TOWOIT #336: Used mattress

June 4, 2018.

Number of times in 19 minutes that Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the President has done nothing wrong:  

The meeting was 19 minutes long and started 40 minutes past schedule. I think Sarah Huckabee Sanders is trolling reporters with her late start times. I have the chart of the last many briefings to show it.

image003-3

image005-2
The dotted line is time spent waiting divided by actual briefing time. The pink bars represent minutes of waiting time. 
  • (Jonathan Karl, ABC News) Sarah, just a short time ago, the President said that, “I have an [sic] absolute right to pardon myself.” Why does he think that? And does he also agree with Rudy Giuliani, his lawyer, that a pardon for himself would be unthinkable and would lead to immediate impeachment? (She’s about to say “the President has done nothing wrong” #1)
  • But does he absolutely rule out doing that? I mean, does he rule out ever issuing a pardon for himself? (Whoop, #2 is already fast upon us!) 
  • (Steve) How does the President respond to this criticism from Republicans about these tariffs against the EU, Canada, and Mexico? How do you reassure these senators and various people who were complaining about this?
  • Sarah, what was the contents of Kim Jong Un’s letter to the President that he received last week? And what did the President take away from that? Is he more encouraged, based on receiving that letter?
  • There’s a separate report that Vladimir Putin has reached out to Kim Jong Un and wants to meet with him. Is that a meeting that the President thinks would be constructive to this process? Does the President support Vladimir Putin meeting with Kim Jong Un as well?
  • (Mara Liasson, NPR News) Sarah, the President tweeted that the Special Counsel law was totally unconstitutional. If that’s the case, why is he allowing his own Justice Department to abide by it?
  • This is something new. He’s never said the law itself was unconstitutional. How can he allow his own Justice Department to participate in something that’s unconstitutional?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. I did want to follow up on that and try and figure out what exactly the basis was for the President’s claim that it is unconstitutional. But I wanted to ask you about something else, as well. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been accused of enlisting a taxpayer-funded staffer to not only shop for apartments around Washington, D.C. but also to shop for a used mattress from the President’s hotel just around the corner. And I wanted to know if any of that gives the President pause at this point, or causes his confidence in Scott Pruitt to waver. (Francesca’s questions are WAY better than her Daily Mail colleague David Martosko’s, but this is a wasted opportunity. All Sarah Sanders does is make a joke about furniture and move immediately to another person.)

SANDERS:  Certainly looking into the matter.  I couldn’t comment on the specifics of the furniture used in his apartment.  (Laughter.)

  • (John) You said that significant progress is being made in the diplomatic talks at the DMZ between U.S. and North Korean officials. The big question here is denuclearization. The President would like it to happen all at once — he said that before — but that it could also be a phased-in process. I know that the meeting has yet to take place, but certainly they’re trying to iron out some details here. Does it look like it will be an all-at-once, or is the phase-in more likely?
  • (Steven) Sarah, no matter what you call it, is maximum pressure still the policy of the United States toward North Korea?
  • (Peter Alexander, NBC News) Sarah, let me ask you, if I can: Does the President believe that he is above the law?

SANDERS:  Certainly not.  The President hasn’t done anything wrong.

  • The question isn’t if he’s done anything wrong. I guess, the question is, does the President believe the Framers envisioned a system where the President can pardon himself, where the President could be above the law? (She says again that he hasn’t done anything wrong)
  • But you, just a moment ago, said it’s not that clear. So I guess, simply put, does the President believe he is above the law?
  • Let me ask you a question, if I can follow.  Just because I haven’t been here in a while. (She says no and calls on someone else)
  • Sorry, I’m going to keep going. Right here.
  • I just want to ask, and this is an important one because it’s about —
  • I’ll just keep asking, if I can — (she says “No, you can’t actually”)
  • The President —
  • Well, Sarah — I’m going to, Sarah. I think this is important. I haven’t had a chance to ask this question — (she says “I’m going to continue to move on”)
  • (   ) Sarah, what’s the status of the tariffs on China? Does the administration still plan to move ahead with the June 15th deadline, as they stated?
  • (Brian Karem, Sentinel Newspapers) Thank you. Two quick questions. One, I’ve asked this before: Is there any chance we could ever see the President come out here and take some questions from us in this briefing room? (He hasn’t done this even one time. It’s a fairly normal thing for presidents to do) And secondly, has anyone in this administration ever asked the President — last week, you had, on your agenda — you had an agenda where you have more jobs coming out — I mean, lower unemployment coming, and you also had — the Second Chance Act, I think it was. And instead of those, we had to respond to presidential tweets. Has anybody ever in this administration asked him to back away from Twitter just for a day?
  • Extend him our invitation.

