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White House Daily Briefing; Trump Lawyers Send Cease-and-Desist Letter to Bannon, Publisher. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 4, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And no further legal action against any of those individuals?



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, thanks. Just a couple. I just want to ask you broadly speaking, what's your level of exhaustion when you have to have this issue out there when there are other policy issues to try to get to and try to communicate to the American people, how do you balance that? And I guess the obvious would be, did you speak to the president specifically about what has been said or at least has been released about this book?

SANDERS: I have spoken to the president about some of the specifics that have come up. In terms of the level of exhaustion, I'm less concerned with my exhaustion as I am with the people of this country who, frankly, probably could care less about a book full of lying and would really like to hear about the booming economy, crushing of is, all of the great things that are happening in this country, or all of the big problems that we are focused on tackling. I don't think they really care about some thrush that an author that no one had ever heard of until today or a fired employee wants to pedal. This is the focus of this administration, is moving our country forward, and hopefully everybody in the room will join us in that effort and focus on some of the policy components instead of the ridiculous lies we have to spend all of our time focused on.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Immigration, is it your impression something will be done, vis-a-vis, the wall and ground announcement of some sort that the president would like to make on that?

SANDERS: Again, we would like to make sure we have responsible immigration reform. As I said at the front, we would like to have a deal where we have DACA as well as those priorities and principles that we laid out last year met, and that's the reason why president is inviting members from the Democrat party to come over next week, so we can have that discussion and see if we can move the ball forward in that process.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As a candidate president threatened some 20 lawsuits and folds through with two of them. So why should Steve Bannon and Michael Wolff be concerned? SANDERS: I think regardless of whether or not there is a lawsuit,

they should be concerned about peddling fake stories. They should be concerned about putting out information that's not true. They should be concerned about the fact that we are spending all of our time focused on talking about this instead of things that people in this country care about. I think that's a really sad process and I this I that this that should be everyone's concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the president committed to following through with these lawsuits?

SANDERS: I think that's a question you'd have to talk to his attorneys about. And whether or not that moves forward and what that looks like.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Run the risk of increasing book sales, though, Sarah, drawing more attention to this?

SANDERS: I think you guise are the ones drawing attention. Every question I've been asked has to do with that. It's not like I came out here and read earnings excerpts from the book. In fact, if I tried to do that I would be certainly be attacked. Because I did that once and it didn't go over really well. Mike, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Response to revelations in this book?

SANDERS: Absolutely not. That's a ridiculous characterization. This is the about the security and technology of the White House. This is something that has been in process and in the works for over six months. And we were making sure that all of the information and the ability for the government phones to increase their ability for other application, so that we can comply with presidential records act. That was a big piece of making sure that this was done. Now that that process is completed, we can move forward and that will start next week. Mike?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How would you describe the president's relationship with the mercer family, how would you describe that?

SANDERS: I believe it's good. I haven't heard otherwise. But I'm not aware of anything specific.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You were eager to call on ESPN to fire one of the sports casters for criticizing President Trump.

SANDERS: It wasn't just criticizing, it was a little bit different from that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should "Breitbart" part ways with Steve Bannon after the comments in the book?

SANDERS: I certainly think that it's something they should look at that time and consider.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thanks. I'd like to speak on yesterday. I profess my ignorance.

SANDERS: You said it, not me. If you want to call yourself ignorant I'm not going to argue.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I am. So next week when he goes to his physical, are there mental acuity tests that go along with that, or is it purely physical in nature?

SANDERS: We'll discuss, as I said, when I announce he'll be doing the physical, we'll have a read out of that after that is completed and we'll let you know at that time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And second question I have for you is yesterday you said Steve Bannon was entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts. This administration has said on many occasions that they are entitled to alternative facts. So how is that different with Steve Bannon?

[14:35:00] SANDERS: This administration has not said on numerous occasions that there are alternative facts. I know there was one reference in which they were saying there is basically two sides to the story. I think that's very different than completely false information and an opinion.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, thanks. President said today Steve Bannon changed his tune about him last night. Does the president feel that the seize and desist letter had the desired effect on Steve Bannon?

