Aboard Air Force One
En Route Joint Base Andrews
3:44 P.M. EST
MR. SPICER: I hope you guys had a great visit. I'm going to try to keep this short, obviously. We've got a short flight time home.
This morning, the President was glad to see Ben Carson confirmed as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and former governor of Texas confirmed as the Secretary of Energy. He looks forward to working with them to enact his bold agenda. The Secretaries will be sworn in this evening — Secretary Carson at 5:00 p.m. and then Secretary Perry at 5:30 p.m.
The President was honored to visit our next aircraft carrier of the United States Navy, the Gerald R. Ford, today. As he emphasized on the campaign trail and again Tuesday in his address, expansion of the United States Armed Forces is a major priority for him, and the naval fleet is a significant portion of that. Expanding our current fleet of ships requires a collaborative partnership between the military and industry leaders to ensure maximum efficiency for taxpayers. The Navy is a vital part of the President's strategy to defeat terrorism with aircraft carriers, especially important in areas where we don't have a base, from which to launch missions, project power and protect American interest.
Hand-in-hand with military leaders and the shipbuilding community, the Trump administration will continue to build extraordinary crafts like the Gerald R. Ford, protect taxpayer dollars, and support the jobs the shipbuilding industry provides, and, most importantly, keep our nation safe. While onboard today, the President received a briefing from military leaders. He then took a tour of the ship, after which he gave remarks on the hangar bay to several thousand workers and crew members and shipyard workers, which I think you all saw.
The Vice President was in Ohio this afternoon with Secretary Price to discuss the President's economic agenda and especially repealing and replacing the Obamacare disaster. The Vice President then participated in a listening session with small business owners and a tour of Frame USA, an American-owned and operated small business, and delivered remarks at Frame USA.
With that, you have a couple questions before we –
Q Did Sessions lie during his testimony in January, saying he didn't have any communication with the Russians?
MR. SPICER: No, I think the senator's comments were clearly with respect to his — he was asked about his role as a surrogate and whether he understood the campaign — whether the campaign had contacts, and he said no. It was in his — I think clearly with respect to his role as a campaign surrogate.
Q Has the President spoken with the Attorney General about any of this?
MR. SPICER: No.
Q Was the President told that General Sessions should recuse himself from the Russian –
MR. SPICER: I think that the President — you guys got that question answered from him directly.
Q Should he provide more information to the committee, perhaps, to try to clarify his comments?
MR. SPICER: I know the Attorney General is going to speak very shortly, so let's just — I'll leave it at that. But I think the President made his views clear with you guys just a short time ago.
Q He doesn't have any concerns about whether he should have given a more clear response at the time?
MR. SPICER: Well, obviously — I mean, I'll let the Attorney General speak for himself. But I think that clearly if you listen to what he was responding to, he's clearly referring to his role as a campaign surrogate. That's what the question was about. And I think there's no –
Q So in that role as a campaign surrogate, does that mean, like, if he was asked at a campaign rally, he's a campaign surrogate? If he's at his office, he's a senator? Like, where does one role begin and the other one stop?
MR. SPICER: We're moments away from him addressing this. And it was really silly for me to try to talk about what he may or may not think. But I think most people — almost a clear — I don't think there's very few other ways to read it when you look at the transcript and see the back and forth that he was clearly referring to himself. He was very — he was clear in referring to himself as a campaign surrogate and believed that that's what the question was about. But I will let — I mean, we're literally moments away from him addressing this, and I think the President made his view clear.
Q Sean, I had a big question of what he told the Senate. Is the White House annoyed that he wasn't completely forthcoming with you guys?
MR. SPICER: Forthcoming about what? I mean, he's a United States –
Q (Inaudible) with the Russian ambassador.
MR. SPICER: Wait, hold on, he's a United States senator who speaks to countless — I mean, that's — I mean, he was a campaign surrogate and gave the candidate at that time some ideas and advice in very important — he had the value — the President values his opinion tremendously, as you can tell by the fact that he wanted him in his Cabinet.
But the fact of the matter is, how can you do something — I mean, he was literally conducting himself as a United States senator.
Q Yes, of course.
MR. SPICER: But hold on, and let's be clear, you look at all these other senators who have had contact, and this is what senators do in the course of conducting themselves in their job. And as you've seen, whether it's some of these folks that initially came out of the gate and said that they had never done it, the list gets larger and larger.
Q But why wouldn't he go ahead and talk — there was already this flap about the ambassador and Flynn. Why wouldn't Sessions put it out there?
