Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders – 6/22/2017

As you all know, a Press Gaggle is off camera.  So I have attached yesterday’s press briefing provided by the Office of the Press Secretary, White House. Great information from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and the mind of President Trump.


The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

June 22, 2017  — 1:26 P.M. EDT

MS. SANDERS:  Good afternoon.  This morning, the President continued his week of events highlighting technology and how it will continue to contribute to the economy of the future by bringing leaders in the industry to the White House to discuss emerging technologies.  The President met with them after they participated in working groups separated by topic — unmanned aircraft systems, 5G wireless connectivity, and financing — where he saw firsthand how these important technologies are reshaping modern life.

Throughout this week, the administration has been putting the spotlight on the technologies that will improve the lives of every American, from cell towers as small as pizza boxes, to data analysis that helps our farmers and ranchers get their biggest yields, and having productive discussions with the industry on how government can both help them get there and take advantage of these incredible achievements for the American people.

Tomorrow, the President will focus on an issue that can have important responsibility to address, and that’s caring for our nation’s veterans.  The President will be signing the VA Accountability Act, an important step in fulfilling the commitment he made when he signed an executive order on accountability for VA employees who fail our veterans.

As the President has said many times, we must never tolerate substandard care for our nation’s heroes, and this bill will provide the VA with the tools it needs to improve the care and services that veterans receive.  And he’s glad to be signing it tomorrow morning.

This morning, the Senate released the discussion draft of its healthcare bill.  The President is pleased to see the process moving forward swiftly in Congress, and he looks forward to seeing a finalized bill on his desk so that we can finally repeal and replace Obamacare before it completely collapses.

Just yesterday, another insurer announced that it’s pulling out of Obamacare exchanges.  Anthem is leaving the exchanges in Indiana — the state in which the company was actually born and is currently headquartered — and also in Wisconsin.

Finally, I want to welcome Alex Pfeiffer to his first White House briefing.  Alex is young, so he might need some help from a few of his colleagues to help him with this process.  And with that, ladies and gentleman, I’ll take your questions.


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  I’m just curious about the President’s revelation by way of Twitter that he has no knowledge of any tapes — didn’t have any tapes, doesn’t have any possession of any tapes.  What can you tell the American people about why he decided to sort of make the inference, at least at some point, that maybe there would be tapes?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think the President’s statement via Twitter today is extremely clear.  I don’t have anything to add beyond the statement itself.

Q    Can I follow up really quickly on the wall?  I was at the rally last night.  The President seemed to get great reaction to the idea that the wall was moving forward.  And he mentioned the possibility of solar as a means to not only pay for the wall itself but also to enhance the wall.  Can you sort of help me unpack that idea?  Is this something that he’s been kicking around for quite some time?  He said it was the first time he’d made it publicly known.

MS. SANDERS:  I think it’s something he’s considering.  It’s certainly nothing final, but just an idea that he is considering and reviewing.  Nothing more than that at this point.

Q    I have a healthcare question but I just want to follow up on Kevin’s questions on the tapes situation.  I get that the tweet is speaking for itself, but I’m curious why it took so long, 41 days, for this to be laid to rest, and whether the President is recording any Oval Office conversations.

MS. SANDERS:  You guys asked for an answer; he gave you one.  He said he would have it to you by the end of this week, which he did.  And beyond timing of that, I can’t really speak anything further.

Q    And any Oval Office recordings?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not aware of anything.  I think his statement here is pretty clear.

Q    But I’m asking more generally, just not specifically to Comey, but, again, he —

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of, Hallie.

Q    So no Oval Office recordings that you’re aware of?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of.

Q    And then on healthcare, I just want to know a couple of things on that.  Is the President confident that he will have something to sign in the next few weeks?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t think we’re as focused on the timeline as we are on the final product.  We’re looking for the best bill possible, and we’re going to continue being part of technical assistance and providing that with both House and Senate members as we work to get the best bill we can.

Q    And just on that final product, the President — this Senate bill, by analysis so far, cuts Medicaid.  It doesn’t look like it will cut deductibles for folks.  Does that have enough heart?  Does the President think that is a bill that is not mean?

MS. SANDERS:  I haven’t had that conversation but I do know that he made a statement earlier that said this is a negotiation, and so he’s going to continue that process with both House and Senate members and his administration until we get the best bill that we can, and that will be the one that he signs.

Q    So he’s open to changes.


Q    Sarah, what was the President doing with this?  I mean, he let it go on for 41 days, as Hallie referred to.  That tweet 41 days ago seemed to be, you know, a very kind of ominous message to Comey — “he better hope there are no tapes.”  And then he was asked repeatedly during the intervening weeks whether or not the tapes existed.  You were asked many times.  Sean was asked.  Why the game?  What was he doing?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t know there was a game.  Again, he’s answered the question.  He gave a timeline and the frame that — which he would, and he did that.  He said by the end of this week and he’s done that.

