11/27/18: White House Press Briefing

Ms. Sanders: Good afternoon. Later this week,
the President and First Lady will travel to Argentina
for the G20 Summit. President Trump’s participation
in the G20 Summit is a key opportunity
to reiterate his commitment to domestic and global
economic growth and prosperity, cement relations
with other world leaders, and advance a global
economic system that is based on
fair economic competition and free, fair,
and reciprocal trade. While at the G20, the President and
the delegation will interact — interact with many leaders,
including bilateral meetings with the President of Argentina,
the President of Russia, the Prime Minister of Japan,
and the Chancellor of Germany, and a working dinner
with the President of China. To speak more about the G20 and what the President
intends to accomplish, I’d like to welcome
to the podium Director of the National Economic
Council Larry Kudlow and, following him, National Security Advisor
Ambassador John Bolton. After their remarks,
both will be available to take your questions
on the G20 and other foreign policy
news of the day. And then I’ll be back up
to take other questions on news of the day.
Thanks. Mr. Kudlow: Thank you, Sarah.
Thanks everybody. Let me just walk
through some quick themes and then I want to mention some
things the President talked — talked to us just
a little while ago. As Sarah said, G20 — funny, it’s not actually the G20
when we count it up properly. As Ambassador Bolton points out,
it’s much more than the G20. Now, in terms
of the U.S. positions, we’re going to use this
as an opportunity to talk about our measures
of tax cuts and deregulations, and reskilling and job training,
and so forth that have generated significant economic growth
and prosperity. And that includes women’s
economic empowerment. As Sarah mentioned, free, fair, and reciprocal trade
and trade reform. There’ll be discussions
of infrastructure, finance, and also the U.S. emergence as the dominant energy power
in the world today, actually. In terms of the much-discussed
meeting — it’s going to be
a dinner meeting between President Trump
and President Xi and representatives
from both sides. It will be a bilateral. I want to just mention
what the President told us a short while ago
and that is, in his view, there’s a good possibility
that a deal can be made and that he is open to that.
He is open to that. But having said that —
some caveats, as always — certain conditions
have to be met with respect
to fairness and reciprocities. We’ve said many times,
for example, issues of intellectual property
theft must be solved. Forced technology
transfers must be solved. Significant tariffs
and non-tariff barriers must be solved. Issues of ownership
have to be solved. The President will probably
reiterate his view: We want a world, ideally,
of zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers,
and zero subsidies. Now, whether they can through
all of that remains to be seen but that’s the President’s
point of view, as I said just
a little while ago. The U.S. is coming to the summit
in very good shape. Our economy is quite strong. It’s growing at 3 percent
over the past year. Second quarter was 4.2. Third quarter was 3.5,
perhaps to be revised upwards. We’re in a very strong
holiday season, so-called “Black Friday.”
Very strong. We’ve had tremendous
investments — business investments,
energy investments. Oil prices and gasoline prices
are coming down. That helps consumers of course.
We’re in very good shape. China, not so good.
I’m not here to critique or second-guess
the Chinese economy, but most observers believe
China to be in a slump, whereas the United States is in
a very strong solid position going into this summit. However, again, to repeat,
the President said, there is a good possibility
that we can make a deal. And he is open to it. But on the other hand,
if these conditions I mentioned a few moments ago
are not met and not dealt with — you know,
the President said, look, he’s perfectly happy
to stand on his tariff policies, which — 10 percent,
the last $200 billion — scheduled to go to 25 percent. That’s not a certainty,
but that’s the schedule. And he has said as recently
as yesterday, the day before, if need be —
if things don’t work out in this U.S.-China summit meeting,
he will invoke another 267-some-odd
billion dollars in tariffs. That may not be
the first choice. I’m just saying that is his view
if we can’t get something done. And things have been moving
very slowly between the two countries, until the President himself
called President Xi and said, “Let’s restart. Let’s try
to get things going again.” And then, since then, he’s made
positive comments about that. So we will see. As I said, the key U.S. goals
surround growth and prosperity. And you know, our economy
is in good shape; theirs is not. I’ll just leave it right there. John, do you want
to add stuff to that? Do you want me
to take some questions? Ambassador Bolton: Go ahead. Mr. Kudlow: You sure?
Okay, good. Let me take some questions
and try to help out on this. Yes.
