Return to Transcripts main page


Live On-Camera White House Daily Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 29, 2017 - 14:30   ET


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: -- families, business owners and individuals at the front of our minds.


They've been paying ever-increasing premiums and still losing their plans and their doctors. And it's time for Republicans in the Senate to fulfill their promise to the American people and come together, around a consensus plan, to fix this broken system.

In terms of the schedule for today, this afternoon, the president will make a big speech on the importance of American energy dominance at the Department of Energy. The United States has been reliant on other countries for our energy for decades, but with new innovations and advances, particularly in liquid natural gas, we have had the opportunity to not only become energy independent, but to use our abundant resources as an important tool in advancing our global interests.

I'm going to let the president get into more details on how we're going to do that later this afternoon. Hopefully you'll all tune in.

There have been a few questions asked this week that I -- and Sean and I both said that we would get back to you on. I want to address a couple of those now.

On Monday, Sean was asked how we knew that the Supreme Court's ruling on the president's travel executive order was 9-0, when the case was -- when the decision was announced.

In fact, the decision which stayed the lower court's injunction on the president's executive order for all affected individuals without a bona fide connection to a person or entity in the United States was unanimous on the point that the stay should granted (ph) at least to that extent.

Three justices would have gone further and stayed the injunctions in full. No justice dissented on the point that the stay should be granted in part. And no justice indicated that he or she did not participate in the decision.

Jennifer Jacobs from Bloomberg also asked about the IMF's projection about U.S. growth. This morning, the Commerce Department revised first quarter GDP upward, but both the IMF and the Commerce Department's figures show we still have much more work to do. The president has spoken out clearly about the need for faster and more sustainable economic growth that will create jobs and raise incomes for Americans. The IMF has expressed support for a lot of the president's policies, including more infrastructure spending, reforming our tax code, boosting educational outcomes, and adopting family-friendly policies. The president is also working to end job- killing government regulations and negotiate good trade policies that help workers.

Lastly, Jordan Fabian from The Hill asked what deal-breakers exist in Senate negotiations on the health care bill. The president isn't going to negotiate in public, but he has laid out his priorities to repeal and replace Obamacare with a system that provides greater choices and better coverage at lower cost.

I can tell you that Obamacare is failing and a new policy is around the corner.

From our ongoing negotiations, we're confident that any amendments the Senate agrees to will make the bill stronger.

The other bill out there that's gained the support of a majority of House Democrats is the Bernie Sanders single-payer plan, that would cost the government $32 trillion over the next decades. 113 House Democrats, including the DNC vice chair, have signed on to this approach.

The president believes that it's completely unaffordable and creates a one-size-fits-all government approach to health care. That bill and others like it on the other side that have been proposed are clearly deal-breakers.

Now that I have answered a couple of the questions from earlier this week, I'd be happy to take a few now.

John Roberts?

QUESTION: Sarah, in reference to the president's tweets this morning that have been a matter of some discussion today, you said earlier on Fox News that the president has a right to defend himself when he is attacked. And it's no secret that this particular program has been very critical of him.

However, the nature of the tweets this morning has drawn condemnation from people on Capitol Hill, including the speaker of the House, Senator Graham, Senator Susan Collins, all of whom are allies of the president. Did -- did the president go too far with this tweet in its deeply personal nature?

SANDERS: I don't think so.

I mean, I think that the president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by members on that program. And I think he's been very clear that when gets attacked, he's going to hit back.

I think the American people elected somebody who's tough, who's smart and who's a fighter, and that's Donald Trump. And I don't think that it's a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire. The things that this show has called him -- and not just him, but numerous members of his staff, including myself and many others, are very deeply personal. So to then turn and pretend like, you know, this approach is -- I -- I -- I guess it's kind of like we're living in the Twilight Zone. They do this day after day after day, and then the president responds and defends himself, and everybody is appalled and blown away.

Frankly, if this had happened in the previous administration, the type of attacks launched on this program, the things they say -- utterly stupid, personality disorder, mentally ill, constant personal attacks, calling multiple members liars -- liars to their faces, while they're sitting on their programs -- the rest of the media would've said, "Guys, no way. Hold on." But nobody does that.

