Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders | Eastern North Carolina Now

Press Release:

    James S. Brady Press Briefing Room     2:15 P.M. EST

    MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. We're pleased to see that the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through 25,000 for the first time ever today. The President's economic agenda of lower taxes, less regulation, and more opportunity for all is already paying off, and American families and workers are the big winners.

    With that in mind, we have a message from a special guest that I'd like to share with you. With that, I'll ask you to tune into the screens, and then I'll continue from there.

    (A video of President Trump is played.)

    "Thank you for being with us today. The historic tax cut I signed into law just two weeks ago, before Christmas, is already delivering major economic gains. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are seeing larger paychecks, bigger bonuses, and higher pension contribution, and it's all because of the tax cuts and the tax reform.

    And I want to thank all of the companies that worked so hard to do it. Workers at AT&T, Bank of America, Comcast, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and many other companies are receiving bonuses of $1,000 or more. Aflac and others are investing more in employees' 401(k)s. CVS announced it will hire 3,000 new workers. Boeing, another great company, is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in employee training and infrastructure.

    More than 60 companies have announced they are raising wages, including many that have voluntarily raised their minimum wage to $15.00 per hour - and I mean they did that voluntarily, which many politicians said could only be achieved by government mandate.

    Investing in the American worker is the most important investment a business will ever make.

    I want to thank all of these companies for putting their tax savings to the best possible use by creating more jobs and higher wages for the American family. These great results are just the beginning.

    When the dreams of the American people are unleashed, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - we can't achieve. We are going to make America great again, and it's happening a lot faster than anyone thought possible.

    Thank you."

    Thank you, Mr. President. As he said, this is only the beginning, and we are excited to see the economic growth and optimism continue to soar in 2018. Earlier today, the President hosted Republican senators to talk about responsible immigration reform. He reiterated our view that any action on DACA must come with action on the President's immigration reform principles, which were released last year.

    These include a physical border wall on the southern border; interior enforcement, which includes more ICE and Border Patrol agents; as well as a crackdown on sanctuary cities; and reforms to our legal immigration system, like ending chain migration and the visa lottery program in favor of a merit-based immigration system.

    Next week, the President is inviting a bipartisan group of senators to the White House to discuss next steps on responsible immigration reform and to continue that discussion.

    And with that, I'll take your questions. Jeff.

    Q Sarah, a follow-up on the Steve Bannon issue. Did White House staff, including Steve, have to sign nondisclosure agreements when they came to work at the White House?

    MS. SANDERS: There's an ethics agreement. Beyond that, I can't get into any additional details.

    Q Does the President want to have Steve's support for anti-establishment political candidates going up into the midterm elections?

    MS. SANDERS: The President wants all Americans' support. He hopes that every American in this country wants to see us do bigger and better things. That's his focus. He's not trying to single out the support from any one individual, but he wants to bring everybody together to move this country forward. That's what he campaigned on, and that's what we've done over the last year, and that's what we're going to continue to do for the next seven years.

    Q The White House has said there were false statements in this book. The President's lawyer has said there are libelous statements. Could you just give a few examples of things that have been said in this book that are false, that you would like set the record straight on?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not going to go through every single page of the book, but there are numerous examples of falsehoods that take place in the book. I'll give you one, just because it's really easy. The fact that there was a claim that the President didn't know who John Boehner was is pretty ridiculous considering the majority of you have seen photos and, frankly, some of you have even tweeted out that the President not only knows him but has played golf with him, tweeted about him. I mean, that's pretty simple and pretty basic. Ages of employees, which would be super easy to fact-check, are wrong.

    Again, there are numerous mistakes, but I'm not going to waste my time or the country's time going page by page, talking about a book that's complete fantasy and just full of tabloid gossip, because it's sad, pathetic, and our administration and our focus is going to be on moving the country forward.


    Q Thanks a lot, Sarah. I read the cease-and-desist letter that was sent by the President's lawyers to both Michael Wolff and Henry Holt, the publisher of his book, which seeks to stop the sale of his book. Did the President's lawyers share with the President the idea that this is a prior restraint, and that prior restraints are generally unconstitutional?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not sure about specific details of the conversation between the President and his personal attorneys, but I would refer you to them for questions regarding that matter.