SANDERS:  In terms of Twitter, the President uses Twitter to communicate directly to the American people.  Frankly, you have the ability to choose what you want to write about, and you guys choose to write about things that the American people don’t care about —

(Wait did she just say the American people don’t care about his tweets?)

  • But we don’t have the ability to ask him a question in regards to that.
  • We do not have the opportunity to ask him a question about that, though, Sarah. (She ignores this and moves on)
  • Can we at least get an opportunity to ask him a question about what he tweets? (Still ignoring)
  • (Jordan Fabian, The Hill)  Thanks, Sarah. I want to ask you about the lawyer’s letter to the Special Counsel. You said, last August, that the President did not dictate a statement about the Trump Tower meeting during the campaign. But the lawyers wrote to the Special Counsel that the President did dictate that statement.  What’s the reason for that discrepancy? (She refers him to outside counsel and ignores that she was caught in a big lie)
  • (Deborah) After Kim Kardashian’s visit, is President Trump considering a commutation for Alice Johnson, who already has served 21 years of a life-without-parole sentence?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) Thanks a lot, Sarah. Since Robert Mueller was named the Special Counsel over a year ago, the President’s team, his legal team, the Justice Department has never challenged the constitutionality of the Special Counsel. Yet, the President today is doing just that. Why hasn’t either the Justice Department or the President’s legal team challenged the constitutionality? They have the right to do so in federal court, and yet they haven’t done so. (We all know the answer to this one)
  • (Inaudible) but specifically those two entities have not done it. The President’s own lawyers have not done it, Sarah, and they can do so. Why haven’t —
  • What about the Justice Department? Can you speak on behalf of the Justice Department? (nnnope, turns out she can’t)
  • (Steve) Yes, Sarah, I’m wondering if the White House stands by the comments that were made by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, who said that he was backing anti-establishment conservatives to take power in Europe. Seems like a very unusual thing for a U.S. diplomat to say towards friendly countries.
  • (Blake Burman, Fox Business News) Sarah, let me ask you — turn your attention back to trade. For the farmers out there who could care less about the politics, who have to run a business every day, there was a farmer in Iowa who told one of our crews out there this morning — he said, “It’s hard to know which way to jump right now.” As in, they don’t know what decisions they should make for their businesses because of what is playing out here in Washington, here in China, NAFTA negotiations as well. What would you tell those folks out there who are trying to run these businesses, who are trying to make a decision on which way to jump right now?
  • On the political front — (she shuts him down) 
  • (Peter Baker, New York Times) Thanks, Sarah. I just want to come back to — in August, you said he certainly didn’t dictate the statement. I wonder if you could tell us the basis of your comment when you made that in August. And do you think that still stands? Is that still an operative statement? Or do you retract that? (She refuses to answer a question about her own statement)
  • But in August, you said it. (Refuses to answer)
  • What was your basis for saying it in August, though? (Refuses to answer)
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Sarah, Rudy Giuliani, the President’s outside lawyer, said to the Huffington Post, “In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted. I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is. If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to [do to] him.” Is that appropriate language coming from the President’s outside lawyer to be talking about the President shooting Jim Comey in that fashion? (Get ready for another the President has done nothing wrong)
  • If I could ask a follow-up question. (Fuck no you can’t, Jim)
  • Sarah, if I could ask a follow-up question. (Fuck off, Jim)
  • If I could ask a follow-up question. Who — (Fuck off, Jim) 
  • Well, others have had follow-up questions, Sarah.  If I could ask —
  • They have had follow-up questions. If I could ask who these legal scholars are that you are citing, that would be great.
  • (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) If you say, though, one thing from the podium — that it wasn’t dictated by the President — and his lawyers are saying something entirely different, contradicting, how are we supposed to know what to believe?  How can we believe what you’re saying from the podium if his lawyers are saying it’s entirely inaccurate? (Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Oh but don’t worry, she just won’t fucking answer) 
  • But, Sarah, the words are literally — you said he did not dictate. The lawyer said he did. What is it? It’s either one or the other. (No answer) 
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Thank you, Sarah. A question about pardons. Eleven days ago, the President issued the posthumous pardon for boxing great Jack Johnson.  The leading proponents of this for more than a decade have been Congressman Pete King in the House and Senator John McCain in the Senate, both big boxing fans.  Senator McCain tweeted his support for the pardon. Will the President use this opportunity to call Senator McCain and try and patch things up with him at this moment of his life?
  • (Philip the Quebecois) Sarah, thank you. I just wanted to check something with you.  What in tariffs that were imposed against Canada reinforce the U.S. national security? (She can never understand anyone with an accent, so she asks him to repeat) 
  • What — you know the tariffs that were imposed against Canada — aluminum and steel.  What in that reinforce the U.S. national security?  In what form the U.S. feels more secure now that Canada has been targeted by tariffs? (There is like zero need for SHS to be polite to these fuckers)
  • (Hallie Jackson, MSNBC News) Sarah, thanks. The Special Counsel didn’t seem so unconstitutional when the President was calling on one to investigate his political opponent during the campaign. So is it only unconstitutional if the President doesn’t like it? (Sarah Sanders has nothing to add)
  • (Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg) A trade question for you, Sarah. Thank you. The President, on Friday, said that he’s open to bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada.  Is he still leaning towards bilateral deals as he heads up to Canada at the end of this week? Or is he thinking that he’d like to save NAFTA and just renegotiate it?
  • Thanks, Sarah. Last week, Missouri Governor Greitens stepped down. Did President Trump or anyone at the White House ever reach out to encourage him to step down?
  • And if so, why not, considering he’s the leader of the party?
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, you said the President hasn’t done anything wrong and wouldn’t need a pardon. But he said in his tweet that he has the absolute right to pardon himself. Does he assume that the Special Counsel will find him guilty of something? (You can guess what Sarah says next…)
  • But he said in his tweet that he could pardon himself. So there seems to be an assumption that Mueller will find him wrong for something. And if so, what would it be?
  • I have two questions on the Justice Department and pardons. For example, the Office of Legal Counsel has said that the President can’t actually pardon himself. Has the President requested a new opinion that may inform his tweet today? And also, there are some concerns about whether the President is still fielding those traditional pardon recommendations from the Justice Department.  Some people are concerned that instead of relying on the Justice Department, he’s relying on sort of rich and famous people to recommend pardons.
  • On OLC, has he asked for a new OLC opinion?
  • Has he asked for a new OLC opinion on the pardon power?
  • (Lalit Jha) Thank you. What does the President think is his top foreign policy achievement in the first 500 days? (Quit carrying water, Lalit)
  • (Saagar Enjeti, Daily Caller) Sarah, can you give us a little bit more background on the pardon process? Is there a process in place at this White House to review pardons? And how did the pardon ideas of Rod Blagojevich and Martha Stewart come up? Is it simply a matter of who can gain the President’s ear in order to get a pardon process? Or is there an attorney here in the White House through which these requests are funneled through, which eventually make their way up to the President? (You’re too good for the racist zine you write for, Saagar. I know you can do better!) 
  • (Eamon Javers, CNBC) Thanks, Sarah. I wanted to ask you about the President’s call today with Theresa May, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, who said that the President’s tariffs on the EU were, quote, “unjustified and deeply disappointing,” according to the British readout of their phone call today. That’s what she said to the President. How did the President respond to that? (Pretty sure he doesn’t give a fuck, Eamon. This is the Honey Badger White House after all.) 

