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

Press Release:

    James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  2:45 P.M. EST

    MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. As you all saw, the President delivered remarks at the Latino Coalition Summit this afternoon. The business leaders in attendance are living proof that the American Dream is back and stronger than ever under President Trump's leadership.

    As the President noted, last year Hispanic unemployment reached the lowest level in history. It has now remained below 5 percent for the longest period ever recorded.

    Latino-owned businesses are thriving like never before, contributing nearly half a trillion dollars for our economy last year alone. And with the President's pro-growth policies, this is only the beginning.

    The last couple of weeks, we have been highlighting Senate Democrats' historic efforts to obstruct the ability of the government to function. A stunning 43 percent of the President's highly qualified nominees are still waiting for confirmation in the Senate. Senator Schumer's tactics have led to 102 fewer confirmations than the next closest administration.

    As I noted before, blocking Ric Grenell from serving as Ambassador to Germany is putting our national security in jeopardy.

    Today, I'd like to highlight Yleem Poblete. It has been almost 150 days since Dr. Poblete was nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance. She would work to verify compliance of arms control, including disarmament agreements and missile defense cooperation.

    We need her in place so she's able to fully represent the United States at upcoming international meetings to discuss Syria's use of chemical weapons, and to participate in April's Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee meetings. Say that really fast.

    And yet, Senator Schumer is holding her up, putting the safety and security of the American people and, frankly, the entire world in danger.

    Senator Schumer is blocking nominees indiscriminately. He forces time-wasting procedural votes on nominees, and then eventually votes in support of them.

    Just yesterday, the Senate had to waste precious floor time on a universally respected nominee, Terry Doughty, who was confirmed 98 to 0. Even Senator Schumer eventually voted in favor of the nominee, yet still demanded the Senate go through archaic Senate procedure that delays votes and wastes the American people's time. It's a disgrace, it's dangerous, and it must come to an end.

    And with that, I will take your questions.

    Q Sarah, on the tariffs. Does the President expect to sign the tariffs tomorrow? And can countries like Mexico and Canada and allies within the European Union expect to have a pathway to gain an exemption from the tariffs?

    MS. SANDERS: We expect that the President will sign something by the end of the week. And there are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada based on national security, and possibly other countries, as well, based on that process.

    Q Specifically, what would they have to do to -

    MS. SANDERS: Again, that would be a case-by-case and country-by-country basis, but it would be determined whether or not there is a national security exemption.


    Q So far this year, six top White House staffers have resigned. The President says there are more names to come. Why are so many people leaving this administration?

    MS. SANDERS: Look, this administration has had a historic first year. We're going to continue to do great things. This is an intense place, as is every White House. And it's not abnormal that you would have people come and go. But we're continuing to do great work. We're continuing to focus on the President's agenda. And that's what we're all here to do.

    Q But, actually, it is actually abnormal. No administration in recent history has had this much turnover as in this administration.

    MS. SANDERS: I said it's not abnormal to have turnover.

    Q If this is not the definition of "chaotic," how would you describe what's happening in these recent weeks?

    MS. SANDERS: If it was, then I don't think we would be able to accomplish everything that we've done. The economy is stronger than it's been in ages, ISIS is on the run, the remaking of the judiciary. Jobs are coming in at record numbers. There are historic things that have taken place in the first year. Sounds like a very functioning place of business to me.


    Q When you talk about potential carve-outs, are you also talking about NATO Allies as possibly getting this exemption?

    MS. SANDERS: It would - again, it would be a country-by-country, and it will be based on national security.

    Q Let me follow up. Today, the President tweeted, "China has been asked to develop a plan for the year for a One Billion Dollar reduction in the[ir] deficit." What's he talking about? Did he make this recently, or has he been talking to the Chinese?

    MS. SANDERS: We had conversations with officials last week, and we're going to continue those conversations with them. The President has been very clear that he wants to address the trade imbalance that the United States has with a number of countries. He feels like the United States has been taken advantage of for far too long, and he's not going to allow that to continue under his watch.

    Q Have they responded, Sarah?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm sorry?

    Q Have they responded?

    MS. SANDERS: We're continuing conversations with them.


    Q Sarah, you've said repeatedly that we've addressed our feelings on that situation, in regards to the Stormy Daniels payment. But specifically, can I ask, did the President approve of the payment that was made in October of 2016 by his longtime lawyer and advisor, Michael Cohen?

    MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has addressed these directly and made very well clear that none of these allegations are true. This case has already been won in arbitration. And anything beyond that, I would refer you to the President's outside counsel.

    Q When did the President address, specifically, the cash payment that was made in October of 2016 to -

    MS. SANDERS: The President has denied the allegations against him. And, again, this case has already been won in arbitration. Anything beyond that, I would refer you to outside counsel.

    Q But did he know about that payment at the time, though?

    MS. SANDERS: Jeff, I've addressed this as far as I can go.

