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 #171

July 10, 2017… Day 172

What do you think about the word “whistleblower”?

(April Ryan to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in a question about the “leakers” in the White House. Vox wrote a think piece suggesting that the leak was intentionally done by the administration, for unknown reasons. And therefore not really a leak. But who knows. I liked that April Ryan asked that question to their face.)

An actual link on today’s main C-Span.com schedule:

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Audio because no cameras in the briefing room again.

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From FiveThirtyEight, which is a pretty sober bunch of data wonks:

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The story is, not only did Don Jr. take Kushner and Manafort to a meeting with a Russian lawyer because she said she had dirt on Clinton… he actually received an email prior to that in which he was flatly told that the Russian government was running a campaign to interfere on Trump’s behalf to get him elected.

Republicans are looking straight into the camera and defending this. They are saying they would have done the same thing.

Meanwhile, in Axios, a right-leaning website:

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Fox News pretends like everything is normal today, but has a Freudian tweet.

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Trump made a dig at Chelsea Clinton this morning and she responded with her trademark cheery shade.

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Questions they asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today in an off-camera briefing:

  • The President, today, tweeted that it would be unimaginable — he can’t imagine that Congress would go home from Washington in August, take the month off — if they haven’t dealt with the repeal and replace of Obamacare. If Congress does the unimaginable and goes for a month, is the President prepared to ensure that there are consequences for those vacationing lawmakers in 2018?
  • If I could ask on one more tweet. The President also tweeted this morning about Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton — said that she was giving away the country, I believe. At what point is the President going to put Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Bill Clinton in the rearview mirror? He won the election. He won it fair and square. When does he just let them go and look forward?
  • Sarah, first, just a quick clarification from the meeting with Putin in Germany:  Did the President say that he accepted Putin’s denial of any involvement in election interference, as Putin said in his press conference? Have you had a chance to ask the President about that?
  • But he didn’t accept that denial or did he?
  • And the question I wanted to ask was the reports on this meeting that took place at Trump Tower last June with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner. When did the President learn that that meeting had taken place?
  • Is he concerned about that — that the top leadership of his campaign would take a meeting with a Russian lawyer promising to give negative information?
  • Just to follow up on that. If this sort of meeting is normal and standard practice in the campaign, do you know if there were any other meetings that either Donald Trump Jr. or other representatives of the Trump campaign had with other Russian officials or any other foreign agent to collect information about Hillary?
  • Has anyone looked into whether there were any others?
  • Thanks, Sarah. I have a quick question about this cyber taskforce with Russia.  Yesterday the President tweeted about the cybersecurity unit being put together, and then then about 12 hours later said that it would never happen. What went down in those 12 hours that so drastically changed that situation?
  • Sarah, just to clarify: That idea is dead?
  • Okay. And I know you just said a minute ago you aren’t going to make any additional statement, but there’s a history and we have been asked by you and others at the podium to respect the statements you make there.  So, there’s a long history of blanket denials, during the transition and during times of this administration about nobody within the campaign having any meetings under any circumstances at all with Russian officials. And now one was disclosed this weekend. The original characterization of that meeting was amended within 24 hours when new information was placed before Don Jr.  How are we to take all of these blanket denials that occurred through the transition and now when it has been proven and recognized by the President’s attorney and Don Jr. that those blanket denials were not factual?
  • But that’s a different question than was asked at the time and different than the statements were about. The questions originally, as you know and I know, were about contacts, and those were blanket denials. And then when the contacts became confirmed, then it was, well they were infrequent. Well now we have a whole pattern of lots of different meetings that have to be confirmed later. And those original questions were not about collusion, Sarah.  They were just about contacts.
  • Sarah, back to yesterday morning’s tweets. Can you tell us what it was or what is or what was going to be a cybersecurity unit and how this was going to work? 
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. After this two and a half hour meeting with President Putin that the President had in Germany, how would you describe the state of U.S. relations with Russia. Do you view Russia as a partner? Do you view them as an ally? Do you view them as an adversary?
  • And does the President trust President Putin? 
  • Can you please ask him that question?
  • Thank you, Sarah.  I have two questions. We know there was no note taker in the meeting, but did you make an audio recording of the meeting or did the Russians?
  • Can you ask?
  • And the second question is: Director Comey was under oath when he said that the memo that he gave to his friend did not include classified information, and the President tweeted this morning that he did leak classified information. Is he accusing Comey of perjury?
  • You believe he leaked classified information?
  • But the President stated flatly that he leaked classified information.
  • Sarah, I want to go back to a couple of questions. When you talk about the issue of Don Jr., you talk and you said “leaked.” What do you think about the word whistleblower?
  • You’re trying to say people who gave that information were leakers. What about the issue of whistleblower? What do you see whistleblower versus leaker?
  • Sarah, I just have one more question. So on the issue of collusion, are you saying there’s no collusion when it comes to the overall arch of the campaign?  But what about the individuals? What about individuals that could be suspects of collusion? Are you vouching just for everyone in total or individuals or what? 
  • So then when we go to different people, what do you say about that?  Don Jr.?  Anyone — the names that are coming up.
  • What about Flynn?  What about Flynn?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two brief questions. When the President arrived for the G20 Summit, it was widely reported that the Putin regime was cracking down on the opposition candidate — Mr. Navalny at the time. This has been just the latest in a series of events in which human rights and dissent have been crushed in Russia. Was human rights raised at all by the President in his conversations with the Russian President?
  • The President did talk privately with Chancellor Merkel, we know. Days before he arrived there, her party, the Christian Democratic Union, made a much publicized change in its platform and dropped its reference to the United States as a friend and changed that to important ally. Was this something that came up in their meeting and did the President ask why she did that?
  • Two quick questions for you. Did President Trump discuss sanctions with Russian President Putin at the G20 Summit?
  • Did the President’s views on sanctions against the Russians change at all after his meeting with President Putin?
  • Thank you, Sarah. This latest meeting with the Russian lawyer. We not have three instances where — including with Ambassador Kislyak and a head of the Russia bank — where Jared Kushner seems to have met with Russians and not disclosed it during his security clearance check. Is the White House at all concerned about that and do you think it raises any questions about Kushner’s confidence or honesty?
  • His updated paperwork, not initially.
  • So I’m saying — his omission in the original of all these meetings with Russians, is there any concern about that?
  • One of the subjects President Macron wants to talk to the President about is the Paris climate accord. Is the President willing to negotiate his position on this?\

