June 28, 2017…. Day 160

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List of possibly somewhat reassuring things:

  • Burr and Warner working together in the Senate
  • Sally Yates says we should have confidence in Robert Mueller
  • Jim Comey says we should have faith in Robert Mueller
  • Delay of healthcare vote; no one is letting up though
  • Keith Ellison — he just makes me feel better
  • 43% of Republicans think Trump’s Twitter practices are “distracting and reckless” (according to NPR this morning)
  • More GOP defecting from the bill than I expected. Non-craven.
  • Overheard Trump-voter at the office: “I’d rather there be NO healthcare bill than something that caters to Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Anything that Ted Cruz thinks is acceptable, I don’t.”
  • Overheard Republican at the office: “I mean someone can go on TV and say out loud that the president is a moron, and it’s just the truth. It’s discouraging. It’s setting a whole new standard.”
  • Nicholas Burns and the other three panelists in front of Burr and Warner’s committee in the Senate today talking about Russia’s election-meddling. Burns had a lot of sharp words for Trump and the Trump administration. Risch and Cotton were garbagey to the panelists, but many of the Republicans were NOT.
  • 39% of Republicans say they don’t know enough about the health care bill to say whether they like it or not. Joy Reid cited this as a disturbing statistic, but if the approval rating for the bill is 17% with that many Republicans essentially in the dark about it, then this is even worse for the Senate Republicans than I thought. I need to know that some people are just really busy and preoccupied with their lives. It’s either that or they are all completely in the grip of Fox News, and I’ll take the blank slate over that.
  • Seen in Seattle:

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s off-camera press gaggle:

Continue reading TOWOIT #159

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 #39

February 24, 2017…. Day 36

Muhammad Ali Jr. detained in an airport in Florida. A Puerto Rican man (a citizen!) detained.

A lot happened again today.

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vandalism spotted in my staid, Republican workplace. Not sure what they were going for with the last word– perhaps they felt caught in the act?

Cracks & Caveats:

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Darrell Issa told Bill Maher that Jeff Sessions needs to recuse himself, and we need a special prosecutor.

Today the New York Times, L.A. Times, Politico, The Hill, New York Daily News, CNN, and the BBC were blocked from a press briefing with Sean Spicer. The Washington Post was present at the time. AP and TIME boycotted the meeting in solidarity. The Wall Street Journal and McClatchy said afterward that they hadn’t realized that it was happening until well into the meeting, or they would have boycotted, and they will boycott in the future.

From the transcript below, it does seem that the reporters in the room saw what happened from looking at their phones, well into the briefing. One reporter says in a question, “from this CNN chyron I’m seeing…” Sean tries to say, “Oh there just wasn’t enough room,” and the reporter replies, “but there’s plenty of room” and is then cut off by Sean. In this press gaggle, Sean Spicer emphatically and defensively confirms the Reince Priebus conversation with the deputy director of the FBI.

Sean Spicer selective press gaggle, without Sean Spicer:

Continue reading TOWOIT #39