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

Press Release:

    James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  3:00 P.M. EDT, April 13, 2018

    MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. Today, I had the opportunity to visit the National Safety Council's Opioid Memorial on the Ellipse. It's a moving experience. President Trump and the First Lady encourage you all to visit the memorial before it leaves Washington, D.C. on April 18th.

    Today at the Summit of Americas in Lima, Peru, Assistant to the President and Advisor Ivanka Trump, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Acting U.S. Secretary of State announced OPIC's 2X Americas Latin American women's initiative - say that fast - which will mobilize $500 million in private capital to invest in projects that empower women in Latin America. This new initiative will help break down barriers that limit women's full participation in the economy and reaffirms the Trump administration's commitment to empowering women in Latin America and around the globe.

    As you all saw, yesterday's confirmation hearing for Secretary of State-designee Mike Pompeo went very well. From his years in the Army, to his time as a key member of the House Intelligence Committee, to his successful tenure as CIA Director, Secretary-designee Pompeo has excelled as one of the nation's key leaders in national security and foreign policy. As a result of Mike Pompeo's leadership, America has been safer, more secure, and more prosperous.

    There is absolutely no legitimate reason that Secretary-designee Pompeo's confirmation process should not be done in a speedy and bipartisan manner. Even the Washington Post editorial board - hardly a cheerleader for this administration - published an editorial yesterday with a simple, straight-to-the-point headline: "Confirm Mike Pompeo."

    Democrats and Republicans should do exactly that by coming together and doing what is, without question, the right thing for our country.

    And with that, I will take your questions. Cecilia.

    Q Thank you, Sarah. The President came out swinging today, calling James Comey a "liar," a "leaker," a "slime ball." Is he worried about what he's saying?

    MS. SANDERS: Not at all. The American people see right through the blatant lies of a self-admitted leaker. This is nothing more than a poorly executed PR stunt by Comey to desperately rehabilitate his tattered reputation and enrich his own bank account by peddling a book that belongs on the bargain bin of the fiction section.

    Instead of being remembered as a dedicated servant in the pursuit of justice like so many of his other colleagues at the FBI, Comey will be forever known as a disgraced partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with the President of the United States, the dedicated agents of the FBI, and the American people he vowed to faithfully serve. One of the President's greatest achievements will go down as firing Director James Comey.

    Q And another topic, quickly, if I may. The Deputy Attorney General was here yesterday. Is the President going to fire Rod Rosenstein?

    MS. SANDERS: I don't have any announcements at this time. The President has voiced some frustrations, but beyond that, I don't have anything to add.


    Q Sarah, the President, a short time ago, issued a pardon of Scooter Libby, the former Vice President's Chief of Staff. There are many people who believe that Scooter Libby was the victim of a Special Counsel investigation run amuck. The recent statements that we have heard from the White House would seem to indicate that you feel much the same thing about the Mueller investigation.

    Was the President sending some sort of signal to the Mueller investigation or about the Mueller investigation by pardoning Scooter Libby?

    MS. SANDERS: Not at all. One thing has nothing to do with the other, and every case should be reviewed on their own merits. Pardoning Libby was the right thing to do, after the principal witness recanted her testimony. The D.C. Court of Appeals panel unanimously voted to restore Mr. Libby's bar membership after being presented credible evidence in support of his version of events. And it appears that that key prosecution witness, Judith Miller, changed her recollection of the events in question.

    Q In the statement, the pardoning statement today, the President acknowledges he doesn't know Scooter Libby. What was it that convinced him that Scooter Libby deserved a pardon?

    MS. SANDERS: The President thought it was the right thing to do.


    Q Thanks, Sarah. I have two questions. I wanted to ask about the first - The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision -

    MS. SANDERS: Sorry, can you speak up a little?

    Q Sure. The President, at the beginning of the week, said he expected a decision within 24 to 48 hours on Syria. On Tuesday, he said a decision would probably come that night. But here we are on Friday, and in a statement last night, you said that no final decision had been reached. So I'm wondering if you could walk through why the President hasn't met his own timeline there, and specifically, if it had anything to do with the, sort of, Syrian troop movement that we saw after his tweet on Wednesday, sort of threatening a missile strike.

    MS. SANDERS: No, we're continuing to have ongoing conversations with our partners and allies. The President spoke with President Macron of France, again, earlier today. We're continuing to have ongoing meetings and conversations here at the White House. And when we have any further developments, we'll let you know.

    Q And then, because it's Friday, I'm wondering if -

    MS. SANDERS: Friday the 13th.

    Q Yeah. (Laughter.) You could walk us through exactly what the President has -

    MS. SANDERS: You guys all groan like that's a bad thing.

