Return to Transcripts main page


White House Faces Media at Daily Briefing Over Trump/NFL Feud. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 14:30   ET


QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.

Two questions.

One, Secretary Carson recently voiced his disagreement --


-- with the president and the vice president on the run-off in Alabama tomorrow. My question is not about the run-off, but about personnel.

Are members of the Cabinet and the president's official family free to disagree with him on matters, such as a political contest?

SANDERS: The president has a lot of people, with a variety of backgrounds, and certainly with a variety of opinions. He always welcomes them voicing those.

On that specific issue, I couldn't speak to that, because I haven't talked to the president about it.


Oh, second question.

QUESTION: Second question, yes.

On September 15th, Heather Nauert, the spokeswoman for the State Department, spoke at the National Press Club. And I think this is important because Prime Minister Rajoy is meeting with the president tomorrow. Ms. Nauert said that the U.S. took no position on the plebiscite that is scheduled in Catalonia October 1st about separating and becoming a separate country. And -- and I quote, "we will work with any government or entity that comes out of it," end of quote.

Now, does that mean that if Catalonia votes to secede from Spain, the U.S. is going to recognize it as an independent country?

SANDERS: I don't have anything further than what Heather's already said on that issue. If it changes after that takes place, we'll let you know.

Dave Boyer?

QUESTION: Sarah, thanks. Is the White House reviewing Jared Kushner's use of a private e- mail account for official government business? And how widespread is the use of private e-mail accounts in this White House?

SANDERS: To my knowledge, very limited. White House counsel has instructed all White House staff to use their government e-mail for official business, and only use that e-mail.

QUESTION: Has he instructed them since this came up?

SANDERS: I think we get instructed on this one pretty regularly, so.



QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.

Politico's reported that Secretary Price has been taking private jets for months, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway traveled with him to six states. So, given that Conway was on some of these trips, one, was the White House aware of Price's travel?

And, given that he spent more than $400,000 taxpayer money on private jets just since May, is there any standard for what is and isn't tolerated by this White House when it comes to this kind of conduct?

SANDERS: This wasn't White House-approved travel. This was done through the general budget of the Department of Homeland -- sorry, the Department of HHS. And I think Secretary Price addressed this over the weekend.

They're conducting both an internal and I.G. review, and all travels on private charter has been suspended until that's completed.

QUESTION: So, if I can just follow up on that, if I can get the White House's take now on that travel, since you said it wasn't approved ahead of time. And is it ever appropriate for a Cabinet official to spend taxpayer money on private planes? And note I say private planes to differentiate from, say, a military flight for national security purposes.

SANDERS: I think there are certain instances where it probably is.

But, again, I think that has to be done on a case-by-case basis. I'm not going to give a blanket statement on hypothetical situations that -- couldn't possibly be aware of.


QUESTION: ... whether or not the White House, now, looking back on that -- do you approve of that travel?

SANDERS: The White House -- again, that travel wouldn't have gone through the White House for approval, and so I couldn't speak to that.



QUESTION: Two immigration-related questions.

One, do you anticipate a refugee announcement in the next couple of days on both the cap on refugees from the president, which has to happen, I guess, before the end of the fiscal year, the end of this week? And so, you know, will that -- can you give us some sense of what that's going to be and what's that going to look like? Are there going to be restrictions built in?

And then, second, on DACA, there's been word now for a while of the set of principles that the president and the White House wants to put out to, sort of, describe the way forward towards a legislative deal. Is that something that you can give us some guidance on?

SANDERS: On the first question, I expect that something will happen on that relatively soon. And when we have those details and it's appropriate, we'll be happy to share them. Again, I think it'll be soon, and we'll let you know when that's been finalized.

In terms of your second question...

QUESTION: DACA principles?

SANDERS: Yes, on responsible immigration reform, we will be putting out specific principles that the White House supports and would like to see done legislatively.

QUESTION: And when will that happen?

SANDERS: Probably in the coming days.


QUESTION: Sarah, can you just clarify the -- were you saying that -- are you encouraging NFL players to protest police...


SANDERS: No. No. That's not what I'm saying.

