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White House Dailey Briefing; White House Briefing Turns Contentious over Trump Accusers; White House Reporter Confronts Sarah Sanders on "Lumping Together All New Media as Fake"; Trump Talks Leadership in Space Program. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired December 11, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And since that time, he never went down. Over the course of the campaign, the campaign alongside the Republican nominee, Roy Moore. Was the president embarrassed in terms of campaigning alongside Roy Moore? Is that the reason why we didn't see him down in Alabama?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the president has spoken directly about this race and who he supports and who he doesn't due to the legality of that. I'm not going to go any further and I'll refer you back to his past statements.
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS & CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sarah, what is the disconnect as it relates to this White House when it comes to then-candidate Trump bringing the accusers of Bill Clinton to the debate with Hillary Clinton and now the accusers of Roy Moore making his accusations. What is the disconnect here?
SANDERS: As a president he found the allegations troubling and if true, he should step aside and ultimately the people of Alabama should -
SANDERS: Look, the president has first-hand knowledge on when he did and didn't do. He can speak directly to that and he's addressed them, and I don't have anything more to add.
RYAN: This is spinning, and it's focused on the him now.
SANDERS: And he's addressed it directly to the American people.
RYAN: More people are now speaking out.
SANDERS: April, I'll keep moving.
RYAN: I understand. This is a huge issue, Sarah.
SANDERS: And there are a lot of big issues today and I'm trying to call on as many of them as possible and I've called on Trey.
RYAN: Will he come out and address this, please?
SANDERS: He has, April. I've already addressed this. The president has addressed it and I don't have anything else to add.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Sarah. Today the suspected terrorist in New York City was described as a Bangladeshi immigrant. Bangladesh not on the president's travel ban list. Does it affect the travel restrictions?
SANDERS: We do know, and the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that the suspect was admitted to the United States after presenting a passport displaying an F-43 family immigrant visa in 2011, so we know that the president's policy calls for an end to chain migration, which is what this individual came to the United States through. And if his policy had been in place, then that attacker would not have been allowed to come in the country. That's why the president has pushed for not one part of immigration policy, but a responsible and total immigration reform. And that's why we have to look at all sectors and do what we can to make sure we're doing everything within our power to protect the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thanks, Sarah. At the top of your remarks about ISIS, the attack today, you talk about the need to destroy the ideology with the attackers and actual attackers. What policy changes are required to do that. How do you defeat an ideology that's been attempted since 9/11 with really no great success? What are you doing differently? What can you do differently in order to do that?
SANDERS: I think one of the best ways that we have moved forward is in a process where we're allowing the members of the Department of Defense to aggressively move forward in defeating ISIS and in hopes annihilating a lot of that evil ideology through that process. We'll continue pushing and continue working for the best ways possible to make sure that we protect Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have an update on sanctions? Last week, you said it would be coming in a number of days and Victor Cha was just nominated to be the Republic of Korea ambassador. Do you have any comment?
SANDERS: On the first part, we are working through a legal process and again, hope to have details further on that. It's a little more complicated. Once we get through that, we'll walk through it more detailed on the reason for the delay. And on the other, I don't have any personnel announcements on comments on that at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, I'm interested in the comment you made about the suspect in New York. Does the White House have any proof that this suspect was radicalized outside of the United States? He's been a lawful, permanent resident living here for some time. SANDERS: I can't get into further details on that front at this
point, but as we have them available I'll be happy to let you know.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why would his chain migration be an issue --
SANDERS: There are certain parts that I'm allowed to discuss at this point in the process. That's one of them. Anything further, I can't get into at this point, but as soon as I can, I would be happy to let you know.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will he call for an increase in spending for NASA or will there be a commercial relationship, or will he reduce NASA funding in other areas such as earth science which includes the study of climate change?
SANDERS: I'm not going to get ahead of the president's announcement. That's coming later today. We'll have further details once the process is completed.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who were the eyewitnesses who dispute the allegations against the president? And can you stand here right now and say without a doubt with 100 percent certainty that the more than dozen women who accused this president are lying? Do you wrestle with this personally at all?
[14:35:03] SANDERS: I'm here to speak on behalf of the president. I can say that the president has directly responded and said that these allegations are false, and that's what I'm doing and relaying that information to you. In terms of the specific eyewitness accounts, there have been multiple reports and I would be happy to provide them to you after the briefing is completed.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As a woman, standing up there talking to us, I know your job is to relay what the president says, have you ever been sexually harassed and I'm not saying by the president, I'm saying, ever. And secondly, do you have an empathy for those who come forward because it is very difficult for women to come forward?
