Today’s briefing was the first in a week. It only started 13 minutes late. Sarah Sanders looked tired and had very puffy ruffled sleeves on.
I’m never sure who self-selects to watch the briefing on the official White House live-streaming channel like I do. Is it mostly people who like and trust the White House? That would explain why the thumb’s up to thumb’s down ratio is always about 10 to 1. I watched the viewer count thinking SURELY it would be higher than usual.
The red line was today’s briefing and the blue line was that briefing on July 18 right after Trump came back from Russia and everyone was freaking out about his equivocating and submissiveness to Putin. (X-axis is minutes, Y-axis is number of viewers. The red line starts 30 minutes before the scheduled start time).
The briefing started with Sarah Sanders using Mollie Tibbet’s death — a very sad typical random snuffed-by-man college girl sort of death — using her death to bludgeon undocumented immigrants with. It was a classic white supremacy move and when she was done it just hung in the air in a gross way for a few seconds.
It didn’t erase it, but it was just the smallest bit of salve to have the first question go to Cecilia Vega in the front row who launched into a Michael Cohen question in a very businesslike manner.
This briefing was longer than usual at 45 minutes. Sarah Sanders had five departments in to talk about election security. It’s a briefing that might have been more reassuring in another context. It should have happened in February 2017 and been headed by the President. The President was not there and contradicted the main points of the briefing that evening at one of his eerie self-rallies. He said again it’s all a hoax, all a witch hunt.
This briefing was also notable because at the end, after her special guests left, Sarah Sanders refused to say that the media is not the enemy of the people. She was given three chances to say something, anything—and she wouldn’t. Again, people on Twitter said all the reporters should stop going to the briefings. But like Brian Karem tweeted, the children don’t get to chase the adults away. And like someone else tweeted, there will still be propaganda news outlets there no matter what. So the reporters show up. They tether their questions to reality. They read their reality-tethered questions into the record.
Here are the questions asked by reporters at the August 2 briefing:
OK, this briefing was mostly nothing about that space force title, but I just enjoyed that question for absurdity reasons.
Nearly everyone called on in that room is named either John, Steven, or David by the way.
Also, this is not the briefing that happened the next night (I’m behind), where Sarah Sanders wouldn’t say that the press is NOT the enemy of the people and Acosta walked out. But this briefing really laid the groundwork for the next night. There was plenty of disrespect, animosity and bullshittery on display from the podium.
Today Sarah Sanders held the first White House Daily Briefing since July 2. It was 26 minutes long. On the White House Live stream, there were more viewers watching live than there have been for any briefing all year. It’s the top line in dashed light blue. The X-axis starts at the actual start time and continues out until the end of the briefing. Anyway, it was a shit show.
There’s no White House transcript up yet for today’s briefing. That’s not too surprising. That thing chased itself across the length of a long afternoon. First it was going to be at 1:15. Then at 3:30. The reporters waited for an hour, and then at 4:30, someone came in with a note saying the briefing would be at 5:00. Someone kept sighing in overheated distress off camera on c-span. Several minutes past five, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen came in.
Word is, Kirstjen flew in from New Orleans to be there short notice.
And in the words of my favorite Crooked Media man after Ira Madison:
At yesterday’s briefing, Brian Karem had an outburst. I appreciate it in this age of gaslighting and mindfuckery, when someone gets upset in a human way about basic decency. So I say thank you to Brian Karem. Also to Jim Acosta of CNN and Paula Reid of CBS, who both pushed back and said “No” when Sarah said something untrue.
Also a thank you to the White House transcriptionist who still faithfully records unflattering and sometimes aurally muddled cross-talk. I think this is a small act of integrity by someone I like to think is a holdover from previous administrations.
This might be a good time to add that I’m tired of hearing people on the left wring their hands about the nature of expression and tone — for instance, complaining about Robert De Niro saying “Fuck Donald Trump” at the Tonys. Who cares. Trump supporters hate our guts no matter WHAT we do. Let’s say Fuck Donald Trump while it’s still legal.
Here are the questions reporters asked Sanders at yesterday’s heated briefing:
April Ryan was incredible at yesterday’s briefing when she kept persistently asking about whether the president even understands that the players take a knee because of police-involved shootings. Get it all on the record, April. Sarah Sanders is the worst. She sounds like she’d love executing people who go back to fixing their bicycle too soon after the military parade passes.
C-span’s got its video frozen at quite a facial expression.
(Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, on the President’s decision to disinvite the Eagles, he’s suggesting this is about the National Anthem. Is the President aware that not a single player on the Eagles, through the entire season, knelt for the National Anthem?
But why is he acting like this is about the National Anthem? And is he concerned — we heard from Steph Curry and from LeBron James the suggestion that whoever wins the NBA Championship, they’re unlikely to be here. Is this about something more than the National Anthem? Something other than the National Anthem?
(Pamela Brown, CNN) To be clear on that point: This isn’t about the National Anthem; it’s about so few players coming in the end, correct?
Just to follow up, Sarah. Really important. The other day, on the statement that you made — (Sarah tries to cut her off but she keeps going)
— you referred us to the outside counsel on the Don Jr. statement that the President was involved in. The outside counsel did weigh in, saying that, yes, the President did dictate the statement. Rudy Giuliani was on CNN saying it was a mistake to say that the President didn’t dictate it. So do you want to correct the record on your statement from August when you said, “He certainly didn’t dictate”?
But you commented in August, and there was outside counsel in August, as well, but you still talked about it. So why can’t you correct the record now?
Are you being advised not to answer the question?
(Catherine Lucey, Associated Press) Sarah, President Trump won Pennsylvania by a narrow margin. The GOP is looking to pick up a Senate seat there. Does he risk alienating key voters in that state by disinviting the Eagles, but also by the statement that the team abandoned the fans?
(Sarah — I can’t tell who this is) Thank you, Sarah. On Thursday, Prime Minister Abe will be here to meet with the President. What will be on his agenda going into the meeting? Will they discuss trade issues? And the President said the other day that Japan, China, and South Korea can provide economic assistance to North Korea. And does the President plan to raise this issue with Prime Minister Abe?
And on the — (follow-up denied)
(Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asked an aide, we reported today, to help his wife get a Chick-fil-A franchise. Does the President think that’s ethical behavior?
One follow-up for you, Sarah. (He muscled through her calling on Matthew Nussbaum)Back to her question. We’re not asking really about the Special Counsel or the outside counsel. The only question is, do you think your statement in August was accurate? Your statement; not his. Was your statement accurate or inaccurate?
No, not a back-and-forth. You said something. We just want to know if it was accurate or not. Was the statement accurate?
But, Sarah, not about the outside counsel. You said something from the podium. Was it accurate or not? That’s all we want to know. (Defensive angry bullshit lies come out of Sarah’s mouth at this point)
(Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I wanted to ask about OMB. But just to follow on this quickly — and I think you were asked the question earlier — is the reason that you’re unwilling to engage on this because either you have already or you anticipate yourself having to talk to the Special Counsel about this statement?
So on OMB, they issued a revised rescission request today, and it withdrew the proposed cuts on Hurricane Sandy recovery funds and Ebola funding. I’m wondering if we should see those retreats as the administration inaccurately concluding at first that these were money that was no longer needing. And if that’s happened just in the last couple months, why that wouldn’t be true for other areas of the budget that the administration has targeted going forward.
(John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, the President again took a stick to his favorite piñata, Jeff Sessions, today. (Laughter.) What is the President’s goal here? Is it just simply to remind the Attorney General that he’s really PO’ed at him and he’s not going to let him forget it?
Is he trying to get him to quit? Is he trying to emasculate him, holding him up? I mean, what is the President trying to do?
(Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, the President tweeted today that he was concerned that the FBI was weakening or slow walking the DOJ IT investigation into the Hillary Clinton email investigation handled by FBI Director James Comey. What is he basing that concern on? Is it based on conversations that he’s had with FBI personnel currently, or is it simply an observation based on the past?
Does he think it’s appropriate to encourage the Inspector General to release it based on his timeline rather than their own?
(Andrew Feinberg, Breakfast Media) Thanks, Sarah. I wanted to follow up on Josh’s question and Sarah’s question, but in a larger sense. The President, whether it’s on his Twitter account or otherwise, keeps saying things that are not borne out by the facts, whether it is the Eagles thing is about the National Anthem, or we’ve got $6 billion for opioids and getting rid of that scourge that’s taken over our country and the numbers are way down; we have thousands of immigration judges. And so the President keeps saying things that aren’t true. And this thing with dictating the statement —
MS. SANDERS: State the question. Sorry, Andrew. If you could get there.
Why, if things that you keep saying from the podium turn out to not be true, and things the President keeps saying in a number of venues keep saying — are turning out not to be true, why should we be able to trust that the information we’re getting from this administration is accurate? And more importantly, why should Americans be able to trust that what they hear from this White House is always the truth? (This is the part where Sarah says her credibility is higher than the media’s and that the reporters in the room spend all their time trying to tear her down)
Respectfully, I’m not trying to tear you down, and neither are any of us.
(Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. I just wanted to get your reaction, the administration’s reaction, to a statement that was put out by a player on the Eagles, Malcolm Jenkins. He’s a strong safety on the Philadelphia Eagles. Very well respected on the team and throughout the league. He put out a statement today in which he said that the decision that was made by the President to cancel this event celebrating the Super Bowl victory by the Eagles paints “the picture that these players are anti-America, anti-flag, and anti-military.” What is your response to what Malcolm Jenkins put out in a statement today?
(Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Are you saying the President bears zero responsibility in this cancellation? This is a President who called NFL players S.O.B.s, who implied that some players who don’t stand for the National Anthem do not belong in this country. Does he bear zero responsibility for players like the Warriors and the Cavs not wanting to come and the Eagles bailing on this?
(Steve Herman, VOA) Sarah, the President, last year, broke with recent tradition and did not host an Iftar dinner. Is the President hosting such a dinner this year? And can you tell us how the invitees were selected?
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, thank you. Let me ask you about two possible trade deals — the one involving the Chinese in which it would be $70 billion of buying American products. The United States would back off its threat of tariffs. Is that something that President Trump would support?
Real quick on NAFTA. Larry Kudlow said today — Eamon referenced it — that maybe the President wants to deal with Canada solely, with Mexico solely, and that the idea of negotiating NAFTA might be gone at this point. Is the possibility of getting to a NAFTA deal done as this administration sees it?
(John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. Back to the issue of presidential pardons. There’s been considerable furor in Illinois among Republicans, particularly supporters of the President and allies in Congress, such as Congressman Randy Hultgren, about him even suggesting commuting the sentence of former Governor Rob Blagojevich. Several party activists and colleagues of Congressmen Hultgren are becoming increasingly outspoken. Is he going to go ahead with the commutation, or is he backing down? And is he aware of the criticism from supporters of his?
(Dave) Thanks, Sarah. The President is also meeting with lawmakers here this afternoon. What’s on the agenda?
(Hunter Walker, Yahoo News) Thank you, Sarah. Does the President still think his response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico deserves a 10 out of 10 score now that estimates say almost 5,000 people died there?
Any concern about the massive volume of the death toll there? (He said this after Sarah called on someone else, muscling through but she ignored him)
(Peter Alexander, NBC News) Thanks, Sarah. The administration came out in support of the baker’s freedom of expression in yesterday’s Supreme Court case. I guess I’m asking, why are athletes’ rights to express themselves freely any different than the baker’s?
So I guess my question is simple: So if the White House supports the BAKER’S right of free speech, why doesn’t the White House support the PLAYERS’ right to free speech?
(April Ryan jumps in without being called on) It’s about police-involved shootings, Sarah. Why not deal with —
Sarah, why not deal with the underlying issue of police-involved shootings?
(Peter again) Sarah, this is — will he commit to a roundtable? Will he commit — will the President, then, if it is about free speech and he supports these ideas, will the President commit to a roundtable with America’s athletes on topics of social injustice?
(April again) Yes.
Has he not — just for clarity, has he not — is it not something that has had any discussion to this point, given all the division in this country over this topic of social justice?
(April Ryan, uncalled on) Why won’t you answer about police-involved shootings? Is the President aware that this is about police-involved shootings and not about disrespecting the flag?
MS. SANDERS: Sorry, Steven. Go ahead.
Is the President aware of that, Sarah, please?
MS. SANDERS: Steven, if you could go ahead.
Please answer that. Please answer that.
(April keeps fighting through it and Steven Portnoy doesn’t try to start talking so finally Sarah is quiet and lets April ask a question) I’m asking, this is — there’s an underlying issue and it just keeps going about disrespect of the flag and soldiers. There are black and brown soldiers that fight in the military, as well, who feel that taking a knee, bringing attention to police-involved shootings is something that this White House should deal with. Is the President aware that taking the knee is about police-involved shootings?
MS. SANDERS: The President has made his position crystal-clear. And that is about —
Is he aware that this is about police-involved shootings
MS. SANDERS: I let you rudely interrupt me and your colleague.
I’m sorry, but this is important that this question get answered.
MS. SANDERS: I’m going to ask that you allow me to finish my answer. I would be happy to answer it if you would stop talking long enough to let me do that.
