Press Briefing with Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah – The White House – 5/14/2018



Press Briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, 6/30/2017


2:30 P.M. EDT

MS. SANDERS:  Good afternoon.  Happy Friday.  I have just a couple things I want to highlight here at the top before we get into questions.  We had another bad Obamacare news piece come out today out of Ohio.  Premier Health Plan is withdrawing from the state’s exchange, leaving 20 more counties with no insurance plans on the Obamacare exchange.  That’s on top of the 14 bare counties in Nevada we talked about yesterday. 

For the thousands of Americans now left with no choice when it comes to health insurance, these announcements are more than just words and numbers — it means that they will have to make tough choices when it comes to medical care for themselves and their families.

The President is determined to give these families a better option.  News like this is why it’s so important we repeal this failed law before it collapses completely.

Earlier today, Agriculture Secretary Perry — I’m sorry, Perdue sliced a Nebraska prime rib at a ceremony in China, formally marking the return of American beef to the $2.5 billion Chinese market after a 13-year hiatus.  I strongly encourage you all to take a look at the pictures of the Secretary and representatives from the American and Chinese industries standing around a pretty tasty-looking piece of prime rib, particularly going into this holiday weekend.  This is great news for American ranchers who now have access to the $2.5 billion Chinese beef market.  

Also this morning, the Department of Health and Human Services announced approximately $15 million that will be going to women, infants, and their families who have had or are at risk for lead exposure in Flint, Michigan.

President Trump promised during the campaign that he would address Flint’s water crisis quickly and effectively, and his Cabinet is hard at work keeping that promise to the people of Flint.

In the VA, Secretary Shulkin was in New York to unveil the LUKE bionic arm, the world’s most advanced commercial prosthetic that was made possible by VA research.  The LUKE arm is the product of nearly eight years of testing and research, and represents the amazing advances in technology that are possible when the government works in partnership with the private sector to care for our nation’s heroes.

The LUKE arm has the potential to significantly benefit the lives of veterans and others with upper extremity amputations, and the Trump administration was proud to be part of its rollout today.

Finally, yesterday John Gizzi asked if the United States was sending a delegation to the funeral service of the former German chancellor on the 1st of July, and I wanted to give an update, as I said I would get back.  We are sending an official delegation, which will be headed by the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, who is the former United States Ambassador to Germany.

And with that, I’ll take your questions.  And, folks, in honor of the Fourth of July, let’s try to save all our fireworks for Tuesday.  (Laughter.)  

John Roberts.

Q    Sarah, the President tweeted this morning about healthcare. 

MS. SANDERS:  He did.

Q    In which he said that if the senators can’t get a bill on repeal and replace together, then maybe the best idea would be — as Ben Sasse and Rand Paul have suggested — split them up into a repeal and then a replacement later.  This really runs counter to what the President has been promoting all through the campaign and earlier this year where he insisted that the two things had to be done, if not simultaneously, at least very close to each other.  What is the basis for his change in thinking on this particular point?

MS. SANDERS:  The President hasn’t changed his thinking at all.  I mean, he’s campaigned on, talked about since he was elected repealing and replacing Obamacare.  We’re still fully committed to pushing through with the Senate at this point.  But we’re looking at every possible option of repealing and replacing Obamacare.  We are focused on doing that.

As I said earlier, there is another large amount of counties that now have no Obamacare provider, and so we’re continuing to work hard to repeal and replace Obamacare, and that hasn’t changed.

Q    So how does it square this idea with repeal it now, replace it later with what you had said on repeated occasions before that these things needed to be done very close to each other in order to maintain continuity of coverage for many Americans?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, we’re still focused on trying to push through where are, and we’re going to continue moving forward and making progress on that front and looking at repealing and replacing Obamacare.  The bottom line is, we’re focused on the end product here, and that is to repeal and replace Obamacare with healthcare that works for all Americans.


Q    Sarah, in terms of putting some more specifics on the replacement part, one of the issues that they’re having is you got 11 or 12 senators now who are not happy with what’s going on with Medicaid — they can deal with some of the repeal elements.  Can you give us the most specific — you were asked about this a couple of days ago — the most specific articulation of what you want to see in terms of Medicaid?  And do you agree with some of these senators who think what’s in the Senate bill, in terms of Medicaid phasing out, is, to point a phrase, too mean?

MS. SANDERS:  I think the President, again, is very focused on protecting those who are currently in the program.  That’s certainly a big priority for him, is making sure those people are protected and also adding additional resources.  That’s part of the Senate bill as it currently stands.  That’s something we would be most likely supportive of doing.

Q    How about sort of the specifics outlined in the CBO about the potential for, you know, 18 million — what is it — 23 million total, 15 million by next year.  Is that just too steep a drop-off for the President?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sorry?

Q    In terms of the CBO articulation analysis of what would happen under Medicaid over the next three or four years, is that too steep a drop off in terms of Medicaid?  Does the President have any objection to what was in the Senate bill with regards to Medicaid?  

MS. SANDERS:  I haven’t had a direct conversation about a specific number.  Again, the priority is to protect everyone as best as possible and certainly those that are currently on the plan, and making sure that no one that is currently on that program gets taken off.  

Q    I’d like to follow up with that first.  Where did the President actually get the idea of separating them?  Was it through conversations with Senator Paul, or was it something that Senator Ben Sasse had said on the television program?   

MS. SANDERS:  I know people have been talking about this for quite some time.  I don’t know where, specifically, it may have come from.  But again, I’ve heard people talking about it for months.  I don’t think it’s new.


Q    And then I wanted to ask about the Election Commission.  Does the President have any thoughts on the fact that so many governors and other state officials have said they’re not going to comply with this request for public information for the Election Integrity Commission?  

MS. SANDERS:  I think that that’s mostly a political stunt.  We’re asking — this is a commission that’s asking for publicly available data.  And the fact that these governors wouldn’t be willing to turn that over — this is something that’s been part of the Commission’s discussion, which has bipartisan support, and none of the members raised any concern whatsoever. 


Q    Thanks, Sarah.  Let me expand upon the tweet that John had brought up.  You just answered his question in part by saying we’re still focused on trying to push through where we are; the bottom line is we’re focused on the end product here.  Is this potential splitting up of the bill, is that plan B at this point? 

MS. SANDERS:  Look, again, as I’ve said before earlier this week.  We’re not focused on plan B, we’re focused on the overall process of repealing and replacing Obamacare.  And the end result right now — we’re still very much focused on the direction we’re on.

Q    And Ben Sasse said in his letter, and on television had mentioned, the first Monday coming back — which is either — I believe it’s July 10th — as to the date as to when they should do it.  Does the White House ascribe to that date?

MS. SANDERS:  No.  As we’ve said before, we’re less focused on the timeline and, again, focused on making sure we get the best deal and healthcare plan possible.


Q    I wanted to ask about two separate policy things.  The first one is steel.  The President said today that he had secured some assurances from the Koreans on that.  I’m wondering if those were actual changes that we might see to KORUS or other trade agreements, or if it’s more “we’ll look at it and get back to you” type of assurance.  And then, broadly, if the report in — this morning was correct in that the President has determined he’s going to impose tariffs on steel.   

MS. SANDERS:  No, at this point the President has not made a final decision in regards to the tariffs issue.

Q    And on Korea?

MS. SANDERS:  On Korea, look, the President has been clear throughout the campaign and again during now, he’s looking for the best deal possible for American workers, specifically focused on reciprocal trade.  And that is the primary focus of the conversations that he’s had.  

Q    And then I have one on food aid.

MS. SANDERS:  Sorry, on what?

Q    Food aid.


Q    The President is moving to require all food aid to be sent on U.S. flag carriers, but it’s a policy that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have actually been moving away towards.  AEI, which is not a liberal group, said that it would make food aid costs 46 percent more, it may take 14 weeks longer to reach people, unlikely to create new U.S. jobs.  We heard yesterday from senior administration officials about the President sees foreign aid as an important part of diplomacy and wants to cut costs here.  So I’m just trying to figure out how this is not just kind of a bumper sticker strategy, but why this is actually a good idea for the United States.

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sorry, what was the last part?

Q    Why this isn’t just a bumper sticker strategy of, you know, we’re putting it on U.S. ships, but why this actually makes sense from a policy standpoint. 

MS. SANDERS:  That’s something, honestly, I haven’t had a chance to dive into much, Justin.  But I’d be happy to circle back with you later today.


Q    Sarah, just to be clear, the preference of the White House is to go forward with the drafting of a repeal and replace in the Senate and see if that can pass.  That’s the correct position of the White House, right?

MS. SANDERS:  Correct, yes.  

Q    And so this idea of separating the two is only a backup, as an emergency, if this other process fails, correct?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think we want —

Q    The reason I ask —

MS. SANDERS:  No, I understand.  

Q    Is because if you take — if you separate them, as you know, one is reconciliation and the other one isn’t, which makes it much more difficult, and for people as you’ve identified in Nevada and Ohio, repeal only takes care of one of their problems.  It doesn’t deal with them being able to find new carriers or alternative plans as the replacement would.  So I’m just trying to figure out how much of an idea this really is that we should be focusing on, or should this attention still be on repeal and replace as the primary White House focus.

MS. SANDERS:  As I said earlier, the primary focus is repeal and replace through the current Senate legislation that is being discussed.  

Q    If you did separate them, it would complicate things.  Not only legislatively — 

MS. SANDERS:  I didn’t say that that’s true.

Q    What is — I’m asking.

MS. SANDERS:  I think that’s something we would have to review if we went that direction.  But at this point, again, we’re focused on the piece of legislation that does exist.  

Q    What does the President think about the idea of the cancellation of recess in August to focus on healthcare and other legislative ideas and agenda items?  That’s something 10 Republican senators suggested today.

MS. SANDERS:  Not cancelling the August recess?

Q    Cancelling the recess, staying in town, and working on healthcare and the sort of issues — the debt ceiling, tax cuts. Would the President endorse that?

MS. SANDERS:  I haven’t had a chance to have a conversation whether or not he wants to push Congress to cancel their recess.  I think that the timeline and that is really something that’s up to Congress, not the White House.

Q    On Chicago, with the ATF permanent taskforce there, is that a suggestion or a recognition that at least part of the problem in Chicago is a gun control problem or a firearms access control problem?  

MS. SANDERS:  I think that the problem there is pretty clear that it’s a crime problem.  I think crime is probably driven more by morality than anything else.  So I think that this is a law enforcement issue, and our focus is trying to add additional support.  

We’ve talked to people on a local level and asked for their input on how we best can be helpful, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.  That’s something the President talked about pretty extensively, and he’s focused on trying to help the people in Chicago.  


Q    At his recent rally in Cedar Rapids, President Trump said the situation in the Middle East is worse than it was 16 years ago.  Is he concerned about how long the war in Afghanistan is dragging on for?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think he, as well as others, are always concerned about any war taking place.  He is deferring as much as possible to the generals that he put in place, his national security team to do everything we can to limit those types of things, but at the same time protect Americans and certainly our national security. 

Q    Does he want to see Americans in a combat role there by, say, 2020?

MS. SANDERS:  As we’ve said many times before, the President is never going to broadcast what plans he has or doesn’t have.

John Gizzi.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  With all the furor and tumult in yesterday’s press conference — or press briefing, some have suggested that maybe it is time for the President to have another news conference and perhaps answer these questions himself, rather than subject spokespeople such as you and Sean to questions about recent controversy.  Does he plan an actual news conference in the near future?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not sure if there’s one on the schedule.  But if there is, I guarantee you this room will be the first group to be notified.  (Laughter.)  

Q    The other thing is — my other question is:  Has the President today read The New York Magazine article by Gabriel Sherman about the White House and its involvement with Joe Scarborough at all?

MS. SANDERS:  I have no idea if he’s read that piece.  Sorry, John, can’t answer that.


Q    Back to the question of trade, the President said today that he was negotiating with South Korea on the agreement.  Has the KORUS agreement been reopened?  And if it has been reopened, what’s the mechanism for that?  And how much concern, if any, is there about impacting other relationships, security relationships with South Korea?

