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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 2/27/2017, #17

Monday, February 27, 2017 17:04
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James S. Brady Briefing Room

1:43 P.M. EST

MR. SPICER:  Wow, that’s a crowd.  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  Good afternoon.  Before I begin, I wanted to introduce the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, to talk to you a bit about the President’s budget.  When Director Mulvaney is finished, we will allow him to take a few questions and then resume the briefing and all the fun that goes with it.

So without any further ado, Director Mulvaney.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Thanks very much.  I want to talk for a few minutes about the budget blueprint that most of you know the President started speaking about this morning with the governors.  I’ll talk a little bit about what it is and what it isn’t, and then talk about where we are in the budget process and what it looks like from here.

First of all, what this isn’t:  This is not a full-blown budget.  That will not come until May.  So you’re not going to see anything in here that has to do with mandatory spending, entitlement reforms, tax policies, revenue projections, or the infrastructure plan.  This blueprint was never going to be that, as I made clear during my Senate confirmation.  It is a topline number only.

As for what it is, these are the President’s policies, as reflected in topline discretionary spending.  To that end, it is a true America-first budget.  It will show the President is keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do when he ran for office.  It prioritizes rebuilding the military, including restoring our nuclear capabilities; protecting the nation and securing the border; enforcing the laws currently on the books; taking care of vets; and increasing school choice.  And it does all of that without adding to the currently projected FY 2018 deficit.

The top line defense discretionary number is $603 billion.  That’s a $54-billion increase — it’s one of the largest increases in history.  It’s also the number that allows the President to keep his promise to undo the military sequester.  The topline nondefense number will be $462 billion.  That’s a $54-billion savings.  It’s the largest-proposed reduction since the early years of the Reagan administration.

The reductions in nondefense spending follow the same model — it’s the President keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do.  It reduces money that we give to other nations, it reduces duplicative programs, and it eliminates programs that simply don’t work.  

The bottom line is this:  The President is going to protect the country and do so in exactly the same way that every American family has had to do over the last couple years, and that’s prioritize spending.  

The schedule from here — these numbers will go out to the agencies today in a process that we describe as passback.  Review from agencies are due back to OMB over the course of the next couple days, and we’ll spend the next week or so working on a final budget blueprint.  We expect to have that number to Congress by March 16th.  That puts us on schedule for a full budget — including all the things I mentioned, this one does not include — with all the larger policy issues in the first part of May.  

So with that, I’ll take a couple questions.

Yes, sir.

Q    Mr. Director, in order to get to your topline on the rest of the nondiscretionary — or rest of the discretionary budget, if you’re not going to touch veterans benefits, you need to slice about 12 percent off of the rest of government.  Can’t you do that without affecting the services the government provides for –

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  And that’s part of what this process is this week.  The numbers go out, and the numbers — each agency will get its topline number along with recommendations from OMB as to how we think they can hit that number.  And they may come back to us and say, yeah, we think that’s a good way to reach that number, or they may come back to us with other suggestions.  That’s what this process is.

I think it’s fairly unusual for us to be coming to you this early in the process, but we wanted to let everybody know exactly where we were.

Q    But we’re not talking about 2 or 3 percent — we’re talking about double-digit reductions, and that’s a lot.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  There’s going to be a lot of programs that — again, you can expect to see exactly what the President said he was going to do.  Foreign aid, for example — the President said we’re going to spend less money overseas and spend more of it here.  That’s going to be reflected in the number we send to the State Department.

Q    Thank you very much.  One quick follow on foreign aid.  That accounts for less than 1 percent of overall spending.  And I just spoke with an analyst who said even if you zero that out, it wouldn’t pay for one year of the budget increases that are being proposed right now.  So how do you square that amount?  So why not tackle entitlements, which are the biggest driver, especially when a lot of Republicans over the years have said that they need to be taxed?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Sure.  On your foreign aid, it’s the same answer I just gave, which is, yes, it’s a fairly part of the discretionary budget, but it’s still consistent with what the President said.  When you see these reductions, you’ll be able to tie it back to a speech the President gave or something the President has said previously.  He’s simply going to — we are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars.  So we will be spending less overseas and spending more back home.  I forgot your second question.

Q    On entitlements, why not address entitlements, which is the biggest driver of spending?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  It’s very unusual to — this is a budget blueprint — what some folks used to call a skinny budget — and it would not be at all unusual for larger policy decisions, including tax reform, revenue projections not to be included in this budget.  That will come in – 

Q    Down the line?

Q    Sir –

Q    Hold on.  So down the line, could we see some type of budget that deals with entitlements?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  The full budget will contain the entire spectrum of the President’s proposed policy changes.

Q    Director, on rebuilding the military, can you talk a little bit about more of the breakdown of that?  Can you go into a little bit more detail?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  No, I can’t — because, again, where we are in this process is that the numbers going to the DOD today and over the course of the next 10 days to two weeks, we’ll be coming up with those types of details.

I’ve got time for one more.

Q    Will you be asking the military — you’re going to increase the military budget, but are you going to at least ask the people in the Defense Department to take a look at their budget and say, hey, where can we at least cut or at least look and make sure that we’re spending the right amount of money?  Is part of that is going to be part of the process?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  Well, absolutely.  That’s part of what Secretary Mattis and I have already talked.  He’s interested in driving more efficiencies into the Defense Department.  OMB is also going to be involved with him on the procurement process.  All of that will be incorporated in our larger budget in May.

Q    So it’s not just like a blanket — “Here, we’re going to throw money at you, do what you want”?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  No, sir.  No, sir. 

Last one.

Q    Does this account for spending for the President’s wall, either in the $30 billion we’ve heard you’re going to request for this year or the $54 billion increase?  Does that include money for the wall, how to pay for the wall?

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  It would be more likely — excuse me, a little bit of both.  We do expect to include some money in a future supplemental for 2017 for the wall, and a 2018 budget will also contain some longer-term dollars for that.

Q    So it will be split up between the two.

DIRECTOR MULVANEY:  I believe that to be the case.

Thank you all very much.

MR. SPICER:  Thank you, Director.

So let me get back to — I’ll be right there in a second, April.  

This morning, the President dropped by the National Governors Association meeting, where 49 governors from both states and territories joined Cabinet members and senior White House staff to discuss where they can work together to rebuild the country and restart the economy.

While at the meeting, the President delivered a statement on his forthcoming budget proposal, which he’ll submit March 16th, as you just heard the Director mention.  The President’s budget will, first and foremost, keep Americans safe.  That means investing in both our nation’s physical and financial security.  We will rebuild the nation’s military.  An increase in defense spending, including increased funding for our veterans and our border, will be matched by equal reductions in nondefense programs.  The savings in our budget will come from looking at outdated and duplicative programs.  The reductions spending will be sensible and rational, but they will also be tough.  