I was, kind of, pointing out the hypocrisy of the fact that, if the goal is, and the message is that of that police brutality, which they've stated, then that doesn't seem very appropriate to protest the American flag. I'm not sure how those two things would be combined.


QUESTION: Today, Iraqi Kurds are voting on a plebiscite, and I was just wondering -- you've already expressed your, kind of, dissatisfaction with that vote taking place, but I was wondering if the White House has a message for the Turks, the Iranians, the Iraqis as they weigh their response to this vote?

And then I have a second question.

SANDERS: We hope for a unified Iraq to annihilate ISIS, and certainly a unified Iraq to push back on Iran.


And second question, why is Saudi Arabia not included in the list of countries under the travel ban?

SANDERS: Because the way that the travel order has been placed, is that countries have to meet a minimum baseline requirement and also be part of sharing information. Over this last period of time, they've stepped up and met those baseline requirements that the United States has laid out.


QUESTION: Back to the situation in Puerto Rico, can you address some of the criticism from the islands, the territories, delegates, representatives, other lawmakers about the slow pace of federal assistance? What steps is the administration taking presently and in the coming days to, sort of, increase the pace of relief and aid for the island?

And more broadly a sense that was the administration caught flat- footed here after two other massive storms and a third one to, sort of, maybe -- is that a bridge too far?

SANDERS: Not at all.

The federal response have been anything but slow. In fact, there's been an unprecedented push through of billions of dollars in federal assistance that the administration has fought for. Both, as I mentioned earlier, Tom Bossert and Brock Long are on the ground today to do a more thorough and deeper assessment of what needs there are.

Our focus is still continuing to be on the life-saving efforts and the immediate disaster response efforts which are still currently under way. And those funds have been secured and are available. And once we have a greater insight into the full assessment of damage, then we'll be able to determine what additional funds are needed.

But we're still in that, kind of, fact-finding process on that piece of it.


QUESTION: One follow-up on Jen's question earlier about tax reform. You didn't answer her question about whether the plan that will be -- that the president will be announcing Wednesday is finalized. We've heard a number of different statements from the president over the last several days and other administration officials about (inaudible) where the corporate tax rate will be set.

So is the tax plan finalized right now with what the president will be rolling out in 48 hours? SANDERS: There are certain details that are finalized and the president will be announcing those on Wednesday.


QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

To follow-up on Zeke's question about Puerto Rico, what would you say -- what would the administration say to people on the island who are saying there's not enough time to do this big fact-finding mission?

There's isolated areas on the island that don't have any water or electricity, gas. There's buildings that don't even roofs and there's water coming into houses. And this has all been reported out there in the media.

And what would you say to people on the island who say that there's just not enough time and (inaudible) aid needs to be rushed there immediately?

SANDERS: Again, the response has been at an unprecedented level and we're supplying federal assistance as quickly as possible. We're going to continue to do that. The president asked both Tom Bossert and Brock Long go be on the ground and help come back and give us a list of what is needed and that we can turn around quickly.

I'm talking about longer-term assessment which simply can't be done in a day. We want to make sure that the funding is provided, but we also want to make sure that we're actually funding the correct things.



QUESTION: Yes, Steve Bannon and another former White House official are supporting Roy Moore in the Alabama primary tomorrow. We also know that Bannon met with Danny Tarkanian, who is challenging Dean Heller.

Does the president believe -- he talked about loyalty Friday night. Does he believe he owes it to Republican senators who voted for a Senate health care bill to support them? How does he feel about his own people basically supporting a challenger? And has he spoken to them about it?

SANDERS: As I've said many times before, due to the political nature of the question, I'm not going to weigh in on a specific race or involvement in a race.

QUESTION: I'm not asking about specific races, I'm asking about a principle here.

I mean, the president talked about loyalty Friday night. Does he feel, on principle, that if Republicans vote the way he pushes them to or wants them to or asked them to, does he owe them something in return? And is he -- does he feel that the people who have worked in this White House should go along with his thoughts on these races?

SANDERS: I think that the president feels that he owes it to the American people who elected him, which means that they supported the agenda that he was trying to promote, and the more that we have like- minded officials helping promote and push that agenda and pass that legislation, I think the better off we are.

