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White House Press Briefing. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 21, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] QUESTION: Xenophobia is not allowed. Anti-Muslim sentiment within the administration, has the president been forceful about that particular issue?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I don't - I - I think that the president, in terms of his desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism, he understands that people who want to express a peaceful position have every right in our constitution. But if you come here or want to express views that seek to do our country, our people harm, he's going to fight it aggressively, whether it's domestic acts that are going on here, or attempts though people abroad to come into this country. So there's a big difference between preventing attacks and making sure that we keep this country safe so that there's no loss of life in allowing people to express themselves in accordance with our First Amendment. Those are two very, very different, different, different things.

QUESTION: Sean, you talked about how -- how the manufacturing -- (inaudible) where you were going.

SPICER: No (inaudible) in the back.


QUESTION: I saw the manufacturing CEOs are coming on Thursday. So let me ask you something that's important to that, which is the border adjustment tax.

SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: The president earlier this year called it, quote, "too complicated." Does he still feel that way? And whether he feels this is complicated or not, is there something within the administration one way or another about whether the president, the administration wants to see this in or out of the tax package?

SPICER: So, there's several pieces to that that I'll try to unpack. That counts as, like, eight questions.


SPICER: No, no. So first of all on the meeting on Thursday, this is going to be a really historic opportunity for CEOs to come in and talk to members of the White House staff and others through various agencies about how we can create jobs, how regulations are stifling economic growth. And I think we'll have further details on that.

But this is going to be a real interesting opportunity to really create a dialogue I think in a manner that hasn't been done before, but I'm not going to get ahead of myself on this, where we can really discuss some of the inhibitors to job creation, job retraining, what do we need for American workers to get them ahead of the curve.

With respect to specific policy positions, I think the president's been very clear that in the next couple of weeks, we expect to have a tax plan that gets out there. That is being worked on continuously. And so I'm not going to get in front of that. While the CEOs are here, I'm sure, beyond some of these things, that's an opportunity for them to express what some of those policies are that are both helping them create jobs and grow the economy, and also inhibiting them. So, let's let that conversation play out.


QUESTION: OK. Thank you, Sean.

My name is Raquel (ph) from (inaudible) news, Brazil. And I have a question (inaudible) in Brazil right now about what's going to happen to the relationship between the two countries with the new administration, especially as it relates to immigration, and also to trade deals. Does President Trump also plan to review policies -- bilateral policies on Brazilian trade deals?

And also my second question, how does the administration see the current turmoil economical and political turmoil in Brazil?

And one more question, if I might. President Trump spoke with some foreign leaders from South America, like Argentina, Colombia and Peru, but not (inaudible), although the vice president spoke with President Temer from Brazil. Why is that?

SPICER: Well, obviously we cherish our relationship with Brazil. I think there's a timing factor here. And I think we'll look forward to speaking with the president soon. So I wouldn't read too much into that right now. It's just a matter of getting things on the schedule.

We're going to review all the trade deals that are out there. The president's made very clear. Some of them have occurred, you know, well into a decade, two decades ago. I think the idea is to make sure that we are looking at all of the trade deals we have throughout the globe, to make sure that they continue to benefit America and American workers. And in many cases, we can update these deals.

So it's not any one particular country. I think that we're going to look throughout the whole host of trade agreements and then other trade-related agreements that we have with -- with countries, to make sure that they are the most up to date and they address the technological advances that have occurred. And look at the various services, and whether it's financial services or manufacturing, and that they reflect the current state of play.

So, this isn't any one country. I think the president made clear throughout the campaign, and subsequent, that he wants to review every trade deal to make sure that America and American workers are maintaining the best deal possible.


SPICER: I'm sorry? Yes?

QUESTION: How does the administration see the turmoil in Brazil now? SPICER: I'm going to -- I think that's a question for the Department of State right now.


QUESTION: Thanks, Sean. Two questions for you.

One on the NSC meeting later this afternoon. Is that the first meeting of the National Security Council of the president, with all the principals there?

SPICER: No. There (inaudible) routine briefing, but because of the nature of it, it's happening in the Situation Room.

QUESTION: But is that with staff or is that with...

SPICER: Staff.

