TOWOIT #224

September 1, 2017

I think it’s strange, dumb, and passive-aggressive that Sarah Huckabee Sanders keeps asking the White House Press Corps to tell her which charity the President should give money to in Texas. This is not their jobs. They are not your adjunct administrative assistants. They cover the White House, not non-profits in Texas. It’s reminiscent of Trump asking April Ryan to set something up with the Congressional Black Caucus.

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Questions they asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #224

TOWOIT #223: Love and Trouble

August 31, 2017… Day 224

I got carried away and wrote three blog posts for one day.

4:45 am: Morning Edition makes me cry in the shower again

The radio takes on a different quality, early in the morning, when you’re alone and brewing coffee and it’s dark outside.

On NPR this morning, they ran a story about a reporter in Houston driving a woman named Angie back to the home she was evacuated from when the flood waters got near it. They ran into some water in the road that the reporter’s car couldn’t handle, but a Latino man in a big jacked-up truck came along and drove them the rest of the way. The Latino man talked about how in Houston during the flood, it has been everyone helping everyone—it hasn’t been about white, black and brown.

For a reason that I missed, the reporter and the other man went in to look around inside the house while Angie waited outside for them. They came back out and told her everything was dry. She’d been especially worried about her clothes, but they were fine. The water had come up to her doorstep but no further. The men had snapped pictures of the rooms to show her they were dry. As they drove away, the woman looked through the photos. She had a low, raspy voice and you heard her say—sort of to herself—“I know my house is junky, but…” and then she just trailed off.

When that recorded story ended, the reporter and the host talked briefly about how Angie was one of the lucky ones.

Although I was emotionally affected by the story, I thought “This is fine. It was a happy ending. I didn’t just see a video of a wet dog afraid to be rescued, or a senior citizen stranded in waist-deep water, or a baby floating in a storage tub. I’m fine.”

Then those tricky bastards at NPR played the first several bars of “The Water is Wide.”

The version they played was instrumental but unfortunately I knew the words. So then I was crying into my coffee, followed by crying in the shower. All the way to the bus stop, I was still humming the tune, thinking about Houston folks and sniffling.

If you don’t know that song, the verse I know goes like this:

The water is wide… I cannot cross over

Neither have I wings to fly

Give me a boat that can carry two

And both shall row, my love and I

 

6:25 am: Love and Trouble 

On the bus to work I read Claire Dederer’s Love and Trouble. I was on the chapter that’s a letter to Roman Polanski, telling him what it’s like to be a 13-year-old girl. At one point she asks Polanski if he only sees holes everywhere. We have to point out, because people don’t get it automatically, that a girl is not an object. It’s devastating.

Dederer takes into account the idea that Roman Polanski was a tortured genius, that the 1970s were a weird time. She’s as generous as she can be, but you couldn’t read her paragraphs out loud without tasting piss in your mouth. All the feelings she packs into that chapter—they are what saturate everything now. Rape culture and misogyny are lain bare, retroactive, stinking everything up. It’s in the Oval Office. Every day Gallup tells you what percentage of your compatriots are cool with it, although it’s really more. 53% of white women voted for it. It’s stinking up the Democratic party too.

The founders of the start-up Witchsy invented a male co-founder (hilariously named Keith Mann) to correspond with people who were brushing them off. My social media feeds are full of women I know talking about how real it is — the disrespect, the brush-off, the battle to be recognized as a viable professional. It discouraged me more than usual. I’m turning 40 next year, and I want to take risks and move toward freelancing and my own creative projects. I want to Be Excellent. How clever will I have to be, and how bright will I have to burn, to compensate for my gathering invisibility, for my high voice, for my eyes welling up sometimes when I’m frustrated, for having a woman’s name and being a woman? Because I honestly don’t know if I’m up to that level of witchcraft. (It is worse for women who aren’t white like I am.)

When I was an ecology student 20 years ago, our professor’s wife—also an ecologist—told a group of us women students that the field was changing, turning female. We beamed—sounds great! She scowled. “Oh no, don’t get excited,” she said. “All that means is that ecology will be devalued, trashed, dismissed… and the pay will go down.”

At work, I’m on the outer administrative edges of a prolonged bureaucratic snafu involving a woman my boss is trying to bring onto our team from another team. I don’t know the details myself, but there’s been some thorniness that’s above my paygrade.

Today I wrote up a statement announcing that she would be joining us, and then I took it to her. I asked her if she thought it represented her well, if she was happy with the tone and the details provided. My boss was a little surprised that I’d done that since he’d signed off on it already. I said, without thinking, “I want her to feel a sense of control over her situation, and I want her to know we respect her.”

This has something to do with us being women. And something to do with Trump.

Everything is related and it’s exhausting.  

 

12:00 pm: One of the lucky ones 

At the White House Press Briefing today, the reporters returned again and again to just two themes: Are undocumented immigrants in Houston really going to be ok? Can their safety from ICE at shelters really be ensured? And what about the 800,000 young people in this country who are protected by DACA to study, live, and work in this country despite their immigration status? What is happening with DACA?

Fox News reported earlier in the day that Trump had already decided to kill DACA—something he’s been teasing and flirting with all week. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s stonewalling took on a new cruelty as she refused to confirm or deny or give any real answers. The repetition of the reporters’ questions was like bells tolling, in my mind. These were the humane questions. These were the urgent questions. These were the questions of conscience. This wasn’t grandstanding for TV. Don’t jerk people around about this. There’s no such thing as other people’s kids.

Tom Bossert from Homeland Security was at the briefing too. Tom often seems like a decent person in these situations, but he works for Trump so he’s made his bed. He took two Skype questions from Houston. These Skype questions—new with the Trump administration—have been a handy way to run down the clock on the reporters in the room. The Skype calls often feature cheesy, over-eager personalities from right-leaning outlets who praise Trump and then ask a pompous-sounding question that comes across as either extremely ideological or extremely pork barrel-ish.