TOWOIT #170

July 9, 2017… Day 171

Ava goes first because she’s pithy and because there’s a new study that says women of color get short shrift on Twitter, and I quoted a shitload of white guys lower down in the round-up.

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You don’t even have to know the specific thing she’s quote-tweeting. This is just the feeling after G-20.

News alert today:

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When what they SHOULD be worrying about is the bears.

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This morning I was so worried right off the bat by tweets/headlines that I examined how much of my three-year plan was completely dependent on living in a free society. I was thinking about things like net neutrality, health care, death of middle class, and cultural crackdown on media and the arts. None of it felt outlandish or alarmist. Basically my three-year plan is completely pointless, undoable, unsafe, and foolish in Trump’s America. So I’ll keep checking in with that. It’s not giving up, it’s not personal, it’s just knowing the environment you’re working in. In the meantime, I did my first writing assignment for a political essay class I just started.

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Thinking Republicans were upset — the usual Never Trumpers, the Sometimes Critics, and even Marco Rubio (please take with deer-sized salt lick).

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But then there’s the rest of the Republicans.

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When the backdrop is so grim, anything that makes you feel like you’re not crazy is reassuring, even if it’s bad news. Any bad news that feels like it will push through to a breaking point that leads to airing out and sanity — that’s welcome. It’s a push toward honesty and having things out on the table. Knowing what we’re dealing with. Someday agreeing on basic facts again.

So that was this today:

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Poor Mosul has been through such hell, but there is this:

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And the Trumpsters can’t stop this country from becoming more Latin American and more Latin influenced. Not yet anyway. Song of the summer.

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McCain could be exaggerating to lull everyone into a false sense of security, but:

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Last word, from this gent:

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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 #157

June 26, 2017… Day 158

Early this morning I watched a Vox video about “democratic backsliding.” How it happened in Venezuela and how it is happening here. It was very scary. But let’s focus on something good — Susan Collins is firmly opposing the Senate “healthcare” bill. YES!! Thank you for being NON-CRAVEN.

