TOWOIT #270: Lockstep

December 5, 2017… Day #320

Questions the reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today:

  • [Major Garrett, CBS] Sarah, one issue that you may have seen this morning: Is the White House, or the President, at any level, considering creating a global or regional spy network that would circumvent the U.S. intelligence apparatus and serve the President outside of the normal and legally defined intelligence-gathering mechanisms?
  • The President would be opposed to that?
  • Do you know if any senior official has been briefed on that idea, or has it been discussed at any level in this administration?
  • Is it possible –
  • No, but is it possible it’s something the President might consider?
  • Is it something the President might consider?
  • [John Roberts, Fox News] World leaders have spoken out, Sarah, in the last 24 hours about the possible move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Mahmoud Abbas says that it would have great consequences for peace and stability in the region. King Abdullah said much the same thing. Saudi Arabia, at least publicly, saying the same thing; though, I’m told privately, they’re saying something different than that. French President Macron said that he thought it was a bad idea. In the face of all of that, would the President ignore that advice from world leaders and go ahead and make the move at this time?
  • Is it safe to say, other than Israel, which thinks that this move is 22 years overdue, that all of the feedback that he’s been getting from world leaders is overwhelmingly negative about this idea?
  • [Cecilia Vega, ABC News] Thanks, Sarah. Yesterday, the President said that he felt very badly for General Flynn. Would he consider pardoning him?
  • So you haven’t talked to him about it, or he said he wouldn’t consider it?
  • You have not —
  • So is it fair to say that it’s on the table?
  • [Steve Holland, Reuters] Back on the embassy. Has the President made up his mind about this, or is the decision still in flux a bit?
  • [April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks] Sarah, a couple questions. One, there are comments from people from the NAACP, black ministers, who plan on protesting and boycotting this weekend for the President’s visit to the Civil Rights Museum. What say you?
  • They feel it’s an insult that he’s coming as we’ve had issues of Charlottesville, the back and forth — the President couldn’t get his statement straight on Charlottesville.
  • [Jordan Fabian, The Hill] Thanks, Sarah. Did the President know that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI at the time that he fired him in February?
  • I have a follow-up. So your predecessor said on June 6th, “…is the President of the United States, so they’re considered official statements by the President of the United States in regards to his tweets.” Does that still — does that standard still apply for the President’s tweets?
  • [Matthew Nussbaum, Politico] Thanks, Sarah. The White House originally said that if the accusations against Roy Moore were true, then Moore should step aside. I’m wondering how the President reached the conclusion that all of Moore’s accusers — including those who have put forward evidence — are lying.
  • Even if that person who would support his agenda has done what Roy Moore’s accusers have said he’s done?
  • [David Brody, Christian Broadcasting Network] Sarah, can you tell me a little bit about the process and timing as how the President got to the potential Jerusalem announcement tomorrow? Do you have somewhat of a backstory on that to the degree that you can at this point?
  • And just a quick follow-up. An evangelical’s role in this, how crucial is that being in terms of the Faith Advisory Council?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] Thanks a lot, Sarah. I have a question for you about the special counsel’s office. Does the President believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or anybody on his staff, is biased in any way against the President?
  • Just a follow-up for you, if I may, Sarah. I think it was about five or six weeks ago that you indicated from that podium, on a few occasions, that you believe and the White House believes that Mr. Mueller’s investigation will be wrapping up shortly. Since that time, we’ve seen that a very high-level aide to the President — former aide to the President — former national security advisor has entered a plea deal with the special counsel’s office. Do you still believe that this investigation is wrapping up soon?
  • [Blake Burman, Fox Business News] Sarah, thank you. Let me ask you two questions on so-called “red lines.” If Robert Mueller ends up looking into the President’s finances, or if he has already looked into the President’s finances, does the President, does this White House believe that is a red line? And, if so, why?
  • Let me ask you — a second red line. This White House has consistently said there are two red lines on tax reform — middle class relief and then a 20 percent corporate rate. But the President, over the weekend, seemed to suggest that he would be amenable for a corporate rate up to 22 percent. Why would he be willing to step over his own red line on that issue?
  • [Michael Shear, New York Times] So two quick things. One, does the President believe, as the lawyer from the solicitor general’s office said at the court today, that a baker could put a sign in his window saying “We don’t bake cakes for gay weddings” and that that would be legal?
