TOWOIT #262: Gaggle me with a wooden spoon.

November 9, 2017… Day 293

The press office got in some hot water on Twitter yesterday after SHS admitted candidly that they didn’t let the press ask any questions during the appearance of Trump and Xi because the Chinese insisted there not be questions. Which is not usual. Usually the U.S. is like, “Excuse me, no, our reporters ask questions or this isn’t happening.” Because it’s a lead-by-example, first-amendment thing. But no, not the Trump administration. This on top of John Kelly joking to a reporter that he might get arrested because the rules are different in China. Eff you guys.

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So anyway, they finally put a press gaggle up on Whitehouse.gov. It was conducted on Airforce One between Korea and Beijing by someone called Senior Administration Official, with assistance by someone else who was also called Senior Administration Official. I looked for the hallmarks of Steve-Millerian pomposity but I didn’t see his signature in the remarks. Things did get a bit Who’s On First in the transcript at times.

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It’s kind of weird that transcript never shows any reporter using the name of either S.A.O. Ok, it’s a little fishy! I’m putting my tinfoil hat on.

Here was a sequence of questions I enjoyed:

  • Just for clarification, did the President announce the bit about the state sponsorship of terror and I missed it?
  • One last thing. What does movement toward denuclearization look like?
  • Do you think he should tweet while he’s in China? Do you see any problem with that? Is there any reason why the President shouldn’t tweet while he’s in China?
  • Including in China? [SAO response, verbatim: “Yeah, why not. Why not”]
  • So can he access it? Logistically, can he access it?

Honestly, the syntax reads to me like it’s John Kelly himself. One of them. Read this:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As even the, I guess, head of the National Assembly said, the President was working on it right up until the end. So obviously these are very much the President’s words. He spent the entire time we had today making additional changes; this morning when we were in a hold, continuing to make changes. So these are very much his thoughts, his words, and something that he was engaged in throughout the process.

Did anyone else pick up on a “Fuck my life, P.S. I’m craven” vibe?

Here’s SHS talking to reporters about how the President isn’t going to the demilitarized zone after all:

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Ok, and then in Beijing TODAY, Rex Tillerson briefed reporters. It’s not as fun when he’s not being that Russian asshole Lavrov’s straight man, but here we go.

  • Mr. Secretary, on North Korea, the President was asking Xi Jinping to do more — to close down bank accounts, send North Korean workers back, cut out the oil supplies.  Where did you get on that front?  And will the President meet with Vladimir Putin in Da Nang? [Tillerson says a Putin meeting is “still under consideration”]
  • Mr. Secretary, if I could ask you quickly a little bit on trade. You mentioned the President said this was an unbalanced relationship. So in what way did China promise to balance out that relationship? And then, secondly, the President talked a lot about his personal chemistry with President Xi. Can you sort of bring us inside the room and tell us what that chemistry looked like, and then also how you anticipate that chemistry will help the U.S. get what it wants from China?
  • Thank you, Mr. Secretary. In that vein, the conversation when the President was pressing China to ramp up the pressure on North Korea, if you could get into some detail on that for us. And also, is one of the areas of disagreement North Korea?
  • Mr. Secretary, the President said (inaudible) that he does not blame China for the trade imbalance. He said during the campaign that China was raping the economy and threatened to declare China a currency manipulator.  Why the change of heart here? And can you explain why the President said, “Who can blame a country that is able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.” Does he seem like he’s praising them for taking advantage of the United States? 
  • Mr. Secretary, one question about this agreement between China and the U.S. on North Korea. You said China will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.  Well, clearly it has accepted a nuclear-armed North Korea. North Korea has nuclear weapons now. Are you telling us that China has agreed with the President that the era of strategic patience is over, and they’ve reached a new determination about this threat that they didn’t have before President Trump took office? And when President Xi said sanctions will take a little while, did he give any clarity on what that length of time is? And is the President comfortable waiting however long President Xi thinks sanctions will take?
  • And you said the two nations have their own views on tactics and timing. Would you describe that as a large gap in the two countries’ views on timings and tactics?
  • Another thing the President said today that they agreed on were the solutions when it comes to North Korea.  Could you explain to us a little bit more about that? And then also on that note, on this trip, the President used very strong words for Kim Jong-un’s government when he was in South Korea, but we didn’t hear him use some of the same derogatory language for him that we’ve heard from him in the past, like at the United Nations, like “Little Rocket Man.”  I’m wondering if the Japanese government, or the South Korean government, or even the Chinese government asked him not to use that kind of language and to kind of tone it down while he was so close to North Korea.
  • But that is a different sort of message and tone than we’ve heard the President take to this North Korea situation in the past. So if it wasn’t another government that asked him not to use some of the same kind of derogatory language, what did make him change his approach to that situation? Was the U.S. concerned that that language might be seen as provocatory?
  • Mr. Secretary, I was wondering on the possible meeting with the Russian President on Thursday. Just to follow on John’s question, is it still under possible plan? The President seemed to suggest when he was flying here on Air Force One that he expected to meet him on Thursday. Has something changed since then, or it’s just not nailed down yet?
  • What do you believe is substantive to talk about? What do you want to bring to them?
  • Do you believe that Russian meddling and the investigation is still on that list of things to talk about, or did they say everything they had to say in Germany?

