Return to Transcripts main page


White House Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 10, 2018 - 14:30   ET



KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIR, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: -- in billions of dollars. And then that trajectory reversed itself completely when President Trump was elected.

If you were going to assert that the current good news is just the extension of a recent trend, then you'd just simply be factually incorrect.

The next slide, please.

Here, we're looking at the ISM Purchasing Managers Index, which is a survey of people who are purchasing managers for manufacturing firms.

And so they're the -- the folks that, you know, as the title suggests, manage the purchases. And -- and so it's a really great indicator of the economy because you can survey them and say, "Hey, have you been buying lots of stuff this month? Or have you not?"

And the index shows what their responses look like. And you can see that the trend on the purchasing managers index was pretty much flat when President Trump took office.

And the red line shows you what happened since. That it's -- there's a clear inflection right at the election, and a clear break (inaudible) trend.

Let's turn to the next one, please.

Now one of the things that I can remember at the American Enterprise Institute, talking a lot about before I came in here, was the fact that entrepreneurship in America was falling off.

And one of the ways we can measure entrepreneurship is that if you start a new business, then you have to apply for an ID number -- tax ID number -- for your business.

And so in this chart, we've plotted the EIN applications for new businesses. And if you look at the blue line, they were heading up because we're in a recovery. But there's a clear upward trajectory way above the trend at the end.

And, you know, Sarah, like -- like John Roberts, is a -- is a calculus geek. And so she looked at that one and said, "Jeez, that looks like a very strong second derivative to me." (LAUGHTER)

And then I said, "I didn't know you did calculus." And she said, "I like calculus better than talking to these guys."


The next chart is prime age workers re-entering the labor force. And again, if you look at the trend, one of the things people said when we put out our growth forecast that said that we'd have three percent growth, was we said that President Trump's policies are going to bring factories back to the U.S., give you the capital spending boom that you saw in the previous chart.

And that was going to bring people back into the labor force at precisely the right time. Once again, you can see that there's a clear break in the trend.

And so if you see a break in the trend in the capital spending, the new plant formation that gives blue collar workers their jobs -- yeah, go to the next slide, please -- then maybe we see a break in the trend in blue collar workers' employment as well.

And so this is employment for people in goods-producing industries. Now if you look again at the blue part on the left, you can see that there's a clear downward trend going on in the growth rate of that, for President Obama.

And then a clear inflection timed to almost precisely, once again, the (ph) election. And the notion, again, that somebody might defensibly attempt to assert that this is a continuation of the trend is almost laughable if you look at this chart and, you know, look at the rest of them (ph).

Now somebody might say, if you're showing a bunch of charts, "Well, jeez, maybe it depends on when you estimate the trend. And I'm sure that if you went back and began your estimate of the trend at the Civil War, and then thought about, 'Well, what trend did we get then?'" Well then maybe we're not -- you know, you'd get a different answer from what we see.

But another way to sort of test whether the data that I just showed you is a fair representation of what a trend looked like when President Trump was elected, is just to compare it to nonpartisan bodies who (ph) are saying -- so I (ph) could have a look at my final chart here -- I know. But I -- gosh (ph), I heard this sigh of relief when I said "final chart."

So -- so if you look at the final chart, you'll see that the black line is, in June of 2017, what the CBO -- Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that's -- has the job, really, of looking at recent trends and projecting it -- what they said would happen to capital spending back in 2017. The blue line is what they said in April 2018. And the red line is what's actually happened.

And so I would assert that if you look at the -- the collected body of evidence, the notion that what we're seeing right now is just a continuation of recent trends, it's not super-defensible.

And I think that -- I know that -- that we're in a political time and passions are high. But as geeky economists, one of the things we have to do is think ahead to, you know, what historians will think when they look back at this time.

And I can promise you that economic historians will, a hundred percent, accept the fact that there was an inflection at the election of Donald Trump, and that a whole bunch of data items started heading north.

They will, of course, argue for a long time about why that happened. But my final -- final thought for you is just this, that when they do that -- and when you watch people do that in the media going forward, with op-eds and so on, that you should watch out for ex-post- theorizing.

[14:35:00] As an economist, one of the things I most care about is an ex-anti theory, something that happens before, and then let's watch the data and then see if it agrees with the theory. That's how you test a theory.

You might recall that I came back here last fall and I told you that if we had the tax cuts, that President Trump advised that we -- that we have, that he pursued, if we passed them then there'd be a boom in capital spending this year.

In fact, we provided estimates at the time, last fall, that said that capital spending this year would go up about 11 percent because of the tax cuts.

