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White House Press Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 5, 2017 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


QUESTION: Since the briefing began, Sarah, the NRA's put out a statement as relates to bump stocks -- their position on bump stocks. They write that they believe that devices that allow semiautomatic rifles to function as fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulation.

Does that change the administration's point of view? After all, the president has been a big supporter of the NRA, and the NRA has also been a big supporter of the president.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, as I've said just a few minutes ago, we welcome, certainly, that and a conversation on that. That hasn't changed. It's something we're very open to. And again, we want to be part of the conversation on that, moving forward.

Blake (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, let me ask you one on Puerto Rico, and then one on tax (inaudible).

Just going back to Puerto Rico, you said that with the debt, that the -- there's a process in place, and that the process will play out. Does that mean the president's comments of just simply wiping away the debt is no longer on the table?

SANDERS: The president wants that to go through that process, and that's the stage we are in this. (inaudible).

QUESTION: Then on tax reform, Sarah, Chuck Schumer right now, or at least is scheduled to, have a news conference about the state and local tax deductions being wiped off the books; how they should stay on the books. There's currently one Republican senator, seven Republicans, at least, in the House who want that to stay as a part of the tax framework.

QUESTION: The president had talked about red lines. Is he up for negotiations on SALT, or is this something for him that is a red line?

SANDERS: Look, the president has laid out his priorities and the framework of what he wants to see in this tax relief package.

Look, I think one of the big things you have to look at is that most Americans don't actually itemize deductions; 80 percent of the benefit goes to six-figure tax filers. The fact is it isn't fair and it doesn't make sense for working Americans across the country to subsidize the very wealthy in a few states.

The president's been clear about his position and we're moving forward with the framework that we've laid out.

Jeff (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, follow up question on Puerto Rico.

Yesterday the administration, in its supplemental request, asked for $13 billion to help storm victims. Will some of that go towards helping Puerto Rico rebuild its power grid, which was in pretty dire straits before the storm?

SANDERS: There was a large portion of that that will go to FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund, and that will be determined at the appropriate time, which parts of those will go to which efforts. And so I direct you to FEMA on the specifics of what that would look like.

Jim?

QUESTION: Sarah, why did the president tweet this morning that he'd like to see the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate news outlets in -- in I guess this quest to go after fake news? Does he -- does he value the First Amendment as much he values the Second Amendment?

SANDERS: Absolutely. The president is an incredible advocate of the First Amendment, but with the First Amendment...

QUESTION: (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: ... you have -- hold on. I allowed you to finish. With the First Amendment, with those freedoms also come responsibilities ,and you have a responsibility to tell the truth, to be accurate.

I think right now when we've seen recent information that says that only 5 percent of media coverage has been positive about this president and this administration, while at the same time you have the stock market and economic confidence at an all-time high, ISIS is on the run, unemployment is at the lowest it's been in 17 years, we've cut regulations at a historic pace, we're fixing the V.A. for our vets, you've only found 5 percent of your time to focus on some of those big issues. And, frankly, those are the issues most Americans care about; not a lot of the things that you cover, not a lot of the petty palace intrigue that you spend your time on.

I think that we need to move towards a certainly more fair, more accurate and, frankly, a more responsible news media for the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: May I -- may I -- Sarah, if I could follow up on that. Should Congress...

SANDERS: Sorry, I'm going to try to get to everybody and like I told your colleague, if I have time.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Should Congress investigate news outlets? Just very -- very quickly though, should Congress investigate news outlets?

SANDERS: Noah (ph)?

QUESTION: Two questions.

One is, Governor Brown in California just signed a sanctuary state statute. And I'm interested in what efforts the administration will make to block the move; and whether this signifies that the administration's efforts to crack down on sanctuary jurisdictions has failed, given that California has more than 12 percent of the nation's population and it will now be an entire state that's under the sanctuary designation.

SANDERS: Look, we are spending every day we can trying to find the best way forward. The president will be laying out his responsible immigration plan over the next week.

And I hope that California will push back on their governor's, I think, irresponsible decision moving forward.

QUESTION: My second question was a follow up to Jim's...

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Kristen (ph)? Hold on. I'm going to try to get to everybody today.

Kristen (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, thank you.

Sarah, was the president upset that his secretary of state didn't deny calling him a moron in his public remarks yesterday?

SANDERS: Look, as the secretary of state said, this is a petty, ridiculous accusation. And, frankly, I think it's beneath the secretary of state to weigh in on every rumor out there.

His spokesperson, however, did come out and clarified that the secretary of state had never used those words.

QUESTION: And what's your response to those who...

SANDERS: Jon?

