Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Slammed for Tweet; White House Press Briefing. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired June 29, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Watching. The news continues right now right here on CNN.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.

In just a couple moments, the White House briefing will begin. For the second time this week, the administration is allowing the cameras to record. And there are multiple major headlines that dominate reporter questions today, all stemming from events happening today. Fewer than six hours, the president's travel ban will partially go into effect. Also, two of his immigration laws will begin debate on the House floor. The president will be meeting with the new South Korean president amid heightened tensions with North Korea. And, of course, there is his party's efforts to draft a revised health plan by tomorrow to make good on their seven-year promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

So, when the president woke up this morning, he could have tweeted about any of the above. Issues that affect Americans every day. Issues that landed him in the White House. Instead, he chose to viciously insult a female journalist. Here is what the president of the United States tweeted today about the hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Quote, "I heard poorly rated 'Morning Joe,' that's their program, speaks badly of me, don't watch anymore, then how come low IQ crazy Mika, along with psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row around New Year's Eve and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a facelift. I said no."

Just a note here. If the CEO of any major business in this country tweeted something similar, they'd be fired. Period. And, remember, Sean Spicer says the president's tweets should be considered official statements from the White House. Today, this is how our White House chooses to speak about women.

Let's begin with our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who is there.

Jim, the White House -- who is it, Sarah Huckabee Sanders today -- bracing for all kinds of questions on this one.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right. And if you thought that there was always, you know, intense coordination going on here in terms of what days they're on camera and what days they're off camera, this would be one of those cases where they probably would prefer to be off camera. But, no, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, from what we understand, up until the last second, will very much be on camera here when she walks out to the podium here, hopefully in a few moments, to take questions from reporters.

The Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, will be here as well. From what we understand, he'll be talking about some sort of policy announcement. We'll have more details on that shortly.

But make no mistake, this is a day where they would probably prefer the cameras to be shut off because undoubtedly, Brooke, a lot of the questions in this room, and I would suspect right off the bat, will be about the president's tweets, those appalling, offensive tweets earlier this morning aimed at Mika Brzezinski. And the White House, at this point, is not really offering any kind of apology or saying that the president has any regrets. As a matter of fact, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who will be in this room in just a few moments, said earlier this morning on Fox News that this is an example of how the president punches back and that when he is punched by Hollywood liberal elites, this is how he responds.

Now, we should point out, the president's problem today is not with Hollywood liberal elites. It's with members of his own party. Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lindsey Graham, former presidential candidate Jeb Bush have all issued tweets within the last several hours condemning the president for these remarks. House Speaker Paul Ryan was at his own news conference earlier this morning saying that this was not appropriate. So, Brooke, plenty of slings coming from his own party as of this hour on this subject.

Now, we should point out, there is obviously other news coming out of this White House today. The president's advisers just told reporters in the last several moments that the president will be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 next week. That's obviously very big news. And were it not for the president's tweets earlier this morning, it probably would be the news that would dominate the day, not to mention that the president is going to be talking about his energy policy later on this afternoon. But despite all of that, my suspicion, Brooke, is we're going to be talking about tweets for a good portion of this briefing today.


BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you. We'll continue on, on this.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BALDWIN: We'll take it live as soon as it happens.

The president not the only one having to answer for his outrageously offensive tweet. Every -- we expect really almost every Republican in Congress to be at least asked about it, if it hasn't happened already. And the top Republican in the House was among the first. Here is House Speaker Paul Ryan.

[14:04:43] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Speak first with all of you, and take a few questions regarding a recent announcement on sanctions and, as always, I will be back after to answer your questions.


Today, the Trump administration is continuing its efforts against the government of North Korea. Despite multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, imposing international sanctions, the government of North Korea continues its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: (In proggress) -- to speak first with all of you and take a few questions regarding a recent announcement on sanctions. And, as always, I will be back after to answer your questions.

MNUCHIN: Thank you.

Today the Trump administration is continuing its efforts against the government of North Korea.

MNUCHIN: Despite multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions imposing international sanctions, the government of North Korea continues its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Today, Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has found the Bank of Dandong to be a foreign financial institution of primary money-laundering concern under section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. This bank has served as a gateway for North Korea to access the U.S. and international financial systems, facilitating millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The United States will not stand for such action. This will require U.S. banks to ensure that the Bank of Dandong does not access the U.S. financial system directly or indirectly through other foreign banks. This action reaffirms the Treasury Department's commitment to ensure that North Korea is cut off from the U.S. financial system.

In addition, the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control has sanctioned two individuals and one entity for their continued support of North Korea's activities. While today's actions are directed at Chinese individuals and entities, we look forward to continuing working closely with the government of China to stop illicit financing involving North Korea.

