TOWOIT #305: “Reviewing doesn’t count as going strong”

March 12, 2018

  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) The President said Saturday night — he was talking about North Korea — he said, “If the meeting with Kim takes place.” Is there a chance that this meeting won’t take place?
  • And what preparations are being made so far toward this meeting?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, a couple of weeks ago, the President said that he wanted to raise the age on purchasing assault weapons. He talked about supporting universal background checks, about taking guns away from those identified as a threat even without due process. What happened to all those proposals?
  • But is there a single thing in this proposal that’s from the President that is not supported by the NRA? Is there anything in here that the NRA opposes?
  • But it’s not as federal policy, right?
  • And why did he name this DeVos Commission less than 24 hours after ridiculing the idea of Blue Ribbon commissions? He says, “All they do is talk, and talk, and talk, and two hours later they write a report.” And then on this issue, a commission is okay? Why?
  • (Phil Rucker, Washington Post) Yeah, Sarah, picking up where Jon left off, with regarding the National Rifle Association: At that February 28th meeting with lawmakers, President Trump sort of made an example of Republican senators who were afraid of crossing the NRA. And he said, “Some of you [people] are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified.” But based on the plan last night, it seems like President Trump was the one petrified of the NRA because he backed away from some of the ideas that he had brought into the discussion and I’m asking why he chickened out. Why he didn’t go forward with what he has proposed earlier?
  • But President Trump — he could have put out a proposal for legislation. He could’ve advocated for universal background checks. He could have called for raising the ages in the states. Instead he’s tabled that after this commission —
  • For federal policy? Just to clarify. For federal policy?
  • (It feels like someone is missing from the transcript here–the black woman reporter sitting next to Kevin Corke in the front row–she asked about California–I need to look at the video again)
  • (Zeke Miller, AP) Sarah, I was hoping you could comment on news out of Great Britain today. Theresa May saying that the British government believes that Russia was behind the attempted murder and poisoning of a former spy with a nerve agent that has a Russian manufacturer. Is that the assessment of the United States government, number one? Does the United States government plan on designating Russia as — like it did North Korea, earlier this year, regarding the murder of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother — of Russia using chemical weapons?mAnd, three, will there be any repercussions for Russia from the United States, in coordination with its British allies?
  • So you’re not saying that Russia was behind this act?

MS. SANDERS:  Right now, we are standing with our UK ally.  I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that.  And we’re going to continue to work with the UK, and we certainly stand with them throughout this process.

  • Theresa May said it was either Russia using it themselves or that it had given its chemical weapons to a third party to murder a British citizen, the latter being highly unlikely, given the nature of this weapon. So —

MS. SANDERS:  Like I just said, Zeke, we stand with our ally.  And we certainly fully support them, and are ready if we can be of any assistance to them.

  • What was the President’s reaction yesterday to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos going on “60 Minutes” saying that she admitted she has not intentionally visited underperforming schools, then went on another network this morning and said that everything was one the table when it came to schools safety as well as guns?  Clearly, it’s not — everything is not on the table.
  • Did he see the interview last night?
  • (Kevin Corke, Fox News) Thank you, Sarah. I have a question about Congress and possibly blocking or delaying tariff implementation. How concerned is the White House about that? And a follow-up on China, if I may.
  • And then on China, if I might. I know the President sort of made a tongue-in-cheek comment about President Xi having the ability to rule for quite some time, perhaps indefinitely. Is there an administration position on something like that? Is that healthy for the relationship between our countries? (She already punted this in a previous briefing, saying it was “up to the people of China” — as if that weren’t exactly what it is NOT!) 

MS. SANDERS:  That would be a determination for China to make, not something for the United States to weigh in on.

  • But is it healthy, from the administration’s perspective, in terms of our relationship, bilaterally, to have, say, a leader in a country that’s going to be there, potentially, indefinitely.
  • (Mike Bender, Wall Street Journal) Sarah, a couple on the guns issue. On the age restrictions, the President has said a couple of times — he’s criticized his predecessors, saying they haven’t shown leadership on this issue. So I wonder, now, how you can make the political expediency argument for his school safety policy and that he’s explicitly backing only things he thinks can pass and not things that may need some additional leadership —
  • Okay, certainly, but the leader of the party — he’s the President of the United States.
  • He can push that policy forward if he so chooses — if he chose to.
  • On the commission, is Commissioner DeVos going to continue to be the face of the school safety policy and this commission after last night’s interview?

