April 13, 2018 (yesterday, before the announcement of Syrian airstrikes)
- (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thank you, Sarah. The President came out swinging today, calling James Comey a “liar,” a “leaker,” a “slime ball.” Is he worried about what he’s saying? (Sarah calls Comey a disgraced partisan hack and says firing him will be remembered as one of Trump’s proudest accomplishment)
- And another topic, quickly, if I may. The Deputy Attorney General was here yesterday. Is the President going to fire Rod Rosenstein? (Once again, she has no announcements at this time)
- (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, the President, a short time ago, issued a pardon of Scooter Libby, the former Vice President’s Chief of Staff. There are many people who believe that Scooter Libby was the victim of a Special Counsel investigation run amuck. The recent statements that we have heard from the White House would seem to indicate that you feel much the same thing about the Mueller investigation. Was the President sending some sort of signal to the Mueller investigation or about the Mueller investigation by pardoning Scooter Libby? (It’s time to quite Fox News, John. You’re a propaganda beard)
- In the statement, the pardoning statement today, the President acknowledges he doesn’t know Scooter Libby. What was it that convinced him that Scooter Libby deserved a pardon? (Just thought it was the right thing to do)
- (Justin Sink, Bloomberg News) Thanks, Sarah. I have two questions. I wanted to ask about the first — The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision —
- Sure. The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision within 24 to 48 hours on Syria. On Tuesday, he said a decision would probably come that night. But here we are on Friday, and in a statement last night, you said that no final decision had been reached. So I’m wondering if you could walk through why the President hasn’t met his own timeline there, and specifically, if it had anything to do with the, sort of, Syrian troop movement that we saw after his tweet on Wednesday, sort of threatening a missile strike.
- And then, because it’s Friday, I’m wondering if —
MS. SANDERS: Friday the 13th.
- Yeah. (Laughter.) You could walk us through exactly what the President has–(Jesus stop laughing at her jokes)
MS. SANDERS: You guys all groan like that’s a bad thing.
(Just a bad joke)
- — committed to Senator Gardner in terms of both what the Justice Department would do and what the White House would do in terms of supporting legislation on states that legalize marijuana.
- (Steve Holland, Reuters) You mentioned he’s spoken to President Macron. How big a coalition does he have for this expected action in Syria?
- And is he satisfied now that Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons attack?
- (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) It was reported today that Michael Cohen, the President’s personal attorney, helped negotiate a $1.6 million settlement to a Playboy playmate. It also emerged, today, that Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York. Is the President still associated with Michael Cohen? Does he continue to consider Michael Cohen someone he holds in confidence?
- Is he concerned about these developments? Would the President like to say anything about them?
- What about Michael Cohen’s actions, though? Does the President have any concern with those?
- (Jill Colvin, Associated Press) Just a follow-up on that and then another topic. Is Cohen still the President’s personal attorney? (Sarah says she’d have to check)
- And I wanted to ask – (then Sarah interrupts to say she can only speak about White House staff)
- It looks like Paul Ryan just endorsed Kevin McCarthy for Speaker in an appearance, or an interview, with Meet the Press. Does the President believe that McCarthy should be the next Speaker?
- (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) On the James Comey book, some excerpts came out today. He speaks of the President — writes about the President in very personal terms. Were you surprised by that? Was the President surprised by that? (It’s time to quite Fox News, Jon. You’re a propaganda beard)
- And just really quickly on the pardon that came out today for Scooter Libby. The President, so far in his time in office, has issued three presidential pardons. One of those was to Joe Arpaio. Is there a commonality, in terms of what the President looks for when he pardons individuals?
- (Steve Herman, VOA? I’m trying to gauge from the voice and the angle of her gaze which Steve it was.) Yes, Sarah. I’m wondering if the administration has reacted with any message to Moscow after officials there today said that the chemical attack in Douma was faked and staged with Britain’s direct involvement.
- (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, what part does the President bringing Russia into the Syria equation now cause for the delay in the strike timeline?
- (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. The Justice Department Inspector General came out with his long awaited report this afternoon on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying that he improperly leaked information about the Clinton Foundation investigation to a reporter, and then lied to James Comey about it and, under oath, to two FBI investigators. Do you have a reaction to that? And does that, in your mind, validate the decision to fire McCabe?
- (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. You said that James Comey was a liar, that he’s a leaker, that he made false representations or claims. Other than what the President tweeted this morning about lying under oath to Senator Grassley, what exactly has he said that’s false or a lie? (When Sarah responds to Comey questions in this briefing, she reads from a screed instead of answering off the cuff. It’s a total doubling-down on the Trump tweets from the morning.)
- Sarah, what about the dossier, though? Sarah, what about the dossier? Did he also lie about the dossier in his conversation with President Trump about that? (She doesn’t really answer this question)
- (Jim Acosta, CNN) Sarah, what about the content of the President’s attacks on Jim Comey, your attacks on Jim Comey? Isn’t all of that a bit unbecoming of the Presidency of this White House to go after him in such a personal way like that. Calling him a “slime ball” and a “liar” and a “leaker”?