SANDERS: I'm not sure what aspect made him change his tune, but I think that there was certainly a difference in some of the language that he used for this book versus the language that he used last night.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Question on oil drilling, please. Rick Scott, governor of Florida, expressing concerns about the administration's new oil drilling offshore oil drilling plan which would allow obviously drilling on most coastal waters. Can the president afford to cross this political ally? And what do you plan to say to him about the whole plan?

SANDERS: We are going to continue to work with him on number of issues. Just because we may differ on issues from time to time doesn't mean that we can't still have an incredibly strong and good relationship. We'll continue those conversations with him. And hopefully, all come to agreement.

I'll take one lasts question.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You were calling Michael Wolff book a book full of lies. Didn't this White House give Michael Wolff all the access that he wanted? SANDERS: Absolutely not. In fact, there are probably more than 30

requests for access to information from Michael Wolff that were repeatedly denied, including within that at least two dozen requests of him asking to have an interview with the president, which he never did, he never discussed this book with the president. And to me that would be the most important voice that you could have if you were looking to write a book about an individual would be to have some time with him. He never d he was repeatedly denied that I think because we saw him for what he was. And there was no reason for us to waste the president of the United States time.


SANDERS: And frankly, since we were unable --


SANDERS: I'll let you have one follow up.

ACOSTA: I appreciate that.

Should the letter from the president's lawyers aimed at Steve Bannon and aimed at the publisher be interpreted as a threat from the United States government, from this administration to not publish this book?

SANDERS: It's not from the United States government. It's from the president's personal attorney. And I think it is very clear what its purpose is, and there is nothing beyond that. If you have specifics on that I would refer you to the president's attorneys.

Thanks so much, guys.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. Let's analyze. I have Chris Cillizza back with me. Joining us, Gloria Borger, Brian Stelter.

Of course, we had the president touching on the good news, the fact that Dow Jones hit 25,000 and touting tax cuts and how it's helping Americans already.

Let's begin with, Gloria Borger, where Sarah Sanders over and over ripping Michael Wolff. Just jotting down what she said, "complete fantasy, laughable, mistake after mistake after mistake."

What did you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she also called it trash and tabloid gossip, sad, pathetic, any other word you can think of. You know, it's clear to me the White House had two objectives in mind today. The first was to get the president himself, and don't forget he thinks he's his best spokesman to come and try to turn the page to point out to people as a result of tax reform, workers were getting more money in their paychecks, et cetera, et cetera.

And then have Sarah Sanders go out there and push back even harder today, I this I, in a way, then she did yesterday, pointing out, of course, that Michael Wolff didn't even sit down with the president, which is the most important voice you should have, making the case that perhaps "Breitbart" should look at firing Steve Bannon. And, you know, pushing back really, really hard on this. And just continuing to do so. And I think what they are trying to do is plant the seed, of course, that this is fiction.

BALDWIN: But is some of that, Brian -- you've had Michael Wolff on, and you've rumbled a little bit with him. But the fact is how much should one believe? Yes, there are direct quotes, you know, laced throughout, pretty damning direct quotes, but some of it is just conjecture.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCESL: There are definitely reasons to be skeptical. And Sarah Sanders has a point about the John Boehner reference in the book about when Roger Ailes or someone brought it up, who is that, when Roger Ailes or someone else brought up John Boehner. That seems strange. But there are many on the record not denied or disputed in this book. This book gives a consistent portrait that many reporters have been painting for months about the president's incompetence and inability. So Wolff is adding --


[14:40:18] BALDWIN: So comes so close to Trump world?