MS. SANDERS:  At the direction of the President, Ambassador Lighthizer is calling a special joint committee meeting to start the process of renegotiating and amending the deal.  And as always, and as we’ve said many times before, the President is committed to making sure he gets the best deal and a better deal if possible when it comes to trade.  And that’s the current status of where they are.

Q    Any impact on the cooperation over North Korean aggression with South Korea?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sorry?

Q    What concern is there about an impact on the cooperation with South Korea on the military issues and security issues with North Korea? 

MS. SANDERS:  Are you asking if we’re concerned about an impact?  

Q    Yes. Yes, yes.

MS. SANDERS:  I think the President laid out pretty clearly where he is on that in his statement earlier today.


Q    Thanks a lot, Sarah.  I wanted to ask you about the travel ban.  It’s the first full day that it’s gone into effect, and it’s scheduled to last for 90 days.  And my question has to do with what are the next steps.  If it lasts for 90 days, that takes you up to the end of September.  Are there plans to extend the travel ban before this issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court?

MS. SANDERS:  As of right now, for any specifics about the implementation process and anything beyond that, I would encourage you to contact the Department of Homeland Security, as they’ll be doing the review and recommendation on that process.

And, guys, I’m sorry, I know I was running late, and I hate to end early, but I was notified by note here just — 

Q    Just two quick questions here.

MS. SANDERS:  Hold on a second, I’m trying to finish a sentence — that the President is actually going to sign an executive order, and he’s going to do that in the next few minutes.  And so I’m going to step away.

We will be available this afternoon to answer more questions.

Q    On what?

MS. SANDERS:  On the Space Council.  And we’ll send out more details about that here in the next few minutes.

Thanks, guys.

2:46 P.M. EDT


Press Gaggle by Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan, U.S. Attorney for the State of Utah John Huber, and Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders – 6/28/2017

Today, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders held an off-camera press gaggle.  The last time the White House held an off-camera gaggle, it was attacked by Reporter Jim Acosta of CNN.


It is amazing how the leftist press criticizes the mere fact that the cameras are not on, but never say that they have full access to the White House and to the Press Secretary.  This is a total shift of how the press used to react to President Obama.  For the eight-years that President Obama was there, the press would totally report  Fake News.  It was so bad that those of us that worked on the Trump Campaign on Facebook had to become reporters and vet all the fake news that the White House, Obama, and Hillary Clinton used to put out as real news for the American people.  They were manipulating the news content and half of the uninformed in America believed their deception.


Today, we have a Real President who loves America, a free press, an open White House and now the press complains about not having on camera briefings.  What a bunch of dishonest cry babies.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Gaggle by Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan, U.S. Attorney for the State of Utah John Huber, and Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders – 6/28/2017


James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:36 P.M. EDT

MS. SANDERS:  Good afternoon.  First off, before we get started, I want to bring up Tom Homan, the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and John Huber, the United States Attorney from Utah, to tell you about two upcoming pieces of immigration legislation that will be voted on in the House later this week.  And after they finish, as always, I will come back and take some more questions.  

Thanks, guys. 

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Tom Homan, and I’m the Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  I’m at the White House today to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Trump and other important stakeholders, including families of victims who have been killed by illegal aliens.  

ICE’s new Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, otherwise known as the VOICE Office, is working with families like the ones we’ll be sitting with today to assist them in the aftermath of crimes that could have been prevented.  

More than 400 calls from victims have been referred to our community relations officers and victim specialists for assistance with accessing resources, getting more information about a specific case, and how the immigration process works.  Sanctuary jurisdictions pose a threat to the American public by refusing to work with ICE and allowing egregious criminal offenders back into the community to put the lives of the public at risk.  Not to mention the fact, it also puts my law enforcement officers at risk because they have to go back on the street to arrest somebody they could have arrested in a county jail.

When some law enforcement agencies fail to honor detainers or release serious criminal offenders, they — it undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission.  Most work with us, but many don’t in the largest cities, and that is where criminal aliens and criminal gangs flourish.  It is safer for everyone if we take custody of an alien in a controlled environment of another law enforcement agency as opposed to visiting an alien’s residence, place of work, or other public area.  Arresting a criminal in the safety, security, and privacy of the jail is the right thing to do.

Beyond the issue of sanctuary jurisdictions, the two executive orders signed by the President earlier this year have finally allowed my officers to do what they do best:  uphold the integrity of our borders and our immigration system by enforcing the laws as they were written.  

ICE’s job is to execute a mission within framework provided us, that framework meaning laws, policies, and executive orders.  Our job and our sworn duty is to enforce the laws of this country.  The current numbers show that the executive orders and the policies are working.  Immigration and illegal crossings on the border has significantly decreased.  No one can argue that.  
What many people don’t realize is ICE is comprised of three major law enforcement arms.  I want to talk briefly about them.  The Enforcement and Removal Operations referred to — ERO, Homeland Security Investigations, known as HSI, and the third enforcement program is ICE Attorney cores, Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, OPLA.  

The mission of ICE’s ERO is to identify, arrest, and remove aliens who present a danger to national security, our public risk, public safety risk, and a risk to border security.  ICE conducts targeted enforcement operations in compliance with federal law and regulation.  We do not conduct sweeps, raids, roadblocks — this is important to know.  This is a targeted enforcement operation, which means we look for a specific person at a specific location based on intelligence and criminal investigative work.  They’re not raids.  They’re not sweeps.  

However, as Secretary Kelly has made clear, no class or category of removable aliens is exempt from enforcement.  As you may know, since the President’s executive orders on immigration enforcement were signed, we have arrested nearly 66,000 persons that were either known or suspected to be in the country illegally.  Forty-eight thousand of those were convicted criminal aliens.  Therefore, 73 percent — 73 percent — of everyone we have arrested were criminals, something that’s been lost in the messaging on immigration enforcement.  

As for Homeland Security Investigation, ICE special agents, officers, and attorneys enforce provisions of approximately 400 statutes.  ICE is very focused on breaking up gangs and transnational smuggling organizations by identifying, arresting, and prosecuting them, along with removing those that are illegally in the United States.  

Since the beginning of January, HSI has already arrested 3,311 gang members across the country in a number of targeted operations.  Project New Dawn, a recent gang surge led by HSI, netted 1,378 arrests.  Operation Matador in New York recently arrested 39 MS-13 gang members.  

In closing, as the executive orders make clear, ICE is ordered to faithfully execute the nation’s immigration laws.  Through a sustained commitment to enforcement, illegal immigration will come down and has come down.  When people ask us not to arrest those who are not serious criminals I say this:  Those who enter our country illegally violated our country’s laws.  It’s a crime to enter this country illegally — 8 U.S.C. 1325, illegal entry into the United States.  

The moment law enforcement starts carving out exemptions is the moment the rule of law starts to erode.  Again, ICE prioritizes those that are a threat to national security and public safety.  But prioritization doesn’t mean others that violated our laws are off the table and should be ignored.  I personally have been enforcing immigration law for 33 years.  The two pieces of legislation we’ll be discussing later today are the most significant pieces of immigration enforcement legislation I’ve seen in my entire career.  

This legislation will help the fine men and women of the Border Patrol and ICE to do their job in securing the border, enforcing the immigration laws within the interior of the United States, and make our nation and our communities safer as a result.  America deserves that.  Law enforcement is a dangerous job, we all know that.  This legislation and its effects will also help protect the law enforcement officers that work at ICE and the Border Patrol.  And those officers that leave their families every day to enforce the laws of this great nation deserve that.  

With that I’ll turn it over to the Department of Justice.

MR. HUBER:  Transnational gang members and criminal alien drug traffickers are a significant source of violent crime in the United States.  Just last month in Utah, a federal judge issued a sentence of life in prison plus 80 years to Roberto Roman.  Roberto Roman, prior to 2010, had been removed from our country no less than three times.  He had served a stint in state prison for drug trafficking.  And regardless, that was not enough to dissuade him from coming back to our country and selling methamphetamine to addicted persons in rural Utah.  

It was in January of 2010 that Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox — the first patrol deputy in the history of rural Millard County, Utah — was working with her partners late at night to interdict drug trafficking in the wide-open spaces of Utah.  She intercepted Roberto Roman’s Cadillac on a lonely highway in the west desert of Utah.  Roberto Roman is an amoral criminal who had no intention to follow the laws of the United States.  Without warning and without remorse, he pulled up his AK-47 style semi-automatic rifle and gunned down Deputy Fox in the middle of the road.  He left her to die there.  

In a different case, in 2011, in the pristine Dixie National Forest of southern Utah, Mexican cartels had set up an illegal marijuana farm, out of sight and hopefully out of mind of law enforcement.  Apparently to help with operational security, the cartel had recruited members of MS-13, three members, who were found with firearms, multiple firearms, protecting the site.  In 2011, a federal judge in Utah issued 15-year sentences to each of the three defendants for their role in the crime.

Although Utah has not suffered violence at the hands of MS-13 like occurs in California and here in the states of the East, their influence is creeping ever closer to Utah, where I live.  Even still, if MS-13 is not the common-day problem, other transnational gangs are.  Take, for example, the Surenos gangs that plague us in Utah.  These transnational drug-trafficking organizations and criminal gangs have an outsized influence on the public safety in Utah. 

I am a career prosecutor and I’m at the beginning of my third year as a United States attorney, which makes me, presently, one of the longest-tenured U.S. attorneys serving.  And both as a line prosecutor and as a lead prosecutor, I have dutifully served both Democrat and Republican administrations.  Utah perennially leads the interior states and districts in criminal alien prosecutions.  Every year, we prosecute hundreds of federal felony cases.  

Now to be clear, these are criminal aliens — drug traffickers, gang members, domestic violence abusers, human traffickers, child exploiters.  From my perspective, in Utah, where it should be a presumptively safe mountain haven, criminal aliens significantly impact our quality of life by exposing our nation to unwarranted risk of violence.  

That is why Attorney General Sessions has directed myself and my colleagues as U.S. attorneys to prioritize these cases in our prosecutions.  If it’s a problem in Utah — and it is; 40 percent of my caseload, my felony caseload in Utah are criminal alien prosecutions.  If it’s a problem in Utah, it’s a problem for the nation.  Law enforcement officers and prosecutors need more tools and unfettered coordination to address the challenge. 

So this pending legislation — Kate’s Law on one hand and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act on the other hand — advance the ball for law enforcement in keeping our communities safe.  The laws, if passed, would give officers and prosecutors more tools to protect the public.  Stiffer penalties for reentry offenders make sense.  It just does.  

The status quo is not deterring the criminals from returning.  As an example, just today in Salt Lake City, my office initiated one more prosecution in what is projected to be over 300 felony prosecutions this year against a criminal alien.  This defendant’s record indicates that he has been convicted four times for drug trafficking.  He has been convicted two times for unlawfully reentering the United States after deportation.  And, well, he’s back in Utah, and what do you know — in 2017 he was arrested yet again for drug trafficking.   

Kate’s Law enhances our ability to stem the tide of criminals who seem to almost always return to victimize us.  On the other hand, moving unnatural impediments between local and federal law enforcement will enable coordination that we need to keep our country and our neighborhoods safe.  The priority for public safety overrides and wins out against what these so-called sanctuary policies promise.  

We don’t gamble with our public safety.  Criminal aliens don’t need encouragement to reside in our beautiful cities. Criminal aliens warrant handcuffs and removal.  Law enforcement professionals are very good at what they do, and we should not impede them from their excellent work in keeping us safe.  

Thank you.  We can take a few questions on these topics if you’d like.

Yes, sir. 

Q    Specifically, could you tell us what you could do if these laws become passed and approved by the President that you can’t do now?  What would enlarge your capabilities that you don’t possess now?

MR. HUBER:  Case law — the gist of case is that it raises the maximum penalties for criminals who reenter our country.  And it’s a graded formula as it’s presently drafted.  So the more you have on your criminal record, or the more times you’ve been deported and reentered, the higher the penalties would be.

