James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:53 P.M. EDT
SANDERS: Good afternoon. A short time ago, President Trump signed into law the Right to Try Act. As you will recall, Right to Try is a major priority for the President. He called on Congress to pass it in his State of the Union Address.
Right to Try gives the over 1 million Americans who die from a terminal illness every year a new tool to fight and make potentially lifesaving decisions about their treatment right here at home.
With the President’s signature, the federal government joins with 40 states that have taken the innovative approach and approved the right of terminally ill patients to try potentially lifesaving drugs.
A note about tomorrow’s schedule and the President’s trip to Texas: While in Houston, he will meet with families of the victims from the tragic school shooting at Santa Fe High School to personally offer his condolences and support.
Shortly, the President will host the White House Sports and Fitness Day with a number of activities on the South Lawn, including flag football, baseball, volleyball, golf, soccer, and track.
The administration is committed to highlighting the benefits of youth sports and reversing declining participation rates through the development of a national strategy.
As the mom of three preschoolers, I support them burning as much energy as possible, and I think sports is a great way to do that.
Lastly, a special happy birthday goes out to my nephew, Thatcher, who turns one today. So happy birthday, Thatcher.
And with that, I will take your questions. Jonathan.
Q Sarah, now that Trey Gowdy, who has actually seen all the classified information on what the FBI was doing, says that there is nothing to the allegations that they were spying on the Trump campaign. And, in fact, Gowdy says that the FBI was doing exactly what they should have been doing. Given what Trey Gowdy has said, is the President prepared now to retract his allegation that the FBI was spying on his campaign?
SANDERS: No. Clearly, there’s still cause for concern that needs to be looked at. Let’s not forget that the Deputy Director of the FBI was actually fired for misconduct. The President is concerned about the matter, and we’re going to continue to follow the issue.
Q But Gowdy was in the briefing. He knows what was done. And he is saying that these allegations are baseless, that there was no spying on the Trump campaign.
SANDERS: Again, certainly the President feels that there is a cause for concern and it should be looked at. And like I just said, the Deputy Director of the FBI was fired for misconduct.
Q But that has nothing to do with —
SANDERS: I’m not finished. There are a number of things that have been reported on and that show, I think, not just for the President, but a number of Americans, a large cause for concern. And we’d like to see this fully looked into. And we’ll continue to follow that matter.
Q But based on what evidence? What evidence does he have?
SANDERS: Sorry, Jonathan. We’re going to keep moving so you can guys can see the President shortly.
Q What does Secretary Pompeo need to hear from the North Koreans today at the meeting in New York for the summit to go forward?
SANDERS: We’re continuing to prepare for the meeting between the President and the North Korean leader. As the President says, if it happens, we’ll certainly be ready. We’ve got not only the meeting that you just mentioned; Secretary of State Pompeo is meeting with the President currently. And when he finishes that meeting, he’ll be headed to New York for a dinner tonight, as well as a day full of meetings tomorrow.
The advance team, led by Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin, met with the North Korean team in Singapore earlier today, and again expect to do so tomorrow. And we want to thank our strategic partner in Singapore, who’s been incredibly generous in agreeing to host the summit. And the President is very appreciative of Prime Minister Lee for all of their efforts.
We also have reports back from the DMZ. The U.S. delegation, led by Ambassador Sung Kim, met with North Korean officials earlier today as well. And their talks will continue. So far, the readout from these meetings has been positive, and we’ll continue to move forward in them.
Q And a follow-up. Do you think it will take place now — the summit? Or is there a denuclearization plan taking shape?
SANDERS: The conversation is going to be focused on denuclearization of the Peninsula. That’s what these ongoing conversations taking place now will be centered on, as well as the summit that would take place in Singapore. And we’re going to continue — as long as that is part of the discussion, we’re going to continue to shoot for the June 12th and expect to do that.
Q Sarah, two questions for you. First, on North Korea. In addition to their nuclear program, North Korea also maintains other weapons of mass destruction — chemical and biological weapons. Does the President intend to raise those in a summit with Kim Jong Un?
SANDERS: I’m not going to get ahead of all of the topics that may come up. The priority focus that we have discussed and that are in the ongoing conversations with the Secretary Pompeo, as well as at the DMZ, are focused on the denuclearization of the Peninsula. But certainly, I think a number of topics are likely to be discussed at the summit.
Q And —
SANDERS: Sorry, I’m just going to do one question today. Francesca.