With our nation’s debt spiraling out of control, we simply must take a look at the way we’re spending taxpayers’ dollars.  Families across the country are being forced to make difficult choices, because for too long the federal government has not treated their money with the respect they deserve.  The national debt exploded under the last administration from $10.6 billion [trillion] on January 20th, 2009 to $19.9 trillion the day before — sorry, those are both trillions — the day before the President’s — President Trump’s inaugural.  Every child born in America this year will inherit an average of over $60,000 in debt.  And that, frankly, is too much. 

Our budget will restore respect for taxpayers’ dollars while funding all the necessary programs to keep our country safe and prospering.  This meeting with the governors was a continuation of a weekend of engagement and discussion between the governors and the administration.  The President and the First Lady welcomed the governors last night to the White House for the Annual Governors Ball.  And yesterday, the Vice President had a very productive meeting with several governors.

The administration is proud to be working with the governors on rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, reforming our healthcare system, and putting Americans back to work.  I know that Obamacare, in particular, was put into place without a lot of input from governors.  We’re committed to consulting and including them on this and so many other subjects as we solve the nation’s biggest issues together.

Later this morning, the President had a listening session with some of our country’s leading healthcare insurance companies.  Interestingly, on yesterday’s ABC “This Week,” Minority Leader Pelosi actually laid out a great outline of how to judge Obamacare’s success based on what it was supposed to achieve.  She said, “It had three goals:  One, to lower the cost, the other to expand benefits, and the third to improve and increase access.”

So let’s go through her criteria.  Lowering costs:  While this year all four tiers of Obamacare insurance plans are facing double-digit increases in average premiums.  Just to take a look at one set of premiums, for standard silver plans in the states, 63 percent increase in Tennessee, 69 percent increase in Oklahoma, and a staggering 116 percent increase in Arizona.

 On expanding benefits:  In reality, the new law’s mandates have led to max cancellations of coverage, soaring out-of-pocket costs, and declining enrollment figures.  Millions are choosing to pay a tax over buying the government-mandate insurance. 

Increased access:  With insurance fleeing the marketplace, Americans are facing a dwindling number of insurance choices with 17 percent of Americans left with only one insurer option available in their exchange.  Insurers will be indispensable partners in the transition period out of Obamacare into the Patients First plan the President will be working with Congress to put in its place.  The President’s plan will encourage innovation, modernize our healthcare system, and provide immediate relief, and ensure access to quality, truly affordable care.

This afternoon, the President had lunch with Vice President Pence and Ambassador Haley.  Afterwards, he’s having a meeting with Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell.  And then following that, he’s going to be meeting with Secretary of State Tillerson.  The Secretary is coming off a very successful trip to Mexico that — he was joined by Secretary of Homeland Security Kelly.  I’m sure the President is looking forward to discussing that trip with the Secretary.

Also this afternoon, the Vice President will be speaking to an extraordinary group of 60 presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  There will be a pool spray at the top of the event, and the Vice President’s office will release his remarks and photos following the event.  We can also expect a meeting with the President with them as well.

This evening, the President will have dinner with regional press affiliates that are going to be in town for the joint session of Congress.  While it’s tradition for representatives from the networks to meet with the President before his joint address, this is the first time, to my knowledge at least, that the opportunity has been expanded to include representation from 18 regional outlets from around the country.

Tomorrow, the President will also have the traditional lunch with the network anchors.  Beyond the so-called “big five” networks, we’ve also opened it up and invited outlets including Telemundo, Univision, CBN, EWTN, OANN, PBS, C-SPAN, and TV1.  

Tonight, the President looks forward to seeing his nominee for the Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, confirmed by the Senate.  Secretary-designate Ross has been an important champion for U.S.-struggling industries in the private sectors.  And pending his confirmation this evening, he’ll now do in the same post on behalf of the American people what he has done in private sector.  Assuming everything goes according to the plan in the Senate tonight, we expect to have his swearing-in tomorrow here at the White House.  

Also tomorrow, the President will deliver his first address to both houses of Congress.  In his speech, the President will lay out an optimistic vision for the country, crossing traditional lines of party, race, socioeconomic status.  As I said before, the theme will be the renewal of the American spirit.  He will invite Americans of all backgrounds to come together in the service of a stronger and brighter future for our nation.

In addition to laying out the concrete steps the President has already taken to make the American Dream possible for all of our people, he will talk about the bold agenda — he wants to work with Congress.  This includes tax and regulatory reform to provide relief to hardworking Americans and their businesses, making the workplace better for working parents, ensuring the families who have suffered under Obamacare’s skyrocketing rates see it replaced with a patient-centered alternative, making sure every child in America has access to a good education, a rebuilding of our military and fulfilling of our commitments to veterans to whom we obviously owe a great deal of gratitude.

You can expect to see a speech grounded firmly in solving real problems for every American — how can we make sure that every American who needs a better job get one, how can we get kids who are trapped in failing schools into better ones, how we can keep gangs and drug violence out of our neighborhoods and communities.  The President will address the Americans who have been waiting for help from their leaders for too long, and let them know that help is finally on the way.

With respect to the speech, we will be having a background briefing sometime this evening here in the briefing room.  We will provide additional details later in the afternoon.  

As you might already know, the Department of Defense presented its preliminary plan to the White House today to defeat ISIS.  This plan has been delivered by Secretary Mattis, who is currently briefing the principals on the option presented today in seeking their input and feedback.

Finally, I wanted to note the President continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned by the reports of further vandalism at Jewish community — Jewish cemeteries, rather.  The cowardly destruction in Philadelphia this weekend comes on top of similar accounts from Missouri and threats made to Jewish community centers around the country.  The President continues to condemn these and any other form of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms.  From our country’s founding, we’ve been dedicated to protecting the freedom of our citizens’ rights to worship.  No one in America should feel afraid to follow the religion of their choosing freely and openly.  The President is dedicated to preserving this originating principle of our nation. 

And while we’re at it, I don’t want to get ahead of the law enforcement, but I was asked the other day about the story in Kansas — the shooting in Kansas.  And while the story is evolving, early reports out of Kansas are equally disturbing. 

So with that, I’ll be glad to take your questions.  Jon.

Q    Sean, there’s a report this morning that you reached out directly to CIA Director Pompeo.  Did you directly contact Director Pompeo and ask him to knock down the New York Times story on the Russia connection?

MR. SPICER:  Thanks, Jon.  Let me kind of, if I may, walk through the entire timeline.  I think it’s important.

As I mentioned I think a week ago, the New York Times published a story about what they called “contacts” between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials.  The FBI deputy director was at a meeting here at the White House that morning.  After the meeting concluded, he asked the chief of staff to stand back a second, he wanted to tell him that the report in the New York Times was “BS.”  For viewers at home, I think you can pretty much figure what that means, but I’ll leave it at that.

At that time, the chief of staff said, thank you for sharing that with me, can we let other people know that the story is not accurate.  Throughout the day, they went back and forth to see what they thought was appropriate.  Finally, came to the conclusion that they did not want to get in the process of knocking down every story that they had issues with.  

