James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:12 P.M. EDT
MS. SANDERS: It’s good to see everybody. I missed you. Good afternoon. In keeping with his campaign pledge, the President continues to donate his salary on a quarterly basis to further important priorities. Today, President Trump is proud to donate his 2018 second-quarter salary to the Small Business Administration.
Administrator Linda McMahon is here to accept the check. I’d like to bring her up to say a few words about how the funds will be used. Thank you so much.
ADMINISTRATOR MCMAHON: Great.
MS. SANDERS: Here’s the check for you.
ADMINISTRATOR MCMAHON: Thank you very much. This is awesome.
Well, I would like to thank the President for his generosity and for his support of the Small Business Administration. He clearly understands the value of small businesses. There are approximately 30 million of them in this country, and I’m very happy to be their advocate.
This money is going to be used in our veterans program. We’re going to establish a seven-month intensive training program called “Emerging Leaders.” It’s an adaptation of that program for our veterans, helping them transition from military life into private sector if they desire to start their own jobs and their own companies, and be entrepreneurs.
So, once again, we thank the President very much for this and it will be put to very good use. Thank you all very much.
MS. SANDERS: Thank you, Administrator McMahon. Now I’d like to bring up National Security Advisor, Ambassador John Bolton, to discuss the withdrawal from the Optional Protocol on Dispute Resolution to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. He’ll take some questions after some remarks, and then I’ll be up to take questions of the day.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Thank you, Sarah.
Earlier today, Secretary of State Pompeo made a very important announcement regarding the President’s decision to terminate the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran — a treaty Iran made a mockery of with its support for terrorism, provocative ballistic missiles proliferation, and malign behavior throughout the Middle East.
Today’s decision by the International Court of Justice was a defeat for Iran. It correctly rejected nearly all of Iran’s requests, but we are disappointed that the ICJ failed to recognize that it has no jurisdiction to issue any order with respect to sanctions the United States imposes to protect its own essential security under the treaty.
Instead, the court allowed Iran to use it as a forum for propaganda. The Iranian regime has systematically pursued a policy of hostility toward the United States that defames the central premise of the Treaty of Amity. The regime cannot practice animosity in its conduct and then ask for amity under international law.
In addition to the Treaty of Amity, I am announcing that the President has decided that the United States will withdraw from the Optional Protocol and Dispute Resolution to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This is in connection with a case brought by the so-called “State of Palestine,” naming the United States as a defendant, challenging our move of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
I’d like to stress: The United States remains a party to the underlying Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and we expect all other parties to abide by their international obligations under the Convention.
Our actions today are consistent with the decisions President Reagan made in the 1980s in the wake of the politicized suits against the United States by Nicaragua to terminate our acceptance of the Optional Compulsory Jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice under Article 36(2) of the ICJ statute and his decision to withdraw from a bilateral treaty with Nicaragua.
It is also consistent with the decision President Bush made in 2005 to withdraw from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations following the ICJ’s interference in our domestic criminal justice system.
So our actions today deal with the treaties and current litigation involving the United States before the International Court of Justice. Given this history and Iran’s abuse of the ICJ, we will commence a review of all international agreements that may still expose the United States to purported binding jurisdiction dispute resolution in the International Court of Justice. The United States will not sit idly by as baseless, politicized claims are brought against us.
That concludes the statement. I’d be happy to try and answer a few questions. Yes, sir.
Q Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. In response to the actions that you’ve just announced, Iran’s foreign minister has called the U.S. “an outlaw regime.” I wanted to get your reaction to that.
And I also wanted to ask you, if I may, Mr. Ambassador, about North Korea with the announcement that the Secretary of State is going to be traveling to Pyongyang. Do you trust Kim Jong Un? Do you personally trust Kim Jong Un?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, with respect to questions outside the scope of our withdrawal from these two treaties, I’m going to pass on those because we want to emphasize the steps that the President authorized in connection with those two treaties.
You know, Iran is a rogue regime. It has been a threat throughout the Middle East not only for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, but it’s acted for decades as the central banker of international terrorism. And its hostile and aggressive military behavior in the region today is a breach of international peace and security. So I don’t take what they say seriously at all.
Q Thank you, Ambassador. Two questions for you. First, on Treaty of Amity: Are there any practical effects for Iran in their ability to keep an interests section here in the United States, first off?
And second, are you at all concerned about — is the United States — is the President concerned about the message this sends to the people of Iran, sort of cancelling this Treaty of Amity — that this could be used by the Iranian government for domestic purposes, for propaganda against the United States?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, look. Our dispute is with the ayatollahs who have taken Iran from a respected position in the international community to being a rogue state. Our dispute has never been with the people of Iran. We only wish they had the ability to control their own government.
Q And then on the interests section part?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, it won’t have any effect on that.
Q Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Cancelling those two treaties — I’m trying to figure out what are the open paths for potential talks do you still have with Iran and, actually, the Palestinians?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Look, this is really — has less to do with Iran and the Palestinians than with the continued consistent policy of the United States to reject the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, which we think is politicized and ineffective. It relates, obviously, in part, to our views on the International Criminal Court and to the nature of so-called purported international courts to be able to bind the United States.