(FUCK YOU, SARAH SANDERS)
(Sarah says regurgitory stuff about living in a great country but doesn’t answer the question, so April continues) but will he deal with the issue of police-involved shootings?
MS. SANDERS: April, I’ve addressed your question. I’m not going to continue to engage with you.
I understand. But people are now standing — the NFL is now telling people they have to stand. Will the President deal with the issue of police-involved shootings?
MS. SANDERS: I’m going to deal with the issue of addressing your colleague’s question.
But it’s a real question. Can you take it to the President and come back to us with it?
MS. SANDERS: Steven, go ahead.
(Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio) Always happy to yield to a colleague.
(April Ryan) Thank you.
(Steven) But let me ask you about Scott Pruitt, because the two Republicans who represent Iowa in the Senate have had it with the EPA Administrator. Chuck Grassley said that Pruitt has betrayed the President. Joni Ernst says that Pruitt is as swampy as you can get. Josh and his colleagues report in the Washington Post today new elements of just how swampy that is. So let me ask you how is it, in the face of ALL that we’ve learned, how is that President Trump continues to have confidence in the EPA Administrator, assuming that he still does?
Number of times in 19 minutes that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the President has done nothing wrong: 9
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.
(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.)
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.
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.
The Washington Post video also included this bar chart:
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:
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?
(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:
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?
Questions reporters asked Raj Shah at the briefing today:
(John Roberts, Fox News) Raj, a couple, if I could. At the same time there was a celebratory air in Jerusalem as the U.S. was moving its embassy, in the south of Israel, along the border with Gaza, there was a lot of violence that resulted in more than 41 people losing their lives. Is the President concerned about the demonstrations there and Israel’s response to people trying to climb over the fence?
Also, what’s the President’s thinking on ZTE? I mean, here is a company that violated U.S. rules regarding doing business with North Korea and Iran. It was, according to the Commerce Department, appropriately sanctioned for that and fined $1.2 billion. You had the heads of six intelligence agencies telling Congress back on February 13th that they wouldn’t use ZTE devices because of counterespionage concerns. They also wouldn’t recommend that American citizens use ZTE or Huawei devices. So what’s the President’s thinking with that tweet over the weekend about wanting to rescue ZTE
(Justin Sink, Bloomberg) I guess I wanted to follow on that. Did the President give Secretary Ross any specific instructions on how he wanted that case to go? And when you say that it was “raised,” I assume you mean in the context of the ongoing trade discussions between the U.S. and China. So is there a, sort of, direct linkage there, where China could make a concession on retaliatory tariffs, and so we’d see from the U.S., kind of, easing back on ZTE?
(Weijia Jiang, ABC News) A follow on that, Raj. Didn’t the Commerce Department make an independent judgment when they decided to issue this sanction against ZTE? So can you talk about the significance of bringing it up again now? How much does it have to do with the impending summit with North Korea? You know, critics will say that the President wants China’s support, needs China’s support, and THAT is why he is now backing off on this sanction against ZTE.
(Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thanks, Raj. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I [just] wish somebody from the White House would tell the country that” — what Kelly Sadler said — “was inappropriate,” that that’s not who we are as a Trump administration. Why not just apologize, so America doesn’t think that that is an acceptable way of speaking inside this White House?
How? (The transcript doesn’t show that a scattering and smattering of assorted HOWs cropped up from several reporters–it wasn’t just Cecilia asking this)
Excuse me, but she — Kelly Sadler told Meghan McCain that she would apologize publicly, and that has not yet happened. Why has that not happened?
Are there any concerns that this White House seems more concerned about the fact that there was a leak than about the content of what was said?
(Man’s voice–) But it wasn’t internal–
(Sounds like April Ryan’s voice–) IS she being reprimanded–
(At least two other voices–) How? How is it being handled–
(Pamela Brown, CNN) But can you explain how it’s being addressed internally?
But she’s still employed here at the White House?
Why hasn’t she PUBLICLY apologized, as she told Meghan McCain that she would?
Okay, really quick, Raj — on ZTE, how does the President Trump statement that too many Chinese jobs are at risk square with his campaign promise that China is stealing American jobs?
(Steve Holland, Reuters) Hi, Raj. The death toll is over 50 in Gaza. Is the U.S. calling on Israel to use restraint in dealing with these protests?
So there’s no burden on Israel to do something to, sort of, rein it in?
MR. SHAH: No, we think that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Hamas is the one that, frankly, bear responsibility for the dire situation right now in Gaza.
Lastly, Raj, how does this — the United States had been wanting to put out a peace plan. How does today’s situation hurt that?