  • Yeah, so the solicitor general — the lawyer from the solicitor general’s office for the administration said today in court, at the Supreme Court, that it would be legal, it would be possible for a baker to put a sign in his window saying, “We don’t bake cakes for gay weddings.” Does the President agree that that would be okay?
  • And that would be, that would –
  • And one other question just on Russia, but not one that you would expect. What does the President think of the decision to ban Russian athletes from the Olympics in 2018?
  • [Catherine Lucey, Associated Press] Sarah, House Republican leaders had to push back a vote on a short-term budget bill this week to avert a shutdown. Does the White House think that a shutdown is a possibility?
  • And one follow-up. Then, the President doesn’t think that it would be politically advantageous?
  • [Hallie Jackson, NBC] Two quick ones for you. And just a statement of fact: When did the President know that Mike Flynn lied to the FBI?
  • I’m asking for a date. I’m asking for a date. When did he find out? Was it when the announcement was made Friday? Was it prior to that?
  • Would you mind following up with the President since Dowd has been unresponsive to that?
  • No problem. A point to you, you have weighed in on other special counsel matters before. It’s just a statement of fact of when, during the administration, what day the President discovered this lie issue.
  • My second question is on Roy Moore, Sarah. You said, just a minute ago, that the President would want somebody in the Senate who supports his agenda versus one who does not. And I just want to clarify here that, is it the White House’s position then — sort of formally here — that it is worse to have a Democrat in that Senate seat than somebody who is accused of sexually abusing a teen girl?
  • Then why did the President endorse?
  • [Steven Portnoy, CBS News] Thanks, Sarah. I do want to nail something down with respect to John Dowd and what he’s been telling us in the last couple of days. He’s argued that the President cannot be charged with obstruction of justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer in the country. That’s his opinion. Does the White House share that opinion? Has the White House Counsel’s Office looked into this question? Does it share that perspective?
  • What do you make of the whole notion of obstruction of justice, though? It’s been discussed in the last couple of days. A lot of people have been talking about it. What do you think about it?
  • [Jim Acosta, CNN] I’m not an attorney either. Let me ask you about –
  • Thank you, I appreciate that. This decision on Jerusalem — is the President concerned that there could a violence as a result of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Has that been looked at by this White House?
  • Following up on Roy Moore, just very quickly — other folks got a couple of questions — isn’t there a moral decision that you’re making here? And I’m sure you’ve heard this talked about in the news the last couple of days as the President has decided to endorse Roy Moore. This is somebody who has been accused of child abuse, of molesting children. How can that vote in the Senate be that important that you would take a gamble on somebody who has been accused of molesting kids, of harming somebody who’s underage?
  • Is that something the President has wrestled with in any way? Has he wrestled with that question?
  • [Brian someone] Sarah, thank you. The President said that the tax plan will hurt him individually. Will the President release his taxes to prove that?
  • Why not? I mean, he can release it — even if it’s under audit, he could release his tax returns if he wanted.
  • [Jon Gizzi, Newsmax] Yeah. Thank you, Sarah. A matter of procedure on the Roy Moore endorsement. Did the President have any conversations with Chairman McDaniel of the RNC after he made his position known? Or did he talk to state Chairman Lathan in Alabama or any of the players involved in the Republican National Committee before they decided to get back in the race and support Roy Moore?
  • You can’t say who the officials are?
  • [Hunter Walker, Yahoo! News] Thank you, Sarah. Given the President’s endorsement, does he agree with Roy Moore that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress?
  • But, I mean, you’re saying that their agendas are kind of in lockstep. Does that go both ways?
  • [Eamon Javers, CNBC] Thanks, Sarah. Does the President expect Deutsche Bank or any financial institutions to cooperate with requests for documents from U.S. law enforcement if they get them?
  • What’s the President’s message to the financial institutions themselves? If they get a request, should they comply with that?
  • [Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers] Just to follow up on Roy Moore a bit. Are you saying that — you’re saying let the people decide, but this administration has endorsed Roy Moore. Why endorse him if you want the people to decide? You’re influencing the decision by endorsing him. And secondly, are you saying that no matter who runs as a member of the GOP, it’s okay as long as you are in lockstep with the President and vote the way he wants?
  • For this person. This person.
  • [Dave Boyer, Washington Times] Thanks, Sarah. The administration reported today that illegal border crossings have dropped to a 45-year low. Does that lessen the urgency, as we’re getting down to spending decisions here, about whether to go forward with building the wall in this budget?