Today it was two white guys from Houston, at separate outlets. They were both unshaven, haggard. The first guy was from Fox and he kind of leaned in and barked a question at the camera about the reservoir infrastructure and the army corps of engineers. His craggy head took up most of the screen when he leaned in, and he didn’t care. The second journalist seemed a bit shell-shocked that he had put himself on national television in bad greasy hat hair and a short-sleeved Under Armour shirt. His question was also about the immediate safety and survival for the people of Houston. Both those guys looked like they were sleeping at the station.

After the older guy’s question, Tom Bossert signed off with him by saying, “—and I hope your house hasn’t been affected.” It sounded so inadequate. That was the end of that call, the guy was effectively hung up on right at that point, so who knows about his house. But the guy’s life is probably scrambled. And he’s one of the lucky ones.

TOWOIT #217

August 25, 2017… Day 218

My angry fascination is verging into plain weariness this week. But today was especially a doozy. It’s pretty simple, really.

  • It’s a Friday night near the end of August
  • A giant, especially destructive hurricane is pounding the Texas coast as we speak. But there are still immigration checkpoints on the evacuation paths away from the coast.

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  • Also, Trump actually pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of a contempt of court charge for defying a judge’s ruling that he not impinge the civil rights of Latinos.
  • And Trump actually issued an official order banning transgender people in the military.
  • And he made very ominous noises about doing away with DACA altogether, which would put 800,000 young people at risk.
  • Trump is off to Camp David. As he walked to the helicopter, reporters asked him if he had any words for the people in Texas. He gave a thumb’s up and said “Good luck!”
  • Also, Seb Gorka was fired/resigned (??) which was below the radar in the headlines, even for me
  • And MANY things happened on the Russia front… you really can’t keep up with this stuff. But Rachel Maddow seems on top of it. Not to mention Robert Mueller.
  • Every few days there’s a think piece about how liberals have wishful thinking that something is going to happen to cause Trump to resign.
  • The alternative to Trump resigning looks like a backslide into dictatorship. I think this is true and a possibility. We are already backsliding away from democracy. Things get more ridiculous everyday. If he can get away with being this ridiculous, then he can dismantle our democratic institutions completely. It gets harder to believe that he can get away with it. But it also gets harder to believe that he’s gotten away with it all so far.
  • Oh yes, and North Korea fired more missiles
  • And Trump wants to diminish or do away with national monument designation for some public lands.
  • If you ever feel a lack of confidence, just remember that almost every week, the Pod Save America guys emphatically mispronounce the word percolate as though it’s perk-yoo-late. Jon Favreau also says ca-shay for the word cache (like storage cache). On the other hand, Jon Favreau is handsomer than you and I will ever be.

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Here are the questions that reporters asked at the press briefing today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #217

TOWOIT #194: C+ Santa Monica Fascist

August 2, 2017… Day 195

Hot and smoky here in Seattle. And most of us don’t have A/C.

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Signs of hope:

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Signs of shenanigans:

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Trump wuz here:

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I wouldn’t normally trust such a prolific author, but she’s right about this. What the hell, Missouri:

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This is good:

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Trump signs Russian sanctions bill, under protest. Writes in his signing statement that parts of it are obviously unconstitutional, and points out in that same official statement that he himself built up a great business worth billions of dollars.

Russia writes mean tweets. Then Ukraine trolls Russia:

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Been down so long, it feels like Trump to me: 

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The White House unleashed Stephen Miller (C+ Santa Monica Fascist, h/t Jon Lovett) on the viewing public this afternoon.

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Questions asked to Stephen Miller and SHS today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #194: C+ Santa Monica Fascist

TOWOIT #193

August 1, 2017… Day 194

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The White House briefing was only 22 minutes long today, but there was some testiness in the briefing room today over this:

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And also this:

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A lot of that testiness was because SHS went on and on about “Why aren’t we investigating HILLARY and Russia?” as an answer.

Oh yes, and Trump might not sign that Russian sanction bill after all:

The Washington Post chronicles Scaramucci:

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A lie about Boy Scouts was discovered because the full transcript of a WSJ-Trump interview was leaked to Politico. The WSJ tried to keep the transcript secret. Trump said that reaction to his Boy Scout speech was NOT mixed, in fact they called him and told him it was the best speech anyone had ever given to the Boy Scouts.

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But don’t worry, because at long last they are going to take care of anti-white discrimination in this country:

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For context, the Congressional Black Caucus is a fairly sober Twitter user:

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Questions they asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #193

TOWOIT #192

July 31, 2017… Day 193

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The first big thing that happened today is that the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly, started work and immediately fired Anthony Scaramucci (on his 10th day on the job). The other big thing that happened was that the Washington Post published an involved article that peels away a lot of Donald Trump’s plausible deniability re: knowledge that his team took meetings with Russians. It’s pretty damning. But so many things have been damning that it is hard to get excited about any new damning thing. Still, as they say, “drip, drip, drip.”

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(seen in a political tweet today)

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Questions asked to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Steve Mnuchin, and General McMaster (who talked about sanctioning Venezuela):

Continue reading TOWOIT #192

TOWOIT #188

July 27, 2017… Day 189

(UPDATED LATE AT NIGHT): It was *worth* staying up late watching C-Span and fretting and reading all the body language riffing on Twitter. THANK YOU to McCain, Collins, and Murkowski. Thank you. 

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The pages are probably getting a bit punchy.

It’s a sad and infuriating circus in the U.S. Senate tonight. Looks like the Skinny Repeal will pass. ETA for the vote, 2 am. I don’t understand the ins and outs at all. There are machinations involving texting House speaker Paul Ryan for promises about a post-passage “conference” between the House and Senate.

