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Sean Spicer Resigns. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 21, 2017 - 15:00   ET



ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: And I think it's super important for us to let him express his personality.

It has been a very successful life experience for President Trump to be President Trump.

And so let's let him do that and -- and let me just finish. And, you know, let's see where the chips fall.

And then when something happens that you don't like or you like, you'll talk to me or Sarah and we'll address it.

QUESTION: Do you plan to meet with him every day? Do you plan to meet with him every day? And do you have Oval Office privileges...


SCARAMUCCI: Do I plan to meet with him every day, and do I have Oval Office privileges?

I -- listen, I don't want to -- I don't want to -- I'm not one of these people that need to have unnecessary face time with the president, OK?

But I do have Oval Office privileges, if that's what you're talking about. And I do have the opportunity to meet with him, because I'm going to be his comms director, and he told me that he's going to put me in charge of this. And so I want to make sure that I'm linked to him and syncopated with him in a way that he likes.

And so I'll meet with him, but I don't want to waste his time and sit in the Oval Office unnecessarily.

Thank you.



SANDERS: Thank you.

Obviously, I would have been happy for him to stay up here all day and continue to exhaust all of your questions. But, one, I figure I probably should answer a couple today. And also, the president has an event here shortly, so I want to try to work through as many as I can.

And with that, I'm actually going to start with Jeff Mason, since I believe it is, maybe, your last day and my first. So, with that, Jeff, take it away.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Can you talk just a little bit about how this -- how this will affect -- this change will affect the press office?

And can you speak a little bit for Sean, about how he's feeling and how he took this news and how he made the decision to resign?

SANDERS: You know, I'm not going to speak for Sean in detail.

I can say that he understood that the president wanted to bring in and add new people to the team, and Sean felt like it would be best for that team to be able to start with a totally clean slate.

And I think it -- I want to echo what Anthony says. I think it speaks volumes to who he is, to be willing to do that and allow Anthony to come in with a brand new starting place.

And I think, you know, he's served the president loyally and admirably. He's going to continue to stay on for the next several weeks, through the transition. And I'm sure he'll be happy to answer some of those questions directly.


QUESTION: Sarah, first of all, congratulations on the job.

SANDERS: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can you clarify where the president stands on the issue of pardons? Is he considering pardons for figures in the Russia investigation? And does the president believe that he has the power to pardon himself?

SANDERS: Look, I'd refer you to the comments that have already been made by the outside counsel, in terms of their actions.

The president maintains pardon powers, like any president would. But there are no announcements or planned announcements on that front whatsoever.


QUESTION: ... the power to pardon himself? Does he believe that he has the power to pardon himself?

SANDERS: Like I said, I don't have anything to add beyond what the outside counsel's already stated on that front.



QUESTION: (inaudible) president's interview with the New York Times, he raised questions about Robert Mueller. Does he endorse his legal team's efforts to undermine Robert Mueller's credibility?

SANDERS: Again, the president has absolutely nothing to do with any of the allegations that are being made. I think he's maintained that. And he wants them to complete their process as quickly as possible so that we can move on from the ridiculousness of all things Russia and Russia fever.


QUESTION: But just to the question that I asked, does he endorse his legal team's efforts to undermine the credibility of the special counsel?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of those details, and that's something you'd have to ask -- that's something you would have to ask his legal team. I'm not part of that process. I wouldn't be able to answer that.

QUESTION: On health care, what does the president want the Senate to vote on next week?

SANDERS: I think he wants to -- as Marc Short stated earlier this week, and as we've repeated many times before, the president's preference is to repeal and replace Obamacare. And we haven't been shy or quiet about that and those intentions have certainly not changed.


QUESTION: How much arm-twisting is going on vis-a-vis the health care bill?

The vice president had a lot of conservative groups over today. Those conservative groups announced that they will actually be scoring votes next week on the motion to proceed, which I believe is unprecedented.

SANDERS: I don't think anyone here has made a secret that this is a big priority, and that Congress should do what they've been talking about for the last seven years. It's time for them to get in there and repeal and replace Obamacare.