The Press: Mr. Kudlow, I’d like you to address
some concerns recently from representatives
in Italy and France and Germany who say that we’re actually
backing away from the national stage
and they fear that Russia will be the dominant
economic force in Europe and the Middle East
in the coming years. Could you address
those concerns, A? And, B, can you tell us
a little bit, if you can,
about the layoffs at GM? Mr. Kudlow: Well, I’ll talk
to you about GM layoffs. Regarding the Russian story,
I’m going to leave that to my long-time friend
and colleague, John Bolton. I met with Mary Barra yesterday and we had a lengthy
conversation about the layoffs, the cause of the layoffs. It’s a great disappointment,
obviously. The President indicated
his own disappointment. He believes — as, frankly,
the Prime Minister of Canada, Trudeau, believes — that the USMCA deal was a great
help to the automobile industry and to autoworkers. And, by the way, they made
those statements separately. And yet, GM comes in right
after the deal — by the way, that deal will be signed
in Argentina with the U.S. and Canadian representatives. So there’s great
disappointment there. There’s disappointment
that it seems like GM would rather build
its electric cars in China rather than
in the United States. We are going to be looking
at certain subsidies regarding electric cars
and others — whether
they should apply or not. I can’t say anything final about
that, but we’re looking into it. Again, that reflects the
President’s own disappointment regarding these actions. Ms. Barra told me
on the other hand — I want to be
completely fair here — it’s her business — it may be possible
to transfer workers to other plants
in Texas and Michigan. I’m not an expert
on General Motors. I’m not an analyst —
auto analyst. But that’s what she said. But obviously there’s lot
of disappointment, even anger. I’ve heard it, again,
from Mr. Trudeau, from President Trump,
from Democrats and Republicans. The Press: And just to
follow up, do you think it’s going to
adversely affect our economy coming to
the Christmas season and after? Mr. Kudlow: No. I mean, look, I don’t want
anybody to get laid off. I’m —
I want workers to do very well. I want worker wages to do well,
and they are. I mean, that’s one
of the great things. You know, there’s a certain
amount of pessimism that I’m reading about.
Maybe it has to do with a — really,
a mild stock market correction. Let’s not forget
a couple weeks ago. Just on this very point,
we had 250,000 new jobs, which was a blockbuster number.
Nobody really expected it. With a 3.1 percent
yearly gain in wages and a 3.7 percent
unemployment rate — those are very spiffy numbers
by any benchmark in any metric. So again, holiday season layoffs
from GM — brutal. Brutal. All right?
Very disappointing. Will it affect
the overall economy? I don’t think so.
I do not think so. Yes. The Press: Yeah, back
to the question over the tariffs and — if these talks
with President Xi go nowhere and we move forward with
this escalation of the tariffs that you just described —
which, correct me if I’m wrong, would be the biggest addition
of tariffs that we’ve seen
in your lifetime — what will the impact be
on the U.S. economy? I mean, you — and I’m asking — Mr. Kudlow: That’s a long —
that’s a long period of time you mentioned.
My lifetime. The Press: Well, you know,
but I — (laughter) I mean, you have been
a committed free trader for almost all of those years. Mr. Kudlow: Yes. The Press: So what will be
the impact on the U.S. economy if we see tariffs go up to the degree
that you just described? Mr. Kudlow: You know, we’ll see
what happens, okay? I don’t want to presuppose
anything. The President is going to make
up his mind after the meeting. But I will say this: Our economy
is in very good shape right now. And when you multiply
through whatever numbers you want to use —
$250 billion or tack on another tranche,
which may or may not happen, at a 10 percent
tariff rate or more — it’s really just a fraction
of our economy. Okay? It’s just a fraction
of our economy. I’m not suggesting that
there aren’t winners and losers in that game.
It’s a complicated game. But on the other hand,
I think we are in far better shape to weather
this than the Chinese are. And I want to say
one other thing. I really appreciate
your characterization; I am a free trader.
But you have to ask yourself — and this is what President Trump
has been talking about — is it free trade when there
is clear evidence of unfair and WTO illegal trading
practices by China for several decades?
Is that fair? Is that free? Is it free when intellectual
property theft occurs or when Chinese ownership
of American companies force transference of technology
from American companies to the Chinese companies?
Is that fair? Or high tariffs on agriculture
and industrial supplies, is that fair? So President Trump is the first
President in, I don’t know,
at least 20 years — and I’m including Democrats
and Republicans — who not only has made this case but continues
to make this case forcefully and to take actions to defend
American workers and our overall economy. Other Presidents in both parties
have raised the issue and then walked away from it and President Trump
obviously doesn’t intend to. You know, this is under
the heading, I think, for him, of “Promises made,
promises kept.” It’s something he’s talked about
for several years and he now continues. If China will come to
the table — or, in this case,
the dinner table — with some new ideas
and some new attitudes and some new cooperation, as the President said,
there’s a good possibility they can make a deal.
He’s open to it. So nothing is written
in cement or stone. But, again, for a free trader,
where’s the free trade? And, for several months now,
since I’ve been here, the President
and I have talked about this — you know, we’d love
to see a world of zero tariffs, and zero non-tariff barriers,
and zero subsidies. We’d love to see that world. But unfortunately
we don’t have that world, particularly with
respect to China, but not only China.