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Basically they desperately want to pass something, but they don’t want this thing they are passing to actually become law because they know how misbegotten it is.

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And then there was THIS business:

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Infighting in the administration just… I don’t know… skyrocketed? Scaramucci saying shitty stuff on the phone to Ryan Lizza, who then put the WHOLE phone call in the New Yorker the next day. Then Scaramucci tweets that he’ll never trust a reporter again — like he has no idea how on the record, off the record works? Even though he’s the communications director.

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Also, DOJ says LGBT people are not protected against workplace discrimination.

There’s A LOT of push back against the trigger-happy tweet about kicking transgender people out of the military. And the anti-Sessions talk.

The Russian sanctions bill will go to Donald Trump’s desk, with such a healthy margin that if Trump vetoes it, it’ll still go through.

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Lindsey Graham and Cory Booker are writing a bill that would prevent Trump from removing the special counsel, according to The Hill.

There was an on-camera press briefing for the second day in a row. It was short (16 minutes of Q & A with Sarah Huckabee Sanders) and full of lying obfuscation, but it was on camera.

I liked this screenshot of these two reporters as the press corps waited for the briefing to begin:

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A really bad part about the briefing was the sweaty acting ICE director bellowing at the room about criminal “aliens.” Who would ever, EVER, trust this agency? They’re saying undocumented victims of gangs should reach out to ICE, and they don’t need to worry that they’ll be targeted for deportation. Well, that’s gotta be bullshit. I’m skipping that whole part, and going to the questions they asked SHS:

  • Sarah, does the President have confidence in his Chief of Staff?
  • So you can’t say right now if the President has full confidence in Chief of Staff Reince Priebus?
  • But we’re talking about public humiliation of both the Attorney General and now the Chief of Staff, left to kind of wonder about their own fate and their own status within this administration.
  • Lindsay Graham says there will be “holy hell to pay” if Attorney General Sessions is fired. What does the President say to that?
  • Thanks, Sarah. The President — excuse me, the Pentagon has announced that the President’s statements via Twitter did not change the transgender policy in the military and that the White House actually has to issue a policy directive to the Secretary of Defense to make that change happen. So, two questions. Does the President plan to do so? And if so, how will that affect transgender troops that are currently serving?
  • But what is the policy? And was the President aware that he can’t make policy changes via statements on Twitter? Because the Pentagon is saying —
  • So the policy hasn’t yet been formulated?
  • Sarah, thank you. Moving on to healthcare, you talked about how Senate Republicans have the chance tonight to really undo Obamacare. But it seems like the thing that’s most likely to get through is the skinny repeal, and that would just kind of — that would maybe get rid of the mandate and some other things. But it’s not the massive overhaul that had been promised. So would the White House support just a skinny repeal, that being signed into law?
  • But does the White House believe that a skinny repeal on its own would be enough to address the issues of premiums — rising premiums and deductibles and things like that? Would the President sign just a skinny repeal?
  • Yes, Sarah. I want to ask two questions — one about the President’s management style and one about immigration enforcement.
  • On immigration — I had a question on immigration enforcement.
  • So this week when the President spoke in Ohio, he spoke about MS-13 and he gave a litany of the violence that they’re capable of. And then he said, “Our guys are rougher than their guys.” What did the President mean by that?
  • Is that a license for the use of more force when it comes to making arrests against MS-13?
  •  Does he want the law enforcement agencies to change the rules of the use of force when it comes to making arrests against MS-13?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Anthony Scaramucci was on CNN today talking about Reince Priebus. He said, “If he wants to prove he’s not a leaker, let him do it.” I can’t imagine that you would speak on Anthony’s behalf, but if you would, does he think that Reince Priebus is a leaker? Or does the White House, does the President think that Reince is leaking?
  •  I had a tax question, too, please. Does the President believe that tax overhaul should increase the budget deficit?  Or should it be revenue neutral?
  • Sarah, can I ask you quickly about Anthony Scaramucci? A little bit of housekeeping.  One —
  • Fine. Has he taken an oath of office?
  • Has Anthony Scaramucci taken an oath of office?
  • Have his security clearances gone through yet?
  • Is he an official member of the White House staff now? Initially it was announced that it would be in mid-August
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She didn’t love where Peter was going.
  • So let me follow up on —
  • Let me ask you about the Boy Scouts then, if I can very quickly —
  • Thank you, Sarah. I do have to ask you about the healthcare bill. Many who are in the Freedom Caucus say that they would oppose the skinny repeal that was referred to earlier; that if a measure came out with just, oh, ending the mandates and ending the tax on medical devices, that that would — and not addressing anything else, they’d vote against it. Is the President aware of this?  And is he making any calls for specific parts of the repeal effort?
  • Thanks, a lot, Sarah. Is the President — just to follow up on what John Gizzi just asked you; I don’t think you got to that particular part of the question.
  • Is the President picking up the phone? Is he calling those seven or eight Republican senators, making the case for them that this may be their last best hope for repealing and replacing Obamacare? And if he is, what’s his message to those particular senators?
  • He had all of those Republican senators here at the White House last week, Sarah.
  • Sorry.
  • Anthony Scaramucci said this morning that the President might veto the Russia sanctions bill, even though Senator Corker has now withdrawn his objection and that the same version that we’ve already seen from the House is going to be up for the Senate vote. Is that, in fact, possible? Would he veto that passed with just three negative votes in the House and two negative votes in the Senate?
  •  In terms of working with the DOD on this new policy, how long is it going to be before you find out what the details are? Weeks, months?
  • Will it be this year?
  • Sarah, thanks. Several Senate Republicans have sent signals to this White House: One, don’t make a recess appointment because we’re not going to allow it; two, there’s not going to be a confirmation if there’s a new Attorney General nominated. There is a signal being sent: Don’t do what we fear you might be contemplating. Can you, for the betterment of the Senate Republicans who are working with this White House on a lot of issues, put to rest once and for all the status of the Attorney General — that he’s not going to be fired, there’s not going to be a need for a recess appointment, and this issue can be laid to rest, for the country and for Senate Republicans who appear, based on their public statements, to be anxious about this prospect?
  • But when you don’t say the President has confidence, and the President says “time will tell,” as he said earlier this week, I’m only telling you what Senate Republicans, who are in a position that have to deal with this, are saying.
  • Thanks, Sarah. This is a little — maybe just a little bit off topic.  I want to run it by you anyway. Is the President aware of this story —
  •  Yeah, why not — right? Is the President aware of the story of the IT staff — of the congressional IT staffer who most recently worked for Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Imran Awan, who was recently arrested attempting to leave the country, although he said he was not trying to flee the country? Is the President aware of that particular circumstance? And is he satisfied with the pace of the investigation?
  • Since we only have one question, I’m going to ask you about the Boy Scouts
  • Their chief wrote this to family members who were at the President’s event earlier this week: “I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who are offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.” Does the President owe the Boy Scouts an apology?
  • But the head of the Boy Scouts has acknowledged that there was a problem. A lot of parents have expressed frustration in the wake of those comments and felt the need to actually write a letter about it. So does the President owe them an apology?
  • Thanks, Sarah. I have two for you real quick, if you don’t mind.
  • I’m going to be quick  First on Anthony Scaramucci on CNN this morning, he said he had a conversation with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about these supposed leaks. That would appear to violate DOJ guidelines. So I was hoping you could provide some clarity on that front. And secondly, out of Alaska today, the local paper there is reporting the Senator Murkowski received a phone call from the Secretary of Interior Zinke, threatening the people of — essentially threatening the services and federal dollars that were spent — that the administration (inaudible) toward the people of Alaska if she voted a certain way on the healthcare bill. I was hoping if you could confirm that and discuss whether that sort of conversation, if it happened, would be appropriate.
  • Thank you, Sarah. You suggested that the President continues to have confidence in Reince Priebus based on the fact that he’s still in the position, and he’s a friend of Anthony Scaramucci who’s coming into the administration. At this point, based on what we’ve seen quite publicly playing out, though, does he think they at least need to sit down and talk, as House Speaker Paul Ryan said, and get whatever this is out of their system so that they can start off the one right foot here?