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  • (this is?) Sarah. Thanks a lot, Sarah. I have two questions. One on guns, and the other on the President’s trip to California tomorrow. On guns, the President, here in the White House, met with six students from Parkland, Florida and said, specifically, that he would go strong on the age limits.  And this proposal doesn’t have the President stepping forward and demanding action from Congress on those age limits. Why is the President backing away from that promise to those six students that he would go strong on gun age?
  • Reviewing doesn’t count as going strong.
  • (Brian Bennett, LA Times) Can you tell us some more about the President’s trip to California tomorrow? Why is he going to the wall, to see the wall prototypes first? And also, this is a state that did not vote for the President. Is the President going to make an opportunity to reach out to people who didn’t vote for him by going to this state?

This is part of what Sarah Sanders said: “While California may not have — he may not have won that state, there is certainly a lot of support for this President, not just there but across the country. And he looks forward to being there and presenting a lot of the specific policies.” So you see, he is NOT reaching out to people who didn’t vote for him–still all that matters are the people that did, and that she say toward the cameras that a lot of people support him, so that he can see that from the room where he watches the TV.

  • The President — there’s a lot of Republican lawmakers in California that think that the wall would be too expensive and could be a waste of money. Is the President concerned that he might be putting undue political pressure on Republican lawmakers by visiting the wall in California?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Since Kim Jong-un’s overture to meet with President Trump last Thursday and his proposal to denuclearize, the North Korean media has mentioned nothing. They haven’t referenced the overture; they haven’t referenced this idea that North Korea would get rid of its nuclear weapons. I heard what you said a little bit earlier about how you believe that a meeting will still take place. What makes you think that, based upon the fact that Kim Jong-un hasn’t even mentioned this to his own people, that anything of substance will come out at such a meeting?
  • Being nuclearized is a point on pride, we are told —
  • Being a nuclear country is a point of pride, we are told, for North Koreans. To just simply get rid of their own nuclear weapons, it seems, would be something that would undercut what that country and what Kim Jong-un stands for. Again, why would he get rid of his nuclear weapons?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. First, following up on what Jon asked, we know that Kim Jong-un has been using a special envoy to Seoul to send messages. Has he sent any special messages through any special envoy to the President?
  • The other thing is that, regarding tomorrow’s election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, the President’s campaign visit notwithstanding, he is reported in several sources today to have referred to Republican Rick Saccone as “weak” and said he’s run a poor campaign. This seems a little unusual in light of what he said Saturday, in light of Mr. Saccone’s praise of him as a friend. Did he actually say that about Mr. Saccone?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) To double down on your answer to Brian’s question, is it the President’s intent, tomorrow, to pick a winning design for the wall? Is that we he’s going down there?
  • A quick question, there was a report this morning that the Saudi government inflicted physical abuse on the people who were held captive for the time at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Is this something that the White House intends to bring up with the Crown Prince?
  • (Toluse Olorunippa, Bloomberg News) Thank you, Sarah. I have two questions. First, on guns: The President, during his campaign, said “nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” But it sounds like now you’re saying that, because certain things that he supports does not have support in the Congress, that he’s only going to push forward on the things that are already sort of —

MS. SANDERS:  That’s not actually what I said, but — you guys continue to misunderstand and misrepresent the comments that I’m making.

Shades of Spicerian frustration.

  • Let me ask you about the Manchin-Toomey universal background check legislation because it’s not yet clear whether or not the President actually supports having universal background checks. Obviously, in this proposal, he supports the Fix NICS bill, but can you tell us whether or not he does support the idea of background checks for online purchases and private sales?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Sarah, thank you. The President tweeted — he said, “…not much political support (to put it mildly)” for raising the age. I mean, I’ve looked at every single poll, and the support for raising the age is like 78 percent and 82 percent. Rasmussen was the lowest, with 67 percent. So what is he talking about?  There’s tremendous support for it.
  • So he has determined that there is no support in Congress for this?