So far in the first half of the year, capital spending is up 10 percent. And so you don't have to really reach far for a theory of what happened.

President Trump de-regulated the economy, we talked about how that affects growth, the tax cuts have had exactly the predicted effect on the economy. That's brought businesses back to the U.S., factories back to the U.S. and created jobs for ordinary Americans.

It's clear with the data that there's been a trend break and with that, I look forward to taking a few questions before I hand it off to Sarah to talk about other things. And I'll let Mr. Roberts (ph) go first and then I'll maybe try one for each row, cause I know I'm not allowed to go for the whole time.

QUESTION: All right Kevin, based on the information that you have given us, where -- where -- where does the revenue derive from all of these increasing trends, meet the deficit line caused by the tax cuts?

HASSETT: You know the -- it's a great question. One of -- one of the things that we could talk about -- in fact, Sarah let's have a whole other briefing -- well after we do the calculus briefing, let's -- let's do a briefing on the deficit.

But -- but one of the ways to think about it is that -- that there's been a big change in tax law and a big change in spending policy. And in the tax law side, you could remember that the dynamic score for the corporate tax was that it would be -- have a very, very low cost.

And I think that the cost estimate not dynamically stored in (inaudible) was about $400 billion in the -- in the final bill over 10 years. And clearly the growth and the investment boom that was projected by CBO was a significant underestimate for what's happened already.

And so I think that the notion that the corporate tax side has about paid for itself is clearly in the data. On the individual side, there was about a $1 trillion cost. About $700 billion of that was a refundable child credit that got expanded at -- at the last minute to get the votes that they needed to pass it.

Now a refundable child credit is, you know, a very sound policy for people who care about equality of opportunity or families with children. President Trump supported it wholeheartedly, but not at the size that it came out.

And the child credit though is not something that you would expect to pay for itself. And so the tax cuts have increased the deficit a little bit, but not the tax cuts that the Democrats are attacking, but rather the tax cuts that the Democrats probably should have supported.

I'll go to row two and right there, I'm sorry I don't know your name.

QUESTION: No, Steven Kent (ph).

There's -- there's -- there's another chart that you've not included in your (inaudible), that's the chart about the spike in the consumer price index. That's the cost of goods and its inflation.

HASSETT: Yeah, I know -- I know that.

QUESTION: At a higher rate ...


... for those who don't. Americans are paying more for their goods now than they did in -- in -- in recent years. Can you explain to what extent Americans should be concerned about the fact that the price of goods is increasing at a high rate?

HASSETT: Right. Well -- well Americans should be concerned that prices are going up and if you look at the consumer price index then over the most recent year, then it's a little bit short of three percent. And I know that that's something that affects Americans, you know, when they go to the grocery store or the gas station.

And they should be concerned about that, but the best defense against increase in inflation is an increase in wages. And the CEA put out a report this week that documented that correctly measured, real after tax wages are growing about 1.4 percent this year.

So that means that the wage growth that President Trump has helped create with his policies is overpowering the inflation numbers right now. I'll go to row three and -- and then back.

QUESTION: Thanks, Kevin. What -- what credit, if any, does former President Obama deserve for the current state of the economy?

HASSETT: You know, I -- I -- I think that -- that attributing blame or credit to individuals requires that I identify policies and then talk about well what effect did this policy or that policy have? And I -- I prefer to give blame or credit to policies than to individuals.

I think that President Obama sometimes on the partisan trail gets criticized with numbers that are clearly incorrect, because people blame him for the great recession, which was, you know, there when he started and it's not fair.

If I look specifically at President Obama's policies, there are a whole bunch of policies that I think were very negative for growth. I think the Affordable Care Act was -- lifted the marginal tax rate on individual workers so much so that the CBO even said that it would have a negative effect on growth.

He increased marginal tax rates on small businesses, and that's why small business creation wasn't so high. And so I could look at a lot of policies and we could talk about them one by one and say did they help or hurt growth.

[14:40:00] I think he also advocated policies that he said would help growth that clearly did not, and -- and -- and really, you know, I kind of wonder about what was going on in the heads of the economists that told them they would like Cash for Clunkers, and so it really didn't have that much effect at all.

But -- but -- but to you know say he -- he destroyed the economy or something like that, that's not what the CEA chairs should be doing. And I'll go back another row ...

QUESTION: Thanks, Kevin. Two questions for you, can I take them separately, do you mind?

HASSETT: Yeah, I will ...

QUESTION: First one, just playing off of this question here.