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Jim Comey’s friend does this sometimes when something is about to happen:

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Sometimes I just kinda wonder if they are actually frenemies.

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The White House seems to be gearing up for more military action against Syria. The Supreme Court is partially reinstating Trump’s travel ban. And Ivanka Trump says she tries to stay out of politics.

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I hate the White House Press Briefings being off camera. I loved to hear the reporters’ voices, see their faces, listen to their questions in real time.

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Reporters’ questions after the jump:

Continue reading TOWOIT #157

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 #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#144

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June 9, 2017… Day 141

Sarah Huckabee Sanders had an off-camera press gaggle after (during?) the Comey hearing yesterday. Lots of questions about lying, recording devices, and the attorney general.

  • Sarah, did the President watch any of the hearing today?
  • And do you know if he’ll mention the testimony at all in his speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition?
  • Sarah, former Director Comey essentially said the President lied to him — lied to him, lied about the content of the meetings, said he didn’t trust the President enough to not record in minute detail the aspects of those meetings. Two questions:  Is the President a liar, as former Director Comey says? And is the Director’s testimony truthful to the best of your understanding?
  • Sarah, two things for you. In his testimony, Comey also accused the administration of defaming him and defaming the FBI with his comments about morale. Can you address those?
  • And then, also, there were a lot of questions about tapes that the President claimed that he might have about conversations between the two of them. He said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” and called on the President for them to please be released. Are there tapes of those conversations?
  • Sarah, in all fairness, you said from the podium that the FBI Director had lost the faith of the rank and file of the FBI. That’s got nothing to do with Marc Kasowitz. The FBI Director — former FBI Director — just told the Senate Intelligence Committee that’s not true. Can you help us understand this discrepancy?
  • Can you tell us as a housekeeping matter, is Kasowitz going to read this to the pool, or come back here? And will he take questions?
  • Can you speak to the atmosphere in the West Wing? Obviously you always have TVs on. Today they’re all playing the hearing. In terms of what the President –
  • But it’s on. So it’s in the atmosphere of the workplace here. Can you describe how it’s affecting people in the West Wing today? And did the President watch any of it? I know you said he had meetings, but do you know if he watched any of it?
  • Are you able to say today, does the President have confidence in his Attorney General?
  • I think there was a variation of this question asked about whether there are tapes. Can you say definitively whether there is a taping system that allows the President to record his conversations here at the White House?
  • Two points struck with me from the Comey testimony. One, the President was not personally investigated. And the second one, the point is that they both share the concern about the leakage of classified information. If you know that they both agree on these things, what explains that information that the President was not under investigation has not been leaked out? Because when things are getting leaked then shouldn’t everything gets out? But there is an impression that there is selective kind of leakage right now going on. So how does your administration do that? And are you going to do any kind of investigation when it comes to the leakage of classified information? And who is doing this leakage? And why the selective leakage? There is an impression there is no information that is going to impugn the President. But what about these other types of information that could not get out if he was – 
  • Sarah, back on the recording issue, for security purposes — this is the White House, this is the West Wing — for security purposes, are there recording devices, video or audio, in this West Wing area?
  • I am asking because this is the home of the leader of the free world. This is where he works. This place is a target for anything and everything. We’ve seen that. And within — I mean, there’s a lot of security here and it would not be something out of the realm of possibility that there could be security cameras or security recordings just for the safety of the President and his senior staff. Do you know of any such thing?
  • They would probably know comings and goings and things that happened if they are a nature of concern. If something were to happen, they would look at tapes or figure out — beyond asking questions, they would be able to –
  • Sarah, two questions. First of all, aside from the specifics of the Comey hearing, his testimony was leaked in advance yesterday. You came back from Ohio on the plane with the President. Could you characterize his mood about all the attention that’s being paid to it? Is he frustrated? What’s his attitude about the whole thing?
  • One more. You mentioned that he had discussions this morning with his national security people about the Gulf. He had spoken yesterday to the head of the United Arab Emirates and to the head of Qatar. What is the goal here? What is the President’s goal here?