TOWOIT #266: Snookered

November 17, 2017… Day 302

Sarah Huckabee’s 33rd press conference as press secretary.

She wore a black dress with a large pale floral image partially visible (podium in the way) and a string of pearls. She looked doleful, as if weighed down by the souls of decapitated elephants and fondled nobodies.

Kevin Hassett, White House Council of Economic Advisers, was there. He smiled like a goon the whole time, smiled through his own words, smiled through the questions. He smiled as he said that trickle-down economics work, and he smiled as he refused to take follow-ups on that.

Questions for Kevin:

  • [John Roberts, Fox News] Kevin, I know you’re an economist but there’s obviously a political component to all of this. You got at least six senators up on the Hill, including Ron Johnson, saying that they can’t support the bill in its current form or they have serious concerns about it. You can only afford to lose two. Are you confident that you can get this passed through the Senate? Or could the President run into another situation, like he did with Obamacare? That he wins the House and then loses everything in the Senate.
  • [Unknown man] What makes you think trickle-down economics is going to work this time when it hasn’t worked before?
  • And the incentive — [No follow-ups!]
  • One of Senator Johnson’s concerns is that this bill does not do enough for medium-sized and small businesses. Can you talk about what the bill does do for medium-size and small businesses?
  • [Young woman on the side] One of the major differences between the House and the Senate bill is the elimination of the non-taxable tuition waivers. So while they’re trying to reconcile their differences on that tax reform bill, what do you foresee which could potentially move this tax burden to a lot of young Americans?
  • [not sure who this is, another man] Kevin, thanks for being here. On one of your TV appearances yesterday, you said that an average family, when this is all said and done, could accumulate a savings benefit of $4,000. That’s a lot of money.
  • Can you walk us through that?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] One of the criticisms, Kevin, of the tax reform proposal is that the corporate tax rate is cut permanently. The individual tax rate phases out after 10 years. Why, in your view, is that such a good idea?
  • Hi, Emma Robinson, One America News. [ultraconservative outlet] The two bills are different in that the House bill repeals or does away with the estate tax and the Senate doesn’t. And I know that was a big point for the administration, and Vice President Pence has voiced his support for repealing the death tax, as they call it. What are your thoughts on that? And do you think a final bill will include a repeal of it?
  • [Eamon Javers, CNBC–another money guy] Thank you, Kevin. I appreciate it. Can you talk about this moment earlier in the week at the Wall Street Journal event? Gary Cohn was on stage, and the moderator asked a group of CEOs, “If tax reform passes, who here is going to increase their investment?” And only a couple of hands went up in the room. Gary Cohn said, why aren’t there more hands going up? Can you answer that question? Why aren’t there more hands going up in a room like that? You would assume that CEOs would say, yes, in fact, we are going to invest more if tax reform passes. Is the administration missing something there?
  • [April Ryan, American Urban Radio Network, not suffering fools] Yes, yes. Gene Sperling, who was once in your position in another administration, says that this tax plan — be it historic — costs $1.5 trillion and it’s a deficit hole. And he says that basically — this is in a tweet. I’m just paraphrasing his tweet. He says, it basically doesn’t justify that cost for 100 million households for a tax increase.
  • [Blake Burman, Fox Business News] I want to pick up where John, right in front of me, left off when he asked about the phase-out on the individual side. You’re an economist; however, the two answers that you gave were both political. One, there’s reconciliation rules. And two, hopefully politicians down the line solve it. But like I mentioned, you’re an economist. So can you not make an economic argument as to why this is good economically for people?
  • Correct. Is there an economic argument as to why this is good for the country as it stands right now to expire within eight years or so?
  • [Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News] I actually want to follow up on that, though. You all made a value judgment to make the corporate tax cuts permanent and to make the individual tax cuts expire, even though you want all of them to be permanent. What’s the rationale for having corporations have that certainty of knowing that they don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen in Washington while families are going to have to worry about what politicians do six, seven years now?
  • You don’t see the value one way or the other, whether the corporate tax cuts versus —
  • [Major Garrett, CBS] Kevin, you’ve melded politics and economics here quite successfully, and I want to ask you a political and economic question. You’ve talked about growth covering what the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Tax Committee say could be a deficit hole, a deficit implication of $1.5 trillion. That is going to be measurable over time. There’s going to be a means by which either dynamic scoring or static scoring answers that question. And since it’s on the mind of some of your undecided Republican senators, is this administration willing to commit to a review five years in to see if the growth models have held along your lines and the deficit implications aren’t as large — or, if they aren’t, to reassess these tax cuts in order not to blow a hole in the deficit?
  • Do you think there would be —