HASSETT: But -- but yeah, go separately cause I'll forget the first one when you get to the second (ph).

QUESTION: Exactly. Thank you. You were coming out, obviously talking about the economy numbers in our first briefing here in nearly three weeks. It seems like it might be time -- to President Obama's speeches on Friday and Saturday in which he talked about the economy and some of these very issues.

Is that why you're here today or is that just a coincidence?

HASSETT: That, you know -- thank you for asking that actually, be -- because Sarah can tell you that I've been pushing her to let me show these slides for quite a while -- you know, that we've updated them for recent data.

But that in fact I don't know about the three week lag. I think it has something to do with the fact that sensible people sometimes, even to the White House, take a break in August and there are some vacation taking at the time.

But -- but -- but yeah, that -- that we were prepared to do this briefing a few weeks ago, and -- and there's not in any way a timing that's related to President Obama's Friday remarks. And then I promised you number two.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. You -- you talked about how he was ...

HASSETT: The next person's going to ask for three, you realize? So I shouldn't have done that, yeah.

QUESTION: ... under -- under President Trump. The president also -- and I'm curious about your views and your comments on this -- has told private companies Apple, Amazon and the NFL how to run their business. Do you believe that's appropriate for a President to do?

Do you believe that stimulates economic growth, for a President to be dictating how private companies run their stuff?

HASSETT: Well the president has strong opinions about everything. I think that we wouldn't have had all the policy success that we've had if he hadn't been such a strong advocate for the things that we've seen. I think that his strong opinions sometimes -- sometimes stretch into areas that are outside of the places that CEA (ph), you know, has any purview.

And -- and you know I don't counsel him on that, and I think at -- at a previous presser I once said that I don't run the counsel of Twitter advisers and -- and you know, may that -- may that be true for all of my stay here.

I'll -- I'll go back to -- to blue shirt in the back? Yeah, yeah, I skipped a row. Sorry, I'll come forward when ...

QUESTION: A quick question for you on an economic stat that the president put out in a comment today. The president said that the GDP rate is higher than the unemployment rate for the first time in over 100 years.

That's just not true though, is it?

HASSETT: Yeah, that's -- so -- so I can tell you what is true, and the history of thought ...


The -- the -- no, but -- though let me just say that the -- the history of thought of how errors happen is -- is not something that -- that you know I can engage in be -- because like -- from -- from the initial fact to what the president said, I don't know the whole chain of command. But what is true is that -- that it's the highest in -- in 10 years. And -- and at some point, somebody probably conveyed it to him, adding a zero to that and they shouldn't have done that.

And -- and I can say that -- that at least we -- we numbers geeks here at the White House are grateful for -- and -- and when the press finds mistakes that we make, we don't like making mistakes but we're grateful when -- when they're pointed out because we want to correct them.

And you might have noticed that I gave Sarah a -- a bad number a few weeks ago. It was 100 percent my fault and -- and I apologized immediately when we created it. And you know, I -- you'd have to talk to the president about where the number came from.

But the correct number is 10 years. And then I said I would come forward. Yeah?

QUESTION: The president -- President Obama -- former President Obama said President Trump would need a magic wand to get to four percent GDP. The president suggested that was a direct quote from President Obama.

Did President Obama ever say that?

HASSETT: I don't know. I -- I'm sorry, if -- and again, I'm not the Chairman of the counsel of Twitter advisers, but I was trying to go back -- yeah.

QUESTION: On wage growth, the White House put out a number that uses a different way of calculating wage growth. It seems like that's unfortunate, because you've got an apples-and-oranges comparison to previous wage growth calculations. Why is it important to do that? And it - and it -- the new calculation incorporated things that are non- cash benefits like vacation time and -- and other types of benefits. Why do that midstream, and -- and not just base your analysis on wage growth based on the way that it's been calculated in the past?

HASSETT: Yeah, well, yeah, thanks for the question. We have a whole report that came out last week, and there were a lot of news stories that I thought were very well done and thoughtful about the piece. And I think that the question for Americans, what they really want to know is how are President Trump's policies affecting their lives? And it turns out that the statistic that got the most attention in the media is not a very reasonable statistic for answering that question.

Now, we talked about how to better measure that, and -- and it was not criticism of -- of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that -- we -- we love those people. We're data geeks. We used their data to come up with a better measure, but a better measure will account for the fact that people get benefits. A better measure would account for the fact that people just had tax cuts. A better measure will account the fact that the composition of the labor force is changing, because so many people are coming in, and -- and the people who have been out for a while tend to be lower skilled, and so they can bring averages down if you don't control for that. And so in our study we controlled for all that, and showed that just as -- as is consistent with our 4.2 percent GDP growth, we're seeing a massive amount of wage growth right now, compared to what projections were when President Trump took office.