TOWOIT #335: Texas Gaggle

May 31, 2018

Questions asked in the air between Houston and Dallas:

  • What was the President’s reaction to the Russians visiting North Korea?
  • Who exactly is coming tomorrow? Is it just the same people that met with Secretary Pompeo?
  • Will the President be meeting with these officials, or is it a lower-level meeting?
  • And still no idea of what the content of the letter might be?
  • Would the President make the content of the letter public no matter what it says?
  • Do you expect the President to meet with him in the Oval Office for extended talks, or is just a handover of the letter?
  • Can you tell us who the President met with in Houston at the meeting, at the airport hangar, and how it went and how he received them?
  • Can you just give us a sense as to, were these the families of people who were killed, were they first responders? Do you have kind of — even just — even not names, but can you categorize the kind of people he met with?
  • Two of the people the President mentioned for pardons — he’s considering Blagojevich and Martha Stewart — they both have connections to “Celebrity Apprentice.” Is there a reason he’s thinking about them and not some of the other 3,000 people on the list?
  • The people you mentioned, though, were all celebrities. Is that a fair way — in their own right and in different ways. Is that a fair way to view the commonalities?
  • (Inaudible) Ted Cruz was one of the people who did make the President more aware of the D’Souza case. I think there’s been some reports about that, and I think we saw Cruz tweeting about it. I know the President didn’t comment on that. But can you talk any more about —
  • Can you speak to who else may have impacted his thinking on it?
  • How did he see the case? It hasn’t been in the news recently, I don’t believe.
  • You said he saw the case. But like how did get on his radar? It hasn’t been a particularly buzzy issue recently, unless I missed it.
  • What about the case that Kim Kardashian raised yesterday? How serious is he looking at that one?
  • Last week, there were two different meetings for lawmakers to get briefed on materials by that informant who was connected to the Trump campaign. Has the President himself asked for a readout or some sort of briefing of those meetings and what was discussed?
  • Does he agree with Trey Gowdy that basically the FBI did what was right? Or does he have reason to believe that Trey Gowdy is not telling the truth there?
  • One more about Kim Yong Chol. He’s under sanctions in the U.S. He’s been accused of causing the deaths of thousands of South Korean troops, of various other human rights atrocities. Does the President have any misgivings with sitting down with him in the Oval Office? Does that lend him a certain amount of credibility?

