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Trump Authorizes Arming of Anti-Assad Forces in Syria; GOP's Graham Wants to Probe Trumps Biz Dealings; White House Holds Press Briefing. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 9, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, here we go, top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.
We are just a couple of moments away from that White House daily briefing with Sean Spicer. So we've got our eyes on that.
He is expected to hit a number of topics including health care, a possible surge in Afghanistan and the testimony of Sally Yates. So let's go to Sara Murray.
She is in that briefing room for us, waiting for Sean Spicer.
Quite a menu of options as far as topics today, Sara. What are you listening for?
SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Brooke. And aside from the president's tweets yesterday, this will really be our first time to pose questions to the White House about what happened in that hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday with Sally Yates, and the revelation that she offered some pretty stern warnings about Michael Flynn, about his contacts with the Russians and misleading the vice president about them.
One of the questions this White House still has not answered is why President Trump kept Michael Flynn on as national security adviser for 18 days after this administration was warned that he could be compromised and blackmailed by the Russians. Now, of course, we're also expecting there could be questions about health care, where this looms next on Capitol Hill now that it's in the Senate, and in addition to that, where the president's head stands on sending additional troops into Afghanistan.
Now, we're expecting his top national security advisers to recommend that he sends anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 additional troops. Remember, this is a president who ran on the notion of America first, who has scored (ph) the idea of nation-building and said we need to get out of so many foreign entanglements.
But, of course, being president, sitting in that oval office and being faced with reality is a different situation. So far, the White House has not given any indication as to whether the president might approve that recommendation so you can bet Sean Spicer will be asked about that today as well.
BALDWIN: We know the president met with his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster today so Afghanistan, top of mind. We'll be listening to -- to news made there.
Sara, thank you so much. Speaking of military movements, I've got Barbara Starr, who's about to join us from the Pentagon from news there.
Barbara, what are you learning about Syria?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, the president has now approved another recommendation from the Pentagon. And that is for the United States to arm Syrian Kurdish rebels.
These are the U.S.-backed forces that are trying to go against ISIS and retake the capital -- the ISIS self-declared capital of Raqqah. What is going to happen now is the U.S. will supply these Kurds with small arms, machine guns, ammunition, those kinds of supplies.
But they will do it in a limited fashion. It will all be parceled out specifically for various missions to retake Raqqah. Why, you might ask? Well, this is very key, because it is the Turks -- Turkey across the border to the north, that is so opposed to this.
And of course, Turkey, a vital NATO ally for the United States. The Turks are not fans of any of these rebel forces in the region, and some of these factions, the -- the Turks consider outright terrorists.
There's a lot of different factions there. The U.S. point is the ones that the U.S. is supporting are against ISIS, are fighting ISIS.
And these are forces that really are in desperate need, it's said, of ammunition and additional arms if they want to take the campaign forward to Raqqah and boot ISIS out of Raqqah once and for all, which the U.S. considers a vital military objective. So the president approved this just in the last hours yesterday, we are told.
And those arms, those supplies, should start flowing to these Kurdish groups. Now, because of the Turkish opposition, top administration officials have made a series of phone calls, had conversations face- to-face with their Turkish counterparts to explain all of this, to explain the reasoning and the fact that then secretary James Mattis talking to his Turkish counterpart, the State Department talking to their Turkish counterparts, trying to keep the Turks relatively calm about all of this.
But (ph) the Turks are -- are clearly going to be very upset about this. They've already conducted some of their own military missions against some of the forces working just inside Northern Syria and Iraq, Brooke.
BALDWIN: It's a good plan about Turkey and the opposition in the wake of the news. We'll look to -- to questions on that to Sean Spicer momentarily.
Barbara, thank you, at the Pentagon. And another topic that Sean Spicer likely will address momentarily here is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who, as you heard, just about 24 hours ago, you know, called for this investigation into President Trump's business dealings in Russia.
This is what Senator Graham, a Republican, told Manu Raju.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I've -- looked over the facts taken. Some we know about what Clapper said. I want to know more about Trump's business dealings.
You know, I asked Clapper. I said, "Is there any business dealings with the Trump organization that gave you concern?" And he said, "No."
Then he said with a caveat, I don't know what the FBI'S looking at so I don't want to run afoul of them.
MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's the business interest interest of yours?
GRAHAM: I don't know. I mean, the FBI, according to Clapper, I think they're actually looking at that. So maybe that's something we need to steer clear of.
What I'm trying to do is find out what happened so we can prevent it in the future.
RAJU: Do (ph) you think his tax returns would be helpful in determining the business interest aspect?
GRAHAM: Could be down the road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: All right. So we've gotten the two-minute warning to the briefing. But before we see from -- see Sean Spicer, Dana Bash, let me bring you in, our -- our chief political correspondent there.
Just responding to, you know, Senator Graham's comments to -- to Manu and also just the significance in the fact that it's Lindsey Graham calling for this kind of investigation, right?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Look, he chaired the -- the hearing yesterday. He is in charge of the subcommittee that is -- oversees the FBI.
And I think he is -- has a history of, experience as a prosecutor. And he and and -- others, Democrat and Republican, will say that whether it is about Russia and its involvement in -- in the U.S. elections or anything else that has the potential for criminal or -- or -- or untoward activity, you follow the money.
And so it is not surprising given that, that that is what he is saying he wants to look into now. It is surprising, to your point that is -- oh (ph), there's Sean Spicer. I will stop talking.
BALDWIN: There he is. We'll go to the briefing. Thanks, Dana.
SEAN SPICER, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Sorry, I'm late. I've gotten into (ph) some business. Good afternoon.
The president this morning met with General McMaster. As you know, General McMaster is helping lead the team that's organizing the president's upcoming foreign trip.
And this week, the president has been focused on meeting with the team, getting ready for the various stops that he'll be making and meetings that he's going to be having. During his many conversations with world leaders, the president has seen a great desire for America to reengage and be a leader once again in helping solve the world's complex problems.
And he's already made moves both behind the scenes with leaders and his public statements to show them that America is reasserting its leadership on the world stage. These visits are another important part of this American resurgence.
While on the trip, the president will further our strategic objectives in the region, creating new opportunities that will strengthen the United States and her allies while weakening our enemies. I know many of you are interested in the logistical aspects of this trip.
And we'll be trying to have further briefings throughout the week on -- on those aspects of the trip as soon as we can. So stay tuned. Also, on the subject of foreign visits, I'd like to announce that the president has invited the crowned prince of the United Arab Emirates to visit the White House on May 15.
And the crowned prince has accepted. We look forward to welcoming the crowned prince and see the visit as an opportunity to deepen cooperation with a key partner in the Middle East.
Moving on to domestic matters, the vice president spent his morning today on Capitol Hill. He met privately with Majority Leader McConnell and also had individual meetings with other senators.
The discussions focused primarily on the path forward for the American health care act in the Senate and how the administration can work with Congress to craft a tax reform bill that follows the president's priorities -- simplification, providing tax relief to the American families and -- and individuals, and stimulating the economy. The vice president also attended the weekly Senate Republican policy lunch.
Later this afternoon, the vice president will be joined by second lady Karen Pence, General McMaster and Ivanka Trump to welcome more than a hundred and 50 military families of all branches of service for a reception at the White House. The event recognizes National Military Appreciation Month and National Military Spouse Appreciation Day, which takes place this Friday.
The president's cabinet is busy inside and out of the beltway speaking on the administration's agenda with local officials and key stakeholders. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price is in Michigan and West Virginia today, where he will hear from those on the frontlines of the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Also today, the Justice Department announced that attorney general will be speaking on opioids on Thursday at a Drug Enforcement Administration 360 Heroin and Opioid Response Summit in Charleston, South Carolina. The DEA's 360 strategy is designed to help cities and surrounding regions deal with the heroin and prescription drug abuse epidemic and the violent crime associated with it.
This day-long event sponsored by the DEA anti-drug coalitions of America and the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy will bring together stakeholders and professionals working in law enforcement, prevention, education, treatment, recovery, health care and emergency response.
In Washington, Secretary of Commerce, Ross, is speaking this afternoon at the 47th Conference of the Americas, which is taking place at the State Department. The event brings together administration officials, distinguished leaders from across the region to focus on major policy issues affecting the hemisphere.