Q Thank you, Sarah. I do have two, if you’ll indulge me quickly. Number one, going back to —
SANDERS: I’m going to do one question today so I can try to get as many people as possible before the Sports Day starts.
Q Okay, I’ll make it all one question. (Laughter.) On North Korea and the possible summit, can you tell us what your deadline is at this point for deciding whether or not that will or will not happen?
And on a completely separate topic, Kim Kardashian is supposed to be at the White House today. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Who she plans to meet with. It’s being reported that she’ll be meeting with Jared Kushner, as well as President Donald Trump.
SANDERS: She is expected to be here at the White House. I can confirm she’ll be here. We’ll keep you posted on any meetings that take place and what those look like.In terms of North Korea, as I’ve said, we are preparing and expect that to take place on June 12th. And we’ll be ready, if it does, on June 12th. And if it’s not, then we’ll be ready if it takes place on July 12th.
Q If the Attorney General is not living up to the President’s expectations, if he is so frustrated with him, why doesn’t he just fire him instead of sort of nursing this grievance so publicly?
SANDERS: Look, the President has made his viewpoint very clearly known, and I don’t have any personnel announcements at this point.
Q Sarah, the President said during his Right to Try legislation signing that drug makers will soon be announcing what he called a voluntary massive drop in their prices. Is there anything more you can tell us on exactly when this is going to happen, and how widespread this massive drop in prices will be?
SANDERS: I can’t give any other details at this point, but we do expect some specific policy pieces to come out on that soon.
Q Has the President spoken to Roseanne Barr, who we know has been a longtime friend of his? And why did he choose to address the ABC apology, instead of the underlying issue of concerns about a racist comment that she tweeted out?
SANDERS: I’m not aware of any conversations that have taken place. The President is simply calling out the media bias; no one is defending what she said. The President is the President of all Americans, and he’s focused on doing what is best for our country.
And you can see that in the actions that he’s taken. You can see where he’s focused on unemployment being at the lowest since 2000; opportunity investment zones to encourage investment in underserved communities; an opioid initiative to combat a crisis that impacts all Americans. And today the President signed legislation to give patients the right to try medication that could actually save their lives.
And I’d point out that while the President signed that legislation and actually addressed America, two networks chose not to cover it, and instead covered something totally different in palace intrigue. A massive piece of legislation that had bipartisan support, that was life changing — literally life changing for millions of Americans — two networks chose not to cover the President’s remarks on that.
He’s simply pointing out the bias. The President is pointing to the hypocrisy in the media, saying that the most horrible things about this President — and nobody addresses it. Where was Bob Iger’s apology to the White House staff for Jemele Hill calling the President and anyone associated with him a white supremacist; to Christians around the world for Joy Behar calling Christianity a mental illness? Where was the apology for Kathy Griffin going on a profane rant against the President on “The View” after a photo showed her holding President Trump’s decapitated head? And where was the apology from Bob Iger for ESPN hiring Keith Olbermann after his numerous expletive-laced tweets attacking the President as a Nazi, and even expanding Olbermann’s role after that attack against the President’s family?
This is a double standard that the President is speaking about. No one is defending her comments. They’re inappropriate, but that’s what the point that he was making.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Does the White House have any evaluation of its own of the recently released study estimating that more than 4,600 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria? And if that number is accurate, does this indicate the administration’s response to the storm was inadequate?
SANDERS: Look, the President takes the situation in Puerto Rico extremely seriously, and the administration has been monitoring that from the beginning. We’ve been supportive of Governor Rosselló’s efforts to ensure full accounting and transparency, and those who have suffered from this tragedy deserve nothing less than that.
The two Category 4 hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico were historic, and we’ve responded with the largest FEMA operation in history. And we’re going to continue to work with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything we can to be helpful.
Emerald. Sorry, one question today. Emerald.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Does the administration have any concerns or fear any risk in continuing to push China on these tariffs in trade, considering their relationship with North Korea ahead of talks and what the President has said about that second meeting between President Xi and Kim Jong Un?
SANDERS: The President continues to have a good relationship with President Xi, but what the President is concerned about is making sure he stops the unfair trade practices that China has engaged in for decades; stopping the intellectual property theft that China has been engaged in; and making sure that we no longer allow China to play on a different playing field than the rest of us. He’s not going to allow American workers to be taken advantage of. He’s going to call that out, and he’s going to step up and make those changes.