And so he’s taking actions that he thinks will get us
closer to that world. We can go around. Yes, please. The Press: Thanks.
Just another GM question: When the President said
yesterday “they better damn well open [up] a new plant
there very quickly,” was he just venting
his frustration? Or does he have
some consequences in mind if they don’t? Mr. Kudlow: You know,
I’m going to leave that to him. You may find
additional announcements coming on that topic. Some more?
Let me go in the back. Yes, ma’am. The Press: I wanted to ask you
about what Ambassador Cui Tiankai said recently
to the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Kudlow: Who? The Press: Ambassador Cui
Tiankai, the Chinese Ambassador
to the United States. Mr. Kudlow: Yes. The Press: His thought was that
there would be a real risk to global — to the global markets
if there wasn’t a deal. That they could become
fragmented as well. How big are the stakes
if you can’t reach a deal? Mr. Kudlow: Look, the ambassador
makes a point. Now, if he would do his part or his government
would do their part, then we can all make
a much better point. That’s what President Trump
is saying. I mean, I’ll read you
the quote again. There’s a “good possibility”
we can make a deal, and he’s open to it. But certain conditions,
you know, have to be met. Certain things
have to be changed. And the President, again,
in the spirit of “Promises made, promises kept,”
is going to defend, you know, the interests of the American
workers and ranchers and small businesses
and the economy writ large. We’ve — let me just add
one other point to this: The rest of the world
agrees with us. I mean, we signed, at the U.N.,
for example, the trilateral agreement
with the EU and the United States
and Japan — worth looking at that document,
which outlines, you know, what they call
“non-market abuses.” Read: China. Just recently, before
the Shanghai conference where President Xi was
to give an important speech — I’m not sure there
was much new there. But in any case,
just before that conference, with no prodding from the USA,
the ambassadors — the French and German
ambassadors to China — the French and German
ambassadors to China wrote a very tough piece
going after, again, non-market, unfair, non-reciprocal
trading practices. There is broad-based support
for the American position here, which is China
should change its practices and come into the community
of responsible trading nations. They can do that. Right? They’re a major economy
right now. It’s not like they were 25
or 30 years ago. We would welcome it. The President has said
he’s happy to make a deal, but they have to
take certain actions and give certain assurances.
So, you know. The Press: Director, does that
mean you’ll spend the G20 getting that support
around your position from other countries at the G20? Mr. Kudlow: I’m sure we will.
I’m sure we will. We have in many other forms.
It’s got more — I want Ambassador —
I want Ambassador — yes, please. The Press: Mr. Kudlow,
thank you. The Press: (Inaudible.) The Press: Yes,
he was talking to me. Tariffs are — in effect,
are tax on imported products that are paid for
by the consumer. So does the President realize
that these escalated tariffs are going to be paid for
by the American citizens? Mr. Kudlow: Well, look,
he realizes the ramifications. As I said earlier, given
the strength of our economy, given the size of our economy,
we are in position to deal with this
and handle this very well. That’s the key point.
And I’m not so sure about China, but I’ll leave that
to China experts, and so forth and so on. The benefits — let me just look at
the other side of the ledgers. Very important.
The benefits of true, free trade,
globally, will be enormous. You know, if we go back
to the idea of zero tariffs, and zero non-tariff barriers,
and zero subsidies; if China plays by the rules,
even the WTO rules — and all of that needs reforming,
in our judgment — but they are violating
those rules. If we do have a free
trading system or we move in the direction
of the free trading system — a true free trading system —
we will benefit enormously. And, frankly, we will benefit,
they will benefit, and the rest of the world
will benefit. You know, free trade throws off
enormous benefits when it’s done properly, and consistency,
and in a reciprocal manner. That’s the key point
the President emphasized and he’s absolutely right. So, you know, I think of it — this is a —
possibly a long rainbow here, and at the end of that rainbow
is a pot of gold. You open up that pot and you have prosperity
for the rest of the world, but you got to get through
that long rainbow. We’re not there yet. We can get there,
the President is reaching out, but we’ll see how that works. Yes, go ahead. I’m sorry.
Yes, go ahead. The Press: Thank you, sir. Earlier, you mentioned low oil
and gas prices as evidence that the President’s
economic policy is working. You mentioned the U.S. becoming the global
dominant energy player. But merely days ago,
the President said that it was necessary
to let Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince get away with ordering the murder
of a Washington Post journalist because Saudi Arabia
ensures low gas prices. Now, which one is it sir? Mr. Kudlow: I’m going to let
Ambassador Bolton handle that question. I’m trying so hard
to swim in my own lane, and I think John will help out
with that whole discussion. He’s sitting there
much too calmly and quietly so I want to get him up here. We’ve known each other
a very long time. You’re on, John. Ambassador Bolton: Well,
I’m delighted to be here. (Laughter.) I don’t really have much to add. Sarah gave you
the list of bilaterals. Let me just update it
a little bit because we’re trying to fill every minute
of the President’s schedule. She said he’s going to meet
with President Macri, the host government
of Argentina. He’ll meet with President Moon
of South Korea. He’ll meet with President
Erdoğan of Turkey, Prime Minister Abe of Japan. That will transform
at some point during that meeting
into a trilateral meeting with the Prime Minister
of India, Narendra Modi. And then, as Sarah said, the President will meet
with President Putin, and have a working dinner
with President Xi. Yeah, right here. The Press: Thank you, sir. Does the President
have any plans in the works to meet with the Saudi
Crown Prince while he is there? Ambassador Bolton: No.