SANDERS: Absolutely, I would say I have an empathy for any individual who has been sexually harassed, and that certainly would be the policy of the White House. I'm not here to speak about my personal experience on that front, but I am here to relay information on behalf of the president and that's what I'm focused on doing here today.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: To follow up on the president's announcement last week on Jerusalem -- that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. We saw protests, violent protests in the Middle East and changes to the vice president's schedule as he goes to the region. Did the White House acknowledge, the president acknowledges that that decision increased tensions in an already-volatile region?
SANDERS: We continue to urge calm and are open, willing and want to continue to meet and discussing a peace deal. Look, violence is always going to be the responsibility of those who carry it out. Not the president or anyone else, and again, we urge individuals and groups to remain calm and we want to continue working with our partners, allies and others in the region to continue moving forward on the peace conversations.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It is about more than violence and meetings being cancelled and diplomatic outcry from the governments of the United Kingdom? And why is it beneficial that the U.S. interests as the president declared if all those groups and all those countries and allies are condemning that announcement?
SANDERS: Look, the president has taking a bold and courageous action on a law that Congress passed and had failed to implement for the last couple of decades. The president's simply moving forward in taking that action on legislation that Congress has supported time and time again.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Following up on that, President Abbas has said that he will not meet with the vice president next week. Does the president have a reaction to that? And doesn't this mean that the U.S. has effectively taken itself out of the peace process when one side won't even show up to meet with the United States?
SANDERS: We certainly hope not. We find it unfortunate that they're walking away from the opportunity to discuss the future of the region, but the administration remains undeterred in its efforts to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians. And our peace team remains hard at work putting together a plan.
I'll take one last question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, the last suspect of terrorisms were not trained in Syria or Iraq. Thursday, the Russians stopped operations and said they've gotten rid of is in Syria. Saturday, the Iraqi prime minister said his fight against ISIS is won. Why would the U.S. still need to fight on the ground over there?
SANDERS: As long as there is a new member of ISIS left, we want to continue pushing forward and making sure not only that they're eradicated, but that they don't quickly turn around and come back. And we'll continue to push forward in making sure we do what we can to defeat ISIS on all fronts, and certainly that we do what we can to protect American lives.
Thanks so much, guys.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: That was one of the sharpest exchanges we have seen between Sarah Sanders and members of that White House press pool in quite a while. Back up against the wall there. First couple of questions out of the gate on a topic she didn't want to talk about, these three women, these three Trump accusers of some dozen plus. These three making news today detailing their allegations of when President Trump was a private citizen and, as they said, groped and forcibly kissed them and other things. They want a congressional investigation, and so you saw that exchange quite testy from Sarah Sanders.
David Chalian, I'm going to begin with you. She was rattled.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: She clearly was taking a lot of incoming. No doubt about that. It was interesting, Brooke, to my ear it sounded like she wanted to give a broader answer, perhaps than she has when this has come up in the last few weeks.
BALDWIN: She did.
CHALIAN: It was not just that the president said this in the campaign and there is nothing to add and there were eyewitnesses and people looked into this. She started expanding and then stopped that and every other answer after that when pressed was back to the original line, he dealt with this in the campaign and I have nothing more to add which just continues to beg the question, you heard from our colleagues in the briefing room, they said, well, does the president plan on coming out to address this in this new context that we are talking about today and the answer was he dealt with this, and I have nothing more to add. She ended up where she has always been on this, so it seems that the White House is not, though maybe that wasn't the intention when she walked into the briefing room, trying to take a different approach to answering these questions at the end of the day.
[14:40:34] BALDWIN: We'll play the sound if you're tuning in.
Jamie, quickly to you, to David's point, broadening out the answer, you and I both noted what she had said, that all of the allegations happened before he was president.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So that's definitely different. It went some place she had never gone before, long before he was elected whereas the last time she spoke it was very definitive. She said the American people, I think, spoke very loud and clear when they elected him president. I think she was rattled today. This was a very different Sarah Sanders than we've seen in the past addressing it, she's usually quite disciplined and right on topic. Not today.
BALDWIN: Let's play the moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPODNENT: I will just say, Sarah, that journalists make honest mistakes and that doesn't make them fake news.
SANDERS: If journalists make mistakes, they should own up to them.
ACOSTA: We do.
SANDERS: Sometimes and a lot of times you don't.
SANDERS: I'm sorry. I'm not finished. There's a very big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people, something that happens regularly. You can't say --
SANDERS: I'm not done.
You cannot say --
BRIAN KAREM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR & WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, MONTGOMERY COUNTY SENTINAL: That was completely fake, Sarah.
