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White House press briefing

Brian Ries and Amanda Wills, CNN
updated 3:27 PM ET, Wed March 28, 2018
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2:36 p.m. ET, March 28, 2018

White House calls Alton Sterling shooting a "local matter"

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

Pressed Wednesday for the President's reaction on Louisiana's decision not to charge the officers who fatally shot Alton Sterling, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the President believe the matter should be "left up to the local authorities."

"Certainly a terrible incident," Sanders said of the shooting. "This is something that is a local matter and it’s something that we feel should be left up to the local authorities at this time."

The Department of Justice found insufficient evidence last May to charge the officers with civil rights violations.

"Certainly we want to make sure that all law enforcement is carrying out the letter of the law," Sanders said, adding that "the President is very supportive of law enforcement.

Pressed further about the lack of Trump's leadership on the matter, Sanders said the administration wants "to find ways to bring the country together, certainly not looking for any place of division. I think you've seen that in the policies that he's put forward."

"Whether they're black, white, Hispanic, rich or poor, we look for ways to protect individuals in this country," Sanders said.

2:34 p.m. ET, March 28, 2018

White House: Administration is "cautiously optimistic" following Kim Jong Un visit to China

From CNN's Allie Malloy

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration is “cautiously optimistic” following the North Korea’s Kim Jong Un visit to Beijing this week.

“We’re gonna be cautiously optimistic, but we feel like things are moving in the right direction,” Sanders said when asked how the administration felt about the meeting in Beijing.

“The meeting yesterday was a good indication that the maximum pressure campaign is working,” Sanders added.

Sanders also said the administration considers Kim Jong Un leaving North Korea for the first time as its leader is a “positive sign” that the process will continue to move forward.

Sanders was also pressed again about when the meeting between the two leaders will take place. Sanders said the administration is working to make sure it’s done as soon as possible, but they are ensuring it will be done properly.

2:29 p.m. ET, March 28, 2018

Sanders: Not talked to Trump about NYT report

Press secretary Sarah Sanders said she has not spoken with the President "specifically" about the New York Times reporting that broke today ahead of the briefing.

However, she said presidential pardons for Manafort and Flynn have "never come up."

"I have been in a number of conversations, and it has never come up. Ty Cobb, has also gone on the record to discuss and declare these conversations have taken place," she said, referring to the White House lawyer.

2:26 p.m. ET, March 28, 2018

Is Trump going after Amazon? White House says not "at this time"

Axios reported that President Trump wants to "go after" Amazon with antitrust enforcement or by changing tax rules.

"He's obsessed with Amazon," a source told Axios.

The White House responds: When asked at the briefing if that was true, Sanders said, "The President has said he's always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses and this no different, and he will always look at different ways, but there aren't any specific policies on the table at this time."

Why Trump hates Amazon: It's no secret that Trump dislikes the giant retailer. He has repeatedly told the world on Twitter how much he dislikes the company.

In August, he tweeted:

Trump also tweeted about Amazon hurting the US Post Office.

He often criticizes The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — but not by Amazon. He misleadingly called it the "Amazon Washington Post."

Last year, Trump wrote on Twitter: "The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!"

He has even called Amazon a "no-tax monopoly."

Reporting by CNN's David Goldman and Kaya Yurieff

2:22 p.m. ET, March 28, 2018

Sanders: I have not "brought up" Manafort and Flynn pardon with President Trump

Pressed on whether or not President Trump feels like he has the power to pardon Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, press secretary Sarah Sanders said she had not discussed this with the President.

"The President has the authority to pardon individual, but you're asking me about a specific case in which it hasn't been discussed, so I would not have brought that up with him," Sanders said.

2:23 p.m. ET, March 28, 2018

Sarah Sanders was asked 3 times about pardons after NYT report. Here's how she responded.

Reporter: Are pardons on the table for anyone involved in the Russia probe?

Sanders: "Look I would refer you back to the statement from Ty Cobb and the report that you're asking about in which he said I've only been asked about pardons by the press and have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House."

Reporter: Can you say unequivocally that no one here has discussed pardons in this case?

Sanders: "I can say that Ty Cobb is the person that would be most directly involved in this. He has a statement on the record saying that there's no discussion and there's no consideration of those at this time in the White House."

Reporter: Does the White House worry about what Michael Flynn or Paul manafort might tell special counsel Robert Mueller?

Sanders: "As we said pretty much every day since we've got here, because you guys continue to ask about this topic every single day, there was no collusion and we're very confident in that and look forward to this process wrapping up."

2:23 p.m. ET, March 28, 2018

White House lawyer: No pardons under consideration

From CNN's Jim Acosta

White House lawyer Ty Cobb sent CNN this statement following the New York Times report:

"I have only been asked about pardons by the press and have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House."

1:59 p.m. ET, March 28, 2018

NYT: Trump lawyer floated idea of presidential pardons for Manafort and Flynn

From CNN's Clare Foran

Moments before Sarah Sanders was scheduled to to brief reporters, the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump's lawyer, John Dowd, floated the possibility last year with lawyers for former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort that the President might issue pardons for both men.

The paper cited three individuals with knowledge of the discussions.

The conversations happened as special counsel Robert Mueller "was building cases against both men," the Times reported, which raises "questions about whether the lawyer, John Dowd, was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation" into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

This report is sure to come up in the briefing.

Read more.

1:56 p.m. ET, March 28, 2018

Trump steps back from the spotlight amid storm of allegations

President Donald Trump, the man who has come to love holding court on television and relished the art of the photo op, has remained out of sight for much of this week as allegations about a sexual relationship with a porn star play out on national television.

Trump has not held a public event at the White House at all this week and spent Saturday and Sunday at his private club in Mar-a-Lago behind closed doors or inside the protected confines of his golf course.

This means that although he's been active on Twitter, he hasn't had to face reporters' questions about the ongoing saga playing out on cable news.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will answer questions, however, at her 2 p.m. press briefing.