    Q Does the President believe in the First Amendment? Does he believe in prior restraint such as the one that's contemplated here?

    MS. SANDERS: The President absolutely believes in the First Amendment. But as we've said before, the President also believes in making sure that information is accurate before pushing it out as fact when it certainly and clearly is not.


    Q What's the President's reaction to the growing number of suggestions, both in this book and in the media, that he's mentally unfit to serve as President?

    MS. SANDERS: The same way we have when it's been asked before: that it's disgraceful and laughable. If we was unfit, he probably wouldn't be sitting there and wouldn't have defeated the most qualified group of candidates the Republican Party has ever seen. This is an incredibly strong and good leader. That's why we've had such a successful 2017 and why we're going to continue to do great things as we move forward in this administration.


    Q Yeah. Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. First, the book repeatedly says that candidate Trump, his family, and the top officials of the campaign did not believe he would be elected. It was the farthest from their mind. You said yesterday you believed in this campaign and felt he would win. Can you name anyone else who said at the time, on the eve of the election, they felt he would win? And did the President himself believe he would not win?

    MS. SANDERS: Look, as we've stated many times before - go back and look at some of the interviews, specifically Kellyanne Conway. I know she did several leading up to the days just before the election, saying directly that the President can win and would win. I know there were a number of other campaign officials that echoed those same sentiments.

    The President, the First Lady, his family - they wouldn't have put themselves through that process if, one, they didn't believe they could win, and two, they didn't want to win. This was something they were very committed to and have been committed to since taking office, and will continue to do so over the next seven years.

    Again, it is absolutely laughable to think that somebody like this President would run for office with the purpose of losing. If you guys know anything, you know that Donald Trump is a winner, and he's not going to do something for the purpose of not coming out on top and not coming out as a winner. It's just - I mean, that's one of the most ridiculous things I think - the claims in the book.

    Q My other question is: Tomorrow, can we expect a major personnel change? And I particularly ask, is Gary Cohn going to stay where he is?

    MS. SANDERS: I have no reason to know of any personnel change whatsoever. Gary has stated he's committed to being here. We just have come off of a very successful win on the tax cut and reform package, which Gary was one of the key leaders of that effort. And we're moving full force ahead into 2018 to make sure we get a lot accomplished.


    Q Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to follow up on something you said yesterday. The last time that the President spoke to Steve Bannon was early December, at least to your knowledge, you said. So that's one thing. But secondly, the President said today, I don't talk to Steve Bannon, I don't talk to him. So how much were they in contact from the time that he left the White House to that early December call that you mentioned?

    And also, how close were they when they were in the White House? One of the claims that was made in the book was that he frequently dined with Mr. Bannon unless he was already in bed.

    MS. SANDERS: The book also says that he had been sidelined by April, which I think goes further to indicate that he had very little credibility to give much information, particularly after that point, which most of the book is based after that timeframe.

    Again, this book is mistake, after mistake, after mistake.

    Q So is that correct? Was he sidelined? Was he sidelined by April, Sarah? Were they not close by the time that he left?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not aware that they were ever particularly close. I would certainly say that they've spoken a few times since he left the White House, but it's not like there were regularly scheduled calls and certainly no meetings between the two of them.


    Q Thanks, Sarah. This is regarding the election commission and the President's tweets that follow that. On voter ID, does the President favor a national voter ID?

    MS. SANDERS: Look, we're still going to continue to review the best way forward. Just because the election commission is no longer in existence, we are going to send the preliminary findings from the commission to the Department of Homeland Security and make determinations on the best way forward from that point.

    Q And on that, why the DHS instead of the DOJ, which would seem to be more of an investigative body?

    MS. SANDERS: That was the agency that was best determined by the administration. And we're moving forward and letting them take over the process.


    Q Thanks, Sarah. Two questions for you. First, does President Trump see marijuana as a states issue or a federal issue?

    MS. SANDERS: The President believes in enforcing federal law. That would be his top priority, and that is regardless of what the topic is. Whether it's marijuana or whether it's immigration, the President strongly believes that we should enforce federal law.

    The move that the Department of Justice has made - which, my guess is, what you're referencing - simply gives prosecutors the tools to take on large-scale distributors and enforce federal law. The President's position hasn't changed, but he does strongly believe that we have to enforce federal law.

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