SANDERS: You can't say that it's an honest mistake when you're purposely putting out information that you know to be false or when you are taking information that hasn't been validated that hasn't been offered credibility and has been continually denied by a number of people, including people with direct knowledge of an instance. This is something that --
SANDERS: I'm speaking about the number of reports that have taken place over the last couple of weeks. I'm simply stating that there should be a certain level of responsibility in that process.
ACOSTA: This was not --
SANDERS: Brian, I called on Jim.
ACOSTA: This is not the line of questioning that I was going down, but can you cite a specific story that you say is intentionally false that was intentionally put out there to mislead the American people?
SANDERS: Sure. The ABC report by Brian Ross. I think that was pretty misleading to the American people. And I think that it's very telling that that individual had to be suspended because of that reporting. I think that shows that the network took it seriously and recognized that it was a problem.
ACOSTA: I was going to ask a question about something else.
(CROSSTALK) SANDERS: You used it on something else.
ACOSTA: Sarah, if I may --
SANDERS: Not today. We're going to keep moving guys.
ACOSTA: If I can ask about the accusations --
SANDERS: I'm moving to a different Jim. I'm sorry.
ACOSTA: I know, but I needed a chance to ask the question that I wanted to ask.
SANDERS: Jim, I'll say once and for all, I'm moving on to Jim Stenson and not taking another question from you at this point.
ACOSTA: If that's OK, I would like to ask the question that I had about these accusations of misconduct against the president. You said that he's denied them. Can you say whether or not they are also?
SANDERS: I'm not going to respond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Ooh! Jim Acosta, what was that like?
ACOSTA: Well, it's another day at the White House, Brooke. I think what came up during this briefing was a pretty clear example of what the White House wants to do when it comes to the free press in this country. Every time there is a mistake, an honest mistake, it seems that this White House, this president wants to weaponize it and use it as a way to go after news outlets in this country.
You take a look at what was brought up just before that line of questioning that I had with Sarah Sanders. Somebody was asking about a tweet about crowd sizes that came from a "Washington Post" reporter that the president tweeted over the weekend, that is what started that whole exchange because my sense of it was that if the reporter with the "Washington Post," Dave Weigel, when he put out the tweet of the crowd size, that was not an intentional attack on the president as a way to mislead the American people and he apologized for it over the weekend you know, the president has gone after this news outlet. He's gone after other news outlets after mistake are made and, Brooke, we are journalists and we are human beings. We are going to make mistakes, but that doesn't mean that, you know, you throw people overboard every time a mistake is made with a news outlet, and the problem that I had during this briefing is that you have the president of the United States referring to news outlets that make mistakes as fake news. That's just totally inappropriate especially when you have a president in Donald Trump who frequently puts out false information intentionally to the American people whether it's online, on the Internet, on social media or just speaking to us at news events. He does this frequently, and I think there are a number of reporters in this room that are trying to ask the question, what about the president when he puts out false information. Oftentimes, Brooke, that is intentional on his part. That's a very
different situation than when you have reporters who make mistakes from time to time. It doesn't delegitimize the entire, you know, free press in this country. It just means from time to time, journalists are human beings and they're going to make honest mistakes. And that was the point I wanted to make to Sarah, and I tried to ask another question which I'm not sure we ever got an answer to, and that is the accusers coming forward accusing the president of sexual assault, and you heard Sarah Sanders maneuvering around the question saying the president has denied these claims and she did not say that these claims are false. She has restated what the president has said in the past. I tried to get to the bottom of that and she did not take that question -- Brooke?
[14:46:17] BALDWIN: No, she didn't. She was asked about it out of the gate and, again, she said the president has addressed it, he's denied it that it happened before he was a private citizen before he was president. It was certainly noteworthy.
Jim Acosta, thank you, sir, as always.
Just staying on that initial point, Chris Cillizza, to Jim's point, listen, we make honest mistakes, and his perfect word on the Trump administration is they're weaponizing and exploiting these moments.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Yes. Look, it's both disheartening and it makes me angry to watch that candidly as someone who spent my entire professional career in journalism at the "Washington Post" and now here. There's giant difference between making a mistake in good will and trying to get it right and making a mistake. It's the difference between striking out with two outs and the bases loaded in the world series and trying to hit the ball and striking out because somebody gave you a hundred bucks to strike out. There is a massive difference. We do the first. We do our best with the expectation that your best like anybody's best sometimes isn't perfect and when we screw up -- Brian ross is an example, there are other examples -- and there are penalties for screwing up. That's how it works.
