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CNN NEWSROOM

Coverage Of The Press Briefing At The White House; Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired August 14, 2018 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One last question --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of the remains in the 55 boxes, can we confirm for a fact that all of them are human remains or are we still questioning that?

Yes. We did a cursory inspection of the remains and wants before we loaded them on to our military aircraft, just to ensure that at least some of what was in each box was human. When we got Oson (ph) in South Korea we spent two days going through every box in detail conducting what we call a field forensic review. The purpose of that review so to ensure that every item is consistent with being human and if there were any animal remains, we would have pulled them out at that point. As it was, we did not find any animal remains.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any idea how many people that we're looking at yet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don't. You know, there is a scientific process to estimate that. And I wish it were very fast, because I think a lot of people would really like to know. The families would love to know that information. But, unfortunately, it's going to take months of analysis to start to get a refined estimate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, just one last question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a time lean for bringing back the remains and ask you tell us what it was like to work with the North Koreans on this particular part of this process. Have they been working with you if good faith every step of the way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So the first question is, as Mr. (INAUDIBLE) he mentioned we are in the process of planning next steps. So we can't say we have any time line today for bringing back more remains. We are hopeful that we will be in the not too distant future.

I will say, though, in terms of having worked there. I worked there in the past during the 1996 to 2005 years. I spent a lot of time in the field there. Then I went in with our team on July 27th and there was a very different feel to it this time. It was a much more friendly, welcoming and collegial approach this time compared to the way it used to be.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you.

Thank you, director. Looking ahead to next week, ambassador Bolton will meet with officials in Israel and Ukraine as well as with his Russian counterpart in Geneva as a follow-up to the Helsinki summit to discuss a range of important national security issues.

Lastly, we extend our prayers to those families of those injured and deceased after the tragic bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy as well as to the victims of this this morning's attack in London.

The President condemns this horrible attack on innocent civilian and stands ready to provide assistance to the United Kingdom.

And with that, I will take your questions -- John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, what we heard from The President via twitter on Omarosa describing her as crazed, a crying, low life, a dog. Is this any way for a President to talk about any American let alone somebody that he hired and made the highest ranking African-American woman in his White House?

SANDERS: I think the President is certainly voicing his frustration with the fact that this person has shown a complete lack of integrity, particularly by the actions following her time here at the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he hire her? Why did he hire somebody he described as a dog?

SANDERS: The President wanted to give her a chance and he made clear when General Kelly came on and he voiced concerns that this individual didn't have the best interests of the White House and the President and the country at heart. The President said, do what you can to get along, and if you can't, he gave him full authority to carry out the decision to let her go -- Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the strategy in continuing to respond to the charges? Why does he just ignore it?

SANDERS: Look, I think he has made again the frustrations. I think all not only those of us here in the White House, but frankly, I think most of America would be happy to ignore it. Unfortunately, the individuals in this room continue to create a large platform for somebody they know not to have a lot of credibility, for someone they frankly refused to give a platform to when they worked here at the White House.

It wasn't until this individual started to negatively attack this President and this administration and try to tear this entire place down that she received the type of platform and rollout that she's getting. I think it would be great if every single person in this room and every single person in the administration never had to talk about this again. And we actually got to focus on the real policies and the real things that not matter just to people in this building, but certainly all Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics and everybody in between. I think that would be the best thing that we can certainly do for our country -- Jill.

[15:05:07] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Sarah. What do you say to critics? You see his attacks on Omarosa as a part of a pattern of insulting prominent African-Americans, (INAUDIBLE) criticizing don Lemon, Maxine Waters, he say that football players protesting racial injustice, don't know what they are protesting?

SANDERS: Look, the President just has absolutely nothing to do with race and everything to do with the President calling out someone's lack of integrity. The idea that you would only point a few of the things that the President has said negative about people that are minorities, the fact is the President's an equal opportunity person that calls things like he sees it. He always fights fire with fire and he certainly doesn't hold back on doing that across the board.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you find an NDA?

SANDERS: I'm not going back and forth who has sign an NDA here at the White House. I can tell you that it's common in a lot of places for employees to sign NDAs, including in government, particularly anyone with a security clearance -- Andy.

Unless there is another Andy right there. John may be happy to go by you. That means he gets to take your question, but.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President said he kept Omarosa on despite complaints from colleagues because she was personally supportive of him.