MR. GIDLEY:  Again, no one is saying they’re sitting down in the Oval Office yet. The details are still being worked out.  That’s something that I have to defer you to State on.

The next day:

Screen Shot 2018-06-01 at 6.00.25 PM

To be fair, we don’t know whether they actually sat down in chairs.

TOWOIT #333: Roseaggle Gaggle

 

May 29, 2018.

Press Gaggle with Sarah Sanders on Air Force One en route to Nashville.

Questions asked:

  • Sarah, the President has been a big supporter of Roseanne Barr. What is his and the White House’s reaction to her comments today and to ABC’s decision to cancel her show? (Sanders replies by saying the President is very focused on North Korea. Spoiler alert: She will launch into a reading a defensive rant when asked a similar question in the briefing room the next day)
  • Because he’s been focused on that show before. I mean, he called her after the show did really well. Does he have a reaction to what she said? (I’m just imagining this was Hallie Jackson but I have no way of knowing)
  • Does he think the show should have been cancelled? (Still, focus is on North Korea)
  • You kept saying “upcoming summit,” and I think there’s just — to kind of put a button on it, at this point, is the President’s letter operative? Or is it operative that he expects a summit to occur after the G7 in Singapore?
  • What determines whether or not the summit is back on? What determines whether or not that gets rescheduled?
  • Sarah, can you talk about why the President said the New York Times had made up that senior White House official when that White House official was someone that was in a press office-organized sanctioned briefing? (sometimes I wish they would pose their questions more succinctly)
  • Sarah, when the President visited Puerto Rico, he said it wasn’t a “real catastrophe” because there were only, I think, 16 people who had died in the official government count at the time. There’s a Harvard study today that I think said 4,600 people died as a result of the storm. So I’m wondering if that’s changing the President’s thought about whether this is a real catastrophe or the grade that he gave himself for the U.S. response to — the federal government response to the storm.
  • Sarah, this weekend the President tweeted that the policy of separating children at the border is “horrible.” But that is a policy that was instated by his own administration. Why would he say that?
  • Sarah, is the President concerned about the political turmoil in Italy and the effect that that’s had on the stock market and the markets in general?
  • This weekend, Rudy Giuliani basically admitted that calling Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt” is part of a public opinion effort — an effort to sway public opinion.  Is that what the President is trying to do? Is he trying to discredit this investigation when he says that? (In her response, Sarah Sanders says “Hillary Clinton was terrible.” I had one of those moments where you can’t believe any of this is happening. Just how ungracious and inappropriate and low it is to say that as the White House Press Secretary.)
  • Sarah, if the President doesn’t want these families to be separated, does that mean that he opposes the zero-tolerance policy laid out by the Attorney General earlier this month?
  • Sarah, has the President had any conversations with Kevin McCarthy about a leadership succession in Congress? Let me amend that to say McCarthy or any of his allies or anybody on his staff?
  • The President tweeted this morning that he believes Robert Mueller’s team is going to interfere with the midterm elections. I’m wondering if you can flesh out how he believes the Special Counsel’s work is going to interfere with the midterm elections.
  • Well, a quick one to follow on Jeff. You were talking about the long-term economic situation in Italy. The President obviously was a big supporter of Brexit. Does he believe that Italy should stay in the Eurozone?
  • Does he believe Italy should stay in the Eurozone? (The amazingness of Sanders simply having nothing to say as an answer to this. Like, have to check, sorry, I don’t know)
  • And one more. Students have started to go back to school in Santa Fe, Texas today.  Will the President stop there when he goes to Texas later this week?
  • When will the North Korea decision be made, whether the Singapore summit is going to go ahead? Do you have a deadline for when you have to say yay or nay?
  • Has he had — has the President — sorry — had any direct communications with Kim Jong Un? (She ends by saying “Again, we’re not going to comment on those comments.” Perfect.)