They then — we then were informed that other people had come to the same conclusions, including — at that time, Chairman Devin Nunes had told us, hey, I’ve been knocking this down, telling reporters.  We shared a number with him of a reporter that had contacted us.  And again, when the reporters contact us and we said, no, that’s not — to the best of our knowledge that’s not true, they were asking us, can you point to -anybody else that can substantiate this?  And I think we did a good job of saying, sure, we will share with reporters other people who have come to the same conclusion.  

So I won’t go into the specifics.  I will say that I think we did our job very effectively by making sure that reporters who had had questions about the accuracy and the claims made in The New York Times, that we were pointing them to subject-matter experts who understood whether or not that story was accurate or not.  And I think just to continue to be very, very clear on this — it was about the accuracy of the reporting and the claims that were made in there, plain and simple — about whether or not a story that appeared in The New York Times was accurate.  And individual after individual continued to say that, as far as they knew, they weren’t.  

I think most of you probably saw Chairman Nunes’s comments this morning.  He was very clear, number one, that he reached out to us to say, I’ve been telling people, reporters, that these allegations and descriptions in The New York Times are not accurate.  And then we shared that information with him.  But he came to us to share that he equally had that issue brought up to him, he was briefed and saw “no evidence” that the story was accurate. 

So the answer is, we have continued to give reporters information and sources that went to the accuracy, or lack thereof, of a report that was in a newspaper.  And I think Chairman Nunes also equally said it’s interesting how we literally were engaging with the press, saying, if you have a question about the sourcing on this — obviously, when brought to our attention, we said, it’s not accurate as we know, but then most of you and your colleagues who had inquired would say, well, that’s great, I’m sure you’re saying this, but who else can corroborate this?  So our job was to continue to — when informed — share sources who had equally come to the same conclusion that the Times story was not accurate. 

Q    You don’t think there’s something strange about — something odd about the White House Press Secretary getting the CIA director on the phone to knock down a story about an investigation?

MR. SPICER:  No, no, but see, respectfully, you’re using words like “knock down.”  There was a story in a newspaper –

Q    Was it disputed?

MR. SPICER:  Hold on.  No, no — there was reporters coming to us saying, there is a story out there, what’s your take on it?  And our answer was, we don’t believe it’s accurate, we don’t* [do] believe it’s false.  But obviously that’s our take on it.  And reporters were saying to us, well, is there anybody that you can point to to substantiate this claim?  

Now, remember, this all started with the FBI coming to us, bringing to our attention, saying that the story in the Times was not accurate — in fact, it was BS — and all we did was simply say, that’s great, could you tell other reporters the same thing you’re telling us?  And I would think that other reporters, yourself included, would think that that would be a helpful thing to get the story straight.  All we sought to do was to actually get an accurate report out.  And again, I think Chairman Nunes this morning, over and over and over and over again, made it very clear that no evidence that has been brought to his attention suggests that that reporting was accurate.

So, respectfully, I think it’s interesting that I’m being asked what’s appropriate when what we’re doing is actually urging reporters to engage with subject-matter experts who can corroborate whether or not something is accurate or not.

Q    Should there be a special prosecutor?  Darrell Issa has called for a special prosecutor to look into this.

MR. SPICER:  And I guess my question would be, a special prosecutor for what?

Q    To look into the whole Russia connection, the whole Russia influencing –

MR. SPICER:  And here’s my — right.  And I guess my –

Q    I mean, he was part of the campaign, so — I mean, Sessions was part of the campaign, the Attorney General.

MR. SPICER:  I understand.  But here’s my question, Jonathan:  We have now for six months heard story after story come out about unnamed sources say the same thing over and over again, and nothing has come of it, right?  We’ve heard the same people, the same anecdotes, and we’ve heard reports over and over again.  And as Chairman Nunes made very clear today, he has seen nothing that corroborates that.  So at what point — you got to ask yourself, what are you investigating? 

Q    Well, Russian interference — I mean, beyond the context.

MR. SPICER:  No, and I think that both the House and the Senate have looked at it.  You know as well as I do that the intelligence community has looked at it as well.  There’s a big difference.  I think that Russia’s involvement in activity has been investigated up and down.  So the question becomes at some point, if there’s nothing to further investigate, what are you asking people to investigate?  

I mean, Chairman Nunes spoke very clearly today when asked over and over and over again about all of this, and said that he has seen nothing that leads him to believe that there’s there.  The President has spoken forcefully time and time again that he has no interests in Russia, he hasn’t talked to people in Russia in years, and yet you keep asking — and when I say “you,” collectively — to try to find something that seemingly, at least the reporting that I’m seeing in different organizations, suggests that there’s nothing new that’s being reported.  It’s the same stuff over and over again that we’ve heard for literally six months.  And so the question becomes at some point, what do you need to further investigate if there is nothing that has come out?

Q    Can you not categorically deny there were no contacts between the Russians and anybody on the campaign?

MR. SPICER:  I can’t deny — I can’t — I guess my question is –

Q    That’s what the investigation would look at.

MR. SPICER:  Right.  And I guess my point is, is that you’ve had the intelligence community look at Russia’s involvement in the election.  You had the House and Senate both do the same.  And so what I’m trying to ascertain is that at what point — how many people have to say that there’s nothing there before you realize there’s nothing there?  I can’t say unequivocally — all I’m saying is, the people who have done the investigating about Russia overall and its activities in the United States, specifically now with respect to our election, haven’t provided anything that leads me to believe or should lead you to believe — and I continue to see reports coming from — there were media sources saying when they checked in with law enforcement, or intelligence community sources, there’s nothing more than has been previously reported over and over again.

So, at some point, you do have to ask yourself, what are you actually looking for?  How many times do you have to come to the same conclusion before you take the answer?  And that’s where I — Mara.

Q    Just to be clear, did you — just to follow up on that, did you personally reach out to Pompeo?  

MR. SPICER:  I’m not going to discuss what we did internally.  I’m just going to say that when we shared — we did our job about making sure that when people had — reporters had questions, we let them know what subject-matter experts were available to discuss the accuracy of the newspaper story.

Mara.

Q    Yeah, I’m sure people will come back to this, but I actually have a budget question, which is:  During the campaign, the President said he was not going to touch Medicare or Social Security.  His Treasury Secretary repeated that.  It sounded like the OMB Director was leaving that as an open question, TBD.  I’m just wondering, what’s the state of the promise?  That we won’t touch it for current retirees –

MR. SPICER:  What the OMB Director made clear is how it works.  The budget is dealing with the topline discretionary numbers.  Policy decisions are not part of the budget.  That was what he was being asked and what he — so I just want to be clear in terms of what it was.  And again, I think –

Q    – the state of the promise.  In other words what is the promise.  

MR. SPICER:  Right.  And I think the state of the promise is clear.  And I think, as you point out, he had made the promise, he stands by the promise.  The Treasury Secretary –

Q    But what is the promise?  Current retirees?  People near retirement?  Anybody paying into –

MR. SPICER:  I will follow up specifically on that.  But I think the President has made very clear that it’s not his intent to do — he wants to focus on the discretionary side; that entitlement reform is not — that, with respect to those programs that he mentioned, he stands by his word.