Look, the bilateral schedule is full to overflowing
at this point, and so those are ones
that I’ve listed that he’ll be meeting with. The Press: Hello? Yes. I have a question
about the border tensions right now
with the U.S. and Mexico. Ambassador Bolton: Yes. The Press: The U.S. launched
tear gas canisters into Mexican soil, and I’m wondering
if you’ve gotten any — if Mexico has given the go ahead
before that happened. And what is the U.S. doing to
mitigate any tensions right now with the incoming
López Obrador administration? Ambassador Bolton: Yeah. I don’t think that’s really
a subject of the G20. But I can say that Secretary
of State Pompeo, who will be attending the G20, and therefore will
not be accompanying Vice President Pence to the inauguration on Saturday
the 1st — Secretary Pompeo will fly overnight
from Argentina to Mexico, and will meet with the new
foreign minister of Mexico on Sunday the 2nd. And they’ll have
a full conversation about all the issues
in connection with the border. The Press: What do you expect
to be on the agenda for the President’s meeting
with Putin? Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think
all of the issues that we have on security issues; on arms control issues;
on regional issues, including the Middle East — I think it will be
a full agenda. I think it will be
a continuation of their discussion
in Helsinki. The Press: Thank you so much,
Ambassador. Two questions about Brazil
since you are heading there on Thursday to meet
with the new incoming President from Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro. One on trade that I know
is one of the priorities: For the past few years, Brazil had a trade surplus
with Brazil. Ambassador Bolton:
The United States had a trade surplus with Brazil? The Press: Just last year,
$27 billion alone. And besides of that,
President Trump complained about the Brazilian
protectionism. He said Brazil is one of
the “toughest” on trade access. What should we expect — related to trade relationship
with Brazil — with the new
Brazilian government? Should we expect
more cooperation or more tariffs like those
on steel and aluminum? And another one on Venezuela
that I know is another priority
of the meeting. What kind of cooperation
are you expecting with the new
Brazilian government? Are you guys
going to discuss sanctions? Ambassador Bolton: Well,
the meeting with President-elect Bolsonaro came as a result
of President Trump’s call on election night
in Brazil to congratulate
President-elect Bolsonaro. They had a really
outstanding phone call — I think developed a personal
relationship, even remotely. President Trump was
the first foreign leader to call
President-elect Bolsonaro. So, following up on this,
we thought it would be useful and certainly very helpful
to the United States to hear from the President-elect
what his priorities are, what he’s looking for
in the relationship. From the perspective
of the United States, we see this as a historic
opportunity for Brazil and the United States to work together
in a whole host of areas: economics, security,
and a range of others. So I’m really looking forward
to hearing what the President-elect’s
priorities are, try and respond to him, and try to tell him
a little bit about what President
Trump’s views are. And hopefully,
when President-elect Bolsonaro is inaugurated
on January the 1st, that the two leaders can really
get off to a running start. So I’m just really there
to prepare the ground for them. The Press: Ambassador Bolton,
you tweeted earlier today about a case involving
an American family that’s being held in China.
Is the President — have you talked to
the President about this case? What is he — if so,
what has he told you? And will he bring this up
directly at his meeting with Xi Jinping
and expect the family to be allowed to leave
before any trade deal is done? Ambassador Bolton: Well,
I’ve discussed the question of American hostages and people wrongfully
held with him on a whole range of subjects. I don’t want to get into
what his reaction was, because I don’t think those
conversations should be public. But this is a matter
of real concern to us. And I think,
given that the range of issues that President Xi and President
Trump will be covering, it’s entirely possible
that that would come up. The Press: Ambassador Bolton.
Ambassador Bolton: Yeah. The Press: Thank you.