    Q I'm not talking about the actual allegations, but about the payment. Did he know about the payment at the time?

    MS. SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of. And, again, anything beyond what I've already given you, I would refer you to the President's outside counsel.

    Q Has he talked to Michael Cohen about that, since this has become a news story this week? Has he talked to Michael Cohen about it, if I can just ask one more question?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm sorry?

    Q Has he talked to Michael Cohen about that this week since this has become news?

    MS. SANDERS: I don't know. I'm not sure.

    Q Yeah, Sarah, this administration has now imposed additional sanctions on North Korea after concluding that Kim Jong-un's government assassinated his half-brother using VX nerve agent in Malaysia. Now we have authorities in Britain have announced that a nerve agent was used to try to kill a former Russian double agent and his wife. Obviously, Moscow the prime suspect.

    What does this administration have to say about this attempt at assassination in the UK? And are sanctions against Russia likely, as they were in the case of the North Koreans?

    MS. SANDERS: This is currently under review, and I'll keep you posted as we have further information and developments on that front.


    Q Thank you. A quick clarifying question on the China tweet, and then had an NEC question. Is there any chance that if China did respond on that $1 billion reduction plan, that that could assuage or affect the shaping of this tariff plan before it is announced at the end of the week? In other words, is China's piece of this tariff thing negotiable, or are we only talking about tweaking Canada, Mexico, EU countries?

    And my other -

    MS. SANDERS: Hold on. Let me address that first.

    Q Okay.

    MS. SANDERS: The President has been clear that he wants to address the trade imbalances and the unfair practices. And certainly, we would take anything into consideration. But as of right now, we're moving fully ahead. And anything that would change would be done so on a national security basis - any decision for carve-outs.

    Q Okay. Obviously, you're going to take your time and space on making the next NEC decision. But can you give us, sort of, a scope of the short list? And there's two names in particular I wanted to bounce off of you in this room, just among friends here - (laughter) - Larry Kudlow and Andy Pudzer. Can you confirm that those two are among the names under consideration? And how much of a role is Gary Cohn himself going to have in helping the President make that pick to succeed him?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not going to get into any naming or a list, but I can tell you that the President has a number of people under consideration. And he's going to take his time making that decision.

    Q With Gary Cohn leaving, Senator Cornyn - Republican Senator Cornyn said today, "I'm concerned who the President will turn to for advice." Should he be concerned?

    MS. SANDERS: No. The President has got a number of very accomplished, smart, capable people around him. And he is going to continue to lean on a lot of those people.

    But at the end of the day, the American people voted overwhelmingly for President Donald J. Trump. They voted for his policies, his agenda, and for him to be the ultimate decision maker. And I think that everyone can rest assured in the American people's choice on that front, and that they've made the right one.

    Q You said earlier today that we're continuing to bring in new people every day. Could you tell us who has come in this week?

    MS. SANDERS: We've made several personnel announcements. I'd refer you back to the press releases of nominations and personnel announcements that have gone out. I think there's been at least three that have gone out earlier this week.

    Q Senior level in the White House?

    MS. SANDERS: I'd be happy to forward those to you, if you're not receiving the White House press releases.


    Q The European Union is being very shrewd in its threats of retaliation against these tariffs, saying that they would slap tariffs on things like bed linens, which would include the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Georgia; his manufacturers - chewing tobacco, which includes North Carolina; cranberries, the leading producer of which is Wisconsin; orange juice, again Florida. Is the President concerned that he could hurt his political fortunes in some of these swing states if he goes ahead with these tariffs?

    MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has been talking about this for a long time. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody. Other countries have created unfair trade policies for decades that have harmed our national and economic security. The President wants a strong economy and a strong national security. And a strong U.S. economy benefits all Americans, particularly by helping us maintain a strong military and defend U.S. national security interests. And he's going to continue every day to fight for making sure that we have strong both national and economic security.

    Q But the EU is going to hit him where it hurts. Is he prepared to take the hit?

    MS. SANDERS: The President is prepared to protect our country. That is the number-one priority he has as President, is to protect our economic and national security interests. And that's exactly what he's doing.

    Q And if I could ask one just about Gary Cohn. He was a noted free trader, a globalist. Will the President seek another globalist, another free trader for that position?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not going to get ahead of the President's announcement on who will replace Gary.

    Q A follow-up on Gary Cohn. The President has often touted the strength of the markets. There has been some volatility today. The U.S. markets opened down; so did the Asian markets. Is he concerned about the volatility in the markets in the wake of Gary Cohn's resignation announcement?

    MS. SANDERS: The President is focused on long-term economic goals. The economy is still infinitely stronger today than it was when the President took office. We're going to continue to fight for strong economic policy, job growth, wage growth, and, certainly, an increased number of people that are working in this country again, specifically some of the actions that you're going to see through the announcement later this week.
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