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White House Brieifing Cncludes; Analysis Of White House Briefing; Chance Meeting Changed Melania Trump's Future. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 10, 2017 - 14:30   ET


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- because he hadn't filed as a foreign agent until two days ago.


QUESTION: My understanding is that he had filed a lobbying disclosure with congress in November.

SPICER: Again, that's different than filing a FARA (ph) request with the DOJ.

QUESTION: And one more question -- attached (ph) to that.


SPICER: Well, it's one question Friday.


XXX until two days ago. So therefore, nobody wouldn't known that because he hadn't filed as a foreign agent until two days ago.

QUESTION: My understanding is that he had filed a lobbying disclosure with Congress in November.

SPICER: Again, that's different than filing a (inaudible) request with the DOJ.

QUESTION: And one more question.

SPICER: It's one question Friday.


SPICER: All right.

QUESTION: The other question is did Flynn disclose he was acting as a foreign agent in the security clearance review before he became NSA?

SPICER: I don't know the answer to that question. That's something that you should follow up with General Flynn on.

April? QUESTION: Sean, I want to go back to numbers. When is it when a

president -- a former president's spillover ends and the new president stands on his own merit? When does that happen?

SPICER: Well, I think on January 20th at noon, you start to assume command of the government and -- you know, what specifically are you asking for?

QUESTION: Numbers from jobs.

SPICER: Well, I think that this is the first full month that encapsulates the president's administration. I think that's a very telling number.

Look -- and I get it, these numbers are gonna go up and down, but I think for the first full month, we're seeing the enthusiasm and spirit that so many business leaders have been drawn to and -- and that's exciting as a first month. But I think the -- this encapsulates a full 30 days of the Trump presidency. And so, you know, we're gonna continue to work forward with policies that will lower regulation and lower taxes, create a more business-friendly and entrepreneurial- friendly business climate to allow the expansion of U.S. companies and grow U.S. jobs.

QUESTION: And lastly, over the last couple weeks (inaudible) all the negatives -- not all the negatives, but a large portion of negatives about the Affordable Care Act and how you're looking to make it patient care.

SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: So with that, are there any positives that you can articulate from ACA that will carry into possibly (inaudible)?

SPICER: I think children being able to stay on their plans to 26. There's a pre-existing condition piece. But again, remember...

QUESTION: (inaudible) subject to...

SPICER: No, no. But that -- you're asking if there's elements. I think those are some things that -- and again, remember, there's some stuff that was part of the ACA that is stuff that Republicans had supported for a while as well. I think this is making sure that it is the most effective and comprehensive healthcare policy that achieves the president's goals.


SPICER: Yeah, and I -- you ask -- I don't know, April. I'm sure I could go through the bill and -- and get back. It's very long, as you saw the other day. It's 1,000 pages -- 974 pages, very good.

David Jackson (ph)?

QUESTION: The Palestinians are saying that President Trump invited President Abbas to the White House for a meeting very soon. SPICER: yeah.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that?

SPICER: I can.

Thank you guys very much.


SPICER: Let's end on a positive note. Have a great weekend. We look forward to seeing you. Take care, everybody. Thank you.

QUESTION: Are you watching SNL this weekend?



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: There we go. On this Friday afternoon from the White House there, Press Secretary Sean Spicer starting by flipping Old Glory right-side up on his lapel at one point saying, don't make me move this podium, in reference to Melissa McCarthy playing him on "Saturday Night Live."

A lot of substance. We'll dive into in the panel. But essentially, the headlines, lots of questions on General Michael Flynn as far as his status filing as a foreign agent. When did the White House know? Does that speak to the judgment of the administration when it came to nominating him as a national security adviser? Talking about the economy, the numbers out today and the laughter at some of the hypocrisy when Sean Spicer acknowledged that, in the past, Donald Trump talked about job numbers as phony and a hoax and, quoting him, "They have been phony in the past but very real now." Asked about the Deep State exists as far undermining the president. And then questions about the media access with regard to the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's trip to Asia.

Let's delve into it all. I have with me -- David Chalian, you're up to bat first. Let me begin with you.

The back and forth both with John Roberts on the red-flag question and Glenn Thrush with "The New York Times" following up, and Athena also following up as well on General Flynn, what the White House knew and when, let me play the sound and then we'll talk.


JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTR: You have an attorney calling the transition saying that --


SPICER: No, no.

ROBERTS: -- the person in line to be the national security adviser may need to register as a foreign agent and that doesn't raise a red flag.

SPICER: It's not a question of raising a red flag John. It's about whether they gave them advice they're supposed to, which it is not up to them to make decisions as to what you need to do or not do. As you know, there are certain activities that fall under each of these requirements as far as what the threshold is, what activities, who the funding sources was, et cetera, et cetera. It is not up to, nor appropriate or legal, for the government to start going to private citizens, seeking advice, and telling them what they have to register or not. That would be the equivalent of walking through a tax return and saying that's not a deduction you should take. That's why when you conduct these activities, they will tell you, you should seek counsel or professional advice or expertise. That's not up to them to determine, plain and simple.



SPICER: Hold on, John.

GLENN THRUSH, REPORTER: THE NEW YORK TIMES: Moving beyond the legal question.

SPICER: Thank you.

[14:35:14] THRUSH: Just to follow-up with John, moving beyond the legal question here, this is an issue of judgment about who you guys wanted in your administration. If there were published reports that your potential national security adviser had dealings with the government of Turkey, a controversial region at this moment in time. Congressman Cummings sent a letter to Mike Pence during the transition informing him of this and raising a red flag. Mr. Pence was on television I believe twice yesterday saying he had no knowledge of that letter --


SPICER: That's right. No, no, hold on.


SPICER: Hold on. No, no. Before you accuse the vice president of certain things, what he said he was not aware of the filing, just so we're clear, and he wasn't.

Thank you. Go on.

THRUSH: In terms of the larger question, forget about filling out forms and legalism. What does this say about the transition team's judgment about still appointing him as national security adviser --


THRUSH: -- when you had knowledge of this information? SPICER: No, but you're asking me, forget about the legalism. That's

what we ask people to do is follow the law. You can't forget about the legalisms.


SPICER: No, no. That's what you said. And what I'm saying is that's what we did.


BALDWIN: David, how do you see this? Is this a judgment issue?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It certainly is a judgment issue. And one Sean Spicer clearly didn't want to deal with. Glenn was asking the right question to broaden the judgment issue. The White House is in a position here where they're trying to defend somebody that they fired so they're not looking to necessarily save Mike Flynn's reputation right now because he's sort of now persona non-grata with this White House, which he why he told -- you have to follow up on the time line issues with General Flynn himself. But they also -- clearly, Sean didn't want to tackle the issue of what does this say about the judgement, and larger than that, Brooke, about the vetting process that went on in this transition for the administration overall?

BALDWIN: Let's take two steps back.

Bob Baer, let me ask you. I can't presume people understand what he was" filing as a foreign agent" even means. He did this two days with the DOJ. Spicer says the president wasn't aware, the vice president wasn't aware. What does it mean to file as a foreign agent, A, and, B, to David's point, on the questions on the vettings?

BOB BAER, CNN SECURITY & INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: David is absolutely right. It's a violation of the law. You have to file if you are working for a foreign agent, Turkey in this case.

And going back to the press conference, I mean, I knew about this. I talked about this on this station, and CNN has reported his connection with the government of Turkey. And the fact that the White House was indifferent to standards and the law is worrisome. And let's not forget the Emoluments Clause. A military offer cannot leave, especially from DIA and go work for a government. And why they didn't call up Flynn and say are these reports true, it addresses the question of judgment which doesn't seem very good.

BALDWIN: Maeve, it seems to me we've asked before with regard to General Flynn, with regard to, let's say, Russia, but in a different way. It's what did the administration know and when? And it's the judgment.



RESTON: That was Athena's question was getting to today, was, at what clearances did he have early on than this filing, and who was aware of it. And we didn't get very clear answers from Sean Spicer. Lots of people raised questions about this during the campaign when he was giving Trump advice. And is something now that's going to continue to haunt not only the president but Vice President Pence as well. And it's another thing that the administration has to deal with when they want to talk about policy initiatives. And not a good week.

BALDWIN: Let me move on to the economy.

Dylan, I promise I'll come to you in just a second.

But, David, let me loop back to you on these numbers today, which are great numbers, that the economy added 235,000 jobs for the month of February, unemployment down to 4.7 percent. When you look at 2015, the number around 5 percent. That was when Trump at the time called it a phony number. So in reference to that -- and you heard Sean Spicer saying he had a conversation with the president prior to the news conference. And what did he say.