MR. SPICER: Again, I’m going to let him answer it, but I think that it was pretty clear. The question was about the campaign, and I think the — literally, correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t have the question in front of me, but I think something to the effect of the campaign comments regarding the election of — the 2016 election. So if you haven’t had anything then there’s nothing — I mean, again –
Q But (inaudible) saying he should recuse himself, and what about Nancy Pelosi and others saying he should resign?
MR. SPICER: I would suggest to you that I think it’s interesting that a lot of these guys — this continues to seem to be much more of a partisan thing that we’ve seen over and over again. As I think I’ve mentioned from the — this continues to be a question of there’s no there there. And it’s the same over and over and over.
Q You think there’s no there there.
MR. SPICER: It’s not that I don’t think –
Q (Inaudible) a Republican.
MR. SPICER: I know who he is. I know it’s — but I’m just suggesting that I think the point is that — again, I’m going to let the Attorney General speak for himself, but the bottom line is, is that for six months now we’ve heard the same thing over and over again, unnamed sources talking about nebulous, unnamed things, and keep having to say the same thing. At some point, you have to ask yourself where the “there” is.
Q Sean, we’re hearing rumblings that there may not be a new travel ban coming anymore. Can you confirm that? When do you expect it then?
MR. SPICER: Again, I’ve made this very clear to you guys. I’ll say again what I’ve said before. I’m not — and when the President has made a decision about something that he’s ready for us to announce, we’ll announce it, but we’re not there yet.
But again, I think that the –
Q So you’re taking your time a little bit more with it?
MR. SPICER: I think that we continue to have a guiding principle doing what’s right to keep the nation safe, and he’s doing everything he can to consult with agencies and departments and key stakeholders.
Q And he’s still committed to revising this travel ban that was blocked in court?
MR. SPICER: I’m going to tell you that there’s nothing that has changed from what I’ve said in the past.
Q General Sessions was talking about the Loretta Lynch-Bill Clinton meeting in the summer. He said at the time that there should be –
MR. SPICER: What are you talking about?
Q When General Sessions talked about the Loretta Lynch-Bill Clinton meeting in the summer, he said a special prosecutor was warranted. Why isn’t a special prosecutor necessary in this case?
MR. SPICER: Again, I think that the question goes back to what — he didn’t — he was in the course of his Senate duties, did what senators do. There’s no discussion — there’s nothing that would lead anyone to believe that he didn’t do anything that was part of his job.
Q What was that meeting in regards to?
MR. SPICER: I don’t know. But, I mean, there’s nothing — it was in his Senate office. There were Senate aides, from what I understand, conducting Senate business.
Q I don’t think anybody is — nobody is really questioning that the senator has the right to meet with the Russian ambassador in the course of his business. My question before was rather whether after — when he’s become attorney general, he didn’t take the President or someone in the White House aside and say, listen, I don’t think — there was nothing untoward here but this is pertinent information given the current political climate.
MR. SPICER: What pertinent information?
Q That he met with the Russian ambassador and it wasn’t disclosed to the Senate.
MR. SPICER: But he probably met with countless other ambassadors. And I think — again, he probably met with countless other associations and constituents and –
Q So that’s not something you would have wanted to know?
MR. SPICER: I don’t — I guess my question is, why would we want to know everything that he did in conducting himself on behalf of the people of Alabama?
Q Okay, so you’re fine with it coming out in the papers and learning about it this way?
MR. SPICER: Learning about — but here’s my question: Learning about what? The fact of the matter is, if we’re learning about the fact that he did his job as a United States senator, then that’s great. I don’t think there has been anything that I’m aware of at this time that suggests anything other than he did his job as a United States senator as, frankly, many of these other senators have now said, well, I met with this ambassador, or another ambassador. I mean, that’s what senators do.
Q What about the Counsel’s Office asking staff to preserve Russia-related documents, materials –
MR. SPICER: That's a pro-forma, standard operating procedure that — and I think, frankly, it shows how serious we take this subject.
Q The President hasn’t spoken to Sessions either last night or today? Why not?
MR. SPICER: Why not? I mean, I think — I’m not –
Q Even though there’s no there there –
MR. SPICER: I mean, again, I think –
Q Have you spoken to Sessions, Sean?
MR. SPICER: I’m not going to — look, I’m just going to say that the Attorney General is going to make a statement very shortly, and I’ll let that stand for itself.
We’re going to go down. Thank you, guys.
Q Sean, do you have anything on al-Masri?
MR. SPICER: On what?
Q Al-Masri's death?
MR. SPICER: No, I — when we land I can maybe get something. Thanks, guys.
3:54 P.M. EST