“I don’t think the President supporting due process for any allegation is not tone deaf,” an uncomfortable White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today in an arduous briefing before the media that centered almost entirely on accusations of domestic violence against now-former aides and remarks Donald Trump has made in recent days in the latest fallout from the latest bomb to go off in the Trump administration.
“I think it is allowing things to be investigated, and a mere allegation not being the determining factor. He’s not taking a side one way or the other on a specific issue here,” Sanders added in her boss’ defense as CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to get in a follow-up question.
“As I just said, I’m not going to go beyond that, that’s where we are right now,” Sander repeated in various forms as she was questioned again and again Monday about why Trump has not come out and condemned domestic violence and has seemed supportive of his ex-aides accused of such acts. “I’m his spokesperson and I’m telling you,” she also repeated over and over.
Of course, as his main spokesperson was starting to try to pull the White House out of its latest quicksand incident, POTUS himself was on social media reaching out to the base he always turns to in times of trouble:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2018
Which means though Trump and his administration wanted to talk about his 2019 budget proposal and infrastructure plans on another Monday reset, it instead was another face-plant into the exorbitant, not so friendly fire his White House it excels at in the worst way. It’s a trait made all the more apparent once again in stark contrast to Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, who today were gracefully back in the public spotlight for the unveiling of their National Portrait Gallery depictions.
In case anyone missed the point of comparison, today’s press briefing made crystal that grace is not something the Trumpsters do well – if at all. Besides a congrats to Team USA at the Winter Olympics, a mild sputter of geniality was shown when an obviously sarcastic but deadpan Sanders opened her briefing with, “It’s great to be back with you guys — glad I picked a slow time to be gone.”
Otherwise, it was a mournful and repetitious event.
“We learned of the extent of the situation involving Rob Porter last Tuesday evening and within 24 hours his resignation had been accepted and announced,” Sanders read to the media near the top of the briefing. “We announced a transition was going to happen within hours, it did,” she added. “The President and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly.”
“Above all, the President supports victims of domestic violence and believes that everyone should be treated fairly and with due process,” Sanders emphasized. “We have addressed this situation extensively and we have nothing more to add on that topic.” Later, in one of several returns to that script, Sanders told the media that Trump himself “literally dictated that to me.”
At one point, trying to revert to the White House’s favorite pose of making the media the story, Sanders began attacking the journos for publishing and posting leaked information when questioned about how Porter could have remained in his sensitive position so long amid the FBI’s security concerns. “We take every precaution possible to protect classified information and certainly to protect national security, it is the President’s No. 1 priority protect the citizens of this country.”
That tactic didn’t have much impact in the White House briefing room.
Not hard to tell why.
With the rise of the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up legal defense fund directly addressing issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault, the much accused and porn star-liaising Trump and his White House have constantly displayed at the very least a tin ear and little empathy when it comes to alleged victims — unless they are against their enemies, like now ex-Sen. Al Franken. The claims against the President that exploded with the Billy Bush video leaked during the 2016 campaign, ex-Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos’ ongoing lawsuit, the accusations against failed Senate candidate Roy Moore, fired Fox News boss Roger Ailes, host Bill O’Reilly and now the recently resigned Porter and speechwriter David Sorensen, have all been dismissed by Trump or played down in remarks and tweets.
As disturbing photos of the ex-White House staff secretary’s ex-wives circulated late last week and specifics were revealed of the alleged abuse Porter handed out in his two failed marriages, Trump told the media he wished Porter a great future. Parallel to stories circulating that John Kelly could be out of his Chief of Staff gig after his mishandling of the situation, and with knowledge that the FBI had sent up red flags about Porter’s security clearance, the ex-Apprentice host also emphasized to reporters that Porter was very good at his job and had insisted he was innocent of the claims.
On February 10, Trump took to his Twitter pulpit to offer his moral wisdom on the situation. “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” POTUS wrote, putting thumbs to smartphone. “Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
On Sunday, White House aides fanned out on the Beltway shows to offer differing POVs on the President’s social media blast. Kellyanne Conway, often Trump’s most passionate defender, said she had “no reason not to believe the women” in the Porter case. However, budget director and potential replacement Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Trump’s response was “completely reasonable and normal.” The ex-congressman added that Trump could have actually been talking about his old pal and now pink-slipped GOP finance chief Steve Wynn. The now ex-casino boss has been accused by a number women of sexual harassment and more.
Starting almost half an hour after the reschedule start, today’s White House press briefing lasted barely 20 minutes before Sanders beat a retreat into the bowels of the Executive Mansion at 4:08 PM ET.