And that's certainly the reason that the president was elected. And so I think, the more that we can have people help make that successful, that's certainly, I think, a positive thing and the right step forward.


QUESTION: Sarah, two questions for you.

I want to follow up here. Will the White House commit to releasing Jared Kushner's private e-mails related to government business?

SANDERS: I'd have to ask. I'm not aware of that conversation.

QUESTION: Would it seem like something you would do, I mean, given your commitment to transparency?

SANDERS: Again, I'm not -- I'm not going to get ahead of a conversation that hasn't taken place.

QUESTION: OK. Will you let us know?



And then my other question, too -- I just want to suss out, I think, a question that has been going around here today, because you talk about the president wanting to defend the flag. You know the oath of office was to defend the Constitution, so does the president have a problem with the First Amendment?

SANDERS: Not at all.

The president is simply stating that pride in our country is a good thing. It's something that we should all celebrate. It's something that should, frankly, bring us together, not divide us. Standing up for the national anthem he feels is a symbol of that.



QUESTION: ... support dissension?

QUESTION: Can I follow up on what Hallie was asking?

Why is it that the president, over the weekend, is going after, or seeming to go after African-American athletes, and then, this morning, he's putting out a tweet praising NASCAR, which obviously is geared toward a different demographic, and the way they stand in respect and honor of the flag? Is he trying to wage something of a culture war?

SANDERS: Not at all.

The president's not talking about race. The president is talking about pride in our country.

What you saw yesterday were players and fans of all races joining together as Americans to honor our servicemembers. That's what the president's talking about. That's what his focus is on.

As you guys know...

QUESTION: Can I ask for a follow-up (ph) on that?

SANDERS: ... the president's got an event here in a few minutes, so we're going to close there.

QUESTION: Sarah, can I follow up on that? If I may, just...

SANDERS: Thank you very much. Have a good day.

QUESTION: It is a cultural reference. You should at least speak (OFF-MIKE)

[14:41:41] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. You have been listening to White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, the administration defending the president's controversial attacks on NFL players saying that he's not against anyone, but standing up for the flag.

So much to discuss here. You heard that briefing. She was being pummeled with questions about the president's comments criticizing those NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.

I want to bring in my panel now.

Gloria, I want to start with you.

It was clear the talking point here was saying that you know, he's not against anyone. He is for bringing everyone together. He wants everyone to be united. How can that be if he singled out players in Alabama, calling them names, SOBs?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it was difficult. It was clear to me that Sarah Sanders had an audience of one who would be watching her and that's the president of the United States and what she seemed to be saying is that, look, this is just about the flag. This isn't about the First Amendment. This isn't about race. When she was asked quite directly by John Roberts, of FOX, you know, how do you defend that when the president calls people SOBs who should be fired, she said it's always appropriate to defend the flag. So what she was doing was deflecting every question about how this might be interpreted by people who were called names and saying, well, no, no, no. Wait a minute, the president really just is patriotic and these people, by insinuation are not patriotic and by the way, if they want to attack police officers who don't think or defending them, why not look at the people who are protecting them on the sidelines? She said that a bit sarcastically.

BROWN: Right.

BORGER: But I think what she was trying to do was deflect.

BROWN: All right.

I want to bring in Jim Acosta.

Jim, we saw Sarah Sanders sort of cut you off there on the heels of asking whether the president is trying to wage a culture war, and she claims that, no, he's not.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Pam. That's right. What we heard from Sarah Sanders this is not about race and you heard repeatedly during the briefing today, the White House trying to say no, that the president wants to honor the American flag and wants to see athletes do the same thing at sporting events. I wasn't given a follow-up question like my other colleagues in the room, but why is it that the president was seeming to go after African-American athletes and he went after Colin Kaepernick in Alabama, Friday night, and went after Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, saying he was no longer invited to the White House for their championship celebration here when, at the same time -- and I tried to follow up with this question. Tom Brady did not make it here to the White House and the New England Patriots made it. There were no angry tweets from the president directed at Tom Brady or other athletes. So I think it does raise this question, especially when you have the president early this morning tweeting about his respect for and his gratitude toward NASCAR fans and the way they honor the flag at their events.