And I don't see Sarah telling me I have to stop, so should I keep going?


HASSETT: OK. Oh, yeah, I'll go back there, and then I -- I've been right-handed, and that's really terrible. I apologize. So, yeah.

QUESTION: To keep these trends going, how important is it for you to have a new North American Free Trade Agreement, including Canada?

HASSETT: Yeah, thank you for the question, and the first thing, before I turn to the trade part of the question is that some people have also said, "Well, sure, the economy's strong, but that's a sugar high." But it's not a sugar high at all, because what's happened is that the capital spending boom that we promised would happen if we passed the tax cuts is underway. And the cool thing about capital spending is that people build factories -- that's what capital spending is -- and they do that in the first half of the year. It's up 10 percent since the beginning of the year. And then, in the second half of the year, those factories start producing output, so you get more output.

And so the idea that the trend might not continue, that it's a sugar high is just inconsistent with the form that the growth is taking.

And as for NAFTA, Ambassador Lighthizer and -- and the whole team have been in negotiations with Canada. We continue to be hopeful that they'll sign on to the 21st century deal with Mexico, which is really a -- a better deal for American workers, and -- and they should sign on to that.

And so I'll come over here, and -- and I'll go back to you. Yes, (inaudible). Hi.

QUESTION: Hi, (inaudible) with PBS News. I have a question about income inequality. Can you talk a little bit about whether or not you've seen income inequality shrink, and are you at all concerned about whether or not people that just poor, not just people that are in the economy, but actual poor people that are living beyond the poverty line -- below the poverty line -- are they being improved by this economy?

HASSETT: Yeah, they -- they certainly are. Certainly, think about it: all the new entrants that -- that get a job, that they -- they go from having zero wage to having a wage, but they won't necessarily show up in the wage statistics. Those people are better off. And there are a number of other ways that people are better off, too, because of the growth in the economy, but also because of policies that have given resources to families that are needy. At the CEA, we put a -- out a different report over the summer on what's going on with poverty, correctly measured.

And then, in the "stay tuned" department, there is important data coming out this week which will help us look at how income inequality has changed over -- not in -- in this year, but over the previous year. My expectation is that it -- that data will start to turn, and that this year, we're going to see a decline in income inequality because blue-collar wages are starting to grow.

And -- and it's a final point, and it's a -- it -- it's a really important point that -- that you bring up that I want to emphasize it, because I care so much about it. The fact is that we're at a historic moment, because we're deep into a recovery. The unemployment rate is really low, and we've created a capital spending boom. And so normally what happens if you don't have a capital spending boom is that people start to bid up the wages for folks, but they're bidding them up because there's a shortage of -- of labor.

What's happening now is they're bidding up wages because people have better machines to work with, and their productivity is going up. That means that the recovery can last longer, and that's really, really good for workers, especially at the low-end.

And so it's precisely at this moment in economic history, if you look at last -- past economic booms, where income inequality has declined. And if we were to blow it and have a recession because of bad policy right now, then we'd lose an enormous opportunity on income inequality.

Then I'll come right here. Yeah.

QUESTION: Also two, not (inaudible)

HASSETT: I guess it's the last question.

QUESTION: Sorry. Two good ones. Sorry.

HASSETT: Is he allowed two? You just told me you -- you -- do you like this guy?



QUESTION: You said, "I prefer you blame or credit the policies, rather than individuals." But your trend charts start with his election, obviously, when he wasn't even president and (inaudible) put his policies in place. So how does that -- how do you -- how do you decide when to -- to start that, given that his policies couldn't have been in place for months after this?

HASSETT: Yeah, so -- so Robert Lucas, famous Chicago, who won the Nobel Prize at the University Chicago, got the Nobel Prize for answering your question back in the early 70s. But -- but the basic point is that -- that America's businesses especially, that their -- their activity is forward-looking. And so if you want to model their investment today, then you have to understand the fact that they're forming expectations not just about this month, but about the next five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years.

And so if you look at what happened the moment that President Trump was elected, both in equity markets and -- and in sentiment surveys, is that people started to ratchet up their expectations for what would happen to the economy. Perhaps, you know, everybody except for Mrs. Clinton's supporters was starting to do that right after the election. And the fact is that those expectations turned out to be rational, because the turnaround that they expected is something that we see, as -- as you just saw in the data.