  • I had some on Qatar, but I did want to ask one on — you said it was a normal day at the White House. Obviously, as much as you guys might be trying to keep a sense of normalcy, this is a day that would seem kind of definitional on the presidency. Can you talk at all about what kind of stuff you guys are doing to prepare for this testimony, to react to the testimony in real time, to prepare for this? Was it really entirely outsourced to outside counsel? I mean, you and Sean had to be out there talking about how you’d address these questions, talking to senior aides about it and that sort of thing.
  • And one shot on Qatar, just because it’s a big issue and what the President apparently spent his morning on. Do you guys see the demands that the Saudis and other Gulf countries made as being reasonable of Qatar? And does the President stand by his tweets from earlier this week in which he suggested that they were financing terrorism in the Middle East, especially in light of CNN’s report that the sort of root cause of all this might have been a story that was planted by Russian intelligence services?
  • Can I go back to one other thing? I want to see if you can comment on this aspect of the hearing. All during the election campaign the President pointed to the meeting that then Attorney General Loretta Lynch shared with Bill Clinton on the tarmac. And we learned from Comey today that Loretta Lynch had asked him as Director of the FBI to refer to the Hillary Clinton investigation as a “matter,” and not an investigation. And he felt that the Department of Justice was trying to align the language of the FBI’s investigation with that of the Clinton campaign. Can you give us something on that?
  • Sarah, you and others in the administration have said for a while the President is his own best messenger. Should we expect to hear from the President at any point today regarding former Director Comey’s testimony? And at what point will we hear from him?
  • About this subject.
  • — you said you had no idea whether or not there was a taping system in the Oval Office. Could you try to find out? A lot of people are interested, as you might imagine.
  • Could you characterize — not specifically about these meetings with the former FBI Director — but when the President comes out of a meeting with anyone, does he take notes? Do his aides takes notes? Does he in any way record the conversation in writing or in audio format to look back on?
  • I’m just trying to get a better understanding of how the President comes out of meetings. Does he take notes? Does someone take notes for him, generally speaking?
  • A quick follow-up on today — have you met with the President today?
  • Sarah, the President just named a new FBI director. This is adjacent to Comey in the sense that he noted that he had nine one-on-one conversations with the President either in person or on the phone. Is that a level of contact with the FBI Director that this White House thinks is appropriate? Or is it something that the President intends to change in terms of his contact with whoever ends up becoming the next FBI Director — Christopher Wray, in this case, potentially?
  • Right, but the context here is that, with President Obama, it was two conversations over three years. With President Bush, it was one. It seems like the level of contact is enormous by comparison, in this short span of time — it was about four months. So is that something that you all believe is appropriate with Comey? And is it something that will continue?
  • So what would be the consequence for someone that leaked an internal memo through a professor in order to, say, have a special counsel appointed, as Comey did today? But I know that you’re referring to that there’s going to be a statement. So can you speak to that in a general sense?
  • Would the White House take any particular action if they found out? Because there’s been this question of leaks, so what would be the White House response if they found out that, say, an FBI Director has leaked an internal memo?
  • I want to ask a follow-up on Attorney General Sessions. What changed in the last couple days that allows you to now say the President has confidence in him? Especially because you said you didn’t have a conversation with him today, so, I guess, what changed in the past 72 hours that now allows you to
  • You did? Okay.
  • Sarah, why was Jeff Sessions involved in the firing of James Comey if he had recused himself from the Russia investigation?
  • Okay. So to follow up, today James Comey said he never initiated contact with the President the nine times they spoke. Does the President agree with that, that he initiated contact with James Comey all nine times?
  • He said Comey called him –
  • Let me ask you two, if you don’t mind. Obviously, the President has one-on-one conversations with staff members, people he’s hired. But as it relates to folks that he hasn’t hired, is there any sort of policy as to not put him in a one-on-one situation so it doesn’t create a “he said, he said, he said, she said” whatever type environment? Or is that something that the White House might look at?
  • Okay. And let me ask you, secondly — the President had spoken and tweeted a lot about the Russia investigation. And know we know throughout that, as early as January 6th and as late as March 30th, he had been assured by Jim Comey that he personally was not under investigation. So I’m wondering if you could say why the President never said that detail? Why he never came out and said, hey, look, I’ve been assured — he waited all the way until the Comey firing. Do you know why he waited up until that moment to say it?
  • Sarah, thank you. Looking to the future, one overriding element in today’s hearing was that Comey said — and both sides agreed — that Russia still is coming after American elections and will continue to in the future. Does the President agree? And what will he do about this important question?
  • Thanks, Sarah. A couple questions about business in the Senate right now. In connection with Iran sanctions legislation, there is an effort to link to it or to add an amendment that would make that legislation contingent on also a provision that would require congressional approval of any effort to change sanctions — to remove sanctions on Russia. Is that something that the White House would support?

