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 #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 #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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