But the idea that that can be cited -- and Donald Trump did this in Pensacola over the weekend. He used almost the exact same words, which is they are purposely doing this. They are purposely getting things wrong out of some sort of partisan agenda. There's just no evidence of that. Brian Ross getting it wrong -- because what he reported was misleading does not mean it was intentionally misleading. Intent matters. They corrected it. He apologized. They suspended him. And your actions have consequences and your records, and your reporting have consequences.
But the idea that this is being done intentionally, the only thing I can hope is Sarah Sanders does not believe that and she's just echoing Donald Trump because Donald Trump believes that. If she does believe it, then she has less respect for reporters than any press secretary at the White House that I've ever come across. Because I guarantee you, I've spent my whole career doing this, that is not how we operate. It is not how any of us operate. We are committed first and foremost to getting it right. The end.
BALDWIN: No. It makes all of us angry. It makes all of us angry.
I want to get more on what it felt like to be in the room for that extraordinarily testy exchange.
Brian Karem and April Ryan, are with me. They're White House reporters.
Brian, you first.
You asked a great question, as a woman, does she empathize and has she been personally affected by this. Before we get to that back and forth, what was that like to be in the room? What was that like?
KAREM: Frustrating as always. The problem with the frustration level is to sit there and expect us to player for-free baseball while the president of the United States last week tweeted out something that was a complete fake video. He did it on purpose and we were told that elevated the level of discussion on an important issue. Look, we're human beings as Jim said earlier, we're going make mistakes and we always apologize and correct our mistakes. Not once in the year that this president has been here has he ever corrected a mistake or even admitted that he made one and the bottom line problem with that is you hold us to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States. And the people in this White House have such disdain for what we do. It's a matter of divide and conquer. And they're trying to smear us. And we're just trying, as I've said before, just trying to do our job. And it's increasingly difficult to do that job when the people that you are covering are set against you in trying to divide and conquer us. And it's -- it's a frustrating -- it was a very frustrating moment. April, myself, Jim, everyone was here trying to deal with it, and it is very tough to do.
[14:50:19] BALDWIN: April Ryan, you've been covering the White House for years and years and years. I imagine, it doesn't compare, but your thoughts. How do you feel seeing that?
RYAN: This is a totally different White House and a totally different room than anything I've seen before. The contention is real. Sarah was there today. She knew exactly what she was going to do. She did not want to take follow-ups. I know Jim got a couple and Brian got a couple of follow-ups and she was clear she wanted to come in there and cut down any back and forth that could make the president look bad, but with everything that's on the table, she could not knock it off ore fig fight it off. There were issues that Sarah had to really deal with and she tried to take one question from each person, but it didn't work because the issue is so real, so base. If you're going to make an accusation of one side, you have to point a finger back at yourself. She left very early, as well. I've never seen a room like that before and it's getting worse.
KAREM: I agree with that. It is -- want only is it getting worse. It is getting very difficult to get a coaching question in and it is very difficult to get a coaching answer. Sometimes, the only thing I know for sure that I can trust from this administration is when they tell me their name and even then I question it. The rest of it is all deflection and defense.
RYAN: Brooke, you know, it goes back to what Brian was saying and what Jim was saying, there is a disdain for the media, particularly those that they don't feel see eye to eye with them. It is not about seeing eye to eye with them and it's about reporting the facts. I'm looking at this tweet this morning from the president of the United States. He was going after "The New York Times" saying another false story. I watched 48 hours of television a day, wrong. I seldom if ever watch CNN or MSNBC both of which I consider fake news. I never watch don lemon who I once called the dumbest man on television bad reporting. If he didn't know it was bad reporting? How do you know if you're not watching it? Bottom line, this tweet comes out by the president of the United States as they're dealing in New York with the issue of terrorism, a bombing, and his disdain for us --
RYAN: -- supersedes what is happening in terror. So this puts the picture of how bad it is with the relationship. There is attention.
KAREN: That is more Twitter litter.
RYAN: Right. Twitter litter, but it used to be, Mike McCurry, the former White House press secretary, after Bill Clinton, and I'm thinking of all of them, Ari Fleischer, Joe Lockhart, I mean, even Dana Perino, was there a friendly adversarial relationship. Now the friendly is gone. There are more adversarial relations in that room than there is friendly.
BALDWIN: Hang on, because I want to go back. I am listening to both of you. When the first couple of questions and this was felt so personal because the questions out of the gate were about her boss and they were about these women who came forward today who are all calling for this congressional investigation and when you heard Sarah Sanders and we heard that they believe that these women are lying and that, you know, denying all of the allegations.
But, Brian, she was referring to eyewitnesses.
BALDWIN: Eyewitnesses that come forward. Do we know who these eyewitnesses are? Who she referred to?
KAREM: We've asked.
BALDWIN: Who are they?