And these groups recognize that. Their constituency that support the groups that they have certainly recognize that. And they're supporting the mission of their organizations and pushing and putting pressure on members to get the job done.

Nothing beyond that.

QUESTION: (inaudible) but just about the organizational structure now that Anthony's come in. The press secretary and the comms secretary used to be pretty much coequal, reporting to the chief of staff. Will it remain that way? Because the -- there was some move toward making the communications director sort of the deputy chief of staff, and then the press secretary and the comms director would report to that person.

So do you still report to Reince, or do you report to Anthony?

SANDERS: I think that Anthony said it better than I can in this capacity, is we plan to work together as a team. And certainly our goal is to work together to promote the president's agenda and to do that not just with the two of us, but our -- the entire press, comms office, as well as the entire White House staff.


QUESTION: Do you report -- do you report to him, or do you report to Reince?

SANDERS: We all serve at the pleasure of the president.


QUESTION: This question is for you.

Number one, when you talk about -- there were some comments made by a senior administration official this morning on television, talking about the motivations of people who are part of Bob Mueller's special counsel investigation.

Do donations to a political party, if it's not the president's party -- does the president believe that disqualifies those people from being part of this special counsel?

SANDERS: I don't know that we're putting out a litmus test.

But, again, questions regarding that, I would direct you to the outside counsel that's running that part of the process.


QUESTION: Question about National Security Adviser McMaster. Does the president have confidence in his national security adviser?

SANDERS: I have no reason to believe otherwise.




SANDERS: Sure. Alex?

QUESTION: The president clearly doesn't want special counsel -- he said he doesn't want Special Counsel Robert Mueller to look into his finances. But the Intelligence Committee is already looking into financial data from the Treasury Department. Is there anything the White House can do to stop that?

SANDERS: Look, again, the president's point is that he doesn't want the special counsel to move beyond the scope and outside of its mission. And the president's been very clear, as have his accountants and team, that he has no financial dealings with Russia. And so, I think we've been extremely clear on that.


QUESTION: Last time, when it became apparent in the House, the first go-around on the health -- health care bill there, that it was going to fail, it was pulled at the last minute, within the last hour or two.

When you look at both the repeal-and-replace potential and the repeal- only potential, the numbers suggest that they don't have the votes and it's set up to fail. Why does the White House believe this time around that a vote should proceed?

SANDERS: Again, we're -- continuing to be focused on repealing and replacing Obamacare, and we're not going to stop until we can continue to move that forward and get that done.

Not only have we wanted to commit to that, but, frankly, a lot of the members of the Senate and the House have not only committed, but campaigned on that, and it's time for them to step up and get that done.

QUESTION: Does the president believe that a vote should take place at some point next week on some sort of a bill, one way or another?

SANDERS: I don't think you can repeal and replace Obamacare without a vote, so I think it would be...


... a pretty necessary part of the process.



QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.

I just want to get something straight. Earlier in the week, you indicated that the White House was not opposed to outright repeal. And then, based on your remarks today and Marc Short's two days ago, you seem to favor repeal and replace. Does that mean you are against the outright repeal bill that Congressman Biggs has introduced in the House?

SANDERS: Not against. But again, as Marc said earlier this week, our preference is to repeal and replace.


QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

Two questions for you.

Can you take us through the process of how the president decided to hire this new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci?

And moving forward, what will his role be in terms of objectives that the president wants him to meet?

SANDERS: As Anthony said, he's known the president a long time. He's been a loyal supporter of the president. And Anthony's somebody who has come from nothing and built an incredible -- I think, several incredible companies, and he's -- he's one of the most successful, smart people that the president could put on his team.

And the president recognized that, and wanted him to be a part of this process I think very early on. He was a very strong advocate throughout the transition, and this has just been part of the process to bring him inside the White House.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on Rob Mueller. Does President Trump have confidence that Robert Mueller will conduct a fair investigation?

SANDERS: You know, at this point, I don't have any reason to see otherwise. But I have not had a chance to ask the president, and I'd want to get clarity on that before I comment.



QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah. I just (inaudible).

Starting January 20th, this administration has cycled through -- has seen departures of a deputy chief of staff, a national security adviser, a communications director, a press secretary, several other roles inside this building and across the street.