 

 

 

TOWOIT #182

July 21, 2017… Day 183

End of a busy week at the office, and a busy week of watching ourselves careen toward authoritarianism, maybe, or maybe a presidency goes down in flames, or maybe we’re not hurtling but grinding slowly. I don’t know. Can we do this for three and a half more years?

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We were blessed with an on-camera press briefing after Sean Spicer resigned today. It was the first one since June 29. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now the official press secretary. But the briefing was the Anthony Scaramucci show. And that’s why it was on camera. For this confident little Wall Street dude’s song and dance. This guy is the new communications director and the reason Trump was fired. Since I don’t have TV, I’ve managed to pretty much avoid this guy until today. Boy what a slick son of a gun. I’ve never wanted to be a political cartoonist so badly. The man just spawns image after image.

Scaramucci said he wished Sean well, and the way he expressed this was to say, “…and I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money!” The unabashedness. He described the gap between how Trump loyalists see Trump and how the press sees Trump as “an arbitrage spread.” He said he didn’t want to go into an “advertisement or infomercial,” but there was the implication that he didn’t want to go into his spiel right then. Not that he never planned to get salesy.

When asked what he would do first to “right the ship,” Scaramucci said that the ship was “heading in the right direction.” Which just conjured the image of a badly listing ship, far out at sea, storm on the horizon–but with its bow heading in the right direction!

He also said that he learned at Goldman Sachs that if you need to eat an elephant, you have to do it one bite at a time. Then he said that he and Sarah would be eating the elephant. There’s definitely a cartoon in that one, with Don Jr. holding the severed elephant tail as a trophy. And the GOP being the elephant. The only problem is that the cartoonist will probably use the eating megafauna angle to make Sarah Huckabee Sanders look fat and homely in a sexist way, and make her and little Scaramucci will be drawn as Jack Sprat to her Mrs. Sprat. I’m defensive on behalf large women with asymmetrical faces.

More great Scaramucci lines:

“I’m obviously committed to being transparent, because I’m standing here.”

And, when asked if he would be truthful, he said “I sort of feel like I don’t even have to answer that question.”

Before I round up the reporters’ questions, here are some other things that happened today:

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(If this happens it won’t be a drill. I’ll walk out and consult Twitter and we will clump into groups and find each other like water coming together with other water).

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Questions reporters asked at the Scaramucci show (featuring Sarah Sanders): 

Continue reading TOWOIT #182

TOWOIT #181

July 20, 2017… Day 180

Wildest news day yet, in a long string of wild news days. Before plunging into the fray of headlines, I would just like to note that Mick Mulvaney brought visual aids to today’s off-camera press briefing.

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and yet…

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Questions reporters asked Sarah H. Sanders today (off-camera, embargoed audio):

Continue reading TOWOIT #181

TOWOIT #172

July 11, 2017… Day 173

Each morning (most days), the White House Press Briefing used to appear on C-Span’s daily schedule of events around 7:30 or 8:00 my time — two or three hours before it was slated to begin. Now there’s no mention of it whatsoever beforehand. It’s just at some point later in the day, after the fact, after the audio embargo has been lifted, something like this will appear:

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From the (conservative) National Review:

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Breitbart London editor-in-chief:

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Questions they asked SHS today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #172

TOWOIT #171

July 10, 2017… Day 172

What do you think about the word “whistleblower”?