TOWOIT #331

May 22, 2018

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

Here are the questions she was asked.

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

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

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

 

TOWOIT #320: Slime ball

April 13, 2018 (yesterday, before the announcement of Syrian airstrikes)

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 10.26.44 AM

  • (Cecilia Vega, ABC News) Thank you, Sarah. The President came out swinging today, calling James Comey a “liar,” a “leaker,” a “slime ball.” Is he worried about what he’s saying? (Sarah calls Comey a disgraced partisan hack and says firing him will be remembered as one of Trump’s proudest accomplishment)
  • And another topic, quickly, if I may. The Deputy Attorney General was here yesterday. Is the President going to fire Rod Rosenstein? (Once again, she has no announcements at this time)
  • (John Roberts, Fox News) Sarah, the President, a short time ago, issued a pardon of Scooter Libby, the former Vice President’s Chief of Staff. There are many people who believe that Scooter Libby was the victim of a Special Counsel investigation run amuck. The recent statements that we have heard from the White House would seem to indicate that you feel much the same thing about the Mueller investigation. Was the President sending some sort of signal to the Mueller investigation or about the Mueller investigation by pardoning Scooter Libby? (It’s time to quite Fox News, John. You’re a propaganda beard)
  • In the statement, the pardoning statement today, the President acknowledges he doesn’t know Scooter Libby. What was it that convinced him that Scooter Libby deserved a pardon? (Just thought it was the right thing to do)
  • (Justin Sink, Bloomberg News) Thanks, Sarah. I have two questions. I wanted to ask about the first — The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision —
  • Sure. The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision within 24 to 48 hours on Syria. On Tuesday, he said a decision would probably come that night. But here we are on Friday, and in a statement last night, you said that no final decision had been reached. So I’m wondering if you could walk through why the President hasn’t met his own timeline there, and specifically, if it had anything to do with the, sort of, Syrian troop movement that we saw after his tweet on Wednesday, sort of threatening a missile strike.
  • And then, because it’s Friday, I’m wondering if —

MS. SANDERS: Friday the 13th.

  • Yeah. (Laughter.) You could walk us through exactly what the President has–(Jesus stop laughing at her jokes)

MS. SANDERS: You guys all groan like that’s a bad thing.

(Just a bad joke)

  • — committed to Senator Gardner in terms of both what the Justice Department would do and what the White House would do in terms of supporting legislation on states that legalize marijuana.
  • (Steve Holland, Reuters) You mentioned he’s spoken to President Macron. How big a coalition does he have for this expected action in Syria?
  • And is he satisfied now that Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons attack?
  • (Josh Dawsey, Washington Post) It was reported today that Michael Cohen, the President’s personal attorney, helped negotiate a $1.6 million settlement to a Playboy playmate. It also emerged, today, that Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York. Is the President still associated with Michael Cohen? Does he continue to consider Michael Cohen someone he holds in confidence?
  • Is he concerned about these developments? Would the President like to say anything about them?
  • What about Michael Cohen’s actions, though? Does the President have any concern with those?
  • (Jill Colvin, Associated Press) Just a follow-up on that and then another topic. Is Cohen still the President’s personal attorney? (Sarah says she’d have to check) 
  • And I wanted to ask – (then Sarah interrupts to say she can only speak about White House staff) 
  • It looks like Paul Ryan just endorsed Kevin McCarthy for Speaker in an appearance, or an interview, with Meet the Press. Does the President believe that McCarthy should be the next Speaker?
  • (Jon Decker, Fox News Radio) On the James Comey book, some excerpts came out today. He speaks of the President — writes about the President in very personal terms. Were you surprised by that? Was the President surprised by that? (It’s time to quite Fox News, Jon. You’re a propaganda beard)
  • And just really quickly on the pardon that came out today for Scooter Libby. The President, so far in his time in office, has issued three presidential pardons. One of those was to Joe Arpaio. Is there a commonality, in terms of what the President looks for when he pardons individuals?
  • (Steve Herman, VOA? I’m trying to gauge from the voice and the angle of her gaze which Steve it was.) Yes, Sarah. I’m wondering if the administration has reacted with any message to Moscow after officials there today said that the chemical attack in Douma was faked and staged with Britain’s direct involvement.
  • (April Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks) Sarah, what part does the President bringing Russia into the Syria equation now cause for the delay in the strike timeline?
  • (Dave Boyer, Washington Times) Thanks, Sarah. The Justice Department Inspector General came out with his long awaited report this afternoon on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying that he improperly leaked information about the Clinton Foundation investigation to a reporter, and then lied to James Comey about it and, under oath, to two FBI investigators. Do you have a reaction to that? And does that, in your mind, validate the decision to fire McCabe?
  • (Francesca Chambers, Mail Online) Thank you, Sarah. You said that James Comey was a liar, that he’s a leaker, that he made false representations or claims. Other than what the President tweeted this morning about lying under oath to Senator Grassley, what exactly has he said that’s false or a lie? (When Sarah responds to Comey questions in this briefing, she reads from a screed instead of answering off the cuff. It’s a total doubling-down on the Trump tweets from the morning.) 
  • Sarah, what about the dossier, though? Sarah, what about the dossier? Did he also lie about the dossier in his conversation with President Trump about that? (She doesn’t really answer this question)
  • (Jim Acosta, CNN) Sarah, what about the content of the President’s attacks on Jim Comey, your attacks on Jim Comey? Isn’t all of that a bit unbecoming of the Presidency of this White House to go after him in such a personal way like that. Calling him a “slime ball” and a “liar” and a “leaker”?
  • Sarah, if I could just follow up —
  • Other folks had two questions. If I could just —
  • — ask a second follow-up question because —
  • Well, it’s Friday, yeah. And you’ve —