We are in no way targeting China with these actions. We will be meeting with China and other countries at the G-20 next week to further our efforts to cut off North Korea's illicit activities.

North Korea's provocative, destabilizing and inhumane behavior will not be tolerated. We are committed to targeting North Korea's external enablers and maximizing economic pressure on the regime until it ceases its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. And with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much (inaudible) North Korea. Recently the congressman introduced a North Korea travel ban. Do you -- I mean, do your Treasury Department have any (inaudible) with the North Korean (inaudible)?

MNUCHIN: I have no comments on that today. Although I will say we will continue to look at a range of options as we are very serious about them stopping their activity. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you quantify the financial activity that you're being -- that you're trying to stop today, and the access direct and indirect that this particular bank had to U.S. financial markets?

MNUCHIN: Well, this is very significant since this is the first bank that we've cut off under this. And that we will continue to look at these actions and continue to roll out sanctions. As I said, in this case it's millions of dollars, but we are committed to cutting off all illegal funds going to North Korea.

QUESTION: (inaudible), Mr. Secretary.

MNUCHIN: Yes, so when we put sanctions...


QUESTION: ... what they're doing now and what you're trying to stop?

MNUCHIN: This bank will not be able to access the U.S. financial system either directly or indirectly. So it's a very significant action.


QUESTION: ... Secretary, you made clear that this is not a punishment against China, but obviously the White House wants to be putting pressure on Beijing to take action against North Korea. Are you satisfied that China will see it that way and with what China is doing currently against North Korea?

MNUCHIN: Well, I think, as you know, President Trump and President Xi have had very productive conversations about North Korea, and we appreciate their work and hope they will continue to work with us. Notwithstanding that, we are taking these actions to show the seriousness in which we are going to deal with this.

In the back?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Can you talk more about the link between this specific bank and the government of North Korea? We're trying to get a better picture of what exactly they were funding in North Korea.

MNUCHIN: Yeah, I'm not going to go into the specifics of that because it does involve certain intelligence. But again, I can tell you we have very specific intelligence. And again, we will follow the money and cut off the money. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, would you be able to explain to us -- I know you did the research -- the actual economic impact this is going to have on the North Koreans, and how that economic impact negatively may cause them a change in their positions?

MNUCHIN: Well, I think, as you know, in Iran, these sanctions were very effective. And that's what brought Iran to the table. And we will continue to work with our allies and we will continue to speak to people at the G-20. We are firmly committed to work with other nations to cut off illicit financing.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, was China given a heads-up in any way about the action that you're announcing today?

And you used the term that -- in -- in your statement. Is China an enabler as it relates to North Korea?

MNUCHIN: Again, I'm not going to comment specifically on our behind- the-scenes conversations. We've obviously had very productive conversations with them.

Again, as I said, this is not directed at China. This is directed at a bank as well as individuals and entities in China. And again, whether they're in China or they're anyone else, we will continue with sanctions.

QUESTION: Has North Korea simply moved their -- their assets from -- from this particular bank to another bank in China? The -- are -- are they...


MNUCHIN: Again, if we find other activity, we will sanction other entities. Nobody's off-limits.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up on China. Can you just characterize whether you think China's doing enough?

Because last week, the president tweeted, "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi in China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried."

It sounded like he was giving up on China. Has he?

MNUCHIN: I don't think the president is giving up in any sense. I think we will continue to work with China and everyone else.

The president is firmly committed that we will cut the money off to North Korea until they behave properly.

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: ... the South Korean leader today?

QUESTION: Let me ask you a few here, if you don't mind. That's two different topics.

One, how much do you feel that China can actually move the needle on North Korea?

Two, in terms of tax reform, you say you've got a hundred folks over there, roughly, at the Treasury Department dealing with that issue. Are there any contingency plans in place in case health care doesn't get done?

And thirdly, Janet Yellen. How much is the administration -- is the administration seriously considering her to remain on as Fed chair?

MNUCHIN: Well, that -- that's an awful lot of questions. So, let -- let -- let me -- let me work backwards.

Again, no decisions have been made in regards to the Fed chair. Gary Cohn and I will at some point make recommendations to the president, but no decisions have been made on that.

In regards to tax reform, I think, as you've heard Gary and I say, we are very committed to get tax reform done this year. It is one of the president's top priorities for economic growth. I think the people of America understand that, that we need economic growth and we're committed to doing that.

I expect that health care hopefully will get done. But regardless, we are committed to getting tax reform done.

And you had so many questions, I forgot your first one.

QUESTION: And -- and then, how much -- let me actually follow up with you on tax reform, if you don't mind.