Q (Inaudible) is closing doors in the end. You won’t be able to use —
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: It’s closing doors that shouldn’t be opened to politicized abuse, which is what we’ve consistently seen in the ICJ.
Q Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. As you know, yesterday, the French government denounced the Iranian government for a terror plot in Paris against the National Council of Iranian Resistance, the leading group opposing the ayatollahs. You’re aware of that — was that a factor in any of the decisions that you’ve made withdrawing from these two protocols?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: No, these decisions were made before we were aware of the French decision. But I have to say, what the French have done is exactly the right thing. They arrested, and other European governments arrested accredited Iranian diplomats — accredited Iranian diplomats — for conspiracy to conduct this attempted assault on the rally in Paris. So that tells you, I think, everything you need to know about how the government of Iran views its responsibilities in connection with diplomatic relations. And I hope it’s a wake-up call across Europe to the nature of the regime and the threat that they pose.
Q Are these actions ramping up tensions between the United States and Iran? And what is our intelligence when it comes to their systems, their nuclear weapons, et cetera — at this moment?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I’m not going to get into the — what our intelligence states, but the issue is protecting the United States against the politicized use of these international institutions.
As I’ve said, this goes back, now, close to over 30 years really, in connection with U.S. policy of rejecting jurisdiction of these courts. And it’s a continuation, I think, in the interests of the American people.
Q So does this further divide any kind of attempt to try to come together on what was prior to trying to work with them in closing —
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: They’re bringing a lawsuit against us, and the ICJ has nothing whatever to do to a diplomatic effort to resolve our differences. It was a politicized use of the court that exacerbated the differences.
Q Can you respond to the Iranian Foreign Minister saying that the U.S. is driven by regime change? How do you respond to that?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I’ll say it again — maybe he’ll listen this time — our policy is not regime change, but we do expect substantial change in their behavior. That’s why the President has directed all of us in the government to come up with steps to re-impose the economic sanctions and to do whatever else is necessary to ensure we bring maximum pressure on the regime to stop its malign behavior across the board — not just in the nuclear field, but across the board.
Q And given that the EU and other partners are still a part of the nuclear deal, does it make the United States’ efforts to try to force Iran to abandon or at least try to dismantle its nuclear program any weaker? In other words, what — how much leverage do you have at this point?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: I don’t think Iran is dismantling its nuclear program. If anything, recent reports that are public indicate that it’s increasing its activity.
Q So how do you convince them if you don’t have the EU partners onboard?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think we’re going to apply the maximum amount of leverage we can. We’re working with our European partners, with the British, the French, the Germans, and others. They have chosen to remain in the Iran nuclear deal. But as I’ve said to them, it’s like a book that was written several decades ago in this country — it was called something like the “Six Stages of Grief.” You know, first you have denial, then you have anger. Eventually, you get to acceptance. And I think that’s the direction the Europeans are moving in.
I can tell you, European companies, in droves, are forswearing business opportunities in Iran because they don’t want to be caught up in the pressure campaign that we’re applying.
Q Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. You just addressed Palestine and said it is a “so-called state.” Is that language productive in achieving the President’s —
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: It’s accurate.
Q So — when the President recommitted to —
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: It is not a state.
Q — the President, in New York City, as you know, recommitted his goal to achieving a two-state solution.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: That’s right.
Q So, is using that sort of language productive in his goal?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Yeah, sure. Of course. It’s not a state now. It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood. It doesn’t control defined boundaries. It doesn’t fulfill the normal functions of government. There are a whole host of reasons why it’s not a state. It could become a state, as the President said, but that requires diplomatic negotiations with Israel and others.
So, calling it the “so-called State of Palestine” defines exactly what it has been: a position that the United States government has pursued uniformly since 1988, when the Palestinian Authority declared itself to be the State of Palestine. We don’t recognize it as the State of Palestine. We have consistently — across Democratic and Republican administrations, opposed the admission of Palestine to the United Nations as a state because it’s not a state.
Q A quick follow-up on that?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Sir.
Q Yes, sir. The IAEA is saying it doesn’t take at face value Netanyahu’s claims that Iran is harboring a secret atomic warehouse. Do you agree with the Israeli Prime Minister that this should — there should be an inspection? And what’s your reaction to Amano’s comments on this?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I haven’t seen those comments. I will say, we have been — our intelligence community has been reviewing the material that Israel extracted from Iran, and going over it in quite some detail. And I’ll say it’s extremely impressive. And we’ve been very supportive of the Israeli effort and supportive of the IAEA taking new steps to follow up on it.
The Senate just confirmed, a few days ago, Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, who will be taking up her new position as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. agencies in Vienna, specifically the International Atomic Energy Agency, and she’ll be on the job shortly, making our case there.
Q Thank you, sir. When the President came out in support of a two-state solution at the U.N. last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu responded that he’s confident Israel would retain security control of the West Bank under any White House plan. Is that correct? Or are you open to a Palestinian state with no security presence from Israel inside their borders?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: We’ve been working, as you well know, on a peace plan involving Israel and the Palestinians. We’ll be rolling it out in due course when we decide it’s the most appropriate time to do it. And I’m sure that will answer your question then.