Also, at the State Department this morning, Secretary Tillerson participated in a signing ceremony for the United States Georgia General Security of Information Agreement with the prime minister of Georgia, a major milestone in security cooperation between our two countries. The president was also pleased to see several top administration officials recently move through the Senate.
Last night, Heather Wilson was confirmed to be secretary of the Air Force and Governor Branstad was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be ambassador to China and is moving on for a vote on the floor of the Senate. The president also looks forward to seeing Dr. Scott Gottlieb, confirmed by the full Senate to serve as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration later today.
Finally, with regard to the Paris Climate Agreement, the president has been meeting with his team for quite a while on this matter. And he will not be making an announcement regarding that agreement until after he returns from the G-7.
With that, I'll be glad to take your questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Sean. We've got two questions for you today. First one is why did the president wait 18 days to fire Mike Flynn after the White House was informed of his conduct and warned that he was a potential target for Russian blackmail because you realize the timing of this makes a lot of folks (ph) think that he wouldn't have been fired if the story had not come out in the media?
SPICER: Well, I think first of all, let's look at the timeline. Sally Yates came here on the 26th of January.
Then she informed the counsel's office that there were materials that were relevant to the situation. It wasn't until about seven days later that they had access to those documents.
After that time, they did what you should do frankly as an element of due process, reviewing the situation. They informed the president right away after they were informed of her -- her giving us a heads- up.
And ultimately, the president made the right decision. But I guess the question or the -- the point that I would put back on you is somebody came over, gave us a heads-up on a situation, told us there were materials.
We were provided those materials seven days later, reviewed those materials, underwent a process of reviewing the situation. And ultimately, the president made a decision and it was the right one.
So I -- I think that the -- the process worked frankly when you think of the time in which we had the information to make the decision that the president made.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you're saying the president stands by that decision and he made the right decision. But why does he continue to defend Mike Flynn?
SPICER: Well, I -- I don't think -- it's -- it's not a question of defending Mike Flynn or not. Hold on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...he should seek immunity?
SPICER: Right. I think Mike Flynn is somebody who honorably served our country in uniform for over 30 years. And I think as he's noted, Lieutenant General Flynn was -- was asked for his resignation because he misled the vice president.
But beyond that, I think he did have an honorable career. He served with distinction in uniform for over 30 years.
And the president does not want to smear a good man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was his role at the White House in those 18 days? Was he still fulfilling his normal national security adviser duties?
SPICER: Yes, I'm not going to get back into it. I will say, as I mentioned, the time...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But don't you think (ph) it's worrisome that he was still doing that when he was a potential target of Russian blackmail?
SPICER: You know, but -- but can I just -- one thing that I think is important to know is let's look at again how this came down. A -- someone who is not exactly a supporter of the president's agenda, who a couple days after this first conversation took place, refused to uphold a lawful order of the president's, who is not exactly someone that -- that was excited about President Trump taking office or his agenda.
She has been...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think the acting secretary (ph) does not like Flynn?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...hold on. Kaitlin (ph), hold on - no, Kaitlin (ph), let me answer the question. She had come here, given a heads- up, told us there were materials.
And at the same time, we did what we should do. Just because someone comes in and gives you a heads-up about something and says, I want to share some information doesn't mean that you'll immediately jump the gun and go take an action.
I think if you flip this scenario and say, what if we had just dismissed somebody because a political opponent of the president had made an utterance, you would argue that it was pretty irrational to act in that manner. We did what we were supposed to do.
The president made ultimately the right decision. And I think he was proven that -- that -- that...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is she a political opponent of the president? She's acting attorney general...
SPICER: She was -- appointed by the Obama administration and a strong opponent -- a supporter of the -- of Clinton. So that's now I think number four.
So Jim (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sean. Are the canceled meetings a sign the president is vacillating on the Paris Accord, and undecided whether to remain in the agreement or withdraw from it?
SPICER: You know, I think it's simply a -- a sign that the president wants to continue to meet with his team, develop a -- a -- meet with not just the -- the national -- the economic piece but his environmental team and come to a decision on what's the best interest of the United States using the expertise that surrounds him.
Well, to (ph) Mara (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the president want another war in Afghanistan?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would winning mean to him?
SPICER: I think reducing the threat, especially when it comes to ISIS and the Taliban.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reducing the threat?