MS. SANDERS: And you’d probably get really upset, and I don’t need that

  • No, no, no. Not at all. Not at all. (Laughter.) No, but you’ve probably seen this tweet. It was a tweet that you posted before the election in 2016: “When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing.” What do you make of that now? Isn’t that —
  • But when you go after Comey and Rosenstein and Mueller, doesn’t that mean you’re losing? (She doesn’t answer, scolds him briefly for trying to ask another question, moves away to another reporter, and… boom)
  •  Following up with that, I mean, one of the themes of Comey’s book is the President’s “disdain” for the rule of the law and his continued efforts to publicly undermine federal law enforcement officials. So how would you characterize the President’s attitude towards the rule of law and things that he said publicly about many of his top federal law enforcement officials?
  • But it’s NOT just leakers; it’s his own Attorney General, it’s his own Deputy Attorney General, it’s Special Counsel, it’s the FBI, it’s judges who make decisions that he doesn’t like. There’s a whole list of federal law enforcement officials that he has undermined. It’s not just people who have proven to leak information. (Sarah rails at the press in general for “praising Jim Comey, propping him up” )

(She broke in to say the second part — Sarah had already called on Charlie from Breitbart. I like this reporter’s moxie but I can’t find her full name — she’s from CBS) 

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 10.39.59 AM

  • (Charlie Spiering, Breitbart) Thank you, Sarah. This morning, James Comey admitted that he didn’t tell the President about the political source —
  • This morning, James Comey said that he didn’t inform the President of the political source of the dossier. Was the President surprised to hear that? Did Director Comey ever tell him about the sourcing of the political dossier against him?
  • And a second question, because it’s Friday. Did the President speak to former Vice President Dick Cheney about the Scooter Libby pardon either before or after it —
  • (John Gizzi, Newsmax) Yeah. Thank you, Sarah. Three Republican state senators from Missouri wrote the President yesterday saying that the embattled Governor Eric Greitens should resign from office. He has serious charges of sexual abuse against him, faces impeachment, and refuses to resign. They concluded that, as a former Navy SEAL, he would salute and resign if his Commander-in-Chief asked him to. Did the President receive the letter? What is his response? And will he ask Governor Greitens to step down?
  • (Sarah Sorcher, Washington Post) Thank you, Sarah. So, concerning the summit with Prime Minister Abe next week in Florida, does the President plan to push for a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan?
  • Sarah, does the President have another NSC meeting today on Syria?
  • Will the President be having another NSC meeting today on Syria?
  • (Ayesha Rascoe, NPR) Thanks. I wanted to ask about the pardoning process. It seems like we’ve had these three pardons; they all were somewhat high-profile or had gotten media attention. How is the President deciding when to take action on a case? I mean, with Arpaio, he hadn’t been sentenced yet; the Scooter Libby case was very old. So how are you deciding when to take action on these cases? And can a normal person who feels like they’ve been unjustly convicted, can they get their case to the White House? I mean, there’s a Justice Department process, but it seems like the President is taking special interest in certain cases.
  • (Nadia Bilbassy, Al Arabiya English) Thank you, Sarah. The OPCW is sending inspectors to Syria. Do you think this is a futile exercise, since you already have the evidence that actually they have chemical weapons?
  • (Brian Bennett, LA Times) Thanks, Sarah. I’ll do two. One on Syria and one on the Department of Justice. On Syria, the President has publicly said that he wants to get out of Syria. Has this strike changed his mind on that? And is he considering other options, other than a plan to pull out U.S. forces from Syria? And if you could just —

(I saw Brian’s face way in the back when she called on him, and I was like “and that’s Brian Bennett” — and then I remarked to myself, “wow, you’re getting good at this — how did you know THAT guy’s name?” And then it dawned on me, sort of like horror, that I know his name because I *KNOW* him, because we went to college together. That just bums me out, because I was in classes with so many successful journalists and writers and media people and sometimes I just feel so lame and obscure.)