What does that say about, sort of, the efforts to staff up this administration at the start? What has the president learned about his team, about himself as president? And can you explain, sort of, that very high turnover rate we've seen over the last six months?

SANDERS: I -- you would have to ask the president what he's learned in that process.

And I can tell you, though, I think what we've all learned in that process is that working together and working to accomplish the things that the American people elected the president to do is our focus. It's what we come here every day to do. We're a lot less focused on the who, but the what. And we're going to continue doing that every single day.


(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Do you not see that as -- as chaotic...


SANDERS: No, I don't see it as chaos.


QUESTION: Sarah, is the White House concerned...


SANDERS: If you want to see chaos, Zeke, you should come to my house early in the morning, when my three kids are running around. That's chaos. This is nothing.


QUESTION: Is the White House (inaudible) news this week concerning the attorney general and the resignation of Mr. Spicer could have the effect of alienating or demoralizing Trump loyalists, both in and out of the administration?

SANDERS: I think that Trump loyalists, particularly within the administration, but certainly across the country, are energized by the accomplishments of the president in the first six months.

Stock market's at a high, jobs are growing, regulations are coming off, the country's becoming more secure, the border's becoming more secure, immigration is down. I think we have a lot of things to celebrate, a lot of things to be excited about. And I think our morale is pretty high. Take one last. Steve?

QUESTION: Well, first of all, congratulations...

SANDERS: Thank you.

QUESTION: ... on your promotion.

I was wondering if -- if you approach this new role with excitement, with trepidation, apprehension, (inaudible)? And if you can reflect on these last six months and -- and one day, on what you've learned about how -- how it is to speak for the president. Is it -- is it a tough job? Have you found it easy?

SANDERS: I think it's probably the -- one of -- certainly, professionally, one of the greatest honors that any person could ever have, to work in any capacity within this building.

And to get to do that up here in such a public way and speak on behalf of the president is absolutely an honor and something that I will cherish. And hope to do my very, very best every single day, and be as open, honest and transparent with you all as humanly possible, and will always work to operate at the highest level and certainly with the most amount of integrity as you can.


SANDERS: And with that, I think that's a great place to end today. And the president will be having an event here shortly.

Thanks so much, guys.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That was Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new White House press secretary, we were just told.

She's replacing Sean Spicer, who announced he is resigning. His last day will be in August. The move comes after President Trump hired Anthony Scaramucci as the new White House communications director.

Scaramucci is a close friend of the Trumps. He's a wealthy financier and an entrepreneur. He's 53 years old. He worked with the president during the campaign.

Let's talk about what we just saw with our panel.

I think it is fair to say, Dana, that his was a smooth and affable presentation. And yet, when it comes to facts, there is reason to be concerned. He tried to lend some credence to the false claim by President Trump that three to five million people voted illegally. He talked about how polls indicate that the president is beloved.

I don't know what polls they are. The president has a lot of work to do. He's currently in the 30s when it comes to his approval rating. So, I don't doubt for a second that he pleased an audience of one, but for those of us who are fans of the truth, the jury's still out.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "If the president said it, then it's probably true" is not the greatest answer when you're looking for facts and you're looking for truth. You're absolutely right, because that was his answer when somebody asked about some of the things that the president says that are just not factually correct.

Having said that, just putting that aside for one minute, I'm sure we are going to get back to it. Just sort of big picture, watching this guy, Scaramucci, don't you think it was sort of like watching the guy that the president thinks that he sees in the mirror?

I mean, the smooth businessman, a good talker, an affable guy. I mean, this is so much about optics and about presentation that we know is so critically important to this president. And Anthony Scaramucci fits that bill and has the added benefit of having the loyalty and knows exactly how to push, as you said, you were sort of alluding to, the buttons.

How many times did we hear that he loves the president? We know it. He loves the president. We get it. We get it.

TAPPER: Many times.


BASH: So, I think that is a -- obviously, a giant part of why we now know that the president wanted that image and that guy and that kind of smooth talker in that position, regardless of the fact that he does not have any experience in communications strategy.