Fred.

Q    I wanted to ask a couple issues.  An executive order on religious freedom had previously been in the works.  Will that still come?  And if it does, will it extend beyond religious freedom?

MR. SPICER:  I’m sorry, Fred, what?

Q    Will it extend beyond the Johnson Amendment?

MR. SPICER:  I think we’ve discussed executive orders in the past, and for the most part we’re not going to get into discussing what may or may not come until we’re ready to announce it.  So I’m sure as we move forward we’ll have something.

Olivier.

Q    Thanks, Sean.  

Q    I’m sorry, just one more.  The issue of types of reforms.  Will there be — how committed is the administration to a border adjustment tax?  And is there any concern that there won’t be enough conservative support for that; that it could block any meaningful tax reform long-term? 

MR. SPICER:  Well, I’m not going to get into the specifics of tax reform today.  The President has made clear that we’ll have an outline of the plan very soon.  But what I will say is that I think he has talked about the concerns that he has with current regulatory and tax policy that benefit people from moving out of the country and shipping jobs — or products back in while shedding American workers.  He will continue to fight for policies that promote manufacturing and job creation in the United States, and supports American workers.  

So I don’t want to get ahead of the exact nature of the policy.  He has been seeking a lot of input.  As I mentioned earlier, he’s going to talk today with Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell.  I know that both the joint session, the status of repeal and replace, and I’m sure some discussion of tax reform will probably come up.  But there’s a lot — we’re continuing to move forward and work with them.

Olivier.

Q    Thanks.  A couple on the ISIS strategy.  Can you just get to the timetable from now, now that you received it — what happens?  And there’s a report that you’re asking for $30 billion in emergency defense spending on top of the $54 [billion] in the budget.  Is that true?  Does that cover the new ISIS strategy?  Can you explain what’s different between the two?

MR. SPICER:  Thank you.  Right now, literally, that principals meeting — or principals meeting that I mentioned at the beginning is happening as we speak.  So Secretary Mattis was coming over to brief the principals as far as the ISIS plan.  And again, part of it was to make sure that he fully discusses the recommendations that he’s making and seek the input and feedback of the other principals downstairs.  That can help guide where we go from here, how we go.  With respect to the funding, I think Director Mulvaney noted that there will be a supplemental at some point.  Right now the focus is on the budget, and then we’ll go from there.

John Gizzi.

Q    Thank you, Sean.  Two brief questions.  First, I read your statement at the Thursday briefing to Governor Malloy of Connecticut during the NGA meeting.  And he responded — and I quote — “Sean didn’t read a thing that I said.”  He said that he — in Connecticut, they are already working to get criminals who are in the country illegally out.  His objection was to going into warming centers or schools where officials might frighten children.  Your response to the Governor on that?

MR. SPICER:  Well, again, I was asked specifically what his stance — what the comments were with respect to sanctuary cities.  And again, I would reiterate, with all due respect to the Governor, I’m not here to pick a fight with the Governor.  I enjoyed my time going to school in the state of Connecticut.  I have a kind affection of the Nutmeg State.  But the reality is, I think that there’s a difference.  Whether or not what he wants to do is state funds, maybe — without knowing the exact nature of how he’s funding, what he’s funding, it’s difficult.  The question I was asked at the time was on how we would be handling it.  And I think the answer, whether it’s Connecticut or California, is that the President’s executive order and the President’s commitment is to make sure that tax dollars are not used to support programs that are helping people who are not in the country legally and who are not citizens entitled to them.

Q    One more question, Sean.

MR. SPICER:  Okay.  Starting early.  (Laughter.)  

Q    For 58 years, when Presidents have gone to Rome, they’ve always met the Pope, going back to when President Eisenhower met Pope John XXIII.  Now, one year ago this week, candidate Trump had a disagreement with this Pope and an exchange of words.  When he goes to Rome in May for his first European trip, will he meet with this Pope?

MR. SPICER:  That’s a great question.  Obviously, I would be a huge fan of that.  But I’m not going to — I don’t think we’re at that place in the planning process to make an announcement on any visits with the Pope.

Blake.

Q    Sean, thank you.  Two budget questions, if you don’t mind.  Mr. Mulvaney, I believe, just said that what the administration plans on putting forward doesn’t add to the current deficit projection, which the CBO says is about $560 billion.  But he didn’t say that it would significantly draw from that either.  So my first question is, is the administration comfortable putting something forward that might rack up deficits of potentially hundreds of billions of dollars?

MR. SPICER:  Well, I think — I’m trying to understand the question a little, if you can help me with this.  Because he –

Q    He said it wasn’t going to add to it.

MR. SPICER:  Right.

Q    So my question is, he didn’t necessarily say it was going to cut from it, either.  If it doesn’t cut from it, potentially it could be hundreds of billions in deficit.  And I’m curious – 

MR. SPICER:  Right, no, but I think — correct me if I’m wrong — I mean, he basically made it very clear it doesn’t add to the projected baseline deficit.  So that continues to be the goal.  And I think as we continue to work through this process, the passback, you know, it can work both ways.  We could identify further savings and reductions through working with the agencies and departments, but we’re going to make sure that the topline number we maintain is as close to that as possible.

And as we go through this — I mean, this is the beginning of the process as the director noted.  We send the number to the department or the agency, give them some ideas, how we came up with this, and then they come back to us and either justify why a particular program or office, or what have you, needs to stay in existence or why maybe not the reduction that is offered.  But it’s a back-and-forth process that will occur over the next few weeks.  So to get ahead of it is the problem.

Q    Let me ask you what Nancy Pelosi — to just get a quick reaction to Nancy Pelosi.  She put out a statement and said the following:  ”Five weeks into his administration, President Trump has not introduced a single jobs bill.”  Your reaction to that would be what?

MR. SPICER:  He’s created a lot of jobs.  I think that’s — he’s continuing to work with Congress on both repealing and replacing Obamacare, tax reform.  And, fundamentally, both of those two items alone I think can help spur a lot of economic growth.  The meetings that we’ve had with the CEOs, the health insurers — there are so many things that are both job-killing and that can be done to help promote a better regulatory and tax climate that lead to job creation.

I think that’s one of the biggest problems right now is that people in Washington aren’t necessarily talking to job creators and saying, what is the impediment that you have to hiring more American workers?  What are the impediments that you have to manufacturing more, to building here?

The meetings and the actions that the President has taken on both regulatory and other matters have helped spur job creation.  You’ve heard these companies come in over and over again — the automakers, airlines, Sprint — I mean, the list goes on and on and on of people saying to the President, because of your agenda, because of your vision, we’re willing to commit to hiring additional people to manufacturing more.  That’s how jobs are created — it’s not through the government.  And too often, it’s the government regulations that stifle and prevent job creation.  And I think the President, as a businessman, fully appreciates and understands how this works and what some of those impediments do to creating jobs and to growing the economy.