Why would Trump talk to Putin about the investigation?

Anyway, that’s not what Tillerson said.

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 #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 #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 #105

May 1, 2017… Day 102

Glenn Thrush to Sean Spicer today:

First of all, you just described Kim Jong-un as somebody who led his country forward at an early age. The President has invited Duterte, who, as Annie pointed out, has talked about assassinating journalists. The President put out a statement after Erdogan won his referendum congratulating him. He said kind things about Putin during the campaign, said kind things about Saddam Hussein.

Does the President have a thing with these totalitarian leaders? 

May Day. Everyone in my office got out of downtown early. I’m sorry I missed the Aztec dancers, and I especially hope these kids are feeling good and empowered about their day:

I was feeling bad for not treating May Day like any other resistance event. I’ve marched for Black Lives Matter, for the catch-all women’s march, for science, for climate, for immigrants and refugees. How is this not just another in the sequence? Just because it’s entrenched in my pre-45 brain and starts to get violent as night falls, that doesn’t mean the daytime peaceful marches aren’t important.

Looking at the #MayDaySea hashtag, I’m seeing a lot of this:

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In other news, I started listening to the second season of Politically Re-active today (getting over my anger at the hosts for supporting and normalizing Jill Stein as a viable ballot option). Hari and Kamau are interviewing the social and racial justice leaders that I need to be listening to, so I’m going to pretend I don’t know what I know about 2016. We’ll see how it goes.

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You might not be able to tell from these questions, but at the press briefing today, a) there was more shouting and bids for attention from the reporters throughout the questioning, b) Sean Spicer was especially salty and curt in not allowing follow-ups, and c) as Sean left the room someone yelled “WHAT ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR??!! WHAT ABOUT THE PRESIDENT’S COMMENTS ON THE CIVIL WAR??!!” and then when the door slammed shut behind Sean Spicer, another reporter started to cackle maniacally.