SANDERS: But the president, he's not going to step back. He's showed that. And that's exactly what he's...


QUESTION: But if I could just follow on that, Sarah -- if I could just follow on that.

A couple of the criticisms from supporters of the president have been that this particular tweet was beneath the dignity of the office. Where does the president draw that line on the dignity of the office?

SANDERS: Look, I think that he shows that every day in the decisions that he's making; the focus and the priorities he's laid out in his agenda. But he's not going to sit back and be attacked by the liberal media, Hollywood elites. And they hit him, he's going to hit back.

QUESTION: Sarah, I have a health care question, but on this -- just one other aspect of it. Some have suggested in their tweet response or public announcements that the president misconstrued one of the messages that should have been gathered from the shooting that involved Steve Scalise and others -- the hostility of the verbal environment can create an atmosphere of violence.

I'm not saying that, but members of Congress have said that about this particular tweet. I know that episode affected the president and those here at the White House personally very importantly and deeply.

Do you have any reaction to that sentiment that conversations like this create an atmosphere that is either dangerous or one we need to avoid?

SANDERS: The president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary. And he was simply pushing back and defending himself.


QUESTION: ... a health care question. So, you talked about the president's overall priorities. Last night, late last night, as part of the amendment, an evolution of the Senate draft, $45 million was put on the table for opioid treatment and health savings accounts can be used, according to this new draft, to pay premiums in the future. Does the president support those two initiatives? And why does he believe they make the bill better? Specifically, does he believe that opioid allocation will be sufficient -- because many people do not -- to address that problem?

SANDERS: I'm not going to negotiate the details, the back and forth in public. But I can tell you the president has obviously made fighting the opioid crisis a priority for him. And I would imagine he would be supportive of pushing resources towards that.

QUESTION: How about health savings accounts?

SANDERS: I think we're always looking for ways to add additional flexibilities, and something certainly to be considered.


QUESTION: I want to go back to the shooting and remember what President Trump said then. He said, "Our country will perhaps become closer, more unified, so important." Does his tweet this morning, his series of tweets help to unify the country?

SANDERS: Again, Kristen (ph), I think I've asked this -- this question has been asked and I've answered it several times.

QUESTION: Does this (inaudible) help to unify the country to do what he said he wanted to see happen in the wake of that shooting?

SANDERS: Look, again, I think that the president is pushing back against people who attack him day after day after day. Where is the outrage on that? You guys are constantly coming and asking, like, is this OK. He does it one time. This is day after day after day. And it's not just the president. The only person that I see a war on is this president and everybody that works for him.

QUESTION: Sarah, two questions to follow up on this. One is that I understand your point, but he's the president of the United States. They are cable news anchors. So he has to stand to a higher standard, one.

And two, you talk about criticism. He said the former President Obama wasn't born in this country, right? So, he clearly is a part of criticizing the past president who was not immune to criticism himself. So I wonder how you make that argument.

SANDERS: Again, I'm -- I think I've been pretty clear about when the president gets hit, he's going to hit back harder, which is what he did here today.


QUESTION: ... doesn't he have to meet a higher standard than cable news anchors?

SANDERS: Look, I don't think you can expect someone to be personally attacked day after day, minute by minute, and sit back. Look, the American people elected a fighter. They didn't elect somebody to sit back and do nothing. That's -- they knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump and he won overwhelmingly.

QUESTION: Sarah, how is insulting a woman on Twitter being a fighter?


QUESTION: What about the impact of statements like this on his effectiveness? There was a Marist poll that said 68 percent of registered voters say the president's tweets are reckless and distracting; only 22 percent say that they're effective and informative. And Republicans on this question are split down the middle. Half of Republicans say that they're reckless and distracting.

So, how -- how can you argue that this is something the president must do? SANDERS: I answered this question yesterday in regards to the poll. I think any time the president has a chance to speak directly to the American people, it's a good thing.