SANDERS: Sorry, I can't hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said he kept her on despite complaints about her behavior because she was personally supportive about him. Is that true of any other White House officials work income this White House right now?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of it - Justine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since you don't want to talk about Omarosa, (INAUDIBLE).

SANDERS: I don't know. We'll do our best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a reaction to President Erdogan calling for a ban on U.S. electronics I can iPhones? And would the President encourage a similar ban on Turks products by Americans?

SANDERS: I certainly don't have a policy announcement on that front at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard the same ban, there was a report from our colleague at Reuters that the U.S. is warning Turkey of increased pressure. So I was wondering if you have details on how that was conveyed, what additional stems might look like and if the U.S. would take additional steps before the hearings for the detained American pastor October 12th? SANDERS: How the information from Turkey was received or how the

information from the United States to Turkey?

Well, I can tell you the at the Turkish ambassador's request, as you know, ambassador John Bolton met with the ambassador of Turkey yesterday here at the White House. It continued to raise and point out the concerns that we have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One last one. The President encouraged Israel's government to release the Turkish citizen in July and could that attribute to his frustration with Erdogan not releasing (INAUDIBLE).

SANDERS: Certainly the President has a great deal of frustration on the fact that Brunson has not been released as well as the fact that other U.S. citizens and employees of diplomatic facilities have not been released. We are going to continue to call on Turkey to do the right thing and release those individuals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President or this White House believe that it is a violation of department of justice protocol if the special counsel's investigation goes beyond September 1st?

SANDERS: I'm not going to say that we would say necessarily a specific violation. But I think we have been very clear that not only do we but all the American people want this to wrap up -- John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sarah. Two questions on Turkey. As the relationship between the President and the President Erdogan grows proliferous. My question very simply is are we going to see the restoration of the readouts on the calls between the President and other world leaders? That was terminated on the day after President Erdogan's election. And although we know that he, the President, made a congratulatory call to him, there has been no readout since. Is that going to be restored?

SANDERS: Certainly, we will continue to keep you all posted not just on calls with Turkey but other state of head calls and provide readouts when we have them - (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban in Afghanistan this week has been on a surprise offensive. They have killed about 100 Afghan security forces, a couple dozen civilians, as far as we know. The President was visiting with the tenth mountain division yesterday at Fort Drum. They served in Afghanistan.

Does this new offensive -- is he still committed to his strategy he outlined a year ago for Afghanistan or has this new offensive given him maybe a different approaches might be need?

SANDERS: Certainly no announcements or changes on policy from the President's rollout last August -- Kristin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, have you asked the President if he has ever used the "n" word.

[15:10:03] SANDERS: The President directly addressed that question directly via twitter. I refer you back to him. I can certainly say I have never heard him use that term or anything similar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But did you ask him directly, Sarah?

SANDERS: The President -- I didn't have to, he addressed the American people all at one time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why don't you ask him directly?

SANDERS: Again the President asked that directly on twitter earlier today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people will never hear Donald Trump utter the "n" word on any context.

SANDERS: I can't guarantee anything. But I can tell you that the Mr. President addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I have never heard it. I can also tell you that if myself or the people that are in this building serving this country every single day doing our very best to help people all across this country and make it better, if at any point we felt that the President was who some of his contradiction claim him to be, we certainly wouldn't be here.

This is a President who is fighting for all Americans, who is putting policies in place that help all Americans, particularly African- Americans. Just look at the economy alone. This President since he took office in the year-and-a-half that he has been here has created 700,000 new jobs for African-Americans. That's 700,000 African- Americans that are working now that weren't working when this President took place.

When President Obama left after eight years in office, eight years in office he had only created 195,000 jobs for African-Americans. President Trump in his first year-and-a-half has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years. Not only did he do that for African-Americans, but for Hispanics, 1.7 more Hispanics are working now. This is a President who carries about all Americans, who is committed to helping them and is putting policies in place that actually do that -- Kevin.

Sorry, Kristin, I'm going to Kevin. Kevin, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to be clear, you can't guarantee it.

SANDERS: Look. I haven't been in every single room. I can tell you the President has addressed this directly. He has addressed it directly to the American people. And I can tell you what the focus and the heart of the President is and that's on helping all Americans. And certainly this is somebody who has been in business for decades and you are just now hearing some of these outrageous accusations after the fact he has dealt with people all over the world. It wasn't until he became a candidate for President you started to hear these salacious and ridiculous claims. And certainly I think if you look at the actions that this President has taken, certainly the policies that he has enacted, you can see the heart of who he is. And you can see exactly what he has done and the type of president and person he is -- Kevin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sarah. Just a very quick one on something that Omarosa said today. She called the President unfit, mentally unfit for the office. As someone who worked with her, how surprised are you at the level of her animus towards this President, toward this White House and fight with Trump?