Then Sarah came back. She took questions for 12 minutes. Questions to Sarah:

  • Thanks, Sarah. I have a non-Roy Moore question for you. Can you say definitively — I want to ask you about Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Can you say definitively, from this podium, that he has not been held hostage by the Saudis? And does the President plan to speak to Prime Minister Hariri at all? [She sidesteps this and refers the questioner to the disappearing state department]
  • [Cecilia Vega, ABC News] Thanks, Sarah. If it’s fair to investigate Al Franken and the allegation made by his accuser, is it also fair to investigate this President and the allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by more than a dozen women?
  • But how is this different?

MS. SANDERS: I think in one case, specifically, Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing, and the President hasn’t. I think that’s a very clear distinction.

  • [Major Garrett, CBS News] So I want to revisit something we discussed yesterday. You said, one of the ways that Alabama voters might be able to figure out if these allegations against Roy Moore are true is in the court of law. That’s a direct quote from you. There’s no criminal means by which that could happen. So are you suggesting that Roy Moore sue the accusers in order to hash this out in court?
  • But that’s the venue you meant when you talked about “in the court of law.”
  • The only reason I raise that is because, during the campaign, as you well remember, then-candidate Trump said, after the election he would sue all the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, and that you have, from the podium, deemed all liars. He hasn’t done that. Why hasn’t he done that?
  • [The handsome and plaintive-looking Jeff Mason of Reuters] Sarah, some critics have said that it was hypocritical of the President to tweet about Al Franken and not weigh in on Roy Moore.
  • [Sara Murray, CNN, sitting next to Jeff in the front row] Can you tell us whether the President believes the women who are making these allegations against Roy Moore? And would he be willing to ask the Alabama governor to delay the election or take a step like that to try to intervene in this electoral process in Alabama?
  • [Matthew Nussbaum, Politico] Thank you, Sarah. In light of the national discussion about the importance of taking these kinds of accusations seriously, I wanted to check: Is it still the White House position that all the women who have accused the President of sexual misconduct are lying?
  • [Blake Burman, Fox Business News] Thanks, Sarah. Let me ask you about something else — the pending potential AT&T and Time Warner merger. The President had said on the campaign trail, back in October of 2016 — and I quote here — he said it was a “deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” Does the President still feel that way?
  • [April Ryan] Sarah, is this an uncomfortable conversation about these sexual allegations for this White House be it Al Franken or be it Roy Moore?
  • A follow-up. [We’re tight on time, says Sarah and calls on someone else]
  • A follow-up. I talked to Hillary Clinton[April! says Sarah]
  • I talked to Hillary Clinton today about the President’s past — and going back to what Matthew said, she said, look, I worry about everything from his past because it tells you how he behaves in the present and will in the future. What do you say to that as it relates to these allegations against the President?
  • [Alex Pfeiffer, The Daily Caller, conservative wunderkind, was a correspondent already when a freshman in college] Two questions. One on taxes, then immigration. A recent Quinnipiac University poll said 61 percent of voters think the Republican tax plan will benefit the wealthy while the White House has pitched this plan as a working-class tax cut. Why the disconnect?And then on immigration — [she doesn’t allow his second question]
  • [John Roberts, Fox News] Let me come back and ask you the same thing I asked Kevin. You’ve got six Republican senators either “no” or seriously on the fence here. Can you win enough over in order to pass this? And if the President gets snookered again by the Senate, what’s his reaction going to be?
