TOWOIT #296: “We have a lot of housekeeping to do”

February 20, 2018

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Minutes vs. People joining the WH youtube channel to watch the first briefing in a week

Last night Rachel Maddow said the White House Daily Briefing is general a total snoozefest for her — a pointless exercise that is her cue to go out and get a sandwich — but that she would be tuning in today for the first briefing in one week.

I was disoriented all day because it wasn’t on the C-Span schedule and I thought they were bailing again. I cued up the White House youtube channel, which tells you how many viewers on the channel waiting to watch, and I also was listening for 80 minutes to the frustrated reporters in the room, waiting for the delayed briefing to actually started. Then it was 20 minutes of lies. Pretty anti-climactic actually.

Still, hats off to Kristen Welker who wouldn’t let Sanders hide behind the Parkland shooting — the reason they gave for *canceling* the last scheduled briefing, and then the shield used at the top of this one. Welker was given the first question and launched right into a Mueller question.

Sanders only took 20-minutes worth of questions. So there wasn’t very much anyone could do. Here are the questions the reporters asked:

Continue reading TOWOIT #296: “We have a lot of housekeeping to do”

TOWOIT #294: Wednesday

February 14, 2018

And finally we get to today.

The White House briefing was scheduled for 1:00

And then for 2:30.

And then it scooted across the rest of the afternoon until it was canceled a couple minutes before 4:00, which was its final resting place on the schedule.

They said the school shooting in Florida was why it was canceled. That seems unlikely since a) they’ve had a remarkably stalwart attitude toward shootings in the past, and b) a big school shooting is actually a reason to go out of your way to HAVE the press briefing and not the other way around.

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TOWOIT #291: Mere Allegations

February 12, 2018

Just minutes ago I left a train car in which a creep aggressively pressed his whole leg against mine, hip to ankle, even though he had a whole empty seat on the other side of him and even though I was struggling and squirming to get a little space between my leg and his — I inched my leg away to get away from that press of contact, and he smashed further into me. Three times. That’s not an accident.

This happens all the time. It happens to nearly every woman. It has happened to me many times. I don’t think I’ve ever ONCE commented on it before. But I am so sick of it. Don’t use your precious balls as an excuse to invade my personal space. I eventually heaved my bag a little so it kind of rammed into his elbow, and he finally moved over, but then he sort of settled himself so his hips and torso were turned toward me, opened his legs wider, and gave a little smirk. He got off at the same stop and stood RIGHT behind me on the escalator. I just wanted to kick him back down the escalator but the people behind him didn’t deserve that.

Anyway, just letting you know that’s the head space I’M in right now as I head into this recap of today’s 18-minute White House press briefing. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was creepy, robotic, and said things like “MERE allegations” and “the president thinks vic- EVERYONE- should get due process.” These people are so dumb they forget the rest of us have reading and listening comprehension. She read her exact script three times, word for word, so we really got it. We got it, Sarah. We got the over tones… we got the under tones. We got the syntax of how looking the other way and absolving abusers was the actual alpha and omega of your statement. When I hear “due process” out of her mouth all I hear is smug comfort taken in people being too afraid to come forward and closets full of unexamined rape kits.

I also wanted to share this tweet from Jay Rosen at NYU:

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It’s made me think. I have argued that the briefings ARE worthwhile because the questions matter as much as the answers in any administration, and MORE than the answers in THIS administration. Jay Rosen might be right though, and that’s uncomfortable.

Could reporters do a better job in there? Yes, absolutely. And do the red-meat MAGA crowd use Trump as a way to bludgeon liberals, and do they care more about that than they do about Trump himself? Yes, I really think so.

Still, I think it’s worth it to continue. Even though the reporters in the room skew left and right to varying degrees, most of them still show quite a bit of adherence to the basic principles of journalism. And those basic principles are in direct opposition to the way the Trump White House operates. And having that gap on display, on the record, in publicly available White House transcripts, and on TV — that still matters to me. I’d miss it if it were gone.

I wrote “I’ll miss it when it’s gone” first and then I changed it.

And then I told you that I did that.

I ran out of time and have to go into class now — I’ll update this with my usual haphazard annotation of reporters’ questions when I can.

 

TOWOIT #288: “He cried out eleven times”

February 6, 2018

To start Tuesday’s press briefing, Acting Assistant AG John Cronan came in and spoke very slowly and dramatically about MS-13, a “brutal gang of savages.”