KAREM: That would be a great question to have answered that we haven't had answered. More importantly, what we'd like to do is to see some equivalence. The American public would like to see some equivalence between what this man is responsible for and what everyone else is responsible for, Al Franken, you can go on and on and on with the names of the people that have come forward and had accusations made against them. And they're held to a certain standard and the president of the United States is held to a different standard. And everyone needs to be held to the same standard and that's not happening. So when they say witnesses, produce them, produce them.
RYAN: Well, on to say what she said, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and the White House press secretary, said she would provide them after the briefing and provide the names after the briefing.
RYAN: So I'm waiting to find out. I'm waiting to find out. I want to see these names. And I hope it's not just one reporter and the vast majority of us because we want to know who these women are. She's adding now to this extra layer of all of this. If there were witnesses, we need to hear if the president is not going to come out and address this, because if they're active accusers, we need to hear the other witnesses.
[14:55:09] KAREM: Something that you said earlier, April, I want to go back to that. What you talked about is the adversarial lacking the friendly, there is a real feeling from inside the White House that we have an agenda, that we are here to make him look bad and we are just here to ask questions and get answers. I can't low pressure it if your answers don't jive with fact, and I can't help it if your answers are standard and aren't factual. But we're going to ask the questions. Larry speaks, don't tell us how to stage news, we won't tell you how to report it. This administration is intent on telling us, they want to stage it and they want to tell us how to report it, and that's the difference and that's what's got to change.
BALDWIN: A couple of Democrats have come forward, as you well know, Cory Booker, Jeff Markley and Kirsten Gillibrand.
And I want to play sound, have you respond. Senator Gillibrand, the third now, saying the president needs to resign. Here she is for CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTEN GILLIBRAND, (D), NEW YORK: President Trump should resign. These allegations are credible. They are numerous. I've heard these women's testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking and President Trump should resign his position. Whether he will ever hold himself accountable is something, you know, you really can't hold your breath for upon. So Congress should have hearings and do their investigation. They should have appropriate investigations of his behavior and hold him accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That was on with Christiane Amanpour.
And I would love to get both of you.
April, to you first, just on how -- obviously, he's not going to step down just because Kirsten Gillibrand says he should, but is this new for the president?
RYAN: Democrats let themselves be the example. They hurt themselves by letting their leaders go and they are actually hurt. They are hurting because this is happening. They're hurting because of the allegations and they knew that they had to do what they had to do and some may say it's political, it might be political, but they indeed did this and they have to fix this and it's about the fix. Now it's on the Republican Party who is standing with someone who is like dealing with a 14-year-old, a teenager, not a young woman, a teenager, 14, 15, 16. It puts a spotlight on the leader of the free world, the moral leader of this free nation.
At the same time, you have to remember, Brooke, there is a larger portion of America who disapprove of this president than that 33 percent, 35 percent that approve of him, and this is part of that equation. It's not just about the wiretapping and it's not just about cutting numbers, the numbers of the least of these when it comes to ACA and it's not just about voter fraud. It's not just about that, it's a whole ball of wax or snow --
RYAN: He's not going to resign. But what it's going to take is --
RYAN: But wait a minute, hold on. Listen, Brian. What it's going to take is for his Republican Party, for his Republican Party to stand by the people who say something is wrong because what happened was they turned about and now they're standing with the president when they said these women had credible accusations against roe Moore. We have to see.
KAREM: He's not going anywhere. As long as he's got the votes, he's not going anywhere.
RYAN: It's all about that base.
KAREM: At the end of the day -- you can impeach him and ask him to resign, and I think he'll claw and hold on to this office until his last breath. I don't think he's going anywhere.
(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: As he's watching us on TV right now.
BALDWIN: Let's all standby.
Speaking of, let's go to President Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, Vice President Pence, for helping -- where's our vice president?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right here.
TRUMP: Great job. Great job.
To restore American leadership in space, so important.
Cabinet members, General Silva (ph), Deputy Secretary Shanahan, Acting Administrator Lightfoot, members of Congress, and the National Space Council, thank you all for being here.
And especially, Mike, I know how active you've been and how important this is to you. So we appreciate it. Thank you very much.
We also welcome Astronauts Christina Koch and Peggy Witson.
Christina, thank you.
Peggy, thank you very much.
Peggy recently returned from the international space station and has now spent an incredible 665 days in space.
You'll have to explain that. That sounds tough.
More than any other American, more than any woman ever.
Finally, we are honored to be joined by Apollo Astronaut Jack Schmitt. Exactly 45 years ago, almost to the minute, Jack became one of the last Americans to land on the moon. Today, we pledge that he will not be the last. And I suspect we'll be finding other places to land --