  • The fact that you didn’t get any Democrats in the House, how does that portend for getting them in the Senate?
  • Safe to say the President will not be pleased if he gets snookered by the Senate again?
  • [Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News] Thanks, Sarah. The administration put out a disaster funding request for about $44 billion today. It’s much less than what a number of different governors and officials in the various affected territories and states have requested. Can you explain sort of why the number is so low compared to what the local officials say they need?
  • Are you expecting (inaudible) much more requests forward in the future, specifically for Puerto Rico?
  • [Kristen Welker, NBC News] Sarah, thank you. Steven Bannon is sending a strong message to the establishment to back off of Roy Moore. Does the President’s allegiance to Steve Bannon in any way implicate his response?
  • Has he spoken at all to Steve Bannon or any outside advisors?
  • How concerned is he, Sarah, about losing this seat to a Democratic candidate, who, right now, according to the polls, is leading?
  • [Jon Decker, Fox Radio News] Thanks a lot, Sarah. Just in regards to that question regarding the supplemental requests: The President and the administration has put forth $44 million. Puerto Rico has requested $94 million. Are they going to get somewhere along that order? I think half of the island is still without electricity.
  • Did the President notify Governor Abbott —
  • Did the President notify Governor Abbott of the lesser amount that he’s put forward? [She won’t answer, keeps moving]
  • [White woman, looks like she is WAPO or NPR from seating chart] Yesterday, the joint investigative mechanism was vetoed by Russia at the U.N. Security Council, and Ambassador Haley tweeted afterward that the veto proves that Russia cannot be trusted as a partner going forward in trying to solve the political situation in Syria. Does the President have any response to the veto, first? What is the U.S. view, going forward, of how chemical weapons will be investigated and dealt with in Syria? And is it the U.S. position now that Russia cannot be a partner in trying to solve, or do a next-day political situation by —
  • [Steven Portnoy, CBS Radio News] There’s been some extraordinary pushback on the administration’s decisions with respect to elephant trophies and hunting of lions and elephants in Africa. Can you shed some light on the decisions the administration has made? And will you make that pushback?
  • [Darlene Superville, Associated Press] The senate tax bill has a tax break for corporate jets. How does that help the middle class?
  • [Not sure who is talking, a man] Thank you, Sarah. Yesterday — on Jared Kushner and on his campaign e-mails — that Senate Committee, they’re asking for those e-mails in the Russia investigation. You punted it to Kushner’s attorney. Today, what’s the White House reaction to those previously undisclosed e-mails?

She completely did not answer with a White House reaction, and left the room.

 

TOWOIT #256: My Gal’s a Corker

October 24, 2017… Day 278

Sarah Huckabee Sanders held a press briefing today. She wore a pink blouse of a shinier, less structured fabric than usual. The neckline plunged a bit, showing some cleavage. I have not noticed her showing cleavage before and I do not like it when she opens herself up to sartorial criticism because then I feel honor-bound to defend her. I wondered if she felt self-conscious, or if maybe it had not seemed at home like the neckline plunged as much as it did indeed turn out to plunge.

Cleavage notwithstanding, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is like a giant damper pedal. Well, that’s not quite apt. But whereas Sean Spicer used to rattle and hum and spice things up by getting all zesty and testy, Sarah Sanders just takes all the energy and life in the room and absorbs it and keeps it. Everything falls quiet and slow. Just slow quiet lies in a deadened room.

Here are the questions they asked her today: 

Continue reading TOWOIT #256: My Gal’s a Corker