STELTER: That's right why Trump is challenging the book. We are in such unchartered territory that the president's personal lawyer sends a cease and desist letter to them. They are not supposed to sell it until tuesday. So this book is coming out even though Trump is trying to stop t a lot of questions in the briefing that was referred to the personal attorney. I've e-mailed him, and he's not responded to those questions. I don't know if he's expecting a response from the publisher other than they've received alert and they'll read it. But the legal fight is drawing more attention to the book. All of the questions in that briefing were about the book and I thought the most questions were about the president's mental fitness. But yesterday President Trump questioned mental fitness by saying Steve Bannon lost his mind.

BALDWIN: How can we get past the fact here is Sarah Sanders from the White House podium lecturing people on the truth when it is stretched all the time inside the White House and from the president himself, Chris Cillizza?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Stretched, you are being nice. Honestly, Brooke.

BALDWIN: That was a nice word.

CILLIZZA: My former employee, "The Washington Post," calculated as of January 2, Donald Trump had said 1, 950 things that were either totally false or mostly false in his first 347 days as president. You do the math. And sometime early next week he's going to go over 2,000. That is true stretching and truth breaking, the likes of which we just have not ever seen. Forget the presidential level. I would say from almost any political level.

My friend Brian is right. Unchartered territory through the looking glass. We are at a time and with a president who made a candidacy and made the first year in office on doing the opposite of what most times other presidents would do. What is it the effect of that? What does that mean for journalism? What does it mean for the broader culture? What does it mean for voters? What does it mean for his party? These are things we still don't know the answer to because we are still less than 365 days into the Trump presidency. But what you know is history is no guide here I don't think, to tell us what's next. I think all we can look at is how has Donald Trump operated in his first 350 days as president and what could that possibly tell us about his next 50 or 100 or 150? But you've not seen anything like this before. And we have to keep reminding ourselves of that fact.

BALDWIN: You wrote about that, and great point not to normalize this. This is not normal.


CILLIZZA: And one quick thing to add to that, Brooke. I think the normal thing is a lot of anti-Trump people pick up on and say we can't normalize him. I can say we can't normalize him. But people who voted for Donald Trump voted for him because he wasn't the normal person who runs for president.


STELTER: Yes, they want competency.


CILLIZZA: But we need to remember that when talking about that.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

STELTER: But they want competency and want to trust the people in charge and the book goes to the heart is he stable enough to be boss. That's what the book is fun. I know the Steve Bannon is fun and cheeseburger is funny. But the book is about his stability. And it's going to come out to whether Trump wants it to or not.

BALDWIN: What about speaking of the president, Gloria, we haven't seen him publicly since he came back from Mar-a-Lago and here he is pops up on this giant video screen behind Sarah Sanders, it's like he wants to talk to the press and the world, but he doesn't want to show up in the briefing room.

BORGER: Well, you know, popping up on a screen in a controlled environment where you are reading a statement is a pretty safe thing to do, because nobody is throwing questions at you. You have a script, you are reading off the script. And I think what he was trying to do, as I was saying earlier, is turn the page here. Because he wants to get off of this topic.

BALDWIN: Focus on positive. [14:44:41] BORGER: This is bad. This is bad for him when people are

asking when he goes to have his physical, will he be taking a test for mental acuity. That is not a good question for the White House to have to answer. And I think this is one easy way for them to kind of try and challenge that. But this isn't going away. This book is going to be published, maybe sooner rather than later, and it's already out there in the either, so the questions people were asking before this book are going to be asked more after the book. And, yes, there are things you be pick at in as Brian was pointing at, but the overall things that reporters like me and others have been hearing privately off the record, which are suddenly on the record in this book.

BALDWIN: By the way, we'll be talking to the reporter who asked that question, Brian, at the top of the hour. Close us out. Final thought.

STELTER: This book, we have only seen maybe 5 percent of what's in it. So, there is a lot more still to come from whatever Michael Wolff has, yes it should be scrutinized, yes, people should be skeptical of it, but these on the record quotes from Bannon have not been denied.

BALDWIN: All right. Everyone, thank you so much.

We'll talk live lawyer, Mark Geragos, about whether the White House can stop this book from being published legally and whether Steve Bannon has a case against the president.