Reporters’ questions for Cronan:

  • (Can’t see who asked this question) I had a question, yeah. Given the threat that you’re discussing here, why has Attorney General Sessions renewed a, sort of, increase in the enforcement against marijuana, even though a lot of states have tried to decriminalize or make it legal?
  • But you do have finite resources, correct? So why put a priority, again, in an area that had been deprioritized and had not been considered nearly the threat that this kind of violence you’re talking about is?
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) John, people in this community have been reading about MS-13 since 2006. Is it your position that the previous two administrations, Bush and Obama, simply did not prioritize this? Or is it much worse now than it was then, and therefore it is justified to have the focus you’re describing here today?
  • Did the previous two administrations not appreciate this, let this grow, let this become a bigger problem? Two questions. Last year, President Trump talked about MS-13. We saw some graphic detail about MS-13. Now you’ve given the President an update. What, beyond an immigration issue, will the Justice Department be doing to break the back of MS-13? That’s the first question.
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Two questions. Last year, President Trump talked about MS-13. We saw some graphic detail about MS-13. Now you’ve given the President an update. What, beyond an immigration issue, will the Justice Department be doing to break the back of MS-13? That’s the first question.
  • And for my second question — yeah, and on my second question, on another issue. And I’m glad you’re here today. The Eric Garner case — it’s still out there, and there are people waiting for an indictment. His mother is looking for justice. He cried out 11 times, “I can’t breathe.” What’s new? What’s happening? What should we expect on that case? (This is an example where I feel like April is reading these facts back into the record by asking)
  • But it’s in the criminal — we understand that it is in the criminal department — the criminal portion of Justice. So, I mean, is there any movement at all? Because I’m hearing that there should have been an indictment here.
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Jonathan, in the Cabinet Room, where you gave your first presentation, the whole MS-13 issue was wrapped up in the need to increase border enforcement, to change our immigration laws. Do you have any idea how many of the 10,000 gang members of MS-13 in this country are here legally and how many are here illegally?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Isn’t it true that MS-13 makes up just a small fraction of gang members in this country, though?
  • Few people would certainly argue with that characterization that MS-13 targets communities in this country. But what would you say to critics who say you’re using this gang to basically paint a very broad brushstroke against immigrants and scare people here?

There’s a scrum here where the reporters are shouting over each other — this feels unusual, but then it’s been a crazy news week with no briefings — and then you hear a woman’s voice say “I’m going to ask, I’m going to ask” and a man saying “OK” and quieting down.

  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) You talked about the Attorney General’s leadership here, Jeff Sessions’s, what he’s been doing in fighting this gang problem. And I want to ask about somebody else who’s a leader of the DOJ, Rod Rosenstein. Are you comfortable with his leadership? Do you believe the rank-and-file are comfortable? Do you believe he’s being unfairly maligned by the President?

Cronan says, a bit doltishly, “I’m here to talk about MS-13.”

  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) So my question, if you — really quick. May we — look, local law enforcement — one of the biggest problems local law enforcement has is that they believe that your particular rules and what you’re doing now are actually causing more problems, because people in the immigrant communities are afraid to come forward and testify against MS-13 because they believe they’re going to be deported if they do so. Can you at least give them any assurance that the immigrant communities, particularly in Gaithersburg, Maryland — you brought that one up and people had — the police in Montgomery County had a difficult time getting people to come forward as witnesses because they were afraid they would be deported if they did so. So your own rules, your own — what you’re doing is scaring people away. Can you address that?
  • No, well, but they’re afraid that you’re going to ship them out and deport them if they do. That’s a real fear. They’ve expressed that fear.
  • You see where that might be a problem, though, in prosecuting the case?

That was it for Cronan.

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The podium changeover from Cronan to Sanders. Brian Karem is still wrapping up a point about immigrants who are afraid to talk to the authorities about MS-13. We also have Saagar Enjeti with his haircut, and a lackey in a mint-green tie, and the top half of Hallie jackson’s birdlike head, and Sarah Sanders smiling calmly because she doesn’t give a shit. 

Cutesy Sarah Huckabee Sanders is so sinister to me. The idea of keeping the briefings SO short and then holding a roomful of reporters hostage while you slowly smarm your way through a child’s letter (This one ended with “P.S. Our pop-pop says that you’re doing a great job. Thank you for keeping us safe.”) — it’s just unconscionable to me. Every day it gets harder and harder not to use gendered insults against her.