Paul Ryan had said today that things are on track. Why should the American public believe that things are actually on track with -- when what we see what's going on with health care reform, and it seems like the timeline keeps getting pushed?

MNUCHIN: Why -- why shouldn't the American public believe it? Of course, they should believe it. We've said that, Speaker Ryan has said that, Chairman Hatch has said it. We are all 100 percent committed to getting tax reform done this year.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary Mnuchin -- Secretary, in February you received a letter from law makers suggesting the Treasury Department should consider sanctioning the Bank of China. My question to you is have you reconsidered that idea? Do you think that idea is on the table?

And then the second question I had is about the debt ceiling. My understanding is that the debt ceiling drop-dead time for you all is October. Does that give Congress additional time in your mind, or would you still like them to act earlier?

MNUCHIN: I haven't given any specifics in regards to the drop- dead date. What I have said is that I hope that Congress acts before they leave. Yet we do have contingency plans if they don't so that the market shouldn't be concerned.

But again, I think for the benefit of everybody, the sooner that they do this, the better.

And as it relates to banks, again, I think as you've seen, we've taken very significant action today, we will continue to take very significant action, rolling out additional sanctions on North Korea until they stop their behavior.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary...

QUESTION: Secretary, one question on indirect access to the banking system. Are you aware of other banks that are provided similar access to North Korea through the international financial system? And what other banks are you prepared to take steps against going forward?

MNUCHIN: Again, let me just say, we have a team of people, both in Treasury and working with the intelligence agencies. And as we see other banks or individuals or entities, you can expect we will continue to roll out additional sanctions.

This is something we take very seriously. We will be having discussions with our counterparties at the G-20. This is a big priority of ours.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary...

QUESTION: Secretary, a follow-up...


QUESTION: ... you -- you said that this is not about targeting China, but this is aimed at a Chinese bank.

Does it speak to a message that you're trying to send to China in any way, specifically right before the G-20? Or is this really an indication of how limited your options are in terms of just dealing with North Korea directly?

MNUCHIN: Well, first of all, I wouldn't say in any way it's limited in -- in what our options are. Quite the contrary.

We are committed and we will work with everybody. And nothing's off the table. Where we see illicit financing, we will stop it.

And there's no message before the G-20. The message to everybody at the G-20 is, this is a serious issue, we're going to work with everybody, but if there is illicit financing going on, we will cut it off from the U.S. financial system, which has significant impacts.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. You're saying that in no way this is a message aimed at China?

MNUCHIN: I specifically said in my comments this wasn't aimed at China. We continue to lurk -- we continue to work with them.

Again, this is about North Korea, and this is about how serious we're taking this. And, kind of, whether it's China or anybody else, we will take this seriously. QUESTION: Does this help with the release of the three Americans still detained...


MNUCHIN: I'm not going to make any comments about that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, at the end of Kristen's (ph) question here, you said, quote, "The president's firmly committed that we will cut the money off to North Korea until they behave properly."

How are you defining success with that? In other words, what are you exactly looking for...


MNUCHIN: I think you're going to know success when you see it.

QUESTION: Well, no. I'm asking how do you and the administration...


MNUCHIN: Again, I think you're going to -- I think -- I think everybody will know success. Their behavior is unacceptable and it will be very clear -- kind of -- we want them to stop doing tests of the ballistic missile programs, and others. It's very clear.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I want to ask you something that a lot of people don't understand, and you're uniquely qualified to explain.

The administration and Congress are saying there will be $321 billion in savings from the health care bills that are out there. But isn't that because people and benefits are being taken away? So isn't this really just a takeaway?

MNUCHIN: Not at all, OK?

And one of the flaws of the scoring on the CBO on this when you look at the number of people is that -- again, there's a lot of people, when given the option, will decide not to elect to take this health care because it's a bad deal. That doesn't mean people are losing health care.

I think everybody knows Obamacare was just a giant tax hike on the economy. It slowed down the economy. It's another reason why we've continued to have sub-2 percent growth for the last eight years. And this administration is 100 percent focused on creating economic growth, creating jobs, creating proper wages and getting this economy back to 3 percent or higher.

Yes, right here in the front?

QUESTION: First of all, congratulations.

MNUCHIN: Thank you very much.


QUESTION: I've got a couple of dorky finance questions.

Could you talk about -- just if push came to shove, would you advise for prioritizing debt payments or not?

And do you believe that CFIUS review of Chinese investment into the U.S. should be more careful or more involved?

MNUCHIN: Well, again, let me just make a comment on CFIUS.

