TOWOIT #336: Used mattress

June 4, 2018.

Number of times in 19 minutes that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the President has done nothing wrong:  

The meeting was 19 minutes long and started 40 minutes past schedule. I think Sarah Huckabee Sanders is trolling reporters with her late start times. I have the chart of the last many briefings to show it.

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The dotted line is time spent waiting divided by actual briefing time. The pink bars represent minutes of waiting time. 
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, just a short time ago, the President said that, “I have an [sic] absolute right to pardon myself.” Why does he think that? And does he also agree with Rudy Giuliani, his lawyer, that a pardon for himself would be unthinkable and would lead to immediate impeachment? (She’s about to say “the President has done nothing wrong” #1)
  • But does he absolutely rule out doing that? I mean, does he rule out ever issuing a pardon for himself? (Whoop, #2 is already fast upon us!) 
  • (Steve) How does the President respond to this criticism from Republicans about these tariffs against the EU, Canada, and Mexico? How do you reassure these senators and various people who were complaining about this?
  • Sarah, what was the contents of Kim Jong Un’s letter to the President that he received last week? And what did the President take away from that? Is he more encouraged, based on receiving that letter?
  • There’s a separate report that Vladimir Putin has reached out to Kim Jong Un and wants to meet with him. Is that a meeting that the President thinks would be constructive to this process? Does the President support Vladimir Putin meeting with Kim Jong Un as well?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Sarah, the President tweeted that the Special Counsel law was totally unconstitutional. If that’s the case, why is he allowing his own Justice Department to abide by it?
  • This is something new. He’s never said the law itself was unconstitutional. How can he allow his own Justice Department to participate in something that’s unconstitutional?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I did want to follow up on that and try and figure out what exactly the basis was for the President’s claim that it is unconstitutional. But I wanted to ask you about something else, as well. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been accused of enlisting a taxpayer-funded staffer to not only shop for apartments around Washington, D.C. but also to shop for a used mattress from the President’s hotel just around the corner. And I wanted to know if any of that gives the President pause at this point, or causes his confidence in Scott Pruitt to waver. (Francesca’s questions are WAY better than her Daily Mail colleague David Martosko’s, but this is a wasted opportunity. All Sarah Sanders does is make a joke about furniture and move immediately to another person.)

SANDERS:  Certainly looking into the matter.  I couldn’t comment on the specifics of the furniture used in his apartment.  (Laughter.)

  • (John) You said that significant progress is being made in the diplomatic talks at the DMZ between U.S. and North Korean officials. The big question here is denuclearization. The President would like it to happen all at once — he said that before — but that it could also be a phased-in process. I know that the meeting has yet to take place, but certainly they’re trying to iron out some details here. Does it look like it will be an all-at-once, or is the phase-in more likely?
  • (Steven) Sarah, no matter what you call it, is maximum pressure still the policy of the United States toward North Korea?
  • (Peter Alexander, NBC News) Sarah, let me ask you, if I can: Does the President believe that he is above the law?

SANDERS:  Certainly not.  The President hasn’t done anything wrong.

  • The question isn’t if he’s done anything wrong. I guess, the question is, does the President believe the Framers envisioned a system where the President can pardon himself, where the President could be above the law? (She says again that he hasn’t done anything wrong)
  • But you, just a moment ago, said it’s not that clear. So I guess, simply put, does the President believe he is above the law?
  • Let me ask you a question, if I can follow.  Just because I haven’t been here in a while. (She says no and calls on someone else)
  • Sorry, I’m going to keep going. Right here.
  • I just want to ask, and this is an important one because it’s about —
  • I’ll just keep asking, if I can — (she says “No, you can’t actually”)
  • The President —
  • Well, Sarah — I’m going to, Sarah. I think this is important. I haven’t had a chance to ask this question — (she says “I’m going to continue to move on”)
  • (   ) Sarah, what’s the status of the tariffs on China? Does the administration still plan to move ahead with the June 15th deadline, as they stated?
  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) Thank you. Two quick questions. One, I’ve asked this before: Is there any chance we could ever see the President come out here and take some questions from us in this briefing room? (He hasn’t done this even one time. It’s a fairly normal thing for presidents to do) And secondly, has anyone in this administration ever asked the President — last week, you had, on your agenda — you had an agenda where you have more jobs coming out — I mean, lower unemployment coming, and you also had — the Second Chance Act, I think it was. And instead of those, we had to respond to presidential tweets. Has anybody ever in this administration asked him to back away from Twitter just for a day?
  • Extend him our invitation.

SANDERS:  In terms of Twitter, the President uses Twitter to communicate directly to the American people.  Frankly, you have the ability to choose what you want to write about, and you guys choose to write about things that the American people don’t care about —

(Wait did she just say the American people don’t care about his tweets?)