At the same time, we’re continuing to work with China and continuing to have conversations when it comes to North Korea, and we hope that those will continue.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Given the turbulent political situation in Italy right now, is the administration monitoring it, as well as the devastating effect it appears to be having on the markets in Southern Europe? And will the President consider strong intervention in that situation through the IMF, very much as the previous administration did with Greece two years ago?
SANDERS: Italy is one of our closest allies, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the new government after it’s formed. We recognize that Europe is composed of free nations that in the great tradition of Western democracy are able to choose their own paths forward. I don’t have anything about the United States’ specific involvement. But certainly, we’re continuing to monitor that and stay in very close touch with our allies.
Q On the steel and aluminum tariffs, the extension ends again soon. When do you think you’ll have an announcement on what will happen next? And is there any chance that there will be another extension?
SANDERS: We’ll certainly keep you posted as we get closer to that date. Mara.
Q Can you just clarify the comments about Trey Gowdy? You said there’s still cause for concern, meaning about what the President says is a spy who infiltrated his campaign? Or a cause for concern, in general, about the FBI?
SANDERS: I think both. The President still has concerns about whether or not the FBI acted inappropriately having people in his campaign. And certainly, the President has concerns about the overall conduct of the FBI when it comes to this process.
Q Can you just explain who was in the campaign? What is he referring to when he said they were in the campaign? What does that mean?
SANDERS: Again, I’m not going to get into those details. But the President certainly has expressed very publicly his concern, as has his outside counsel.
Q Thank you. Something appeared to have happened on trade, because last weekend Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the trade war was on hold. Fast-forward a few days after that, there was the threat of tariffs now on auto imports. Fast-forward a few days after that, there’s now going to be this $50 billion in tariffs. So what exactly happened from the trade war being on hold, to a week later, now it appears the trade war might be back on?
SANDERS: He didn’t say it was on hold indefinitely. And look, the President ultimately makes the decisions on trade. And when he does, we announce them. And that’s exactly what’s taken place in this process.
Q Sarah, two things. First off, my young colleague here, he has a very interesting question.
Q Second, I just wanted to know, how confident does the President feel that he’s going to have an agreement on NAFTA before the summit?
SANDERS: Look, we’re continuing to have those negotiations, and we’ll keep you posted if they get a deal finalized.
And the young colleague in the back.
Q Oh, thanks for the compliment. (Laughter.)
SANDERS: Hopefully these aren’t as tough as Bring Your Kids to Work Day questions.
Q At my school, we recently had a lockdown drill. One thing that affects mine and other students’ mental health is the worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school. Specifically, can you tell me what the administration has done and will do to prevent these senseless tragedies?
SANDERS: I think that as a kid, and certainly as a parent, there is nothing that could be more terrifying for a kid to go to school and not feel safe. So I’m sorry that you feel that way.
This administration takes it seriously. And the School Safety Commission that the President convened is meeting this week, again, an official meeting to discuss the best ways forward and how we can do every single thing within our power to protect kids in our schools and to make them feel safe and make their parents feel good about dropping them off.
Q Sarah, you mentioned Bob Iger a moment ago and asked where is his apology to the White House for criticism of the President and some of the incidents that you cite. Has anyone at the White House been in touch with Bob Iger or anyone at ABC on those incidents in specific and the cancellation of the Roseanne program, specifically, as well?
SANDERS: I’m not aware of any specific or direct conversations. Andrew.
Q Thank you very much. You talked about denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula being the subject of discussion — the main subject of discussion in Singapore. Does that include the positioning of U.S. nuclear bombers and submarines that aren’t necessarily on the Peninsula but cover the Peninsula, as it were?
SANDERS: I’m not going to get into the details or negotiate that here. Certainly, our focus is going be on total denuclearization of the Peninsula and verifiable confirmation of that. Beyond that, I can’t get into any details.
Q When you talk about that, you’re talking about North Korea, though, not U.S. weapons systems, correct?
SANDERS: Correct. Yeah.
One last question. Saagar.
Q Sarah, has the President received any classified briefing on the details of the intelligence that were presented to Trey Gowdy? And if he still believes that there is cause for concern, why doesn’t he just declassify the documents?
SANDERS: The President receives a number of classified briefings, but I’m not going to get into those. Certainly, not here and not today.
Thanks so much, guys. And we look forward to seeing you guys here in a few minutes at the Sports Fitness Day.
3:09 P.M. EDT