(April Ryan to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in a question about the “leakers” in the White House. Vox wrote a think piece suggesting that the leak was intentionally done by the administration, for unknown reasons. And therefore not really a leak. But who knows. I liked that April Ryan asked that question to their face.)

An actual link on today’s main C-Span.com schedule:

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Audio because no cameras in the briefing room again.

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From FiveThirtyEight, which is a pretty sober bunch of data wonks:

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The story is, not only did Don Jr. take Kushner and Manafort to a meeting with a Russian lawyer because she said she had dirt on Clinton… he actually received an email prior to that in which he was flatly told that the Russian government was running a campaign to interfere on Trump’s behalf to get him elected.

Republicans are looking straight into the camera and defending this. They are saying they would have done the same thing.

Meanwhile, in Axios, a right-leaning website:

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Fox News pretends like everything is normal today, but has a Freudian tweet.

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Trump made a dig at Chelsea Clinton this morning and she responded with her trademark cheery shade.

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Questions they asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today in an off-camera briefing:

  • The President, today, tweeted that it would be unimaginable — he can’t imagine that Congress would go home from Washington in August, take the month off — if they haven’t dealt with the repeal and replace of Obamacare. If Congress does the unimaginable and goes for a month, is the President prepared to ensure that there are consequences for those vacationing lawmakers in 2018?
  • If I could ask on one more tweet. The President also tweeted this morning about Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton — said that she was giving away the country, I believe. At what point is the President going to put Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Bill Clinton in the rearview mirror? He won the election. He won it fair and square. When does he just let them go and look forward?
  • Sarah, first, just a quick clarification from the meeting with Putin in Germany:  Did the President say that he accepted Putin’s denial of any involvement in election interference, as Putin said in his press conference? Have you had a chance to ask the President about that?
  • But he didn’t accept that denial or did he?
  • And the question I wanted to ask was the reports on this meeting that took place at Trump Tower last June with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner. When did the President learn that that meeting had taken place?
  • Is he concerned about that — that the top leadership of his campaign would take a meeting with a Russian lawyer promising to give negative information?
  • Just to follow up on that. If this sort of meeting is normal and standard practice in the campaign, do you know if there were any other meetings that either Donald Trump Jr. or other representatives of the Trump campaign had with other Russian officials or any other foreign agent to collect information about Hillary?
  • Has anyone looked into whether there were any others?
  • Thanks, Sarah. I have a quick question about this cyber taskforce with Russia.  Yesterday the President tweeted about the cybersecurity unit being put together, and then then about 12 hours later said that it would never happen. What went down in those 12 hours that so drastically changed that situation?
  • Sarah, just to clarify: That idea is dead?
  • Okay. And I know you just said a minute ago you aren’t going to make any additional statement, but there’s a history and we have been asked by you and others at the podium to respect the statements you make there.  So, there’s a long history of blanket denials, during the transition and during times of this administration about nobody within the campaign having any meetings under any circumstances at all with Russian officials. And now one was disclosed this weekend. The original characterization of that meeting was amended within 24 hours when new information was placed before Don Jr.  How are we to take all of these blanket denials that occurred through the transition and now when it has been proven and recognized by the President’s attorney and Don Jr. that those blanket denials were not factual?
  • But that’s a different question than was asked at the time and different than the statements were about. The questions originally, as you know and I know, were about contacts, and those were blanket denials. And then when the contacts became confirmed, then it was, well they were infrequent. Well now we have a whole pattern of lots of different meetings that have to be confirmed later. And those original questions were not about collusion, Sarah.  They were just about contacts.
  • Sarah, back to yesterday morning’s tweets. Can you tell us what it was or what is or what was going to be a cybersecurity unit and how this was going to work? 
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. After this two and a half hour meeting with President Putin that the President had in Germany, how would you describe the state of U.S. relations with Russia. Do you view Russia as a partner? Do you view them as an ally? Do you view them as an adversary?
  • And does the President trust President Putin? 
  • Can you please ask him that question?
  • Thank you, Sarah.  I have two questions. We know there was no note taker in the meeting, but did you make an audio recording of the meeting or did the Russians?
  • Can you ask?
  • And the second question is: Director Comey was under oath when he said that the memo that he gave to his friend did not include classified information, and the President tweeted this morning that he did leak classified information. Is he accusing Comey of perjury?
  • You believe he leaked classified information?
  • But the President stated flatly that he leaked classified information.
  • Sarah, I want to go back to a couple of questions. When you talk about the issue of Don Jr., you talk and you said “leaked.” What do you think about the word whistleblower?
  • You’re trying to say people who gave that information were leakers. What about the issue of whistleblower? What do you see whistleblower versus leaker?
  • Sarah, I just have one more question. So on the issue of collusion, are you saying there’s no collusion when it comes to the overall arch of the campaign?  But what about the individuals? What about individuals that could be suspects of collusion? Are you vouching just for everyone in total or individuals or what? 
  • So then when we go to different people, what do you say about that?  Don Jr.?  Anyone — the names that are coming up.
  • What about Flynn?  What about Flynn?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two brief questions. When the President arrived for the G20 Summit, it was widely reported that the Putin regime was cracking down on the opposition candidate — Mr. Navalny at the time. This has been just the latest in a series of events in which human rights and dissent have been crushed in Russia. Was human rights raised at all by the President in his conversations with the Russian President?
  • The President did talk privately with Chancellor Merkel, we know. Days before he arrived there, her party, the Christian Democratic Union, made a much publicized change in its platform and dropped its reference to the United States as a friend and changed that to important ally. Was this something that came up in their meeting and did the President ask why she did that?
  • Two quick questions for you. Did President Trump discuss sanctions with Russian President Putin at the G20 Summit?
  • Did the President’s views on sanctions against the Russians change at all after his meeting with President Putin?
  • Thank you, Sarah. This latest meeting with the Russian lawyer. We not have three instances where — including with Ambassador Kislyak and a head of the Russia bank — where Jared Kushner seems to have met with Russians and not disclosed it during his security clearance check. Is the White House at all concerned about that and do you think it raises any questions about Kushner’s confidence or honesty?
  • His updated paperwork, not initially.
  • So I’m saying — his omission in the original of all these meetings with Russians, is there any concern about that?
  • One of the subjects President Macron wants to talk to the President about is the Paris climate accord. Is the President willing to negotiate his position on this?\