  • But we don’t have the ability to ask him a question in regards to that.
  • We do not have the opportunity to ask him a question about that, though, Sarah. (She ignores this and moves on)
  • Can we at least get an opportunity to ask him a question about what he tweets? (Still ignoring)
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill)  Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask you about the lawyer’s letter to the Special Counsel. You said, last August, that the President did not dictate a statement about the Trump Tower meeting during the campaign. But the lawyers wrote to the Special Counsel that the President did dictate that statement.  What’s the reason for that discrepancy? (She refers him to outside counsel and ignores that she was caught in a big lie)
  • (Deborah) After Kim Kardashian’s visit, is President Trump considering a commutation for Alice Johnson, who already has served 21 years of a life-without-parole sentence?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Since Robert Mueller was named the Special Counsel over a year ago, the President’s team, his legal team, the Justice Department has never challenged the constitutionality of the Special Counsel. Yet, the President today is doing just that. Why hasn’t either the Justice Department or the President’s legal team challenged the constitutionality? They have the right to do so in federal court, and yet they haven’t done so. (We all know the answer to this one)
  • (Inaudible) but specifically those two entities have not done it. The President’s own lawyers have not done it, Sarah, and they can do so. Why haven’t —
  • What about the Justice Department? Can you speak on behalf of the Justice Department? (nnnope, turns out she can’t)
  • (Steve) Yes, Sarah, I’m wondering if the White House stands by the comments that were made by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, who said that he was backing anti-establishment conservatives to take power in Europe. Seems like a very unusual thing for a U.S. diplomat to say towards friendly countries.
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, let me ask you — turn your attention back to trade. For the farmers out there who could care less about the politics, who have to run a business every day, there was a farmer in Iowa who told one of our crews out there this morning — he said, “It’s hard to know which way to jump right now.” As in, they don’t know what decisions they should make for their businesses because of what is playing out here in Washington, here in China, NAFTA negotiations as well. What would you tell those folks out there who are trying to run these businesses, who are trying to make a decision on which way to jump right now?
  • On the political front — (she shuts him down) 
  • (Peter Baker, New York Times) Thanks, Sarah. I just want to come back to — in August, you said he certainly didn’t dictate the statement. I wonder if you could tell us the basis of your comment when you made that in August. And do you think that still stands? Is that still an operative statement? Or do you retract that? (She refuses to answer a question about her own statement)
  • But in August, you said it. (Refuses to answer)
  • What was your basis for saying it in August, though? (Refuses to answer)
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Sarah, Rudy Giuliani, the President’s outside lawyer, said to the Huffington Post, “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted. I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is. If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to [do to] him.” Is that appropriate language coming from the President’s outside lawyer to be talking about the President shooting Jim Comey in that fashion? (Get ready for another the President has done nothing wrong)
  • If I could ask a follow-up question. (Fuck no you can’t, Jim)
  • Sarah, if I could ask a follow-up question. (Fuck off, Jim)
  • If I could ask a follow-up question. Who — (Fuck off, Jim) 
  • Well, others have had follow-up questions, Sarah.  If I could ask —
  • They have had follow-up questions. If I could ask who these legal scholars are that you are citing, that would be great.
  • (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) If you say, though, one thing from the podium — that it wasn’t dictated by the President — and his lawyers are saying something entirely different, contradicting, how are we supposed to know what to believe?  How can we believe what you’re saying from the podium if his lawyers are saying it’s entirely inaccurate? (Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Oh but don’t worry, she just won’t fucking answer) 
  • But, Sarah, the words are literally — you said he did not dictate. The lawyer said he did. What is it? It’s either one or the other. (No answer) 
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. A question about pardons. Eleven days ago, the President issued the posthumous pardon for boxing great Jack Johnson.  The leading proponents of this for more than a decade have been Congressman Pete King in the House and Senator John McCain in the Senate, both big boxing fans.  Senator McCain tweeted his support for the pardon. Will the President use this opportunity to call Senator McCain and try and patch things up with him at this moment of his life?
  • (Philip the Quebecois) Sarah, thank you. I just wanted to check something with you.  What in tariffs that were imposed against Canada reinforce the U.S. national security? (She can never understand anyone with an accent, so she asks him to repeat) 
  • What — you know the tariffs that were imposed against Canada — aluminum and steel.  What in that reinforce the U.S. national security?  In what form the U.S. feels more secure now that Canada has been targeted by tariffs? (There is like zero need for SHS to be polite to these fuckers)
  • (Hallie Jackson, MSNBC News) Sarah, thanks. The Special Counsel didn’t seem so unconstitutional when the President was calling on one to investigate his political opponent during the campaign. So is it only unconstitutional if the President doesn’t like it? (Sarah Sanders has nothing to add)
  • (Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg) A trade question for you, Sarah. Thank you. The President, on Friday, said that he’s open to bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada.  Is he still leaning towards bilateral deals as he heads up to Canada at the end of this week? Or is he thinking that he’d like to save NAFTA and just renegotiate it?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Last week, Missouri Governor Greitens stepped down. Did President Trump or anyone at the White House ever reach out to encourage him to step down?
  • And if so, why not, considering he’s the leader of the party?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, you said the President hasn’t done anything wrong and wouldn’t need a pardon. But he said in his tweet that he has the absolute right to pardon himself. Does he assume that the Special Counsel will find him guilty of something? (You can guess what Sarah says next…)
  • But he said in his tweet that he could pardon himself. So there seems to be an assumption that Mueller will find him wrong for something. And if so, what would it be?
  • I have two questions on the Justice Department and pardons. For example, the Office of Legal Counsel has said that the President can’t actually pardon himself. Has the President requested a new opinion that may inform his tweet today? And also, there are some concerns about whether the President is still fielding those traditional pardon recommendations from the Justice Department.  Some people are concerned that instead of relying on the Justice Department, he’s relying on sort of rich and famous people to recommend pardons.
  • On OLC, has he asked for a new OLC opinion?
  • Has he asked for a new OLC opinion on the pardon power?
  • (Lalit Jha) Thank you. What does the President think is his top foreign policy achievement in the first 500 days? (Quit carrying water, Lalit)
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, can you give us a little bit more background on the pardon process? Is there a process in place at this White House to review pardons? And how did the pardon ideas of Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart come up? Is it simply a matter of who can gain the President’s ear in order to get a pardon process? Or is there an attorney here in the White House through which these requests are funneled through, which eventually make their way up to the President? (You’re too good for the racist zine you write for, Saagar. I know you can do better!) 
  • (Eamon Javers, CNBC) Thanks, Sarah. I wanted to ask you about the President’s call today with Theresa May, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who said that the President’s tariffs on the EU were, quote, “unjustified and deeply disappointing,” according to the British readout of their phone call today. That’s what she said to the President. How did the President respond to that? (Pretty sure he doesn’t give a fuck, Eamon. This is the Honey Badger White House after all.) 

TOWOIT #334: “But based on what evidence?”

May 30, 2018.

Today Sarah Sanders was 10 minutes late to the room, gave non-answers for 15 minutes, and departed. She seemed especially brusque about not taking follow-ups, and it really laid bare the way she uses that tactic to never actually answer a question or clear anything up.

It wasn’t just me that noticed it. Later in the day, the Washington Post put up a funny (irritating) video showing her over and over again brushing off reporters to say that she had to keep moving because time is short.

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“… manufactures urgency to avoid answering reporters’ questions”

Part of the reason she’s “short on time” is because she’s chronically late. I started this graph earlier in 2018 to show in RED the amount of time the reporters sit waiting for her after the appointed start time, and in TEAL the amount of time she takes questions. They often sit and wait for longer than she is at the podium.

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The Washington Post video also included this bar chart:

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Sean Spicer’s were so long because of his long-winded accusatory rants between the questions.  Also he’d read for 12 torturous minutes at the top of the briefing.

The thing that seemed most talked about after the briefing is that there was a child reporter in the room, and he asked what the administration was doing about school shooting. Sarah Sanders choked up as she gave a non-answer.

I like to track the number of viewers on the White House youtube channel in real time throughout the briefing. Normally the number of viewers continues upward throughout the briefing, albeit at different rates. I am pretty sure that the people watching are mostly there to watch Sarah own the libs. Because of the ratio of thumb’s up to thumb’s down, and because I think non-Trumpists aren’t in the habit of going to White House media for ANYTHING.

Today’s briefing had middle of the road viewership compared to other days, but as the little boy was talking about school shootings, the numbers of viewers just started to plummet. I was imagining all these indignant senior citizens just turning that crap right off (“I didn’t come here for this! I came here to watch Sarah own the libs!”). Here’s what it looked like:

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Anyway, here are the questions from the reporters today, from those glorious fifteen minutes of one question only, no follow-ups, fuck you:

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, now that Trey Gowdy, who has actually seen all the classified information on what the FBI was doing, says that there is nothing to the allegations that they were spying on the Trump campaign. And, in fact, Gowdy says that the FBI was doing exactly what they should have been doing. Given what Trey Gowdy has said, is the President prepared now to retract his allegation that the FBI was spying on his campaign?
  • But Gowdy was in the briefing. He knows what was done. And he is saying that these allegations are baseless, that there was no spying on the Trump campaign. (She says here, for the second time, that deputy director of the FBI was fired for misconduct)
  • But that has nothing to do with — 
  • But based on what evidence? What evidence does he have?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) What does Secretary Pompeo need to hear from the North Koreans today at the meeting in New York for the summit to go forward? (Steve, you should have asked Jonathan’s brushed-aside question again — what evidence?)
  • And a follow-up. Do you think it will take place now — the summit? Or is there a denuclearization plan taking shape?
  • (Zeke Miller, Associated Press) Sarah, two questions for you. First, on North Korea.  In addition to their nuclear program, North Korea also maintains other weapons of mass destruction — chemical and biological weapons. Does the President intend to raise those in a summit with Kim Jong Un?
  • And —
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I do have two, if you’ll indulge me quickly. Number one, going back to —
  • Okay, I’ll make it all one question. (Laughter.) On North Korea and the possible summit, can you tell us what your deadline is at this point for deciding whether or not that will or will not happen? And on a completely separate topic, Kim Kardashian is supposed to be at the White House today.  Can you tell us a little bit more about that?  Who she plans to meet with.  It’s being reported that she’ll be meeting with Jared Kushner, as well as President Donald Trump.
  • (woman, unseen) If the Attorney General is not living up to the President’s expectations, if he is so frustrated with him, why doesn’t he just fire him instead of sort of nursing this grievance so publicly?

SANDERS:  Look, the President has made his viewpoint very clearly known, and I don’t have any personnel announcements at this point.