I think, Pam, you know, I don't think it's a stretch to say it is a bit of a dog whistle that is being played out there. And as you saw here at the very telling of the briefing, Sarah Sanders wanted no part of the conversation and she insisted this is not about race and not a culture war and them she was headed for the exits.

[14:45:17] BROWN: Thank you, Jim Acosta. Stand by because we want to go back to you.


BROWN: I want to bring back our panel on that note.

Sarah Sanders was asked point-blank, how can it not be about race when the whole thing started when Colin Kaepernick kneeled to protest what he believed was racial injustice and police violence.

Ephraim Salaam, you're a retired NFL player. She responded to that, saying the reason for kneeling has become something other than that, that the focus has long since changed. What is your reaction? Is that true? EPHRAIM SALAAM, RETIRED NFL PLAYER: It's absolutely false, and when

she said it I kind of chuckled because that's the narrative that they want you to follow. They want it to be about something other than what the actual issue is. Colin Kaepernick himself and other players who have been protesting during the national anthem at these games have stated what they're protesting and the injustice at the hands of paid, protecting officials in this country in large part due to minorities. Now if you want to change the narrative to help you and make it about the flag and being patriotic then that only helps your case instead of actually talking about what the actual protest is about and it's frustrating for those who want a voice in this because they want the narrative to change. Because if the narrative changes now they seem like they're in the right. Hey, we're all Americans. Let's, you know, we're patriotic. We'll stand for the flag. We won't desecrate the flag by taking a knee and in fact, how can a man who claims to be patriotic and about the flag who was a known draft dodger who insulted Senator McCain for being a POW. And called him a loser who made fun of a Gold Star family when their child was killed in battle, how can that be patriotic? You can't have it both ways.

BROWN: Christine Brennan, I want to get your perspective on this. Of course, you're a sports analyst and columnist. Sarah was asked this notion that the president has every right to promote the flag and to be patriotic, but what about the First Amendment in all of this?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Yes, well, I will say this, certainly, she was exercising her First Amendment right to say whatever she wanted to say. As a journalist who has covered many, many press conference I have to say that was just alarming, appalling and you just want to throw up your hands as a journalist and say what are you hearing? Obviously, the answers -- just, she can't answer. There's nothing to say. The tweets speak for themselves. What you have here with Colin Kaepernick is a man who quietly, who peacefully protested, as you said, just exhibiting his opportunity to exercise his First Amendment rights as he feels that he could. Also, while he was doing that as many people know, he pledged to give a million dollars to charity and he is by all accounts close to that million dollars. That's what Colin Kaepernick has done as he's drawn the ire of so many people, Kaepernick has been giving a million dollars to charity. So there's that piece of it, as well, and I think the overall outcome. You can see, by the questions, this story is not going away. It is a big deal, and by not answering the question properly as I believe the president secretary did not do, I think it just keeps it going and it's a big issue and it should be a big issue in this country and an important issue to discuss for all of us.

BROWN: Nia, what do you have to say to her response about this is, look, protesters should speak out against officers protecting them if their issue is with police violence and not speak out against the flag?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I don't remember any of these protesters speaking out against the flag, right in this idea that they're protesting the flag, I hadn't realized that is what they're doing. They're using a moment during the football games to draw attention to their cause, to their issue in their call for racial justice and racial equality and you see that often with protest, right? Even if you think about the march on washington. It was in washington to make a point, right? It was in washington to dramatize a point and that's what protesters often do. This idea that there's a right way and a wrong way to protest is just silly, and sort of misses the point of what protest is all about. It is actually meant to disrupt. It is meant to draw attention to a cause and I think if you look at social movements throughout history. The public often disagrees with protesters, even if they're marching peacefully across a bridge, right? That was seen as disruptive as well. If you think about the March in Selma. So this idea that somehow there's a correct way and if they do it that way they would somehow be correct and draw some support, I think it's just not in line with history here.

It was interesting, if you look at what she did in the beginning, she was talking about the Little Rock Nine at some point, wrapping the White House in this administration in the civil rights movement. Again, the civil rights movement was incredibly disruptive and people didn't agree with the civil rights movement as it happened and you can go back and sanitize it now, but is wasn't that way back then.