  • (AP) Sarah, on the President’s shutdown comments a few minutes ago, a few weeks ago he said that a shutdown would be devastating to the military. Does he now feel that a shutdown would be worth it even if members of the U.S. military were negatively impacted?
  • But isn’t the President encouraging a shutdown here?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Can you then clarify, would the President rather see a shutdown, or a short-term spending fix this week?
  • And then I’m hoping you can clarify one other thing. Chief of Staff John Kelly said today that some DREAMers were, “Too lazy to get off their asses” to register for DACA protections. Is that the position of this White House that DREAMers are lazy? Who thinks this?
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, what did the President make of the stock market’s volatility yesterday and today? And does he have any regrets about taking responsibility or credit for the stock market’s rise?
  • Does he have any second thoughts about taking credit for when the stock market goes up?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. Has the President had a chance to review the memo from the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee? And is he inclined to release it?
  • Before the review concluded last time, the President had made it clear to lawmakers that he was inclined to release the Republican memo. Has he made any kind of similar comments to you guys about the Democratic memo?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President, on the Republican memo, says that it completely vindicates him. And this weekend we heard from Trey Gowdy, who is on the Intelligence Committee, who had a large part in writing that memo. In what way does the President believe that the Republican memo vindicates him? (A good place to remember that Jon Decker is trained as a lawyer)
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, I would think it’s fair to say that many members of the Senate, including Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, were surprised by the President’s comments. So I’d like to see if I could figure out exactly what he was driving at. Is the President saying that unless there is an immigration compromise that he’s satisfied with, he will not sign the emerging budget compromise on a two-year budget deal that McConnell and Schumer are working out? Or will he deal with that separately from the budget talks that are going on now? And both of those represent — are making substantial progress. (People just literally can’t figure out what the President of the United States is trying to say)
  • Does immigration have to be included in that?
  • But do they have to be together?
  • Will he sign a budget deal that does not include immigration policy reforms?
  • So let me ask one other thing about — Senator Flake said something on the Senate floor just a minute ago. I want to give you a chance to respond. He said, and I quote —

MS. SANDERS: I’m sure this will be eventful.

  • “I have seen the President’s most ardent defenders use the now weary argument that the President’s comments were meant as a joke, just sarcasm, only tongue-in-cheek. But treason is not a punchline.” Can you say for the sake of the future that you agree with Senator Flake on that, that treason, or treasonous, is not a punchline, is not a joking matter?

MS. SANDERS: Look, honestly I’m not going to respond directly to Senator Flake’s comments. I don’t really care what Senator Flake has to say. I don’t think his constituents do either, and I think that’s why his numbers are in the tank.

  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Sarah, I want to ask you a question about —
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, thank you. Sarah, you did call on me.
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask you a question about stocks. On the positive economic news, there is a school of thought among economists that, given the current growth in the economy, to inject the economy with stimulus and the tax cuts could actually spark inflation. So — which means is, when these people have more money to spend, prices necessarily go up, and the prices that people pay, go up. And that’s not a good thing. So how keenly focused is this President on inflation fears? And ahead of next month’s Fed meeting, has the President spoken to Chairman Powell about whether he thinks interest rates should go up or not?
  • Any thought on interest rates, one way or the other?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, as it related to the Republican memo, the President and this White House argued it was important to release it for the sake of transparency. So, therefore, can the American people expect to see the Democratic memo in the sake of transparency?
  • (Unintelligible) determination prior to releasing the Republican memo. So why not the same, as it relates to transparency and —
  • He said, “100 percent.” He said, “100 percent”
  • One question about John Kelly and his comments calling DREAMers — indicating some of them are lazy. Does that type of rhetoric help get a bipartisan deal done?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, also up on Capitol Hill today, Chief of Staff Kelly said that he didn’t think the President would be likely to extend the DACA deadline from March 5th. But twice in Davos, the President said, “If we need a little more time, we’ll take a little more time,” on DACA. And then in a gaggle, when asked if he would extend the deadline, he said, “Yeah, I might do that. I might do that…not guaranteeing it…but I certainly have the right do that if I want [to].” So, which is it? Is he is still open to the idea of extending the deadline, or is it closed? (Again, not even Fox News can tell what the President means when he speaks)
  • Sarah, can you clarify, is he open to extending the deadline, or has that door closed? (John Roberts looks annoyed)
  • (Jennifer Jacobs) Sarah. Thank you so much, Sarah. So on North Korea and the Vice President, when we’ve asked in recent days whether the Vice President — we’ve asked Secretary Rex Tillerson and the Vice President himself — whether he would be interested in meeting with North Korean officials while he is traveling in South Korea for the Olympics, and they both have said, “We’ll see.” Is the administration trying to signal some interest in talks with North Korean officials? Or what is that about?
  • Will the administration rule out that the Vice President will speak with North Koreans while he’s there?
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Can I get back to the Chief of Staff saying that some of the DREAMers may just have been too lazy to get off their asses? Just on the face of it, isn’t that just a wildly offensive comment about these undocumented immigrants who are waiting for some kind of solution to come out of this city?
  • On the surface of that, Sarah, though, isn’t it just a — it’s just an offensive comment, though, isn’t it? Just on its surface.

