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Trump Thanks Himself for Win; Georgia Senate Seat Race; Democrat Narrowly Misses in Georgia Race; Referendum on Trump; Chaffetz Wont' Seek Re-Election; White House Press Briefing. Aired 12- 12:30p ET
Aired April 19, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman, in today for John King.
We are 90 days into the Trump administration and just moments away from the White House briefing. Press Secretary Sean Spicer, he will take that stage any minute. We will bring it to you live because Sean will no doubt face questions, some big questions, about Georgia. Overnight, Republicans came within a whisker of losing the seat vacated by the now secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. Instead, the Democrat who just fell short of 50 percent will face the Republican who came in second in a runoff in June.
Sean Spicer can also expect a question about the USS Carl Vinson. It's an aircraft carrier which means it's a very, very big ship, the kind you should be able to tell which direction it is headed in. But that battlegroup, or armada, as the president put it, was not racing toward North Korea when the president said it was last week. Officials blame miscommunication, but Vice President Pence, on a tour of the region, tells CNN the point is, quote, "we're ready."
North Korea ranks high on the president's to do list, along with tax reform, Obamacare repeal, infrastructure, border wall. Moments ago, he signed an extension of a program allowing veterans to get medical care outside the overburdened V.A.
Joining me here to talk about all this, David Drucker of "The Washington Examiner," CNN's MJ Lee, Alex Burns from "The New York Times," and Maggie Haberman also with "The New York Times."
Guys, it's like election morning. There was an election overnight. The biggest election since the one last November, no doubt. And Jon Ossoff, he almost pulled off a stunner. He almost won this congressional seat that's been in Republican hands since 1979. But almost is still just almost. Ossoff narrowly missed the 50 percent threshold needed to claim victory outright. President Trump thanked himself for what he called a big win. He said, quote, "glad to be of help." But one Republican senator, a southerner, says essentially we need to be careful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The south is changing. Atlanta is changing. And I like our chances in a runoff, but we need to wake up as a party. There are districts like this all over the country that are getting much more moderate. This should be a wake-up call for the Republican Party in the south.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, guys, you've all been following -- we've all been following this race, but you've all written about it in various degrees.
Alex Burns, I want to start with you. Just little picture, why couldn't Jon Ossoff get to 50? What kept him at 48.1 percent?
ALEX BURNS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, look, I think the -- I mean it's not the big, big picture but the medium-sized picture is that this is one of these congressional districts the Democrats would very much like to compete in, in 2018, but, historically, it has been very, very Republican. So last fall you had Donald Trump win the seat very, very narrowly as a candidate for president, but Tom Price, the incumbent congressman, won it by a huge margin. So there really is a heavy lift for the party ahead as they try to take these, you know, conservative-leaning, more affluent, more sort of Mitt Romney type suburbs and drag them to the center or perhaps meet them closer to the center. And Jon Ossoff didn't quite get there last night.
I do think, to Lindsey Graham's point, there are a lot of Republicans in Washington who, if Ossoff had won, would have been hearing that race as this sort of blaring air raid siren, who still think it's sort of a, you know, a red blinking warning light, right, that it's not -- there's not total panic today but there are a lot of folks in the party who are privately saying this is a signal that folks can't really take anything for granted in the current environment.
BERMAN: And, of course, Maggie, there are people who say this is a referendum on President Trump. You know, 90 days into office, this is the first chance really that voters had, a chance to vote on his administration. Karen Handel, who is now the Republican who will be running for that seat, she was asked outright this morning if she wants the president to come visit. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Do you think that President Trump will come to Georgia and campaign with you?
KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I -- I would hope so. I mean look, we -- all Republicans, it's all hands on deck for us. We know what's at stake here. And I don't think that any -- this is about any one person. It is all Republicans, all hands on deck. So we are going to be united.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I mean what message do you think the White House is getting here? Is it, you know, glad I helped, which is what the president said, or is it that, you've got a real problem in that this Republican district, you know, might be heading blue?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think I'm not clear what the White House is actually taking from it and certainly I'm not clear what the president is taking from it. What I am clear on from what Karen Handel was saying is that this is still a Republican-leaning district.
HABERMAN: And so, consequently, when you are now having -- this is not a runoff situation or this -- excuse me, this is a runoff situation as opposed to an 18-person field. It is much better for her to do this as strict Republican versus strict Democrat, which is what she did, and to depersonalize it as a referendum about President Trump. Making it that is not good for her.