Now, that is a message that is sent — if Congress passes this, it’s sent to the executive branch that these are priority cases and they’re important.  So as high as 25-year maximum for one of these crimes, depending on your record, sends a message to me that that’s a priority for the nation.  It also sends a message to the judicial branch, to the judges that the more these people commit crimes in our communities, the more often they come back, the more serious the penalties will be.

Q    Anything else that — you talked about tools to improve law enforcement.  That’s just a penalty after a crime has been committed.  I’m just curious if there’s anything operationally that’s different or that would be different under these two laws?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  Well, under the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act law, there’s just specific actions — specific thing that changes for us.  The new legislation bans any restriction on compliance and cooperation with ICE.  The new legislation makes it clear that state and local law enforcement cannot be precluded from asking immigrants their status.  Any jurisdiction — a violating jurisdiction can be limited from receiving grants from the Department of Homeland Security or DOJ.

I think this new No Sanctuary for Criminals Act will bring more law enforcement agencies to the table to accept our detainers.  It also — there’s a piece of this legislation that if that jurisdiction gets sued for honoring our detainees, the government will take on that lawsuit.  So we provide immunity from lawsuits for following the detainer guidance.

That’s what my biggest concern is.  For the jurisdictions that don’t believe they’re going to honor our detainers, we think — DOJ and DHS thinks our detainers are legally defensible.  The lawsuits that have been pending in the past few years were a different form.  They didn’t require probable cause, didn’t accompany a warrant of arrest; the new detainer form does.  

So this is what I’m here today to talk about because those criminals that walk out of jails without ICE’s attention are going to reoffend.  Recidivism rates — if you look it up it’s between 45 percent to 70 percent, depending on the crime — they’re going to reoffend.  That’s a public safety issue and that’s an officer safety issue.  For every alien that I can’t arrest in a county jail, one of my officers have to knock on the door.  That’s unfair.  It’s dangerous and we can prevent this.

I think all law enforcement wants to work together to keep our community safe.

Q    I have a question, gentlemen.  Can I ask you about the Kate Steinle circumstance?  In your experience, can you sort of crystalize for us what that story, what that crime meant to you and why the American people should, frankly, rally behind this if you feel like this is something that they should be talking to their lawmakers about?  That particular story seemed to captivate a great many people in our country and I just want to draw on your experience from that story and why that is also why you’re here today.

MR. HUBER:  Kate Steinle and other cases like it are great motivators to us.  And we can’t bring her back.  She’s gone because of the hands of a criminal alien who was released rather than being handed over, according to lawful process, to federal law enforcement.  What a tragedy that was.  And if we can plug that hole through efforts like these bills try to advance, then that improves our society.

It’s a great motivator.  And to name it after her immortalizes the sacrifice that she made to bring this issue to our minds.  I don’t know where you stand on the political spectrum, but to have someone who should have been in jail, who had a lawful process requiring him to be in jail but is let out for some philosophical reason, and then to lose a dear family member — it just doesn’t make sense. 

Q    Was that AK-47 bought legally?

MR. HUBER:  AK-47 — any firearm cannot be possessed legally by an illegal alien.  So just him possessing him the firearm —

Q    — traced it back to the source?

MR. HUBER:  As soon as he took possession of a firearm, or — any alien, whether they have a criminal record or not, cannot lawfully possesses a firearm.

Q    But was it traced back to the source of where he got the AK-47?

MR. HUBER:  We’ve — yeah, he traded that — he traded drugs for that gun, which is a crime also.  And that’s part of his life-plus-80 sentence.  You can’t do that.  

Q    Can I get you to also respond to the Kate Steinle question, if you wouldn’t mind?

Q    Let me ask you a — I’d like to find out more.  When it comes to — thank you.  When it comes to not just enforcement of sanctuary cities but, for example, a border wall, I’m wondering, based on your expertise, do you believe that a physical border wall would have stopped, for example, the death of Kate Steinle, or other of these crimes that we’re seeing victims from immigrants?

MR. HUBER:  As with many of our public safety challenges in the United States, they’re multifaceted and they’re complicated.  Attorney General Sessions has made it clear that keeping people out in the first place is one way to solve or put off the problem.  They still make it to Utah.  Regardless of the security we have in place right now on the border, they make it to Utah by the hundreds and victimize us.

Q    And my second question to you — this is clearly a message that you think is important.  You’re here talking with us in the briefing room.  Do you believe this would have been more effective to do on camera so you could get your message out directly to the American people?

MR. HUBER:  That’s something for the White House to answer.  I’ve not a position on that.

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I’d like to respond to your question on the Kay Steinle thing.  Kay Steinle’s case kind of put this front and center, right?  But this happens every day across the country. 

Just this morning I looked at the statistics.  In FY12 — compared to FY12 to FY16 with this whole detainer litigation and the sanctuary city issues, we issued 196,000 less detainers in FY16 than we did in FY12.  I could sit here for the next three hours and talk about cases of aliens that we put detainers on in these sanctuary cities.  I’ll give you one — I read one this morning.  Someone gets arrested for domestic violence.  We put a detainer on him.  That’s not honored.  He gets out.  He kills the victim of domestic violence.  

I can go on and on about the number of DUIs — of aliens convicted of DUIs, arrested for DUIs we put detainers on.  They go out and reoffend — I read this morning killed a 12-year-old boy on a skateboard.  This happens every day across this country.  And that’s why this is so important to us.  

On the border wall, the border wall is one tool to help control the border.  And I hear a lot of times, well, the numbers are down, why build a border wall — why not?  We’re talking about securing this country, and a border wall is one tool.  You’re still going to need men and women on the border.  You’re still going to need border enforcement agents.  You’re still going to need a true interior enforcement strategy and enforcement of the laws in the interior.  But I have homeowner’s insurance, but I never used it.  But it’s to ensure the security of this country.  

So that border wall I think is a necessary tool in a whole toolbox of how we control the border and protect this country. 

Q    Sir, aren’t you concerned though about exacerbating fears about undocumented immigrants?  You’re making it sound as if undocumented immigrants commit more crimes than people who are just native-born Americans.  There was a Cato Institute study put out in March of this year that says all immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans relative to their shares of the population; even illegal immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans.  What is your sense of the numbers on this?  Are undocumented people more likely or less likely to commit crimes?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I think you’re misinterpreting what I’m saying.  What I’m saying is two things.  Number one, people that enter this country illegally violate the laws of this country.  You can’t want to be a part of this great nation and not respect its laws.  So when you violate the laws of this country — and the taxpayers in this country spend billions of dollars a year on border security, immigration court, detention.  And they go through a process.  They get a decision from the immigration judge — most times will appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, then to a circuit court.  When that due process is over, that final order from a federal judge needs to mean something or this whole system has no integrity.

I don’t know what other federal agency in this country is told to ignore a federal judge’s order from a bench.  We are simply doing our job.  Did I say aliens commit more crimes than U.S. citizens?  I didn’t say that.  I’m saying, number one, they’re in the country illegally.  They’re in the country — they already committed one crime by entering the country illegally.  But when they commit a crime against a citizen of this country, they draw our attention.

As far as fear in the immigrant community, I testified a couple weeks ago and I get a lot of media saying, well, you’re instilling fear in the immigrant community.  My purpose is to dispel the notion that if you enter this country illegally and violate the laws of this nation, you should not be comfortable.  None of us in this room would be comfortable if we go speeding down a highway.  We’re going to think, maybe I’ll get a ticket.  If you lie on your taxes you may get audited.  Well, if you enter this country illegally, you should be concerned that someone is looking for you.  You should be concerned because you violated the laws of this country.

Q    And nobody wants to excuse lawbreaking, but what do you do with a family where a mother brings her children across the border, she has committed a crime in your view at that point by crossing the border illegally, she’s in this country with her two young children, those children grow up, become the so-called DREAMers in this country.  Do you deport the mother and separate the mother from the family?  Because what you’re saying — if you look at this from a cold and clinical standpoint, what you’re saying is because the mother crossed the border illegally, committed a crime, that she should be separated from her children.  What do you say to that?  

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  Well, I got to tell you — 

Q    You’re not setting policy here.  You’re here to talk about enforcement.  

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I’m here — I’m here to — 

Q    But that enforcement has real impacts on people’s lives.

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  U.S. citizen families get separated every day when a parent or when a parent gets arrested for a criminal charge.  So those here illegally, they put themselves in that position.  

So when it comes to separating families, when someone chooses to enter this country illegally and they’re here illegally and they choose to have a child that’s a U.S. citizen, they’ve put themselves in that position, not the U.S. government, not the ICE officers.  So, again, we’re enforcing the law.

Look, if we don’t have border security, if we don’t enforce the laws that’s written in the books, you’re never going to control the border.  Why do you think we got 11 million to 12 million people in this country now?  Because there has been this notion that if you get by the Border Patrol, you get in the United States, you have a U.S. citizen kid, no one is looking for you.  But those days are over.

Q    So you should arrest the mothers, go after the mothers? 

Q    Sir, is that the message from this White House, you standing at this podium today that if you are an undocumented immigrant in this country right now listening to you that you should be fearful, that you should be concerned, you should be looking over your shoulder that ICE is looking for you?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  Well, you’re losing the message.

Q    No, I want to make sure that that’s what the message is.

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  No, I’m saying — let me just say it again.  ICE prioritizes our enforcement efforts on national security threats, public safety threats, those who have been ordered removed by a judge and failed to depart, and those who have been ordered removed, were removed, and reentered the country — which is — the legislation is about — that’s a felony when you reenter the country after removal.  That’s what I’m saying.  That’s our priorities.

However, what I’m saying, during the course of those operations if we find someone here illegally, we’re not going to turn the other way.  We’re going to put them in front of a judge.  They’re going to have their due process and let the criminal justice system work the way it’s been designed.

Again, we’re enforcing the laws enacted by Congress and signed by the President.  ICE officers, U.S. attorneys don’t make these laws up.  Our job is to execute the laws of the country. 

Q    Do you believe that should apply to children who are brought here illegally, the DREAMers?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I think the administration has been clear that the deferred action for childhood arrivals, they still have deferred action.  And the only DACA people that I know have been arrested are those that violated our policy by committing crime.

Q    Do you agree with that policy, that they should be allowed to stay?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  That’s above my pay grade.

MR. HUBER:  Yes, ma’am.

Q    Yes, okay, so a question.  Several of the families that have lost loved ones to illegal alien crime are here today at the White House.  And one of the things that I wanted to ask is, a lot them have issues of this alien was convicted of DUI twice and was still here and then hit my child, and then even then only served like 35 days in jail after that offense that killed her child — Sabina Durden is that one.  What about prosecutorial discretion?  I hear a lot of Border Patrol agents talk about the issue of catch and release, and that these — like drug crimes are not — they use prosecutorial discretion and then like don’t actually bring those cases?

MR. HUBER:  We are very motivated.  And with the leadership in the Department of Justice from Attorney General Sessions, we are mandated to make these cases a priority.  My heart goes out to the victims of these crimes.  And we can’t go backwards in time, but we can learn the lessons and move forward. 

In the words of the Attorney General, the times for drug traffickers and gang members to target us need to turn.  And the Department of Justice is committed to targeting them on our terms.  And that is where the instruction to me comes from. 

Q    And can I just give you a follow-up?  You mentioned Kate’s Law, you mentioned this other sanctuary cities law.  Do you think the sanctuary cities law that you talked about is strong enough?  And also what about Grant’s Law and Sarah’s Law?

MR. HUBER:  Well, one adage in our society is don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  These bills advance the ball for law enforcement. 

And with your question about victims and their families, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, if passed, provides an avenue for them to hold accountable noncompliant cities or counties for their decisions that endangered them.

Q    Sir, you have a piece in here talking about gangs.  And the President has been talking about gangs since he’s been here at the White House.  Is there anything in Kate’s Law that once you I guess handcuff the criminal repeat offender, criminal aliens — is there a piece in Kate’s Law that works also to break the backs of the gangs that you have pointed out?