  • Is he considering other options other than a long-term strategy to get U.S. forces out of Syria?
  • And so I have a question about the Department of Justice. What does the President have to say to Republican lawmakers who believe that firing Mueller would be “suicide,” as Grassley has said, or firing Rosenstein could be the end of the presidency for Donald Trump, as Lindsey Graham has said?
  • Does he have any response for Republican lawmakers who are counseling him not to take an action like that?

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 10.50.20 AM

The AP’s Jill Colvin wore a really pretty skirt today. I really relate to her in this picture, an average-looking print journalist sandwiched between the slim, TV-ready ladies down in front. I relate because I work in an office where people look polished and run marathons, and I’m just sort of frumping around the place eating pizza for breakfast. (Apparently self-deprecation is a feature of this post, not a bug.)

 

 

TOWOIT #315: Gaggle

From yesterday, April 5, 2018:

Questions asked to Hogan Gidley on the way to West Virginia:

  • President Trump said on the way in that he does have confidence in Scott Pruitt. Can you tell us what that means? Is there still some kind of review into his behavior? Should we expect that he’ll be here several months from now, several weeks from now? What does that mean?

(Wait. I was really curious whether Hogan Gidley was a man or a woman so I did a quick Google search)

Hogan Gidley wearing an Ole Miss t-shirt and holding a turkey by its feet

Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 5.59.36 AM

  • Is the President concerned about the way that Administrator Pruitt came off on some of the interviews that he’s done? Did he feel like that was not the best showing for the administration?
  • Can you just be specific about, A, what the White House is looking at? And when you say the reports that are out there raise questions, what conduct in particular is of concern to the President? Does it have to do with the rental of the property in D.C.? Does it have to do with the flights? Does it have to do with other conduct? What is the main concern about what may or may not be a firing offense for Scott Pruitt?
  • Hogan, what sort of preparations are being made right now for talks with China about trade? Who’s involved? And what things do you have, or what things is the President considering bringing up with them?
  • Has the President made a decision on whether to send Secretary Mnuchin to Beijing?
  • Hogan, I know that these tariffs aren’t in place yet, but, I mean, pork prices have already dropped. Farmers — soybean farmers are trying to plan their crops for this summer. I mean, people are already making decisions in their life. Small communities are already looking and seeing how their economy could change. They’re upset about it. They’re worried about it. And when the White House tells them, “Well, it hasn’t gone into place yet,” they’re already feeling it in their lives. What’s the White House response to that?
  • Any more details on the plans for the border? How many National Guard might be going down there? When? What kind of timing we might see?

MR. GIDLEY:  Yeah.  There is no specificity on the amount.  It’s as many as we need, as many as it takes.

  • Have all the governors — all the border state governors agreed to work with DOD and DHS to deploy the Guard? Or are there some — I know California; there are some issues there — who have not yet agreed to negotiate on an MOU for that?

Questions asked to Trump himself on the plane ride home:

  • How are you feeling about Scott Pruitt, Mr. President?  Is he —
  • Are you bothered by the reports about him, sir?
  • Yeah
  • What did you think of his interview?
  • Yes.
  • Yes. With Fox.
  • Are you thinking about switching him out for Attorney General?
  • How many National Guard do you want to see at the border?
  • How much do you think that’s going to cost?
  • (Inaudible) — about Amazon. You’ve been tweeting a lot about that. Are you going to actually take some action to change the law that would affect Amazon?
  • Would you like to make changes to make that level playing field?
  • Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
  • Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?
  • Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
  • Did you ever set up a fund of money that he could draw from?
  • I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear your response earlier about Scott Pruitt.  Are you still
  • About Pruitt.  I was — I couldn’t hear it.

I didn’t get a chance to screen cap it, because I was at work, but in Jenna Johnson’s first version of her Washington Post story on the Stormy Daniels news, she sort of shaded that reporter who switched the topic back to Pruitt as people were still trying to ask follow-up questions about Stormy (and that follow-up didn’t make it into the WH transcript of the gaggle) which then Trump could ignore because another reporter barged in and asked again about Pruitt. It made me laugh to see how shady that was in the article, but when I went back just now to get it for this post, the text of the article had been changed and that bit was taken out.