And so I would just say that you haven’t seen anything yet.  It’s going to continue to be the case.

Trey.

Q    Thanks, Sean.  Is there concern in the administration that a large-scale military buildup will appear threatening to other countries around the world and lead to some sort of arms race with other countries?

MR. SPICER:  No, I think when you look at the state of some of the infrastructure in our military, whether it’s the age of our ships or our planes or some of the other hardware that exists, you recognize that we need to rebuild a lot of these things.  The size of our Navy has gone down significantly.  And there are new needs and new — and when you look at the commitment that you have to make not just in one year but in several years, for a lot of these programs — ships and tanks, even weapons systems — they don’t get built in a month or a day.  You have to make a commitment early on to make the investment because of the time that it takes to procure them, to build them, the research and development that goes into it.

And so I would just suggest to you that this is the first step in making sure we make the commitment to a military that through, especially through the sequester the last few years, has not gotten the funding it needs to get off life support.  There are a lot of things that are being taken care of for the military where they’re just continuing to — they’re not putting the systems and the projects in place to allow the military to keep up with the times, and that’s a problem.

Major.

Q    Sean, one investigation question and one budget question.  As you may be aware, Bill Owens, the father of William “Ryan” Owens, gave an interview with the Miami Herald over the weekend and he said, “The government owes my son an investigation.”  On behalf of the President of the United States, is the President open to an investigation to the raid in Yemen?  And the father of Ryan Owens called that a “stupid” mission.  Is there something that you’d like to communicate to him about that mission that might persuade him otherwise?

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, thank you.  That’s multi-part, so let me kind of walk through it slowly.

First of all, I can’t possibly imagine what he’s going through in terms of the loss of his son.  I can tell him that on behalf of the President, his son died a hero and the information that he was able to help obtain through that raid, as I’ve said before, is going to safe American lives.  It’s going to protect our country more.

So he made a sacrifice to this country.  He was on his 12th deployment.  And I know that his wife, when she spoke to the President, knows that he did this because he loved it, he cared about our nation.  And the mission was successful in helping prevent a future attack or attacks on this nation.  It obtained a lot of information that will help us keep safe.

With respect to his request, it is standard operating procedure for the Department of Defense to undergo what they call a 15-6 review.  That review, in this case, is three-pronged.  Because there was a fatality and a loss of life, there’s that.  Because there were civilians involved, that’s another.  And then third is because there was hardware — a helicopter that was damaged.  That is a separate.  So, in fact, there will be three reviews done by the Department of Defense because of the nature of this.  

But, again, I can’t stress enough that on behalf of the President, on behalf of this nation, we express our condolences, extend our prayers to him during this time.

Q    As you said, that is standard procedure.  Is there anything the President is particularly curious about with this mission, in that it was brought to him, he authorized it quickly?  Does he believe in the main it was carried out well and there’s nothing that he’s particularly curious about in the way either the helicopter was damaged, fatality, the civilian casualties — anything of the like?

MR. SPICER:  Well, number one, I’ve walked through the timetable previously in terms of how long this had been planned for, dating well back into the previous administration.  And as you know, their recommendation at the time was to wait for a moonless night.  That night wasn’t going to occur during President Obama’s administration.  And so when General Mattis got into the Department of Defense, he was briefed up on the status of the thing, made aware of when the next time was go.  We went through the process to ensure that we continued to believe that the mission — the way it was going to be conducted and the results of the mission would be worthy of action.  

The conclusion continued to be, as it was prior, that we should move forward.  As I mentioned before, I think you can’t ever say that, when there’s most importantly loss of life and people injured, that it’s 100 percent successful.  But I think when you look at what the stated goal of that mission was — it was an information- and intelligence-gathering mission.  And it achieved its objectives.

So, again, I would express our thoughts and our prayers and our condolences to all of the people in Chief Owens’s family and his friends, his shipmates.  But it’s something that, as a SEAL and as somebody who deployed 12 times, he knew that this was part of the job and he knew what he was doing.  And so we’re very comfortable with how the mission was executed, and we’ll let the Department of Defense go through that review process and then see where that leads us.

But I think to get ahead of the three separate reviews that are being done by the Department of Defense would be probably a little irresponsible at this time.

Q    Sean –

MR. SPICER:  Major gets two, too.  

Q    Just real quick on the budget.  As you’re aware, to undo the defense sequester, you have to get 60 votes in the Senate because you have a separate domestic sequester number and defense.  Are you confident with these numbers and with this kind of heavy discretionary spending cut proposed, you can get the 60 votes to change the law?  Because without that change in law, the proposal is just that — it doesn’t become operational.

MR. SPICER:  I think that when it comes to our nation’s security, specifically our nation’s military, I don’t think that it’s a partisan issue.  I think that senators from across the country — whether you’re talking about Florida or whether you’ve got an Army installation or a Navy base, you understand the state of repair that many of our planes, ships and other hardware is in.  And I think that there is a bipartisan commitment to give the military and its members the equipment and the tools it needs to succeed and protect this country.  So I do feel confident.

April.

Q    Sean, I have a couple of budgetary questions for you.  One, at the press conference, President Trump talked about the fix for inner cities.  What is the investment in this budget when it comes to a fix for inner cities?

MR. SPICER:  It’s a good try.  I think the Director was very clear – 

Q    That’s one –

MR. SPICER:  I mean, part of the process today was to start that passback process that he talked about, where we’re going to the various departments, whether it’s HUD or DOT, and giving them that topline number and then hearing back.  So I don’t want to get into a specific number with you before we get too far down the process.  I think that’s a conversation that we’re going to have with the agencies and then we will have subsequently with Congress when they start drafting their resolutions.

Q    Okay, a follow-up on this, but I do have a question on HBCUs.  See, he talked about healthcare.  He talked about education and he talked about crime.  He needs to talk about Chicago and law enforcement.  So you don’t have any kind of budgetary numbers when it comes to it?  And healthcare is a piece that is one of the line items for this budget.

MR. SPICER:  That’s right.  And I’m not saying that we don’t have numbers.  I’m saying that we’re not giving them out.  That’s a big difference.

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. SPICER:  I know.  (Laughter.)  You’re going to do a good job trying.  (Laughter.)

But as the Director noted on this, that they have come up with topline numbers based on their going through each of these agencies’ budget, and saying, hey, there’s a duplicative program here.  In some cases, maybe they give them more, maybe they give them less.  Part of it is to begin that conversation, that process, with the departments and agencies to figure out what those investments are.  Maybe it’s repurposing existing funds in a different way.  

So it’s not necessarily a zero-sum game.  There is a way that a department can reallocate money to a program that might end up benefitting because there is a duplicative or out-of-date program or office that that savings could be applied to something.  But I don’t want to get ahead of the process right now, only to say that we are at the very beginning of it.

Q    And one on HBCUs.

MR. SPICER:  Yes.