  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) Sarah, the President said during his Right to Try legislation signing that drug makers will soon be announcing what he called a voluntary massive drop in their prices. Is there anything more you can tell us on exactly when this is going to happen, and how widespread this massive drop in prices will be?
  • (Kelly — not sure who this is) Has the President spoken to Roseanne Barr, who we know has been a longtime friend of his? And why did he choose to address the ABC apology, instead of the underlying issue of concerns about a racist comment that she tweeted out? (Sarah’s answer: unemployment is down and the President is the President of everyone…also the press is super unfair… super long, weird, specific, warbly rant… apparently, A LOT of people owe TRUMP an apology, and that is the REAL issue)
  • (Matthew Nussbaum, Politico) Thank you, Sarah. Does the White House have any evaluation of its own of the recently released study estimating that more than 4,600 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria? And if that number is accurate, does this indicate the administration’s response to the storm was inadequate?
  • (Emerald Robinson, One America News) Thank you, Sarah. Does the administration have any concerns or fear any risk in continuing to push China on these tariffs in trade, considering their relationship with North Korea ahead of talks and what the President has said about that second meeting between President Xi and Kim Jong Un?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Given the turbulent political situation in Italy right now, is the administration monitoring it, as well as the devastating effect it appears to be having on the markets in Southern Europe? And will the President consider strong intervention in that situation through the IMF, very much as the previous administration did with Greece two years ago?
  • (Jennifer, but can’t see her) On the steel and aluminum tariffs, the extension ends again soon.  When do you think you’ll have an announcement on what will happen next?  And is there any chance that there will be another extension?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Can you just clarify the comments about Trey Gowdy?  You said there’s still cause for concern, meaning about what the President says is a spy who infiltrated his campaign? Or a cause for concern, in general, about the FBI? (This is a poorly worded question for Sarah Sanders. Makes it even easier for her to not answer)
  • Can you just explain who was in the campaign? What is he referring to when he said they were in the campaign? What does that mean?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business) Thank you. Something appeared to have happened on trade, because last weekend Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the trade war was on hold. Fast-forward a few days after that, there was the threat of tariffs now on auto imports. Fast-forward a few days after that, there’s now going to be this $50 billion in tariffs. So what exactly happened from the trade war being on hold, to a week later, now it appears the trade war might be back on?
  • (Philip) Sarah, two things. First off, my young colleague here, he has a very interesting question. Second, I just wanted to know, how confident does the President feel that he’s going to have an agreement on NAFTA before the summit?
  • At my school, we recently had a lockdown drill. One thing that affects mine and other students’ mental health is the worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school. Specifically, can you tell me what the administration has done and will do to prevent these senseless tragedies?
  • (Eamon Javers, CNBC) Sarah, you mentioned Bob Iger a moment ago and asked where is his apology to the White House for criticism of the President and some of the incidents that you cite. Has anyone at the White House been in touch with Bob Iger or anyone at ABC on those incidents in specific and the cancellation of the Roseanne program, specifically, as well?
  • (Andrew Beatty, AFP) Thank you very much. You talked about denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula being the subject of discussion — the main subject of discussion in Singapore. Does that include the positioning of U.S. nuclear bombers and submarines that aren’t necessarily on the Peninsula but cover the Peninsula, as it were?
  • When you talk about that, you’re talking about North Korea, though, not U.S. weapons systems, correct?
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, has the President received any classified briefing on the details of the intelligence that were presented to Trey Gowdy? And if he still believes that there is cause for concern, why doesn’t he just declassify the documents? (Weird question, Saagar. The president shouldn’t be able to see that information. Also what are you doing at the Daily Caller? Who made you read Ayn Rand and forgot to tell you she a phase for teenagers? Who hurt you, Saagar???) 

Postscript: This briefing was outdone by one in Ukraine today:

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headline clipped from the WaPo

TOWOIT #333: Roseaggle Gaggle

 

May 29, 2018.

Press Gaggle with Sarah Sanders on Air Force One en route to Nashville.

Questions asked:

  • Sarah, the President has been a big supporter of Roseanne Barr. What is his and the White House’s reaction to her comments today and to ABC’s decision to cancel her show? (Sanders replies by saying the President is very focused on North Korea. Spoiler alert: She will launch into a reading a defensive rant when asked a similar question in the briefing room the next day)
  • Because he’s been focused on that show before. I mean, he called her after the show did really well. Does he have a reaction to what she said? (I’m just imagining this was Hallie Jackson but I have no way of knowing)
  • Does he think the show should have been cancelled? (Still, focus is on North Korea)
  • You kept saying “upcoming summit,” and I think there’s just — to kind of put a button on it, at this point, is the President’s letter operative? Or is it operative that he expects a summit to occur after the G7 in Singapore?
  • What determines whether or not the summit is back on? What determines whether or not that gets rescheduled?
  • Sarah, can you talk about why the President said the New York Times had made up that senior White House official when that White House official was someone that was in a press office-organized sanctioned briefing? (sometimes I wish they would pose their questions more succinctly)
  • Sarah, when the President visited Puerto Rico, he said it wasn’t a “real catastrophe” because there were only, I think, 16 people who had died in the official government count at the time. There’s a Harvard study today that I think said 4,600 people died as a result of the storm. So I’m wondering if that’s changing the President’s thought about whether this is a real catastrophe or the grade that he gave himself for the U.S. response to — the federal government response to the storm.
  • Sarah, this weekend the President tweeted that the policy of separating children at the border is “horrible.” But that is a policy that was instated by his own administration. Why would he say that?
  • Sarah, is the President concerned about the political turmoil in Italy and the effect that that’s had on the stock market and the markets in general?
  • This weekend, Rudy Giuliani basically admitted that calling Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt” is part of a public opinion effort — an effort to sway public opinion.  Is that what the President is trying to do? Is he trying to discredit this investigation when he says that? (In her response, Sarah Sanders says “Hillary Clinton was terrible.” I had one of those moments where you can’t believe any of this is happening. Just how ungracious and inappropriate and low it is to say that as the White House Press Secretary.)
  • Sarah, if the President doesn’t want these families to be separated, does that mean that he opposes the zero-tolerance policy laid out by the Attorney General earlier this month?
  • Sarah, has the President had any conversations with Kevin McCarthy about a leadership succession in Congress? Let me amend that to say McCarthy or any of his allies or anybody on his staff?
  • The President tweeted this morning that he believes Robert Mueller’s team is going to interfere with the midterm elections. I’m wondering if you can flesh out how he believes the Special Counsel’s work is going to interfere with the midterm elections.
  • Well, a quick one to follow on Jeff. You were talking about the long-term economic situation in Italy. The President obviously was a big supporter of Brexit. Does he believe that Italy should stay in the Eurozone?
  • Does he believe Italy should stay in the Eurozone? (The amazingness of Sanders simply having nothing to say as an answer to this. Like, have to check, sorry, I don’t know)
  • And one more. Students have started to go back to school in Santa Fe, Texas today.  Will the President stop there when he goes to Texas later this week?
  • When will the North Korea decision be made, whether the Singapore summit is going to go ahead? Do you have a deadline for when you have to say yay or nay?
  • Has he had — has the President — sorry — had any direct communications with Kim Jong Un? (She ends by saying “Again, we’re not going to comment on those comments.” Perfect.)

TOWOIT #331

May 22, 2018

Sarah Sanders arrived 16 minutes late, took questions for 13 minutes, avoided giving any meaningful replies, evaded nearly every follow-up question, was snarky to and about everyone, essentially called Democrats lame randos, repeatedly trotted her old canard that she was short on time, refused to say that she didn’t think reporters should be manhandled, and departed.

Here are the questions she was asked.