  • Thank you very much. So I wanted to go back to the comments that the President made this weekend on “Face the Nation” on healthcare regarding preexisting conditions. He said specifically that the bill he wants to sign would “mandate” the preexisting conditions be covered. Can you talk us through a little bit of what he meant there? Was he referring to something he wants to push to include in the bill? Was he talking about the language that’s already in there?
  • How does he ensure, though, that those people actually are treated affordably?  I mean, there was an estimate from AARP that if you’re looking just at the high-risk pool, the premiums can be as high as over $25,000 for somebody. What is he doing to ensure that that doesn’t happen?
  • Couple things for you, Sean, if I could. First of all, what do you say to conservatives who feel like they didn’t get a whole lot out of this spending bill?  There was no money for the wall, no cuts to sanctuary cities, funding for Planned Parenthood was maintained. What do you say to those conservatives?
  • But clearly, he did give up on some things.
  • And the other — I had, on the pending visit of Duterte from the Philippines.  Chris Coons said that the President is giving his stamp of approval to human rights abuses. Governor John Sununu, on the other hand, said this is part of the unpleasant things that Presidents have to do. What’s the White House’s perspective on Duterte and him coming here?
  • I wanted to ask you about the tax deductions. The White House has talked a little bit about that as a way to curb big tax breaks for the rich. Are you looking at any other policy changes when it comes to limiting breaks for the top 1 percent?
  • On healthcare, there seems to be a new optimism from the White House. How confident is the President that he will get a healthcare bill past the House this week?
  • On North Korea, today the President told Bloomberg he was open to meeting with Kim Jong-un if the conditions were right. How does the President define the right condition to have this meeting?
  • Thanks, Sean. Picking up on healthcare, it’s believed possibly that you might be down — Republicans might be down to maybe just a handful of votes away.  Here we are at 2:00 p.m. Monday afternoon. Is this the closest that you think you’ve gotten? I know you don’t want to talk about timelines, but is this as close to maybe getting to that magic 216 number that you’ve talked about?
  • Dodd-Frank — the President just gave an interview in which he said, “I am looking at that right now.” He goes on to say “There’s some people that want to go back to the old system, right, so we’re going to look at that,” meaning potentially breaking up the banks. So breaking up the banks, going back to Glass-Steagall, is that something that he’s just looking at, or is that something that is a preference of his at this point?
  • Thanks, Sean. So you’re saying that you’re not confident that the votes are lined up behind the healthcare bill. So this morning when Gary Cohn said that the bill was ready to be brought to the floor, did Gary Cohn misspeak?
  • Thanks, Sean. The President on the campaign trail raised alarm about federal debt and deficits. His spending bill get us through the end of the fiscal year doesn’t include any of the offsets really that the President requested in this year’s budget. Is the President — will the President sign this agreement that does increase the federal deficit?
  • He called for keeping that balance, essentially keeping —
  • On President Duterte, he made comments when asked about press freedom, he said that journalists are not exempt from assassination. Did the President know about those comments and about his record on human rights when he extended the invitation for him to visit the White House?
  • I wanted to ask you about the future of Sebastian Gorka. Can you tell us why he’s leaving the White House?
  • Thank you, Sean. I have a healthcare and Israel question. On healthcare, when the President talks about a guarantee for preexisting conditions, current law says insurance companies have to sell to people with preexisting conditions, and they can’t charge them more than someone else in that area. Is that the guarantee that the President wants?
  • Right, but people with preexisting conditions would continue to get access but not at the same price as other people.
  • Right. But high-risk pools could still charge them much more.
  • The President turned to Bibi Netanyahu at that press conference and famously said, settlements are not helpful. Israel is going to build 15,000 new homes in East Jerusalem. Does he think that Netanyahu is snubbing him?
  • Is he aware of that?
  • Thank you, Sean. I wanted to ask about some news the President made this morning in an interview that he conducted with Bloomberg. In that interview, he talked about the possibility of raising gas taxes to pay for infrastructure spending. Of course, the President has put forward the idea of a trillion-dollar infrastructure spending plan. Can you talk a little bit more about this possibility of raising gas taxes?
  • As it relates to this idea that the gas tax in America hasn’t been raised for some time, what makes the President believe that now is the time that Republicans who have been opposed to this idea would be open to this idea?
  • You have not foreclosed this possibility of raising —
  • I have two questions, one foreign policy and one on domestic politics. First, last Wednesday, the Kremlin outlawed the Open Russia movement, the premier opposition group to the ruling regime in Russia. And the following day, security forces were forcibly closing down Open Russia’s office in Moscow and other places. Does the administration have a statement on this?
  • All right. My second question is, on Sunday, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a 14-term veteran of the House, past Chairman of the House, foreign affairs committee, announced her retirement. Her statement comes on the heels of a similar announcement by Congressman Chaffetz, and before that, only a few weeks ago, Lynn Jenkins of Kansas. That’s three respected Republican House members all calling it quits. Is the President concerned about the number of Republican House members who do not want to be on the ballot next time and are leaving Congress?
  • Sean, the President opted not to continue Obama’s tradition of holding an Easter prayer breakfast, but he is holding a National Day of Prayer event. Was that a scheduling issue, or did he think — what was the thought process there?
  • Thanks, Sean. Back to Glass-Steagall for a second. As you can imagine, the President’s comments today are getting a lot of attention on Wall Street, so can we be just very clear about this — does the President favor breaking up the big banks?
  • — take any steps toward that behind the scenes that we’re not aware of?
  •  Thanks, Sean. So the lack of border wall funding raises a question of just how serious the President is about getting the border wall constructed. Is it not urgent? Is it not an emergency anymore to build this barrier? What is the timetable and deadline that he has in mind?
  • So it will be built. Is there a time certain? Is there a deadline by the 2018? By?

  • Coming back to North Korea, the President didn’t just say he would be open to meeting with Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances.  He said he would be “honored” to meet with him. This is somebody who has starved his own people, somebody who has threatened to destroy the United States. Just last week he put out a video showing the Capitol getting destroyed by North Korea fighters. How could he be “honored” to meet with Kim Jong-un?
  • How could that be an honor?
  • What did he mean when he called him one smart cookie or a pretty smart cookie?