MR. HUBER:  We are committed to dismantle gangs, criminal gangs.  What Kate’s Law does is give us one more tool that is fairly easy to use, because we’re not reliant upon witnesses who may be intimidated by the gangs or victimized by the gangs.  This enables us to, based on a person’s status and their criminal record and their deportation record, to simply prosecute them in federal court, obtain a prison sentence, and get them out of here.  That is one more tool for us to fight the gangs back.

Q    So but does this also allow for tentacles to go in to find out more information about the gang activity?  You get this one person who could be a component, who could be selling drugs with the gang.  Is there any kind of tentacle or piece that will allow you to do what the President wants, to break the backs of the gang once you infiltrate and get someone who is part of a gang?

MR. HUBER:  This is one more tool in my toolbox.  And the great special agents and local law enforcement officers who develop those leads and work their way up to the top of the chain so that we can dismantle these gangs organizationally, this is one more tool that will help us do that.

Q    Director Homan, you said — you’re talking about a tool kit and you’re talking about the border wall being part of the momentum of being able to deal with this issue.  A lot of people on the other side have said that comprehensive immigration reform might be a way to ease some of these stresses.  What do you think about comprehensive immigration reform as a tool in your tool kit?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I think — look, I think Congress enacts laws and they pass laws.  I think there’s always room for discussion.  I’ve certainly been around a long time.  

I want to follow up on something earlier — the gentleman mentioned “cold,” and people think I’m standing up here and I’m the devil.  Let me make something clear:  Why am I so strong about this?  I’ve been doing 33 years.  I started in the Border Patrol.  I was an investigator for 20 years.  I climbed the ladder.  If you saw what I saw the last 33 years, I wouldn’t get half the bad media that we get.  

People weren’t with me when I found dead aliens on a trail that were abandoned by smugglers.  People were not with me when I was in Phoenix, Arizona seeing these people being held hostage and their smuggling rates being doubled; the families couldn’t pay them so women were raped, children were molested, or the smuggled alien was killed at the hands of these organizations.  People weren’t with me in Victoria, Texas when I stood in the back of a tractor-trailer with 19 dead aliens, with a five-year-old that died in his father’s arms because he suffocated to death.  How do you think that five-year-old felt his last 10 minutes of his life looking at his father that couldn’t help him, or his father looking at his child that’s dying in his arms, can’t help him?

These organizations are callous.  They’re transnational, criminal organizations.  So the people that move these immigrants that come here for a better life are the same ones that move criminal aliens, are the same ones that moves — they smuggle weapons, they smuggle dope, and they can smuggle people that can come to this country to do us harm.  

So the more we endorse the non-enforcement of immigration laws, we bankroll these organizations.  

Q    But back to that question about immigration reform and a path to citizenship, this has been one of the really big issues and it cuts across party lines.  Do you think that having a path to citizenship and creating sort of a more rational process, in the minds of some opponents of this policy, would be helpful from an enforcement perspective?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I’ll say this.  Generally if we reward illegal behavior, why would that illegal behavior ever stop?  If people think they can enter this country illegally, get by the Border Patrol, the fine men and women of the Border Patrol — I was in the Border Patrol.  They’re a great organization.  But if you get by the Border Patrol and you hide in the United States long enough that you get something in the end?  That’s just a magnet to bring more illegal immigration.  I think this administration is doing the right thing.

They have put true consequence and deterrence on illegal, unlawful activity.  And if you see the numbers on what’s going on on the border, it is working.  The numbers are the lowest they’ve been in a long, long time.  And we’ve got to continue this pace.

Q    I just want to nail down — I think I heard the answer to this in one of your answers, but how many illegal immigrants do you believe are in this country?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I see the same estimates you see — 11 [million] to 12 million.

Q    Do you give any credence to the notion that there’s 30 million illegal immigrants in the country?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I never heard that figure.  

Q    It’s something the President Trump said on the campaign trail a lot last year.  I’m just wondering if you think there’s any truth to it.

Q    President Trump uses that figure.

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  The number I have always seen is 11 [million] to 12 million.

Q    Director, what do you say to some taxpayers who might agree with this bill on its substance but who are concerned that ultimately it’s going to cost them more money?  According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, it’s going to balloon the federal annual prison deficit by at least $2 billion and increase the number of people who are in prison by 57,000.  What do you say to those concerns?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I’d say what cost do you put on making communities safer?  What cost do you put on actually securing your border?  I mean, this administration — their policies are working.  Their numbers are down on the border.  We have better control of the border than we’ve ever had.  Look at the numbers.  Numbers speak for themselves.  

So I think — what cost do you put on national security and border safety and community safety?  I think that’s a question they’d have to answer.

Q    Do you think the message you just shared with us here would be of interest to the viewing public if the viewing public was allowed to view it on-camera?  

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  That what, sir?   

Q    Your message was strong.  We hear it.  Do you think it would be of interest to the viewing public if it was allowed to be viewed by the public on cameras?

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  I have no problem meeting with any congressional rep that wants to sit down and talk to me, any media person that wants to sit down and talk to me.  I think the message needs to get out.  I think what we’re trying to do here — and the statement I made is we need to send a clear message that if you violate the laws of this country you need to be held accountable, you need to be concerned.  Because this notion that it’s okay to violate laws of this country and be comfortable thinking there’s going to be no enforcement activity — that’s not the America I grew up in, and that’s not the America we should have.

Q    And that’s what — want to get out to the public, but yet the cameras aren’t rolling.

Q    Director, would you support allowing victims of illegal aliens to sue the city officials of sanctuary cities?

MS. SANDERS:  We’ll let this be the last question.


Q    Would you support allowing victims of criminal aliens and sanctuary cities to sue the city officials?  

DIRECTOR HOMAN:  For those who make the decisions to release those alien citizens to the street, yes.  

MS. SANDERS:  Thank you, guys, very much.  Just to be clear, I know it’s been asked a couple of times about their availability to be on camera.  I believe the plan is that they will go to the sticks shortly after we conclude and be happy to take a few of your questions on camera.  My guess is if they had stood here, though, you probably wouldn’t have covered them like they were Secretary Perry, Secretary Shulkin when they opened the briefing just a few days — yesterday.  A couple of weeks ago, multiple networks didn’t cover those openings, so hopefully you guys will take the opportunity at the sticks and be sure to cover that.

Obviously this issue is something that the President spoke about very passionately on the campaign trail.  And given the fact that this legislation has 80 percent approval around the country, the President looks forward to seeing Congressman Goodlatte’s bills pass with bipartisan support.  

In regards to the rest of the President’s schedule for today, he continued Energy Week this morning by hosting a roundtable with tribal, state, and local leaders.  As Secretary Perry told you all yesterday, the Trump administration is looking to create an energy-dominant America.  An energy-dominant America will bring even more hard-working Americans into the high-skill, well-paying jobs and careers the energy sector offers.  When we can export American energy to markets around the world, the President will also be able to use it as an important tool to increase our global leadership and influence, advancing our global agenda and helping to keep our citizens safe.  

Before I take your questions, I wanted to highlight Samsung’s announcement this morning that it will be investing nearly $400 million in a new plant in South Carolina that is expected to create nearly 1,000 local jobs by 2020.  This is big news for the residents of Newberry County.  As Secretary Ross said this morning, it’s another sign that President Trump — America is becoming an even stronger destination for global businesses to look and grow.  

With that, I will take your questions.  Kristen.

Q    Sarah, thanks so much.  I want to just be clear on where the administration stands right now on Syria.  U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said earlier today, “I can tell you due to the President’s action, we did not see an incident.”

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sorry, we did not see — 

Q    “We did not see an incident.”  Is the sense that the threat from Bashar al Assad at least right now is over?  That he’s no longer planning an imminent chemical weapons attack?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I can’t get into specific intelligence matters.  I think that the action that the U.S. took was successful.  

Q    And did the President ever consider taking preemptive military action, or was that statement the only thing that was on the table this week?

MS. SANDERS:  I know that was the action decided.  I’m not, of course, going to go into detailed conversations that may have taken place or may not have taken place.  I know that there have been, actually, a lot of questions about the timeline regarding Syria.  I know several of you in the room have asked about that.  
So, Kristen, to be clear, I’d be happy to walk you through, step-by-step, exactly how that process unfolded.  There were a lot of stories about the process not working or relevant agencies and people being out of the loop.  Those are simply false.  

At a regularly scheduled meeting, as I mentioned yesterday, the President was presented with information that indicated the Assad regime was preparing another chemical weapons attack.  The President proposed issuing a statement to warn the regime of consequences.  Senior administration officials, including NSA McMaster, DNI Director Coats, and DCI Pompeo were present when the statement was initially proposed.  They and their teams remained in the loop throughout the drafting process.  Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis remained in the loop and were consulted in-person later that day.  The military chain of command was also fully aware of the statement as it was being prepared and later released.  Secretary Tillerson also spoke to his Russian counterpart, and Lieutenant General Townsend engaged his Russian counterpart in Syria.  

The White House staff secretary’s office reviewed the statement and coordinated it with White House leadership.  And over the next few hours, the White House staff secretary used its typical coordination process to solicit comments from all relevant departments and agencies.  By the time the statement was issued, every relevant department and agency had ample opportunity to provide feedback and input.

As the President stated on April 6th, the use of chemical weapons threatens U.S. vital national interest, and the statement was clear and reinforces this message.  We have seen indications that the Syrian regime is preparing — was preparing a major chemical attack, and the President warned the regime of consequences should they proceed.    

Q    Just one more quick follow-up.  Is the use of chemical weapons the President’s only red line when it comes to Syria?

MS. SANDERS:  As we’ve said many times before, the President is never going to broadcast the decisions on matters like that.

Q    But he does see that as a red line, the use of chemical weapons?

MS. SANDERS:  I think he’s been clear on his position.  Kevin.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  I want to ask you about the Kate Steinle announcement here today.  Is her father by chance going to be among the guests?  I know that — at least when we came out here — I hadn’t seen a list.  And secondarily, because you know that story very well, what does it mean to you to see the administration get to this point?  And I’d like to ask you a follow-up.

MS. SANDERS:  On the first part, I don’t believe that they are here but I will double check and let you know.  But as far I’m aware at this point, not that I know of.  I think any time we can take a step in protecting Americans, it’s a great step forward in the process.

Q    And also, if I could ask you about — yesterday you had a day to sort of look back.  Did you go to the gym and hit the heavy bag?  Did you laugh it off?  Many of us have covered multiple administrations and you hear worse, you see worse.  I’m just wondering what you were thinking and feeling a day later.  

MS. SANDERS:  I think that the White House had a great day yesterday, Kevin.  

Q    Thank you.  If the GOP healthcare plan fails, is the plan B really to let Obamacare implode?  What’s plan B for you guys? 

MS. SANDERS:  We’re focused on plan A, and that is repealing and replacing Obamacare.  The President is fully engaged as — along with his administration in working with House and Senate members to make sure that we repeal and replace Obamacare and put in place a healthcare reform system that is sustainable and that works and serves all Americans.  And that’s the focus right now, and that’s the only focus.  

Q    And I know you’ve seen the criticisms — and part of the criticism that’s been out there is that the President has not been fully engaged on this one.  Your response to that, and if you could detail his level of engagement for us.

MS. SANDERS:  Again, as I just said, the President’s been very engaged in this process, as have multiple members of his administration.  And he’s made a lot of calls directly to members.  He had roughly I think 46 members of the Senate here yesterday.  They had a long and lengthy and very good and productive conversation.  We’re going to continue doing that, just like he was with the House.  He was engaged and making sure that happened.  And he’s somebody — as we’ve said before, I would never underestimate this President, and if he’s committed to getting something done he will.  

Q    Thanks a lot, Sarah.  You said yesterday during the briefing that the President was optimistic about getting passage for the Senate healthcare bill.  As you know, there are at least nine Republican senators that have come out opposed to the healthcare bill as it’s now structured.  What gives the President reason for optimism given the way it looks to most people is perhaps a reason for pessimism?