MS. SANDERS: I think that’s something you would have to decide for yourself.

(Uh yeah… we decided.)

  • (David) Sarah, have the President’s lawyers advised him not to testify before Robert Mueller?
  • It’s possible he won’t testify?
  • Sarah, two things. On the economy and the shutdown, how is a shutdown that the President wants to basically show Democrats that they’re wrong — how is a shutdown going to help the economy and help those who this administration is saying we want to lift out of the situation, the plight that they’re in?
  • And then — okay, and then on the next piece, you said treasonous was a joke. But what about “un-American”? In Washington, over the years with the State of the Union, one side — be it if it’s a Democratic President, the Republicans sit. If it’s a Democratic President — well, whatever, you get it. If it’s a Democratic President, the Republicans sit. If there’s a Republican President, the Democrats sit. What is so un-American about this, this year, after this has been going on for all of these years?
  • But he was specifically talking about the black unemployment rate. But he was specifically, at that moment when he was in Cincinnati, talking about the black unemployment rate.

MS. SANDERS: And that’s something everybody should be excited about.

  • But it’s jumped up from 6.8 to 7.7.
  • It’s still higher.
  • But it’s still higher than it was.
  • But it’s still higher —

(She decides to take one last question after saying April was the last. She calls on John Gizzi who is usually very safe. Before John asks his question a man calls out “What’s unAmerican about disagreeing!?”)

  • Thank you, Sarah. Quick question. There have been numerous published reports that Dave Bowdich, number three in the FBI, would be moved up to be deputy director, under Director Wray. He received both his present appointment and his previous position as head of the Los Angeles office of the FBI under former Director Comey. Given the administration’s almost contumacious criticism of Mr. Comey — (laughter) — is there going to be any objection to Mr. Bowdich moving up to the number-two spot under Director Wray?

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(This was just the diversion she wanted — laughter and jokiness ensued)

As Sarah Huckabee Sanders walked out, something happened that upset me. A man on the side of the room shouted, in a very urgent way, a joke question that was not funny, and was not necessary, and made a mockery out of what the reporters in the room try to do, and he brought April Ryan’s name into it, digging up some beef between April Ryan and Sarah Huckabee Sanders from months ago. April Ryan said “What? I didn’t say anything about that!” And then a few seconds later she just said, “Don’t do that.”

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I like to think that NPR’s Tamara Keith has gone to the French Riviera in her mind

TOWOIT #285: —and he screamed with caps, all caps—

January 29, 2018

Andrew McCabe is stepping down or being forced out (one or the other), a hollow SOTU is scheduled, black people should be grateful to Trump, reporters are getting a runaround on the sanctions deadline, and the nationalized 5G network is going over like a lead balloon.

Here are the questions the White House press corps asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the 14 minutes she allotted for Q&A.

Continue reading TOWOIT #285: —and he screamed with caps, all caps—

TOWOIT #281: Scripted Robot

January 17, 2018

(SHS said that Trump is not a scripted robot)

Today I’m recording WH reporter questions from yesterday AND today, but I can’t do the whole hour of the medical doctor from yesterday because that’s just too much, and a lot of it going around in circles. After yesterday’s briefing, one of the reporters could be heard saying “It felt like Josh Earnest was back.” Because Josh Earnest–Obama’s last press secretary–used to do long, patient back and forths with reporters, frequently drawing the briefing out past the hour mark. Of course, that’s not really fair, comparing Josh Earnest to Dr. Ronnie Excellent.