Back to that meeting with President Putin
and President Trump. Will President Trump condemn
Russia’s aggression in Ukraine? Does the U.S.
consider it an act of war? And has he spoken
with either Putin or Poroshenko about what happened? Ambassador Bolton: Look,
Ambassador Haley, in the very estimable position
of U.N. ambassador, spoke for the United States
yesterday at the Security Council and we’re going to stand
on that statement. The Press: Ambassador Bolton, I just had a question
about the — you mentioned the bilat
with the Turkish leader. They’ve been very critical
of the U.S. position backing Saudi Arabia with respect to the killing
of Jamal Khashoggi. Are you concerned that
that will affect the relations with the U.S. ally? And I wanted to follow up — that audio intelligence of
the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, have you heard that tape? And does it conclusively
point to the Crown Prince as ordering the killing
of Jamal Khashoggi? And one final one — Ambassador Bolton: I’m supposed
to remember all these? (Laughter.) The Press: I’ll prompt you,
if need help. Ambassador Bolton: Thank you. The Press: And finally,
is it true the White House is blocking Gina Haspel
from speaking to senators about that audio intelligence
on Wednesday? Ambassador Bolton: So,
let me take the question of the tape first.
No, I haven’t listened to it. And I guess I should ask you,
why do you think I should? What do you think
I’ll learn from it? The Press: Well, you’re
the National Security Advisor. You might have access
to that sort of intelligence. Ambassador Bolton: Yeah.
How many in this room speak Arabic? The Press: You don’t have
access to an interpreter? Ambassador Bolton: What,
you want me to listen to it? What am I going to learn from —
I mean, if they were speaking Korean, I wouldn’t learn
any more from it either. The Press: Well, an interpreter
would be able to tell you what’s going on. Ambassador Bolton: Well, then
I can read a transcript, too. The Press: Okay. So you don’t think it’s
important that you hear that as
the National Security Advisor? Ambassador Bolton: I’m just
trying to make the point that everybody who says, “Why don’t you listen
to the tape?” Unless you speak Arabic, what are you going
to get from it, really? The President — the President has spoken
to our position on this issue. He’s spoken very clearly.
And that is our position. Now, tell me
the other questions. The Press: Are you blocking
Gina Haspel from — Ambassador Bolton: No,
certainly not. The Press: —
sharing information with members of the Congress? Ambassador Bolton: Certainly
not. Certainly not. Okay? No, back here in the back. The Press: Mr. Bolton,
could you — Ambassador Bolton: Sorry.
The man in the back. The Press: Okay,
so the Argentinian authority captured two
Hezbollah suspects last week. And Brazil probably is going to
follow the American footsteps and blacklist Hezbollah
also on terrorist list. And also, Hezbollah is replying
for the sanctions — the last sanctions — by blocking the formation
of the new government; it’s a quotation
for Saad Hariri. So how will you put
all this together? Is it going to be discussed
in the G[20] Summit — [G]20 Summit — Iran and
Hezbollah influence the region? Ambassador Bolton: Well,
I expect in the bilateral meetings,
depending on the country, that there will be
substantial conversation about counterterrorism efforts
where we participate together. That’s certainly something
that may well come up in Brazil with
the President-elect Bolsonaro. And I think it’s one
of President Trump’s biggest priorities, to extend cooperation
against terrorism, whether it’s Hezbollah
or Hamas or others. So, entirely likely,
it could be a subject. Yes, ma’am. The Press: Ambassador, going
back to the Khashoggi issue. Being informed about an issue
is part of, I guess, what is in the scope
of national security. Ambassador Bolton: We try to be. The Press: Okay.
But in the midst of it, why not — I’m going to go back
to that question again, sir. Why not get a translator
to understand, to hear what happened? You could find out
a little bit more than what they’ve told you
by listening. Ambassador Bolton: People
who speak Arabic have listened to the tape, and they have given us
the substance of what’s in it. The Press: And you trust those
who’ve given you the substance — Ambassador Bolton:
I don’t speak Arabic. The Press: I know. But a translator —
you could hear the emotion, and a translator
could help you understand what happened at that time to relay to the President,
to the United States, and to convey
to the world what happened. Ambassador Bolton: I’m
very satisfied that we know
what the tape picked up. And it was factored
into the President’s decision. And he’s announced
his position very clearly. The Press: As economic security
is national security, I think this should
be in your lane. Ambassador Bolton: I was going
to defer to Larry, but it’s — The Press: (Laughs.) Let me see if I can keep it
in your lane, if I could. The talks with China
have been marked with intransigence,
disappointment. Larry was talking about that
at length this morning — this idea of some sense
of optimism going into this
Saturday night dinner with Xi. Is it based on any notion that Xi is going to
suddenly say, you know, “This idea
of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer,
protectionist tariffs — I don’t know
what we were thinking. It was a bad idea. Let’s level the playing field
and start anew.” Ambassador Bolton: Well, I think
President Trump has developed a very positive relationship
with President Xi. They’ve met.