Q    The President is going to see the 80-plus presence of HBCUs with the Vice President today.  Some of them are very concerned as to what this executive order looks like, and they are waiting to hear the commitment before they say, “I’m all in.”  What is the commitment that this President is trying to make when it comes to HBCUs to ensure, I guess, their future, or deal with funding for research projects, what have you, or moving it out of the Department of Education to the purview of the White House?  What is the commitment that he’s going to give to them?

MR. SPICER:  So, look, I don’t generally speak about executive orders until they’re finalized.  I will just say that one of the things that I think there’s commitment from this White House to do is to look at the various resources throughout the federal government that support HBCUs.

So, for example, the Department of Defense has ROTC and NROTC programs.  Are they being properly — is that funding being properly executed and spent.  There’s programs within each of the departments — the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development — that affect grants or programs or direct funding that go to HBCUs for various different things, whether it’s construction projects, or teaching programs, or mentorship programs.  Whatever it is, they span throughout the entire government.  

And I think that what we are committed to doing is ensuring that there is a high level of understanding and commitment, that goes straight to the President, of how we harness those resource within the government, and make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. 

So it’s one thing to have them, right, spread throughout the different departments.  It’s another thing to make sure that there’s a direct pipeline to the President of the United States that those programs are being executed in a way that’s benefitting the future of HBCUs and the various projects and teaching that goes on there.

Q    And so what are you saying — there’s going to be a piece that is going to basically go throughout all the agencies to make sure that there is some kind of commitment to HBCUs and contract of like, let’s say engineering for some schools, or in research for other schools?

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, I would say — I think I’m going to stick to waiting until we announce it to get out a lot more.  

Q    Is that today or tomorrow?

MR. SPICER:  I anticipate it very soon.  How is that?  I want to give myself a little wiggle room.

Phil Rucker.

Q    Yeah, Sean, thanks.  A budget-related question, but on infrastructure.  The President has repeatedly, including today, again, called for a major infrastructure plan to the tune a trillion dollars — roads, bridges, tunnels, you name it.  Can you explain where that money is going to come from, how it fits into the budget that’s under review right now, and what the timeline for that project would be?

MR. SPICER:  So I think that would be part of a longer-term discussion that we’re having with Congress.  As you know, the President got in office 30-some-odd days ago.  The idea of getting a budget is — you know, it’s commonly referred to as a skinny budget — is to get the government to continue to be funding and it will be something that we’ll work with Congress. 

I understand your point.  The President continues to talk about the status –

Q    – a priority for him.

MR. SPICER:  It is.  Absolutely.  But I think that we’ve got to make sure that it’s done right and that we work with Congress.  I think, as you correctly mention, there’s obviously a funding mechanism to this.  And we’ve already talked about things like comprehensive tax reform that could add to that discussion.  

And so I just — I understand what you’re asking in terms of how this would be funded and when it will be coming, and the pay-fors, but we’re working with Congress to have that discussion.  I think that comes probably outside of the budget discussion.

Q    And so how does he square that with the need to tighten the belt, which he also talked about today — we’ve been spending too much as a government and we need to cut our spending?

MR. SPICER:  Right, but I think — but in the same manner that we’re presenting the budget.  So we’re talking about adding $54 million — $54 trillion, rather — a billion dollars to — thank you.  Appreciate the help here.  (Laughter.) 

But we’re looking to add that to defense.  And so what it means is that we have to look through other programs to find reductions in savings.  I think that same kind of discussion would happen with respect to infrastructure, not necessarily the savings piece, but the funding piece; that there’s several ways — and I know that there’s a lot of discussion, private-public partnerships that he is started to have a discussion with in terms of the funding mechanism.

And so all I’m trying to get at is that there are various ways to do this funding without just relying on the American taxpayer in terms of additional taxes.  There are spending reductions, there are other funding mechanisms, and I think, in due course, we will get around to that discussion.

Q    And just related to that, he mentioned in his remarks about infrastructure today that as he drives through the Queens-Midtown tunnel and the Lincoln tunnel, he worries about ceiling tiles falling.  Is there a specific incident he was talking about where people have been injured, or is that just a fear of his?

MR. SPICER:  I don’t know.  I’ll ask.  (Laughter.)  But I’m sure Secret Service will take care of the — alleviating the medium concerns.

Hold on.  Alexis.

Q    Sean, I have two questions.  First, one on healthcare.  Because the OMB director was signaling that the complete budget would be made ready early May, and the President today described how complicated he had discovered that the healthcare repeal and replace has become, can you describe when it is that the President would present his framework for an overhaul of healthcare?  Is it going to be included in the budget so we would see it before May?

MR. SPICER:  I don’t think you’re going to see it in the budget, no.  That’s not the appropriate vehicle for it.  I think I’ve mentioned it before.  I think you would drive — or at least the leading option, before I get locked into something, is to add Obamacare to the FY17 budget process and put it through reconciliation.  So that would happen outside of the current budget structure.

But I think he has also been very clear that he wants this outline within a matter of weeks, and that we continue to have these discussions with House and Senate leadership, with Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce, and then similar on Senate finance on the Senate side.  

So when he talks to Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell today, I’m sure that conversation will continue.  

Q    Just to follow up on healthcare, because not every ingredient in the Affordable Care Act can be handled in reconciliation.  That’s why I was asking about the elements of it that we see in the budget.

MR. SPICER:  That’s right.

Q    So we will see some of those?

MR. SPICER:  Well, there’s several pieces of Obamacare.  Some can be done by executive order, some get done with 50 votes, some have to be done specifically in reconciliation.  I think counter to Major’s point on a previous question, that there are certain things that have to be done in certain ways legislatively, and to create a comprehensive and holistic approach to both repealing it and replacing it.  And we’re aware of that.  We’re working with the House and the Senate to make that happen.

Q    And my second topic.

MR. SPICER:  Of course.

Q    All right.  The immigration executive order, the travel ban — is the President going to address the American people and Congress in his speech tomorrow night and specifically describe and defend the immigration ban?  And when will we see the revised executive order?

MR. SPICER:  So we’re not going to — I would not anticipate the speech being a defense of legislation and executive orders.  I don’t think many previous Presidents have gotten through and used that as a legislative walkthrough.  

But you will hear about his commitment to immigration and his desire for border security, and what it means not just about keeping the nation safe, but what impact it’s having on the economy.  So you will hear a lot about immigration tomorrow night, and he will talk about why it matters and the goal that we have and why we should come together on areas like this.

Q    Can I follow up on that, Sean?

MR. SPICER:  Hold on.  Katelyn.

Q    Where’s the next order?

MR. SPICER:  Oh, I’m sorry.  The next order I think we should have it out probably middle of this week.  Looking towards the middle of the week.  And we’ll have further updates as we get through the schedule.  I think obviously our priority right now today was the really get the budget process kicked off, and then continue to prepare for the joint session.

Katelyn.

Q    Thank you.

Q    Sean, can I follow on that?

MR. SPICER:  You will in a second.