[14:51:01] BROWN: Gloria, there are people in his base and otherwise who do believe that it's disrespectful, and it's insulting to members of the military who have fought for our freedom by kneeling during the national anthem. So you know, why is it such an issue that the president spoke out about this?

BORGER: Well, look, absolutely. There are people who disagreed about taking the knee, and honest people can have that disagreement about whether that's appropriate thing to do, whether it was the right thing to do at the moment and the president, however, was full of grievance and he was mad because he wasn't going to go to the White House. The Warriors, you're not invited to the White House. He's so full of grievance that he can't see the larger argument here so he moved from Steph Curry to the taking of the knee and then he started calling people SOBs. This is the president of the United States who started calling people names. Tomorrow he may move on and call somebody else a name, whether it's John McCain for voting against him or Jeff Sessions if he doesn't like what he does, but at this point we understand this is the M.O. Of this president when he has a grievance for somebody, this is what he does or when he feels like he's been insulted, but the country is really not about Donald Trump. The country is about larger things and if you want to have a discussion about patriotism and you want to have a discussion about how people are treated by the police, that's something the president ought to say. We need to have that. We need to do that. Let's use this as a moment, but you know that's not going to happen and so everybody else has to have that discussion without him.

BROWN: It is so interesting. You look at the bigger picture and all that's on the president's plate right now, tax reform, healthcare, Puerto Rico and this has seemingly been a big focus for him over the last few days.

Ephraim, I want to ask you, only a small fraction of NFL players kneeled during the national anthem before this. Now in the wake of the president's tweet it seems as though he has galvanized NFL players and owners.

SALAAM: He has. And, yes, it was a small group of players who carried on what Colin Kaepernick started last year. And I'm disappointed that it took something like this from the man who is supposed to be the leader of the free world to make those disparaging statements about these men who have done nothing but elevate people in their communities and donated their time and money to charity. I played 13 years in the NFL. I had a foundation. I put children in school. It's -- the things that these professional athletes in all of sports do to help their community, to call them SOBs, it's disheartening.

But I want to make one thing clear. What we saw yesterday was we saw owners and we saw players come together. They were galvanized by the staples that Trump made, but I want you to understand this, I am not fooled by any of it because you have to remember, a large portion of these owners, nine teams, to be exact, contributed funds to -- directly to President Trump and his campaign. This is not something -- these statements he made about the NFL and about these players taking the knee, those aren't surprising to me. I'm not shocked by that, because if you look at his platform that he ran on, the rhetoric was unbelievable. He's been disparaging people, handicapped people, women, minorities and the whole time and for you to come out of your pocket and donate money to a person like that, to take office in the best country in the world and now you're upset because he says something about your beloved NFL? Let's not get blinded by the fact that some of those same owners who were locked arm in arm with those players who they did not want to recognize prior to those statements as having a constitutional freedom to protest now, all of a sudden, they're galvanized there with the team. I'm not OK about that. To me, it's a slap in the face.

[14:55:30] BROWN: Let me -- let me bring in Christine.

Let me ask you on that note, Christine, what do you make of these owners here who have released statements condemning the president's comments, but none have hired Colin Kaepernick?

BRENNAN: That's true. I kind of joke, but how long before Kaepernick gets hired? Now he's the least of anyone's concerns and he's a good quarterback who took a team to the super bowl five years ago. So there's that piece of it. These owners are business people and at the end of the day they want to make sure these employees -- this is a big deal to their employees, obviously. Thankfully it is. They get that. It may be that they are kind of playing both sides against the middle, however, it was nice to see them working together with the players on Sunday and standing with the players on Sunday. I agree their history, the background of a lot of these owners is very different in terms of supporting Trump, but at least for one day they were with their players.

BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, everyone.

Much more to discuss on this very busy Monday. Coming up, the other big headline today, North Korea claiming President Trump declared war over Twitter, saying that now gives them the right to shoot down American planes. We will discuss the escalating tensions and what comes next.


[15:00:00] BROWN: Thanks for joining me on this Monday. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Brooke Baldwin.

The White House today in damage control once again. It seems this time after President Trump tripled down on his attack on the NFL, blasting players who kneeled during the anthem as --