They’ve spoken over the phone. Obviously, both leaders
carry in to any discussion like this
their national interest. And I think it’s instructive and I think the Chinese side
believes the same thing — to have the two leaders
exchange their views in the presence
of their senior advisors. And not with the expectation
that, at this meeting, there’ll be some substantial
agreement coming out of it, but that there would be
an indication, a kind of way ahead that
the advisors could then pursue. And I see Sarah is so eager to
be here to answer your questions (inaudible). Ms. Sanders: I was going to
give him one more but — The Press: Well, Mr. Kudlow
deferred a question to him. Could he answer the question that was deferred
to him, please? Mr. Bolton. (Inaudible)
Bolton. Ms. Sanders: I think
he’s already going. (Laughter.) As you know, the new President
of Mexico will be inaugurated on Saturday. To represent the United States
in Mexico City, President Trump has asked
the Vice President Mike Pence to lead a delegation that
will include the Second Lady of the United States
Karen Pence, Secretary of Energy
Rick Perry, Secretary of Homeland Security
Kirstjen Nielsen, Advisor to the President
Ivanka Trump, United States Embassy Mexico City Diplomat
John Creamer, and Assistant Secretary
of State Kimberly Breier. Lastly, this morning,
we learned the sad news that three U.S. service members
were killed and three wounded when an explosive device
detonated in Afghanistan. The wounded service members
were evacuated and are receiving
medical care. We extend our thoughts
and prayers to the loved ones
of those killed and to those recovering. The United States is grateful
for their service and forever in debt
of their sacrifice. With that, I’ll take
your questions. Justin. The Press: Sarah, the Guardian
is reporting today that Paul Manafort met with
Julian Assange around the time that he was coming onboard
with the Trump campaign. I’m wondering if you know
if that meeting took place, and if you remain confident
in the White House’s repeated denials
that no campaign officials were involved in discussions
about the plans to release
John Podesta’s emails? Ms. Sanders: Certainly,
I remain confident in the White House’s assertion that the President was involved
in no wrongdoing — was not part of any collusion. The things that have to do
with Mr. Manafort, I would refer you to
his attorneys to address that. The Press: Sarah, given what
the President said this morning that Robert Mueller
is “ruining” people’s lives, is he considering a pardon
for Paul Manafort, or for others
who were prosecuted and have been prosecuted? Ms. Sanders: I’m not aware of
any conversations for anyone’s pardon
involving this process at all. The Press: And if I can
follow up — he also said
this morning Mueller is “doing TREMENDOUS damage”
to the criminal justice system. If that’s true, is he considering
picking up the phone, calling his acting
Attorney General, and saying,
“Fire Robert Mueller?” Ms. Sanders: Look, I think that
the President has had Robert Mueller doing his job
for the last two years, and he could’ve taken action
at any point, and he hasn’t. So we’ll let
that speak for itself. The President: So is he
(inaudible) it out now? Ms. Sanders: He has no intent
to do anything. Zeke.
The Press: Thanks, Sarah. Over the weekend, we saw some
powerful images of children, as well as adults,
who were affected by tear gas fired by U.S. officers
along the U.S.-Mexico border. We heard the President talk
about that at length yesterday. But one thing we did not hear
from him was any expression, really, of regret that there
were children caught up in this. I was wondering,
does the White House regret the fact that children
were affected by tear gas, and that this situation
took place? And are they — is there
an investigation underway to prevent this
from happening again? Ms. Sanders: Certainly the White
House would never want children to be in harm’s way
in any capacity whatsoever. However, that is why we are
continuing to encourage people to follow the law
and go to ports of entry. Law enforcement officials
have used appropriate, non-lethal force
to protect themselves, and prevent an illegal rush
across the border. And let’s also not forget
that this isn’t the first time that non-lethal force
like this has been used. In fact, tear gas
was used on average once a month during
the Obama administration for very similar circumstances. In fact, they were actually
for far less circumstances, because they didn’t have the
same numbers in the mass rush that we’re seeing in
this caravan take place. Certainly no one wants
women or children or any individuals
to have this happen, which is why
we’ve encouraged them to actually follow the law
and go to ports of entry. The Press: And, Sarah,
if I may, can I just follow up
real quick on something that
Ambassador Bolton actually — when he ruled out a bilat
that the President and MBS — is the White House
ruling out any interaction between the President
and the Saudi Crown Prince, and is he sort of
in the equivalent of a diplomatic time-out? Ms. Sanders: I wouldn’t say that
we’ve ruled out any interaction. I know that the President’s
schedule is pretty packed and has a number of sessions
that he’ll be involved in with the G20,
as well as a number of bilats. I don’t think there is
any time for us to add anything additional. Whether or not there
is some interaction, I’m not going to rule that out and we’ll keep you guys posted
as to what happens tomorrow. The Press: Thanks, Sarah. Yesterday in Mississippi
at his rally, the President said — he asked
a question about Mike Espy. He said, “How does he fit in
with Mississippi? I mean, how does he fit in?” I guess suggesting
that he doesn’t fit in. I mean, Mike Espy’s
great-grandparents were slaves in Mississippi. What did the President
mean by that? Ms. Sanders: Due to the fact
that is an election that is taking place today, I’m not going to comment
on anything that could affect anything
taking place in Mississippi. And I’m certainly happy
to comment on that after today. Jon.
