An effort to decipher the White House's latest non-answers about Mueller.

Our Best Effort to Decipher the White House's Latest Non-Answers About Robert Mueller

Our Best Effort to Decipher the White House's Latest Non-Answers About Robert Mueller

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June 15 2017 5:46 PM

Our Best Effort to Decipher the White House's Latest Non-Answers About Robert Mueller

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders possibly not answering questions.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke to a press gaggle on Thursday. Some might describe these recent White House press sessions as farcical ever since the administration has declared that it would not answer questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal probe and told reporters to forward such queries to the president’s outside counsel Marc Kasowitz. But maybe they’re not completely pointless!

Here is my best effort to assess what concrete and credible information about the major criminal investigation enveloping the White House came out of this latest talk with the press.


The President Might Feel Vindicated by the News that He Is Under Investigation for Obstruction of Justice

Reporter: … Given the reports that have come out over the last 12 to 18 hours, does the President still feel vindicated?
Huckabee Sanders: I believe so. But again, anything specific to the investigation, I would refer you to Marc Kasowitz and his team.

The President’s Lawyer Might Know Who He Was Talking About When He Said that “Bad” and “Conflicted” People Are Leading the Investigation

Reporter: And who are the "bad" and "conflicted" people he mentioned in that tweet?
Huckabee Sanders: Again, I would refer you to the President's outside counsel on all questions relating to the investigation.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is Not the President

Reporter: If the President is tweeting about the Russia probe, why can't you talk about it from the podium?
Huckabee Sanders: Because I'm not the President.

The President’s Lawyer Might Know Who Is "Making Up" the "Phony Collusion" Story About Him

Reporter: And let me just try one more time on the tweet … "they made up a phony collusion." Is that Democrats? Who is that? Who is he referencing?
Huckabee Sanders: Once again, I would refer you to the President's outside counsel.

Huckabee Sanders Does Not See How the President Is At All Responsible For Any Possibly Overheated Political Rhetoric

Reporter: Does the White House feel like the President and the White House, more broadly, have any responsibility to adapt a kind of different tone going forward, the way that many of the members on both sides of the aisle are calling for in the last 24 hours?
Huckabee Sanders: I think the President was extremely clear yesterday where he thought the rhetoric should lie. And certainly, I—I'm not sure how you would say that he should own responsibility in any of that.

Anyways, It’s the President’s Investigators—Who Might Be “Bad People”—Who Started It

Reporter: Well, I guess, when it comes to a tweet, and not on the substance of the Russia investigation—but when you call people "bad people" and "witch hunt," and sort of attacking—impugning motives of your adversaries, that's the kind of rhetoric I think that people are talking about.
Huckabee Sanders: I think there's been quite a bit of attacking against the President. I think he was responding to those specific accusations. But I think, as a whole, our country certainly could bring the temperature down a little bit. I think that was the goal that the President laid out yesterday, and hopefully we can all see moving forward.

Huckabee Sanders Says She Believes Trump Has Confidence in Bob Mueller, Doesn’t Intend To Fire Him

Reporter: Does he still have confidence, or does he have confidence in the special counsel?
Huckabee Sanders: I believe so. Again, I think I made clear earlier this week when I said that he has no intention to make any changes whatsoever on that front.
Reporter: You said you didn’t know, though, if he had confidence on Air Force One, I think. Do you think he has confidence in Bob Mueller?
Huckabee Sanders: I haven’t had a specific conversation about that, but I think if he didn’t he would probably have intentions to make a change and he certainly doesn’t.

Huckabee Sanders Says She Believes Trump Intends At Some Point To Fulfill His Promise To Reveal Whether Or Not He Taped Jim Comey

Reporter: The Secret Service says that they have no recordings of the President’s conversation while he was in office. Is that case closed for this White House? Does that answer the question of whether there are tapes or not?
Huckabee Sanders: Again, I know this is in reference to the Comey conversations and I would refer you to the outside counsel for that.
Reporter: Is that then where this answer is going to come from? Because, just a few days ago, the President said he would tell America—

Huckabee Sanders: I’m talking about specific questions regarding that. You could ask them, but I believe the President intends to make it clear at some point. But in terms of questions that you’re asking regarding that matter, you’d have to ask outside counsel.

The White House Asserts the Right To Have the Benefits of Executive Privilege Without Actually Asserting Executive Privelege and Facing Any Potential Legal Challenges

Reporter: About a week ago, you said that in order to facilitate the swift examination of the facts sought by the House Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege about Jim Comey’s testimony. Does that still hold for the Attorney General, Mr. Sessions? Does the President have any reason to invoke executive privilege or say that Mr. Sessions should not answer the questions from the Intelligence Committee?
Huckabee Sanders: Look, there’s a longstanding precedent that close advisors to the President keep conversations with the President confidential. This has been respected by both parties. And specifically regarding Attorney General Sessions, there’s a DOJ legal opinion protecting conversations between the President and his Attorney General. At the same time, we’ll continue to work with congressional committees to accommodate the process to ensure the equities of both branches of government.

Trump's Lawyer Might Know If He Has the Legal Right to Shut Down the Russia Investigation

Reporter: The President, obviously, based upon his tweets, is not pleased with the investigation that is ongoing by Robert Mueller. Does the President, Sarah, believe it's in his power to shut down that investigation?
Huckabee Sanders: Once again, I would refer all questions regarding the investigation to the President's outside counsel.

The White House Says Mueller Interviewed For a Job at the White House the Day Before His Appointment as Special Counsel

Reporter: On Bob Mueller, is there anything you can tell us more about when he came in to interview for the job, what the President was looking at offering him? Was it acting FBI director? Was it actually FBI director? Why didn’t the White House tell us more about that at the time when you did announce other people who were coming in for the director job?
Huckabee Sanders: My understanding is he was actually here the day before he was named as a special counsel. In terms of specific job, whether it was acting or permanent, I'm not sure, and I'd have to check and get back to you.
Reporter: But it was a job interview?
Huckabee Sanders: That's my understanding, yes.

Mueller’s Hiring for Special Counsel After His Job Interview Is Not a Conflict of Interest, Or His Interview With Trump Prior To His Appointment Was Not a Conflict of Interest, I Really Can’t Make Heads Or Tales of This Response, Someone Please Help Me

Reporter: Does the White House believe that that presents any kind of conflict, that sequence of events you just described? The day before he's supposed to be the independent, outside counsel, he was meeting, presumably, with the President directly to talk about—

Huckabee Sanders: No, since that's something he [the President?] wouldn’t have been aware of … of the naming of a special counsel at that time.
Reporter: So it's not a conflict?
Huckabee Sanders: Right.