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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 #120

May 16, 2017… Day 117

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Holy. Moly. When is a bombshell THE bombshell? I’m so tired and confused.

When I was still in bed this morning, I saw Trump’s tweets about his absolute right to share information with Russia. That made me want to throw up. The President getting comfortable with being an autocrat.

Still windmilling, still don’t know which way things are going. Because they’re consolidating power even as they are imploding. And the Republicans just let them do it. What the hell is happening.

H.R. McMaster barks at reporters on camera. It is sad to see H.R. McMaster debase himself so utterly. Later in the day, Sean Spicer sounds wan and haggard off camera. No more bids for chuckles.

Then we find out that James Comey has memos about all his interactions with Trump, including the time Trump suggested the FBI just let the Flynn thing go, and the time that Trump suggested that the FBI lock up reporters.

“This is it,” said my friend at work, who was once a Republican. I said I hoped so but I was too jaded. Also, all this damage and severe Republican fuckery doesn’t get undone just by getting rid of Trump. Could just be part of our merry tumble into autocracy or theocracy?

It came out that it was Israel. And that the Russian reporter who “tricked” his way into the oval office reported it in Russia, and that now a spy’s life is in danger in Isis-held territory.

And then it felt like the wheels were starting to come off, at least according to congressional twitter.

So I don’t know. But I hear it’s nothing but shouting, screaming, and cursing all over the West Wing tonight.

 

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Reporter questions:

Continue reading TOWOIT #120

TOWOIT #115

May 11, 2017… Day 112

I’m so snowed under by the news this week. I’ve been too mesmerized and overwhelmed to start trying to put a blog post. So I’m just going to put up the usual mishmash of headlines, tweets, and the reporters’ questions at the briefing and not try to get deep or clever or comprehensive.

But first, this iPhone screen cap found on FB:

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I just realized the baby has her curlers in — even better.

Ok, anyway, back to windmilling frantically on a precipice with a slide into impeachment on one side and a slide into authoritarianism on the other. Is it the beginning of the end for Trump, or for the rest of us? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re looking at.

Jeez, the news is breaking every couple minutes. I am going BONKERS. I am trying to stem the flow of new news in order to pin down the old news from 45 minutes ago but the new news is too tantalizing and bizarre to ignore.

So, I mean. My blog post, like the Trump administration, is just going to be a shit show.

Just to stay in vaguely chronological order, the acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe testified in front of a Senate committee about Global Threats. The Democrats on the committee asked questions about the Russia investigation and Comey’s firing, and how things stood. Andrew McCabe contradicted the White House by saying a) the Russia investigation was a huge deal, and b) that the rank and file of the FBI were firmly in Comey’s corner.

Then there was also a wild, rambly interview Trump had with Lester Holt, in which TRUMP contradicted the White House and just flat out said the firing was his idea and related to the Russia investigation.

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Then came the White House Press Briefing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Her answers were even more pathetic lies than Sean Spicer’s. She just says her answers with more of a smug, calm smile. Yesterday I was really irritated at the reporters who laughed at her stupid jokes. And I liked the ones who snort-laughed when she was being serious. There were only a few sycophantic chuckles yesterday though, and almost none today.