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, do you agree with the South Korean official who said that there would be a 99% chance that this summit with Kim Jong-un comes off? And how will the President ultimately make the decision about whether or not to go?
  • What preconditions, though, does he have? What does he see that the North Koreans have to do to make that trip? And I’m just asking — you know, the challenge coins were made. Was it premature to make those coins commemorating the summit?
  • (Pamela Brown, CNN) Thank you, Sarah. Why did the U.S. guarantee the safety of a dictator whose regime is a serial human rights abuser and is responsible for the recent death of an American college student? Why is that the morally right thing to do?
  • Just to follow up, though, Sarah, really quickly. (Nope. Stuff it, Pamela)
  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, you talked about preparations for the summit. Can you describe for us how the President himself is personally preparing? (Hoo boy)Who is he working with? How much time does he devote on a daily basis to get ready for the underlying themes, questions, and difficulties of a summit of this magnitude?
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask about this meeting the Chief of Staff is setting up with lawmakers regarding the documents that they requested about the Russia investigation. Can you say what specific documents the lawmakers will be allowed to see? Chairman Nunes has requested all documents related to this intelligence source. Will he get to see all of the documents? (So this is the same Devin Nunes who has been scampering over to the White House at all hours to pull shenanigans and was supposedly recused from the Russia investigation)
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Thank you, Sarah. The North Koreans are bringing in some journalists to view what they say is the dismantling of a nuclear test site. I’m curious if the administration believes that site is already damaged, as some are led to believe, and what exactly the administration’s response is to this. (Blake, I thought at first you were a business bro but I don’t know now — you seem so nice, and you’re a new dad, and you ask pretty good questions. Please quit Fox.) 
  • (Steve Herman, Voice of America) Yes, Sarah, can you tell us what was the outcome of the discussions between the South Korean President and President Trump today about the size and cost of U.S. troops in South Korea?
  • (Darlene Superville) You said that no one from the White House staff will attend the meeting on Thursday. Does that not mean that the Chief of Staff Kelly would not attend the meeting?

SANDERS: He was charged with coordinating and making sure it took place, but at this point is not expected to attend.

  • (Michael D. Shear, New York Times) Can you ask — can you respond a little bit, though, to why no Democrats would be at that meeting if the White House was putting its imprimatur on it? The Democrats have said that they think it’s inappropriate to have a meeting set up with just Republicans and the Justice Department. Is the White House — would the White House welcome Democrats to be at that meeting?
  • No, but they say they that to the extent that the White House is, sort of, brokering a deal between the Justice Department and Capitol Hill —(Sarah’s response included this nasty line: “So I would refer you back to them on why they would consider themselves randomly invited to see something they’ve never asked to”)
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, the President spoke at length this morning about his vision for a solution to dealing with Chinese company ZTE. Both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill are criticizing that, saying that he is bowing to pressure from Beijing. Senator Schumer, I believe, called it, a wet-noodle solution. What’s the White House’s response to that criticism?
  • Can you just respond to their criticism, though, about what he has said on Capitol Hill?
  • (Anita Kumar, McClatchy Newspaper) I wanted to change topics. I wanted to get your comment on this incident that happened at the EPA earlier today. They were having a national summit on water contaminants. At least two reporters were barred from going into the event and one was forcibly removed. I wondered if you had a comment. Do you approve of how that was handled? And will anyone be speaking to the press office over there about it?
  • Do you approve of how it was handled, though?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS News) Sarah, back on North Korea just for a second. The President, in the Oval Office, said that he was disappointed that after his second meeting with Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un seemed to have a change of attitude. Does the White House have any theories as to why that might be? Is China a spoiler, and why?
  • (Mike Bender, Wall Street Journal) Could you add anything more about the President’s comments — he said that China, South Korea, and Japan were willing to invest very large sums of money into North Korea. Can you add anything more to that? Is the U.S. planning to add to that very large sum? Can you describe what kind of money he’s talking about there?
  • Can you talk at all about what President Moon said about Kim, about the new tenor coming out Pyongyang? What President Trump learned in the meeting with President Moon?
  • (Hallie Jackson, NBC News) Sarah, to follow up on Anita, and then a question as well to you: Is there any situation, barring a security incident, in which you feel, the White House feels, it is appropriate to physically touch or physically handle a reporter?
  • I’m just asking about the appropriateness or not of touching a reporter.
  • My other question was actually on the — (denied by Sarah)
  • –DOJ demand. A couple other got follows, Sarah. (denied again; she forges ahead)
  • So just quickly, is it appropriate for the President to make a demand to the Department of Justice, Sarah? (This is all just Hallie trying unsuccessfully to follow up)
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. There’s been considerable discussion back and forth about the tenure of Speaker Ryan, whether he will relinquish his gavel early and have a new election of a Speaker before the elections. Conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill made it clear that they want Ryan to stay. Congressman Warren Davidson said that’s unfair to the new members coming in. And he also said that there should be a discharge petition so members can have an up and down vote on repeal of the Affordable Care Act and immigration. Does the President agree with the statements of Congressman Davidson and the conservatives among House Republicans?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President earlier today, in that press availability, spoke about the protections that he’s prepared to offer to Kim Jong-un, not only personally but also for his country. In preparing for these meetings, and when the summit actually takes place, does human rights play any consideration in the meeting that the President will have with Kim Jong-un?
  • (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart News) Following up on John’s earlier question, does the President back Speaker Ryan’s decision to stay in office until after the election? Or is he concerned that there may be a period of time when he’s not getting as much done as he could, serving as a lame-duck speaker?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Daily Mail) Thank you, Sarah. We heard from President Trump before that meeting with President Moon. But after sitting down with him, does President Trump feel more like this summit is worth having and that it will happen? And what is the White House’s drop-dead date, so to speak, for deciding whether or not to go to the summit?
  • (Ben Kennedy, Christian Broadcasting Network) Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to ask about Gaza. The violence continued today. Does the White House have any plans to meet with the Palestinian Authority?

 

TOWOIT #328: “Explain one way this is the definition of draining the swamp”

May 11, 2018

Questions for Alex Azar, Health & Human Services Secretary

  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Mr. Secretary, there’s a tremendous number of moving parts in this blueprint, many of which will require legislative action. How much of this works without the rest? Do you have to do it all, or can you do just a part of it? And how much can be done through executive action versus legislative?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Thank you. How soon will consumers actually see lower drug prices?
  • How soon can —
  • Is it a matter of weeks or is it months that consumers could actually see that benefit?
  • (Ragubir Goyal, India Globe, which doesn’t seem to be a real paper any more, but apparently Goyal has been showing up since the Carter administration) Mr. Secretary, thank you very much, sir. India is making a lot of drugs by your company. There are many other companies. How India is going to be affected for this action today? And also, at the same time, next month is Yoga International Day announced by the United Nations and Prime Minister of India. How yoga can help? Maybe you don’t need any drugs if you have yoga. (Laughter.)
  • (Catherine Lucey, Associated Press) Mr. Secretary, you talked about calling into question the entire rebate structure.
  • Specifically, what steps are you doing now? And when might consumers see changes on that?
  • But any timeline for this? How long this might take?
  • (Stephen Portnoy, CBS Radio) Mr. Secretary, there are a couple of notorious examples in the last couple of years of drug companies buying drugs that have been on the market for years and suddenly raising their prices extraordinarily. Is there anything in this blueprint that addresses that? For example, the EpiPen situation a couple of years ago.
  • (Blonde woman standing on the side in a blue dress, kind of sets off racist zine alarm bells) Yes. So you’re talking about the increases in drug prices, while in areas like Maryland and Virginia, insurers are talking about double-digit health insurance premium increases. There’s a Maryland regulator that said something like, the ACA is in a death spiral, kind of echoing past words of the President. What are you doing to deal with that? Does HHS just accept these premium predictions as reality? What are you doing to reduce those costs?
  • (I can’t tell who this is, but I appreciate the question) Mr. Secretary, I have a question about another issue at HHS, actually. The Justice Department has indicated the Department is set to change an Obamacare rule that would bar medical practitioners from denying medical treatment to transgender people, including gender reassignment surgery. Will HHS repeal that rule? (Alex Azar claimed total ignorance of this whole issue and punted, which seemed shabby)
Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 6.31.27 PM
This reporter asked Alex Azar about transgender rights
  • (Andrew Feinberg) Mr. Secretary, thank you. So you talked about Medicare Part B negotiating better prices. That is the same thing that the President referred to when he said that other countries’ socialized medicine systems are ripping us off. Why is that okay for Medicare, but not for other countries?
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Mr. Secretary, thank you. When people hear about this plan, read about this plan over the upcoming days, they’re presumably going to learn about yourself, as well. And they might say, “Wait a minute. Somebody who was a pharma executive is now going to be the one in charge of lowering drug prices. How is that going to work?” Your pitch to Americans that they can trust you to oversee this effort would be what?
  • Are you suggesting that when you were running a big pharmaceutical, that one of the reasons why you couldn’t lower the price was because you were at a disadvantage? And do you regret that it’s gotten to this point, as somebody who was in that position?
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg) The President said in the Rose Garden that you guys were going to try to stop pharmaceutical companies from using patents to extend their monopolies. I’m wondering if you’d walk through exactly what patent process you plan to change, if it’s going to extend beyond what we saw in the budget proposal a few months ago, and whether we should expect to see, sort of, increased enforcement on pay-for-delay deals.
Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 7.06.37 PM
The question that didn’t get asked.