    Q - committed to Senator Gardner in terms of both what the Justice Department would do and what the White House would do in terms of supporting legislation on states that legalize marijuana.

    MS. SANDERS: I can confirm the President did speak with Senator Gardner yesterday and again today. We're always consulting Congress about issues, including states' rights, of which the President is a firm believer. And the statement that the Senator put out earlier today is accurate.


    Q You mentioned he's spoken to President Macron. How big a coalition does he have for this expected action in Syria?

    MS. SANDERS: Again, I can't talk about anything that may or may not happen, but I can tell you that the President and a number of individuals within his administration have spoken to a number of our partners and allies at various levels across the world.

    Q And is he satisfied now that Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons attack?

    MS. SANDERS: Yes. We're, again, confident that both Syria had responsibility in this chemical weapons attack, but we also hold Russia responsible for their failure to stop chemical weapons attacks from taking place.


    Q It was reported today that Michael Cohen, the President's personal attorney, helped negotiate a $1.6 million settlement to a Playboy playmate. It also emerged, today, that Michael Cohen is under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York. Is the President still associated with Michael Cohen? Does he continue to consider Michael Cohen someone he holds in confidence?

    MS. SANDERS: I know that the President has worked with him as a personal attorney. Beyond that, I don't have anything else to add about their relationship.

    Q Is he concerned about these developments? Would the President like to say anything about them?

    MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has been clear that he has a deep concern about the direction the Special Counsel has taken. The investigation started as Russia collusion, of which there was none. The President has spoken on this topic at length, and I'd refer you back to those comments.

    Q What about Michael Cohen's actions, though? Does the President have any concern with those?

    MS. SANDERS: Again, I would refer you to Michael Cohen's personal attorney. That's simply reports right now, but I can't get anything beyond that.


    Q Just a follow-up on that and then another topic. Is Cohen still the President's personal attorney?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not sure, Jill. I'd have to check.

    Q And I wanted to ask -

    MS. SANDERS: I can only speak about White House staff.

    Q It looks like Paul Ryan just endorsed Kevin McCarthy for Speaker in an appearance, or an interview, with "Meet the Press". Does the President believe that McCarthy should be the next Speaker?

    MS. SANDERS: The President has a great relationship with Kevin McCarthy. But in terms of an announcement about who he wants to see as the next Speaker, I don't have any announcements on that front.


    Q On the James Comey book, some excerpts came out today. He speaks of the President - writes about the President in very personal terms. Were you surprised by that? Was the President surprised by that?

    MS. SANDERS: I don't think we're surprised by the fact that James Comey continues to spread false information. The guy is known to be a liar and a leaker, and so there's not a lot about James Comey that we would find to be very surprising.

    Q And just really quickly on the pardon that came out today for Scooter Libby. The President, so far in his time in office, has issued three presidential pardons. One of those was to Joe Arpaio. Is there a commonality, in terms of what the President looks for when he pardons individuals?

    MS. SANDERS: Again, every case should be reviewed on their own merits, and that's what the President has done in each of those.


    Q Yes, Sarah. I'm wondering if the administration has reacted with any message to Moscow after officials there today said that the chemical attack in Douma was faked and staged with Britain's direct involvement.

    MS. SANDERS: Certainly, our intelligence tells us otherwise. I can't go beyond that. But again, we have a very high confidence that Syria was responsible. And once again, Russia's failure to stop them and their continued disaction on this front has been part of the problem.


    Q Sarah, what part does the President bringing Russia into the Syria equation now cause for the delay in the strike timeline?

    MS. SANDERS: Again, we are continuing to have ongoing conversations with partners and allies, assess the information. And once a decision is made, we'll let you know.


    Q Thanks, Sarah. The Justice Department Inspector General came out with his long awaited report this afternoon on former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying that he improperly leaked information about the Clinton Foundation investigation to a reporter, and then lied to James Comey about it and, under oath, to two FBI investigators. Do you have a reaction to that? And does that, in your mind, validate the decision to fire McCabe?

    MS. SANDERS: I haven't seen the full report, but sounds like two peas in a pod with McCabe and Comey. McCabe was fired in disgrace for misconduct and lying about it. Beyond that, I don't have anything at this point.


    Q Thank you, Sarah. You said that James Comey was a liar, that he's a leaker, that he made false representations or claims. Other than what the President tweeted this morning about lying under oath to Senator Grassley, what exactly has he said that's false or a lie?

    MS. SANDERS: Comey claimed reopening the Clinton investigation when he did was based on merit. Now he says it was based because of poll numbers.

    Comey claimed the President told him to stop investigating Flynn, after he previously testified that no one told him to stop investigations.
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