MS. SANDERS:  I think it’s really simple.  Look, Republicans have been talking about doing this for a number of years, and they’re committed to getting it done.  And this is part of the process.  This is one of the reasons we’ve never been focused on a timeline of having to get it done on a certain day, by a certain holiday or anything else.  It’s about getting it done right.  

And the President, as you know, again, sat down with a lot of those members that you’re referencing yesterday.  Those same people are committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare and putting something in that actually works.  They’re committed to doing that, and that’s what we’re focused on.  That’s what we’re going to make sure happens.


Q    During that Q&A session, that meeting with those Republican senators, did the President hear anything from those opposed to the Senate healthcare bill that leads him to believe that they will change their minds as it relates to this legislation?

MS. SANDERS:  I think he heard — again, like I just said — what all of Americans have been hearing all of these members talk about is that this is something that has to happen.  Obamacare is simply not sustainable.  Even Democrats have recognized that.  And our path forward is to repeal and replace it.  It’s very simple.


Q    Sarah, you mentioned the meeting yesterday with the 46 members of Congress.  I believe you said also yesterday that he talked to four on the telephone.  We know that Rand Paul was here.  He had a meeting with GOP leaders about this.  Is there anything else that the President was doing?  I ask this specifically because Susan Collins had mentioned that they — that she feels that there could have been more personal engagement before this point in time.  And I’m wondering if the President could have done more, if you think the President could have done more, should have done more, and what he’s going to be doing moving forward to get this across the finish line?

Q    I mean, I think you’re talking about it as if it’s over, and it’s certainly not.  I mean, again, this is part of the process, is walking through.  We’ve said from the beginning that there were going to be changes that would probably take place within this piece of legislation.  That’s where we are. 

Again, the President has been directly engaged and will continue to be so.

Q    Sure.  On another topic, I want to ask you about an NPR and Marist poll that came out today.  One of the questions they asked was about the President’s tweeting.  Sixty-nine percent of Americans said that they found it distracting and it wasn’t helpful.  I know that you guys have said repeatedly that you think that the President is the best, the most effective messenger, and that you think the tweeting helps.  What do you — where are you guys getting that from when you see polls like this that say that a majority of Americans think that it’s a distraction?

MS. SANDERS:  I haven’t seen the poll that you’re referencing but I do know that the President speaking directly to the American people is always a good thing.  No matter who the President is, that’s a positive no matter what.

For the people to hear directly from their President, no matter what format that is in — whether it’s through social media platforms, whether it’s through speeches, whether it’s through interviews — that’s always a positive.  And I think most people agree.

Q    The President, as we all know, is having an event tonight at his hotel.  Is he running for reelection?

MS. SANDERS:  Of course he’s running for reelection.  I think it would be — but right now, he’s focused on his agenda, focused on the midterms.  That will be the first election.  He’s raising money for the party.  I don’t think that’s abnormal for any President. 

Q    We’d appreciate it if you could open that event up to coverage tonight?

MS. SANDERS:  I’ll be sure to pass that on.


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  You’ve focused a lot on the problems in the Obamacare exchanges and said today again that this situation is unsustainable.  Does the President believe that Medicaid in its current form is unsustainable?

MS. SANDERS:  I know that the plan as of right now and certainly in the most recent draft of the bill is to make sure that Medicaid is protected.  

Q    In its current form?

MS. SANDERS:  In its current form, that anybody who is currently on wouldn’t lose coverage. 

Q    But what about in the future?  Because this plan drastically changes Medicaid, which actually is a bigger chunk of the healthcare delivery system than the Obamacare exchanges?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think that’s — again, part of this process is working through that and figuring out the best way to provide medical care.

Q    Does he want changes in the Medicaid portion of the bill?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of, but I would have to speak directly to him.  I just don’t know the answer to that directly.

Q    Sarah, Paul Manafort, who was for a time the general chairman of the campaign, and Rick Gates who was a figure in the campaign and also the presidential inaugural committee, have registered retroactively as representatives of a foreign government to retroactively comply with a law which they were not in compliance with.  Does the White House regret that they were not in compliance with the law when they were working on behalf of candidate Trump or the inaugural committee?  Do you have any reaction to the fact that they’re now trying to retroactively do something they should have done long, long ago?

MS. SANDERS:  I certainly can’t speak for the campaign.  I’m here solely as a representative of the White House, and that would be a campaign matter.  And I couldn’t speak to that.

Q    Let me ask you about healthcare.  Yesterday, Senator Paul after his meeting with the President didn’t say directly, but he left the impression that part of their conversation was for Senator Paul to express that he didn’t believe the current draft fully repeals the Affordable Care Act, and that’s one of his grievances.  And he left the impression that the President might agree with him on that.  So I want to ask you directly:  Does the President believe that one of the flaws with the current draft is that it does not go far enough to repeal the Affordable Care Act?

MS. SANDERS:  I wasn’t part of that conversation.  I would be happy to ask that question and follow up with you maybe.


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  There’s a lot of changes being floated out there — changes to Medicaid, changes to U.S. coverage requirements.  Is there a change that’s being proposed that would be a nonstarter for President Trump that would be a deal-breaker, that if it was included he wouldn’t put his signature on the bill?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sure that there are things.  I mean, there’s a lot of crazy things I’m sure that could be suggested that would be deal-breakers for all of the Senate.  But we haven’t sat down and made a list of deal-breakers.  If we have, I’m not aware of it.  But I can certainly ask if there is one and circle back.

Jennifer.  Jennifer.

Q    Thank you.  Sarah, at the State Department, the positions of Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism and the Ambassador for International Religious Freedom have — they remain vacant.  It’s my understanding that the special envoy position is going to expire or be empty in a few days.  This as anti-Semitism and religious persecution, of course, worldwide is on the rise.  These are values the President routinely raises.  Is this a missed opportunity?  Does the White House or does the State Department plan to fill these positions?  What’s going on here?

MS. SANDERS:  I mean, I think certainly one of the biggest missed opportunities is the ability for us to staff across the board.  We have seen obstruction like never before.  The average time that it’s taking for us to get somebody through the process and confirmed is significantly longer than any historical precedent by several weeks.

We have nearly a hundred people in the queue that are waiting to be pushed through.  And due to the lengthy process and the obstruction by Democrats, that’s held up a number of positions not just at the State Department, but across the federal government.  Hopefully we can get those positions filled.  And certainly I would imagine those would be on that list.

Q    Two things — to follow up on a question earlier.  Why is the White House choosing to keep the President’s remarks at the fundraiser tonight closed to the press?

MS. SANDERS:  I think that’s been tradition.  And as you’re shaking — 

Q    Only in private homes.  

MS. SANDERS:  — that’s actually not true.  There were actually quite a few instances during both of the two previous administrations not to open up fundraisers.  If that changes, I’ll certainly — 

Q    But we go — the pool goes in at the time.

Q    But what is this administration’s explanation for why that’s necessary?

MS. SANDERS:  I think it’s a political event and they’ve chosen to keep that separate for the time being.

Q    And then I also wanted to ask you about one of the President’s tweets earlier today when he talked about The Washington Post and Amazon, referring to Amazon not paying Internet taxes, he says, which they should.  What was the President referring to?

MS. SANDERS:  I’d have to check on that.  I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about it.


Q    Thank you.  I have two for you.  One on healthcare, the President in the West Wing here was talking about Senator Chuck Schumer.  He says that he’s done a lot of bad talking and doesn’t seem like a serious person.  There’s some discussion on the Hill that there needs to be a bipartisan solution with healthcare.  So given those comments about Senator Schumer, who presumably would have to come to the table, is the President abandoning Democratic cooperation?

MS. SANDERS:  I think Democrats abandoned the ability when they said that they were unwilling to come to the table and have, frankly, refused to be part of the conversation from the beginning.  And I think they set that tone and certainly set that standard by not participating, by not wanting to be part of the process.

Thanks so much, guys.

2:32 P.M. EDT


Press loosing their minds over Sean Spicer Press briefing – 6/23/2017 – Read their crazy comments Here!!! Oh, No!!! It’s the end of the world!!!

The Press lost their minds because Press Secretary Sean Spicer chose to not allow the videotaping of his Press Briefing. It is his right to do that.  The press was still present and able to hear what he said.  

Click each link and read what the Press said about this press briefing. It’s a hoot! It’s the end of the world America, Sean Spicer didn’t allow recording of his press briefing! And so what! The world is falling apart thanks to the last administration, but the press looses it over the silliest things.  Come on people, get a grip! wrote: “Why are these White House briefings heard but not seen?” (Acosta)    “Live Coverage Banned.”  Acosta loses it over the ‘no video/audio’ press briefing. THEY KEEP PUTTING DOWN SEAN SPICER. I GIVE SEAN SPICER A LOT OF CREDIT FOR DEALING WITH THESE BIZARE PEOPLE???



The New York Times wrote:  “The incredible Shrinking White House Briefing wrote:  “We are not satisfied with off-camera briefings”


Business Insider: “CNN sends sketch artist to the White House briefing” 

download.jpeg says:  “Off-camera no audio broadcast: White House keeps undermining press briefing” says:  “clamping down, Donald Trump’s team puts the “brief” in press briefings” donald-trump-press-briefings


Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 6/23/2017, #56

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:51 P.M. EDT 

MR. SPICER:  I want to start with some good news.  We continue to see great progress by Congressman Steve Scalise, but additionally, it’s great to note that just a few minutes ago George Washington Hospital has announced that Mike Mika, who was also involved in that shooting, has been upgraded to good condition.  So we continue to keep an eye on the situation and wish him a speedy recovery on his way to getting out of the hospital.  And so that’s a great way to start this.

Back to business here.  This morning, after a series of meetings with Secretary of State Tillerson, Homeland Security Secretary Kelly, and Secretary of Defense Mattis, the President was honored to sign the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act surrounded by a group of our nation’s great veterans and their brave families.

As we all know, the VA scandals exposed unacceptably long wait times for our nation’s veterans and issues with tracking their care.  In response, Congress passed the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act in 2014, which has since brought many more instances of poor performance and misconduct by the VA to light.  

The bill the President signed this morning further empowers Secretary Shulkin and the VA to protect our veterans from this kind of misconduct in the future.  It’s one part of the President’s comprehensive plan to modernize the VA so that it gives the veterans the care, treatment and support that they so richly deserve.

Back in March, many of you may remember they signed the Veterans Choice Improvement Act so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice and they don’t have to travel long distances or wait for care.  Already under the Choice program, this year, veterans have received 42 percent more approvals to see a doctor that they have chosen.  And he signed an executive order in April creating the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the VA to hold employees who fail our veterans accountable.  At the same time, this office rewards and retains the many VA employees who do a fantastic job and it protects the honest employees who expose wrongdoing.

At the signing, he called on Congress to pass legislation then that he signed this morning with Secretary Shulkin to give the authority he needed to best protect those who protect us.  Since taking the reins at the VA, Secretary Shulkin has carried through a thorough review to uncover all of the problems and challenges it inherited from the previous administration.  He’s imposed new standards of accountability and transparency, and just this month he announced that the VA will finally sync up its medical records with the Department of Defense so that veterans will be treated as a single patient across the system, a long-overdue step, giving them the seamless care that they deserve throughout their service and beyond.

As he said many times, the President cares deeply about the men and women who have served our country, and he was glad to sign the VA Accountability Act this morning that takes another step toward shaping the VA into a department that is truly worthy of our veterans.

Also this morning, the Department of Justice expressed its full support for Texas’s efforts towards improving public safety by mandating that statewide — towards improving — by mandating statewide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.  The President has made a commitment to keep America safe, and Texas’s SB4 law is critical to maintaining cooperation from state and local enforcement partners in that mission.

The federal government must have the proper assistance from state and local authorities to effectively enforce immigration laws and keep our communities safe.  And that’s, frankly, what Texas’s law does.  Given the strong federal interest in facilitating this cooperation, the Trump administration is glad to be putting its full support behind Texas’s effort.