BORGER: He wasn't adversarial in what we're used to with the sort of the punching back.

He was full of love, full of love for the president, for his magnificent apartment, for his really good karma, the world turns back to him, the president's a winner. I don't see this as a guy who's ever under siege and all the rest of that.


But when he was asked questions that he probably didn't like, it was interesting, because his manner in responding to them was not to fight back. It was to sort of like, OK, I have been a reporter, I have been on TV, I have played a journalist on TV, and he's not adversarial.

And so the picture that you get is a lot smoother.

TAPPER: Yes. In fact, as you note, his expressions of love, there were more expressions of love in that press briefing than on the average "Yacht Rock" album. Here's a little mash-up.


SCARAMUCCI: I think there's been, at times, a disconnect between the way we see the president and how much we love the president and the way some of you perhaps see the president.

But I love the president. And I'm very, very loyal to the president. And I love the mission that the president has. I love the president. I obviously love the country. I love the president. And the president is a very, very effective communicator.

The president has really good karma. The president himself is always going to be the president. I was in the Oval Office with him earlier today, and we were talking about letting him be himself, letting him express his full identity.

I think he's got some of the best political instincts in the world and perhaps in history. If you think about it, he started his political ascent two and -- two years and two months ago, and he's done a phenomenal job for the American people.

And the people I grew up with, they so identify with the president and they love him and so we're going get that message out.


TAPPER: John King.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a very solid performance. And he does know, clearly, that one way to get in this president's favor is to tell the president how great he is and how much you love him and how great a communicator he is.

Forget us for a minute. If you're Washington, you're six months and one day into the Trump administration, they have yet another tern personnel turnover at the White House. Obamacare is still the law of the land. Tax reform is nowhere. Infrastructure is nowhere.

To Sarah Huckabee Sanders' point, yes, immigration, you could make the case in the Trump White House, you have made some improvements. Regulatory, ripping out regulations, you can make...


KING: But, if you're Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, or Paul Ryan, the House speaker, what did Anthony Scaramucci say?

I don't have any problem with the president's tweets, the president is his best messenger, and the ship is going in the right direction.

The Republican Party and the Republican governors, it's not going in the right direction. Now, he's the communications director. If you're the spokesman for Bob's-Cola, you go out every day and say you're doing better than Coke.

And so give him some grace. That's his job to say, we're doing great.

The question is, what does he do tomorrow or in three weeks, when he's actually on the job full-time? Because the ship is not going in the right direction. The president has a 35 percent to 38 percent approval rating. The Trump base is still engaged, but you can't govern at 35, 38 percent.

His party has no fear of this president and less loyalty to this president. And they're trying to solve very difficult policy issues, health care, infrastructure, tax reform, to name three very important.

So is this -- again, I will keep asking this question. Is this a reset? Is this somebody -- he wouldn't say it there. Can he go to the president and say, please, you're making my job harder, please, you're making the majority leader's job harder, please, just give us a week, try a different approach and let me show you? If you do this for a week for me, Mr. President, I will show you next week how it helped you.


KING: That's how you have to sell this. You have to tell this president, if you change your behavior in some ways, I will prove to you it helps you, not helps me, but helps you.

That's what we have not seen in this administration. Can Anthony Scaramucci do that? Clock's running.

TAPPER: A lot of people have tried to do it, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon -- well, I don't know if Steve Bannon has. Reince Priebus has. Ivanka Trump has.


BASH: Yes, they did it successfully for a little while at the end of the campaign.

TAPPER: During the campaign. That's right. There was a period. Will -- Kellyanne Conway.


TAPPER: But will Scaramucci be able, if he is in fact behind closed doors telling him that -- we don't know that he is. That's the question.


KING: And to your point, the most successful person in doing this over the time has been Tom Barrack, his friend from Los Angeles, who ran the conventions. And that was when people think Trump was at his most presidential, if you will, a businessperson.

So, because of his Wall Street business background, does Anthony Scaramucci have a standing some of the political people, the people President Trump uses, D.C. political hacks, does he have a different standing? Again, the clock starts today.