You are seeing signs in various districts across the country and in various states across the country of Republicans who are starting to creep away a bit from President Trump on specific things. And so I think that you might see her take discrete steps away from him. I think it's going to be interesting to see how she calibrates on issues like repealing the Affordable Care Act, on how she approaches core issues where the Republicans have been struggling.
[12:05:05] I do think, to Alex's point, there were a lot of warning signs from last night's vote. This was not a district that Trump performed particularly well in, so I don't think you can take it strictly as an anti-Trump issue. I think more broadly there is frustration among voters that Republicans have a governing majority, they hold both houses of Congress and they are still stymied. It's very hard to continue to blame Democrats when you hold a majority in Congress and you're not passing a repeal. That type of a thing is going to be an issue going forward.
BERMAN: Let the record show, you said the Republicans are starting to creep away from the president. If by creep away you mean Joni Ernst outright saying the president has a lot of flaws, I think that's a big creep away --
HABERMAN: Well, except that I -- again, though, I think that we have to look at this on a different scale because we saw Republicans creeping away from then candidate Trump throughout 2016 and then still embracing him as it went on.
HABERMAN: So I think you're going to see, as I used the word discrete, it's going to be, here's this issue on which, frankly, it probably, you know, poll -- my internals show that it's not polling very well, so I'm going to say that this is not great where he is on x, y, z. But generally speaking, we support our president.
BERMAN: And, David, we were talking about this earlier. There are people who thought that the president's tweeting, getting involved in this race, albeit at 140 characters or less, repeatedly might have actually energized the Democrats and Democratic energy is a big part of this story.
DAVID DRUCKER, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Yes, look, make no mistake, the reason more than $8 million flooded into this district for an unknown 30-year-old with no track record is because Democrats and progressives were jonesing to find a way to send a message of opposition to President Trump. This was a good race for Democrats to test where they are with educated suburbanites, the kind of voters they're going to have to win over in a midterm cycle next year if they're going to make a dent in the Republican majority. But this is all about Democratic energy and Democratic opposition to Trump that is really off charts.
I think what they can take away from this is that they were able to make some inroads and there is evidence that if they fight hard enough and if they recruit the right kind of candidate, they might be able to do some damage. On the other hand, it still shows you that if Republicans can come together in a lot of these districts and overcome the challenges from the president and, in fact, the challenges that they have because they can't get enough done yet, to Maggie's point, then the Republicans will still be in good shape and Democrats won't have as much to show for all of this as they would hope.
BERMAN: You know, MJ, you've been out covering some of these town meetings, albeit most of them were Republican members. But you get a sense of that Democratic energy bubbling up because probably are some pretty Democratic people coming to these meetings. Do you get the sense that Democrats have figured out a way it harness this energy just yet? I mean Jon Ossoff harnessed it some but not 50 percent some.
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I think there's no question that there's no other single person who has done more to energize the Democratic base than President Trump. You know, last week I was in Denver covering Mike Coffman's town hall and there were a lot of people, as in other town halls, who claim that they were participating in a town hall for the very first time. They were making banners and posters for the first time. And what I found so striking about this town hall was that the topics that these questioners and participants brought up, they were overwhelmingly about health care. And most people refer to this House Republican health care bill as Trumpcare, not Ryancare, even though this bill basically originated from House Speaker Paul Ryan.
And a fascinating moment took place at the very end of this town hall when Mike Coffman was asked a question about Sean Spicer's Hitler comment. And you -- we saw him, you know, being in that room, you could really tell sort of the crowd reacting to the congressman starting to explain Spicer's comments. And it was only when the crowd started to sort of verbally signal to the congressman that that was not OK, that they would not, you know, accept an explanation from the congressman on the Hitler comment that he finally came out and blurted out, he needs to go.
BERMAN: And --
HABERMAN: The idea that we're in a moment of where "the Hitler comment" is actually something we're saying in national politics (INAUDIBLE).
DRUCKER: And we all know what it means. We don't even have to give it context.
BERMAN: We'll be talking about the North Korea comment with the Carl Vinson comment coming up, you know, in a little bit.