QUESTION: Sarah, how do you feel about the president attacking another woman specifically for her looks? And what does that show as an example to how men should be treating other women?

SANDERS: Look, everybody wants to make this a -- an attack on a woman and equality (ph). What about the constant attacks that he receives or the rest of us? I'm a woman, and I've been attacked by this show multiple times. But I don't cry foul because of it.

I think that, you know, you want to create this false narrative: one hand it's, like, let's treat everybody equally, and on the other hand, they attack, attack, attack, and he responds and apparently that's wrong.


SANDERS: I'm sorry, guys, I've answered this question.


QUESTION: Why can't he take the heat?

SANDERS: Hallie (ph)...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) and this kind of gets to the point that's been made, and...

SANDERS: Exactly. This is the point that's been made, so I'm not sure why we're continuing to answer the same question.


QUESTION: ... talking about the president is a fighter (ph). I just want to put it in -- because you talk about being personally affected by all of this as well, and that nothing is wrong with the president fighting fire with fire, is the argument that you're making.

So I would ask if you -- sort of on a personal level, you have stood here and talked about your family from this podium. Are you going to tell your kids this behavior is OK?

SANDERS: Look, I've been asked before when it comes to role models, as a person of faith, I think we all have one perfect role model. And when I'm asked that question, I point to God. I point to my faith. And that's where I always tell me kids to look.

None of us are perfect, and certainly there's only one that is, and that's where I would point that direction.

QUESTION: I want to ask you my follow-up question just on more policy points with the G-20 coming up...

SANDERS: That would be a change in tone. Policy.

QUESTION: I disagree with that. I think we talk about policy a lot here.

But I want to ask about his meeting with President Putin that is coming up next week that has just been confirmed by Gary Cohn and H.R. McMaster, and a definitive answer from you on whether the president will bring up election interference.

It is clearly the biggest topic between the U.S. and Russia right now, the fact that Moscow meddled in the election. Is the president going to press Putin on that?

SANDERS: Obviously I'm not going to get ahead of the president's conversation. As we typically do, I would imagine we'll have a readout after that conversation takes place.

John (ph)?

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SANDERS: I'll come to you next.

QUESTION: OK. Thanks a lot, Sarah.

The president's tweet today, does it help his legislative agenda? Does it help him win the votes of those nine senators who've come out against that Senate bill; Senator Collins, Senator Murkowski, for instance? What's your view on that?

SANDERS: Again, I think we're just looking for new ways to rephrase this question.

The president was attacked, he responded. There's nothing more I have to add to that.


QUESTION: (inaudible) to his legislative agenda. I'm not asking about the tweet itself.

SANDERS: Look, I think the president...

QUESTION: I'm asking about whether or not this helps his legislative agenda.

SANDERS: I think the president would love for us all to focus on the legislative agenda a whole lot more. Over -- you look at the coverage over the last month, of the extended period between May and June, all of the major networks, if you look at their coverage and what they're talking about, they spent one minute in the evening newscast talking about tax reform, three minutes on infrastructure, five minutes on the economy and jobs, 17 minutes on health care, and 353 minutes -- 353 minutes -- attacking the president and pushing a false narrative on Russia.

I mean, look at that in comparison. If you guys want to talk about legislative agenda and focus on policy and priorities, you guys get to help set that table. And 353 minutes of attacks against the president and driving a false narrative, and one minute on tax reform -- that's over the course of a month -- that's incredible (ph).


SANDERS: The numbers -- guys, the numbers don't lie. The media's focus on priorities, they don't line up with the rest of America.

Right now, we've got our economy's growing, the stock market's up, unemployment is down, jobs are back, and ISIS is on the run. America is winning and that's what we'd like to talk about. But you guys constantly ignore that narrative.


SANDERS: Go ahead, John.

QUESTION: All of those points...

QUESTION: ... the positive elements of what the president's agenda are certainly true, all of those things are true.

But the president today put out this tweet which takes away from all of that. And do you expect us here in this room to simply ignore that?

I think that's the valid question that should be asked of you right now. Should we just ignore this entirely?