- Sarah, if I could just follow up —
- Other folks had two questions. If I could just —
- — ask a second follow-up question because —
- Well, it’s Friday, yeah. And you’ve —
MS. SANDERS: And you’d probably get really upset, and I don’t need that
- No, no, no. Not at all. Not at all. (Laughter.) No, but you’ve probably seen this tweet. It was a tweet that you posted before the election in 2016: “When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing.” What do you make of that now? Isn’t that —
- But when you go after Comey and Rosenstein and Mueller, doesn’t that mean you’re losing? (She doesn’t answer, scolds him briefly for trying to ask another question, moves away to another reporter, and… boom)
- Following up with that, I mean, one of the themes of Comey’s book is the President’s “disdain” for the rule of the law and his continued efforts to publicly undermine federal law enforcement officials. So how would you characterize the President’s attitude towards the rule of law and things that he said publicly about many of his top federal law enforcement officials?
- But it’s NOT just leakers; it’s his own Attorney General, it’s his own Deputy Attorney General, it’s Special Counsel, it’s the FBI, it’s judges who make decisions that he doesn’t like. There’s a whole list of federal law enforcement officials that he has undermined. It’s not just people who have proven to leak information. (Sarah rails at the press in general for “praising Jim Comey, propping him up” )
(She broke in to say the second part — Sarah had already called on Charlie from Breitbart. I like this reporter’s moxie but I can’t find her full name — she’s from CBS)
- (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart) Thank you, Sarah. This morning, James Comey admitted that he didn’t tell the President about the political source —
- This morning, James Comey said that he didn’t inform the President of the political source of the dossier. Was the President surprised to hear that? Did Director Comey ever tell him about the sourcing of the political dossier against him?
- And a second question, because it’s Friday. Did the President speak to former Vice President Dick Cheney about the Scooter Libby pardon either before or after it —
- (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Yeah. Thank you, Sarah. Three Republican state senators from Missouri wrote the President yesterday saying that the embattled Governor Eric Greitens should resign from office. He has serious charges of sexual abuse against him, faces impeachment, and refuses to resign. They concluded that, as a former Navy SEAL, he would salute and resign if his Commander-in-Chief asked him to. Did the President receive the letter? What is his response? And will he ask Governor Greitens to step down?
- (Sarah Sorcher, Washington Post) Thank you, Sarah. So, concerning the summit with Prime Minister Abe next week in Florida, does the President plan to push for a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan?
- Sarah, does the President have another NSC meeting today on Syria?
- Will the President be having another NSC meeting today on Syria?
- (Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thanks. I wanted to ask about the pardoning process. It seems like we’ve had these three pardons; they all were somewhat high-profile or had gotten media attention. How is the President deciding when to take action on a case? I mean, with Arpaio, he hadn’t been sentenced yet; the Scooter Libby case was very old. So how are you deciding when to take action on these cases? And can a normal person who feels like they’ve been unjustly convicted, can they get their case to the White House? I mean, there’s a Justice Department process, but it seems like the President is taking special interest in certain cases.
- (Nadia Bilbassy, Al Arabiya English) Thank you, Sarah. The OPCW is sending inspectors to Syria. Do you think this is a futile exercise, since you already have the evidence that actually they have chemical weapons?
- (Brian Bennett, LA Times) Thanks, Sarah. I’ll do two. One on Syria and one on the Department of Justice. On Syria, the President has publicly said that he wants to get out of Syria. Has this strike changed his mind on that? And is he considering other options, other than a plan to pull out U.S. forces from Syria? And if you could just —
(I saw Brian’s face way in the back when she called on him, and I was like “and that’s Brian Bennett” — and then I remarked to myself, “wow, you’re getting good at this — how did you know THAT guy’s name?” And then it dawned on me, sort of like horror, that I know his name because I *KNOW* him, because we went to college together. That just bums me out, because I was in classes with so many successful journalists and writers and media people and sometimes I just feel so lame and obscure.)
- Is he considering other options other than a long-term strategy to get U.S. forces out of Syria?
- And so I have a question about the Department of Justice. What does the President have to say to Republican lawmakers who believe that firing Mueller would be “suicide,” as Grassley has said, or firing Rosenstein could be the end of the presidency for Donald Trump, as Lindsey Graham has said?
- Does he have any response for Republican lawmakers who are counseling him not to take an action like that?
The AP’s Jill Colvin wore a really pretty skirt today. I really relate to her in this picture, an average-looking print journalist sandwiched between the slim, TV-ready ladies down in front. I relate because I work in an office where people look polished and run marathons, and I’m just sort of frumping around the place eating pizza for breakfast. (Apparently self-deprecation is a feature of this post, not a bug.)