Let me hand it back to Sarah now, but close by saying that -- that, you know, anyone who wants to follow up and talk about the data, you can tell I kind of like to do that. So feel free to reach out through the Press Office and connect with me over at the CEA.

Thank you so much.

SANDERS: Thanks so much, Kevin.

HASSETT: Thanks, Sarah.

SANDERS: Thank you, Kevin.

A couple of announcements and updates, then I'll take your questions.

[14:50:00] Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman Grassley conducted a thorough and transparent week of hearings, allowing each senator ample time to thoroughly review the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Unfortunately, many committee Democrats and protesters attempted to turn the hearing into a circus. Nonetheless, Judge Kavanaugh demonstrated exactly why President Trump nominated him. He showed his respect for the Constitution, impeccable qualifications and extraordinary temperament. Judge Kavanaugh reinforced the bedrock principles of judicial independence and the rule of law, and we look forward to the Judiciary Committee completing its review and advancing his nomination.

On another matter, later today by phone, and -- and also tomorrow, in person at the White House, President Trump is scheduled to receive a briefing from DHS Secretary Nielsen and FEMA Administrator Long. The latest briefing is part of the president's monitoring of multiple storms that are predicted to affect the U.S. in the coming days. The White House has been in contact with governors' offices and local authorities in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York just since Saturday morning. Lines of communication remain open, and the federal government stands ready to assist. These tropical storms and hurricanes are very dangerous, and we encourage anyone in the path to heed the warnings of state and local officials who have the expertise and knowledge of their communities to provide the best on-ground information.

Lastly, we extend our deepest condolences to the family of Secret Service Agent Colin Johnson. Agent Johnson has served his country honorably, first as a Marine, and then in Secret Service. Many of you know him. He was larger than life, literally. Was a great friend, father, husband and member of the United States Secret Service.

The men and women in the Secret Service are among the most honorable and dedicated public servants you can find anywhere in the world, and Colin was among the very best of them.

And although he was assigned to Chief of Staff John Kelly, he was always there to help anyone who needed it. Our hearts are broken, and Agent Johnson will be greatly missed. Our prayers are with his entire family.

And with that, I'll take your questions.

John (ph)?

QUESTION: If I could start out sort of with the topic of the day, and that's the anonymous op-ed in The New York Times.

The president said on Friday that he thought it would be a good idea for Jeff Sessions to look into this. Is -- is there anything about what was published by The New York Times that would warrant an investigation by the Department of Justice?

SANDERS: Certainly if there's an individual, whether or not -- since we don't know who they are, if that individual is in meetings that -- where national security is being discussed, or other important topics, and they are attempting to undermine the executive branch, that would certainly be problematic and something that the Department of Justice should look into.

QUESTION: So would that be a suggestion of misuse of classified information? I mean, what -- what realm would that fall under?

SANDERS: Once again, it's something that the Department of Justice should simply look into, and that's for them to make that determination.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) just a quick follow-up on that, if I could. Is the White House actively trying to find out who this person is? Or do you not really care and you're moving on to other things?

SANDERS: We're certainly focused on things that actually matter. And the staff here, that is here to do their job and not undermine the great work that this president and this administration has done. And we're going to continue focusing on that.

It's, frankly, I think, sad and pathetic that a gutless anonymous source could receive so much attention from the media. And I think that they'll -- American people would be much better served if we actually spent some time talking about some of the really important things that are facing our country, and the things that this administration is doing to help fix them.

Justin? QUESTION: Has the president received the Kim Jong Un letter from the State Department? And if so, can you share any details about the content or tone or are there any commitments or requests from the Korean leader?

SANDERS: Yeah, the president has received the letter from Kim Jong Un. It was a very warm, very positive letter. We won't release the full letter unless the North Korean leader agrees that we should.

The primary purpose of the letter was to request and look to schedule another meeting with the president, which we are open to and are already in the process of coordinating that.

The recent parade in North Korea, for once, was not about their nuclear arsenal. The president has achieved tremendous success with his policies so far. And this letter was further evidence of progress in that relationship.

A number of things that have taken place -- the remains have come back, the hostages have returned. There's been no testing of missiles or nuclear material. And of course, the historic summit between the two leaders. And this letter is just further indication of the progress that we hope to continue to make.

QUESTION: Is the expectation that -- that a second meeting would be here in Washington, and (inaudible)...


SANDERS: We'll let you know when we have further details. But certainly, something that we want to take place and will -- already continue to work on making that happen.