Also ahead, a significant information about the Russia investigation. We're now learning what the Trump administration has turned over to special counsel, Robert Mueller. Please stand by.


[14:51:24] BALDWIN: Back to our big story. Coming up next, we'll talk live with talking to lawyer, Mark Geragos, if the White House can stop this book from being published and weather Steve Bannon has a case against the president.

Also, dangerous conditions as this so-called bomb cyclone is slamming the east coast. Millions of people are under blizzard warnings. I'm looking out the window in New York and the blow is blowing sideways. We have live reports coming up.


[14:55:44] BALDWIN: President Trump's private lawyer has just sent a letter to former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, demanding he stops making disparaging comments. This is in response to Bannon's explosive comments about the president and the Trump family in the new book out next week.

So for legal perspective on this, Mark Geragos is with me, CNN legal analyst, and defense attorney.

Mark Geragos, nice to see you. Happy New Year. MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Happy New Year to you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. The question is can the president's attorney actually stop the publishers from distributing the book?

GERAGOS: No, he cannot. There is a doctrine of prior constraint and every court is going to say what you can do is after it's published you can see for defamation or libel or violation of nondisclosure agreement. Part of what that cease-and-desist letter was calling was saying you signed a nondisclosure, NDA, which we heard about in recent months and the last year in different contents, and that basically you are bound by that. And so the only remedy is after the fact you can, you can't do it prior.

BALDWIN: So riddle me this then, because the letter is threatening imminent legal action. You mention the NDA, they are claiming that Steve Bannon breached the NDA that he had signed some time ago. So you have the White House, on one hand, saying, you know, the claims in the book you heard Sarah Sanders a second ago, "totally fantasy, trash," but on the other hand, they are irked at Steve Bannon saying he violated NDA.


GERAGOS: I see where you are headed. It's an interesting conundrum. Because usually for defamation you have to prove that what was said is not true. In some of these cases, I don't know that they want to litigate whether there's 10 items out of that book, and three of the things that Bannon said arguably may be true. So I don't know that they want to get into that.

BALDWIN: We also know, we discussed this, but then private citizen Trump, businessman Trump, he has a history of -- his litigious ways, right, he threatens to sue, but he doesn't always follow-through. Do you see this more as a tactic to scare perhaps Bannon or the publisher or other insiders from speaking out? What's your interpretation of that threat?

GERAGOS: I think it's more beating of the chest. There is a degree of hypocrisy here. On one hand the lawyers are arguing in other context that Trump should not Napoleon bonaparte the middle of civil lawsuits. They have business to take care of as president and made that argument in numerous courts, including, I think, Brooke you and I talked about New York Supreme Court recently within the last month.


GERAGOS: And now here they are telling Bannon if you don't shut up we'll see you, which would mean that they are availing themselves of the court, which would seem to undercut the argument they made just last year.

BALDWIN: Before the "shut up, we'll sue you," we had that statement from the president yesterday, you know, essentially saying since Steve Bannon left the White House he lost his mind. Since what the president said there, do you think Steve Bannon has a defamation case against Donald Trump?

GERADOS: I can tell you this, I have pretty good authority that he's considering that. So I --


BALDWIN: He, being Steve Bannon?

GERAGOS: Steve Bannon is considering that.

BALDWIN: No kidding? OK.

GERAGOS: Yes. So when you say somebody has lost their mind or implied they didn't do this or that, that also could be potentially a defamation action, where Bannon has the ability to do it.

BALDWIN: Would that have merit, based on what you know?

GERAGOS: It's got about as much merit, if not more than the things that they are claiming that Bannon has to cease and desist about. Some of the things that Bannon is saying, you know, somebody is an idiot, you know, how many times have you said that, Brooke, usually we don't try to do it in public? But I know I've used the term that person is an idiot more than once in recent memory.

BALDWIN: Mark Geragos, on the potential defamation lawsuit filed by Steve Bannon against the president.

Thank you, sir.

GERAGOS: Thank you, Brooke.