IMG_6528

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

March 17, 2018

Yesterday’s briefing!

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

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

TOWOIT #304: “You don’t come back from that.”

March 9, 2018

Questions they asked SHS today:  Continue reading TOWOIT #304: “You don’t come back from that.”

TOWOIT #303: “If this is not the definition of chaotic…”

March 7, 2018

Here are the questions reporters asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders aka Literally The Worst:

Continue reading TOWOIT #303: “If this is not the definition of chaotic…”

TOWOIT #302: I don’t know how to title these anymore

March 6, 2018

Yesterday, Sarah had two veterans up in front, sitting quietly on either side of her, and she promo-ed like a circus barker how their limbs got blown off and sewn back on. Sometimes I don’t know when I’m just generally grossed out by the Trump administration and when they’ve done something specifically wrong. But this seemed really off to me.

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 6.14.01 PM

Major Garrett had the first question and took the show right into Secretary of VA Shulkin’s corruption troubles.

Questions asked of Sarah Sanders yesterday:

Continue reading TOWOIT #302: I don’t know how to title these anymore

TOWOIT #296: “We have a lot of housekeeping to do”

February 20, 2018

unnamed
Minutes vs. People joining the WH youtube channel to watch the first briefing in a week

Last night Rachel Maddow said the White House Daily Briefing is general a total snoozefest for her — a pointless exercise that is her cue to go out and get a sandwich — but that she would be tuning in today for the first briefing in one week.

I was disoriented all day because it wasn’t on the C-Span schedule and I thought they were bailing again. I cued up the White House youtube channel, which tells you how many viewers on the channel waiting to watch, and I also was listening for 80 minutes to the frustrated reporters in the room, waiting for the delayed briefing to actually started. Then it was 20 minutes of lies. Pretty anti-climactic actually.

Still, hats off to Kristen Welker who wouldn’t let Sanders hide behind the Parkland shooting — the reason they gave for *canceling* the last scheduled briefing, and then the shield used at the top of this one. Welker was given the first question and launched right into a Mueller question.

Sanders only took 20-minutes worth of questions. So there wasn’t very much anyone could do. Here are the questions the reporters asked:

Continue reading TOWOIT #296: “We have a lot of housekeeping to do”

TOWOIT #294: Wednesday

February 14, 2018

And finally we get to today.

The White House briefing was scheduled for 1:00

And then for 2:30.

And then it scooted across the rest of the afternoon until it was canceled a couple minutes before 4:00, which was its final resting place on the schedule.

They said the school shooting in Florida was why it was canceled. That seems unlikely since a) they’ve had a remarkably stalwart attitude toward shootings in the past, and b) a big school shooting is actually a reason to go out of your way to HAVE the press briefing and not the other way around.

IMG_6299

IMG_6295

IMG_6296

IMG_6297

img_6302.jpg

img_6301.png

TOWOIT #276: Meetings on the Course

January 2, 2017

I only had a handful of regular readers I’ve alienated most of them by writing only about the White House press briefing. There’s a lot I could do to write about the White House Press Briefing with more pizzazz, but I’ve been a little busy and preoccupied with other writing projects. But I still like cataloging those events here, even if only for myself. I always mean to get more insightful and funnier about them, and hey–that could happen at any time!

You get all those reporters in the room, and they have twenty minutes to ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders questions. There are all these competing angles and interests. Left-leaning vs. right-leaning outlets. TV vs. radio vs. print. Mainstream vs. wackadoo publications. Quirky journalists vs. very bland ones. The most essential dynamic though is reality-based, truth-seeking journalists vs. the mouthpiece of a corrupt, lying, obfuscating, incompetent administration.  It’s Orwellian to me, so I watch. The reporters are very human to me, so I listen. We are lucky to have a Constitution and a first amendment, so I pay attention.

I like having my commentary on the Trump administration narrowed down to this one event. There’s four walls to the James Brady Press Room, there’s a set cast of characters, there’s an expected series of events. Within these set parameters, little microdramas unfold at every briefing. Inside this little arena the questions themselves contain a chronicle of what is happening week by week in this country. So, that’s what I pin down.

But just the questions, not what Sarah Huckabee Sanders says. Because her answers are worthless and this is not a place to amplify her words.There’s a lot to criticize about the press briefing and the press corps and the media in general — but compared to the Trump administration, they are champions to me.

Here are the questions from yesterday afternoon, before Trump took to Twitter with his nuclear brinksmanship and freaked everybody out last night.

Continue reading TOWOIT #276: Meetings on the Course