QUESTION: ... say the president has undercut the secretary of state? Sarah, just quickly (inaudible).

SANDERS: I think the premise of that question is absolutely ridiculous. The president can't undercut his own Cabinet. The president is the leader of the Cabinet. He sets the tone. He sets the agenda.

And I think that question makes no sense because of that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.

Two questions.

First, let me follow up on Kevin's question earlier about the Iran agreement. We know that decertified does not mean a complete cut, and it would still keep the U.S. in the negotiating procedure. On the other hand, a clean break, such as advocated by former Ambassador John Bolton, would completely separate the U.S. from any agreement with Iran. Ambassador Bolton proposed that; reportedly has been unable to talk to the president about it.

Is the clean break advocated by him still on the table?

SANDERS: As I told Kevin, the president is going to make an announcement about the decision that he's made on a comprehensive strategy that his team supports and will do that in the coming days. I'm not going to get ahead of that announcement by weighing in now.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SANDERS: Jon, I'm going to try to get to everybody. I'll come back.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I had two.

SANDERS: I know. Everybody -- everybody has two.

(LAUGHTER)

If that's the case that we're setting, somebody can say "I have 12 questions" on the front end, and I'd never get to go to anybody else. I'll come back to you, if we can.

David?

QUESTION: (inaudible) just one for you.

We now know that Secretary Price was essentially let go for his private jet travel. And we know that I think in close proximity to his firing, Secretary Perry took private jets. We know that Kellyanne Conway went along for one of Secretary Price's rides.

At the same time, the president has now spent I think 17 weekends at taxpayer expense for the flights either in Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster at a cost of $180,000 an hour for Air Force One, and is going to take the plane to a fund-raiser in North Carolina this weekend.

So here's the question: Is he not setting the tone that tells his Cabinet members that this kind of misuse of taxpayer money, or overuse, if you will, is OK?

SANDERS: I'll start with North Carolina.

My understanding is that for a political event, that that'll be reimbursed for any political travel.

The president is...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... be the first class rate that Secretary Price paid?

SANDERS: I'd have to check on that.

But the president is in a certainly very different position. He's not allowed to travel in a different way, other than in a secure airplane as Air Force One.

QUESTION: (inaudible) weekend, doesn't he? I mean, he could stay here and work like former presidents.

SANDERS: The president certainly hasn't been there every weekend.

And every weekend that he's traveling, no matter where he is, the president is working. He's hosted foreign leaders on several of those trips, which have led to some great accomplishments. They've led certainly to putting further pressure, unprecedented pressure on North Korea, in large part because of the relationship development that's taken place at some of those weekends that you're attacking for.

This is a president that is committed to helping move his agenda forward. And certainly I think that those weekends have been very successful in doing that. Alex?

QUESTION: I want to ask about the president's tweet this morning about the Senate Intelligence Committee. Is he frustrated with how long the investigation into alleged Russian election interference is taking?

SANDERS: I think more importantly than the president being frustrated, I think the American people are frustrated.

The Senate Intel Committee told us yesterday that after nearly nine months of investigated (sic), that's included more than a hundred interviews, over more than 250 hours, 4,000 pages of transcripts, 100,000 pages of documents, interviewing officials in the intelligence community who wrote the report on Russian election meddling, interviewing relevant Obama administration officials, and talking to every Trump campaign official they've requested, it's literally found zero evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

SANDERS: I think that the American people would like them to focus on some other things. I know that we certainly have said this all along, and we're glad that as they continue this process, they're coming to the same conclusion.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Sarah, thanks.

On the Kurdish vote last week, I'm wondering, the U.S. commanders have regularly praised the Peshmerga for their ability to fight ISIS. What message is the White House and the U.S. government sending to them now by not backing them in their desire for independence?

SANDERS: Look, we've been clear and consistent on that. Hasn't changed. And we're not going to weigh in any further than we already have.

Trey (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, does President Trump believe the Senate Intelligence Committee should investigate American media organizations?

SANDERS: I don't know that that's the case. But I do think that we should call on all media to a higher standard. And certainly I think I weighed in very clearly what our position is when Jim asked a question earlier.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Intelligence Committee looking into the fake news networks in our country?

SANDERS: Look, I think that you have a lot of responsibility, and a lot of times, false narratives create a bad environment certainly aren't helpful to the American people. And you have a responsibility to provide and report fair and accurate details. And when we don't, that's, I think, troubling for all of us.

QUESTION: Sarah, you said several times that the White House wants to be part of the conversation on bump stocks. The president said himself this week, "We'll be talking about gun laws as time goes by."