Questions asked:

  •  Sarah, in the Lester Holt interview the President just had he made a number of remarks. Why did the President think that James Comey was a “showboat” and “grandstander”?
  • When were these three conversations that the President had with James Comey about whether he was under investigation? He said one was at dinner, two phone calls. Was that since January 20th, or when?
  • Sarah, two parts of the Comey question regarding the interview the President just gave. First of all, isn’t it inappropriate for the President of the United States to ask the FBI Director directly if he’s under investigation?
  • But one of these conversations the President said happened at a dinner where the FBI Director, according to the President, was asking to stay on as FBI Director. Don’t you see how that’s a conflict of interest — the FBI Director is saying he wants to keep his job, and the President is asking whether or not he’s under investigation?
  • But, Sarah, the other question I want to ask you about is, I asked you directly yesterday —
  • Different subject related to Comey. I asked you directly yesterday if the President had already decided to fire James Comey when he met with the Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General, and you said, no. Also the Vice President of the United States said directly that the President acted to take the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General to remove the FBI Director. Sean Spicer said directly, “It was all him,” meaning the Deputy Attorney General. Now we learn from the President directly that he had already decided to fire James Comey. So why were so many people giving answers that just weren’t correct? Were you guys in the dark? Was the Vice President misled again, as happened with Mike Flynn —
  • Was the Vice President in the dark, too?
  • Sarah, you said from the podium yesterday that Director Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI. On Capitol Hill today, the Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe directly contradicted that. What led you and the White House to believe that he had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI when the Acting Director says it’s exactly the opposite?
  • And a question to what you were saying about the Democrats. Clearly, they didn’t like James Comey too much after the October 28th pronouncement that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Their point now is the timing is different, that this was in the middle of an investigation.  Do they have a point?
  • Thank you. Another comment from the hearing today — the Acting Deputy Attorney General said — I’m sorry, McCabe said that he considers the investigation into Russian meddling in the election to be highly significant. In the past, the President has said that the investigation was a hoax, and he’s questioned even recently whether maybe it wasn’t Russia, it might have been China. Does the President consider this investigation to be highly significant?
  • But in terms of the threat to national security, does he take that seriously? Does he think that’s significant? Putting aside the —
  •  Does the think what Russia did during the election was a threat to U.S. national security?
  • Is he open-minded about that? He doesn’t know —
  • Sarah, I appreciate it. Two questions. First, as has been mentioned, Vice President Pence yesterday said the firing was based on the recommendation of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. We know now that that’s not true. Was the Vice President misled again, or did he mislead the American people?
  • But if you have, I don’t think I caught it, because the Vice President said yesterday that the President chose to accept and support the decision of the Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General.
  • He said he was going to do it either way.
  • So if I may just switch topics slightly. If the President knew he was going to do this, why ask for those memos to begin with? Why not just fire Comey? Why have these memos put out and then explain that he did it because of the memos, but then say that he was going to do it either way? I’m confused as to why we even got those memos.
  • Okay, thank you. Sarah, going back to what you said about Democrats — yeah, you have some Democrats that say that Comey should have been fired, but they’re questioning the timing. Why now? Even though the Deputy Attorney General did do that, they’re questioning why now. He couldn’t wait anymore?
  • Why not day one, when he comes in?
  • And then last question: Monday, Sean Spicer, when he was at the podium, he said after the testimony with Clapper and Yates, he said — he talked about there was no collusion from what Clapper said. But he also said that there needs to be a timeline when the Russia investigation ends. And then yesterday you said it should continue. Which one is it? Should it continue or should it end? Because Spicer said the President wanted it to end, Monday. And now, yesterday, you said it should continue. I mean, I’m just trying to find out which one it is.
  • We now know the President fired the FBI Director with more than six years left on his 10-year term because he was a show-boater, a grandstander. How important is it that the next FBI director not be a show-boater or a grandstander? And how important is it that this person show loyalty to the President?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. First, I want to follow up on what John asked about, the rank and file of the FBI. Don’t you think the acting director of the FBI has a better handle on the rank and file than you do?
  • And I want to also ask about the meeting yesterday between President Trump and the Russian Foreign Minister. Can you walk us through how a photographer from either a Russian state news outlet or the Russian government got into that meeting and got those photographs out?
  • Usually, media — independent media in the U.S. is typically invited into those meetings. Why didn’t that happen in this case?
  •  Has the President been questioned by the FBI with regard to their investigation into Russian interference in the election?
  • Does he expect to be?
  • So, at the Justice Department, there’s a general protocol that discourages conversations with the President of the United States by the FBI director about anything that might involve the President. That’s the general aspect of the protocol that’s usually required to ensure that there is no confusion about political interference of any kind, of even the impression or the appearance of political influence on the FBI. That’s the standard procedure. You just said here it was appropriate for the President of the United States to ask whether or not he was under investigation. Why is it appropriate if that’s not consistent with the guidelines at the Justice Department to avoid that very encounter?
  • So the Justice Department should change its protocol on this?
  • What you think and the President thinks.
  • Would you say, based on the experience that you and Sean and this communications office had Tuesday and Wednesday, that you were given all of the best information to relay to the American public, through us — and your job is to relay that information to the American public; we’re only intermediaries — about what happened with this firing and the rationale for it?
  • And would you say that that information was accurate then or is more accurate now?
  • And so by that standard, should reporters and the country essentially wait for a pronouncement from the President before believing that which is stated on his behalf by the White House communications staff?
  • I don’t think asking you a question and getting an answer is “lost in the process” Sarah, with all respect.
  • Two questions. Following up on this, back in, I think, October of last year, the former President was highly criticized by members of the FBI and other ethical folks outside of the FBI for making some comments on television that sort of suggested that he had an opinion about how the Hillary Clinton email case should go. And the charge was that he was interfering, that he was putting his thumb on the scale of an ongoing, active investigation. There was a lot of criticism from Republicans of the President about that. Talk to me about how that — how what this President did in his series of conversations with the FBI director doesn’t go far beyond what former President Obama did? And to Major’s point, how can you argue — regardless of maybe some pundits on TV who might be saying otherwise — how can you argue that that doesn’t have an appearance of trying to influence an investigation that’s actively going on?
  • But people clearly know which way he wants it to come out, right?
  • And one last question, just to follow up on the FBI thing. And I’m not trying to be overly combative here, but you said now today, and I think you said again yesterday, that you personally have talked to countless FBI officials, employees, since this happened.  I mean, really?  So are we talking —
  • Like 50?
  • Sixty, seventy?
  • Sarah, there’s a report from The Wall Street Journal that the Deputy Attorney General asked the White House Counsel to correct the version of events that was coming out initially after the Comey firing. Is that accurate? And does that contribute to the different version of events that we’ve seen over the last 48 hours?
  • And did the President know that Comey had sought more resources before his investigation, before he made the decision?
  • So, Sarah, was it a mistake for the White House to try to pin the decision to fire James Comey on Rod Rosenstein?
  • — it was on his recommendation.
  •  And just to clarify one thing you said. You said the President has encouraged this investigation into Russia. He wants to see it reach its completion sooner rather than later. How has he encouraged it if he just fired the man who was overseeing the Russia investigation?