I want to hear one last time from Jon Ossoff, who is the Democrat who will be running in the runoff in two months. Listen to how he sees the race right now in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We will be ready to fight on and win in June if it is necessary. And there is no amount of dark money super PAC, negative advertising that can overcome real grassroots energy like this. So bring it on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So he says "bring it on." And Republicans are going to bring it on. I mean they spent some money already. But it is going to flood into that district, Alex. Do you have a sense that Jon Ossoff, 30 years old, never run for office before, can take it?
BURNS: Look, I think in some ways it's counterintuitive that somebody who's basically a blank slate would become, you know, the locus of all this national political attention. But the fact that he's a blank slate is part of why he has been such a tough candidate for Republicans to attack so far. He has no track record in government. He doesn't particularly have a track record in the private sector the way somebody who is, you know, 55 and a filmmaker might.
BERMAN: He has no home in the district.
BURNS: He has no home in the district, which cuts both ways, John.
BERMAN: Yes, it does.
BURNS: But, you know, he is sort of this projection screen for national, liberal activists and strategists so they can kind of make him whatever they want him to be. And now Republicans are going to make him exactly what they want him to be.
BERMAN: It's crazy, two months of this. It will be fascinating to see how hot this campaign gets over the next two months.
There is some sort of political breaking news from a fairly well-known member of Congress. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee from Utah, just announced minutes ago that he will not run for re-election. He is going to stand down from national politics.
We got a statement from him. If we can put it up on the screen right now. He says, "after more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018. For those who would speculate otherwise, let me be clear that I have no ulterior motives. I am healthy. I am confident that I would continue to be re- elected by large margins. That said, I have made a personal decision to return to the private sector."
HABERMAN: Expressing confidence that you would do so well if only you entered the fight is something we've heard from a lot of people who ultimately decide not to run. I think that -- I think that Chaffetz is in a unique position of having been the person who was so gung ho on these Clinton investigations, on Benghazi, on the Clinton Foundation, he has shown not the same zeal as it relates to President Trump and business conflicts of interest and so forth in his oversight role that I think that he was facing becoming a bellwether of his own if he ran again in 2018 in what is already likely to be a pretty difficult midterm climate for Republicans.
BERMAN: Even -- even in Utah?
DRUCKER: I don't think that Utah's third district was going to be a problem for Jason Chaffetz. I don't discount that there's more to the story here than, you know, look, I want to go make some money and spend time with my family, notwithstanding all the time he's spent away from his family while he's been in Congress. I spoke to some Republican insiders in Utah before the show and they tell me that Chaffetz has always been interested in running for governor and that he's eyeing the 2020 governor's race there. Somebody we might look to run for this seat, if he chooses to, is Evan McMullin, who in that presidential race did very well in Utah County, which is a part of Utah's third district. And so, you know, people talk about Evan at times running for Senate or running for this or that, but he actually sort of developed a base of support in this district and so if he runs, he could be a formidable candidate.
BERMAN: And that will be fascinating to see. Look, Evan McMullin, more than anyone in America, maybe even more than Hillary Clinton, had staked his whole career right now as being the anti-Donald Trump.
HABERMAN: Yes, except remember that Evan McMullin was also something of a (INAUDIBLE) is what we were hearing he was going to do in Utah. That is not what he did in that race as being a potential spoiler there, number one. And, number two, I'm not saying that I think Chaffetz would not win. What I am saying is that if somebody has future political ambitions, that you could get pretty dinged up in that race --
HABERMAN: Even if you win and it could be -- it could be hindering going forward.
BERMAN: All right, MJ, stand by on second. What we're going to do is this. We're waiting on the White House briefing due to begin any minute. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back with more discussion and Sean Spicer, next.
[12:13:51] BERMAN: All right, Sean Spicer, the White House briefing begins. Let's watch.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I want to make sure that the pool has plenty of time to set up for this afternoon's major event.
I'm excited to announce that next Monday on April 24th at 10 a.m. eastern time, the president will speak via videoconference with the commander of the International Space Station, Peggy Whitson, and her fellow astronaut Jack Fischer.
In 2008, Dr. Whitson became the first woman to command the International Space Station. And on Monday, she will break the record for the most time spent in space of any American astronaut. The president, joined by his daughter Ivanka and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, will congratulate Dr. Whitson on this incredible accomplishment and discuss the importance of encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math.
As you're all aware, in addition to signing the NASA transition -- in addition to signing the NASA Transition Authorization Act, the president also recently signed the Inspire Women Act, which ensures that NASA continues recruiting women for important STEM-related jobs in aerospace, an effort that's particularly important to this president.