TAPPER: Although, you know what, Nia? You know what? When he talked about how the people -- and he grew up in a -- he's a very, very wealthy and successful man. He grew up in rather humble circumstances, Anthony Scaramucci.

And when he talked about the people that I grew up with love President Trump, I don't doubt that for one second. And it occurs to me, this is a Trump voter, in the way that Sean Spicer could never have been, because Sean, even though he's from Rhode Island and is a veteran, he really was of Washington. He seemed of Washington.

This will be a good guy for the base, I think, because they will see, in him, themselves.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's right, but it's not clear that Donald Trump needs help with his base. Right?

I mean, if you look at his approval ratings among Republicans, he's at 85 percent. The problem is the larger American electorate and his problem is also governing. Right?

I mean, if you look at what he has done in hiring Anthony Scaramucci here, it seems like the president thinks the problem is a branding problem, and that he needs somebody in place who can really smoothly stroke his own ego, right, somebody who in some ways works for the propaganda arm of Donald Trump's ego.

[15:20:12] I mean, that's what he was doing today with saying, oh, Donald Trump's

good at basketball, he's good at football, he's good in golf. I mean, he's got a magnificent apartment.

So it's not clear that the underlying issue, which is selling -- not only selling an agenda, but getting an agenda passed in Congress, this person, Anthony Scaramucci, who's great on air, I mean, he's sort of this combination between Tony Robbins and Corey Lewandowski in some ways, is able to, I think, sell this message really well.


HENDERSON: But, again, I don't know that that helps Mitch McConnell. Right?

He didn't say much about, he loves the Republican Party, he loves what's going on in the Hill. He doesn't know those folks very well. But he might know and be able to connect with those folks back in Long Island where he grew up with.

But Donald Trump already connects with those people.

TAPPER: Let's bring in Rick Wilson and Jason Miller. I would love to hear their feedback.

Rick, let's start with you. The headlines yesterday were the Juice is loose after the announcement of O.J. Simpson's parole, and I'm sure we will see the Mooch is loose headline tomorrow on one of the broad sheets or other newspapers in New York City. But what did you make of it?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, the most important mission he had, as you said, he's playing to an audience of one, and he declared his love so many times, I'm surprised he didn't pull the back of his shirt up to show us his MAGA tramp stamp.

The guy clearly wanted to make sure that Donald Trump had a very, very sharp, clear message that his loyalty was absolute, because that's obviously the currency of the realm.

Again, I think he doesn't -- he's already shown us a few warning flags, though, the voter fraud number that he's claiming. And the idea that the president tells the truth is something that is just -- you know, I think "The Washington Post" says that he's lied 893 times since he's been sworn in on the record.

This is not a guy who is conducive to having a White House that's able to tell the truth, because he demands that they stick with his message, his style. I think Scaramucci, he had a good intro performance. He was slick.

He had plenty of hair product and a good suit, so that sort of self- image of Trump seeing the slick New York banker, Wall Street guy on TV, I'm sure he liked that. He thought Sean Spicer was a bit rumpled.

I'm sure he loved that. But, again, he hasn't confronted any real issues yet. He hasn't confronted any kind of crisis yet, and he hasn't had to deal with the day-to-day of Donald Trump impulsively running off, tweeting off at the slightest provocation.

So, look, we're all going to say the guy is a new face, a fresh face, and he certainly presents himself in a way that comes across as sort of a Wall Street slickster. But other than that, I think we have still got to wait until he collides with reality.

TAPPER: Jason?

JASON MILLER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I love the pick, by the way, of Sarah Huckabee Sanders to fill in to the press secretary spot. We have seen her handle the podium a number of times already so far and so I think she's going to do great in this position.

But before the press conference started, what I was talking about, the Mooch, as Anthony is affectionately known, his friends call him that, and I'm sure probably even some of the detractors call him that as well, but he has this calming influence. He's such an affable person, someone who's able to connect with people and deliver the president's message.

And one of the things that really struck me throughout the press conference over and over, it seemed like the entire temperature in the room came way down. And what we're actually hearing -- and you could even see the faces of the reporters sitting in the room, where folks were paying attention to the president's message and what Anthony was trying to convey.