For her part, when Sarah H. Sanders took over yesterday she sounded much more like Sean Spicer than usual, with shades of Stephen Miller. Her voice is starting to pitch higher and she’s talking faster. There’s a strain to being the lying mouthpiece of racist idiocy.

Oh my gosh, I just went to whitehouse.gov to get the briefing transcripts and this is the splash page:

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*cough* Stormy Daniels *cough*

Questions they asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders yesterday:

Continue reading TOWOIT #281: Scripted Robot

TOWOIT #280: Confusing Tweets

January 12, 2018

Today as Donald Trump finished up his Martin Luther King Jr. day declaration (that dreadful Paris Dennard was there), April Ryan asked him, in a loud, clear voice, if he was racist. He just scooted out of that room. Tomorrow is April Ryan’s 21st anniversary of being a White House reporter.

Mnuchin and Sanders had a press briefing from yesterday. This happened a few hours before Trump asked why we keep taking people “from these shithole countries” like Haiti and El Salvador and said we SHOULD be taking people from places like Norway. This morning, the ambassador to Panama resigned his post.

There was something a little toadying about certain moments of yesterday’s press briefing. I know that people just go along to get along and everyone is just a bunch of humans trying to get through the work day. But I hate it when they are all hyuk hyuk hyuk with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (or Steve Mnuchin for that matter).

Anyway, yesterday is the day the president sent very confusing tweets about his own FISA bill, throwing Congress and the White House into a tizzy until 101 minutes later when he sent another tweet that seemed to contradict the first one. But we all forget that because that was the morning and he said a bunch of white supremacist garbage in the afternoon.

Continue reading TOWOIT #280: Confusing Tweets

TOWOIT #278: Complete Fantasy

January 4, 2018

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Los Angeles Times headine from December 2017

Today they had the head of Trump talking on the TV screen in the briefing room. This was creepy and dear-leaderish. But Sarah always knows how to put the cherry on top. “Thank you, President Trump” she said to the TV screen at the end, even though it had been pre-recorded. Is this idolatry yet?

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The only other photo I have from today’s briefing is of a woman who I don’t often see in the frame, and I never notice her being called on during the briefing–but when I do catch a glimpse of her, I always think–“There she is!! My style icon!!” One day she was wearing head to toe canary yellow and standing and stretching before the briefing started, and she was resplendent. (On the right is a mirror selfie from Tuesday, so you can see that I have a ways to go but may yet get there).

The questions that reporters asked today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #278: Complete Fantasy

TOWOIT #277: Fire and Fury

January 3, 2018

I made a picture of words that were in the press briefing today.

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I isolated some of the more telling questions asked today.

  • Did the President’s son, Don Jr., commit treason?
  • Should the American people be concerned about the President’s mental fitness?
  • What led to this quite dramatic falling out?
  • Isn’t it dangerous for the President to be taunting [Kim Jong Un] on Twitter?
  • Will the press corps be in the room for [the Dishonest Media Awards]?
  • What does it say about the President’s priorities that he unleashed a four-paragraph statement about Steve Bannon and one tweet on North Korea?
  • By attacking critics and key institutions in our democracy, isn’t the President engaging in authoritarian behavior?
  • Is it possible that Americans like him more when he is out of the news and not tweeting?
  •  If the President says [Steve Bannon] lost his mind when he left, why did he continue to talk to him for so many months?

Continue reading TOWOIT #277: Fire and Fury

TOWOIT #276: Meetings on the Course

January 2, 2017

I only had a handful of regular readers I’ve alienated most of them by writing only about the White House press briefing. There’s a lot I could do to write about the White House Press Briefing with more pizzazz, but I’ve been a little busy and preoccupied with other writing projects. But I still like cataloging those events here, even if only for myself. I always mean to get more insightful and funnier about them, and hey–that could happen at any time!

You get all those reporters in the room, and they have twenty minutes to ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders questions. There are all these competing angles and interests. Left-leaning vs. right-leaning outlets. TV vs. radio vs. print. Mainstream vs. wackadoo publications. Quirky journalists vs. very bland ones. The most essential dynamic though is reality-based, truth-seeking journalists vs. the mouthpiece of a corrupt, lying, obfuscating, incompetent administration.  It’s Orwellian to me, so I watch. The reporters are very human to me, so I listen. We are lucky to have a Constitution and a first amendment, so I pay attention.