SPICER: Well, I mean, minimizing, eliminating, but obviously, in -- in a best-case scenario, we want major -- I'm going to answer Mara's (ph) question -- I think the answer is is that we want to eliminate the threats that are against our -- our national security, or (ph) pose a threat to our citizens, our allies. So we -- we need to fully eliminate any threat around the globe, frankly, not just in Afghanistan, that poses a threat to our people and our allies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do have a question, if (ph) he considers what to do next and if he wants to commit more troops? At one point, we had a hundred thousand troops there and we didn't eliminate the threat.
Why would 15,000 do the trick if a hundred thousand didn't before?
SPICER: Well, I think that's, you know, that's a very Washington question, meaning, just because you spend more, throw more people doesn't mean you're doing it in the most effective way. I think one of the things that he has asked his national security team to do is to actually think the -- rethink the strategy.
What are we doing to achieve the goals that you are asking about? How do we actually -- how do we win? How do we eliminate the threat?
And I think doing that isn't just a question of throwing money or people, but looking at the mission and the strategy. And that's what the team has been doing holistically, not just in Afghanistan, but the total -- beyond Afghanistan, it's also the way he's asking to look at the threat that ISIS poses (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then when he makes his final decision, will he explain this to the American people or will he just suddenly (ph)...
SPICER: Well, we'll see. I mean, I -- I -- I don't want to get in front of him (ph). I don't know what -- how he's going to do that.
But we'll wait and see and go from there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks a lot, Sean. I have a question about the president's policy concerning Syria. This morning, we learned from the Pentagon that the president approved a plan to directly arm Syrian Kurds against ISIS.
Has the president discussed this plan with the leader of Turkey? And what was the reaction from Turkey?
SPICER: I don't know if he's addressed this to the president yet. I do know that yesterday, the president authorized the Department of Defense to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian democratic forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqah, Syria.
Yes, the SDF (ph) partnered with enabling support from U.S. and coalition forces are the only force on the ground that successfully seized Raqqah in the near future. We're keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partners in Turkey.
We want to reassure the people and the government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally. The U.S. continues to prioritize support for Arab elements of the SDF (ph).
Raqqah and all liberated territory should return to the governance of local Syrian Arabs. The fight for Raqqah will be long and difficult but ultimately, yet another defeat for ISIS and another step towards eliminating the ISIS threat that threatens peace and security in the region and the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The secretary of state is meeting today with his counterpart from Russia today, the foreign minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov. Are you expecting any deliverables from that particular meeting?
SPICER: I think we'll have a readout when that's done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Sean. I've got two brief. First, are you expecting the Afghan review, the ISIS review to be done by the time the president heads to Saudi Arabia?
SPICER: I don't want to -- that's -- that's a question that I'm going to leave up to the national security team. I'm not going to -- the president's not putting a deadline on that.
We're making sure that he -- this is obviously what we announced today as part of that. It is not entirely it. And we will have more as we go forward.
I just don't want to pin down a timeline on it (ph). Let (ph)... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more. In this briefing, you've talked about the president's desire to fully eliminate any threat around the globe to U.S. interests. You've talked about United States wanting to reengage and be a leader once again and reasserting its leadership on the world stage.
Some of the president's supporters are going to hear in those comments maybe a -- a bad omen about the president changing his mind and becoming more interventionist. I'm not saying he wasn't a good interventionist.
He talked about ISIS a fair amount. But what would you tell them about, oh, is he going to embark now on nation-building? Is he going to deepen American involvement in conflicts in -- in Syria and Afghanistan and elsewhere?
SPICER: No, I appreciate that. I think that his priorities remain the same. But he's going to do what he can to make sure that he protects the country and our people and threats that directly affect the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just following up, and correct me if I'm wrong -- I know you will (ph), but the day after it was announced that he was under investigation, Flynn, he met with, if I'm correct, with Pence and the -- and Russians on a phone call. So while he's under investigation, why is he being allowed to participate as the national security adviser?
SPICER: I -- I really don't recall the schedule from that day, Brian (ph). But -- but the point is, again, I think this is -- look, I -- I answered the question a moment ago.
But I think as I went through the timeline, Sally Yates came over here, gave us a heads-up, provided us the opportunity, made it very clear that materials were available for the counsel to review. But -- and -- and we followed that process.