Questions for Sarah Sanders:

  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, on the Kim Jong-un summit, we’re told that the summit will be a day long, possibly extending to a second day. What is the best-case scenario for what can be accomplished in a single day? What does the President think can be done in a single day with Kim Jong-un?
  • Do they think that can actually happen in a day? Or is this —
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I wanted to ask about the auto meeting earlier today. I know attendees of these sort of spitball sessions can often leave with the impression that the President agrees with their position. So I wanted to see if you could clarify both if the President or administration has agreed to open negotiations with California on a national CAFE standard, rather than, sort of, the dual system that could exist. And —
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) If I could come back to North Korea. The President says that he believes that it’s Kim’s intention to denuclearize. But when you listened to Kim Yong-chol, who’s in charge in North Korea of North-South relations, he said, listen, the reason why we’re doing all this is because our nuclear program is complete; the reason why we’re shutting down our test site is because we don’t need it anymore — our nuclear program is complete. I mean, it’s kind of akin to somebody who builds a house and then enters a negotiation to tear it down. What gives you confidence that Kim actually wants to take apart something that he just built?
  • But again, stopping the ballistic missile testing, stopping all this testing, according to Kim Yong-chol is because they don’t need it anymore; they’re done. It’s kind of like, you can put the saws and the hammers away because the house is done. (Not particularly friendly pushback from Fox News)
  • (Eamon Javers, CNBC News) Thanks, Sarah. This week, the CEOs of AT&T and Novartis both said that they thought it was a mistake for their companies to work with the President’s lawyer. Does the President think it was a mistake for his lawyer to work with them? (She says this meets the definition of draining the swamp.)
  • Explain one way this is the definition of draining the swamp. I mean, this is companies paying for information about the President’s– (Eamon is a mild-mannered, wonky, financial reporter, for context)
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. You said in this room the other day that it is unlikely there’s going to be an infrastructure bill this year. That was supposed to be the signature legislative item of 2018 for Republicans and this administration. Can you lay out for us what exactly is this White House’s legislative agenda for this year? (More skepticism from Fox News)
  • So is it fair to say, from that answer, that immigration is now the signature priority item this year?
  • (David Martosko, Mail Online) Sarah, thank you. Two questions. We’ve heard a lot about White House aide Kelly Sadler and her comments about Senator McCain, reportedly saying in a meeting that the President shouldn’t worry about the Senator’s opposition to the nomination of Gina Haspel because he is “dying anyway.” Meghan McCain, his daughter, wondered aloud today why Kelly Sadler still has a job here at the White House. DOES she still have a job? (David Martosko is kind of a right-leaning, presidential-butt-kissing presence on Twitter sometimes and was particularly outspoken in defense of Sarah Sanders after the Michelle Wolf thing, if I recall correctly)
  • And then, secondly President Trump said today that he still has faith in EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Do you know if he was aware, when he said that, about these new Freedom of Information Act documents that showed, last year, Administrator Pruitt had dinner, in Rome, with a Catholic cardinal who was under investigation for child sex abuse. 
  • (Catherine Lucey, Associated Press) Sarah, following up on that question about Kelly Sadler’s comment, does the White House not think that you need to condemn these remarks, or comment, or issue an apology? (Sarah Sanders is 100% refusing to engage)
  • Are you saying that she didn’t say this?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Does the President regret what he said during the campaign about John McCain, when he said he wasn’t a war hero; he prefers people that weren’t captured? (God, our worst person is president)
  • (Jeff Zeleny, CNN) If you won’t comment on the specific comment, what does the White House believe about Senator McCain? And is there a tone set from the top here where it is allowed for an aide to say he’s “dying anyway”? (She says “we have respect for all Americans” which is the biggest fucking cop out. It’s like when someone asks her about police brutality against black people and she says, “We are working every day to bring down the unemployment rate for ALL Americans” as if that even lines up appropriately with the question. SMH.)
  • Why not just apologize to Senator McCain, though? Wouldn’t that be easier for the White House just to apologize?
  • But why are you digging your heels over this?
  • (Man’s voice, can’t see who it is) Does the President have confidence in Secretary Nielsen?
  • (Spectacled, large-eyed… edit: this is Ed O’Keefe of CBS — thank you to Tom for catching that. I wonder if we should start editing the White House Press Corps wikipedia page, which lags reality badly) Sarah, in that regard, what more does the President think Nielsen could do now under the law that she hasn’t done already? Does he really think — really want her to close the U.S.-Mexico border?
  • Does he support the Republicans pushing to get a vote on the floor of the House to get this issue going?
  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) The Secretary of Homeland Security made a statement last night in which she said that the President was rightfully frustrated by congressional inaction. Why was that frustration — reportedly — expressed at the Secretary herself? SHE doesn’t serve in Congress and she can only act under what’s enacted in law BY the Congress. So why did the President direct his frustration specifically at her at the Cabinet meeting?
  • (Mike Bender, Wall Street Journal) On NAFTA, is the White House on track to meet Speaker Ryan’s deadline next Thursday?
  • Is the White House on track to meet Speaker Ryan’s deadline next Thursday on NAFTA?
  • If it doesn’t reach it by Thursday, is the President really willing to revisit this after the elections in Mexico and the midterms?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Sarah, just a quick follow-up on one of my colleagues. To be clear, does Kelly Sadler still work at this White House?
  • She does? Okay. And to follow up on that, more broadly, does the President set the tone? Does he bear responsibility for the tone within this White House?
  • Understood. But my question is a little different. DOES he bear responsibility for the tone set here at the White House, and all of the staffers who work here, frankly?
  • And just very quickly —
  • Very quickly — so many of us have spoken —
  •  — to people who’ve said they’ve heard these comments. Do you say that they’re lying? (Sarah won’t answer this)
  • Are they lying, Sarah? (Won’t answer)
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, General Kelly came out and endorsed, in an NPR interview, a pathway to citizenship for temporary protected status recipients who have been in the United States for quite some time. Does the President share General Kelly’s view on that? (Good old right wing rag. Alarm bells about this, but fine that today was also the day that Kelly was callous and cold about separating children from their parents at the border and dumping them into the foster care system.)
  • But to follow up on that, did General Kelly oppose the administration’s push to end TPS and actually give a deadline to some people who have been here for over 20 years to leave the country? Is he specifically against that? (At least say he wants to get rid of Hondurans! … Joking aside, I’m not sure if that’s his angle. Saagar confuses me and the right-wing Daily Caller does also publish op-eds like this one:

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 7.02.30 PM

  • (I don’t know who this guy is, but he looks like he should play a newspaper reporter on TV) Thank you, Sarah. South Korea has a huge stake in whatever Trump and Kim agree upon. Will President Moon or another representative of South Korea be at the talks?
  • (Hunter Walker, Yahoo News) Thank you, Sarah. On Wednesday, the President tweeted, “The fake news is working overtime.” And he said, “91% of the Network News about me is negative (Fake).” Do you have the view that all negative stories about the President are fake? (She says no)
  • Why would he say that, then?

MS. SANDERS:  I’ll take one last question.