I like having my commentary on the Trump administration narrowed down to this one event. There’s four walls to the James Brady Press Room, there’s a set cast of characters, there’s an expected series of events. Within these set parameters, little microdramas unfold at every briefing. Inside this little arena the questions themselves contain a chronicle of what is happening week by week in this country. So, that’s what I pin down.

But just the questions, not what Sarah Huckabee Sanders says. Because her answers are worthless and this is not a place to amplify her words.There’s a lot to criticize about the press briefing and the press corps and the media in general — but compared to the Trump administration, they are champions to me.

Here are the questions from yesterday afternoon, before Trump took to Twitter with his nuclear brinksmanship and freaked everybody out last night.

Continue reading TOWOIT #276: Meetings on the Course

TOWOIT #274: The Uncomfortability of Omarosa

December 14, 2017… Day 329

(April Ryan inadvertently named Omarosa’s tell-all today)

“So you’re saying that Omarosa Manigault was NOT fired on Tuesday evening, that she DIDN’T get belligerent in her conversation with General Kelly, she WASN’T yelling at him, she WASN’T cursing at him, and she WASN’T escorted off the property?”   — Francesca Chambers with my favorite question today

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Francesca Chambers–the face you make when you give up trying to get an answer out of Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

As always, here is today’s White House Press Briefing, annotated a little, with SHS stripped out, because we don’t need her wall of lies. I just like to know what the reporters asked.

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, on the taxes, what is the President’s message to those Americans, including some in the middle class, who will face tax increases under this tax bill?
  • But the message to those that will face an increase? I mean, every analysis showed some people, including middle-class Americans, are going to face an increase.
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) On taxes, you got two “no’s” in the Senate so far.  You got Senator Corker who’s been a “no” for a while. Senator Rubio came out and told us a short time ago that he’s a “no” unless he can get an expansion of the child tax credit. Is the President willing to be a little more generous in the child tax credit in order to get Senator Rubio’s vote?
  • Is there more room to move?
  • (Connie Lawn, USA Radio Network–I think) Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.
  • Thank you. What have you learned this past year?  And what changes would you make in the coming year?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR) Thank you, Sarah. Does the President think that Roy Moore should concede? In other words, does he believe he lost the election fair and square, or does he think he was the victim of widespread illegitimate voting?
  • So Roy Moore lost fair and square. That’s what you’re saying?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. There’s some reports out this morning that Speaker Ryan is considering stepping down at the end of this Congress. Has the President spoken to Speaker Ryan about those reports? And does he want to see Speaker Ryan continue in that role?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) So did this catch the President by surprise, the Ryan report that was out today?
  • And let me ask you about Marco Rubio, as well. We have heard folks who might be “no” votes, potentially undecided votes. But Marco Rubio’s potential “no” vote is one that we know it concerns, but him voting no is seemingly here suddenly out of left field. Has that caught the White House by surprise at all?  Or have you braced for the possibility that you might not have Marco Rubio in your corner?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network) Sarah, two things. Should Roy Moore just give his concession speech now, versus holding it out?
  • And the second issue:  Did you watch GMA this morning? And what are your thoughts about this tell-all and the uncomfortability of Omarosa while she was here with some issues?
  • (Jeff Zeleny, CNN) Sarah, if she’s resigned and she’s going to —
  • If she’s resigned, but you said she will stay on — Omarosa will stay on through January 20th — why are the taxpayers continuing to pay her salary for another month if she’s no longer here at the White House?
  • If she has resigned, though, why is she still on the payroll for another month? Is that normal?
  • On a separate matter, on the tax plan, if I could just ask: Will the President ask the House and Senate to stay here in Washington and finish this bill, even if it means bleeding into the Christmas holiday?
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, does the President have any thoughts about the Disney deal to buy 21st Century Fox?
  • And what does the President think about the FCC decision on net neutrality?  There are a lot of Americans, polls show, who are very opposed to that change.
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Getting back to that Alabama result, does what happened down there change the President’s relationship at all with Steve Bannon, given his big support for Moore? And has it changed the President’s thoughts on Moore — on, excuse me, Mr. Bannon’s opposition to other incumbent Republican senators?
  • Well, I’m asking about the President’s relationship.
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I know that you said that you can’t go much further on this personnel matter, but I do want to try to separate out some of the things that we’re hearing here and just be crystal clear.
  • So you’re saying that Omarosa Manigault was NOT fired on Tuesday evening, that she DIDN’T get belligerent in her conversation with General Kelly, she WASN’T yelling at him, she WASN’T cursing at him, and she WASN’T escorted off the property — and Secret Service has said not by them — but she wasn’t escorted off the property by someone or some entity other than Secret Service that evening?
  • (a woman–I can’t see who) In an interview with STAT News this morning, Kellyanne Conway said she and other administration officials have been urging Congress to appropriate additional funding for the opioid epidemic. The President declared a public health emergency earlier this fall, but that fund only has $57,000 in it.  Economists have predicted that it will cost upwards of $190 billion over a decade to treat the crisis. Can you tell us how much money the White House will be urging Congress to appropriate? And what do you have to say to critics who believe that the President hasn’t dedicated enough resources to combatting the epidemic this year?
  • Is it more —
  • Is it around $45 billion that was a part of the Republican healthcare plan?
  • Is that money something that you guys will get done — that appropriation — by the end of this year? Can the President promise that?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, thank you. With Omarosa leaving, how many senior staffers here, at the White House, are African American?
  • Do you have a number on how many are African American?
  • She was really tasked with reaching out to the African American community. Have you identified who is going to take that role? And how critical is it to this President, to this administration, to make sure that that role is, in fact, filled?
  • And just to follow up one of April’s questions. What Omarosa said today was, “I’ve seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people.” Were her concerns ever addressed or dealt with?
  • Do you know if any of the issues or any of her concerns were?
  • (Margaret Brennan, CBS News) Sarah, today is the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in which so many children were killed. That, of course, as a tragedy, was eclipsed by what happened in Las Vegas, which is now the most tragic mass shooting on U.S. soil. Since that time, what has President Trump done to try to protect the American people against a similar type of massacre? Does he think anything has been done? What is the administration trying to do? Is there anything at the executive level that he thinks needs to be undertaken?