But you also suggested -- I think, and just to clear it up -- that the time to talk about that is after the investigation has gotten to another stage, or wrapped up. I mean, if not now, when is it appropriate to start having this conversation about policy?

SANDERS: I haven't -- I haven't said the investigation has to be fully complete before conversations can take place. But I think we have to be careful that before we go out and try to talk about things that prevented something, we need to know what caused it in the first place. And we're not there yet; we're still in that process.

We certainly want to, again, look at every way that we could prevent anything even remotely close to this from ever happening again. And we want to be part of that process, and we hope (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: If I could just ask one question, just to clarify the White House's position on these bump fire stocks, this morning in a couple of television interviews, your colleague Kellyanne Conway suggested that the ATF, in 2010, made a decision that these -- these bump stocks were firearms parts and not firearms themselves, and couldn't be regulated under the existing law.

Is it the White House's view that that was the wrong decision on the part of the ATF?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of Kellyanne's comments, so I'd have to look at that before I weighed in. I'd want to have all the information in front of me before I could answer that.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SANDERS: But again, I think the bigger point here, we're open to having that conversation, we think that we should have that conversation, and we want to be part of it moving forward.

QUESTION: Sarah?

SANDERS: Yeah.

QUESTION: Sarah, I have two Las Vegas questions.

One, is the administration considering overriding the 2010 Obama ATF ruling on bump stocks?

SANDERS: Like I just said, I think that's something that we should look at. We're very open to it, and we want to have that conversation and -- and -- and move forward in the process.

QUESTION: Second, Dina Titus, the congresswoman from Las Vegas, said she personally delivered a letter to a member of the White House staff yesterday, inviting the president to meet with the Gun Violence Task Force.

Did -- did the president see it? Is he going to say yes?

SANDERS: I'm not sure if he saw the letter. But I think that we'd certainly be open to having a meeting with a number of different organizations and people that would be involved in this process, certainly.

QUESTION: So you don't know if he got the letter?

SANDERS: Again, I'd have to check before I comment.

QUESTION: Sarah, has the president had even preliminary conversations with congressional leaders about bump stocks? And did he talk with any of the rescuers in Las Vegas about these devices?

SANDERS: I know the conversation came up in the very early stages with some of the members that were traveling yesterday, but nothing definitive, again, opening up that conversation.

And like I've said several times today, that's a -- a discussion that we welcome, and that we want to be a part of.

April?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

Over the last couple of days the president has used the word fear, hate, cruelty. So what you're saying, you're talking, you're having conversations on different things as it relates to Las Vegas. What is the conversation, when it comes to the issue of terror?

You've not talked about it yet. You've not classified it as such. And talking to people from both sides of the aisle, they're saying there's no one settled or universal definition for terrorism. But we've seen Timothy McVeigh with Oklahoma City. We've seen Roof with -- with Mother Emanuel in -- in Charleston.

I mean, under all circumstances that we've seen so far, people were intimidated, scared, ambushed military-style in a planned, thought-out effort. Be it -- whether it's political or not, they were terrorized.

Is this administration willing to start, since they're having conversations about other things, was this terror -- domestic terror?

SANDERS: I think that's something for the law enforcement communities to define and identify.

I think the bigger thing that this administration certainly has been focused on is the prevention, and looking at how we can stop things like this from ever happening again.

I don't care how you label it, it's something that should never take place in this country. And this president is committed to looking for ways to prevent it.

Hallie?

QUESTION: What about that...

(CROSSTALK) SANDERS: Sorry, I've -- I've limited everybody to one question today.

QUESTION: (inaudible) what does the -- what does this White House believe? The president went there. It was very controversial, his -- his appearance there.

SANDERS: Actually, it wasn't controversial.

QUESTION: Well, some people have...

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: It was actually widely praised, even by a Democrat governor.

I think that it is sad that the mayor of San Juan chose to make that a political statement, instead of a time of focusing on the relief efforts. The president invited her to be part of that conversation. He specifically asked in the meeting, where many were present, including a couple dozen other mayors who were very happy with the recovery efforts, the governor, the congresswoman. He opened the floor up for discussion, and she actually made zero comments. To me, that would have been the time and the place that she should have weighed in, and asked for what she needed, and laid out what she was asking for for San Juan. She didn't.

Instead, she chose to wait until the president left and then criticize him on TV, which I think is the wrong thing for her to do for her constituents. And I hope next time she's given the opportunity to help her constituents, she'll take it.

Hallie?

QUESTION: (inaudible) be very clear that the president is open to the conversation surrounding bump stops, and perhaps other regulations on gun control.

Does he want to lead that conversation? Will he get out and use the powers of the presidential platform to push for more regulation on, for example, bump stocks, which law enforcement officials have said were used in Vegas?