QUESTION: OK. So it's not with the principals...


QUESTION: (inaudible) the first formal meeting of the National Security Council?

SPICER: Well, I think General McMaster got here at noon today, so we move (ph) fast, but I think that we need to give him a few days, probably, to get his team together. So the President was obviously very pleased with the selection. I think when you saw the bipartisan support that General McMaster received from the variety of the political spectrum, people who have served Republicans and Democrats, academics, pundits, columnists, you know that he made an outstanding choice. We want to get him in, show him around the office a little bit, and then get him going. But when we have a date to announce the next meeting, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: The joint address for next week, what's the President's goal for that address?

SPICER: I think that I'll have a further update as the week goes on. We'll have briefings. The President is going to lay out I think two main things. Where we've come and where we're going. I think that he is very pleased with the progress that he has made so far in the first month in office. And I think it's an opportunity to remind members of Congress and the American people what he promised them on the campaign trail. What he's done already, in a very significant way, to achieve and fulfill those promises that he made, but also talk about the challenges that we have as a nation, and where we're going. And that's everything from our relationship with other countries in this world to some of the various domestic problems that we face, the challenges that we face in cities, healthcare, education, but the President wants to make sure that the American people have a very clear indication as to where he's taking this country, and why he's going to enact the policies he's going to enact.

John -- George, I'm sorry. QUESTION: Thanks a lot, Sean. Let me ask you a question about the Vice President's European trip. I'm curious whether he received any commitments from our European allies to commit more in terms of their financial contribution to NATO.

SPICER: I think several of them, I saw Chancellor Merkel's comments previous to that, noting that they understand that the U.S. is asking for that commitment. Look, we're one of the only countries -- there's a handful -- that are doing what NATO requires, which is two percent of GDP. Some of them are at 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, and some of them are below that. But we've got to ask them to do what they agreed to do. And I think we've had a very positive reaction from most of these NATO countries that understand that the financial commitment that they agreed to is something that they need to live up to. And I think the Vice President continued to receive assurances, much like the President has, through his foreign leader calls, where people not only understand it but are willing to follow through on it.

QUESTION: Is it an ongoing process --

SPICER: Of course it's an ongoing process. I mean, I think we need to follow up to make sure that they -- that the commitments that they're making on the phone or in person, in the case of the Vice President, are followed up. Dave --

QUESTION: Thanks. The DHS memos today, obviously these immigration enforcement efforts cost money, hiring more agents. Do you envision that the current budget is sufficient, or are you going to need to go to Congress --

SPICER: Yes, I think right now ICE and DHS in particular as well as CBP (ph) are looking at what this is going to cost and how much and putting a request together and then figuring out how much can be handled through reallocation of resources and then how much we can save, maybe in another area, but then also work with Congress --

QUESTION: (inaudible) different matter -- there was an election record report out today that the President raised more small campaign donations in 2016 than either Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders combined. Did he have a reaction to that? Have you seen that?

SPICER: I don't know, and I would ask you to probably go through the RNC for that. That's a political matter that we generally don't discuss.

Yes --

QUESTION: The National (inaudible) citing reliable sources that the Trump administration today will rescind Obama era guidance requiring schools to allow a transgender kid to use a restroom (inaudible) their gender identity. Will the Trump administration rescind that guidance?

SPICER: Right now, that's an issue that the Department of Justice and the Department of Education are addressing. I would tell you -- and I think that there will be further guidance coming from DOJ in particular with respect to not just the executive order, but also the case that's in front of the Supreme Court.

The President has maintained for a long time that this is a states rights issue and not one for the federal government, so while there will be further guidance coming out on this, I think that all you have to do is look at what the President's view has been for a long time, that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in. This is a states rights issue.

Matt --

QUESTION: In the wake of the Vice President's trip to Europe, there's questions as to the administration's position on the future of the European Union with regard to a number of political movements across the continent advocating for the disbandment eventually of the European Union. I wanted to see if you could clarify the administration's position on the future of the European Union.

SPICER: I think that the Vice President had great meetings with several European Union leaders and made it very clear to them that we'd continue -- will continue to work with them and reaffirmed our commitment to working with these nations. There's no update on that.