And within 11 days after that, we accepted General Flynn's resignation that the president had asked for.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the point being while he's under investigation...
SPICER: I understand. But...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the...
SPICER: ...look, we're not going to re-litigate the past on this. I think we've been very clear as to what -- what happened and why it happened.
I think the president made the right decision and -- and we've moved on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sean (ph), can you confirm that the meeting today between Ivanka Trump and (inaudible) canceled and if so, why?
SPICER: I -- I don't know. I'll be glad to get back to you on that. I'm not sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And secondly, as it relates to the G-7, you said the decision on the Paris -- Paris climate agreement will be made after the G-7. So does the president feel that he can extract any concessions while he's there?
Does he feel like he can renegotiate it? Or does he just want more time? Why until after the G-7?
SPICER: I think the -- the president wants to make sure he has an opportunity to continue to meet with his team to create the best strategy for this country going forward.
Sara Murray, welcome back, Ms. -- Mrs -- just Mrs. Sara Murray (ph). Congratulations.
MURRAY: Thank you very much. I just want to get back to Olivier's (ph) point. I mean, why shouldn't President Trump's supporters, if he does decide to add more troops to Afghanistan, see that as running counter to what he campaigned on for so long, the notion of America first, the notion of, you know, the fact that we're too involved in foreign entanglements abroad?
He campaigned on that, and the way he's governed, I think from what we've seen in Syria and to what's considering (ph) in Afghanistan, to which he sends (ph) a very different message.
SPICER: I just want to be clear. The -- the one thing that there is a difference between Afghanistan proper and our -- our effort to defeat ISIS. And that's one thing that he was also very clear on in the campaign that (ph) -- and as president, that he is going to do everything he can to fight radical Islamic terrorism, to root out and destroy ISIS.
In some cases, if ISIS, where he has to go into Afghanistan, that's -- they may be synonymous at that point. But they are not always the same, right?
You can be in -- the goal is always going to be defeat ISIS, which is something that he's been very clear on with the American people from the get-go. But that all being said, let's be clear, with the exception of the piece that we announced today, that the president authorized yesterday, no decision has been made.
So let's -- let's not get ahead of what -- what that alternate policy will be.
MURRAY: One other question, can you just give us a better sense of what the president has been doing with his time the last few days? We haven't had very detailed schedules.
We haven't being seeing him publicly. He's only had, you know, one or two meetings. So what is he actually doing all day long?
SPICER: No (ph), thanks. I mean, as I said at the top, the president's going on an nine-day, eight-day trip. He's going, you know, to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Rome, G-7, NATO.
This is an opportunity, next week as I mentioned, he's going to have the crowned prince here. He's got a commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy.
Part of the use of this week is to be meeting with the principals and the head of the directorates of the countries that we're going to ahead of the meetings, where he's receiving extensive briefings throughout the week with his team. He's had several meetings with General McMaster over the last couple of weeks, who's one of the leaders in the effort for this trip.
He's met with the chief of staff, his legislative team who was just meeting when I walked out of the oval office with the executive (ph) part of the economic team. So this is an opportunity for him to get ahead of this first really long foreign trip to make sure that he is on a whole host of issues, whether it's ISIS, whether it's our economic issues or trade issues, to make sure that we -- we go in there, strengthen our relationships, but also make sure that we put America's priorities first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump tweeted yesterday that the story of possible collusion between his campaign and Russia is a hoax. And he questioned when this taxpayer-funded charade would end.
Is the administration trying to set parameters on what Congress and the FBI should investigate?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so, and -- and if that is the case, so what was -- what did the president mean by when will this charade end?
SPICER: Well, I think even Director Clapper said yesterday when asked if there was any evidence that he had seen of collusion, he said no. And I think that at some point, you know, I said it before in this briefing room, but we have to take no for an answer.
He said that the -- the director of National Intelligence asked has there been anything you've seen additionally that shows collusion. He answered very clearly, the answer is no.
And it continues to be no. And I think that there's a point at which all of the things that the president is doing economically and in national-security-wise, to move the country forward, is this -- this needs to -- we need to take no for an answer and move onto the issues. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But is it -- but is it the role of Congress and
the FBI to say when a matter should be concluded and not the White House? And then also following up on that, Senator Lindsey Graham has said that he wants to look into President Trump's business dealings to see if there are any connections to Russia.