Q    Do you have a sense for — what was behind the original suggestion from him 41 days ago that there may be tapes?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think it was pretty clear in that original statement that he hoped for his sake.  And that was, I think, the very intention.  And he’s laid out his position on whether or not he personally was involved in that in his tweet today.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Back to the original tweet, did the President intend to threaten James Comey with that tweet?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of.  I don’t think so.

Q    And so why — again, why was he compelled for the deadline to be this week, to clear it up?

MS. SANDERS:  I mean, that was — has been laid out, I believe, also by Congress that they wanted an answer by the end of this week.  


Q    Sarah, if I can, the tweet ultimately, we know, according to James Comey, led him to share the memos publicly, which led to the hiring of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, which ultimately led to the reports that the President himself is being investigated for possible obstruction of justice.  Does the President regret the tweet?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t think so.  


Q    Then broadly, he said — you can’t say whether there are any Oval Office recordings, but he did say that “[I] did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”  Did he ever have recordings of conversations with James Comey?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, not that I’m aware of.

Q    Let me ask about healthcare, if I can, quickly.  On healthcare, the President said when he first became a candidate after coming down the escalator, he tweeted, “The Republicans who want to cut SS & Medicaid are wrong. A robust economy will Make America Great Again!”  So if cutting Medicaid was wrong when he was a candidate, why is it right in the new Republican Senate bill?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t believe that the President has specifically weighed in that it’s right to cut Medicaid.  I know one of the big parts of discussion is giving states flexibility.  And again, the President hasn’t weighed in specifically on any specific measure in this bill, and, as he said earlier, this is a negotiation between the House and the Senate and we’re going to play a part in that.

Q    Does the President still believe there should be no —

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sorry, guys, can you — one at a time.

Q    Does the President still believe, as he did as a candidate, that there should be no cuts to Medicaid?

MS. SANDERS:  I haven’t had a specific conversation to see if there is an update to that, but I do know that he wants to protect that as much as possible.


Q    What specifically will the White House be doing with the Senate as this healthcare moves forward?  You mentioned technical assistance.  What does that entail?

MS. SANDERS:  I think — I know members of OMB, Treasury, and certainly members of the HHS and senior staff have been involved in the process.  They’re going to continue to do that.  This has been one of those things where, from the very beginning, we’ve wanted all the stakeholders involved.  And we’re going to continue to do that until we get the best piece of legislation. 

Q    Will the President be involved, or is he going to wait for the conference committee, which, presumably, will —

MS. SANDERS:  I know he’s been involved by having members of his administration — I think it would be hard to deny the fact they’re an extension of the administration when you have Cabinet secretaries and senior-level staffers that are in meetings and conversations regarding the legislation.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Twelve days ago, the President announced a press conference in two weeks on his entire ISIS strategy.  Can we expect a press conference in the coming days?

MS. SANDERS:  I’ll have to get back to you on a specific date for when that might be.

Q    Thanks, Sarah.  I wanted to ask you just — about some of the reaction from the left that we’ve seen this week.  

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sure it’s friendly.

Q    Well, our microphones caught a woman who was dragged off from McConnell’s office this morning.  She was screaming, “My child is going to die, and my family is going to die, but they don’t give a damn about it.”  Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said this week, “The Democrats are going to lie down on the train tracks” to stop this bill from passing.  What do you make of all that?  What’s your reaction to that?

MS. SANDERS:  I certainly think that not just Republicans, but I think any American would certainly not support something that allows a child to die.  And the goal is, again, to look for the best healthcare possible that actually provides care — not just gives insurance but actually provides care.  That’s been a goal from the administration on the front end, and we’re looking for ways to do that.

Right now, we know Obamacare is not sustainable.  It is literally collapsing under itself.  Providers are pulling out every single day out of states.  We are down to multiple counties that don’t have providers.  And we are working day in, day out to make sure we have the best piece of legislation possible.

If Democrats really cared, they would try to be involved in the process.  They said from day one that they didn’t want to be in the conversation if it had anything to do with repealing and replacing Obamacare.  I think that it’s sad that they’ve chosen to play partisan politics instead of trying to have a seat at the table.


Q    Thanks, Sarah.  The intelligence community has concluded that the DNC hack was part of a Russian plot to disrupt and influence the 2016 election.  I’m wondering, after the President’s tweet this morning, why does he continue to dispute that finding and call the hack a “hoax”?  And then a follow-up, if I may.