Cecilia (ph)?

QUESTION: Thank you. On immigration, (inaudible) two parts today (ph). Is one of the goals here mass deportation?


QUESTION: Not at all?

SPICER: This isn't - look, I think what we have to get back to his understanding a couple of things. There's a law in place that says if you're in this country illegally, that we have an obligation to make sure that the people who are in this - in our country are here legally. What the order sets out today is ensures that the million or so people that have been adjudicated already, that there's - that ICE prioritizes - creates a system of prioritization, and makes sure that - that we walk through that system in a way that protects this country.

This is consistent with everything the president has talked about, which is prioritizing the people who are here, who represent a threat to public, who have a criminal record. And all this does, is lay out the exact procedures to makes sure that the - that that subgroup (ph) of people who pose a threat to our nation because of a conviction or a violation, public safety, or have a criminal record are adjudicated first and foremost. That's its, plain and simple.

QUESTION: So is it then voted that (ph), is the White House's message today to undocumented people in this country, whose only crime is being in this country illegally, don't worry? Or you're...

SPICER: The message - the message from this White House and from the DHS is that those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public, or have committed a crime, will be the first to go, and we will be aggressively making sure that that occurs. That - that - that is what the priority is.


SPICER: Cecilia (ph), the president has said multiple times that we've got to look at this issue on a very, very case - you know, holistic way. And the number one priority when you look at the scope of how many people are in the country illegally, the number one priority is making sure that people who pose a threat to this country are immediately dealt with.

And this is not a small group of people, we're talking close to a million people who have already been adjudicated, and had their - their status processed through a formal due process system. And so what we need to do now is to make sure that we focus the resources and the efforts on those people going first and foremost. And the fact sheet and the information we put out lays that out very, very clearly what is being done.

But for so long, the people at ICE and CBP had their hands cuffed behind them, and when they were going to deal with the mission of their job, the last administration had so many carve out for who can (ph) be and who couldn't be adjudicated, that it made it very difficult for the customs and enforcement people to do their job and enforce the laws of this country.

But right now, what we've done is to make sure that they have the ability and the guidance and the resources to do what they - what their mission is, and that's it, plain and simple. And the president is consistent with his priority of making sure that those people who pose a threat to this country are the first ones to go.

QUESTION: On immigration, to follow up. The president has a (inaudible) for DACA.


QUESTION: Can you explain the process - expand on what he was saying on Thursday about the process that the administration has taken.

SPICER: Yeah, I think this is - this is - yeah, and this is what I was basically talking to Cecilia (ph) about, which is the president has made clear, when you have 12, 14, 15 million people I the country illegally, that there has to be a system of priority, and right now, ICE's priority is going to make sure that we focus on first and foremost on that.

He's specifically in the guide that (ph) talks about that DACA and DAPA, unless they put - unless someone who fits under that program and fits into the subcategory, is not subject to what is being dealt with now. Remember, everybody who is here illegally is subject to removal at any time. That is consistent with every country, not just ours. If you're in this country in an illegal manner, that obviously - that there's a provision that could ensure that you'd be removed.

But the priority that the president has laid forward, and the priority that ICE is putting forward through DHS' guidance is to make sure that the people who have committed a crime or pose a threat to our public are - are the priority of their efforts, first and foremost. Katelyn (ph)?

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: So President (inaudible) and his (ph) team has also had reservations about undocumented people in the United States to our beneficiaries of public assistance (inaudible) either at the state or the federal level. What's the president going to be doing to either issue guidance or executive (inaudible)?


SPICER: ...for taxpayer money, with respect to sanctuary cities, and the enforcement measures that he's putting forward on immigration.

SPICER: Right now, obviously, that actions today are focused on people who -- who are in this country and what we need to do on our southern border to facilitate the building of the wall that he's talked about. So we're doing this one step at a time in a very methodical way and right now the focus is to make sure that ICE and CBP and DHS have the authority and the resources to carry out that first mission.

We will have more and continues to see that immigration is one of those issues that he was very, very clear and consistent on in the campaign and we're going to continue to implement the policies that he talked about to keep the country safe.