  • (Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thank you. Just to follow up on these payments that Michael Cohen received from AT&T and Novartis. You said that this is a sign that the President won’t be influenced. But just to be — but just to clarify, does the President think it’s appropriate for his personal attorney to be collecting payments from private companies, presumably saying that — or presumably promising to influence policy or to give them strategy on government policy?  (These Trump people are fucking off the wall)

TOWOIT #327: Swampy behavior

May 9, 2018

At today’s press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders sputtered angrily at the suggestion that the White House wasn’t full-bore for press freedoms (Trump had tweeted just hours earlier that he was thinking of taking press credentials away). She had nothing to say and no opinions and no knowledge about anything and everything. What if Saudi Arabia starts developing nuclear weapons because Iran does? Huge shrug. How about Michael Cohen peddling access to the president to U.S. corporations and Russian oligarchs? Total stonewall. So yes, these are getting really pointless. They just make you despise SHS more and more each time.

CNN Screen cap with Breaking News banner that says "White House refuses to answer questions regarding Michael Cohen Payments"
April Ryan and Brian Karem, two of the unrepentants, on the right.
  • (Jeff Mason, Reuters) Sarah, you mentioned the CIA Director nominee. Gina Haspel said today that if the President asked her to do anything to restart the interrogation program that the CIA was criticized for, that she would not do that. Is that something that the President would ever ask?
  • May I ask you one more question, Sarah? Just on a separate subject, following up on the Iran announcement yesterday from the President. The Europeans are working hard now to keep that deal alive, despite the United States being pulled out. Can you say, will the White House ensure that European companies who trade with Iran will not suffer the sanctions that the United States is going to put back on?
  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Sarah. The President today on Twitter suggested stripping journalists of their press credentials. Is that a line that, as Press Secretary, you would be willing to cross?
  • How is the suggestion of taking American journalists’ press credentials away advocating for a free press in this country? Those two do NOT go together. (Sarah basically says, “I’m standing here taking questions aren’t I?” And then she launches into an angry tirade against the press, misquoting the New York Times)
  • You know we wouldn’t be able to ask those questions without those credentials in this room.
  • We wouldn’t be able to ask these questions that you’re here to answer without these credentials. (She says, “You’re clearly sitting here right now, asking them.” OH MY GOD. WHAT A — Grrrr.) 
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Let me ask you this question, Sarah. The confidential financial records of Michael Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants, were made public, prompting the Treasury Department’s Office the Inspector General to launch an investigation as to how that happened. But among the records were payments from AT&T to a person very close to the President at a time when AT&T was looking for government approval of a proposed merger with Time Warner. There were also payments of over $1 million from Novartis Pharmaceuticals at a time that the President was talking about doing something to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals. Is the President concerned about any aspect of what we’ve learned in the last 24 hours? (Sarah refers John to outside counsel. John presses on.)
  • But is the President concerned that major corporations were giving money to somebody very close to him at a time when they had business before the federal government?

MS. SANDERS:  I haven’t heard the President express any specific concerns about that.

  • (Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) Sarah, do you believe that Michael Cohen was ever in any way qualified to provide insights into this administration? (Sarah says companies can hire whoever they want) 
  • But let me ask you this — because what we know is Michael Cohen received millions of dollars, apparently peddling the insights that he said he could provide into this administration to America’s largest corporations. Is the President in any way embarrassed or ashamed of that? Because it seems to be the definition of swampy behavior —
  • (Margaret Talev, Bloomberg) Thanks, Sarah. I’m happy to take the answer from the private counsel also, but I have made efforts and haven’t been able to. So I’ll pose it publicly, and if you can address it, I’d appreciate it. Do you know whether Mr. Cohen ever approached the White House as a representative of any of those companies, whether the President was aware of the payments, or whether he was aware that Mr. Cohen was marketing himself that way?
  • (Kristen Welker, NBC News) Thank you, Sarah. The President promised to drain the swamp. So does he feel it’s appropriate that Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, was selling access to him?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, I’m not going to weigh in on this.  That’s a determination that individual companies have to make, and I haven’t spoken with the President.

  • But, Sarah, based on what you know — you’re the Press Secretary, and you’re standing there at the podium. Based on what you know and what’s been revealed over the past 24 hours, does the President think it’s appropriate that his personal attorney was selling access to him, given that he promised to drain the swamp?
  • Let me ask you one more question.

MS. SANDERS:  Sorry, Kristen. I gave you a couple. I’m going to keep moving.

  • Let me just ask you one more question. Has the President taken any action during his administration to benefit Novartis, AT&T, or Korea Aerospace?
  • (couldn’t see who this was) Sarah, Saudi Arabia said that they would pursue a nuclear weapons program if Iran were to pursue a nuclear weapons program. Would they have the administration’s support in the event that that occurred? (Sarah gives amazing shoulder shrug of a non-answer)
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. The President said today — about Iran, he said, “We’ll see how we do with Iran. Probably, we won’t do well with them but, that’s okay.” Does the President feel as if he can negotiate with Iran going forward? Or is he resigned to the fact that these two parties might be so far apart on a potential new deal going forward?
  • And can you tell us — the President had expressed an interest in meeting Kim Jong-un at the DMZ, but today he said that is not going to be the case. Can you walk us through why that’s no longer the case? What were the issues that have not made that possible?
  • (Steve Herman, Voice of America) Yeah, if I could follow up on that. For this administration, what are the most important criteria for the location for that summit?
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. Was the decision to send Secretary Pompeo to North Korea yesterday at the very time the President was ripping up the Iranian nuclear deal, was that meant to reassure North Korea that we can — the United States can make a nuclear deal that will be stuck to?
  • Was that intended to reassure North Korea that it’s worthwhile getting into negotiations with the United States over a nuclear deal that we will stick to
  • (Weijia Jiang, CBS News) Sarah, I want to ask you about the tone of this potential summit, because earlier this week, North Korea criticized the President’s claim that his so-called maximum pressure campaign was responsible for the meeting between South and North Korea. And just yesterday, a senior North Korean official reminded Secretary Pompeo that that happened not as a result of outside sanctions. So does President Trump maintain that he had “everything” to do with that meeting? And is he worried that the backlash about that claim could impact the tone of his own meeting with Kim?
  • And can I ask you another question about the three detainees? Can you give us any details about how and when they were informed they were coming home and their immediate reaction? And if nothing else, their families, how they found out, and whether the President has spoken to any of them directly.
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill) Thanks, Sarah. There were reports this morning that NAFTA negotiations had hit a snag over autos. Is the White House now pessimistic it will reach a deal on NAFTA by the end of this month?
  • How would he handicap the chances of a deal?
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah.  For a long time, you and the President, and other administration spokesmen, have been saying there will be an infrastructure bill. In fact, you were saying it before Scarlett’s last birthday, when you corrected me on her name. (Laughter.)
  • Francesca briefed me.
  • Right. I got it right. And on Capitol Hill, and in business, people doubt that they will see any kind of bill see the light of day. They point out that you could say, maybe the $20 billion in appropriations bill that deals with infrastructure, or the reauthorization of measures such as the FAA, could count as infrastructure legislation. Aside from the concatenation of things in other bills, will there be an infrastructure bill, yes or no?
  • This year.
  • (Philip Rucker, Washington Post) Sarah, Gina Haspel told the Senate today that she would not reopen enhanced interrogation programs if she becomes CIA Director. And how does the White House square that with President Trump’s long-held belief that torture is acceptable? He, on the campaign trail, repeatedly endorsed torture as a form of interrogating terror suspects.
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) But, Sarah, just to follow up on that — does the President still believe that torture works, as he said during the campaign?

MS. SANDERS:  You know, honestly, I haven’t had a conversation with him about that recently.

