Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders: May 1, 2018 | Eastern North Carolina Now

Press Release:

Sarah Sanders at the podium: Above.

    Issued on: May 1, 2018  •  James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  2:50 P.M. EDT

    MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. Today, President Trump welcomed the heroic crew and passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 to the White House. While in route from New York to Dallas last month, an engine failure crippled the aircraft. Because of Captain Tammie Jo Shults, one of the first women ever to fly tactical fighter aircraft in the United States Navy, First Officer Darren Ellisor, and the three crewmembers, the plane was able to land safely in Philadelphia.

    We continue to pray for the family of Jennifer Riordan who tragically passed away due to injuries she sustained. The President thanks all of these men and women for their bravery.

    Lastly, we strongly condemn yesterday's suicide bombing in Kabul. More than 35 people were killed, including at least 10 journalists. These journalists were in the area to cover a bomb blast when a second explosion occurred. Afghanistan's press corps is a powerful illustration of how that country has transformed. There's absolutely no justification for such a senseless and heinous act.

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

    Q Sarah, the President has had a suggested list of questions from the Office of the Special Counsel since somewhere near the beginning of March. We know that the Special Counsel wants to look into some 50 different areas of inquiry. Has the President had a chance to review those questions, digest them? And what does he think of the line of questioning?

    MS. SANDERS: As with all questions of this nature, I would refer you to the President's outside personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani.

    Q Sarah, can you tell us what the President's level of confidence is in Chief of Staff Kelly? And is he under serious consideration to be the next nominee for the Veterans Affairs Administration?

    MS. SANDERS: No, he is not being considered as the VA Secretary. Both the President and the Chief of Staff are very happy with his position that he currently holds, which is Chief of Staff to the President at the White House. And I would refer you back to General Kelly's statement that he put out yesterday specific to the comments - the allegations about comments that he'd made:

    "I spend more time with the President than anyone else, and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship. He always knows where I stand, and he and I both know this story is total BS. I'm committed to the President, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration's many successes."

    Q Can I ask you about Iran, Sarah? You described - or the NSC last night described it as a clerical error. But it was a significant editing error that has policy implications. Can you state from the podium what this White House believes is the current state of Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and if it's in full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as the IAEA has said it is?

    MS. SANDERS: We think the biggest mistake that was made was under the Obama administration by ever entering the deal in the first place. The typo that you referenced was noticed and immediately corrected. And we are focused on moving forward on the safety and security of our country.

    Q But you assert what that says, that there is no current program in Iran, and that it is in compliance with the deal, at least as it's negotiated. Right?

    MS. SANDERS: Well, the problem is that the deal was made on a completely false pretense. Iran lied on the front end. They were dishonest actors, and so the deal that was made was made on things that weren't accurate. And we have a big problem with that.

    Q Can you specify?

    MS. SANDERS: Sure. Particularly the fact that Iran's nuclear capability were far more advanced and far further along than they ever indicated, which if this nuclear deal maintains as it is right now, when the sunset provision hits in seven years, they will be much further along in the process and able to make a nuclear weapon much quicker than they've ever indicated before. And that's a big problem.


    Q Thank you, Sarah. I wanted to ask you about the reprieve that the EU, Canada, and Mexico are receiving - this 30-day reprieve for the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. What is going to take place during this 30-day period? And what are the chances of that exemption being made permanent for the EU, Canada, and Mexico?

    MS. SANDERS: We are extending those negotiations because we've seen some progress. I'm not going to get ahead of what that may look like, but we have 30 days to continue in those negotiations, and hopeful that we can get something that works for everybody.

    Q And if I may, I just wanted to ask you about something that took place last week involving the President's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. He, in court documents, asserted that he would assert his Fifth Amendment rights in the Stormy Daniels lawsuit, which was filed against both him and the President. And you may recall that in September of 2017, the President at a campaign rally, said, "The mob takes the Fifth." And he also said, "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?" Do those ideas also apply to Michael Cohen? Does the President stand by those comments?

    MS. SANDERS: I can't speak on behalf of Michael Cohen. I'd refer you to him.


    Q Thank you, Sarah. On those list of 44 questions, the President said today that the leak was disgraceful, but a former assistant to Special Counsel Robert Mueller has suggested that the White House was behind the leak. Is he wrong?

    MS. SANDERS: Once again, I can't comment on anything regarding those questions, and I would refer you to the President's outside counsel.

    Q Well, that was a question about specifically the White House being involved in it.

    MS. SANDERS: It was actually specific to the President, and that's why I'm referencing and referring you to the President's personal attorneys who can speak on that matter.

    Q Okay, well, a question about the White House specifically then: Is the White House concerned, as Congressman Adam Schiff has said, that so many of the questions point to obstruction of justice?

    MS. SANDERS: We, here at the White House, try never to be concerned with anything dealing with Adam Schiff.