SANDERS: I'm certainly, I think like most people that worked with her very disappointed that she would go to such a self-serving and somebody who blatantly cares more about herself than our country to make up some of these outrageous claims and accusations.

Look, she worked here for a year and didn't have any of these things to say. In fact, everything she said was quite the opposite. And not just the year that she worked here, but the time she spent on the campaign trail and I think it's really sad what she is doing at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could follow very quickly, I want to ask you just very briefly. We read earlier this afternoon the Trump campaign has made an arbitration action against Omarosa. And I'm just curious. I know there are separate entities, but is it likely the White House is considering pursuing something in the way of possible action towards Omarosa for violating --

SANDERS: I certainly wouldn't be able to comment on any potential legal matter, major.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, a moment ago, you said one motive of Omarosa was to tear this entire place down. What do you mean by that? And do you have or others here have ongoing concerns that while she was here, she would tape other conversations that could either be damaging to the reputation of this White House or relevant towards something you would rather keep quiet.

SANDERS: I think the greatest concern we have is the lack of integrity this individual has shown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One other thing, Sarah. She played a tape recording of a conversation with the President. Do you have own doubt that is and authentic conversation that she had with the President?

SANDERS: I don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President said he was unaware in that conversation. Is that a true representation of what he knew at the time or was he just trying to make Omarosa (INAUDIBLE)?

SANDERS: As I said moments ago, the President had a direct conversation with General Kelly, asked him to try to work things out. If it didn't, he gave General Kelly the full authority to make decisions about hiring and firing, including with respect to Omarosa.

[15:15:07] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he knew what would happen and he knew he would approve.

SANDERS: On the timing I think he knew it was certainly a possibility. But as to the fact whether or not Kelly had called the President, I don't think he had at that point -- Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Sarah. Repeatedly, we have heard the President declare that the so-called Islamic State terror group has been practically vanquish, especially in Iraq and Syria. Well, the defense department yesterday, the lead inspector general for operation inherent resolve in fact says that their forces are estimated to be anywhere between 28,631 fighters which would be about the number that they have at their peak. So has ISIS been practically vanquish?

SANDERS: Certainly we know the caliphate has been practically destroyed. Certainly, there continue to be ISIS fighters. And that is why we continue to take all of those threats seriously and look for ways every single day to defeat them and protect American people and our allies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I go back to the race question again? I get that you can cite things statistics that might be positive statistics for policies the President has done vis-a-vis African-Americans and other minorities.

What do you say to people who look at the pattern of the comments the President made specifically about African-Americans and feel like he is singling those folks out because of their race? Are they missing something? Are they deluding themselves? What do you say to them? Because there are lots of people out there who look at to the pattern and says, yes, he says negative things about a lot of people. But there seems to be a particular pattern of singling out African- Americans and commenting in particular about their lack of intelligence or their looks?

SANDERS: I certainly don't think so. I think as I said the President has said similar things about a number of individuals, certainly that are not African-American or any other minority. I can simply talk to you about the policies and the person that the President is. I think if again the person that a lot of his critics say he is, certainly wouldn't have been in business with him for decades, certainly he wouldn't have had Bill and Hillary Clinton. They attended his wedding. A number of Democrats begged him for campaign contributions.

I mean, if they were who he said he was, why did they have these relationships with him? I think it's very convenient that these accusations started once the President became someone running for office. He has shown time and time again through his actions, through his policy, that he wants to be a President for all Americans, that he wants to do everything he can to make America better and not just for a certain group of people but for everybody.

I think that he has made a number of comments about how plenty of people and to try to single that out to one group is frankly is silly because I think if you did a comparison, he has probably got a lot more nasty things out there from other people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

SANDERS: I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that --?

SANDERS: The President is somebody who is always going to fight fire with fire. This isn't something that isn't knew. And it is something the American people knew when they voted for him. And they overwhelmingly elected him to be the President of the United States. And since he took office, he has governed in a way that is helping all Americans.