QUESTION: John Kasich has been a very vocal critic of President Trump, even in the campaign, saying that his immigration plan was crazy, his statement that the elections were rigged was silly and he did not endorse him and did not vote for him. What is the president hoping to accomplish with their meeting at the White House on Friday?

SPICER: So, Governor Kasich has reached out on multiple occasions to meet with the president to follow on and the president, you know, has shown through the transition and since time in office that he wants to meet with anybody that can help move this country forward and share in his vision. I think that includes people who are with him, who are not with him, who are on the other side of the aisle, who are independents, union workers, business leaders.

Now that he is president, and frankly, I would again date it back to the transition, he understands that he's the president for every American and he's talked consistently about having a united county. And you do that by bringing people together, whether or not they agree with you on every issue or one or two issues.

But if there's common ground that can be found to move the country forward, then great. And I think so many of the president's priority issues are issues that Ohio is dealing with and that he wants to make sure that he can continue to work with Governor Kasich so that every American benefits from (inaudible).


QUESTION: Did Kasich ask for the meeting?


QUESTION: OK. QUESTION: What did the president gain from his tour today? You talked about where he -- the exhibits that he visited. Did he also visit slavery (ph)? And the reason why I'm asking this is because when he was candidate Trump, he said things like we made this country meaning white America, not necessarily black. Did he gain...

SPICER: Well, I don't know why you would say that. What do you mean?

QUESTION: No, no, he said that. I heard him say that.

SPICER: No, no, but look. The answer to your question is, right -- one of the first exhibits that he visited was one of the slavery exhibits and the director walked him through some very amazing stories and statistics about where slave labor was prevalent (ph). Not just in traditional southern colonies, but throughout the country. So they did have a very robust discussion about slavery early on in the tour.

And I think that it was a very eye-opening and powerful tour for him, and frankly, for every American and I would encourage any American that can find the time and get in because it's so popular. But it really is enlightening as far as parts of our history that people may not fully appreciate or know and the contributions and the sacrifices that so many Americans have made that are -- that are a critical piece to our history that sometimes don't get the attention the deserve.

So I think the president walked away from there, and you know, I mentioned in the remarks that he mentioned to Lonnie that he wanted to come back because you can't do it justice. And it's much like the Holocaust Museum, where you go through once and then you sit there and start thinking of all the things that you saw and think, you know, I'd like to go back and fully -- more fully explore what I just saw because it peaked some degree of interest or intellectual curiosity.

But he was very taken aback. It's a very, very powerful institution and tour and it covers a lot of ground. I think he was really proud to -- to share it with Dr. Carson. When you walk through that museum and you see all of the elements of our history and you walk up to this one glass exhibit that has Dr. Carson's scrubs and pictures of him, and to experience that with him and his wife for the first time and you realize how amazing that is for any American to be part of a Smithsonian and you're standing with Dr. Carson and his wife where he is experiencing with you for the first time and how powerful that must have been was -- was I think a real interesting opportunity for him to sit there hand to hand with another American and watch them be part of American history.

And you also appreciate some of the real contributions that Dr. Carson has made to medicine and -- and what he -- and the depth and breadth of his accomplishments. QUESTION: And lastly, kind of putting this with the next question, is there any advancement on the CBC (ph) meeting with the president and also the head of the CBC (ph) that he was wondering if the president saw anything from current and past members of the CVC while he was in the museum, to get a little bit of information on them before this meeting happens?

SPICER: I -- I -- there -- I'll have further updates on that. I know the president looks forward to -- to that meeting. And I think that we're in the process of trying to -- to begin setting that up. And so I'll have further updates on that once we get closer. I know that we've additional work before the month concludes on historically black college and universities and some meetings that we're working out with them. But I want to get them locked in before I...


QUESTION: What did he think about the members that he saw, in the museum?

SPICER: Well, when you walk through one of them, there's a -- there's a big jumbotron and we paused for a while and John Lewis was there giving a very powerful speech and we just paused and watched that for a little while.

So again, I think that -- respectfully, when you walk through a museum like this, there's a lot of moments where you're just stopping and taking it in. And there's, you know, if you haven't been there, you walk up this one ramp and they stop and there's two big screen and one of them is -- is a video screen and it's a massive jumbotron...