SANDERS: I think he's put out a number of tweets on health care, on the immigration bills that'll be in the House today, but that's not being talked about. That's not being asked about. But the discrepancy, again, 353 minutes -- you can't say that you want to talk about policy and then you look at the numbers and they just don't lie. You can't expect for that amount of attack and intensity to come on a president and him to never respond.

John Gizzi?


SANDERS: I said I was going to John Gizzi next.

QUESTION: He creates his own distractions...

QUESTION: Two questions for you, Sarah.

First, did the U.S. administration send a representative to the funeral mass for Chancellor Kohl? Or will they send anyone to the official funeral service July 1st?

SANDERS: I do believe that there is an official delegation. I'll have to get details back to you on that.

QUESTION: My other question is this. You've had people turn down nomination to be deputy secretary of the Treasury. The president's on his third appointee, I believe, for secretary of the Army. And the ambassador to Ireland has declined the nomination. And there's no candidates for ambassador to Germany or France, both major allies, or Greece, for that matter, an important country.

Is the president having trouble recruiting people to fill some of the key slots that remain unfilled after six months?

SANDERS: No, John. Actually, the trouble isn't in the recruitment. It's in the vetting and getting them through the process.

Like I mentioned yesterday, there are over, I believe, a hundred candidates in the queue waiting to be pushed through. But due to the historic obstruction, it's taking much longer than normal to get a lot of those nominees through.

And, frankly, a lot of the people that are part of that process, one of the number one reasons we've had people take a step back is because that process is so lengthy.


SANDERS: And hold on. I've got a Skype question from Chris Berg in North Dakota. And we'll go to that.

QUESTION: Hey, Sarah. Thank you so much. I don't want to (inaudible) about making America great (inaudible) energy comments and (inaudible).

(inaudible). During the Dakota Access Pipeline protest, we had some pretty scary times here in North Dakota. Just a couple weeks ago, a judge (inaudible) suggesting that the Army Corps of Engineers (inaudible) issued some permits. (Inaudible) state revenue.

My question is this. What specifically (inaudible) to do to give these companies more certainty and more clarity as they make this multibillion dollar infrastructure to move our energy? At the same point in time, our tribal leaders and (inaudible) feeling honored and respected throughout this entire permitting process?

SANDERS: It was a little difficult to hear, but I believe the question was focused on energy production specific to Dakota Access.

And I think we've been talking consistently about this. The president is dedicated to increasing energy production in the United States.

And we're doing part of the review of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It's the administration working with those tribal leaders and stakeholders, throughout that process, to make it as successful as possible.

A lot of the tribal leaders also want to expand energy production and development in their area. And we're going to work continuously with them to try to make that as successful as possible.

Jordan (ph)?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

I want to ask you again about this Russia sanctions legislation in Congress. If, as Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said, the administration wants to go to the upper limits of the law in keeping those sanctions on Russia, then why not support this legislation that, basically, keeps what has been (inaudible)?

SANDERS: Again, we're continuing to review that process until there's final legislation there.

I've got another Skype question from Greg Meriwether in Louisiana. Hopefully we'll be able to hear him a little better.


QUESTION: Sarah, our question is on health care (inaudible).

Specifically, our governor put out a number of perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana will lose their health care if this bill goes through. If you add the other states, that kind of puts it into the millions (ph).

Sarah, is there an acceptable number (inaudible) behind the scenes of people losing coverage to get the greater bill through?

SANDERS: Again, I'm having a little difficulty hearing, but as best I could understand, you're looking at how Obamacare repeal and replace would affect the state of Louisiana.

And I mean, frankly, Louisiana's been one of the hardest-hit states in the country by Obamacare. Their insurance premiums have gone up over 125 percent. The goal here is to give people in the country choices. No one who currently has Medicaid will have their benefits cut. We're looking across the board, the health care plans that will lower taxes, reduce premiums and offer more choices for people in Louisiana and across the country.

And, hopefully, that somewhat addressed your question as best I could.