We're working closely with NASA and the Department of Education to make this conversation available to classrooms throughout the country. The Department of Education will also be providing tools for teachers to build lessons around this conversation between the president and these two outstanding Americans who are orbiting 220 miles above their heads.
The call will air live on NASA TV and stream on NASA's website and Facebook page.
And while we're on the topic of upcoming events, I'd like to note that the president will welcome Palestinian President Abbas for an -- a visit to Washington on May 3rd. They will use the visit to reaffirm the commitment of both the United States and Palestinian leadership to pursuing and ultimately concluding a conflict-ending settlement between the Palestinians and Israel. We'll have further guidance on that visit as we get closer to the date.
In terms of additional announcements, the president will be giving the commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, on May 17th. And as we grow closer to that date, we will continue to provide updates.
Moving along to current events, this morning, the president signed an important piece of legislation for our nation's veterans. The Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act eliminates the original sunset date on the Veterans Choice Program, which gives veterans who are unable to schedule an appointment at a V.A. facility in a timely or convenient manner the ability to receive care from an eligible non- V.A. health care provider.
Using funds that have already been appropriated for this program, this gives our nation's heroes the peace of mind they deserve while this administration works with Congress to enact comprehensive reform and modernization at the V.A.
The vice president is continuing on his international tour today.
On Tuesday, he spoke to 2,500 servicemen and -women on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in Japan, thanking them for our -- their service and discussing the president's plan to rebuild our military. He then met with and delivered remarks to Japanese business leader (ph) and stopped by a youth baseball clinic before leaving Japan.
He is scheduled to land in Jakarta, Indonesia, right about now. We'll have further updates on his travels the rest of the week. This week is also National Park Week. And Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is currently in California meeting with rangers at five national parks.
On Monday and Tuesday, he was at Channel Islands National Park, where he led a class of junior park rangers. And today, he'll visit Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Since being sworn in on March 1st, Secretary Zinke has met with rangers at nine national parks. He'll make that 10 when he visits Shenandoah National Park outside Charlottesville, Virginia, next week.
Every American has had (ph) the opportunity to participate in the celebration of our nation's parks. They're free of charge this Saturday and Sunday. Anyone who's interested in finding a local park or information can go to NPS.gov.
And finally, I know just moments ago the president announced that he will be holding a -- a press conference next Thursday to discuss the progress that's being made on behalf of our nation's veterans. We'll have further updates on the guidance for next week.
With that, I'm glad to take a few of your questions. John?
QUESTION: A couple of unrelated topics.
First of all, Georgia 6th Congressional District -- the fact that Jon Ossoff pulled in five or six points more than most Republicans thought that he would have, and Lindsey Graham's saying this is a wake-up call to the Republican Party, that there's a lot of moderates beginning to emerge in the South to a greater degree that the Republican Party needs to pay attention to.
I don't imagine that the outcome of the runoff is in that much question. But does Senator Graham have something there, that Republican Party needs to pay attention to changing demographics, particularly the South? SPICER: Well, I think you know that, based on my former position, we -- we talked about changing demographics and -- in -- throughout the country, and -- and made significant headway in doing that. And I think, in large part, that's why we won.
I mean, we had been talking about how the Republican Party had won at so many different levels of our country, but the presidency had eluded us. This president went and got 306 electoral votes, won 30 of 50 states, over 2,600 counties.
I think we did pretty well in November, and we've continued to pick up seats around the country at different levels. So, I feel very confident about the state of the party.
QUESTION: Does the fact that Ossoff came so close to 50 percent...
(CROSSTALK) SPICER: Yeah, I -- I would -- well, I -- again, I -- I would -- just, looking at the facts, that -- there was one candidate on the Democratic side. They spent over $8 million on...
SPICER: ... one that they backed. I mean, let's -- and I think, when you look at the total Republican vote, it was -- it was over that. This is a district that was very close on the presidential level last cycle. And the Democrats went all-in on this.
They -- they were clear, going into this election. They said that they -- their goal was to get over 50 percent. They came up short.
I mean, so at the -- and if you look at the -- what -- his percentage of what it was presidentially, it -- it pretty much tracks.
He -- I think this was a big loss for them. The bottom line is they went all-in on it. They said that they -- their goal was to get over 50 percent. They came up short.