Q    An internal report in 2015 identified $125 billion in wasteful Pentagon spending.  So how can you justify adding $54 billion to the defense budget?  Is that going to go to hiring soldiers or bureaucrats or contractors?  And is the President concerned with wasteful spending at the DOD?

MR. SPICER:  Of course he’s concerned.  He’s concerned with wasteful spending throughout the government.  But I think there’s also a big difference between rooting out waste and fraud in various programs and offices, and understanding that when you’re talking about adding to the fleet or increasing airplane costs, that that can’t be driven just through those.  And the commitment that you have to make to purchase some of those very-needed upgrades to our infrastructure and to our arsenal and to planes and ships doesn’t just come through that.  Because even if you could start to really identify, you really wouldn’t be able to make the financial commitment that needs to be done to rebuild some of the ships and planes in particular that need a substantial investment on the front end.

John.

Q    If I could just follow on Alexis’s question.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just denied your request to suspend proceedings in regard to the initial executive order.  That order came out just within the last few minutes.  So do you plan to continue defending your first executive order in court?  And what’s the purpose of doing that as opposed to simply rescinding it and then rendering that case moot?

MR. SPICER:  Well, I haven’t been able to read my phone while this has happened.  So I –

Q    That’s why I read –

MR. SPICER:  (Laughter.)  Thank you, I appreciate it.  So with all due respect, I would ask that I be able to get back to you tomorrow on that after we consult with the Counsel’s Office and go through the briefing and the — excuse me, the reading of what the court has said.  But give me a little time, let me get off the podium – 

Q    I mean, the rescinding it question still stands, regardless of the –

MR. SPICER:  I understand that, and I think that the President has made a commitment right now to continue to defend what we did. 

Q    For what reason?

MR. SPICER:  Hold on.  Because this is the strategy that — he believes that we have the authority vested in U.S. code.  I’ve talked about this extensively in the past.  And I think that if you’ll allow me, once we get done with the briefing, I will follow up with the Counsel’s Office.

Q    But the point that some of us are trying to understand is, if you have a new executive order that you believe addresses the concerns of the many courts who have weighed in on this, why continue to defend an executive order that —  

MR. SPICER:  Because he’s — I mean, because we were right the first time.  And I think that – 

Q    Are you trying to prove a point?

MR. SPICER:  Hold on — no, but I think that it’s not a question of proving a point.  It’s that the manner in which it was done in the first place was what we believe and continue to believe was the right way to address this problem. 

And while the second executive order attempts to address the court’s concerns that they made, the goal is obviously to maintain the way that we did it the first time because we believe that the law is very clear about giving the President the authority that he needs to protect the country. 

So just dropping that is not necessarily the most prudent thing.  And I think part of it is for us to recoup right now, figure out what the court has said, and then reassess the strategy.  But I don’t want to get ahead, as you point out, you’re reading it to me now — I would like the opportunity to maybe go read it and actually have a lawyer read it — since that won’t do very much.

Go ahead.

Q    Sean, thank you.  On anti-Semitism, that was a good, strong statement.  Is there anything that the federal government can do to protect Jewish institutions?  Are there any leads who is doing this?  And also on sequester, when can sequester be lifted?

MR. SPICER:  When can it be lifted?

Q    Yes.

MR. SPICER:  I think we’ve got to go through the process to lift the sequester, and so we’ll deal with that. 

With respect to some of the activity that we’ve seen at Jewish cemeteries in particular — look, I think we have to work with law enforcement at a local and state level.  I’ll leave it to the Department of Justice to comment further on what additional steps can be made.  But I think — as has been pointed out multiple times, I think one of the things that we can do is speak from this podium, in particular, and other places to make sure that every American understands what our values are, and that that kind of behavior and activity is wrong and won’t be tolerated, and the highest levels of government denounce it.

So I think it starts at that.  And then I think there’s a law enforcement component that I would ask you to touch base with.

Q    Sean, two on the budget.  

MR. SPICER:  Yes.

Q    I understand this is a blueprint.  I understand the President has previously said he doesn’t want to touch entitlements.  But why does he think it’s the right move to break with years of Republican orthodoxy, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who have said that any sensible long-term budget needs to include entitlement reform?

MR. SPICER:  Look, I’m just going to — I think the President understands the commitment that was made to seniors in particular and that it’s a sacred bond and a trust.

And I think — look, Mara asked this earlier — I think let me get back to you on the specifics.  But I think he made a commitment to the American people.  And one of the things that I think the President continues to get high marks on is that regardless of whether you voted for him or not, or you agree with his policies, he’s a man of his word.  And he has followed up on the promises that he made to the American people.  And I think that’s important.

Now, again, I think that we will continue to work with Congress.  But the President understands that we have commitments that we’ve made on the entitlement side, in particular, and especially on the senior side with respect to Social Security that need to be maintained.  And so he’s going to keep this word to the American people.  

Q    But if you talk to some economic analysts, they say Social Security, Medicare won’t be there in a number of years if we don’t address the fundamental problems.

MR. SPICER:  And I think that — right.  And so for right now, I think the budget that we’re laying out deals on the discretionary side.  You’ve heard the President’s priorities and commitment, especially when it comes to protecting this country.  And if we have anything further, I’ll let you know. 

Q    And one more — Sean, one more.  Is there an internal leak inquiry right now?

MR. SPICER:  Not that I’m aware of.

Q    Thank you very much, Sean.  I have two questions on U.S.-China relationship, if I may.

MR. SPICER:  You may.

Q    Thank you.

MR. SPICER:  Everyone else gets two.

Q    First of all, since President Trump took office, China sends it very first senior official, State Counselor Yang Jiechi, to visit Washington, D.C. today.  Will there will be a meeting with in the White House, and what’s the White House’s expectation of his visit?

MR. SPICER:  So the State Counselor, and for those of you not schooled in the Chinese government, is basically the equivalent of our NSA Director — NSC Director, correct?  

Q    Yes.

MR. SPICER:  So the Ambassador and the State Counselor came today.  They had a meeting with H.R. McMaster, Jared Kushner, and I think some others sat in on the meeting.  They had a delegation of six people here.  After the meeting ended, I believe the State Counselor was taken and had an opportunity to say hi to the President before he left.  This is an opportunity to begin that conversation and talk to them on shared interests of national security.

Q    Sean –

MR. SPICER:  Sorry, hold on.  He gets one more.  Everybody else did.  

Q    Can I have a follow up?

MR. SPICER:  Hold on, hold on, hold on.  Let me just — everybody else got two.

Q    Yes, just this morning, President Trump mentioned about his pick for ambassador to China, Governor –

MR. SPICER:  Branstad.

Q    Branstad.  Governor Branstad apparently has a really positive view on China.  

MR. SPICER:  Yeah.

Q    So how confident the President is on the Governor’s confirmation to get all the support in the Senate? 