(David Nakamura, Washington Post) Raj, there seemed to be some confusion, given the messages on the Sunday news shows from Secretary Pompeo and National Security Bolton about what exactly the U.S. is asking of North Korea. Is the administration’s position that the U.S. expects the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Peninsula and of North Korea? Or is the administration willing to accept something short of that?
And I was wondering also if you could address a little bit the criticism of the President’s, sort of, tone with the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, saying that he treated the U.S. detainees excellently. The President’s rhetoric has certainly shifted on Kim Jong-un, and I’m wondering if you could explain why, and whether he thinks that, at all, that he is going too far in sort of praising Kim Jong-un.
(Peter Alexander, NBC News) If I can, very quickly, the French Foreign Minister, Raj, said about what’s taking place in Gaza — he urged Israeli authorities to exercise discretion and restraint. So to be clear, does the U.S. not agree with the French that Israeli authorities should exercise discretion and restraint?
MR. SHAH: We believe that Hamas is responsible for what’s going on.
So there’s no responsibility beyond that on the Israeli authorities? Kill at will?
MR. SHAH: What I’m saying is that we believe that Hamas, as an organization, is engaged in cynical action that’s leading to these deaths.
Let me ask you if I can, and following up on Kelly Sadler today — Matt Schlapp, whose wife you know — Mercedes Schlapp — works here — is the Head of Strategic Communications — portrayed Kelly Sadler as “a little bit of a victim here.” Do you agree that she is a little bit of a victim here? And why?
Is there any environment where that — conveying that thought — would be viewed as appropriate?
So to be clear, was it completed last week? You said it was dealt with internally. Has anything been dealt with since last week when she called the family — the McCain family — for clarity?
(Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News) I might ask you an indelicate question. It’s been reported that you were leading the meeting where Kelly Sadler said what she said. How did it strike you? Did YOU find it to be inappropriate? And how did — what was the reaction in the room?
(Anita Kumar, McClatchy) Two questions. First, the White House is hosting some kind of meeting on Wednesday with California officials on sanctuary cities. Can you tell us what that’s about? Will the President attend? And what’s the point of the meeting?
So there’s no negotiation. This is just to solidify your point? I think —
Okay. And my second question is: The President is going to Capitol Hill tomorrow to meet with Senate Republicans. Can you tell us about that meeting and the topic of the conversation? And also, do you think he will not get asked by senators about the Kelly Sadler issue?
Does he have a statement prepared?
Besides the CIA, is there another issue? It’s not solely to talk about Gina.
(Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times) The Trump Organization is involved in a project in Indonesia building hotels, golf courses, residences. It’s getting up to $500 million in backing from the Chinese government. Can you tell or explain the administration’s perspective on, A, how this wouldn’t violate the emoluments clause, and, B, how it wouldn’t violate the President’s own promise that his private organization would not be getting involved in new foreign deals while he was President? (Raj says, you’ll have to talk to the Trump Organization)
No, but I mean the Trump Organization can’t speak on behalf of the President, as the President — the head of the federal government, the one who is responsible — who needs to assure the American people that — they don’t have that responsibility — (Noah is practically stammering. Raj has been taking Smug Crap lessons from SHS)
So, Raj, a couple of things. I need some information — we all need more information about the conversation that the President had by phone with James Shaw Jr. and why wasn’t it here at the White House. And also, what about prison reform? If you could give us a little bit more about prison reform. We understand that that’s working its way and there is a big push from the White House. And also, on Sadler, where does decency and morality come in, into play, in the workplace? I mean, she still has a job. She made that statement about an American hero. No matter what the political feelings are about him, he was broken and bruised overseas for the freedoms of this country. And to say those things, I mean — (April wasn’t interrupted, she just stopped mid-sentence and made these two gestures with her hands and arms that were like “please enlighten me, this is too bananas and low” and then Raj said “It’s an internal matter.” Someone tweeted in response to that, “She got a promotion.”)
She keeps her job, right?
Why not here at the White House? Why not — I mean, he’s saluting heroes.
(Andrew Feinberg, ex-Sputnik, who asks a good question) Thank you, Raj. I wanted to ask you about the embassy opening today. The person who delivered the invocation, Robert Jeffress, he’s made some statements in the past that he believes that Muslims are going to hell, Jews are going to hell, Hindus are going to hell. Do you think that, considering especially his remarks about Jews, that he’s one of the right people to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel? And can you give us a little information on how that came to be?