  • And if I could follow up on the questions about these payments regarding Mr. Cohen. You said that you’re not able to answer these questions in the briefing; that you’d refer us to his outside counsel. Could you possibly work on an arrangement where, perhaps, Mr. Giuliani or somebody who could speak on behalf of the President from a legal standpoint, could they come into this briefing room and answer these questions so we’re not, on a daily basis, trying in vain to ask you about all of these legal troubles facing the President? Could you do that for us?
  • And then just to follow up on that, Sarah. Don’t you think that — I mean, don’t you think the public has a right to get some answers about these questions; that there are payments coming from Russian-connected entities or Russian individuals connected to the Kremlin through a shell company that is controlled by Mr. Cohen to pay off whoever? I mean, doesn’t the American people have a right to have some information about that?
  • (This guy eludes me) Thank you, Sarah. On North Korea, before he was the National Security Advisor, John Bolton was critical of the Obama administration for sending Bill Clinton to negotiate the release of American detainees in 2009. Did the National Security Advisor raise any reservations at all about the current negotiations? And can you talk about what circumstances are different now than they were in 2009 to make it more appropriate?
  • Can I ask another question on DACA? Can you explain what the President’s views are on the discharge petition and efforts by some Republicans to force a vote on DACA?
  • (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart aka racist zine) Thank you, Sarah. At his most recent campaign rally in Michigan, the President mentioned that the unemployment rate was so low that we could bring in more guest workers under H-2B visas.  I’m curious whether the President is concerned about wages not rising as quickly if that eventually takes place.
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and former President Barack Obama all weighed in on the President’s Iran decision. A sampling of what they said:  John Kerry was, it “weakens our security, breaks America’s word, isolates us from our European allies.”  President Obama — former President Obama said that — called for, “principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country.” And then Hillary Clinton said, “Our credibility is shot.” And they called it a mistake. What is the President’s response to them? And what does the White House think about those former Obama administration officials commenting on this and the appropriateness of that?
  • And, Sarah, does the President still have confidence in Rudy Giuliani?

MS. SANDERS:  Yes.  He thinks he’s done a fine job.

  • (Andrew Feinberg, Montgomery County Sentinel) Thank you. I have two questions, if you’ll indulge me. First, I want to take us back to one of the President’s tweets from earlier this week when he referred to the “13 angry Democrats” running the Russia investigation. Setting aside the fact that Robert Mueller is a Republican, is the President aware that federal law prohibits discrimination in hiring based on political affiliations? And how does he — does he believe that political affiliation should be taken into account when hiring prosecutors, regardless of this law?
  • And my second question — thank you. The second question:  Today, Senate Democrats, plus Susan Collins, filed a discharge petition to repeal — for CRA to repeal the FCC’s repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules. The President signed 15 CRAs. Would he sign a 16th?

TOWOIT #325: Lying or in the dark

May 3, 2018

This was the briefing where pundits were afterward like “Oh wow, Sarah Huckabee Sanders has lost ALL credibility.” Right on the heels of acting like it was weird to call her a liar. Like mere days later. I don’t know, is everything unraveling faster? The reporters in the room flirted around The L Word more than usual today.

Continue reading TOWOIT #325: Lying or in the dark

TOWOIT #324: This is my little corner of this shit show, I guess

May 1, 2018

I am so sick of so many of the people in the briefing room since they kowtowed to Sarah Sanders and threw Michelle Wolf under the bus last week.

I have spent a lot of time studying, being part of, and/or being very skeptical of the press. But since Trump was elected, I started watching this briefing regularly in support of a free press, and because I believed that journalists did still have a bedrock of ethical ideals they were taught, however much they may smudge and drift when they are taken out into real life.

At any rate, their journalistic integrity more or less stood in contrast to Sarah Sanders and her lies, and I endured her visage and voice in order to hear what questions she would be asked, and how the reporters in the room would play off each other to follow up. I felt like the reporters’ questions themselves were telling, even if the answers were obfuscations and lies (that I didn’t and don’t want to give any additional platform to).

I shouldn’t have been surprised or disappointed by how namby-pamby so many of the reporters were after Michelle Wolf called out Sarah Sanders’s lies.

They chuckle at Sanders’s jokes, even when they are really stupid jokes that she’s interrupted their questions to deliver. They take their kids to the White House every time their kids are invited, which is the most shockingly bad faith thing I can think of in these abnormal times. How can I trust that you to see Trump for what he is and trust that you are committed to fulfilling your role in our democracy when you keep delivering your own children to Trump for photo ops?

Do not go to the fucking White House.

Anyway, here are the reporters’ questions at the first briefing since the Michelle Wolf kerfuffle:

Continue reading TOWOIT #324: This is my little corner of this shit show, I guess

TOWOIT #316

April 6, 2018

The White House Press Office has not managed to transcribe today’s EIGHTEEN-MINUTE briefing in the 9 hours or so since it aired, but it did find time to release this fact sheet either before or after Sarah’s angry flusterment in the briefing:

Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 8.39.12 PM

Subhead should be “GODDAMNIT.”

The “Fact Sheet” has some strongly worded and specific condemnation of Russia though.”

At the end of the day, C-Span’s agenda for the day turns from a list of event descriptions to a list of a little chosen nugget from each event.

Behold:

Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 8.47.11 PM

Questions the reporters asked on 4/6/2018:

  • (Major Garrett, CBS News) Sarah, what effect did the announcement today on Russia have on the proposed–by the president–summit with Vladimir Putin? Should we consider that off?
  • But would not this suggest a ratcheting up of tensions in the relationship, and wouldn’t a summit have to resolve some of that tension before it could even take place?
  • By identifying these oligarchs though aren’t you sending a very distinct signal to Putin that you have to assume he would respond negatively to and not want to come talk about that?
  • What do you want him to do?
  • Could you name two?
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Two questions on China. First of all, what was it that prompted the president last night to come out with a statment–he’s threatening  tariffs on another $100 billion of Chinese goods. Since none of these tariffs have taken effect, what was the purpose of upping the ante, if you will?
  • But what was it that PROMPTED the escalation? He’d already announced $60 billion in tariffs and then he upped it to another $100 billion on top of that last night. (The stock market was tanking throughout the briefing.)
  • And second question — a few minutes ago, on CNBC, Steve Mnuchin said while it’s not intended to, this could ignite a trade war. How concerned is the president that this could tip the balance to a trade war — because the stock market took a look at that statement and didn’t like it at all.

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OK, and here’s my stock market reminder: Markets are hysterical and non-smart, so I don’t think they should be used as some sort of oracle of truth. Still, though.

  • Is he WILLING to fight a trade war on this?
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Does the president think that trade wars are easy to win? Is that still his view?
  • And Sarah, if I could ask you to clarify something he said in his remarks in West Virginia. The President said yesterday, with this journey coming up “women are being raped at levels never seen before.” What was he talking about?

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  • You’re saying 80% of the women coming across the border are raped?
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) Sarah the DOW is down about 500 points last time I looked. Does that give the president any pause as he pursues these actions?

At which point Sanders gives a soundbite we can all agree with: “Frankly, we shouldn’t BE in this situation.” 

  • What is the next step? What do you want to see happen now? Do you want the Chinese to come forward and ask to negotiate? What do you want to see happen?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox Radio News) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Just following up on Steve’s question regarding the stock market. The Dow is down nearly 4000 points since January the 26th. Does the President, that’s the administration, believe that ANY of that decline is attributable to any of the President’s actions? Concerning the tariffs the president has announced on steel and aluminum, perhaps the tariff intends to impose on China, anything the president has said or done since that time period?
  • I understand that, but getting back to my question: ANY actions that the president has taken since January 26th, since that period–anything that he’s done or said that you think is attributable to that 4000 decline?
  • (I’m not sure who this is) Thank you Sarah. On the sanctions, why hasn’t the president spoken out personally on the sanctions and the behavior enumerated by the administration today by Russia–

Sarah interrupts him and YELLS at him.

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  • On THESE sanctions imposed today, he’s NOT spoken out, and there’s been no statement issued in his name. And he’s not spoken out specifically on the issues enumerated by the administration. He hasn’t condemned the alleged subversion of Western democracies, the activities in Syria, a number of things, cybercrimes, all the things that your administration has outlined, he himself has not spoken out on those things, he’s just said that he’s tough on Russia.
  • (white woman named Katie) Yeah, just a question on the president’s stance on Scott Pruitt keeping his post at the EPA. Has he been advised by anyone close to him that Pruitt should step down–where does the president stand?