QUESTION: Sarah, (OFF-MIKE). The president has let us know that he is planning on having an ISIS news conference to update people on the situation within the next couple weeks, which is nowish. But we're coming up on the departure of...

SANDERS: Is "nowish" an official word?


I'm wondering, do you expect that we would get that update, whether it's a news conference or just, kind of, remarks, before the upcoming foreign trip, or whether we need to wait?

And I also wanted to ask you, it looked like there might be some coverage of remarks at the fund-raiser yesterday; it didn't work out. But beyond yesterday, are you guys looking at beginning to do that now for fund-raisers of a certain size. to have some transparency or the ability to hear what he's telling donors?

SANDERS: Yesterday, it was a logistical issue. Trying to make that and accommodate at the last minute it was going to be a little bit complicated. It's certainly on the table for future events.

As for the first question, we'll keep you posted when we -- we have an announcement on that.


SANDERS: As you guys know, the president is getting ready to depart for the Department of Energy and will be speaking on that soon.

Thanks so much.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's just dive right in.

CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is with me. Asha Rangappa, former FBI special agent, who is now associate dean at Yale Law School, is with us. CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large,'s "THE POINT," Chris Cillizza; and CNN political commentator, S.E. Cupp.

Got a couple other faces.

We're going to weave this through. We're just going -- Sally Kohn, Errol Louis, all joining us to react to what we just listened to.

Let's just go round-robin.

Dana Bash, the tweet, your response, and the response to the response?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's like an alternate universe. I mean, I completely understand. And watched exactly what Sarah Huckabee Sanders was doing. She was speaking to an audience of one, the president of the United States, who, no doubt, was watching to make sure that his spokesperson was a fighter, just like he expects her to be. And to make no apology for the kind of behavior that he exhibited in this tweet. And that's exactly what she did. She did what was obviously expected of her.

It's hard to imagine giving her truth serum and having the same kind of reaction come out of her mouth. I mean, I've covered Sarah Huckabee Sanders since she was just Sarah Huckabee. She was a young person running her father's presidential campaign in Iowa back in 2007. And she's -- she knows politics. But she also knows basic human decency. So I just want to say that, that I really believe that she was speaking to Trump.


BASH: But I also think that the notion that we're not focused on policy is ridiculous. Please. Please. Give us a day where we can talk about the health care policy of this nation and how the Republicans are trying to figure out how to deal with it, and not have to have a conversation about a ridiculous tweet from the president of the United States.

BALDWIN: He's the one who's tweeting it. He's the one derailing his own agenda.

BASH: Exactly.

BALDWIN: Let's keep going.

S.E. Cupp, what do you think?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it was stunning. I also know Sarah. And she's lovely. And I found her hypocrisy today to be really stunning. I mean, she talked about the president being a tough fighter. And then she frankly whined for 20 minutes about how often he gets attacked. And that didn't -- I think that didn't make him look very tough.

She blames the media for not focusing on the real agenda. It's very clear, as Trump has just proved today, he sets the agenda. This tweet set the agenda. Regardless of what you'd like to be talking about today, this is the agenda. And it's up to him entirely to set a different one if he wanted to. She talked about Trump defending himself. Nothing in that tweet is a defense of him or his policies. It's just an ad-hominem attack on Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

So like Dana, I have to imagine that was a hard pill for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to swallow, because what came out of her mouth today was nonsense.

BALDWIN: Especially just as a woman. This wasn't Sean Spicer. This was a woman talking about her male boss talking about this woman on TV.

Chris, the man in the fore-box, I want to hear from you as well. What did you think of what she said?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE & CNN HOST, THE POINT: I mean, OK, there's a lot to be said. But let me just pick two things. Attacking a woman for how she looks is not tough. Throwing a punch at every person on the street does not prove that you're a good fighter. Right? So, don't misappropriate those terms. Tough people rarely have to go and push people down and tell them they're tough. Do you know who does push people down to prove that they're tough? Bullies. Right?