As he said yesterday, the President is very supportive of the draft Senate healthcare bill, which represents the next step in repealing and replacing Obamacare.  It’s time to — for all Republicans to unite and fulfill this promise that we’ve been talking about for over seven years, and that we would rescue them from the mess that they — was created by imposing a risky healthcare experiment on our country several years ago.

With costs rising and options dwindling, it’s clear that the risk that we were given didn’t pay off.  Just ask the people of New Hampshire, where another insurer just announced that it will stop offering insurance on the state’s Obamacare exchange.  The President and his entire team will be looking forward to working with all senators who are willing to come to the table to amend, finalize and pass the bill so that we can deliver a world-class healthcare system in place of the failing system that we have now.

And with that, let’s get into some questions.  John.

Q    The President this morning, in an interview with Fox and Friends, seemed to indicate that he thinks that the special counsel may have some conflicts of interest, one being his friendship with Comey; another being the fact that one of the people that he’s hiring, bringing on — special counsel’s officer were either Hillary Clinton supporters, and the President said even some of them are — even worked for Hillary Clinton.  Is he still ruling out firing this special counsel?

MR. SPICER:  Nothing has changed on that in terms of his position on it.

Q    And his position is?

MR. SPICER:  That while he retains the authority — anyone who serves (inaudible), I believe — Steve and I had a healthy exchange with — but that he has no intention of doing that.  

Q    And does — he seemed to suggest this morning there might be a circumstance under which Mueller should take himself out.  Can you tell us —

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, that’s one.  Obviously, I would refer to Marc Kasowitz in terms of the President’s legal strategy on that.  But I’ll just leave it at that.  But good try.

Q    Sean, on healthcare, what is the President’s current outlook on the Senate bill, given some of the reservations that some of the senators raised yesterday?  And does the President feel that Senator McConnell should pull the bill next week if he doesn’t have the number that — the numbers to pass it, or is time to vote?

MR. SPICER:  Well, we’ll approach that in the same way that we approach the House bill.  I’m not going to be — I wasn’t prescriptive then with Speaker Ryan in terms of when they’re ready to vote, they’ll vote.  Senator McConnell has said that he wants a vote next week, and that’s up to him to run the chamber the way he sees fit.  But the President is very supportive of the bill.  He wants to work with all the members to improve it in any way that can help facilitate that passage and make it a stronger bill.  And he intends to work with all the individuals — he’s got a lot of respect for the four senators in particular on the Republican side that have come forward — wants to work with them.

But I know Senator Manchin talked about potentially getting some Democrats together, and the President welcomes that.  

Q    Sean, thank you.  

MR. SPICER:  Welcome.

Q    Thank you.  What is the President’s level of involvement at this point in terms of trying to push the bill forward or not?  Can you give us a sense of whether he’s taking calls?

MR. SPICER:  He’s not — he’s had a couple calls with Majority Leader McConnell.  As you’ll recall, I think last week we had six senators here.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see that continued involvement.  As you recall, it’s a very similar situation as to what it was in the House, right — that he had several House members come in and out prior to the lead-up of the vote.  And as the vote got closer, in working with the whip team in the House and the legislative affairs team here, he identified members that had concerns, or continued to call them.

I expect a similar process at this point.  But he’s had meetings with members.  He was on the phone with Senator McConnell.  But also Secretary Price, Seema Verma, the legislative affairs staff, the chief and staff, and others are intimately engaged in this, having conversations with senators, providing feedback to the President.  He’s providing guidance back, as far as he’ll continue to tweak it.  But I think we have a fairly robust discussion going on right now.

Q    Sean, what is the Vice President’s role in the Senate healthcare bill?  How involved has he been?  And how involved do you see him being going forward?

MR. SPICER:  The Vice President has played a very important role.  He’s been up there.  He goes to the policy lunch once a week.  He’s constantly on the phone with him.  And he’s been a huge asset, as he was in the House side.

But again, to Maggie’s question, I’d say right now it’s a fairly similar process.  The legislative affairs team is identifying concerns that individual members have, or ideas and suggestions that they have, feeding them back to the team and asking for the President’s input, technically, on some of those technical matters, and providing feedback.

So as we get closer to that vote, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with a lot of the support that’s already come out, and I think we’ll continue to work through, in particular, the four individuals who have expressed some ideas and concerns.  And we’ll get to it.


Q    So you’re saving the President for the tail-end of the process?  Is that what you’re saying?

MR. SPICER:  No.  I think — and Maggie can correct me if I’m wrong — but I think she was asking what the process was.  And I think that we’re following a similar pattern, which is he has engaged with them.  I mean, I think we’ve talked about the number — the individuals that he’s had over to the White House and met with, and he’s also had some pull-asides here and there when they’ve come over for different things.  So he has personally engaged with them.

The question about — Maggie had specifically asked about phone calls.  And I think that while he has addressed it here and there, the type of push that you saw at the end of the vote, before the House, we’re not at that phase where — 

Q    (Inaudible.) 

MR. SPICER:  Yeah.  And just because of the nature of — these are individuals — I mean, because of the numbers, the Senate being what it is, and the numbers that we have to get to fifty plus one is in a different place than the House, where you had many more members to address.

Q    When you look at the House bill and the Senate legislation, is the Senate legislation the preferred vehicle for this going forward?

MR. SPICER:  I think the President is very supportive of the Senate bill.  There’s a lot of ideas in there.  He’s talked about having heart, and he likes a lot of the reforms that have been in there.  He’s committed to making sure that no one who currently is in the Medicaid program is affected in any way, which is reflected in the Senate bill, and he’s pleased with that.

So I think he is very pleased with that bill, and he wants to continue to push it forward.  But in the same way, the way he dealt with the House — I mean, if there’s other ideas and amendments as the bill moves forward that would strengthen it, he’s all ears.


Q    And what is the argument he’s making, or plans to make, to the senators he’s trying to get on board?  Is it a policy-focused argument, getting the nitty-gritty?  Or is it a larger argument about this being the last best chance, or the best chance to keep a campaign promise?

MR. SPICER:  It’s a good question, because I think it depends on the senator and what their concerns are.  I mean, if you look at some of the individual senators that have expressed concerns, from Rand Paul to Ted Cruz, there are differences in what their individual concerns are.  And so it’s not a holistic approach. 

But I think the overarching point that he’s made very consistently is that Obamacare is dead and that it is not a binary choice.  It’s not “keep this or take that.”  It’s “this system is failing and we must act.”  That is the overarching point that he’s made to all of these individuals.

One interesting point is that when you actually look at the House side in particular, you’ve got 113 members of the Democratic caucus that are co-sponsors of single, universal care, the Bernie Sanders bill.  It’s a $32 trillion alternative.  So if you think about it, the bill that the House — the House bill that got passed, that’s the basis of what the Senate worked off of as a net savings.

What the majority of House Democrats support is not maintaining Obamacare, but the majority of that conference is actually supporting the Bernie Sanders universal healthcare bill, which is a $32 trillion, one-size-fits-all, government-run, no-competition-forces, no-market-forces bill.  And I think that that is really what the choice has become.

If you think about this, the majority of Democrats in the House aren’t backing Obamacare.  What they’re backing is a government takeover of universal care that doesn’t have any market forces and is going to cost our country $32 trillion.  And I think that that’s the real choice that exists.

Q    Just in response to tapes, did you see that Congressman Schiff said yesterday something about, ‘I don’t think we can accept this as a complete answer, referring to the President’s tweet.  His problem with it was that the President was really talking about him, and that Schiff would like to see, in writing, a response that covers the entire White House.  Because the tweet suggested that maybe someone else has recordings.  Does the White House plan to deliver some sort of official written response to Schiff in the House Intel Committee?

MR. SPICER:  I believe — and I have to follow up — but I believe that there was some communication we have to have by close of business today.  So I’ll figure out if that’s going out.  But, I mean, I think the President was clear — he was asked — he said he would follow up on whether he knew of this, and I think he’s answered it very clearly.


Q    Just real quick on Medicaid.  You mentioned a moment ago something about Medicaid.  I want to make sure I’m clear.  So is the President comfortable with the changes to the Medicaid program in the Senate bill, and how that would roll back the expansion at a certain date?  Is he comfortable with that aspect?

MR. SPICER:  I think right now, as I said, he’s very supportive of the current bill.

Q    And real quick on Qatar.  Does the White House have any response to the demands that the Saudis have made of the Qataris?

MR. SPICER:  The four countries that are part of that, we believe it’s a family issue and that they should work out.  If we can help facilitate those discussions, then so be it.  But this is something that they want to and should work out for themselves.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  Just following up on Janet’s question there.  One of those demands would be shut down Al-Jazeera.  The United States generally has spoken out in favor of free and independent press — (inaudible) about Al-Jazeera one way or the other in this case.  But does the White House believe that it’s appropriate that the free press is something that’s on the table for restoration of diplomatic relations?

MR. SPICER:  Again, we’re not — we’re willing to play a facilitating role in those discussions.  But that’s a discussion that those countries need to have amongst themselves. 

And so until we’re asked to join that and facilitate it, I’m not going to get in the middle of that discussion.

Q    And second question.  In this morning’s Washington Post there’s an item about some friends of the President inquiring about his health.  I’m wondering, is Dr. Jackson of the military office — of the medical unit, the President’s personal physician — has the President seen him?  And will the White House commit to releasing sort of the annual physician’s letter that has been customary of presidents for years?

MR. SPICER:  I know Admiral Jackson travels everywhere with the President, so he consults him regularly.  I don’t have an update on his particular vitals but I will follow up on the letter.  But I know that Dr. Jackson — Admiral Jackson is intimately involved in the President’s care and provides him feedback — whatever medical issues he has.


Q    Does President Trump think Special Counsel Robert Mueller is partisan?

MR. SPICER:  I think his comments this morning speak for themselves as to his views on Robert Mueller.

John Gizzi.

Q    Thank you, Sean.  Two brief questions.  First, it was reported on one of the networks that the President referred to the American Healthcare Act as a mean bill and he wanted more money that was coming in.  Did he actually say that, or could you confirm or deny whether he used that term to describe it and call for greater funding for parts of it?

MR. SPICER:  I will tell you that I don’t comment on private conversations that the President has.

Q    All right.  And the other thing I do want to know was, on Tuesday night, in a public conversation, his speech that he delivered in Cedar Rapids, the President called for legislation that would deny welfare benefits to illegal immigrants for five years.  It has been widely reported that that has been on the books for 21 years, going back to when President Clinton signed the omnibus welfare reform legislation in 1996.  Was that a misstatement on the President’s part, or was he aware that this is already on the books?

MR. SPICER:  The President is aware that that law exists.  I think the President’s concern generally speaking with all the immigration laws is that they’re not being enforced.

We’ve got several laws that are on the books but they’re not being enforced.  I think the President believes that we need to do what we can — I mean, obviously, he’s been very clear on immigration and on — especially from our southern border.  But that law, while on the books, has not been enforced and clearly either needs to be reexamined, enforced, or new legislation needs to be introduced.

I’m sorry — Hallie.

Q    I have two questions for you.  One is a follow-up from earlier in the week.  You were asked whether the President believes Russia interfered with the 2016 election, and said you hadn’t had a chance to have that conversation.  So I’m wondering if you’ve had that conversation.  And if so, if the President is concerned about that interference.

MR. SPICER:  I have.  Thank you.  And the only point that I would make, just as a point of clarification, he commented I think it was January 5th or 17th, something like that, on that at the time.  And he said Russia probably interfered but maybe some other countries did as well.

Q    He said, “I think it was Russia but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”

MR. SPICER:  There you go.  Thank you.

Q    And so does he stand by that?  Is he concerned about that, Sean?

MR. SPICER:  Of course.  He’s concerned about any country or any actor that wants to interfere in elections.  I confirm that he stands by that.  

But he’s — and he’s taken two I think very large steps.  One is cybersecurity, to make sure — he signed an executive order.  His homeland security advisor is working diligently to make sure that we take steps to protect the integrity of our election system and all of our other cyber defenses.  