SANDERS: I think right now, the position of the president has been to lead on the effort of uniting our country.

We've had a country in mourning, and I think we saw what kind of leader this president wants to be by what he did yesterday. He went in. He met with the law enforcement officials. He met with the medical teams. He met with the survivors of that horrific tragedy.

Obviously, this president wants to be a leader. I think he's demonstrated that. I think he'll continue to do that in this process.

If you want me to get down into the weeds on specific policy, I don't think we're there yet. Right now, we want to lead the effort on bringing our country together, and offering comfort to those that have been hurt over the last several days.

SANDERS: Mike (ph)?

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Sorry. Again, I'm going to take this, the last one.

Mike (ph)?

QUESTION: There's some talk that the -- some of the -- the main facilitators of the Iran nuclear deal could -- are -- are significant contenders for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Is the -- is the White House aware of that? And do you have a thought on -- on -- on (inaudible) being talked about, as potential winners?

SANDERS: I'm not sure about the Nobel Peace Prize process, and certainly not as it pertains to that.

But I think we've been very clear what our position is on the deal. That hasn't changed just because some people may receive an award for it.

Thanks so much, guys. Have a good day.

[14:47:37] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so I have Chris Cillizza and Gloria Borger standing by.

Let's begin with the thrust of the Q&A on this bump-stock device. Republican Congressman Kurt Bellow will be the one to introduce the legislation today to ban the bump-stock device which prevents a semi- automatic firearm from firing at a high rate of speed, making it closer and closer to a fully automatic weapon.

Gloria, to you first.

To hear her - obviously, the talking point over and over is he's open to conversations, open to conversations. Even now the NRA has weighed in saying bump stocks should be subject to additional regulations. You've got some Republicans in Congress. Why not dive in and say we'll lead on this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Because I think he'd rather not lead on the issue of any kind of gun control at this point. He's a very strong proponent of the Second Amendment: I think on this particular issue he's happy to let Congress take the lead on all of this. It's clear that they are. Republicans are saying we're going to do this. The NRA is saying we're going to do this. The Democrats will complain because they will say this is -- bump stock is not gun control. It's just bump stock and that's all you're talking about. We didn't even know it was an issue until the other day. The Republicans can say they passed gun control. The president can then sort of say, yes, I'm with them. But I think he's got so many other irons in the fire right now, Brooke, he's just not going to lead on this when it's time and he sees there's a deal on it, fine.

BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza, what did you think of all that with regard to gun control?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think Gloria is exactly right. I think why you see the NRA come out, I think that will likely lead to its passage, particularly when you have the White House saying we're open to that conversation. They could have easily say we don't support that. The reason for that is this will make them able to make the case to not just the Republican base but more broadly to the country, look, this happened. We saw something that we all agree shouldn't be legal, this ability to turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon and reacted. Case closed. It obviously doesn't get at a lot of other gun control questions that's out there, background checks at gun shows, private sales, many other things that are out there that gun control advocates would want. What it does do is allow them to say, the issue was raised, we addressed it, we're moving on, which when it comes to guns is probably the most advisable thing for not just the Republican Party, Brooke. I remind people, the Democrat party on gun control is not a unified whole. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota. I still remember Joe Manchin shooting a target with a gun in an ad in 2012, I believe, to differentiate himself on issues from the national party. So this is -- it's not as though this is a surefire political winner

either way. There's plenty of Democrats who would be happy to say we voted for bump stocks, they're now prohibited, let's move on to something else.

[14:51:06] BALDWIN: Let me move on from gun control.

Jim Acosta is the one who asked -- we'll call it one and one-plus question to Sarah Sanders --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: That plus that made news. Jim Acosta set that up.

CILLIZZA: Yes.

BALDWIN: When you were asking her about, this is all because of the report from another outlet and the president tweeting that the Senate Intelligence Committee should start investigating fake news and to your question where she said no.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We've been talking about, before my question the Second Amendment and the issue awful bump stocks. I asked Sarah Sanders the question, does the president value the First Amendment as much as he values the Second Amendment because he did put out that tweet earlier this morning suggesting the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate news outlets, on the hunt for fake news, as the president likes to call it. I think what Sarah Sanders did at this point was used that as an opportunity to tout some of the news they feel like we don't talk about enough, the economy is doing well, the stock market is doing well and so on. But I did try to ask a follow-up question which was very simply, should Congress investigate news outlets. It sounded to me like she said no, but then she did call on another reporter in the room named Noah. We didn't get a clear answer on that. It took one of our other colleagues later in the briefing to follow up on that. I think Sarah Sanders sort of answered the question where she said I don't think that's what we're talking about here, something along those lines. But not really definitively answering this question, not definitively closing the door on this.