CHALIAN: He knew this question was coming. And he went to the president and said, what do you want me to say, Mr. President, and the president said, you can quote me directly that perhaps maybe those numbers were phony then, but now it's real.


[14:40:03] BALDWIN: Let's play the sound.

Let's roll it.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The president has referred to particular jobs reports as phony or totally fiction. Does the president believe this was accurate and fair way to measure the economy?

SPICER: Yeah, I talked to the president and he said to quote him clearly, "It may have been phony in the past, but it's very real now."



BALDWIN: You heard the laughter.

Go ahead, David.

CHALIAN: It was delivered as a laugh line and it got laughter from the room. I'm not sure that Americans will laugh at it. It is an admission of blatant hypocrisy. It's like the most traditional politician thing you can do, which isn't Trump's brand necessarily. To say, when it's not in favor, I'm going to say this, and when it is in my favor, I'm going to say that. That is the thing about politicians most people don't like. So I don't know that it's necessarily a joke. I think it's a total admission of blatant hypocrisy.

BALDWIN: Was that a new thing, Dylan, the fact that - I mean, I think David is right, he knew he's get a question. He said, yes, I had a conversation with President Trump and got a quote and there you had it.

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA & POLITICS REPORTER: Well, look, I think there's an extraordinary lack of credibility here, and it was on display at least three times. First of all, there were the phony jobs numbers quote that you just played. There's the issue of basically shirking responsibility for the vetting process of Flynn. If they're not responsible for it and they're just expecting people to check the right boxes that sort of seems like a joke to me. And third, there was this issue about the media not being able to come on Rex Tillerson's plane, and the excuse was the plane wasn't big enough to hold reporters. Certainly, previous planes were big enough. I checked with a former Obama administration official to confirm that reporters joined secretaries of state on their planes. You heard what he said. He said they don't even know how to lie well. There's an extraordinary lack of credibility here and it's on display day after day in that briefing room.

BALDWIN: I want to loop back on State and the fact media won't be on the same plane as Secretary Tillerson. Maeve to you, but about the hypocrisy of what President Trump is now saying, since he's the one sitting in Oval Office and the jobs numbers a great today.

RESTON: It is hypocrisy, plain and simple. It's so interesting, as David has pointed out many times, in our polls, it shows that Americans really do approve of Donald Trump's handling of the economy. That's the strongest thing he has things going right now.

BALDWIN: The reason he got the job.

RESTON: Right. So another tricky subject for them to have to dance around at the podium, and that makes it difficult for them.

BALDWIN: Let's move on to this question about whether this notion of the Deep State is there entrenched in the government and it's there to undermine President Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the White House believe there's such a thing as the Deep State actively working to undermine the president?

SPICER: I think there's no question when you have eight years of one party in office that there are people who stay in government who are affiliated with, are joined and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration. So I don't think it should come to any surprise that there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and, you know, may have believed in that agenda and want to continue to seek it. I don't think that should come as a surprise to anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will the director of the CIA or THE DNI have a presidential mandate to seek these people out and fire them or purge them out?

SPICER: That's not part to have CIA's mandate under any circumstances.


BALDWIN: Quickly, Bob, he's correct on that, not at all part of the CIA mandate.

BAER: No, and the Deep State is an Alt-Right term misapplied. I've been a liaison with Deep States from Syria to Turkey, and they mean something very specific. It's a security apparatus that actually runs the state and democracy is just a fig leaf, so they don't know what they're talking about. It's not the Deep State. It's people in the government unhappy about this regime that are leaking. It happens a lot, and particularly bad now. But sort of like Watergate when you had an FBI agent leaking stuff to the "Washington Post." It's the same thing, no different.


RESTON: But for Spicer to be using that language, Brooke, burrowing into the government over the last however many years I thought was really telling that has become the language of this administration that is being adopted by the press secretary and it's something we should pay attention to.

BALDWIN: There was whole article in the "Washington Post" about the political lexicon that President Trump is using. I think you can file this as an example.

Dylan, Bob says it's an Alt-Right idea, is it not, Deep State?

