When given the chance to explain whether a bungled phone call to Gold Star widow Myeshia Johnson constituted a negative moment in the Trump administration’s legacy on Monday night, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders turned to a time-honored political tactic instead: deflection.
“I think the biggest negative [of the Trump administration] is Congress’s ability to do their job,” Sanders said, speaking at a panel at George Washington University.
Referring to holdouts like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R), who refused to get behind the president’s agenda, she added, “…You’ve got a few people holding up a lot of progress. To me, that would be the biggest negative.”
Sanders was responding to a question posed by CNN contributor and White House correspondent April Ryan, who asked the press secretary to define the White House legacy so far.
“There are always positives and negatives with every presidency,” Ryan posed. “The defining moments in these nine months… if you could give us a look into that. Is this week a defining moment…as it relates to Niger?”
Rather than addressing the president’s response to the attack that left four American troops dead, and his subsequent, insensitive comments to the widow of one of those servicemen, Sanders instead dodged Ryan’s question, claiming that the biggest flaw in the Trump administration’s legacy was — confusingly enough — unruly Republican legislators.
“I would not say that this is a defining moment,” she said. “…It’s [Congress’] job to legislate. It’s the president’s job to be the executive, to lay out the priorities, the principles, help drive those, use the bully pulpit, which he has done.”
Sanders was echoing earlier comments by Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts, who said that Trump “has learned over these nine months that he can’t rely on his own party to get things done.” Specifically, Roberts joked, “His real problem is getting things done. [It’s] come down to a handful of people. It’s come down to Rand Paul, who continues to refuse to vote for anything that involves a dollar sign.”
Roberts: "I think the president has learned over these nine months that he can't rely on his own party to get things done."
— David Smith (@SmithInAmerica) October 23, 2017
Rather than taking the time to address the troubling White House response to Johnson — whose husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, was one of the servicemen killed in Niger — Sanders also took the opportunity on Monday night to elaborate instead on Trump’s poll numbers, which she asserted were “better” than Congress. Of course, that alone isn’t a major feat, given that congressional Republicans alone carry a current approval rating of only 22 percent, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. A CNN/SSRS poll last week showed that Trump currently has an approval rating of around 37 percent.
Sanders also defended the president’s haphazard Twitter habits — which included Monday’s tweets insulting Gold Star widow Johnson.
“They’re public statements by the president. It’s an important tool that he has, an ability to speak directly to the American people,” she said. “You don’t always have to like it or agree with it. …It’s a direct line of communication, it’s a way for him to tell the rest of the world where he is on any given issue or topic.”