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(Margaret’s voice quavered a little as she asked this question, but Sarah was perfectly steady as she launched into talk about border security. Border security.)

  • But these were domestic shooters. These weren’t people who entered the United States.
  • But no one issue that the President has highlighted that says he wants to make a priority to push forward?

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  • But there were prescriptions given very quickly just the other day for this failed terrorist attack, which is why in these cases — I mean, this is the worst shooting on U.S. soil on President Trump’s watch.

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  • Does it involve a weapons ban, any kind of regulation, any kind of mental health concerns? Has the President specifically mentioned that as a possibility?
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Thanks for trying to get a real answer, Margaret.
  • (Trey Yingst, One America) Thanks, Sarah.  Has the President expressed any concerns regarding the FCC’s decision today to roll back these Obama-era regulations on net neutrality? And then, moving forward, are there any assurances that the White House can offer to the American people who are concerned that the decision and vote today will lead to a less-free Internet?
  • (Someone named Brian) I’m going to ask a question about taxes. The Federal Reserve, yesterday, said that the tax bill would provide a modest lift to the economy. That’s in stark contrast to words that the President has used, like “rocket fuel” to the economy. What is the data the President is basing his rosier picture of the impact on the economy of the tax bill, versus the experts at the Federal Reserve?
  • Was the President upset the word “modest” was used?
  • For example, your own Treasury analysis used —

 

TOWOIT #273: Do anything

December 13, 2017… Day 327

No briefing today, but April Ryan regaled Twitter with her inside juicy scoops about Omarosa drama.

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Yesterday with all the Alabama hoopla, I didn’t get a post up with yesterday’s White House Press Briefing questions.

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Here are the questions from yesterday. They elicited many lies from the podium.