Do you think it’s appropriate for a person who thinks that — who said that Jews are going to HELL to speak at the opening of our embassy in Israel?
(Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) So, I have two questions for you. First on ZTE. Did the Chinese government give ANY specific concession for the President of the United States to tweet in SUPPORT of a Chinese company?
But WHY did he do that?
So just raising the issue was enough to spawn a presidential tweet and directive?
And then another on the President’s tweet on Paris. He said that America needs to change its thought processes. What did he mean by that? What was he hinting at? (Saagar Enjeti is like WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I hope Saagar quits Daily Caller)
(Woman not named or shown on screen) Raj, on the issue of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when was the last time the White House reached out to Palestinian leadership? And will — given the high numbers of casualties, Palestinians calling what has happened today a “massacre,” will the White House be reaching out?
Okay. Can I just follow up then? Jared Kushner, in his speech, pointed a finger at the Palestinians, saying they were responsible for provoking violence. But given the fact that it’s only Palestinians who are being killed, should Israel not shoulder some of the blame?
But people were THROWING ROCKS, 50 meters from the wall and were faced with SNIPER attack. I mean, is the White House in denial of the split-screen reality that’s occurring?
MR. SHAH: Again, we believe that Hamas is responsible for this.
(Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Let me ask you on ZTE. The congressional hearing that John was talking, in which the intelligence chief said that people should not be using ZTE products because of security concerns, does the President himself believe that there is a security concern using — involved with ZTE?
Speaking of the Commerce Department, Wilbur Ross said at the National Press Club just a little while ago — he said of the meeting this upcoming week with the Chinese, he said, “It wouldn’t surprise me” if they bring up ZTE, but our position is that it would be an enforcement action separate from trade. Is that the position of the White House, that whatever may or may not happen with ZTE, that has nothing to do with trade negotiations? Or does it? (When is this Russian-oligarch-coziness at the Bank of Cyprus finally going to catch up to Sleepy Wilbur?)
And on the Supreme Court decision today on sports gambling that allows, now, states to go forward with that, does the White House have any opinion one way or another on the decision today?
(Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Raj, on Israel, the United States and the White House are hoping to release their peace plan in the next few months. Going back to that split screen, I understand that you’re blaming these on Hamas, but does the White House feel that the position is undermined now by these deaths that have happened today? Last time the count was at 52.
And on a different foreign policy topic, sort of. The President isn’t going to the Royal Wedding this weekend. Today, we saw him deliver a video address at the embassy opening. Will he deliver an address of some sort via video? Is he sending a gift? Is there anything you can tell us about that?
(I don’t know who this old man is, but his voice is beautiful) Last month, Sarah said that the allegations against the Governor —
Last month, Sarah said the allegations against the Governor of Missouri were concerning. The Governor now is on trial this week. Does the President believe he should resign? He’s campaigned with him, he’s been out with him, he’s met him several times. Does he believe he should resign, irrespective of the verdict? Or if the verdict comes down in his favor, should he not resign?
(I can’t figure out who this fragile-looking blonde woman in the back is. I’ve google-imaged so much shit trying to sort it) Thank you, Raj. So, later this week, Thursday and Friday, Chinese officials are supposed to be here in D.C. to have continued trade meetings. Can you tell us which U.S. officials and which Chinese officials are going to be involved in those; what the President hopes to come out of those continued talks — this round of those talks? And has the administration provided — I know Larry Kudlow had mentioned at one point that the administration was considering providing a list of what they would like to see out of these trade negotiations.
(Hunter Walker, Yahoo! News) Thank you, Raj. You said before that you hadn’t heard Pastor Jeffress’s remarks. Among other things he said, “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism…they leave people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.” I also wanted to talk about Pastor John Hagee, who was involved in that ceremony. He once said that Hitler was an instrument of God. Separate from that, on Sunday, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump met with Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi in Israel. And he once compared black people to monkeys. (April Ryan is in the frame and looks visibly upset at this) So I’m wondering, in all three of these instances can you tell us anything about how these people were brought into the ceremonies? And do you think it’s regrettable that people with these views were involved with the American government? (No, Hunter, they don’t give a shit. Stop acting like any of this is normal)
(Brian Karem, I believe, as Raj files out like a coward, having not answered the question) Shouldn’t you know whether you come to the podium whether or not that guy is worthy of talking to people at our embassy? … You gotta be KIDDING me….!
God bless Brian Karem, and God Bless C-Span for just letting the sound run so we got all of that last bit too.
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)
(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.
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:
(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)
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.
(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?
(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?
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.