And then secondly, he instituted an election commission that is making sure that we look at all of how we’re voting, and to make sure that we maintain integrity in all of our voting process to make sure that we have faith in it.  And that includes cyber, it includes voter I.D., it includes all sort of systems.  I expect that commission to have several announcements in probably the next two weeks, and potentially some hearings in July.

But there’s going to be continued activity.  But the President takes that very seriously, and I think those two actions in particular point to his commitment to it.

Q    So to follow up on that then, Sean, what do you say — we’ve talked to dozens of state officials who say they simply have not heard much from this administration regarding how to protect their own voting systems.  What do you say to those critics who say you’re not doing enough?

MR. SPICER:  I think those official — state and county, and I think down to the municipal level — will get a letter next week from the commission asking them to help facilitate some transfer of data back to us so we can begin the process of a thorough review of the systems.  And we will continue to engage them and find out ways that we can strengthen the integrity of our system and make sure that we have the utmost confidence in our voting system.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  The front row gets an A for effort.  Let’s see how the back row (inaudible).   

MR. SPICER:  All right.  You have a lot to live up to.  (Laughter.)  

Q    This question is on healthcare.  Obviously, the House bill and the Senate draft discussion, they’re similar but they’re different.  Does the President at this point have a preference to either one?  And if so, which one?

MR. SPICER:  I think right now he’s, as I mentioned, very supportive of the Senate bill.  Let’s get that passed, and then, obviously, we’ll go to conference.  And so there’s elements of the Senate bill that he’s very pleased with, but let’s — our goal is to work through the process, get it passed through the Senate, and then have that discussion in conference.

Q    And let me ask you — comments that you made this morning.  You talked about — you were asked about the strategy and you talked about how several high-level people within the administration have been provided technical assistance, working with members and Senate leadership to ask — or to talk, rather, about additional changes that might be necessary.  I’m curious as to what those — specifically what those additional changes in the Senate bill that you view might indeed be necessary.

I think you’ve got four Republican senators in particular that have expressed — each one of them has concerns, and in order to get over 50 votes we’re going to — we’ll listen to them and to others that will help strengthen the bill and get us to that point.  But that’s — part of that — that’s part of the process.  Same thing that we did in the House side too.

Q    So nothing specific from the White House point of view as far as —

MR. SPICER:  Well, I don’t want to — I mean, again, this is a discussion that we’ll have with those senators, but I’m not going to telegraph it right now.  As I mentioned — correctly quoting me from earlier this morning — that we’re going to have those conversations with them, find out what additions, suggestions, ideas they have that strengthen the bill and help it move forward.

Q    Real quick wanted to follow up on healthcare.  Is the President eager enough to get rid of Obamacare that he would accept a bill that he doesn’t like?  Or if he doesn’t get what he wants out of the Senate and/or out of conference, would he veto it and make them go back to the drawing board?

MR. SPICER:  Well, of course — in theory, if he doesn’t like something, he’s not going to sign it.  As I’ve said, he’s very supportive of the Senate bill as it stands.  So I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

Q    And the follow-up to that is there are four members of the Republican Party who say that the problem with it is that it’s really too much like Obamacare and they want to see it completely jettisoned.  

MR. SPICER:  That’s not entirely accurate.

Q    Well, all right, I’m paraphrasing —

MR. SPICER:  Again, he’ll work with them and our staff will work with them, and we’ll look at issues that can get us there.  But I think — you know, and I mentioned Senator Manchin himself also noted that he would like to sit down and work, and I think if we can find — if we can grow that number even larger, he would love to do it.

Q    Will he sit with Democrats?

MR. SPICER:  Senator Manchin is a Democrat.

Q    I mean, other than —

MR. SPICER:  He mentioned that he might have some additional folks that have expressed to him a willingness to work together.  And I think the President has been clear, if anybody has a willingness to move this forward and get it done, he’d love to be — work across party lines.

Q    Thank you, Sean.  We saw the President’s tweet about China’s role in the North Korea crisis.  He just met with Mattis and Tillerson, who met with their Chinese counterparts yesterday.  He characterized at this point what he thinks about China’s role in North Korea and whether he’s preparing to impose what are called secondary sanction on Chinese entities that are flouting international sanctions.

MR. SPICER:  I will not comment on the second part of that for obvious reasons, but good try.

Look, he remains hopeful that we can work with China, both politically and economically, to apply the pressure on North Korea.  He commented personally, and I’ll reiterate, that he continues to be very troubled by what happened to Otto Warmbier and would like to see China do more. 

Q    So you’re not hopeful — I’m sorry.  He’s hopeful, he’s not impatient at this point?  He hasn’t lost patience with China?

MR. SPICER:  I just would say that he remains hopeful that we can find a way forward.

Q    Sean, on the —

MR. SPICER:  Steve.

Q    I want to ask you about Russia, because this week the Russians cancelled planned talks in St. Petersburg.  It’s been widely reported that two weeks from now, in Germany, the President and Vladimir Putin are supposed to have some kind of talk on the sidelines of the G20.  Is it the President’s intention to have a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Germany?  

MR. SPICER:  Obviously, Steve, we have a lot of countries that we will probably have bilaterals with on the sidelines of the G20, as well as during the visit to Poland.  Not — that wouldn’t happen during that, but there are countries that we are planning bilats with both during the stop in Poland as well as during the two days that we’ll be at the G20.

Q    Does the President want to meet with Vladimir Putin?

MR. SPICER:  I think that he understands that we have a role — to the extent that we can work with Russia to solve some problems and to cooperate, if we can find that willingness that we’d like to do it.  And when we have an update on the schedule as we grow closer to the G20, I’m sure we’ll provide that to you.

Q    How would you describe the current state of American-Russian relations?

MR. SPICER:  I don’t know what word you’re — I mean, they have — we maintain a — I’ll give you a good example.  We continue to have de-confliction with them in Syria.  I think that’s a positive thing.  I think we enjoy normal diplomatic relations with them.  And, as the President has said very — on numerous times that if we can find areas of agreement with Russia, especially with respect to the fight against ISIS, safe zones in Syria, then we’ll do it.  But it’s got to be on terms that are in the best interest — in our national interest.

John Decker.

Q    Thanks a lot, Sean.  When the President tweeted out earlier this week that China’s efforts at applying pressure on North Korea, in his words, has not worked out, was he referring to the idea that China has not applied the necessary pressure on North Korea, or that North Korea has received that pressure and it has specifically not responded to whatever pressure China has applied?

MR. SPICER:  I will just say that, as I mentioned to Olivier, he remains hopeful that they will continue to apply additional pressure that will seek a better outcome in terms of North Korea.  But I’ll leave that tweet for itself and continue discussion through diplomatic channels.

Q    So when he seemed to sort of abandon the idea of getting China to apply that pressure to North Korea, at the same time it’s — let me just finish — at the same time, it seems as if Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson are going to continue that effort.  Is there a conflict there in terms of what the President wants to perhaps not do and what the Secretaries of Defense and State want to do in applying that pressure to North Korea through China?

MR. SPICER:  So can you just expand on that, just to —

Q    Well, it seems like the President has given up on trying to get China to apply pressure —

MR. SPICER:  No, I don’t think that’s true.  As, I mean, I mentioned, he remains hopeful that they will apply both diplomatic, political and economic pressure to force North Korea to do the right thing.

Q    Sean, two questions for you.  One, just on the tapes, in an interview this morning, the President said he believes his tweet about the tapes influenced Comey to tell the truth in his testimony.  So two-pronged question here.  Is his position now that Comey was truthful in that testimony?  And is he conceding that he used Twitter in a way he believes to change the behavior of a congressional witness?

MR. SPICER:  I’m not going to comment any further than the comments that he made this morning.

Q    Separately — on a separate topic.  On the briefings, you said Monday about your decision to hold these off-camera briefings, off-audio briefings, “There are days that I’ll decide that the President’s voice should be the one that speaks, and iterate his priorities.”  Today the President spoke, so did you this morning — had an interview with Fox News.  What’s the reasoning for not answering questions on camera today?

MR. SPICER:  The President gave lengthy remarks today on camera, spoke about the VA bill.  Hope you carried it.

Q    You spoke on camera, too, earlier.

MR. SPICER:  I know, I did.  See how much on-camera there is?  I mean, look, I think — as I said, you referenced the comments I made on Monday; I made the same comments — similar comments in December and January.  And some days we’ll do it.  I think it’s great for us to come out here and have a substantive discussion about policies.

I don’t think that the be all and end all is whether it’s on television or not.  We’ve made ourselves available a lot of times and will continue to do.  But I’d rather sit here and have a very enjoyable conversation with you on issues on a Friday afternoon, and let the President’s comments stand on the great things that he’s doing on behalf of our nation’s veterans.


Q    A follow-up on the tapes.  You were also on Fox this morning —

MR. SPICER:  I was.  Thank you for watching.

Q    Yeah.  But you indicated that the President’s tweet on the tapes successfully influenced Comey to tell the truth in his testimony.  So do you believe that he lied about — is it the White House’s position that he still lied about the President pressuring him to end the Flynn investigation?  Is that still the White House position?

MR. SPICER:  I believe that the President’s remarks on Fox and Friends this morning reflect the President’s position.

Q    So that would mean that he believes that Comey told the truth.

MR. SPICER:  I don’t think I need to do any further analysis than what the President himself said the intention was.


Q    Thank you, Sean.  I have two questions, if I may.  First is about — during yesterday’s meeting between President Trump and the Chinese State Councilor, Yang Jiechi, President Trump expressed his interest in joining Belt and Road Initiative.  Could you tell us more about their meeting?

MR. SPICER:  I can’t.  I mean, obviously I think we sent a representative to that conference, but I’m not going to get any further than the discussion that they had.

Q    So we heard that Jared and Ivanka have accepted an invitation to visit China by the end of this year.  Could you comment on that, as well?

MR. SPICER:  They have.  

Q    Take one question, Sean?

MR. SPICER:  I know because Goyal has got a visit coming on Monday, so he gets a question on Friday.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Two questions.  

MR. SPICER:  Are you excited?

Q    This will be the first face-to-face meeting —

MR. SPICER:  It will.

Q    Yes, sir.  This will be the first —

MR. SPICER:  Better get ready.

Q    — face-to-face meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi.  So is President Trump ready to accept him and welcome him, because both have the same dream?  Prime Minister Modi is saying “Make in India,” and President Trump is saying “Buy American,” and make in America — or “Hire American.”  So my question is, so much is there on the plate when Prime Minister Modi arrives here.  He’s saying that he will have a great meeting with the President because we have many things in common, as far as U.S.-India relations are concerned.  So what can we expect between the two leaders?

MR. SPICER:  Well, first, I want to wish the people of India a happy 70th anniversary on their independence.  

But during the meeting, the President and the Prime Minister will discuss ongoing cooperation, including counterterrorism, defense partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, global cooperation, burden-sharing, trade, law enforcement, and energy.  I think it’s going to be a very robust discussion.

Q    And a separate question, please —

MR. SPICER:  Yeah.

Q    Thank you.  On Wednesday, June 21st was the International Day of Yoga, which was declared by the United Nations three years ago under the leadership — initiative by Prime Minister Mode.  Any citation you think President Trump will issue?  Or what he has — any message as far as yoga is concerned?  Because yoga means less trips to the doctors and hospitals.  

MR. SPICER:  I don’t have — (laughter) — anything on yoga at this point.  But I appreciate the —

Q    Show us a stance.  (Laughter.) 

MR. SPICER:  Trey.

Q    Thank you.  I have two questions — one on North Korea and one on healthcare.  Starting with healthcare, does the President consider the Senate bill a full repeal of Obamacare?  The four senators you talked about, they say that they don’t feel it’s a full repeal, which is why they’re not supporting the current draft.  

MR. SPICER:  Obamacare is — I mean, I think I’ve said it before — Obamacare is dead.  So it is — you have no carriers, the premiums are skyrocketing.  So whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is, it is a dead healthcare system.  There isn’t a question about whether or not — what to do with it.  We have to act.  I think the President has made clear that we need to actually get a system in place.