MS. SANDERS:  I believe that the President said even back in January — and I’ll read the statement from then — that he thinks it’s a disgrace, thinks it’s an absolute disgrace.  “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”  

I think he’s made it clear and been consistent that while everyone agrees the result of the election wasn’t influenced, he thinks that it probably was Russia.  And I think that regardless, President Trump has made it clear that we have to protect the integrity of the electoral system.  That’s one of the reasons he’s a strong advocate for voter I.D. laws and why he’s also put in place a voter election commission — integrity commission chaired by the Vice President, which I think shows the level of importance he’s placed on that to make sure that the integrity of all of our elections, particularly moving forward, are as sound and correct as possible.

Q    So then — thank you.  Just a broader follow-up on that.  So like I said, this morning he called the hack a “hoax.”  He hasn’t accepted the popular vote tallies.  You guys have been touting jobs numbers that he used to call “fake.”  You won’t tell us where he stands on climate science.  So I’m wondering, why does the President choose to accept certain facts, but dispute and reject others?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not aware that he accepts certain facts.  I think we accept all the facts.

Q    But like the popular vote totals, climate science.  You still haven’t told us where he stands on that.

MS. SANDERS:  Look, the President won the election.  I don’t know why we have to continue debating this.   

Q    I’m not debating that point.

MS. SANDERS:  The Democrats lost because they didn’t have a message.  They had a poor candidate.  We had a message.  And the President won.  I’m not really sure what fact we’re disputing here.  There’s only one winner and he was it.


Q    Sarah, going back to the tweet, it happened before this gaggle started.  Is the President concerned that surveillance is being conducted against him at the White House?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t know specifically if there’s a direct concern.  I do know that he’s concerned with the number of leaks that do come out of our intelligence community.  I think all Americans should be concerned with that.

Q    He did make clear in that tweet that he didn’t have any recordings, but he raised the prospect that there — somebody else might have them.

MS. SANDERS:  Again, I think that it’s very clear what he meant there, but as far as surveillance —

Q    But who else would have them, I guess?

MS. SANDERS:  — I wouldn’t know, Jeff.  


Q    Two questions.  First on healthcare, if I can.  Since the President won’t be weighing in specifically on any of the details of the Senate bill, can you help explain what his role will be exactly during at least this Senate phase of the process?  Will he be whipping for votes to pass the Senate bill, even if he doesn’t necessarily agree with everything that’s in it, just to try to advance the process along?  

MS. SANDERS:  We’ll keep you updated as his involvement takes place.  Again, right now, I know that he’s got a large number of members of his administration that are involved in the process and continuing in those conversations.

Q    Sarah, another question, if I can.  The President is meeting today with the International Olympic Committee.  Can you talk a little bit about what that meeting is for, and will he use it as a chance to lobby for Los Angeles’s bid for the Olympics?

MS. SANDERS:  I know he’s certainly supportive of the committee, and we plan to have a read out after the meeting.  I don’t want to get head of that before it takes place.

Q    By the committee, you mean the bid?  Or the —

MS. SANDERS:  I mean, obviously, the committee itself — and again, we’ll have a readout for you after the meeting takes place.  I won’t get ahead of that.

Q    Sarah, yeah, listen, I want to — if you don’t mind, I want to go back to what Jeff was asking you a moment ago.  I know you say this tweet is clear, but it talks about recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking.  Is that activity that is being carried out by the CIA, the FBI, or other U.S. law enforcement agencies?  Is that what his reference is to?

MS. SANDERS:  I think those are questions you’d have to ask those law enforcement agencies, whether or not they’re engaging in those activities.

Q    But it’s the President who has tweeted this.  The President is the one who has actually put this information out.

MS. SANDERS:  I think there’s public record that talks about surveillance, that talks about unmasking.  We know those practices take place.  I think if you’re asking about specific instances, you’d have to refer to those agencies.

Q    Can I ask one follow-up on China?  The President tweeted obviously the other day that the Chinese had failed to change the situation with respect to North Korea.  I just wonder, in light of that, given how he had put China at the center of his North Korea strategy, what the next steps are.  How does the U.S. bring pressure to bear on North Korea, if the Chinese are not willing to help?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think the President has been extremely clear on this process.  Of course, he hopes to work with China and continue to work with them to put pressure on North Korea.  But if that doesn’t work, then the President has been clear that he will do whatever it takes to protect America.

Q    Are there any more details on that?  Any details on what that would be?

MS. SANDERS:  The President is never going to outline his strategy in a public way, but I think he’s been clear that he would certainly do what it takes to protect American citizens.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Two questions.  First on healthcare.  The Senate wants to vote in less than a week, or in about a week.  Can you say whether the President supports the bill as it is right now?  Because we don’t know how many changes can be made in the course of a week.