TOWOIT #161

June 30, 2017… Day 162

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  • Sarah, the President tweeted this morning about healthcare. In which he said that if the senators can’t get a bill on repeal and replace together, then maybe the best idea would be — as Ben Sasse and Rand Paul have suggested — split them up into a repeal and then a replacement later. This really runs counter to what the President has been promoting all through the campaign and earlier this year where he insisted that the two things had to be done, if not simultaneously, at least very close to each other. What is the basis for his change in thinking on this particular point?
  • So how does it square this idea with repeal it now, replace it later with what you had said on repeated occasions before that these things needed to be done very close to each other in order to maintain continuity of coverage for many Americans?
  • Sarah, in terms of putting some more specifics on the replacement part, one of the issues that they’re having is you got 11 or 12 senators now who are not happy with what’s going on with Medicaid — they can deal with some of the repeal elements.  Can you give us the most specific — you were asked about this a couple of days ago — the most specific articulation of what you want to see in terms of Medicaid?  And do you agree with some of these senators who think what’s in the Senate bill, in terms of Medicaid phasing out, is, to point a phrase, too mean?
  • How about sort of the specifics outlined in the CBO about the potential for, you know, 18 million — what is it — 23 million total, 15 million by next year. Is that just too steep a drop-off for the President?
  • In terms of the CBO articulation analysis of what would happen under Medicaid over the next three or four years, is that too steep a drop off in terms of Medicaid?  Does the President have any objection to what was in the Senate bill with regards to Medicaid?
  • I’d like to follow up with that first. Where did the President actually get the idea of separating them? Was it through conversations with Senator Paul, or was it something that Senator Ben Sasse had said on the television program?   
  • And then I wanted to ask about the Election Commission. Does the President have any thoughts on the fact that so many governors and other state officials have said they’re not going to comply with this request for public information for the Election Integrity Commission?  
  • Thanks, Sarah. Let me expand upon the tweet that John had brought up. You just answered his question in part by saying we’re still focused on trying to push through where we are; the bottom line is we’re focused on the end product here. Is this potential splitting up of the bill, is that plan B at this point?
  • And Ben Sasse said in his letter, and on television had mentioned, the first Monday coming back — which is either — I believe it’s July 10th — as to the date as to when they should do it. Does the White House ascribe to that date?
  • I wanted to ask about two separate policy things. The first one is steel. The President said today that he had secured some assurances from the Koreans on that. I’m wondering if those were actual changes that we might see to KORUS or other trade agreements, or if it’s more “we’ll look at it and get back to you” type of assurance. And then, broadly, if the report in this morning was correct in that the President has determined he’s going to impose tariffs on steel.?
  • And on Korea?
  • And then I have one on food aid.
  • Food aid.
  • The President is moving to require all food aid to be sent on U.S. flag carriers, but it’s a policy that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have actually been moving away from. AEI, which is not a liberal group, said that it would make food aid costs 46 percent more, it may take 14 weeks longer to reach people, unlikely to create new U.S. jobs. We heard yesterday from senior administration officials about the President sees foreign aid as an important part of diplomacy and wants to cut costs here. So I’m just trying to figure out how this is not just kind of a bumper sticker strategy, but why this is actually a good idea for the United States.
  • Why this isn’t just a bumper sticker strategy of, you know, we’re putting it on U.S. ships, but why this actually makes sense from a policy standpoint.
  • Sarah, just to be clear, the preference of the White House is to go forward with the drafting of a repeal and replace in the Senate and see if that can pass. That’s the correct position of the White House, right?
  • And so this idea of separating the two is only a backup, as an emergency, if this other process fails, correct?
  • The reason I ask —
  • Is because if you take — if you separate them, as you know, one is reconciliation and the other one isn’t, which makes it much more difficult, and for people as you’ve identified in Nevada and Ohio, repeal only takes care of one of their problems. It doesn’t deal with them being able to find new carriers or alternative plans as the replacement would. So I’m just trying to figure out how much of an idea this really is that we should be focusing on, or should this attention still be on repeal and replace as the primary White House focus.
  • If you did separate them, it would complicate things.  Not only legislatively
  • What is — I’m asking.
  • What does the President think about the idea of the cancellation of recess in August to focus on healthcare and other legislative ideas and agenda items? That’s something 10 Republican senators suggested today.
  • Cancelling the recess, staying in town, and working on healthcare and the sort of issues — the debt ceiling, tax cuts. Would the President endorse that?
  • On Chicago, with the ATF permanent taskforce there, is that a suggestion or a recognition that at least part of the problem in Chicago is a gun control problem or a firearms access control problem?
  • At his recent rally in Cedar Rapids, President Trump said the situation in the Middle East is worse than it was 16 years ago. Is he concerned about how long the war in Afghanistan is dragging on for?
  • Does he want to see Americans in a combat role there by, say, 2020?
  • Thank you, Sarah. With all the furor and tumult in yesterday’s press conference — or press briefing, some have suggested that maybe it is time for the President to have another news conference and perhaps answer these questions himself, rather than subject spokespeople such as you and Sean to questions about recent controversy. Does he plan an actual news conference in the near future?
  • The other thing is — my other question is: Has the President today read The New York Magazine article by Gabriel Sherman about the White House and its involvement with Joe Scarborough at all?
  • Back to the question of trade, the President said today that he was negotiating with South Korea on the agreement.  Has the KORUS agreement been reopened? And if it has been reopened, what’s the mechanism for that? And how much concern, if any, is there about impacting other relationships, security relationships with South Korea?
  • Any impact on the cooperation over North Korean aggression with South Korea?
  • What concern is there about an impact on the cooperation with South Korea on the military issues and security issues with North Korea?
  • Yes. Yes, yes.
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah.  I wanted to ask you about the travel ban. It’s the first full day that it’s gone into effect, and it’s scheduled to last for 90 days. And my question has to do with what are the next steps. If it lasts for 90 days, that takes you up to the end of September. Are there plans to extend the travel ban before this issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court?
  • Just two quick questions here.
  • On what?

