TOWOIT #331

May 22, 2018

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

Here are the questions she was asked.

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

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

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

 

TOWOIT #329: Kill at will

May 14, 2018

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.

 

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

May 11, 2018

Questions for Alex Azar, Health & Human Services Secretary

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

Questions for Sarah Sanders:

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

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

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

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

TOWOIT #327: Swampy behavior

May 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOWOIT #325: Lying or in the dark

May 3, 2018

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

Continue reading TOWOIT #325: Lying or in the dark

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

May 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Do not go to the fucking White House.

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

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

TOWOIT #317: “No one found the death threats”

April 9, 2018

Today’s White House briefing came before news broke that the FBI had raided the home, office, and hotel room of Michael Cohen (personal lawyer and fixer to Trump). It’s a real developing situation and Trump is sounding even less hinged than usual. Good thing this is all happening at a time when international conflicts are boiling over.

We’ll see if they send Raj out to do a quick uninformative press briefing tomorrow — it seems like they trot him out on the worst days. Or if there is no press briefing, which seems more likely.

Today’s press briefing was 19 minutes long. Nobody asked about the fire at Trump Tower or whether the smoke alarms were working.

Here’s what reporters asked Sarah Sanders today (4/9/2018):

Continue reading TOWOIT #317: “No one found the death threats”

TOWOIT #316

April 6, 2018

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

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Subhead should be “GODDAMNIT.”

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

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

Behold:

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Questions the reporters asked on 4/6/2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah interrupts him and YELLS at him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

TOWOIT #313: Racist asshole gives non-denial denials

March 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOWOIT #312: “ALL WILL BE HAPPY”

March 28, 2018

Hello!

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

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

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

Questions from yesterday (3/27/2018):

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

TOWOIT #311: “Have you been able to find a workaround to that Supreme Court ruling?”

March 26, 2018

Today Raj Shah did a press conference and “senior administration officials” did a background teleconference on the expulsion of 60 Russian nationals. Usually I leave out the press secretary’s answers since they are just big balls of lying nothing, but because it was Raj and because he seems to have a harder time than Sarah Sanders being a liar who manages to say nothing, I included a few more pull quotes from his side of the podium than I usually do.

Here are the questions Raj Shah was asked:

Continue reading TOWOIT #311: “Have you been able to find a workaround to that Supreme Court ruling?”

TOWOIT #310: Not a news conference

March 23, 2018

There wasn’t a White House daily briefing yesterday, but Mick Mulvaney snuck in and talked about the spending bill for 15 minutes with reporters. When asked if the president would sign it, he replied VERY confidently, that YES, he would! He did the Mulvaney thing where he goes, “Why, you ask?” and then he said because it funds the president’s priorities!

Then the next morning President Genius went on Twitter and said he was thinking about vetoing the spending bill.

Mind you, it’s down to the wire to avoid a government shut down.

There’s nothing on the C-span schedule for most of the morning about a White House Daily Briefing with Sarah Sanders, but then one pops up for a briefing at 1:00 and reporters scramble to be there.

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Then suddenly, it wasn’t with Sarah Sanders it was with Donald Trump and it was about the omnibus bill. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman put her two cents in.

Tweet saying that the President will give a press availability at 1 pm

C-span still said it would be a daily briefing with Sarah Sanders, but they put up a photo of Donald Trump. On the White House You Tube channel, it said that Trump would give a press conference on the omnibus bill.

People got excited.

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Then it became clear that it wasn’t going to be in the briefing room. Except nothing was really made clear. Trey Yingst made smoldering eye contact with Eamon Javers across the crowded briefing room.

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No briefing after all, no conference. No veto. No questions.

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People accused Sarah Sanders of participating in a charade on getting away with only having one daily briefing in an incredibly eventful week, while tricking people into thinking that canceling a Friday briefing was an unavoidable misfortune.

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The White House you tube video window went all “broken link!” and then the title suddenly changed and from “President Trump gives a news conference to discuss the omnibus bill” to “President Trump Participates in a Bill Signing.” Participates!

So the ones that were allowed into the diplomatic room to hear Trump ramble went in there to wait to hear Trump ramble.

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Alexandra Petri wasn’t there, she’s just funny.

Various news outlets on Twitter and You Tube were still heralding an imminent “news conference” with Trump, several minutes after the reporters had been tweeting that that wasn’t what it was.

C-span kept scooching back the start time in five-minute increments as if they really didn’t know what was happening.

People kept piling into the White House You Tube channel to watch. Twenty-six minutes after the “press availability” was scheduled to start, Trump wandered in and commenced rambling.

He read through a laundry list of cool military stuff, and implied that stealth planes are actually invisible, which he has done before.

He said stuff like, we got “one hundred percent of our land back from ISIS” (what?)

And also stuff like “the tanker aircraft is very important, based on everything.”

After 18 minutes, he thanked everyone and left the podium, definitely not planning to ask a single question. He responded off mic to one guy who yelled a question and then he left.

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Once again, he forgot to sign the bill.

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The funny thing to me was that viewers piled into the White House You Tube channel, and the viewership climbed and climbed… until a couple minutes after Trump started talking, and then people just started BAILING out of the live stream.

There’s a standard pattern with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (or Raj Shah). The viewership slowly builds as people wait for the briefing to start (actual start marked as “B”) and then the curve gets steeper and veers up when the briefing actually starts, then gently approaches an asymptote and gets more flat until the end of the briefing. But it never TANKS while the event is still happening!. I imagined all the people being like “Screw this guy. This isn’t a news conference!”

I liked that.

A graph with a bunch of lines showing viewership across minutes on the White House you tube channel.

People REALLY got worked up beforehand. The briefing started just after the line surpassed 20,000 viewers.

And that’s the end of my story.

Back to our regularly scheduled shit show, folks.

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

March 17, 2018

Yesterday’s briefing!

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

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

TOWOIT #307: Bad actors and bowling balls

March 16, 2018

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

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

Continue reading TOWOIT #307: Bad actors and bowling balls