QUESTION: Unrelated issue: Tillerson's letter to Paul Ryan on the JCPOA and Iran. Is the United States basically saying there's no evidence that Iran is cheating on the JCPOA?
SPICER: No. I think what the letter says is that the president is directing an interagency review of the deal as -- to -- to review that and we have 90 days before the next one comes out.
We'll have more, but right now, we're undergoing a 90-day review and I think the statement that the secretary of state made to Congress clearly stated that -- that the president is directing the National Security Council to lead an interagency review of the plan and evaluate whether suspension sanctions (sic) related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA are in the vital interest of the national -- of our national security.
That's -- the letter clearly lays out what the president's going to do to make sure that they're living up to their agreement.
QUESTION: Is the president concerned that Iran may be cheating on the JCPOA...
SPICER: Well, again...
QUESTION: David Albright, the noted U.N. weapons inspector says they're developing a new centrifuge, which he thinks could be a violation...
SPICER: Well, and -- and I think that's why he's asking for this review. I think that there's -- if he didn't -- if he thought there were -- that everything was fine, he would've, you know, allowed this to move forward. I think he's doing the prudent thing by asking for a review of -- of the current deal and what's happening.
QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.
On the USS Carl Vinson, what happened? Can you take us through the events from the perspective of the White House that led to the miscommunication, this administration thinking that this vessel was thousands of miles away from its actual location?
SPICER: I'm sorry, can you repeat the last part, the... QUESTION: What -- can you take us through the events that led people within this administration to believe the vessel was thousands of miles away from its actual location?
SPICER: Well, I mean, I -- PACOM put out a release talking about the group ultimately ending up in the Korean Peninsula. That's what it will do.
I think we -- we were asked very clearly about the -- the use of a carrier group in terms of deterrence and foreign presence and what that meant. We were -- that's what we discussed.
I would refer you back to -- any other issues with that to the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: Does the president believe that he might've spoken too quickly on this location of the vessel before it was actually...
SPICER: The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact. It happened. It is happening, rather.
QUESTION: Sean, just to kind of follow-up on that, you know, obviously when the president of the United States says there's military hardware going to a region in the middle of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula, the allies of the United States are encouraged. When that happens to not be the case, they can interpret that as a false encouragement.
So how is this White House explaining to South Korea and Japan that, in fact, during the build-up and the actual DPRK missile launch there was no USS Carl Vinson...
SPICER: You know -- but -- well, respectfully, Jessica (ph), I would ask you to either touch base with PACOM or the Department of Defense.
The -- the statement that was put out was that the Carl Vinson group was headed to the Korean Peninsula. It is headed to the Korean Peninsula. It'll arrive there.
QUESTION: It's headed there now, though, Sean.
SPICER: What's that?
QUESTION: It's headed there now. It wasn't headed there last week...
SPICER: Sure -- no, no, but that's not -- but that's not what we ever said.
We said that it was heading there. And it was heading there, it is heading there. So that -- that remains...
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) impression that allies had?
SPICER: But that's -- that's -- I -- if there was an impression, then that's not -- then there should've been clarification from people who were seeking it.
But I mean PACOM put out a release talking about what its ultimate destination was going to be and that's where it ended up.
QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.
QUESTION: Well why did the administration never clarify? Because it -- definitely the intent and (ph) media reports was that it was headed there now and now...
SPICER: Because that wasn't -- with all due respect, that's not my -- we were asked a question...
QUESTION: (inaudible) commented on it.
SPICER: I know -- no, no, no, that's not true.
What I was asked was what -- what signal did it send that it was going there. And I answered that question correctly at the time, that it signaled foreign presence, strength and a reassurance to our allies. That's a true statement.
You're asking me why you didn't know better. I don't know, that's a question that should've been followed up with either PACOM or the Department of Defense.
But the question -- the only question that we were asked, was what signal it sent, and I think we answered that very correctly at the time.
QUESTION: Don't you think it was a little misleading? No one found out about it until a picture was posted on a page...
SPICER: What -- what do you mean...
SPICER: What -- what part is misleading? I'm trying to figure that out.
We were asked a question about what signal it sent; we answered the question on what signal it sent. I'm not the one who commented on timing. Q
UESTION: Well, what's misleading is that people thought it was headed there now, and now it's going to be there weeks later. They thought it was already...
SPICER: I -- I -- but again, that's -- I understand the question, right. But what I'm getting at is, it was announced that it was going. It will be there. We were asked simply a question on that. I think all other questions should be asked to the Department of Defense.