SPICER: Right. And -- and we watched the video of John Lewis and talking there and describing his efforts in championing of voting civil rights. And so, I don't -- I know the president paused and watched it and listened to it. And again, I -- I would go back to how he described his overall. We didn't dissect the different things, but I watched him and it was a very powerful experience for him and I know he looks forward to going back.

Hally (ph)?

QUESTION: Sean, some questions for you. First one on undocumented (inaudible) you just made very clear that the president's priority is to deport those who pose a threat to public safety. SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: I know you're familiar with the case in Arizona. The mother of (inaudible) is she a threat to this country?

SPICER: I might leave that up to ICE. We don't get involved from the White House to particular cases. That's not...


SPICER: But -- I -- you're right and I understand... (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... a threat to public safety?

SPICER: But -- but -- Hally (ph), I think the answer is, is that ICE determined that she had violated the law in a way that was in accordance with this. Again, we've got to get back to this idea that, our are job -- especially here at the White House -- isn't to -- to call ball and stripes and say, well, this portion only violated part of the law or let me go -- if this was any other subject, if this was tax evasion and we said, well, they only really violated a little bit of -- they only cheated on their taxes a little, you wouldn't be saying, hey, should they really be going to prison or should they be getting a fine?

At some point, laws are laws. And if people have a problem with the law, whether it's at the local state or federal issue, then -- then we should petition our lawmakers and the executive and at the particular branch of government and change it. But -- but our job shouldn't be to figure out, should -- should this individual not have to abide by the law? Should this individual get a pass? If we want to change the law, we go a very amazing process here in this country to both, create and change laws.

And -- and so, I don't want to comment on the specifics of any one case, because I think that that -- that then puts the White House in a position of deciding, you know, what -- who is following the law and who isn't, and what -- who should get a pass. The bottom...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) just said right? The prioritization of cases....

SPICER: No, no, there's a difference. When you have 13 or 14 million people, that are in the country (inaudible) you know, I think it's one thing to say, prioritize people who pose a threat to public safety and go after this individual or that individual or whatever. That -- that is -- there's -- there's no question, that -- you have to have priorities in anything.

What do you do first, what do you do second, what do you do third. And when you're talking about 13, 14, 15 potentially more, millions of people in this country, the president needed to give guidance, especially after what they went through in the last administration, where there were so many carve outs, that ICE agent and CBP members didn't -- had to figure out each individual, whether or not they fit in a particular category and they could adjudicate that case.

The president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies and say, you have a mission, there are laws that need to be followed, you should do your mission and follow the law. And for specific cases, I would refer you to ICE in particular and do that.


SPICER: Hold on, hold on.

(CROSSTALK) SPICER: Hold on, Hally's (ph) on number two.


SPICER: Glen (ph), it's Hally's (ph) turn. Would you please not interrupt her?


QUESTION: Do you want to take that now?

SPICER: No, no, no. I think -- I'm not gonna allow you to be interrupted.

QUESTION: So, the second question is on anti -- anti-semitism...


QUESTION: ... did you reference from the podium, the president made very clear. You said though, that he has he taken opportunities in the past. Just last week though, right? He had the opportunities to deliver a message to the American people about anti-semitism. You made very clear, he was not anti-semitic...

SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: ... and he -- and he was in fact, insulted by that. But as far as a broader message to the American people, he declined to offer one. Is the president comfortable with his obligation, as the leader of this country, to deliver that kind of broad and forceful message to Americans. And if so, why didn't he do it sooner in the case of the...

SPICER: Well, I think the idea Hally (ph), that he has. And I think there's a point at which, he talked literally on election night about uniting this country and making sure that all Americans (inaudible) and every time there's an incidence, its interesting -- I mean I get a question, is he gonna announce this one, is he gonna announce this one?

At some point, the question's asked and answered. He had stood very forcefully against...


SPICER: What are you asking, I mean?

QUESTION: I'm asking if he's comfortable with his role as the person who needs to be delivering a broader message...