We should make it very clear. If Congress were to start investigating news outlets, Brooke, we are then something less than the United States of America. That is an appalling suggestion to come from the president of the United States. Sarah was saying, well, reporters shouldn't engage in opinions and so on, that that amounts to some sort of fake news. I don't think it's outlandish to say that Congress shouldn't be investigating news outlets, not in this country.

BALDWIN: Stelter, this is directed at you. She said, "We see a problem with any story that's opinion --

ACOSTA: OK.

BALDWIN: -- that's put out as fact."

Brian Stelter, isn't that basically FOX News, the president's go-to TV channel?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Indeed. The president has not given news interviews on tv since May. He goes to the friends on the opposite at FOX News and speaks with them. I hope next time the president is interviewed, we'll get an answer to this question, about whether he actually wants Senate investigators to look into the editorial processes of American news organizations.

I think he was just venting this morning, Brooke, blowing off steam. It's newsworthy because the president continues to try to distract from the Russia investigations, continues to try to say it is not a big deal, it is not real news, it is not important. I thought it was notable Sanders said at the briefing the American people would like the media and is that the to focus on other things, not Russian interference, even though there's bipartisan agreement that the Russians -- they didn't just stop on November 8, 2016. This continues today. And it will continue in future elections. When you see the president attacking what he says is the fake news media, he's really trying to divert attention. And I thought it was disappointing that that she didn't have an answer on what the president wants.

But here we see the White House once again dismissing the bipartisan agreements about the importance of the Russia investigation and seriousness of Russian interference. At one point, Brooke, we heard Sanders basically say there's no difference between a mistake made by a news outlet like "The New York Times" or CNN versus the kind of fake news propaganda that was spread by Russia. She was given a couple chances to say, oh, those are two different things, but she didn't do that. The president continues to use that fake news slur.

[14:55:07] BALDWIN: Right. No.

Gloria, their reaction, it was fake news rhetoric that's muddying actual fake news.

BORGER: Huh? I don't really even understand that. I think if you sort of read between the lines of what Sarah Sanders was saying, she was sort of -- the president tweeted this morning the Intelligence Committee maybe ought to be looking at fake news, and then she took on the Intelligence Committee itself saying, look, they've been -- they've spent all this time, and she said they have literally found zero evidence of collusion. What the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Burr, said yesterday actually, is they had not come to any determination on conclusion, not that they have found zero evidence, but they're not there yet. They're still in the middle of their investigation. So I think, you know, the president was saying one thing about the Senate intelligence -- the Intelligence Committee ought to be doing and she was criticizing the Intelligence Committee for actually doing its job.

BALDWIN: Yes. Just because it's something looking into that the president doesn't like, that also doesn't mean fake news.

Chris Cillizza, one more for you. I read your people. Bob Corker told the world what he thinks of Donald Trump. Here is an update. Senator Corker said he's standing by his comments that the generals and the secretary of state in the president's cabinet are keeping the U.S. from spiraling into chaos. Standing by his remarks.

CILLIZZA: I think rightly the Las Vegas story and the continued struggles in Puerto Rico still should dominate the news, but I will tell you in absence of such massive tragedies like that, this would be a huge moment. You have a sitting very well respected Republican Senator. He's the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Essentially, saying the president of the United States is a force for chaos, and that without his secretary of defense, secretary of state and his chief of staff, the country would have -- not just the country, the world potentially given the role Donald Trump is playing would descend into chaos.

Here is what should be scary. Two things. One, Corker is saying what he really believes because he's retiring, what does everybody else say? Two, that this continues to just sort of churn. Donald Trump continues to do his thing without any real -- I guess we don't know what's going on internally, but he continues to say things like maybe we should investigate the media, and there's no check on it. So what is Donald Trump unbound? If Kelly, Mattis and Tillerson are keeping Trump in Corker's estimation within the margins, what are the things he's not doing that they're keeping him from doing and what does it mean if one or two or three of them leave? Remember, Bob Corker is not some outsider. This is a guy who has intimate, intimate knowledge --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Remember, not terribly long ago.

CILLIZZA: Right.

BALDWIN: It was a great write on CNN.com. I love the graph where you say stop and think about that and read the previous graph. I encourage everyone to read all things Chris Cillizza.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Chris and Gloria and Brian Stelter, thank you all so very much.

Coming up, more on breaking news. Back to Las Vegas. The shooter may have made a reservation at a Chicago hotel during Lollapalooza. Stand by for that.

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