[14:45:16] BYERS: It actually used to be sort of a left-wing idea or left-wing suspicion, but it shows one thing that the Trump administration shares, whether it's Alt-Right or far left, it is sort of this conspiracy use of the term Deep State. These people are in power now, they should know how the government functions and how it works. And to continue to sort of bandying about the conspiracy theories about the Deep State and defending them in the briefing room would be humorous if it weren't so alarming.

BALDWIN: He was asked about the health care bill. David to you. Sean Spicer at one point was asked about whether or not he would roll back this Medicaid extension, expressed President Trump would be open to negotiations and is scaring Republicans.

CHALIAN: Scaring Republican partners trying to get this bill through, McConnell and Ryan and others, because this Medicaid piece, which is that the federal government outlay is part of what expanded health insurance for half the people that got it under Obamacare, the portion that the federal government is paying for right now in this proposed bill, is to phase out in 2020. Conservatives are saying can you phase that out in 2017. This is a key component, not like some small part that Donald Trump can negotiate on the side and not have it rock the boat. It's a key component that the White House was part of the negotiating, understood it was part of the deal that they were going to go forward with. So the question is, if Donald Trump is open to trying to get conservatives on board this piece of it, does he risk upending the entire legislation? Paul Ryan might argue yes. So they're going to need to get on the same page to continue to unite and fight a united front to bring about 218 votes.

BALDWIN: What about -


BALDWIN: Maeve, let me jump in.

This is to you. What about President Trump answering questions on this? We know the vice president is going to Louisville tomorrow and will obviously make a push for this. And we saw Paul Ryan, sleeves rolled up yesterday, intimate knowledge of this, and the pool spray today with the president, and critics would question maybe even his knowledge of the process. And we're hearing from Republican sources they want Trump out there and more visible on this. Where is he?

RESTON: I think what I've been hearing from people who have been talking to Trump is that he really will be out there and campaigning for this, but this is a really difficult balance he's going to have because not only is he dealing with the conservative wing of his parties. But a lot of the people who voted for him were affected by the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. That was a provision a lot of people didn't think of as being associated with the bill. And so Trump may get out there and be talking on the stump about this and find that his voters don't necessarily want that part repealed quickly, so it's a very difficult issue for him.

BALDWIN: We're going to jump.

Thank you all so much. I appreciate it here on topics on today's White House briefing. I appreciate it.

Much more of our special coverage coming up. Including part of the discussion that has been about a national security adviser working inside the White House with a pass as a foreign agent and the president was apparently unaware. What are the implications of all this? We'll continue looking at that ahead.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:53:25] BALDWIN: Amid some of the distractions and turmoil, we've seen in the White House, one person's popularity has shot up dramatically over the last couple weeks, and that is of the first lady. A majority of Americas now have a favorable opinion of Melania Trump compared to just 36 percent when her husband took office.

CNN's Randy Kaye takes a closer look at this unique first lady.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In September, 1998, at 28, two years after the future first lady arrived in New York City, came a chance meeting that would change her life forever.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: We met at the fashion party. It was a big fashion party that my friend organized fashion week and he invited me. That's how we met the Donald.

KAYE: Donald as in Donald J. Trump.

She met her future husband and the man who would become the nation's 45th president at a party at the Manhattan's famous Kit Kat Club.

TRUMP: I was actually supposed to meet somebody else. And there was, a great supermodel sitting next to Melania. I was supposed to meet the supermodel. And they said there is so-and-so. I said, forget about her. Who is the one on the left? That was Melania.



[14:54:41] BALDWIN: That's a look what you get more of tonight on CNN. "Melania Trump, The Making of a First Lady" airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern/pacific.


BALDWIN: Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Fiery exchange inside the briefing room. Secretary Sean Spicer putting space between President Trump and Michael Flynn all over the fact that General Flynn was removed from his post as the president's national security advisor over his dealing with Russia. Flynn had been working as a paid foreign agent for a Turkish business man. Flynn only filed paperwork with the Department of Justice two days ago. The White House maintains it was unaware of his lobbying role on the side while working as a top advisor to Trump's presidential campaign.


JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTR: You have an attorney calling the transition saying that --


SPICER: No, no.

ROBERTS: -- the person in line to be the national security adviser may need to register as a foreign agent and that doesn't raise a red flag? SPICER: It's not a question of raising a red flag John. It's about

whether they gave them advice they're supposed to, which it is not up to them to make decisions as to what you need to do or not do. As you know, there are certain --