For White House Press Corps, Terrorist Attack = Opportunity to Bash President Trump

It’s nothing new, obviously, but yesterday’s press briefing by Sarah Sanders illustrated once again the White House press corps’s bizarrely anti-Trump animus. Sanders began the press briefing by talking about the Islamic terrorism in New York that occurred the day before. Most Americans would say that Sayfullo Saipov’s attack is evidence in favor of President Trump’s immigration policies.

The White House press corps obviously does not agree. These are the questions that Sanders fielded on Saipov’s ISIS-inspired mass murder, quoted verbatim from the transcript of the briefing:

Q Sarah, in the hours — and, in fact, the days — after the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, the President repeatedly said now is not the time to talk about policy, now is not the time to talk about politics, and that’s for another time; right now we need to mourn the dead.

Yet, this morning, the President launched into a political argument with Senator Chuck Schumer on Twitter, literally hours after this incident yesterday. Why was he so quick to go the political route and point fingers at Chuck Schumer for the fact that this person was in the country at all?
***
Q We heard today, at about 11:30 this morning, from the mayor and the governor of New York, who had said at that time the President had yet to call. Has the President called his mayor, his governor? He’s a New Yorker.
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Q Sarah, why wasn’t Uzbekistan on the travel ban list?
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Q Why isn’t the President calling for Uzbekistan to be put on the list?
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Q Thank you, Sarah. On Senator Schumer, can you tell us when is the last time he and the President spoke? And more broadly, the President is saying that he is responsible at least in part for this attack. Does the President still see him as someone —
***
Q Thanks a lot, Sarah. The President was asked a little bit earlier, when he was meeting with his Cabinet, about the possibility of sending this terror suspect to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And he said he is indeed open to that. Does the President believe he has the authority as Commander-in-Chief to send this terror suspect to Gitmo? That’s my first question.

And my second question is about Gitmo. What advantages does the President see in sending this terror suspect to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?
***
Q Thanks, Sarah. The President said last night that he’d ordered DHS to step up “our already extreme vetting.” I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit specifically about what extreme vetting entails, and if there’s any indication that it might have had an impact on preventing yesterday’s attack.
***
Q Sarah, separate from the Guantanamo Bay question, does the President believe this suspect should be classified as an enemy combatant?
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Q Have you determined that — you said you’re open to the enemy combatant thing. You think he is an enemy —
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Q Does the green card status in any way influence that determination?
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Q Sarah, I want to follow up on the question Jon was asking you earlier. You’re making the case that these are not new policies he’s talking about, and yet the question still remains, he is delving into a policy and political discussion. And he and you were very clear after the Las Vegas shooting that it wasn’t appropriate to talk about policy. So what’s the difference now?
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Q But, Sarah, the President invoked Chuck Schumer’s name. So how can you argue that it’s not a political argument that he’s making?
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Q Is he failing to unify the country at this point?
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Q When he’s talking about “quicker”, “greater” punishment, is he just talking about better enforcement of laws that currently exist, or is he talking about some sort of extrajudicial process? And are you looking at doing an executive order that would empower him? Would you make something like that public, or would you consider doing a secret order?
***
Q Sarah, John Miller, the Deputy New York City Police Commissioner, said the suspect committed the attack in the name of ISIS. Governor Cuomo said the suspect was associated with ISIS. How can the President make the case that we are annihilating ISIS when an attack like this occurs? Are his policies emboldening the remnants of ISIS?
***
Q Thank you, Sarah. A follow-up question on Jon Decker’s question. The criterion that you listed for enhanced vetting sounds very much like that for a national I.D. card — a subject that comes up every few years in Congress but which has never been acted on. Is the administration in favor of a national I.D. card as part of the enhanced vetting?
***
Q Between the time the President sent the tweet out last night saying that he’s called for a step-up of extreme vetting until now, can you lay out exactly what has been stepped up in that timeframe?
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Q Sarah, the President talked about wanting merit-based immigration today and criticized the diversity visa program. Is he aware that the diversity visa program actually does have a merit-based component to it?
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Q So the 350,000 people have come in since the Uzbek gentleman yesterday came in — 350,000 people come into the country on this program. One of them now, apparently, has been accused of a terrorist act. One of the 350,000 create a problem then for that program?

I think it is fair to say that one or two of those questions might be classified as neutral, while the rest were relentlessly negative. To me, what is most striking about the reporters’ performance is what was missing. There was no reference to Islam, and Sayfullo Saipov was a bit player at best. For White House reporters, it seems that every event–even events like this one, which seem to bear out the wisdom of the president’s policies–is significant only insofar as it affords an opportunity to attack the president. Was it like this when Barack Obama was in office? Not that I recall.

But I want to be scrupulously fair to the White House press corps, a few of whose members might not be activist Democrats. Were questions asked that did not imply attacks on President Trump relating to terrorism? Yes. Like this one:

The question is: Does this administration believe–does this President believe slavery was wrong?

This is what President Trump and his representatives deal with in Washington, every day.

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