The Press: Thanks a lot Sarah. The Press: But the President
was talking (inaudible)
— Ms. Sanders: The President is
not guided by the Hatch Act. Jon, go ahead.
The Press: Thanks a lot, Sarah. Does the administration
have a position on the President of Ecuador continuing to provide
asylum to Julian Assange at its embassy in London? Ms. Sanders: I’m not aware
of anything official. I’d have to get back to you. The Press: Just one more
on that, if I may, Sarah. Will you, from the podium, call on the Ecuadorian
government to confirm whether or not
some sort of meeting may have taken place
between Paul Manafort and Julian Assange
at its embassy? Ms. Sanders: Certainly
we encourage the process to continue to play out, but I’m not going to get engaged
in specifics of that case. Weijia. The Press: Sarah,
President Trump has implied that a potential new deal
with Mexico is a done deal, tweeting that migrants
will stay in Mexico as they wait for their cases
of asylum to be processed. How far along are talks with
the new Mexican administration about the so-called
“Remain in Mexico” policy? Ms. Sanders: Those conversations
continue. We won’t have a final decision until the new government
actually takes over, which will happen
on Saturday. And on Monday,
we expect the Foreign — the new Foreign Minister
for Mexico to meet and sit down with White House
administration officials and the Department of Homeland
Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen
and continue and try to finalize
those conversations. The Press: A second question
on Khashoggi because, tomorrow,
Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis will brief the full Senate
on the murder. Why is a leader of a U.S.
intelligence agency not joining them —
specifically Gina Haspel, who many senators
expect to hear from? Ms. Sanders: Ambassador Bolton
addressed this. I’m not going to comment on behalf of the CIA Director
in that capacity. That’s something that I would
direct you to them to answer. The Press: Sarah, I want to ask
you about the climate assessment that your administration
released last week. The President, yesterday, when asked about
the economic forecast, essentially said
he didn’t believe it. The takeaway for many people
is that the President doesn’t feel necessarily
a responsibility to lead, either in this country
or in the world, on climate change
and preventing the calamity that your administration
forecasts. Do you agree with that view?
And if not, why not? Ms. Sanders: The President
is certainly lean- — leading on what matters
most in this process. And that’s on having
clean air, clean water. In fact, the United States continues to be a leader
on that front. Even Obama’s undersecretary
for science didn’t believe
the radical conclusions of the report
that was released. And you have to look at the fact
that this report is based on the most
extreme modeled scenario, which contradicts
long-established trends. Modeling the climate is an
extremely complicated science that is never exact. The biggest thing that we can do
is focus on how to make sure we have the cleanest air,
the cleanest water. And the President
is certainly doing that and certainly leading
on that front. The Press: Sarah,
how is he doing that? I mean, the President is about
to go to Buenos Aires and meet with all the leaders
of the world’s industrialized nations —
and developing nations, as well. Isn’t this a great opportunity
for him to sit at the table and say, “Folks, this is what
my administration just reported. This is the time that we all
have to act in concert to prevent what my
administration is forecasting”? Ms. Sanders: Once again, we think that this is
the most extreme version and it’s not based on facts. It’s based on —
it’s not data-driven. We’d like to see something
that is more data-driven. It’s based on modeling,
which is extremely hard to do when you’re talking
about the climate. Again, our focus is on
making sure we have the safest,
cleanest air and water. And the President is going
to do exactly that. April. The Press: Sarah, I want to
go back to GM. President Trump early on
in January 2017 met with the big three automakers, and he said he wanted
to make the U.S. a more attractive place
for companies to manufacture products by lowering taxes
and business regulations. What does this move,
this action by GM say? Ms. Sanders: Certainly,
it’s disappointing to see that GM decided
to lay off these workers. The President has been
extremely committed to bringing manufacturing jobs
back to the United States, which is why,
since he took office, we’ve seen 400,000 new
manufacturing jobs created in the United States. It’s because of his policies
that we’ve seen that grow. This is not about the President; it’s about the fact
that they’re making a car, frankly,
that people don’t want to buy. And hopefully they will
make adjustments and make changes
and bring those workers back. Jim. The Press: Sarah, getting back
to Paul Manafort and the Special Counsel’s office saying that he’s violating
the terms of his plea agreement by lying to investigators. Would the President recommend
that Mr. Manafort begin to cooperate, offer full cooperation
to the Special Counsel’s office? Ms. Sanders: We can only speak
to what our role is in that process.