Right here.

[14:55:00] QUESTION: OK. To follow up on that, you mentioned the remains being returned, the hostages, the lack of testing which were all happening when the president cited a lack of progress, and canceled Secretary Pompeo's trip.

So other than these really nice words from Kim and a parade, what signs of progress warrant this new optimism from President Trump?

SANDERS: Again, certainly the most recent parade this weekend, one of the first times, I believe, that we -- they have had a parade similar, where they weren't highlighting their nuclear arsenal. We consider that a sign of good faith.

And again, the letter from Kim Jong Un to the president, certainly showed a commitment to continuing conversations, continuing to work on the progress that they have had since their meeting just a few months ago.

And also, a continued commitment to focus on denuclearization of the peninsula.


QUESTION: ... separate question on Bob Woodward because President Trump continues to call him a liar and says his book is completely a work of fiction. He's also mentioned libel laws quite a bit.

Is President Trump considering filing a lawsuit against Woodward?

SANDERS: Certainly keep you posted on that, but I think we've been extremely clear from the beginning. Many of the book's sources have already spoken out to refute a couple of them.

Chief of Staff John Kelly aggressively pushed back in this. General Mattis aggressively pushing back in the claims. John Dowd also pushing back against the things that are attributed to him.

A number of people have come out and said that Woodward never even reached out to corroborate statements that were attributed to them, which seems incredibly reckless, for a book to make such outrageous claims, to not even take the time to get a $10 fact-checker to call around and verify that some of these quotes were happened (ph).

When no effort was made, it seems like a very careless and reckless way to write a book.



SANDERS: John (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, the president said that he was looking into whether or not to take action against The New York Times for publishing the anonymous op-ed.

Does the president not think that that op-ed is protected by the First Amendment? Does he really think that the federal government should contemplate action against a newspaper for publishing an article?

SANDERS: I think it's less about that part of it and whether or not somebody was actively trying to undermine the executive branch of the government and a duly elected president of the United States.

They don't want to be part of that process, they shouldn't be here.

See (ph)?

QUESTION: What does the -- he tweeted earlier. And it's -- it's been a while since we've had a chance to -- to talk to you, so this goes back a little while.

But he -- he tweeted last week, that -- suggesting that the Justice Department should not be investigating, should not be prosecuting those two Republican congressmen because it might hurt Republican chances in November.

Is -- is the president really trying to suggest or -- or outright saying that the Justice Department shouldn't be investigating or prosecuting allies of the president if it might hurt his party's political chances, what...


SANDERS: Certainly, the president thinks that no one is above the law. What he would like to see is a -- a fair playing field, that there also be -- there have been a number of concerns raised about individuals, both in the FBI and the Department of Justice, that have been ignored and we'd like to see those looked at as well.

See (ph)?

QUESTION: But -- but those two prosecutions, he doesn't want to go forward because they're his allies?

SANDERS: I can't weigh in right now on an active investigation. But I can tell...


... you that the president doesn't think anyone is above the law. And we're simply stating that there should be cause for concern of -- of a number of things that have happened, both in the Department of Justice and the FBI, that we'd like to see those looked at as well.

QUESTION: Back to North Korea. How soon would you like to have the second meeting?

SANDERS: I don't have any specifics on the exact timing...


SANDERS: ... as these conversations for the second meeting are taking place now, and as we have more details, I'll certainly let you know.


QUESTION: ... could you just update us on where the Canada trade talks stand?

SANDERS: We continue to have ongoing conversations with the Canadians, and are still hopeful that we'll come to an agreement with them.


QUESTION: Sarah, do you know if the president believes these denials that have been coming in from some of this top advisers, or does he believe that it's someone from within?

And does he believe that lie detector tests should be issued, as the vice president volunteered to do on Sunday?

SANDERS: No lie detectors are being used or talked about, or looked at as a possibility. Frankly, the White House and the staff here are focused on doing our jobs and trying to show up here every day and do what we can to help better the American people, not deal with cowards that refuse to put their names in an anonymous letter.

QUESTION: He tweeted something on a Friday after George Papadopoulos was sentenced, he said 14 days for $28 million, $2 million a day, no collusion. What was he talking about, the $28 million?

SANDERS: I'd have to go back and check and look at that. I didn't see that, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: ... the price tag of the Russia investigation? Because if so, that's highly inflated.

SANDERS: Again, I'd have to check, Jeff. I'm not sure of that reference. Sorry.


QUESTION: ... testify yet or not?