Frankly, if we want to look at who is creating division in the country, I think the media has done more to divide this country, certainly far more than this President ever has by elevating people like the author of this book. By focusing on sparsely attended rally, instead of all of the policies that this administration and that this President are enacting that are helping people not just on the economy, but on school choice, on prison reform, that's disproportionately affected African-Americans and Hispanics. This is a President who is governing to help all Americans. And I think we would all be better off if the media gave that just a little bit more attention -- John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks a lot, Sarah.

You expressed how you feel about Omarosa since the publication of this book. How is she viewed by fellow staff members here at the White House while she worked here? Did she pull her own weight? What she viewed as untrustworthy? Did you trust her? I'm just trying to get a sense of whether your view of her has changed with the publication of this book?

SANDERS: Certainly, I have expressed some disappointment. I'm not going to get into a back and forth on personal feelings that I have with a former colleague. I think that the focus not only of my time here, but of this administration is looking forward and how we can actually implement policies that matter to the American people, not with liked who in the building behind me -- Ryan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A different topic and a follow up. When the first time the Mueller investigation indicted some Russians, this administration sanctioned those Russians. The 12 that were recently indicted, 12 Russian nationals, does this administration plan to level sanctions against them?

[15:20:17] SANDERS: I don't have any announcement on that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quick follow up. You said you would like everyone to stop talking about this particular subject, including the administration. So are you saying you would like the President to stop tweeting about Omarosa?

SANDERS: I think if the media continues to give it wall-to-wall coverage, the administration in some cases will be forced to respond. But I think it would better off for all of us to walk away and focus on some things that matter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Sarah. Thank you so much. I want to ask you about secretary Mattis (ph) (INAUDIBLE) right now in visiting (INAUDIBLE). How much does his trip has to do with countering the growing presence of China in the region?

SANDERS: Certainly, we have a lot of shared values with the countries that he is visiting. We would always like to be the priority partner for those countries. And we hope that those relationships will continue to develop. And we will keep you posted of he has any updates from the trip. Last question, Stephen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bear in mind that the Trump campaign announcement that it is pursuing arbitration of Omarosa necessitates attention and a major national focus. Can we talk -- can I ask you once more about the practice of signing people to non-disclosure agreements? Because, let me ask you what it says about the expressions of loyalty or lack thereof. People who work behind that wall? Why do people need to be contractually obligated in perpetuity to never say anything negative about the President, any member of his family, any product they should produce? Why is that necessary?

SANDERS: Again it's common in a lot of --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corporations, protecting corporate interest. What is the particular --?

SANDERS: Certainly, it's also, despite the contrary opinion, it's actually very normal and every administration prior to the Trump administration has had NDAs, particularly specific for anyone that had a security clearance. This White House is certainly no --?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's keeping someone like Omarosa silent. Because right now, what the Trump campaign is doing is he is forcing her of essentially to defend herself and potentially pay damages. Why is that necessary?

SANDERS: That's a question you have to ask the Trump campaign. It's certainly not a question that I can answer as someone in an official government capacity.

Thanks so much, guys. Have a great day. All right.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. So, we are officially living in a world where the White House press secretary is asked rightfully so if her boss the President of the United States, has ever used the "n" word. And you know what she didn't say right out of the gate. No. She didn't categorically deny that the President would ever use, such a vial term in his life. Instead, she said the President directly addressed it. And in fact, let me show you how the President directly address this on twitter earlier today saying that he had essentially got this call from Mark Burnett who had assured him that there was no tape as has been alleged by Omarosa, that he had said the "n" word, right. All claims. So essentially, the President saying, well, Mark Burnett says, he

called to say there is no tape. So there is no proof that they didn't say it.

And the other point I wanted to make, Errol Louis, I'm starting with you, is Sarah Sanders then also said well, I haven't been in every single room that the President has been in.

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICS ANCHOR, NY1: Right. That's right. She has quite a bit actually as people who are on the Trump cleanup squad often have to do. Because he will often say one thing and facts, later contradict that statement. So in this case, when asked, she said look, I have never heard it. I never heard him say this. When asked, hey, did you ever ask him? No, she didn't ask him.

And then she did put in a little disclaimer, I haven't been in every room. I don't know.

So you know, look. We have heard enough sort of fog around all of this stuff. And let's keep in mind, you know, the "n" word is the most offensive word in the English language. There is kind of no way to spin it as, it was a joke or maybe I forgot or you know you don't have any tape to prove it.

It's really not something that a responsible leader would let sort of hang around in this very sloppy way of the kinds we just heard.