SPICER: ...right, and I think that his -- he is very comfortable and understands that as the leader of the free world, the president of this country, the commander in chief, that he has an awesome responsibility to -- to make it very clear, where we're going as a country and what our values are. And that he has spoken very forcefully, that we don't stand for this kind of behavior and words and tolerance. That we are a country that should bring people together and that we shouldn't tolerate people who are hating on individuals because of their gender or because of their religion, or the color of their skin or a variety of other things.

But that there's a point in which it's asked and answered. And I think the president has been very clear over and over again, you know, going back through the campaign, the transition now that he -- that's the kind of president that he wants to be, that's the kind of country that he wants to lead.

Chi (ph)?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean. Following the DHS memos this morning, the ACLU said the courts won't allow these orders to become a reality. How is the administration preparing for another potential legal battle and do you have any response to the ACLU?

SPICER: Well, I think we're -- we have done a phenomenal job of working with the various departments, particularly DHS and DOJ, State and through the White House staff to make sure that we are well within any concerns that the court might have.

And as I mentioned, I think it's important to continue to emphasize, we feel as though the first one (ph) did that, as well and then we were vindicated (ph) several times in the court. We have an issue with the ninth circuit and I think we will overcome that ultimately on the merits (ph).

But in the meantime, a dual track is something that we wanted to pursue to make sure that we do everything we can, as I mentioned before, to keep the country safe.


QUESTION: Thank you...


QUESTION: Yeah, thanks...


QUESTION: ...the Australian foreign minister is here today, meeting the vice president...

SPICER: I'm sorry, today?

QUESTION: The Australian foreign minister is...


QUESTION: ...meeting the vice president and also the secretary of state tomorrow. I guess we can assume that the U.S./Australia refugee deal will come up. Now, last time we spoke, the president was still considering and reviewing the deal.

Can you just update us on...

SPICER: Yeah, I'm gonna wait -- we'll have a readout of that -- yep, OK. Of course, everyone gets two.


QUESTION: Yeah. If you could just update us on -- on the current position on the deal and also, given that recent exposure on the president dictate for us (ph), will Australia be expected to return the favor?

SPICER: I -- look, I -- again, I would wait. Let's -- we'll have a readout after that call as far as what they discussed but -- I -- I've got nothing. I don't wanna get ahead of the vice president's meeting with either secretary of state or -- or the vice president.

Kristen (ph)?


QUESTION: Thank you. I have two questions. One on the admission (ph) of refugee's executive orders that were expected in the coming days. So with that (ph) it withstands legal challenges, can you tell us what the language might look like as it relates to Syrian refugees?

SPICER: I appreciate the effort. But when we have it ready, we'll get it out. And I think a part of this is...


SPICER: Excuse me? I -- I again, I appreciate the second try. But we're not ready to announce it and part of it is that we're making sure that it is completely ready to go. And so when we have that, we will get it out to you. And just -- that the -- the reason that we haven't announced is it's not ready to be announced.


QUESTION: more on the...

SPICER: Of course.

QUESTION: ...comments that the president made today about anti- Semitism. In terms of the timing, obviously, he was asked about it.

SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: But they also came after his daughter, Ivanka, who sent out that tweet, has she counseled him where (ph) she wanted the people saying it's important for...


[14:29:03] SPICER: No, I - look, I - QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE).

SPICER: I think - because the president was visiting the African- American museum, he wanted to make it very clear. I think it was very powerful that while there, and while understanding the struggles of so many, and we talk about how, you know, one of the beauties of history is that we don't repeat itself. And I think that when you're at a museum like that and seeing the struggles that so many Americans face and overcame, that you want to remind people that there is still issues that our country is grappling with and that there is no place for that hate and for that language. And I think, you know, as I mentioned, it was a very powerful opportunity for him to say that and to make clear, again, what his - what his opinions were.


QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) last week, Sean -

SPICER: I'm sorry.


SPICER: No, I think the president was very clear, that was a very - I think, as I mentioned to Hallie (ph), he has - he has discussed this over and over again. I think there's a point to which his position is abundantly clear. His attempts and his desire in his rhetoric to unite the country has been expressed over and over again.


QUESTION: Hey, Sean, "The New York Times" is reporting that Trump's budget director is preparing a budget that eliminates the export/import