And not only has the President, but the entire administration
has been fully cooperative with the Special Counsel’s
office, providing hours and hours
of sit-downs, as well as over
4 million pages in documents. We continue to be cooperative, but we also know
that there was no collusion and we’re ready
for this to wrap up. The Press: And if I could ask
a follow-up? The President doesn’t believe
the warnings in the climate report. The President doesn’t believe
the CIA when it comes
to Jamal Khashoggi. The President doesn’t believe
the — Ms. Sanders: That’s
not accurate. The Press: — intelligence
community when it comes to Russia meddling. Why doesn’t he have faith
in his advisors? Ms. Sanders: That’s not true. The President has
a great deal of faith in the intelligence community
and certainly in the team that he has assembled
around him. However, I’ve addressed
the climate report. There’s really nothing else
to add on that front. The Press: But on Khashoggi,
you said that that was not true, that he doesn’t believe the CIA.
He said the other day: Maybe MBS did, maybe he didn’t —
the Crown Prince. Ms. Sanders: And we haven’t seen
definitive evidence come from our
intelligence community that ties him directly to that. What we have seen
is a number of individuals that we know are tied to that and those individuals
have been sanctioned. The people that we have no doubt
about their involvement, we’ve taken action on. And as he said, we’ll see
what happens beyond that. And if there is more
definitive information, we’ll make a decision
at that point. Roberta. The Press: Sarah,
the “Remain in Mexico” meeting that you talked
about on Monday, is that happening here
or in Mexico? And is the United States
offering Mexico any international assistance
to help accommodate the migrants seeking asylum who would be
staying in Mexico as a result? Ms. Sanders: Sorry, on that
second question, do you mind repeating that? I was — the first part
on whether or not the meeting is here or in Mexico,
I’ll get back to you on that. I’m not sure
on the exact location. The Press: Okay. Is the United States offering
Mexico any financial assistance, or does the United States
plan to, to accommodate the migrants
who would be staying in Mexico as a result? Ms. Sanders: I’m not aware
of financial assistance, but certainly we’ll
keep you posted if
(inaudible). The Press: Just to clean up —
just to clean up on the bilats. You mentioned in your list a bilat with
the Chancellor of Germany, but the Ambassador did not.
Has that bilat been canceled? Ms. Sanders: No, it hasn’t. I just think he was giving
additional updates on the one
that I didn’t mention. John. The Press: Sarah, the President
tweeted at length yesterday about the Mueller report, asking if it was going
to show both sides. What are his concerns about
any forthcoming Mueller report? And as that report
is supposed to be delivered to no one else
by the attorney general, is he concerned that’s it going
to become public without his knowledge? Ms. Sanders: I don’t think
the President has any concerns
about the report because he knows that there
was no wrongdoing by him and that there was no collusion. So I don’t think
he has concern on that front. The Press: If he has
no concerns, why is he tweeting
so vociferously about it? Ms. Sanders: Certainly
the President has voiced his unhappiness from the beginning
that this has gone on — this ridiculous witch hunt —
for more than two years. Still nothing that ties
anything to the President, and we’d like to see it
come to conclusion. Peter.
The Press: Thank you, Sarah. Does the President believe
that the work of the Special Prosecutor
Bob Mueller is illegitimate? Ms. Sanders: I’m sorry? The Press: Does the President
believe that the prosecutions — the indictments of Bob Mueller
are illegitimate? Ms. Sanders: I think the
President believes that what I’ve said
several times today and several times over
the last couple of years — that there was no wrongdoing
on his part; there was no collusion
by his campaign. And beyond that,
that’s really all we can speak about here at the White House. Last question. Hallie. The Press: Thank you.
Two questions for you. The President,
as you were speaking, is tweeting that he is going
to be considering cutting all GM subsides,
including for electric cars. Can you explain why — he says that he thinks that
would help American workers. Can you explain why
that wouldn’t end up backfiring as we’ve already seen, and who the President
has consulted, and what a timeline
is for this decision? Ms. Sanders: I don’t know that
there is a specific timeline. As he said, he’s looking into what those options
might look like. The President wants to see
American companies build cars here in America,
not build them overseas. And he is hopeful that GM
will continue to do that here. Second question. The Press: And my second
question for you is on Afghanistan. The President,
on Thanksgiving Day, told U.S. troops that we are
winning the war in Afghanistan, which contradicted what
the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said —
that it was a stalemate. Does the President today
still believe, after what we saw
over the weekend, that we are winning
in Afghanistan? And why? Ms. Sanders: Certainty anytime
you have a loss of life, particularly by
an American service member, it is a horrific tragedy and something that no President
wants to see, certainly not during
their administration. And the President
wants to make sure that the battle that
we’re fighting takes place there and not here. And he’s going
to continue consulting with his national security team and make decisions on how best
to move forward beyond that. Thanks so much, guys.
Have a great day.

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