I do chair CFIUS. I take it very seriously. And I can tell you the reviews are very careful and very involved no matter who's on the other side. It's very important for national security and we will use that to the maximum powers.

And in regards to prioritization, again, I think that Congress should act quickly, raise the debt ceiling, and we should pay our debts on time.


QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I was going to say congratulations too. (LAUGHTER)

MNUCHIN: Thank you.

QUESTION: Two questions.

First, you were a participant, along with Madam Lagarde, at the last IMF-World Bank meeting, and you certainly know there was some concern about what the future U.S. policy is toward involvement with the International Monetary Fund.

What is the U.S. policy toward that and toward involvement in financial relief in the eurozone?

MNUCHIN: So, let me just say, I've had the pleasure of meeting with Christine, you know, at least a dozen times.

I think the IMF plays a very important role in looking at currency and world economies. The IMF was very helpful in regards to stabilizing the Greece situation and working with Europe. I think that could have been a major problem this summer that would have had significant concerns to the markets and the economy. And I think she was a very important part of those negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, my second question was, how do you feel about maintaining the U.S. level of support at the IMF, current level, and specifically, as a part of the relief for Greece? Because the U.S. role is through the IMF in relief of the Greek financial crisis.

MNUCHIN: Yes, well, let me just comment.

The IMF commitment to Greece was quite small. I'm not even sure that Greece are necessarily going to use that, so I think the significance was really more of a stamp of approval.

And again, there's no direct cost to the U.S. or the taxpayers. And we're supportive of the IMF, although we'll look at our contributions to the IMF like we look at all contributions: very carefully, and making sure we're spending the taxpayers' money properly.

MNUCHIN: In the back, yes.

QUESTION: Can you clarify which entities are being sanctioned? Because the paperwork that OFAC sent out also includes Dalian Global Unity Shipping, two Chinese individuals; does not mention the Bank of Dandong in that paperwork.

So, it is four total entities...


MNUCHIN: So, there's two different actions. There is a FinCEN action against the Bank of Dandong. And then there are the three OFAC sanctions, as you've pointed out.

QUESTION: So we could see a release from which part of Treasury? You said FinCEN?

MNUCHIN: You will see FinCEN. There will also be a release on the bank.

QUESTION: OK. And did you communicate this in advance to Beijing?

MNUCHIN: Again, I'm not -- I'm not making any comments on our behind- the-scenes, how we can communicate.


QUESTION: ... tax reform. You're a mathematical man. What are the chances that we get a 15 percent corporate tax rate or a 25 percent tax rate in the final bill?

MNUCHIN: Let me just comment. Tax reform is a pass-fail exercise. OK? And we're going to get this passed for a plan that's good for the American public. So we are working closely with the House and the Senate. And we're going to get a bill passed that's going to be great for this economy, great for Americans, putting people back to work.


QUESTION: How is it possible for reducing the funding source for the health care to lead to lower premiums and expanded coverage?

MNUCHIN: Again, I'm here primarily to talk about sanctions and tax reform. But I will comment again on health care, although it's not my primary area. The health care that's been in place is a bad deal for the American public. OK? And that's why a lot of people aren't using it. OK? It was a giant tax hike to the American economy. And premiums have been going up a ton.

So we're looking at making the system more competitive so people can actually afford it.


QUESTION: ... heard from your counterpart at the Department of Homeland Security that airports all over the world have to step up to aviation security because there's this threat. This is the product of a months-long discussion within the interagency process that resulted in yesterday's decision.

I'm wondering if you, sir, are convinced that the potential security risks -- are you satisfied that the security risk outweighs any potential economic risk if, for example, certain airlines are cut off or certain airports are cut off if they don't comply?

MNUCHIN: Well, let me just say, I can think of nobody better than General Kelly to protect our country in this position. Again, I've had the opportunity to discuss these issues with him at the National Security Council. I'm not going to comment specifically, but let me make it clear. The safety of the American public is our utmost concern. And we will never, ever put economic issues, OK, where we would risk the lives of the American public. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on tax reform, are you going to be revenue-neutral? And if the CBO and JCT you don't get the growth or the revenue, what are you going to do?

MNUCHIN: Again, let me just first say there will be complete transparency when we come out with the plan. We are in the process of listening sessions. We've literally met with hundreds and hundreds of CEOs, think tanks, various different groups. I was over at the House twice today talking with people at the House of Representatives in groups.

We've been at the Senate. We're listening. And as we develop this plan, we've said we're going to have a responsible plan that is paid for and we do believe in dynamic scoring, and we're going to take that into account.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the -- the GDP for the first quarter came out today at 1.4 percent. The percent was slightly better than economists anticipated. But during the campaign, the president repeatedly promised to have growth rates of between 3 and 4 percent.