I just don't know how you look at that, those two tweets, and say, this is acceptable behavior. I know asking people to take their partisan hat off won't happen. But there is no way you look at that and you say, this is the kind of behavior that I am OK with in a society in which we are trying to raise our children, in which we are trying to say this is how you act and this is how you don't act. This doesn't have to do with the Republican -- the president being a Republican, a Democrat, Green Party, Libertarian, Constitutionalist. You can't act that way.

And the idea that this is the first president who has been attacked personally, relentlessly, I mean, yes, he does get attacked a lot. Is it more or more vitriolic than Barack Obama or George W. Bush, who got called stupid every single day by certain elements of the political class in this country, or Bill Clinton or George Bush. Yes, we're in a different time because of social media. But the idea that presidents don't get attacked and should have the right to willy-nilly respond with ad-hominem attacks, I mean, it just doesn't -- it just doesn't sell. And calling it the liberal media and partisanship, it drives me bananas, because that's not what this is. It's about fundamental human decency. How do we act toward one another?


[14:56:13] BALDWIN: No. Amen.

CILLIZZA: I mean --

BALDWIN: No, I hear you loud and clear.

And we're also hearing from -- let me just pull in Asha. I want to hear from you.

From all these different Republicans who are allies of the president. Some of whom, you know, he really would need to come to "yes" on health care, which was brought up in that briefing. One being Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, who apparently just tweeted, "Stop it. The presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down." Asha, your thoughts?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, Sarah Sanders, during that press conference, said she felt like she was in "The Twilight Zone." And I pretty much agree with that. The fact that we're spending time having to dissect tweets that are insulting news anchor is -- when there's so much else going on, I think, says to you everything about what's -- what this administration is doing.

And I'll just point out here that this might be a nice time for the first lady to come out on her cyberbullying platform. On November 3, before the election, she gave a very eloquent speech talking about cyber bullying, and specifically that cyber bullying or bullying of any kind shouldn't be used to insult people's intelligence or their looks. So, here's a case study. And I think that it would be wonderful for her to step up to the plate and maybe send that signal out in this climate.

BALDWIN: We were live on TV, and I remember we took that speech. And I remember coming out of it, and a bunch of folks said, that's a really great idea, but do you know who your husband is.

Sally Kohn and Errol Louis are also seated here.

I see you shaking your head. Your reaction and then we'll get further --


ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I was struck by, in addition to everything else, some of the falsehoods that came from the podium where she's not just sort of saying, well, the press is focusing on these attacks and so forth, promoting this false narrative. As if the White House press corps was supposed to ignore testimony by the former FBI director, you know, in open session calling the president a liar. You know? That's going to get some minutes of attention. That's going to get some air time.

As well, the larger question, which goes to the failure of this administration to properly run the government, which is the lack of appointments, of even nominees. You know, when the administration says they're being obstructed, there's all this obstructionism, well, where are the U.S. attorneys? You know, they asked for mass resignations and they have not even put forward names. You can go agency after agency, and now we're up to hundreds of appointees that have just never been identified. That's not the fault of any Democrat. That's not the fault of the press. That's not the fault of anybody else.

The administration is really sort of playing with its reputation on an almost daily basis. And for the president to so cavalierly hijack this particular news cycle, throw out this vulgar, obscene taunt, and expect for people to kind of clean up behind him, that might be Sarah Huckabee Sanders's job, but that's not anybody else's job.

BALDWIN: Not to be ignored. Yes, ma'am?

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let's be clear. I would love to be talking about something different. I'd love to be talking about this horrible Trumpcare bill that's going to take away my health insurance and health insurance from 23 million Americans and leave us worse off as an economy. I'd love to be talking about their plan to give tax breaks to billionaires and millionaires. We would love that.

I feel so sad for my country today. This is -- you know, we've had a lot of back and forth. We've had ugly partisanship. This really is a new low. And I feel like, look, even if I don't agree with the people who voted for this man, they wanted him to go in and do a job. And he is his own worst enemy. He is scuttling his own agenda and then attacking the press for pointing out facts and reporting on the things that he tweets. It's not because the media attacks him personally. It's because they report facts. And he doesn't like that. He doesn't want to be held accountable. He doesn't like an independent media. And that's --