    Q Thank you, Sarah. Let me point you back to what John had started on with the tariffs. Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary, had said today - said earlier today, "If we're going to impose it, we're going to have to do it pretty soon, or else people will start gaming the system." It sounds like you feel like this is moving along. But do you agree - does the White House agree with the Commerce Secretary that you're going to have to move forward on this pretty soon? And if so, what exactly is "pretty soon"?

    MS. SANDERS: Certainly. It's a 30-day extension, and we expect for the negotiations to be completed at the end of those 30 days.

    Q So won't this be the last of the 30 days then?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not going to get ahead of the process. But right now, we're working on negotiating a deal during this 30-day time period, and we'll keep you posted if there's anything that changes.

    Q Sarah, can you clarify Dr. Ronny Jackson's status? If he's no longer the President's personal physician, why not?

    MS. SANDERS: He's still an active-duty Navy doctor assigned to the White House. But upon his nomination to the Veterans Affairs - Department of Veterans Affairs as the Secretary, an acting doctor was put in his place, and Dr. Conley will remain there.

    Q Why is that, though? Why not bring him back in that role if the President was so happy with him before?

    MS. SANDERS: Again, Dr. Conley had already assumed that role, but Dr. Jackson continues to be an active-duty Navy doctor that's assigned here at the White House where there are a number of doctors that are part of the White House Medical Unit.

    Q And did the President have any response to the defamation suit filed yesterday by Stormy Daniels?

    MS. SANDERS: I don't have anything for you on that.

    Q Two questions for you. Why did Keith Schiller, who was a White House employee at the time, go and take medical records from the President's personal doctor last year?

    MS. SANDERS: As is standard operating procedure for a new President, the White House Medical Unit took possession of the President's medical records.

    Q It was characterized as a raid. Is that your understanding of what happened? The doctor seemed to be pretty upset about it.

    MS. SANDERS: No, that is not my understanding.

    Q And my second question, Sarah, just relates to -

    MS. SANDERS: Actually, this is your third.

    Q The other one was a follow-up, but thank you. You talked about - you made very clear you don't want to get into this list of questions from the New York Times, which is fine. But the President has tweeted about it. He's talked about how none of these questions relate to collusion. But that's not true; over a dozen of them do. We've talked about accuracy from the President in the past. Why is he mischaracterizing these reports?

    MS. SANDERS: Once again, I'm not going to get into the back-and-forth on matters involving the Special Counsel. And I would refer you -

    Q That's not a question involving the Special Counsel, that's -

    MS. SANDERS: It certainly has implications with the Special Counsel, and I'm not going to get into a back-and-forth on it. I refer you to the President's personal attorney.

    Q Sarah, just to follow up on Hallie's first question - there are some today who are essentially saying that what has happened with the President's former personal doctor was a burglary, the way Keith Schiller busted in and essentially -

    MS. SANDERS: I don't know it was "some." I think there's one, but not some.

    Q What's your response to that characterization?

    MS. SANDERS: Once again, that it would be standard procedure for the President - a newly elected President's records to be in possession by the White House Medical Unit. And that was what was taking place, is those records were being transferred over to the White House Medical Unit as requested.

    Q And if I could ask a second question. There are some allies of the President's up on Capitol Hill who are apparently drafting articles of impeachment for the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Is it the President's belief that Rod Rosenstein has either committed a high crime or a misdemeanor?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not aware of any belief of that.

    Q Does the White House then not endorse that drive? Would the White House call on these members not to pursue that?

    MS. SANDERS: I haven't seen the specific document, but we don't have any personnel announcements, and we're continuing to move forward with the Department of Justice.

    Q Sarah, there are two questions. There are questions percolating about James Shaw Jr. and the President. The President has - has he called him? Is he planning on meeting with him? He's talking to heroes who have - the heroes of the Southwest flight in the Oval Office today. And you said something about James Shaw Jr., but is the President himself going to reach out to him? Will he come to the White House?

    MS. SANDERS: My understanding is that there has been an outreach effort to bring him here to the White House, and I'll keep you updated on that as I have more information.

    Q Okay. And second question: Payoffs, hush money, Russia trolls, Facebook, WikiLeaks, DNC hack, Comey email investigations on the eve of the election, allegations of collusion. Do these issues give support to those who say - who offer questions about the President's legitimacy?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not sure I follow the question, but I think the fact that millions of Americans came out and voted for and continue to support this presidency makes him pretty legitimate.


    Q Sarah, the Israeli announcement yesterday, how is that affecting the President's thinking about what to do about the Iran nuclear deal?

    MS. SANDERS: Certainly the fact that the deal was made under a false pretense is problematic. But the President has been very clear that he thinks the deal is one of the worst that we've ever seen, and we'll keep you posted when he's made a final decision on that front.

    Q And when did the President first hear about this? Was it in early March when he spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu?

    MS. SANDERS: I'm not aware of the exact date that the President was made aware, but we were - the White House and the President were made aware prior to Israel's announcement yesterday.

    Q And last thing. Was this coordinated yesterday with the White House? Did Netanyahu say - give you a heads up and say this is coming?
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