Q    Again, I think he wants to bring the stakeholders to the table, have those conversations, and we’ll get back to you as we go through that process.  But I think right now we’re in a negotiation process.


Q    Does the President think that the process on healthcare is moving too fast then, if he wants to take time and talk to people?  I mean, they’re talking about having a vote next week.  I mean, this may be like the —

MS. SANDERS:  I mean, we’ve been talking about reforming healthcare for a number of years.  I don’t think it’s moving too fast when it’s been nearly eight years.

Q    Sarah, if the healthcare bill changes from what it is now, by the time it gets to the President’s desk, will the President support a bill that funds Planned Parenthood?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not sure.  I’d have to get back to you on that question.

Q    Hasn’t he that he wouldn’t support a bill that does? 

MS. SANDERS:  He has.  I would have to get back to you on his specific mentality of the bill.

Q    Well, let me ask you this:  If the bill allows the use of healthcare tax credits to buy coverage for abortion, would he support that?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of.  But again, I think it would have to be in the context of the larger legislation.  I can’t speak to a hypothetical on one piece of the bill.

Q    I wanted to ask more about the China question that Mark Landler brought up.  Can you tell us more when you say the President will do what it takes with regard to North Korea?  So that would mean a military option.  Can you tell us more —

MS. SANDERS:  I think he’s said all along that we’re not taking any options off the table, but we’re not going to broadcast what those might be.


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  The intelligence community has been pretty unified and adamant that the Russian interference in the election was a very real and serious issue.  Yet the President just called it a “Dem hoax.”  Does he believe that members of the intelligence community are colluding with the Democrats, or did collude with the Democrats?  And what would he do about that?

MS. SANDERS:  I believe the reference in the hoax is about the fact that they’re trying to delegitimize his win in the election process, and less about the hack itself.  I think he’s said several times now that he believes that Russia was part of it, but also, some of those same members have said that they don’t think it influenced the election.  And I think that’s what a lot of this process is about; it’s about trying to make excuses for why Democrats lost.  And the President, I think, has been pretty clear on where he stands with that.


Q    Sarah you just directed Mark’s — his questions about the President’s tweet earlier to the various intelligence agencies.  Is the President accusing elements of the U.S. government of wiretapping the Oval Office?

MS. SANDERS:  That’s not what I said.  I said if he was asking about specific instances, he would have to ask them.

Q    So, specifically, does the President believe he’s being surveilled in the Oval Office?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of.

Q    Why is he tweeting about it?

MS. SANDERS:  Because he was asked if he had tapes, and he was answering that question.


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  A question and a follow-up.  In his speech last night, the President said that several of the major news corporations are not telling the truth to the American people.  Are you willing to name any of those corporations?  And also, are you keeping a list and following corporations that may not be telling the truth?

MS. SANDERS:  I think there are quite a few instances where there have been false reports out there, and I would be happy when I’m not standing up here to help provide a list to you, John.

Q    All right.  And the other thing is, are you keeping this list ongoing?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t have like a folder on my computer for it.  But I certainly think we’ve got some knowledge of very specific instances that have taken place.

Q    Are you going to release them?

MS. SANDERS:  I’ll let you know.


Q    Thanks a lot, Sean — Sarah.  Were you given a heads up in any context —

MS. SANDERS:  We look pretty different.  (Laughter.)  But, you know.  

Q    It’s off-camera.

MS. SANDERS:  Hey, John, if you’re looking for instances of fake news, there’s a good one for you.  (Laughter.)  I’m Sarah.

Q    Were you given a heads up about the President’s tweet?


Q    And was the General Counsel given an opportunity to vet what the President tweeted out?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not sure.  I’d have to double-check on that.   

Q    Sarah, the President talked last night about Governor Branstad going to China to become the ambassador.  Is it consistent with the President’s pledge to drain the swamp that he’s giving so many of these first wave of ambassadorships to political supporters and campaign donors?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think it’s pretty traditional that you would have somebody supportive of you and your agenda to go out and be an ambassador to speak on behalf of the administration.  And Terry Branstad is somebody who has, I think, some of the best qualifications that you could have to send there.  He’s got a personal relationship with senior-level members of the Chinese administration, as well as a very strong understanding of trade practices given his background.  And I think he’s a perfect fit for that role.


Q    Is legal status for DACA beneficiaries on the table?  Has the White House conducted its review of the program?

MS. SANDERS:  As of right now, that’s still under review and I don’t have any announcements on the specifics of the program at this time.