And I think this is a this is a very important point for this administration, because Trump supporters firmly believe that we're doing some really great things with this White House right now, everything with the economy, something that Mr. Scaramucci can definitely speak directly to.

And so I think Anthony can come in and provide some very strong leadership. As I said before, there are some very talented and skilled people in this communications shop, in the press secretary department, and I think Anthony can come in and provide some leadership and structure within that, get the best out of them, and really get this administration clicking on all cylinders.

I think he's going to be just a huge shot in the arm. And we saw today, I mean, everyone was walking out of there feeling like there was this big boost of energy.

TAPPER: Well, let's not go crazy. It wasn't the original cast of "Hamilton."


TAPPER: But I do want to point out one thing, Jason, about Sarah Huckabee Sanders. There has not been a female White House press secretary since the George W. Bush administration, since Dana Perino. President Obama went through three White House press secretaries. All of them were male, so that is something noteworthy on a historical level.

It's been a long time since there's been a female press secretary at the White House.


There was an interesting moment when I think Jon Carl, maybe John Roberts, asked about a comment that Mr. Scaramucci had made about President Trump in 2015 and whether or not he had talked about it with the president.

Scaramucci humorously talked about how the president reminds it of him every 15 seconds. Here's that clip.


SCARAMUCCI: Another hack politician.

QUESTION: You calling Donald Trump a hack?

SCARAMUCCI: He's a hack politician.

The politicians don't want to go at Trump because he's got a big mouth and he's afraid he's going to light them up on FOX News and all these other places, but I'm not a politician. Bring it.

QUESTION: So, why is he resonating?

SCARAMUCCI: You're an inherited money dude from Queens County. Bring it, Donald.

He brings it up every 15 seconds, OK?


SCARAMUCCI: One of the biggest mistakes that I made, because I was an unexperienced person in the world of politics.

I was supporting another candidate. I should have never said that about him.

So, Mr. President, if you're listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that.

But here's the wonderful thing about the news media. That was three minutes of my life. He's never forgotten it, and you have never forgotten it. But I hope that, someday, Mr. President, you will forget it.


TAPPER: So, I mean, Rick, I know you're a critic of the president. I will say this. Don't you think he should get some credit here for giving somebody who said that about him, but apologized, the job?

I mean, it's not necessarily reflecting poorly on the president that he was able to forgive and -- well, not forget but forgive.

MILLER: Well, and this isn't the only example


TAPPER: Let me do Rick and then Jason.


I think certainly that, you know, Trump is not presented right now with a giant list of people who want to take this job. And the fact that he has sort of the Trump tribal smell, his relationship with the family and with Donald, is on him.

And I think that was why Trump was able to see his way clear to doing this. But, again, folks are not beating down Donald Trump's door to become coms director for this White House. It is not considered a position that most people that would be able to professionally communicate and effectively communicate a national image and message have chosen to pursue.

Even our friend Jason here stepped away from that opportunity. And the fact of the matter is, you know, Trump does get a little credit for having someone who said something critical of him once, but, again, it also reflects on Trump's psychology of being, you know, obsessively nitty about these small things that he remembers, these slights and small things that carry an awful lot of weight with Donald Trump in everyday life.

TAPPER: Jason?

MILLER: Well, and this is one of the things, the qualities of President Trump that I think a lot of times is overlooked.

I mean, look, I supported a different candidate in the primary and President Trump brought me on to his campaign in the general election. Heck, you look around the Cabinet, whether it be Ambassador Nikki Haley or even Vice President Pence, who supported different candidates in the primary, but President Trump knows how to spot talent.

He knows how to bring people on board. And I would say, with Anthony, you don't just have to look at his comments and his words. You can actually go and see where he went to work very hard for the president during the campaign and then during the transition and more than made up for it.

And, yes, maybe he had thrown the elbows a little bit sharper than he would have liked to if he could have done it all over again, yes, of course. But you know what? Anthony's more than made up for it. He's a loyal soldier. He definitely paid his dues. And he's going to fit in fine with this White House.

TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break.

When we come back, more CNN special coverage of this major White House shakeup. Stay with us.