MR. SPICER:  Oh, I think he’ll receive tremendous support — bipartisan support.  Governor Branstad has been — is a true — he has huge ties on both sides.  I think he’s one of the longest serving governors ever, definitely in Iowa.  And I think that he has tremendous respect from both sides of the aisle not just for how he’s handled himself as a governor in Iowa, but his deep understanding and ties to China and to China’s economy and to Chinese officials.  And I think he’s going to do a phenomenal job representing our nation. 

He starts with a deep understanding of the Chinese economy, the Chinese government, and that is going to really serve our nation well.

Mara.

Q    Can I just have a follow-up on China?  Thank you.  Because I know I got one before. 

MR. SPICER:  You did.  

Q    I appreciate that.  A lot of people voted for Donald Trump because they felt — they agreed with him that the U.S. was getting ripped off by China.  And after the election, he made the call to Taiwan, which he was praised for.  Then he told Fox News — he said, “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”  Then he reaffirmed the one-China policy.  So what did he get in return from China for doing that?

MR. SPICER:  Well, he had a conversation with President Xi.  I’m not going to get into the details of it.  But at the President’s — President Xi’s request and after a discussion, the President reaffirmed the one-China policy.  The President is not one to discuss his negotiating tactics.  So I – 

Q    But did he get something?  Can he assure the American people he got something? 

MR. SPICER:  The President always gets something.  Ryan.

Q    Well, what was it?  What was it?  

Q    Sean, two quick follow-ups.  First of all, I noticed earlier today there were a lot of Republican governors out here but not very many Democratic governors.  Is this administration actively attempting to reach out to the other side of the aisle for compromise?

MR. SPICER:  Yeah.  I think if you saw the remarks during this pool opportunity, the President talked about some of the conversations he had with Governor McAuliffe in Virginia in particular.  But they were here last night, they had dinner with their wives and husbands.  It was an opportunity to really talk to the Cabinet and get to know each other and talk about priorities.

I will say that — it’s interesting, I mentioned Obamacare.  When one of the things that was brought up by the governors — and I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t picking which governors and thinking of party — but it came up over and over again that they actually — several of them commented on how appreciative they have been in terms of seeking their input on not just healthcare but infrastructure and Medicaid, in particular, and other areas that fall into their thing — to their wheelhouse.

So I think — just so we’re clear, the dialogue that exists between this administration and this President and governors I think is a very refreshing move forward.

Q    And then my point — a follow-up, a quick follow-up.  I want to clarify a little bit of something that happened Thursday and Friday about the “public enemy” statement.  Are you saying that all of the press is the public enemy?  People who didn’t vote for the President?  Just the people in this room, or — is it just Bill Maher and maybe Warren Beatty?  Can you clarify what we’re talking about?

MR. SPICER:  I think the President made clear in his tweet that he was referring to the fake news and people who ascribe to pushing fake stories is where his target was.

Q    Thanks a lot, Sean.  As you know, more than 60 Democrats either boycotted or skipped the President’s inauguration.  What kind of reception do you think the President will get tomorrow evening from Democrats in the House and Senate when he gives his joint address?

MR. SPICER:  Well, I hope a very robust and applause-filled reception.  The speech, as I mentioned, breaks down a lot of barriers that have traditionally been political barriers in terms of areas where I think we should find agreement that reaffirm the President’s desire to unite the country and unite our parties in areas of shared common ground.

And I think the things that he’s talking about — increasing the support to our military, our veterans; helping children get an education — those are things that hopefully we can all come together and think are shared American values, regardless of party.  I hope that we see a tremendous amount of support for the President and his policies and his vision tomorrow night.  He recognizes the problems that our nation faces, but he also charts a vision forward.  And I think it’s one that if people are honest, that they will agree that it really isn’t a political agenda as much as an agenda for this country and one to move us forward.

So I think that we’ll have to wait and see, but I can tell you that I think it will be a positive move forward.

Zeke.

Q    Thanks, Sean.  Couple follow-ups to Olivier’s question earlier about the ISIS review.  It’s day 30.  The memorandum the President signed 30 days ago said that he was supposed to be briefed.  Can you give us a more — a timeline on when specifically President Trump will be involved — I know you mentioned there’s a principals meeting earlier today — what the timeline of the review is?  And then separately, you mentioned that Secretary Mattis was the one who’s presenting it to the principals committee.  The memorandum included things other than just the military; it included public diplomacy efforts to cut off financial ties to ISIS.  What were the other Cabinet secretaries involved?  What is sort of — what got us here and where do we go from here?

MR. SPICER:  Thank you.  Let me, if I may, get briefed on who and what occurred in the principals meeting to the extent that it’s available, and I’d be glad to get back to you tomorrow on that.  I just don’t have that information available.

Gabi.

Q    Thanks, Sean.  Palm Beach County has said that it’s costing $60,000 a day in overtime pay every time the President comes to visit West Palm Beach.  He’s slated to go there again this weekend according to some reports.  Is the President taking any steps to ensure that taxpayers aren’t saddled with tremendous costs in his travel habits, considering he was so critical of his predecessor on that matter?

MR. SPICER:  Well, Gabi, the security for the President and the First Family is set by the Secret Service.  As you know, they determine the security measures that need to be taken to protect the President — frankly, any President.  So I’m going to leave it up to the Secret Service to decide what security measures and steps are taken to protect the President.

And, as you know, I mean, this — depending on — it transcends administrations.  Wherever the President goes, they need to make sure that the President and the First Family is safe.  That’s something that I think — we rely on the Secret Service to make those determinations.  They continue to do a phenomenal job making sure that the First Family and the President and the Vice President are protected, and we have full confidence in the decisions that they make.

So thank you guys very much.  We’ll have a briefing tomorrow — later today on the state.

Q    Approximate time?

MR. SPICER:  What’s that?

Q    Approximate time?

MR. SPICER:  I would look in the 6 o’clock hour.  

Q    Here?

MR. SPICER:  Yes, here.

Q    After 6:00?

MR. SPICER:  I get to see you here again.  I would plan on around 6:00.  We’ll have further guidance.  And I don’t anticipate it being long.  I think we’re just going to walk through the — off camera.  We’ll walk through the themes of the speech, take any questions, and then try to get some additional information, depending on where the President is in his read-through.

Q    No briefing tomorrow, right?

MR. SPICER:  No briefing tomorrow.  If you don’t want one, you don’t have to have one.

Q    You said you’d get back to us on a couple of issues tomorrow.

MR. SPICER:  Well, I’m — it’s April that brought up no briefing.  If you guys want to vote –

Q    No, no, no, but tradition is there’s no briefing on — that’s why I’m asking.

MR. SPICER:  I know.  We will do something for you, I promise.  We will make sure we get back –

Q    Is it going to be a gaggle like last Friday, or is it going to be –

MR. SPICER:  No, no, we will get back to you.  I’m sure you’ll see my face here tomorrow.  Thank you very much.  I’ll see you guys tomorrow.

END
2:46 P.M. EST



Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/27/press-briefing-press-secretary-sean-spicer-2272017-17

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