  • Sean, on North Korea and then on Philippines.  On North Korea, both of the President’s comment on Kim Jong-un and what Secretary Tillerson said, you seem to be making the offer that we could have direct talks with North Korea.  Who is going to be leading those?
  • Is that the White House?
  • But who would lead that? Is that the White House or the State Department?
  • And on the Philippines, when you have been asked about President Duterte and his human rights record, you continue to say the effort here is to isolate the Philippines from the North Korea, part of this coalition to isolate North Korea.
  • Are you suggesting that the Philippines has some sort of inappropriate contact with North Korea? Are you suggesting that we are requesting greater access perhaps to their military bases? What is it exactly —
  • Are you suggesting now that they are trading or conducting some kind of financial transactions —
  • When you say economic piece, that’s what I just want to clarify —
  • Sean, two quick, related questions. First of all, you just described Kim Jong-un as somebody who led his country forward at an early age. The President has invited Duterte, who, as Annie pointed out, has talked about assassinating journalists. The President put out a statement after Erdogan won his referendum congratulating him. He said kind things about Putin during the campaign, said kind things about Saddam Hussein. Does the President have a thing with these totalitarian leaders? Does he admire something about the way these guys conduct themselves?
  • What about this whole package —
  • One follow-up question. On Sunday, Chief of Staff Priebus, talking to this gentleman right here, said, with respect to the libel laws and the First Amendment, talking about news outlets that printed false articles, “I think it’s something that we’ve looked at. How that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story.” Is that a project that is currently being worked on by the counsel’s office? Can you just tell me the status of that? Who is pursuing that?
  • Is the counsel actually investigating this?
  • Sean, two questions. One on — just to clarify on North Korea, were those conditions that you laid out to the earlier question, are those the conditions that would have to be met before there was any meeting — i.e. that North Korea would have to agree to totally disarm its nuclear program, stop threatening their neighbors? Are those the conditions?
  • Sean, on a separate subject. The chief executives of United Airlines will be on the Hill tomorrow. Is the President at all — does the President think that Congress should pass any laws after the incident last month where the passenger was dragged off? Should there be some — should there be more done to protect passengers on airplanes from those type of incidents?
  • Thanks. I just want to ask you to clarify something else the President said. He said, “I don’t stand by anything.” How is the American public supposed to digest that, supposed to trust what the President says when he himself says of his own comments “I don’t stand by anything”?
  • Just in this CBS interview with John Dickerson in the Oval Office.
  • About wiretapping.
  • It was about wiretapping. He was asked to — if he still believes President Obama is a bad or evil guy, do you still stand by those comments, and the President said “I don’t stand by anything.”  
  • Sean, I have two questions on the Philippines. First, is President Trump comfortable with the leader’s support of extrajudicial killings of drug users in the country?
  • But what —
  • Sean, I have a second question, if you don’t mind.
  • Looking at — there are three open patents with the Philippines government, one from Trump trying to get the Trump patented to — from Ivanka Trump for her clothing line. How do you respond to concerns about potential conflicts of interest with the leader of the Philippines?
  •  I just want to clarify something you said to Zeke. Is there a possibility that the President would not sign this spending agreement?
  • Are you still on track to issue the full fiscal year ’18 budget? Is it mid-May, or do you have a date for that?
  • Thanks, Sean. Just wanted to first ask what your expectation and what’s your hope for the meeting with President Abbas on Wednesday? And secondly, is the President still considering moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and will that be discussed?
  • Abbas.
  • The first question is your expectations going forward. What’s the hope from this.
  • Sean, quick follow-up on infrastructure. The President has been talking about a major infrastructure package for more than a year and in the campaign, but it doesn’t seem very clear right now what the mechanism is for the construction of whatever it is that he wants to push forward. He talked about maybe attaching it to the reconciliation package for healthcare. He talked about maybe doing that with the tax package. Can you update us on — is that still very preliminary in its invention? Does he have clear ideas? And what’s the mechanism and timing to get that done?
  • This year?

 

 

 

 

 

TOWOIT #92

April 18, 2017… Day 89

OK, I’ve been a publicly angry declensionist for enough days in a row. This was a good read from Vox:

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And I’m not gonna get upset that Jon Ossoff has to go to the runoff election in the Georgia 6 (probably, I had to stop watching the results come in).

I’m not gonna get upset about Ivanka Trump. Not her China shenanigans…

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Not her Turkey shenanigans…

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Haha, Joyce Carol Oates. That woman is so prolific it’s shady. Speaking of books, I’m not going to get upset about the coverage surrounding Shattered, which picks apart Hillary and her campaign.

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I’m glad that Arkansas is hitting a few stumbling blocks on its execution plans.

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And I’m glad that there are cultural shifts and demographic shifts and economic shifts in how we use energy.

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Questions the press pool asked deputy White House press secretary Sarah H. Sanders:

Continue reading TOWOIT #92

TOWOIT #91

April 17… Day #88

Crawling toward Day 100. It used to seem like every day was 10 days. Now it’s down to about two days per day. When I found out Trump was going to win, the first thing I cried for was the fact that I didn’t want to see his face or hear his voice any more. I hadn’t realized how desperate I was for him to be shuffled out of my daily eyeshot and earshot. And in that moment, I didn’t think I could bear another day of Trump on national television, let alone Trump as President. Well, I’m fucking stronger now. We all are.

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Trump also didn’t seem to know or remember that Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un were different people.

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Four years ago, in tweets, Trump seemed to have a better handle on things.

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“You got a fly on your head.”

—John Roberts to Sean Spicer during today’s White House Press Briefing

Questions they asked Sean Spicer today at the WHPB:

Continue reading TOWOIT #91