Two questions. First, how much of that 1.4 percent is attributable to the actions of this administration or inactions? And secondly, when are we going to start seeing the 3 to 4 percent growth rate that the president promised?

MNUCHIN: So again, I think I've been very clear on what our projections are for growth, and that we believe that we can get to 3 percent or higher GDP. We've been very clear that that's not this year. That's not next year. It will take some time to scale in. Our projection over the 10-year period is actually 2.9 percent, which I think is quite conservative; scaling up to 3 and staying there, which I think both the president and I believe we can do better than 3 percent. So our projections and the budget are quite conservative. I think that to the extent we can get health care passed; to the extent we can get tax reform passed; to the extent we can roll back regulatory issues which we're working on very carefully, both in financial and in energy and in other areas, we are very comfortable that we will hit these growth projections.

MNUCHIN: I'm going to take two more questions, and then I'm going to have to turn it over to the superstar over here.


QUESTION: Thank you.

The president said before that "If China is not going to help solve the North Korea problem, then the U.S. will." He made it clear that he doesn't think that China is currently doing enough.

So where does he stand on the U.S. taking unilateral action? And is there a deadline, such as G-20 meetings, ultimatums -- or a deadline for which the U.S. would need -- sorry, that China would need to do more?

MNUCHIN: I think the president has made it very clear that if there are deadlines he is not going to advertise those deadlines. So I am not going to make any specific comments as to whether he has a deadline; or, if he has a deadline, when it is. That would make absolutely no sense.

I can assure you, we will have conversations with our G-20 counterparts about this next week. And we've been having these conversations, and we will continue to do more on this.

One more question. Yes, right here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

There was a little bit of a legislative SNAFU, but it does appear the House and Senate will pass sanctions legislation related to Russia -- includes a broad range of sanctions. I don't think we've gotten a straight answer from the White House on whether the president would support that. Does the administration support that? Is Treasury prepared to implement those sanctions?

MNUCHIN: Well, let me just be clear.

Again, not only the sanctions that we have on North Korea today. We have sanctions on Iran already. We will continue to put more sanctions on Iran around their ballistic missile and other programs. You've seen we've used sanctions in other areas. We will continue to use these.

So, notwithstanding anything Congress passes, I can assure you, this administration and the Treasury Department will use sanctions to the maximum amount available by law.

We don't need Congress to tell us to put on more. We're going to do more whether they tell us or not.

But anyway, we look...


(QUESTION): (Inaudible)...

MNUCHIN: Russia sanctions, we got plenty of those on as well.

So again, thank you, everybody. A pleasure to be here.

SANDERS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

At the top of yesterday's briefing you heard from Tom Homan and John Huber about how important the two immigration bills the House will be voting on today are in our efforts to secure the border and protect our communities.

This morning, Secretary Kelly spoke about Kate's Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act on the Hill, important legislation that is supported by 80 percent of Americans.

Yesterday, the president heard the tragic stories of the innocent American lives that were ended by a violent individual who should never have been allowed into our country or our communities: a star high school athlete from Los Angeles who was killed by a member of the 18th Street Gang while his mother was serving her second tour of duty in Iraq; and Joshua Wilkerson, who was brutally beaten and tortured to death by his classmate in Texas, who then set his body on fire; Christy Pina, a 14-year-old girl who was raped and murdered by a man who had multiple warrants out for other crimes involving kidnapping and rape. Twenty-five years later, he was finally located in his native Mexico, where he fled after murdering Christy in 1990.

The president also heard from federal immigration officials and local sheriffs who are on the front lines of this fight to protect innocent American lives.

These laws will help to empower the federal government, in partnership with local authorities, to more easily locate and remove these violent individuals and prevent so-called sanctuary cities from receiving benefits from the very agency whose rules they are refusing to enforce.

The president looks forward to seeing these common-sense proposals pass the House today, so we can be one step closer to helping fulfill his campaign promise to help stop these horrific crimes.

Yesterday, we were disappointed to see that people living in 14 out of Nevada's 18 counties will be left without a single choice on the state's Obamacare exchanges, specifically citing difficulties due to a shrinking and deteriorating market. And to add insult to injury, the thousands of people living in Nevada without access to health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges will then be taxed for not having insurance that isn't even available to them. This is yet another reminder that Obamacare is continuing to collapse, leaving millions of people around the country suffering in the consequences of this failed law.

The vice president is back on the Hill this afternoon for one-on- one meetings on health care as work continues this week toward repealing and replacing Obamacare.

SANDERS: We are keeping these American families, business owners and individuals at the front of our minds.


They've been paying ever-increasing premiums and --