Q    Bloomberg reported that the President first raised the prospect of tapes strategically to make sure that Comey told the truth.  Is that your understanding of the President’s motivation for tweeting about it?  And does he feel it was effective?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sorry?  Can you speak — I can’t hear —

Q    Do you want me to repeat the whole thing?

MS. SANDERS:  Yeah, sorry.  No, the air — It’s hard to hear.

Q    Bloomberg first reported that the President first raised the prospect of tapes strategically to make sure that Comey told the truth.  Is that your understanding of the President’s motive for tweeting that?  And does he feel it was effective?

MS. SANDERS:  I certainly think that the President would hope that the former director would tell the truth.  But I think that it was more about raising the question of doubt in general.  
Thanks, guys.

1:47 P.M. EDT 



TEXT of Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders – 6/8/2017

This is for the record and the reader’s review of what was said yesterday, 6/8/2017, during the Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.


James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:08 P.M. EDT

MS. SANDERS:  Good afternoon.  Just barely afternoon, I guess.  Quiet morning for you guys?  I’ll go through a few things and then I’ll take your questions.

First off, as a reminder, as is tradition when the President is speaking, this is an off-camera, not-for-broadcast gaggle.  Audio should not be used on television or radio.

Yesterday the first U.S. liquid natural gas shipments arrived in the Netherlands and Poland, marking the inauguration of American energy exports to northern and central Europe.  And now that America has been freed from the burdensome regulations that prohibited LNG exports for far too long, we’re poised to become one of the world’s premier energy exporters — a strategic advantage that we can use to build prosperity here at home and advance our interests abroad.

President Trump is committed to removing barriers to energy development and trade, promoting U.S. exports of energy resources, technologies and services, and ensuring the economic and energy security of the United States.  U.S. LNG exports support American jobs, which, as you know, is a top priority for the President.

As Energy Secretary Perry has said, energy policy is not just economic policy, it’s also foreign policy.  We’ve seen other producers use energy as a way to coerce the less powerful.  And now the United States will be able to counteract this strong-arming and ensure both our own and our partners’ energy security.

The President has had a great event in Ohio yesterday, talking about our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and his plans to make historic investments in our national infrastructure.  And this afternoon, the President will give remarks to wrap up the infrastructure summit here at the White House, where Cabinet members, senior staff, and subject-matter experts are meeting with state, local, and tribal leaders on how we can best work together to rebuild this country.

The summit is kicking off just about now with a working lunch and remarks by the Vice President, and the President will speak around 3:30 p.m.

Of course the President right now is currently on his way to the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference. And for those of you that are concerned with Sean’s whereabouts 
— April, in particular — he is with the President.  I’d encourage you all to pay close attention to the President’s remarks, as he’ll be addressing some of the biggest issues facing our country and our world today — skyrocketing health insurance costs, job-killing federal regulations and policies, the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.  These are the issues that Americans are actually talking about around their dinner tables, and that’s what the President will be speaking about and who he’ll be speaking to today.

Tomorrow will be a busy Friday before the President departs for Bedminster for a working weekend.  In the morning, we’re headed to the Department of Transportation for an event on roads, rails, and regulatory reform.  Try to say that 10 times fast.
He’ll join in a roundtable with federal and state DOT officials, hosted by Secretary Chao, where they’ll discuss how the current maze of federal regulation leads to an uncertain and prolonged permitting process that doesn’t serve our environment or our economy.  His remarks afterward will highlight his plans for reforming the system to encourage responsible investment by both the public and private sector.  

And later that afternoon, the President will welcome the President of Romania for an official visit.  We’ll, of course, have a readout for you following their meetings.  And following the departure of the President of Romania, we’ll head to Bedminster.

Finally, I’m aware there’s a lot of interest in what’s going on on the Hill today.  And as you all know, Marc Kasowitz, the President’s outside counsel, will have a statement upon the conclusion of the hearing.

And with that, I’ll take your questions.  

Q    Sarah, did the President watch any of the hearing today?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t know if he’s seen much of it.  I know he has been in meetings with Secretary Tillerson, Mattis, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster the majority of the morning.  They talked about a variety of issues, including North Korea and Gulf region issues.

Q    And do you know if he’ll mention the testimony at all in his speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of.

Q    Sarah, former Director Comey essentially said the President lied to him — lied to him, lied about the content of the meetings, said he didn’t trust the President enough to not record in minute detail the aspects of those meetings.  Two questions:  Is the President a liar, as former Director Comey says?  And is the Director’s testimony truthful to the best of your understanding?

MS. SANDERS:  I’ll answer the first one.  No, I can definitively say the President is not a liar.  I think it’s, frankly, insulting that that question would be asked.  And second, anything specific to the hearing, again, as I said in my opening, I would refer you to the comments that Marc Kasowitz will make following the conclusion of the hearing.  