 

TOWOIT #160

June 29, 2017… Day 161

“I’ve been through impeachments, but we can’t wait that long. It is TIME for YOU to RESIGN.” –Sheila Jackson Lee

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Jezebel has a new bulleted list of daily political news scraps. They call it Barf Bag. It’s funny and has links and is more comprehensive and less gratuitously personal than this blog so I recommend it.

Wall Street Journal published an article today about attempts at collusion between a Trump associate and … Russian hackers? I don’t have the full gist yet. Haven’t seen the article. I suppose there’s no need to rush on that. I can’t even tell when something is new anymore.

Trump’s “election fraud commission” wants states to hand over all their voter information for individuals. So far, three states have said no.

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Here’s what reporters asked freakin Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a liar who complains about being called a liar to her face:

  • Sarah, in reference to the President’s tweets this morning that have been a matter of some discussion today, you said earlier on Fox News that the President has a right to defend himself when he is attacked and it’s no secret that this particular program has been very critical of him. However, the nature of the tweets this morning has drawn condemnation from people on Capitol Hill, including the Speaker of the House, Senator Graham, Senator Susan Collins — all of whom are allies of the President. Did the President go too far with his tweet in its deeply personal nature?
  • If I could just follow on that, Sarah, if I could just follow on that. A couple of the criticisms from supporters of the President have been that this particular tweet was beneath the dignity of the office. Where does the President draw that line, on the dignity of the office?
  • I have a healthcare question, but on this, just one other aspect of it. Some have suggested in their tweet response or public announcements today that the President misconstrued one of the messages that should have been gathered from the shooting that involved Steve Scalise and others, the hostility of the verbal environment can create an atmosphere of violence. I’m not saying that, but members of Congress have said that about this particular tweet. I know that episode affected the President and those here at the White House personally, very importantly and deeply. Do you have any reaction to that sentiment, that conversations like this create an atmosphere that is either dangerous or one we need to avoid?
  • Sarah, I just had a healthcare question. So you talked about the President’s overall priorities. Last night, late last night, as part of the amendment and evolution on the Senate draft, $45 million was put on the table for opioid treatment and health savings accounts can be used, according to this new draft, to pay premiums in the future. Does the President support those two initiatives, and why does he believe they make the bill better, specifically does he believe that opioid allocation will be sufficient, as many people do not, to address that problem?
  • How about on health savings accounts?  Does he have any particular approach —
  • Sarah, what about the Republicans who are criticizing the President?
  • Sarah, thank you. I want to go back to the shooting and remember what President Trump said then. He said, “Our country will perhaps become closer, more unified, so important.” Does his tweet this morning, his series of tweets help to unify the country?
  • But do his tweets help to unify the country, to do what he said he wanted to see happen in the wake of that shooting?
  • He’s the President of the United States, Sarah.  
  • Sarah, two questions, to follow up on that. One is that I understand your point, but he’s the President of the United States, they are cable news anchors.  So he has to stand to a higher standard, one. And two, you talk about criticism, he said that former President Obama wasn’t born in this country, right? So he clearly was a part of criticizing the past President, who was not immune to criticism himself. So I wonder how you make that argument.
  • Doesn’t he have to meet a higher standard than cable news anchors, Sarah?  Doesn’t he have to meet a higher standard than cable news anchors?
  • Sarah, how is insulting a woman on Twitter being a fighter?
  • What about the impact of statements like this on his effectiveness? There was a Maris poll this week that said 68 percent of registered voters say the President’s tweets are reckless and distracting. Only 22 percent say that they’re effective and informative. And Republicans on this question are split down the middle — half of Republicans say that they’re reckless and distracting.  So how can you argue that this is something the President must do?
  •  Sarah, as a woman, how do you feel about the President attacking another woman specifically for her looks? And what does that show as an example to how men should be treating other women?
  • He’s the President, Sarah. 
  • Why can’t he take the heat?
  •  I just have a follow-up, Sarah, and then I have a separate question too. And this kind of gets to the point that’s been made, and —
  • You’ve been talking about the idea that the President is a fighter. I just want to put it in — because you talk about being personally affected by all of this as well, and that nothing is wrong with the President fighting fire with fire, is the argument that you’re making. So I would ask this to you sort of on a personal level. You have stood here and talked about your family from this podium. Are you going to tell your kids this behavior is okay?
  • I want to ask you my follow-up, Sarah — a follow-up question just on more policy points, with the G20 coming up next week.
  • I disagree with that. I think we talk about policy a lot here.
  • I just did one about five minutes ago, Sarah.
  • But I want to ask about his meeting with President Putin that is coming up next week that has just been confirmed by Gary Cohn and H.R. McMaster, and a definitive answer from you on whether the President will bring up election interference. It is clearly the biggest topic between the U.S. and Russia right now, the fact that Moscow meddled in the election. Is the President going to press Putin on that?
  • Thanks.
  •  Okay, thanks a lot, Sarah. The President’s tweet today, does it help his legislative agenda? Does it help him win the votes of those nine senators who have come out against that Senate bill? Senator Collins, Senator Murkowski, for instance? What’s your view on that?
  • But as it relates to his legislative agenda — I’m not asking about the tweet itself, I’m asking about whether or not this helps his legislative agenda.
  • All those points that you make, Sarah, about the —
  •  — the positive elements of the President’s agenda are certainly true. All of those things are true. But the President today put out this tweet which takes away from all of that, and do you expect us here in this room to simply ignore that? Now, I think that’s the valid question that should be asked of you right now. Should we just ignore this entirely?
  • Two questions for you, Sarah. First, did the U.S., did the administration send a representative to the funeral mass for Chancellor Kohl? Or will they send anyone to the official funeral service July 1st?
  • My other question is this: You’ve had people turn down nominations to be deputy secretary of the Treasury. The President is on his third appointee, I believe, for Secretary of the Army. And the ambassador to Ireland has declined the nomination, and there’s no candidates for ambassador to Germany or France — both major allies — or Greece, for that matter, an important country.  Is the President having trouble recruiting people to fill some of the key slots that remain unfilled after six months?
  • Hey, Sarah. Thank you so much. I don’t want to talk about any tweets. I want to talk about making America great again, and part of that energy dominance in Energy Week. Here’s the thing:  During the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, we had some pretty scary times in North Dakota.  Just a couple weeks ago, a judge (inaudible) suggesting that the Army Corps of Engineers had prematurely issued some permits. This creates more uncertainty for people. My question is this:  What specifically is the administration going to do to give these companies more certainty, more clarity as they make these multi-billion-dollar infrastructure investments to improve our energy? At the same point in time, our tribal leaders and tribal nations (inaudible) feeling honored and respected about this entire permitting process.
  • Thank you, Sarah. I want to ask you again about this Russia sanctions legislations in Congress. If, as Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said, the administration wants to go to the upper limits of the law in keeping those sanctions on Russia, then why not support this legislation that basically keeps what has been slapped down in place?
  • Sarah, our question is on healthcare. Specifically, our governor put out a number that perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana will lose their healthcare if this bill goes through. If you add up the other states, that kind of puts it into the millions.  Is there an acceptable number (inaudible) behind the scenes of people losing coverage to get the great bill through?
  • Thanks, Sarah. I had a two-parter. The President had let us know that he had planned on having an ISIS news conference to update people on the situation within the next couple weeks, which is now-ish. But we’re coming up on departure —
  • Now-ish. I’m wondering, do you expect that we would get that update, whether it’s a news conference or just kind of remarks before the upcoming foreign trip, or whether we need to wait? And I also wanted to ask you — it looked like there might be some coverage of remarks at the fundraiser yesterday. It didn’t work out. But beyond yesterday, are you guys looking at beginning to do that now for fundraisers of a certain size to have some transparency and the ability to hear what he’s telling donors?
  • So no apology from the president, Sarah? (called after her as she left — and ignored)