  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thank you, Sarah. The President said today that Senator Gillibrand would “do anything” for campaign contributions. Many, many people see this as a sexual innuendo. What is the President suggesting?
  • So you’re saying that this quote — “Senator Gillibrand would do anything” — is a reference to campaign contributions in Washington, the swamp? This has nothing to do with her being a female? What is he alleging would happen behind closed doors with her?
  • (Steve) Does the President want Roy Moore to be seated in the Senate if he wins tonight? And does he plan to call him tonight?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, does the President agree with his outside legal counsel that a special prosecutor should be appointed to look into the goings-on at the Department of Justice during the election campaign in 2016 since the revelation about Bruce Ohr, the former associate deputy attorney general?
  • So would he support the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into this?
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. Congressional leaders are saying that they have no plans to re-impose sanctions on Iran by the deadline tomorrow that the President initiated back in October when he decertified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. Is the White House okay with this no-action? And, if so, where are the teeth in the President’s move to decertify them from compliance?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill)  Thanks, Sarah. Senator Grassley said that he’s advised the White House to reconsider the nomination of Jeff McClure to the federal court in Texas and Brett Talley in Alabama. Has the President spoken to Senator Grassley about his concerns? And does the President plan to pull back those nominations?
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thanks, Sarah. Bashar al-Assad and Rodrigo Duterte have both recently have used the phrase “fake news” to dismiss damaging reports about their regimes. And a state official in Myanmar recently said that the Muslim minority, Rohingya, don’t exist and added it’s fake news. Is the White House concerned at all about authoritarian regimes adopting this phrase “fake news” to try to delegitimize the press? And does President Trump bear any responsibility for the popularization of this phrase among some world leaders?
  • But when you hear autocrats using the term “fake news” to describe events that reflect poorly on their regimes, that doesn’t cause concern here?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC) Sarah, thank you. The President tweeted today that the accusations against him are “false, fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met. Fake news.” And yet, the reality is he’s pictured with a number of the women who have accused him of the misconduct. So do you concede that that part of his statement is not true?
  • So (inaudible) of all of his accusers? Because –
  • And, Sarah, members of Congress have called for an investigation into these accusations. Is President Trump as confident that they are not true? Would he support such an investigation?
  • And yet, this moment is an important moment, as well, Sarah. This is a moment that’s getting a lot of attention.
  • And yet, Sarah, this is something that is being discussed in businesses all across the country. There have been a number of people who have been fired over this. So why not allow this congressional investigation to go forward? And if the President, he’s confident in the accusations being involved –
  • (April Ryan American Urban Radio Networks) Is Gillibrand owed an apology for the misunderstanding of the President’s tweet this morning? Because many — including the Senator — thinks that it’s about sexual innuendos.

(Sarah says, “only if your mind is in the gutter” to April Ryan.)

  • No, it’s not. What he said was open, and it was not “mind in the gutter.”

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  • (Hunter Walker, Yahoo! News) Thank you, Sarah. Looking at this issue with the system, the President gave almost $8,000 to Senator Gillibrand over the years. His daughter also gave her $2,000. What specifically did they get for these contributions that she was offered?
  • So he is admitting that he bought access in a corrupt way?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) So Kirsten Gillibrand called for him to resign, and he says over and over again that he’s a counterpuncher. So the next day, after she does that, he wakes up and you’re saying that he’s tweeting about the campaign finance system. Is that what you’re saying?

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  • And what kind of campaign finance reform does the President want?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. You’re familiar with the President’s tweets. He tweets pretty often. In this particular –
  • Yeah, a little bit. In this particular case, his criticism of Senator Gillibrand was very personal. Why must he criticize in such personal terms? He called a sitting, elected U.S. senator a “lightweight.” Why go after her in such a personal manner?
  • (Trey Yingst, One America News Network) Thanks, Sarah. Two quick questions for you. One following up on John’s question from earlier about a second special counsel. Does the President have confidence in the FBI as it exists today?
  • And then a follow-up on foreign policy. Today, Bloomberg has an article out about the Trump administration encouraging Saudi Arabia to consider bids from U.S. companies as it relates to building nuclear reactors. Does the President see this as an opportunity to bring up human rights in Yemen during these talks with Saudi Arabia?
  • (Margaret Brennan, CBS News) Thank you. H.R. McMaster gave some really interesting remarks at a luncheon earlier today. And he spoke in really strong terms about China and Russia. He said they were “undermining the international order and stability” and “ignoring the sovereign rights of their neighbors and the rule of law.” He went on to talk about Russia, in particular. He didn’t use the words “election meddling,” but he talked about subversion, disinformation, propaganda, and basically pitting people against each other to try to create crisis of confidence. So what I wanted to know is: Does the President agree with all of General McMaster’s statements? And is that a foreshadowing of a national security strategy that will take a harder tack on Russia and China than the administration has so far?

Someone calls out as she leaves, “Could we please get the President out here, at the podium? Could we please see the President, Sarah?”