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  • If everything that has been reported about Mr. Pruitt ends up being true, in the president’s estimation, the security detail, the $50 a day apartment–

(Sanders interrupts her and repeats that the President thinks Pruitt has done a good job.) 

  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg News) Sarah, two quick ones, the first is the Treasury Secretary was on CNBC earlier–was asked about the ongoing feud with Amazon and responded by saying the president was focused on the post office and “in discussion with the post office.” The party line around here has been that there are no additional actions being contemplated by the administration against Amazon so I’m wondering if that’s changed and particularly whether any part of the administration has been in contact with the post office about its Amazon contract?
  • And on the China discussion that we’ve been having — I think we are all trying to get a little clarity on whether the U.S. and China are in negotiations now, or whether they are in routine contact but you’re hopeful that —
  • (Jonathan Lemire, AP) Thank you Sarah, two questions, one following up on that. In terms of negotiations, earlier today Chinese officials said negotiations would not be possible in this current situation with the threats of tariffs. What is your response to that?
  • And then a second question–with the talk of tariffs–there are a number of farmers, particularly in the American Midwest, who have suggested that the volatility of the markets have made it very hard for them to plan for the upcoming season and they’re already thinking there will be a negative impact on them. What does the White House say to those farmers, many of whom supported the president two years ago.
  • (Ayesha Rascoe, who seems to work for NPR now) Sarah, I was wondering if you could kind of speak to this. There seems to be a perception that at times the president makes announcements and then the white house has to come up with policy to match what the president said. Like with the tall about the the military at the border, there weren’t really a lot of details about that at first. And with the issue of Syria, saying he wanted to pull all the troops back. Can you talk about anything about like, that perception and anything that’s going on there?

Sanders: Well I guess that’s a perception of, completely, um, people who don’t understand I guess how civics WORKS.

UGH. I am 100% sure that Ayesha Rascoe knows more about civics than Sarah Sanders. Sarah seems to have a special place in her heart for being shitty to black women.

  • Thank you Sarah, on the border– (she shut down whoever this person was and said she wasn’t pointing at him) 
  • (Anita Kumar, McClatchy News) I wanted to get an update on the national guard sending troops to the border. A couple days ago the DHS secretary was saying it could happen as early as that night. We still haven’t seen them go over. I was wondering if you would update us. I know California is the one that hasn’t said what they plan to do. Will you all still go ahead with the plan if it’s just the three other states and not then, and can you tell us what the hold up is with California?
  • Is there a time?
  • And on the 4000 that the president mentioned?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) a follow up on that and also on Amazon. Really fast. What happens when the caravan gets there an you have this presence of National Guard?
  • OK then on Amazon, what is the administration doing on the issue of faxing and the issue of emails. Administrations before this were dealing with the fact that the post office was losing money because of the internet, because of people being able to correspond versus using a stamp or metered mail. How is the administration targeting that instead of going to Amazon and target and looking at them as part of the problem?
  • And the Amazon contract, I understand–

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(Sarah Sanders cut April off and ran away, at the 17:53 mark after she came into the room. A male reporter called out to her as she left the podium,“Why does the President continue to say millions and millions voted twice when it’s not true?”) 

Because he’s an authoritarian jackass, that’s why. Because he may literally be our worst person.

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I cropped out the still of her face that went with this tweet.

 

 

TOWOIT #314: “something the president saw on television on Sunday morning”

April 4, 2018

The White House Press Briefing today was 44 minutes late, the White House youtube channel didn’t stream it for some reason, it started with Kirstjen Nielsen, Homeland Security Secretary, announcing that Trump is sending the National Guard to the southern border indefinitely, and it ended with (which reporter) calling after Sarah Sanders, “How is he ‘privately honoring’ Dr. King today?”

Secretary Nielsen spoke for 13 minutes about the threat on the borders, with several permutations of her opening statement: “border security IS homeland security which IS national security.” I really never thought I would spend so many of my waking hours thinking about fascism and authoritarianism. I was unnerved by her pinpoint pupils as she ginned up fear and dehumanized people in need. I guess at least her eyes weren’t dilated? She said the families arriving are fake families with borrowed children and she called them aliens over and over and over again.

Because the White House didn’t stream the briefing on YouTube like it usually does, I clicked between several livestreams by right-leaning and left-leaning websites. My god, the comments were terrible everywhere. I am sure it was from men across the political spectrum. Their disgustingness seemed totally decoupled from whether they agreed or disagreed with the politics of Nielsen and Sanders. Since the two speakers today were both women, you can just imagine. Yep. Men are still canceled.

Questions asked of Kirstjen Nielsen:

Continue reading TOWOIT #314: “something the president saw on television on Sunday morning”

TOWOIT #313: Racist asshole gives non-denial denials

March 28, 2018

It’s always a drag listening to Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the briefings, but today my blood really boiled. There was a lot to get upset about, since we are living through a shitshow free-for-all. But what I really couldn’t take today — and couldn’t help tweeting about venomously in real time — was Sarah Sanders’s racism.

She’s not just a mouthpiece for racism. A mouthpiece for racism could offer condolences to the surviving family. A mouthpiece for racism could know not to “all lives matter” at every little turn. Would know not to say “yeah but the economy is doing great” in response to specific black men’s lives cut short by police.

Someone on twitter said Sanders didn’t understand. That she doesn’t know that saying the president is working to arm teachers and suggesting that means he cares about the lives of black children is a gigantic oxymoron since black children suffer disproportionately at the hands of armed authority figures. I think that was too kind. It’s not that she doesn’t understand. It’s that she does nooooooootttt give a shit.

OK. You guys know all that. It’s old news that she’s awful. I just can’t take it sometimes.

Here’s what went down at the briefing today, and I’ll leave out as much of the lying non-answers as I can, except a few pull quotes when her non-denial denials are especially careful and revealing and obvious.

Continue reading TOWOIT #313: Racist asshole gives non-denial denials

TOWOIT #312: “ALL WILL BE HAPPY”

March 28, 2018

Hello!

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Ok, so the White House is doing a passive-aggressive thing (I think!) where it doesn’t get around to transcribing its daily briefings in a timely manner… so I am giving up waiting on yesterday’s briefing and will transcribe it myself. And then I’ll do today’s. Today’s was a doozy. Yesterday’s was also doozy and set the scene for today.

The lying is shifting from Sanders’s standard variety: wall-like smirking obfuscation as a default mode of being. Now it’s become more like careful, strange, OBVIOUS lying to VERY pointed questions.

The whole thing is still a shit show — the White House briefings and the White House writ large — but there have been some hard-punching questions and illuminating lies in the last couple days.

Questions from yesterday (3/27/2018):

Continue reading TOWOIT #312: “ALL WILL BE HAPPY”

TOWOIT #308: “Does the president enjoy the drama?”

March 17, 2018

Yesterday’s briefing!

It was 33 minutes altogether. 8 minutes of legislative director Marc Short monologuing about Democrats being obstructionists, 10 minutes of reporters asking him questions, and then 15 minutes of Sarah Sanders Q&A.

Continue reading TOWOIT #308: “Does the president enjoy the drama?”

TOWOIT #307: Bad actors and bowling balls

March 16, 2018

Oddly, yesterday’s press briefing wasn’t transcribed by the White House. Today’s has shown up, but not yesterday’s.

I’ll type out the questions below. Good thing the briefings are so short. I will note that it had been three incredibly news-filled days since her last briefing, she made the reporters wait in the room for an hour after the original start time, and then when she showed up she made them sit there and listen to fan mail for Trump from a ten year old before they could collectively ask 17-minutes worth of questions. This woman. This woman is just like some beastly, ridiculous authority figure out of a Roald Dahl novel.

Continue reading TOWOIT #307: Bad actors and bowling balls

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?