Q    Sarah, two things for you.  In his testimony, Comey also accused the administration of defaming him and defaming the FBI with his comments about morale.  Can you address those?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, not to sound like a broken record — I’m kind of looking around for my kids because I feel like, with toddlers, you get to answer the same question over and over, so I’m in good practice for this.  But Marc Kasowitz will address the hearing at a statement at the conclusion of the hearing later today.  

Q    And then, also, there were a lot of questions about tapes that the President claimed that he might have about conversations between the two of them.  He said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” and called on the President for them to please be released.  Are there tapes of those conversations?

MS. SANDERS:  Once again, I will refer you to remarks that Marc Kasowitz will make at the conclusion of the hearing on all matters regarding Mr. Comey’s testimony today.


Q    Sarah, in all fairness, you said from the podium that the FBI Director had lost the faith of the rank and file of the FBI.  That’s got nothing to do with Marc Kasowitz.  The FBI Director — former FBI Director just told the Senate Intelligence Committee that’s not true.  Can you help us understand this discrepancy?

MS. SANDERS:  I stand by the statements I made at the podium.  But, again, anything specific to Director Comey’s hearing testimony today I will refer you to outside counsel.

Q    Can you tell us as a housekeeping matter, is Kasowitz going to read this to the pool, or come back here?  And will he take questions?

MS. SANDERS:  I believe that’s being finalized now, and we’ll keep you guys updated as soon as we know the exact plan.

Q    Can you speak to the atmosphere in the West Wing? Obviously you always have TVs on.  Today they’re all playing the hearing.  In terms of what the President —

MS. SANDERS:  That’s because you guys are all playing the hearing.

Q    But it’s on.  So it’s in the atmosphere of the workplace here.  Can you describe how it’s affecting people in the West Wing today?  And did the President watch any of it?  I know you said he had meetings, but do you know if he watched any of it?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not sure if he’s watched any of it.  Again, I know the majority of his morning has been spent with the people I listed earlier.  

In terms of the mood in the White House, I would say that it’s a regular Thursday at the White House.  We’re carrying on.  Again, the President is engaged in national security meetings, doing infrastructure meetings this afternoon.  We have the news on like we do every single day.  That’s not new.  I’m pretty sure that’s standard operating procedure for this building.  So we’re carrying on, focused on the things that the President was elected to do, and we’re going to continue doing that throughout the day.

Q    Are you able to say today, does the President have confidence in his Attorney General?

MS. SANDERS:  Absolutely.  The President has confidence in all of his Cabinet, and if he didn’t they wouldn’t be here.


Q    I think there was a variation if this question asked about whether there are tapes.  Can you say definitively whether there is a taping system that allows the President to record his conversations here at the White House?

MS. SANDERS:  I have no idea.  

Q    Two points struck with me from the Comey testimony.  One, the President was not personally investigated.  And the second one, the point is that they both share the concern about the leakage of classified information.  If you know that they both agree on these things, what explains that information that the President was not under investigation has not been leaked out?  Because when things are getting leaked then shouldn’t everything gets out?  But there is an impression that there is selective kind of leakage right now going on.  So how does your administration do that?  And are you going to do any kind of investigation when it comes to the leakage of classified information?  And who is doing this leakage?  And why the selective leakage?  There is an impression there is no information that is going to impugn the President.  But what about these other types of information that could not get out if he was — 

MS. SANDERS:  Again, I’m not going to comment on the specifics of the hearing, but I will comment on leaks.  Obviously the President takes any leak very seriously, and we would expect that anyone caught doing so, particularly in a manner that puts national security at risk, should they be caught, an investigation concluded and they’re found guilty, they should be punished by the full extent of the law.  


Q    Sarah, back on the recording issue, for security purposes — this is the White House, this is the West Wing — for security purposes, are there recording devices, video or audio, in this West Wing area?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, I’m not sure, that’s not something I can answer.  You might check with Secret Service, if you’re asking from a security standpoint.

Q    I am asking because this is the home of the leader of the free world.  This is where he works.  This place is a target for anything and everything.  We’ve seen that.  And within — I mean, there’s a lot of security here and it would not be something out of the realm of possibility that there could be security cameras or security recordings just for the safety of the President and his senior staff.  Do you know of any such thing?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, I’m not aware, I’m not sure.  I would refer you to Secret Service, particularly given the nature of your question is about the security of the White House.  I would imagine Secret Service is not usually big on discussing the security of the White House, but I would refer you to them on that question.