TOWOIT #159

June 28, 2017…. Day 160

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List of possibly somewhat reassuring things:

  • Burr and Warner working together in the Senate
  • Sally Yates says we should have confidence in Robert Mueller
  • Jim Comey says we should have faith in Robert Mueller
  • Delay of healthcare vote; no one is letting up though
  • Keith Ellison — he just makes me feel better
  • 43% of Republicans think Trump’s Twitter practices are “distracting and reckless” (according to NPR this morning)
  • More GOP defecting from the bill than I expected. Non-craven.
  • Overheard Trump-voter at the office: “I’d rather there be NO healthcare bill than something that caters to Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Anything that Ted Cruz thinks is acceptable, I don’t.”
  • Overheard Republican at the office: “I mean someone can go on TV and say out loud that the president is a moron, and it’s just the truth. It’s discouraging. It’s setting a whole new standard.”
  • Nicholas Burns and the other three panelists in front of Burr and Warner’s committee in the Senate today talking about Russia’s election-meddling. Burns had a lot of sharp words for Trump and the Trump administration. Risch and Cotton were garbagey to the panelists, but many of the Republicans were NOT.
  • 39% of Republicans say they don’t know enough about the health care bill to say whether they like it or not. Joy Reid cited this as a disturbing statistic, but if the approval rating for the bill is 17% with that many Republicans essentially in the dark about it, then this is even worse for the Senate Republicans than I thought. I need to know that some people are just really busy and preoccupied with their lives. It’s either that or they are all completely in the grip of Fox News, and I’ll take the blank slate over that.
  • Seen in Seattle:

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s off-camera press gaggle:

Continue reading TOWOIT #159

TOWOIT #157

June 26, 2017… Day 158

Early this morning I watched a Vox video about “democratic backsliding.” How it happened in Venezuela and how it is happening here. It was very scary. But let’s focus on something good — Susan Collins is firmly opposing the Senate “healthcare” bill. YES!! Thank you for being NON-CRAVEN.

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Jim Comey’s friend does this sometimes when something is about to happen:

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Sometimes I just kinda wonder if they are actually frenemies.

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The White House seems to be gearing up for more military action against Syria. The Supreme Court is partially reinstating Trump’s travel ban. And Ivanka Trump says she tries to stay out of politics.

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I hate the White House Press Briefings being off camera. I loved to hear the reporters’ voices, see their faces, listen to their questions in real time.

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Reporters’ questions after the jump:

Continue reading TOWOIT #157