Q    On North Korea, the government of North Korea said that Otto Warmbier’s death is a mystery to them.  How does the White House respond to these comments?  

MR. SPICER:  I don’t think it’s a mystery.  I think we know very well what happened.  And I think, as the President said, it’s a disgrace.


Q    Sean, I had a couple questions.  First, on healthcare.  The order in which the Senate was going to vote will occur after the CBO score, and the White House was very critical of the Congressional Budget Office back in March, during the House process.  So my question is, does the President believe that his discussions with lawmakers about what they want and their concern about the legislation should be guided by the CBO score?  And will it influence his thinking as he looks at the bill?

MR. SPICER:  I think one of the points that I made last time, Alexis — which stands — is that the CBO core function is budgetary and fiscal impacts, not on people.  And they’ve been wildly off by a huge percentage when they’ve tried to score people.  Their track record on doing that is not good.  And so we maintain what we have all along:  we want to do the right policy.  And the CBO score should be used by members in the Senate to decide — to the extent that they think that that helps them make a decision.  But I think we all understand — look, Obamacare promised it was going to drive premiums down $2,500, it was going to bring down deductibles.  It did none of that stuff.  

I think the way that this bill has been constructed has done so in a way that it’s actually going to achieve the goals that the American people were promised.

All the way in the back.

Q    Can I just follow up on another topic?

MR. SPICER:  Of course.

Q    Hallie was asking about Russia and the interview.  I just wanted to ask you, because you were just commenting that the President does believe Russia was behind the interference in the election, that he is concerned, that the administration is taking steps.  So to follow up on her question and Steve’s question — is it the President’s desire to speak directly to Putin, if he gets that chance, to say that U.S. officials believe that Russia poses a risk to the 2018 and 2020 elections, and the United States would like Russia to be on notice or on warning that the United States disapproves of this?

MR. SPICER:  If and when there’s a meeting, we will have a readout for you.

Yes, ma’am.

Q    Thank you, Sean.  There’s a play rendition of Julius Caesar in New York City where the character portrayed as President Trump gets assassinated.  Is the President aware of this play?  And if so, what’s his reaction?  And also, is the Secret Service investigating it?

MR. SPICER:  That’s a question for the Secret Service.  You can call Kathy over there and ask her.  

Look, I think it’s troubling whether it’s that or Johnny Depp’s comments.  We’ve seen this.  And, frankly, as far as I’m concerned, I know that the President and the First Lady weighed in on Kathy Griffin’s comments.  I don’t know that he’s aware about the play in particular that’s going on there.  But it is, frankly, my belief, a little troubling the lack of outrage that we’ve seen in some of these instances where people have said what they’ve said with respect to the President and the actions that should be taken.

The President has made it clear that we should denounce violence in all of its forms.  And I think that if we’re going to hold to that standard, then we should all agree that that standard should be universally called out.  And so when those actions are depicted — and I think we saw a couple folks in the media and some other places tweet out their support for that show — I’m not sure that that’s a smart thing to do.  We either all agree that violence should be called out and denounced, or not.  And I think that it’s concerning when you see a pattern that these comments get made, these actions get depicted, and the lack of attention that they get when it’s on our side.

Q    Sean, thank you.  With regard to the bill signing from this morning, do you see this as a — because the President talked a lot about during (inaudible) federal employees and so forth.  Do you see this as maybe a larger point of going through civil service reform, and which you could look at holding career-level federal employees to higher standards, and making it easier to fire certain people for certain conduct?

MR. SPICER:  I think it’s a good start, yeah.  This is the first step.  I think it’s important that we start with our veterans.  But I think everyone who serves in the public trust has an obligation to serve the public and do what they can, whether it’s our veterans or people looking for an education loan or whatever.  And if you’re not doing your job, I think that we should, as a government, have a standard that if you’re not doing what the job is supposed to be doing, and you’re not helping your fellow Americans achieve what that department or agency is after, that we should make sure that there’s a process by which we can have that person removed and put in place somebody who will do it.

The President’s step this morning was a big step forward.  And I think to your question, the impact of that, the signal that it sends isn’t just about veterans, obviously, but it is — it should resonate government-wide that we expect people who serve in government to do what they can to serve our country.

Q    You mentioned veterans would be a good start.  What would be the next step?  I mean, would it be the (inaudible) misconduct?

MR. SPICER:  We’ll wait and see.  I think we’ve got a fairly robust legislative agenda right now, but if the House and the Senate wanted to move forward with something else, I’m sure we could find a way to work with them.

Q    Thank you, Sean.  The Carrier plant the President visited right after the election has told employees that it would lay off more than 600 people between now and the end of the year.  Its employment would actually fall below the agreement that it has with the state.  Would the President reengage in that situation?  Should the state claw back some of those incentives?

MR. SPICER:  We’re talking about 632 jobs in this instance.  This was announced last year, so what we’re hearing now is nothing new.  Carrier remains committed to retaining 1,069 Hoosier jobs over the next 10 years, consistent with the deal that was reached after the election. By maintaining these jobs in Indiana, Carrier is showing confidence in the business climate and the future of the American economy.

Q    So in terms of the deals that the White House is making with individual companies, though, earlier this week you addressed Ford and you said, “At some point in the future, tax reform is what would incentivize companies to operate here.”  But what sort of enforcement mechanisms does the White House have to keep these companies honest?

MR. SPICER:  Well, again, remember, that deal that you’re talking about with Carrier is consistent with the deal that they struck.  This is just the manifestation of the deal that was struck back in, I think it was November of last year; it could have been early December.

So this is consistent with what they said they would do back then, but I think both in terms of regulatory policy and tax policy, we need to do what we can to incentivize more companies to not just stay here, but to grow here.


Q    Thank you, Sean.  Two separate policy topics.  First of all, you said that Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, is going to be looking at potentially getting some Democratic votes for the Senate healthcare bill.  The President has said repeatedly that no matter how good this bill is, that he doesn’t think that he would get any Democratic votes for it.  It now sounds like you’re saying that you do expect potentially to get some Democratic votes for it, and therefore you might not even need these four Republican senators who say that they can’t support it.

MR. SPICER:  I didn’t say that.

Q    Okay.

MR. SPICER:  But what I said — and just to be clear — is it’s obviously — the President believes, and for good reason — I don’t think that — he doesn’t believe that we’ll end up getting any.  I think it’s encouraging that, as we evolve through this process, that you see someone like Senator Manchin say, I agree that the system is broken and I’m willing to fix it.

Now, whether or not we ultimately can get his vote, that’s another question.  But I think it’s encouraging that someone like him wants to step forward and engage in a discussion about — if there’s a potential of getting his vote.  And obviously that’s a discussion that — whether it’s him or someone else — I noted the other day, I think, to Hallie that a couple of times already, Senator Schumer has been very clear that there would be no engagement from Democrats.

So to see this progress I think is — I don’t want to get too far in front of it, but it’s also — it’s good to see at least one senator publicly say that they’re willing to have that discussion.


Q    Sorry — I said two policy questions, sorry.  

MR. SPICER:  You did.

Q    Totally separate subject, I wanted to follow up on what John Gizzi had asked about the —

MR. SPICER:  That’s a first.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Follow up on what John Gizzi had said about the President’s speech on Tuesday night and the welfare requirement for immigrants.  What specifically would the proposal that the President was talking about do that’s different than what is already a part of the federal law?  You said he wanted to reexamine it, maybe even put in a new law.  What was he proposing?  How is that different?

MR. SPICER:  Well, when we have an announcement on that, I’ll let you know.

Q    You said he’d be he putting in legislation soon.

MR. SPICER:  I understand that.  And so when we do, we’ll let you know.  But at this point, we don’t have that.


Q    Thank you, Sean.  If he White House is concerned about the message of Julius Caesar and stuff that’s said by Johnny Depp, then why was Al Baldasaro, who said that Hillary Clinton should be shot for treason for the handling of Benghazi, invited to the VA event today at the White House?

MR. SPICER:  Well, obviously, as I mentioned, we also — I’d make it very clear, I don’t — I condemn all acts of violence.  I don’t believe that any — and the President has said this as well — that anybody who goes out and tries to highlight those kind of actions should not be welcome.  I don’t — I’m not aware of the comments he made.

But again, I’ll say it right now, that I don’t think that we should be resorting to that kind of language with respect to anybody in our country.  

Q    You mean you do condemn it.

Q    You do condemn it.

MR. SPICER:  I do.  Thank you.  

Q    Let me ask you about — one on Russia, one on healthcare.  The Russia sanctions bill — can you talk at all about what your goals are for that bill, even a sense of timing?  Is it helpful to have that bill sooner or later from this White House?

MR. SPICER:  You mean the one that the Senate passed that is — got pulled back with the — I mean, that’s — right now — the Senate passed the bill, the parliamentarian rule that it had a revenue component to it and it had to have originated in the House.  So now the House is looking at it.  

But right now, I mean, there’s not a — there’s nothing to comment on in the sense that the Senate parliamentarian rule that because of the revenue nature —

Q    What (inaudible) opinion on whether —

MR. SPICER:  Well, I mean, let’s see what it looks like.  I think obviously the concern that we will have is whether or not the executive maintains the authority and the flexibility with respect to implementing sanctions both going forward to pulling back to effectively achieve a goal.

And so —

Q    It’s not a timing issue for you guys.

MR. SPICER:  No, I think it’s a policy — it’s — how it’s crafted.  And I think that’s something that we’re going to look at as it — assuming that the House takes up its legislation, and then when it goes to the Senate.  But I think our main concern overall with sanctions is how they — how the Congress crafts them, and any potential erosion of the executive branch’s authority to implement them.

Q    And just real quick, these contested Obamacare payments —


Q    — that the administration looked through this month, the President has referred to those as “ransom.”  Is there any reason to believe that those will — won’t keep — won’t be approved every month until there’s a change to the healthcare law?

MR. SPICER:  I think we committed to making them last month, and that’s as far as we will go at this time.  We’re not committing to them this month.  Obviously —

Q    Why is it a month-to-month thing to you guys?

MR. SPICER:  Because I think that the question is, if we believe — again, I’m not going to — last month, obviously, if we can pass healthcare overall then that changes that.  And part of it is going to be where we are in that process.  But it ultimately — up to the President to decide.  But the reason it’s a month-to-month is because exactly what you said, he doesn’t — the court has ruled very clearly on this instance.

Q    Can you say why he decided to make — authorize these payments?

MR. SPICER:  Because again, part of it is — our goal is to ultimately transition to a healthcare system that doesn’t need them and isn’t a bailout to the insurance companies.  So we want to get to that system as quick as possible.  And our hope is that that transition can take place.

Q    It seems like a — to threaten these payments on a month-to-month basis, does this risk the President’s —

MR. SPICER:  It’s not a — there’s no threat.  It’s just a fact.  As soon as we can get it done, it’s in the best interest of a healthcare system, it’s in the best interest of the American taxpayer.  And as soon as the President decides that we either have a system or he doesn’t want to continue the bailout, then we’ll stop.  But it wouldn’t make —

Q    So (inaudible).

MR. SPICER:  I don’t think — look, I’ll give you the flip side.  If the President were to hypothetically say that he’s going to make the payments in perpetuity or for a year, I think that continues to prop up a failed system.  It continues to do wrong by the American taxpayer.  And it also doesn’t lend itself to the expediency that I think we want to — help get a new healthcare system in place.

Thank you guys very much.  

2:36 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


1:30 PM – Press Briefing with Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Administrator of the EPA Scott Pruitt – 6/2/2017


Yesterday, Thursday, June 1, 2017, following his Campaign promises, President Donald J. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord. This Accord would negatively impact the United States, our jobs, our future. 

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA)  Scott Pruitt will attend the White House press briefing today, Friday, June 12, 2017, together with Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Edward Scott Pruitt is an American lawyer and Republican politician from the state of Oklahoma who is currently the 14th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


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