Q    They would probably know comings and goings and things that happened if they are a nature of concern.  If something were to happen, they would look at tapes or figure out — beyond asking questions, they would be able to —

MS. SANDERS:  Again, I can’t answer that question.  I don’t work for the Secret Service.  They probably wouldn’t have me.  

Q    Sarah, two questions.  First of all, aside from the specifics of the Comey hearing, his testimony was leaked in advance yesterday.  You came back from Ohio on the plane with the President.  Could you characterize his mood about all the attention that’s being paid to it?  Is he frustrated?  What’s his attitude about the whole thing?

MS. SANDERS:  You know, I know he read through some of the comments for the opening statement, and I know you guys are going to get tired of hearing his name, but Marc Kasowitz did actually put out a statement on that.  I’m happy to read that to you again.

“The President is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the President was not under investigation in any Russian probe.  The President feels completed and totally vindicated, and he is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda.”

I think that sums it up pretty clearly.

Q    One more.  You mentioned that he had discussions this morning with his national security people about the Gulf.  He had spoken yesterday to the head of the United Arab Emirates and to the head of Qatar.  What is the goal here?  What is the President’s goal here?

MS. SANDERS:  I mean, I think the goal is real simple, is to deescalate the situation.  He is continuing to talk with all of the partners in the region, and he’s going to continue to do that.  And I think ultimately the goal is peace and partnership, and that certainly hasn’t changed over the last week.


Q    I had some on Qatar, but I did want to ask one on — you said it was a normal day at the White House.  Obviously, as much as you guys might be trying to keep a sense of normalcy, this is a day that would seem kind of definitional on the presidency.  Can you talk at all about what kind of stuff you guys are doing to prepare for this testimony, to react to the testimony in real time, to prepare for this?  Was it really entirely outsourced to outside counsel?  I mean, you and Sean had to be out there talking about how you’d address these questions, talking to senior aides about it and that sort of thing.

MS. SANDERS:  Given that most of the way that I’m addressing the questions is to direct you to the outside counsel I think it’s pretty clear that we have outsourced the comments and any statements to outside counsel.  Obviously I have — some of the process questions that you guys asked I answered.  But aside from that, again, we’re carrying on as we normally would.  I spent the last couple hours looking through information on other questions that may come up outside of the Comey hearing.

Q    And one shot on Qatar, just because it’s a big issue and what the President apparently spent his morning on.  Do you guys see the demands that the Saudis and other Gulf countries made as being reasonable of Qatar?  And does the President stand by his tweets from earlier this week in which he suggested that they were financing terrorism in the Middle East, especially in light of CNN’s report that the sort of root cause of all this might have been a story that was planted by Russian intelligence services?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, the President is continuing to have conversations with all of the leaders in that region.  He’s going to continue doing that.  He’s been meeting with his national security team this morning to discuss that.  I haven’t talked to him since they’ve had those conversations, but if I can get an update following that I will.

Q    Can I go back to one other thing?  I want to see if you can comment on this aspect of the hearing.  All during the election campaign the President pointed to the meeting that then Attorney General Loretta Lynch shared with Bill Clinton on the tarmac.  And we learned from Comey today that Loretta Lynch had asked him as Director of the FBI to refer to the Hillary Clinton investigation as a “matter,” and not an investigation.  And he felt that the Department of Justice was trying to align the language of the FBI’s investigation with that of the Clinton campaign.  Can you give us something on that?

MS. SANDERS:  Unfortunately, I cannot.  But maybe Mr. Kasowitz can later today.


Q    Sarah, you and others in the administration have said for a while the President is his own best messenger.  Should we expect to hear from the President at any point today regarding former Director Comey’s testimony?  And at what point will we hear from him?

MS. SANDERS:  The country is going to hear from the President here momentarily —

Q    About this subject.

MS. SANDERS:  Whether or not he addresses that, I don’t know.  But again, the President is going to continue being focused on what we think most people are concerned about, and some of that stuff, he’ll lay out in his speech later today.

Q    — you said you had no idea whether or not there was a taping system in the Oval Office.  Could you try to find out?  A lot of people are interested, as you might imagine.

MS. SANDERS:  Sure, I’ll try to look under the couches.

Q    Thanks, Sarah.

Q    Could you characterize — not specifically about these meetings with the former FBI Director — but when the President comes out of a meeting with anyone, does he take notes?  Do his aides takes notes?  Does he in any way record the conversation in writing or in audio format to look back on?

MS. SANDERS:  I can’t speak to every staffer in the White House that participates in meetings with the President.  I couldn’t possibly know the activity of each member —

Q    I’m just trying to get a better understanding of how the President comes out of meetings.  Does he take notes?  Does someone take notes for him, generally speaking?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, I think it varies depending on the nature of the meeting.  And so I can’t just give a general answer on broad meetings that take place here at the White House.