Would the White House cooperate with that?
SPICER: Yes. So the president obviously was aware of Senator Graham's suggestion after he made it today. And he's fine with that.
He has no business in Russia. He has no connections to Russia. So he welcomes that.
In fact, he has already charged a leading law firm in Washington, D.C. to send a certified letter to Senator Graham to that point, that he has no connections to Russia. So that should be a really easy look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Sean. Two questions on two different topics. First, you said that Sally Yates was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. What is that based on?
SPICER: I think she's made some, you know, I think it was widely rumored to play a large role in the Justice Department if Hillary Clinton had win -- won.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So on a -- on a different topic, I have a question about that fired usher, Angella Reid. It was reported that she received a generous severance package.
I'm wondering how do you give a substantial severance package to a government employee?
SPICER: I don't know. I'd be glad to get back to you on that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday, he learned that, well, Sally Yates had said that she learned of the first immigration order, the travel ban, by reading the newspaper. And I'm wondering why the acting attorney general wasn't privy to that.
Was that because she was a Clinton -- Obama -- Obama appointee, Clinton supporter? Why was the acting attorney general not notified?
She had just met that same day that it was signed on (ph) -- so he could have mentioned (ph) as well.
SPICER: I -- I don't -- I don't know why she wasn't. Again, I think if we want to re-litigate the first executive order at the time, we talked about all of the proper individuals that needed to be made aware of, or made aware of at the time. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They did not. And you (ph) told us that (ph)...
SPICER: I don't -- again, I think I also, just to be clear, again, remember, this is someone who ultimately didn't even want to enforce it. So to prove -- I mean, to suggest that somehow (ph)...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, she wanted to enforce it (ph) until she knew (ph) about it.
SPICER: I -- I understand that. But I think ultimately, we were proven right about who needed to be in the loop on that because she ultimately chose to disregard the president's lawful order.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was (ph) on purpose, though...
SPICER: No, I didn't say that. Please don't -- I did not say that. What I'm saying is that we discussed at the time of the executive order being signed back in January the process by which that was followed. The appropriate people then were -- were in the loop on that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, Sean. Yesterday, in her testimony, Sally Yates said that she arranged for White House Counsel to view the evidence against General Flynn at the DOJ. But wasn't around to see if that happened.
You said that that took place seven days after her initial meeting. Was the evidence against Flynn related to the president at that time?
Or did the president learn about the allegations against Flynn through the media 18 days later?
SPICER: So the -- following the meeting, the White House Counsel immediately informed the president and senior white house personnel when she first came here. Late on Friday, the 27th, Yates and the White House counsel met again to discuss certain issues that -- that she had left unclear at the time.
And then those -- the president, as you know, fired her on the 30th of January after she refused to enforce the president's legal executive order contrary to the advice of current (ph) DOJ officials at the time, who had given -- told her that this was legal. She overrode them, didn't do this.
The White House didn't get access to that underlying evidence described by Ms. Yates until Thursday, February 2, which is a week after Ms. Yates first met with the White House Counsel. And then that's when I think the -- the -- the full sort of review began once they had had access to that information.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the president informed at that time...
SPICER: I know he was informed at the front end of what she had told him. And the counsel had informed him that they were going to then seek the information that she said was available to them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Different topics (ph) for you. I want to follow up on what a couple of folks have already mentioned here. You described in this briefing what Sally Yates did as a heads-up with Don McGahn.
She has testified she came to the White House twice in person to meet with Don again on the 26th and 27th to do more. She said that (ph) simply offered to provide materials.
She said she encouraged the White House to act and expressed real concern about Mike Flynn being compromised by the Russians. On the 28th, Saturday, Mike Flynn sat in on that oval office phone call with President Putin.
Is that the right call (ph)?
SPICER: Again, I think to -- what -- what you have is somebody who was an Obama appointee coming in and saying, I'm giving -- I get it but -- but no, no, but at that moment, sure, you have someone who you have to wonder why they are telling you something to the point where they had to come back a second time because what they were saying was unclear.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...and before a (ph) second topic, you said it was widely rumored that she wanted to be part of the Clinton White House potentially.