SPICER: John (ph)? John (ph)? John (ph)?
QUESTION: OK, thanks -- thanks a lot, Sean.
Earlier today, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman said that China is increasingly frustrated with North Korea. And North Korea -- you may have seen it -- put out a simulated video over the past 24 hours which shows its missiles attacking, destroying an American city.
QUESTION: What's the American White House reaction to that video, and also to the comments by China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson?
SPICER: Well, on the first part, this isn't the first time that North Korea has put out propaganda tools. And I -- I don't think we're going to comment on every time they -- they put out a piece of propaganda. Second, I think it's encouraging to see China continue to move forward and join us in this effort to control North Korea. I've -- I've commented before, I think that the relationship that the president started building with President Xi down in Mar-a-Lago is clearly showing some positive signs.
China continues to have both economic and political influence over China (sic), and -- and so I think it's important to see them heading in this direction. I think it's a very positive sign to see them play a larger and larger role. I think it is in everybody's interest to contain North Korea's actions.
QUESTION: How -- how strong is that influence -- I'm sorry, John.
How strong is that influence, though, if the Foreign Ministry spokesman for China, which the president is depending on for this particular incursion, is saying that he himself -- that China itself is frustrated -- increasingly frustrated with the North Koreans?
SPICER: Well, again, I -- I think -- from an overall diplomatic sense, I think it's a positive to see China continue to take positive signs aligning with the position that we have on this. That's a positive thing.
I think that time will tell. But I think seeing a unified effort to contain North Korea's threat is a positive step to protect not only our national security interests, but those in the region.
I'm sorry. John Gizzi?
QUESTION: Thank -- thank you, Sean. A few weeks ago, I asked you about the president's upcoming visit to Rome and whether or not he would have an audience with this pope. And I pointed out that this is something that's a part of modern history going back to 1959, when President Eisenhower had an audience with Pope John XXIII. You said it was something you'd definitely be in favor of.
A few days ago, The Financial Times reported that sources within the administration said this was very unlikely to happen, and that, for the first time since nearly 60 years ago, the president would not have an audience with the pope.
SPICER: Yes. So...
SPICER: ... so, right now at this time, obviously, we'll -- we're headed to both Brussels and Sicily. If we have updates on the schedule -- and -- and we're still plenty far away -- I'm sure that we will let you know about any additional stops. But we're...
(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: ... are you in touch with the Holy See about...
SPICER: I -- I appreciate the effort, but I think, until we have an update, I'm not going to go there.
QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.
Back on Iran and the State Department's letter to Congress, there's been some talk about stricter sanctions on Iran for the ballistic missiles tests that it's been conducting and state finance of terror. Are you concerned that tougher sanctions on Iran would violate it to motivate the -- or -- sorry, motivate it to violate the nuclear deal?
SPICER: Well, I -- obviously, any action that we would take, if we did, is something that gets vetted through the interagency process, and all of those kind of considerations are taken in terms of trying to achieve the effect that we want.
So sanctions have been an effective tool in many cases and -- and I think that, as we've mentioned, a lot of times the president doesn't telegraph what action he's going to take.
But as we conduct a review of options available in this situation, we'll go through the interagency process and have different entities weigh in.
QUESTION: Sure, but -- but -- but in consideration of those potential...
(CROSSTALK) SPICER: Right. Obviously -- but we're well aware of any potential negative impacts that an action could have. And so, regardless of whether it's an economic, political or military action, you always weigh all those kind of options.
QUESTION: Sorry -- sorry, one -- one small follow-up on that.
QUESTION: The president has said, though, that he would like to see the nuclear deal renegotiated with Iran. How, specifically, does he plan to get a new deal? Is that something that he still wants to do?
SPICER: Well, again, that's why we're undergoing this interagency review.
Part of this is to get the -- the entire team to -- to look at it as part of the -- the next 90-days review that is required under the deal. So we will have recommendations that will be presented to the president on where the deal stands and how to act further.
QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.
Looking ahead to the 100-day mark and setting aside executive orders, can you say what -- the single piece of legislation that you are proudest that you got through Congress that was on the president's agenda?
SPICER: Well, a few things on that. Number one, we're not done. We've got a little days before we hit the 100-day mark.
[12:30:00] What you've seen out of this White House is a very robust agenda of activity.