Q    A quick follow-up on today — have you met with the President today?

MS. SANDERS:  No, I have not.

Q    Sarah, the President just named a new FBI director.  This is adjacent to Comey in the sense that he noted that he had nine one-on-one conversations with the President either in person or on the phone.  Is that a level of contact with the FBI Director that this White House thinks is appropriate?  Or is it something that the President intends to change in terms of his contact with whoever ends up becoming the next FBI Director — Christopher Wray, in this case, potentially?
MS. SANDERS:  I think it would have to depend on the nature of the situation.  I couldn’t possibly foresee every instance in which the President may need to speak with the FBI Director, so I couldn’t comment on a hypothetical situation.

Q    Right, but the context here is that, with President Obama, it was two conversations over three years.  With President Bush, it was one.  It seems like the level of contact is enormous by comparison, in this short span of time — it was about four months.  So is that something that you all believe is appropriate with Comey?  And is it something that will continue?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t think anything inappropriate took place at any point.

Q    So what would be the consequence for someone that leaked an internal memo through a professor in order to, say, have a special counsel appointed, as Comey did today?  But I know that you’re referring to that there’s going to be a statement.  So can you speak to that in a general sense?

MS. SANDERS:  That’s not something that I would be an expert on.  The extent of which someone would be punished would probably not come to my desk.

Q    Would the White House take any particular action if they found out?  Because there’s been this question of leaks, so what would be the White House response if they found out that, say, an FBI Director has leaked an internal memo?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not sure what the extent of the law would be in that case.  But, again, I would imagine it would require a full investigation, and at the conclusion of that, the law would be the decider in that case.

Q    I want to ask a follow-up on Attorney General Sessions.  What changed in the last couple days that allows you to now say the President has confidence in him?  Especially because you said you didn’t have a conversation with him today, so, I guess, what changed in the past 72 hours that now allows you to —

MS. SANDERS:  I had one last night.

Q    You did?  Okay.

Q    Sarah, why was Jeff Sessions involved in the firing of James Comey if he had recused himself from the Russia investigation?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not sure.  That’s a question I would refer to DOJ.

Q    Okay.  So to follow up, today James Comey said he never initiated contact with the President the nine times they spoke.  Does the President agree with that, that he initiated contact with James Comey all nine times?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not sure, again, when it comes to specifics of the testimony.

Q    He said Comey called him —

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not aware of the ins and outs of those nine interactions.  I’ll try to check and get back to you.  But in the meantime, I would also refer you to Marc Kasowitz.


Q    Let me ask you two, if you don’t mind.  Obviously, the President has one-on-one conversations with staff members, people he’s hired.  But as it relates to folks that he hasn’t hired, is there any sort of policy as to not put him in a one-on-one situation so it doesn’t create a “he said, he said, he said, she said” whatever type environment?  Or is that something that the White House might look at?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of, and I couldn’t comment, again, on a hypothetical situation.

Q    Okay.  And let me ask you, secondly — the President had spoken and tweeted a lot about the Russia investigation.  And know we know throughout that, as early as January 6th and as late as March 30th, he had been assured by Jim Comey that he personally was not under investigation.  So I’m wondering if you could say why the President never said that detail?  Why he never came out and said, hey, look, I’ve been assured — he waited all the way until the Comey firing.  Do you know why he waited up until that moment to say it?

MS. SANDERS:  No, I’m not sure why he would wait.

Q    Sarah, thank you.  Looking to the future, one overriding element in today’s hearing was that Comey said — and both sides agreed — that Russia still is coming after American elections and will continue to in the future.  Does the President agree?  And what will he do about this important question?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not sure whether or not he agrees.  I haven’t had that conversation.  But I do know that the President takes our elections very seriously and would want to make sure that we do everything we can to ensure that they’re done properly, fairly, and without interference from anyone.


Q    Thanks, Sarah.  A couple questions about business in the Senate right now.  In connection with Iran sanctions legislation, there is an effort to link to it or to add an amendment that would make that legislation contingent on also a provision that would require congressional approval of any effort to change sanctions — to remove sanctions on Russia.  Is that something that the White House would support?

MS. SANDERS:  The administration is committed to existing sanctions against Russia and will keep them in place until Moscow fully honors its commitments to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.  We believe that the existing executive branch sanctions regime is the best tool for compelling Russia to fulfill its commitments.  And the administration will continue to work with Congress to ensure that we pursue the best course of action in support of the foreign policy interests of the United States.

And, guys, with that, the President is getting ready to speak.  Thanks so much.  Have a good day.

12:30 P.M. EDT


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