BALDWIN: And Gloria, to the point about the questions and they are valid on this pattern, where the President does continue to attack prominent African-American's intelligence. Whether it is the Omarosa, whether it is Lebron James, whether it is NFL players, whether it's Don Lemon. It is, indeed, a pattern.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is a pattern. She denied it. She said --

BALDWIN: She said it wasn't about race.

BORGER: Yes. She said it wasn't about race. And he, you know, he fights back when he is attacked. And we have heard all that before.

But the one thing that struck me was that I think the President got caught in a little lie here. Because she, Sarah Sanders said, you know, he had a conversation with John Kelly. Kelly says, you know, there is a problem here. The President knew it was a real possibility that Kelly was going to let Omarosa go. And then remember we heard the audio of the conversation with the President and Omarosa saying he didn't know anything about it.

[15:25:27] BALDWIN: Right.

BORGER: I don't like to hear that he said. Well, of course, he knew. He had had a conversation with John Kelly about it. Sarah Sanders just told us. So there you are. One more lie.

BALDWIN: You are right. Leah Wright Rigueur, good to have you back today. What stood out to

you in all of this?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, AUTHOR, THE LONELINESS OF THE BLACK REPUBLICAN: I think in looking at this, we have to think, Omarosa knows exactly what she's doing. She knows exactly how to throw the right kind of bombshells, how to get under the President's skin. Then when everybody is talking about it, everybody is kinds of shouting about it, getting tangled up in all kind of various, you know, various trippiness, she drops another bombshell, which is usually is receipts for her side of the story.

So we are dealing with, you know, two groups of people or two groups of people who have intense credibility issues and yet one side continues to drop receipt after receipt after receipt. And so, what happens after those, you know, after those tapes, each and every time after those tapes come out? It provokes a reaction from Trump. It provokes a reaction from the White House. Omarosas's name stays in the headlines for another day. And various people are caught in various lies. So you know, this is a strategy that we are seeing right here. And it seems like it's working pretty effectively.

BALDWIN: Well, you know, it's like Sarah Sanders says, well, you know, in the media is fixated on this story. What we should be talking about much weightier things. But I would stay back to the press secretary.

And Anushay, this one is to you. Anushay Hossain, that you know, it is the President and it is her boss who has tweeted roughly ten times about this individual in the last 24 hours, ten times. And yes, we should question everything that comes out of the mouth of Omarosa, but we are putting that President's response and the President's words under a microscope.

ANUSHAY HOSSAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTING WRITER: Exactly. And you know what Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving out a really big detail. We just her boss tweeted it out, set if news cycle. I think it's so crazy. I mean, it makes us almost question our insanity because this is like we are living in the age of gas lighting.

The country right now is hurting so much, Brooke, from racial divisions, from Charlottesville to NFL to the alt-right. Why can't this President who by the way called Nazis very fine people, just come out and make a bold statement, anti-racism. I mean, just say, you know what? I'm not racist or I don't support these people. Instead he calls a woman of color a black woman, an African-American woman, a dog. And now he is trying to kind just act like this doesn't matter and the media is to blame.

I mean, his language and rhetoric, Brooke, is so offensive to hear. The least we can do is admit that this President is a racist and a sexist, end of discussion.

BALDWIN: I want to play -- listen to how Omarosa responds to being called a dog by the President of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: I think that it just shows you that if he would say that publicly, what else would he say about me privately? He has absolutely no respect for women, for African-Americans as evidenced by him to ask the chief of staff to lock me for two hours in the situation room to harass me, to threaten me and say that things could get very ugly for me and that there would be damage to my reputation. He is unfit to be in this office and to serve as the President of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Areva, how would you respond?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think what was disturbing to me about the press conference, Brooke, is the naivete. And maybe even as the other panelist said, the (INAUDIBLE) so which is the purposeful manipulation.

There is no diversity in the White House. When we talk about these issues of race and sex, it's not through the lenses of other people of color. Kellyanne Conway couldn't even identify a high ranking African-American that serves in Trump's administration.

So when you are dealing with administration that doesn't have any people of color at the table that can, you know, weigh in on these decision, talk about some of the issues that concern African- Americans, you get these really hollow statements from Sarah Sanders about all the wonderful things that Donald Trump is doing for black people.

And I just want her to know, black people don't feel at all that Donald Trump is working on our behalf. His criminal justice policies are abhorrent. They are not in any way advancing any issues for people of color. This whole notion about these 700,000 jobs. I'm not an economist even though I have an undergraduate degree in economics.