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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.

TOWOIT #73

March 30, 2017… Day 70

Trump attacked the Freedom Caucus in a tweet this morning. I only look at his tweet-missives over on Facebook, where there are whole, thoughtful paragraphs in the comment threads and not just memes, bots, and snark-bundles. Skimming the first few dozen replies with the most likes, every single one of them was a concerned Trump supporter who felt he was going down a very bad path. They assigned different levels of culpability to Trump. But most seemed to be picking their words carefully, as though they just might have a chance to influence him before all hope was gone.

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Mike Flynn offered to testify in exchange for immunity. I don’t know if that’s going to happen. It sounds like that might be his way of pleading the fifth, meaning he won’t testify before the Senate Intelligence committee. Twitter is getting excited though, the way it does.

A panel of Russia experts testified in front of the Senate intelligence committee in the first day of hearings. There was a lot of context and history given, to try to anchor the Russia intervention as a large bipartisan national security issue that is ongoing. All of which is true. The Burr & Warren show is a sober affair while the Nunes & Schiff show still skitters around all willy nilly. Yesterday at a press conference, Burr & Warren basically said, “don’t even ask us about the House committee.” Anyway, the Russia experts casually said some chilling things like “Follow the trail of dead Russians,” and “Trump used Russia’s active measures.”

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So… the White House DID give Devin Nunes information, which he then vague-booked to the press before making a display of briefing the White House on the information the it had briefed him about the night before. Also, Nunes has never been certain what, like literally what, he was ever talking about. The New York Times found out and published the identities of the two men who gave the information to Nunes. Adam Schiff suggested it was a case of “laundering information through the House intelligence committee.” Also, Sean Spicer’s press briefing is worth looking into for some strange non-denials. I’ll post the reporter questions below as always.

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Stuff reporters asked Sean Spicer today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #73