The first big thing that happened today is that the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly, started work and immediately fired Anthony Scaramucci (on his 10th day on the job). The other big thing that happened was that the Washington Post published an involved article that peels away a lot of Donald Trump’s plausible deniability re: knowledge that his team took meetings with Russians. It’s pretty damning. But so many things have been damning that it is hard to get excited about any new damning thing. Still, as they say, “drip, drip, drip.”
Questions asked to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Steve Mnuchin, and General McMaster (who talked about sanctioning Venezuela):
(UPDATED LATE AT NIGHT): It was *worth* staying up late watching C-Span and fretting and reading all the body language riffing on Twitter. THANK YOU to McCain, Collins, and Murkowski. Thank you.
It’s a sad and infuriating circus in the U.S. Senate tonight. Looks like the Skinny Repeal will pass. ETA for the vote, 2 am. I don’t understand the ins and outs at all. There are machinations involving texting House speaker Paul Ryan for promises about a post-passage “conference” between the House and Senate.
Basically they desperately want to pass something, but they don’t want this thing they are passing to actually become law because they know how misbegotten it is.
And then there was THIS business:
Infighting in the administration just… I don’t know… skyrocketed? Scaramucci saying shitty stuff on the phone to Ryan Lizza, who then put the WHOLE phone call in the New Yorker the next day. Then Scaramucci tweets that he’ll never trust a reporter again — like he has no idea how on the record, off the record works? Even though he’s the communications director.
Also, DOJ says LGBT people are not protected against workplace discrimination.
There’s A LOT of push back against the trigger-happy tweet about kicking transgender people out of the military. And the anti-Sessions talk.
The Russian sanctions bill will go to Donald Trump’s desk, with such a healthy margin that if Trump vetoes it, it’ll still go through.
Lindsey Graham and Cory Booker are writing a bill that would prevent Trump from removing the special counsel, according to The Hill.
There was an on-camera press briefing for the second day in a row. It was short (16 minutes of Q & A with Sarah Huckabee Sanders) and full of lying obfuscation, but it was on camera.
I liked this screenshot of these two reporters as the press corps waited for the briefing to begin:
A really bad part about the briefing was the sweaty acting ICE director bellowing at the room about criminal “aliens.” Who would ever, EVER, trust this agency? They’re saying undocumented victims of gangs should reach out to ICE, and they don’t need to worry that they’ll be targeted for deportation. Well, that’s gotta be bullshit. I’m skipping that whole part, and going to the questions they asked SHS:
Sarah, does the President have confidence in his Chief of Staff?
So you can’t say right now if the President has full confidence in Chief of Staff Reince Priebus?
But we’re talking about public humiliation of both the Attorney General and now the Chief of Staff, left to kind of wonder about their own fate and their own status within this administration.
Lindsay Graham says there will be “holy hell to pay” if Attorney General Sessions is fired. What does the President say to that?
Thanks, Sarah. The President — excuse me, the Pentagon has announced that the President’s statements via Twitter did not change the transgender policy in the military and that the White House actually has to issue a policy directive to the Secretary of Defense to make that change happen. So, two questions. Does the President plan to do so? And if so, how will that affect transgender troops that are currently serving?
But what is the policy? And was the President aware that he can’t make policy changes via statements on Twitter? Because the Pentagon is saying —
So the policy hasn’t yet been formulated?
Sarah, thank you. Moving on to healthcare, you talked about how Senate Republicans have the chance tonight to really undo Obamacare. But it seems like the thing that’s most likely to get through is the skinny repeal, and that would just kind of — that would maybe get rid of the mandate and some other things. But it’s not the massive overhaul that had been promised. So would the White House support just a skinny repeal, that being signed into law?
But does the White House believe that a skinny repeal on its own would be enough to address the issues of premiums — rising premiums and deductibles and things like that? Would the President sign just a skinny repeal?
Yes, Sarah. I want to ask two questions — one about the President’s management style and one about immigration enforcement.
On immigration — I had a question on immigration enforcement.
So this week when the President spoke in Ohio, he spoke about MS-13 and he gave a litany of the violence that they’re capable of. And then he said, “Our guys are rougher than their guys.” What did the President mean by that?
Is that a license for the use of more force when it comes to making arrests against MS-13?
Does he want the law enforcement agencies to change the rules of the use of force when it comes to making arrests against MS-13?
Thanks, Sarah. Anthony Scaramucci was on CNN today talking about Reince Priebus. He said, “If he wants to prove he’s not a leaker, let him do it.” I can’t imagine that you would speak on Anthony’s behalf, but if you would, does he think that Reince Priebus is a leaker? Or does the White House, does the President think that Reince is leaking?
I had a tax question, too, please. Does the President believe that tax overhaul should increase the budget deficit? Or should it be revenue neutral?
Sarah, can I ask you quickly about Anthony Scaramucci? A little bit of housekeeping. One —
Fine. Has he taken an oath of office?
Has Anthony Scaramucci taken an oath of office?
Have his security clearances gone through yet?
Is he an official member of the White House staff now? Initially it was announced that it would be in mid-August
So let me follow up on —
Let me ask you about the Boy Scouts then, if I can very quickly —
Thank you, Sarah. I do have to ask you about the healthcare bill. Many who are in the Freedom Caucus say that they would oppose the skinny repeal that was referred to earlier; that if a measure came out with just, oh, ending the mandates and ending the tax on medical devices, that that would — and not addressing anything else, they’d vote against it. Is the President aware of this? And is he making any calls for specific parts of the repeal effort?
Thanks, a lot, Sarah. Is the President — just to follow up on what John Gizzi just asked you; I don’t think you got to that particular part of the question.
Is the President picking up the phone? Is he calling those seven or eight Republican senators, making the case for them that this may be their last best hope for repealing and replacing Obamacare? And if he is, what’s his message to those particular senators?
He had all of those Republican senators here at the White House last week, Sarah.
Anthony Scaramucci said this morning that the President might veto the Russia sanctions bill, even though Senator Corker has now withdrawn his objection and that the same version that we’ve already seen from the House is going to be up for the Senate vote. Is that, in fact, possible? Would he veto that passed with just three negative votes in the House and two negative votes in the Senate?
In terms of working with the DOD on this new policy, how long is it going to be before you find out what the details are? Weeks, months?
Will it be this year?
Sarah, thanks. Several Senate Republicans have sent signals to this White House: One, don’t make a recess appointment because we’re not going to allow it; two, there’s not going to be a confirmation if there’s a new Attorney General nominated. There is a signal being sent: Don’t do what we fear you might be contemplating. Can you, for the betterment of the Senate Republicans who are working with this White House on a lot of issues, put to rest once and for all the status of the Attorney General — that he’s not going to be fired, there’s not going to be a need for a recess appointment, and this issue can be laid to rest, for the country and for Senate Republicans who appear, based on their public statements, to be anxious about this prospect?
But when you don’t say the President has confidence, and the President says “time will tell,” as he said earlier this week, I’m only telling you what Senate Republicans, who are in a position that have to deal with this, are saying.
Thanks, Sarah. This is a little — maybe just a little bit off topic. I want to run it by you anyway. Is the President aware of this story —
Yeah, why not — right? Is the President aware of the story of the IT staff — of the congressional IT staffer who most recently worked for Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Imran Awan, who was recently arrested attempting to leave the country, although he said he was not trying to flee the country? Is the President aware of that particular circumstance? And is he satisfied with the pace of the investigation?
Since we only have one question, I’m going to ask you about the Boy Scouts
Their chief wrote this to family members who were at the President’s event earlier this week: “I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who are offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.” Does the President owe the Boy Scouts an apology?
But the head of the Boy Scouts has acknowledged that there was a problem. A lot of parents have expressed frustration in the wake of those comments and felt the need to actually write a letter about it. So does the President owe them an apology?
Thanks, Sarah. I have two for you real quick, if you don’t mind.
I’m going to be quick First on Anthony Scaramucci on CNN this morning, he said he had a conversation with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about these supposed leaks. That would appear to violate DOJ guidelines. So I was hoping you could provide some clarity on that front. And secondly, out of Alaska today, the local paper there is reporting the Senator Murkowski received a phone call from the Secretary of Interior Zinke, threatening the people of — essentially threatening the services and federal dollars that were spent — that the administration (inaudible) toward the people of Alaska if she voted a certain way on the healthcare bill. I was hoping if you could confirm that and discuss whether that sort of conversation, if it happened, would be appropriate.
Thank you, Sarah. You suggested that the President continues to have confidence in Reince Priebus based on the fact that he’s still in the position, and he’s a friend of Anthony Scaramucci who’s coming into the administration. At this point, based on what we’ve seen quite publicly playing out, though, does he think they at least need to sit down and talk, as House Speaker Paul Ryan said, and get whatever this is out of their system so that they can start off the one right foot here?