And I see the lady with the hook over here. So —
MS. SANDERS: We’ll take one last question.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: So, yeah. I’m sorry, I actually did try and recognize this gentleman. I guess I didn’t point accurately enough. So my apologies.
Q Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Former Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, he has not met with the Iranians since the U.S. pulled out of the deal. But he has met with them on several occasions before. Do you think he violated the Logan Act by doing so? And was he subverting the policy of the United States?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, I think Secretary Pompeo addressed that previously, and I’ll stick with his remarks. Thank you very much.
MS. SANDERS: Thank you, Ambassador Bolton. A couple of quick reminders:
FEMA, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission will conduct a nationwide, integrated public alert and warning system test of the Emergency Alert System and the Wireless Emergency Alerts later today.
This will take place in two parts: The WEA portion starting at 2:18 p.m. Eastern, followed by the EAS portion at 2:20 p.m. Eastern. This is the first nationwide WEA test and the fourth for the EAS. The overall test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message, and determine whether technological improvements are needed.
Looking ahead to Monday, President Trump will travel to Orlando, Florida to address the International Association of Chiefs of Police. As the largest gathering of police leaders, the President will speak about the work of the administration to protect American communities by restoring law and order, supporting local law enforcement, and securing the border.
Lastly, on the night President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Senator Schumer declared the Democrats would oppose this nomination with everything they had. Before a single document was produced, a single meeting with the senator, or a hearing was ever scheduled, Chuck Schumer and the Senate Democrats telegraphed a strategy to throw the kitchen sink at the Judge with no regard for the process, decency, or standards. They’re not opposed to Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial views; they’re literally trying to undercut the voice of the American people when they elected Donald Trump.
They have questioned his legitimacy, and casually tossed around vicious accusations of perjury — all false and baseless. But now they’ve sunk lower, as they sprang these 11th-hour accusations and a full-scale assault on Judge Kavanaugh’s integrity.
This is a coordinated smear campaign. No evidence, no independent corroboration, just smears. Here are just a few of the examples:
Chuck Schumer said, and I quote, “There’s no presumption of innocence or guilt.” Chris Coons, who sits on the committee, said Kavanaugh, and I quote, “now bears the burden of disproving these allegations, rather than Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez.” Mazie Hirono, who also sits on the Committee, said that Judge Kavanaugh does not deserve the presumption of innocence because of his judicial views.
One thing is clear: Democrats want to block Kavanaugh and hold the seat open until the 2020 election. This is about politics and this is about power — pure and simple. And they’ve destroyed Judge Kavanaugh’s reputation, undermined Dr. Ford’s privacy, and tried to upend our traditions of innocence until proven guilty in the process. It’s a complete and total disgrace.
We will receive and submit the FBI’s supplemental background investigation on his nomination to the Senate. As Leader McConnell said, Judge Kavanaugh deserves a prompt vote and we expect him to get one. And with that, I’ll take your questions.
Q Sarah, the three people who are most important in this whole process are Senators Murkowski, Collins, and Flake. This morning, two of those Senators — Flake and Collins — were extremely upset about how the President described Christine Blasey Ford at that rally in Mississippi. Knowing how sensitive this issue is and how important it would be if the FBI investigation shows no other compelling evidence to keep Judge Kavanaugh from the court that these people need to be comfortable with voting for him, why did the President say what he did last night in the way that said it?
MS. SANDERS: The President was stating the facts — and, frankly, facts that were included in special prosecutor Rachel Mitchell’s report. He was stating facts that were given during Dr. Ford’s testimony. And the Senate has to make a decision based those on facts and whether or not they see Judge Kavanaugh to be qualified to hold the position on the Supreme Court. Every single word Judge Kavanaugh has said has been picked apart. Every single word, second by second, of his testimony has been picked apart.
Yet if anybody says anything about the accusations that have been thrown against them, that’s totally off limits and outrageous. This entire process has been a disgrace, and the only reason that it’s been that way is because Senate Democrats didn’t do this the way that it should’ve been done and they circumvented the entire system. And, frankly, they’ve undermined our entire judicial branch by the way that they’ve acted and the inappropriateness with which they’ve conducted themselves.
Q Well, pointing out inconsistencies —
MS. SANDERS: Sorry, go ahead.
Q Pointing out inconsistencies in testimonies is one thing. But the tone with which the President did it last night clearly had an effect on two key swing votes for his nomination. Is the President concerned that he may have put those votes in danger by doing what he did last night?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t think so. The President is very confident in his nominee, as he’s stated time and time again. And we expect the Senate to vote, and we hope they do that soon.
Q Two quick questions and then I’ll come back to Kavanaugh. First, does the White House have any response to the reported mailings of Ricin to Pentagon officials? And also the President — has the President been briefed on this investigation? Any updates?
MS. SANDERS: The President has certainly been made aware. But as we stated yesterday, I would refer you to the U.S. Secret Service to respond to those.
Q Do you have any update on the President’s meeting with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that was supposed to be held last week? Does the President still have confidence with him?
MS. SANDERS: Again, we don’t have any updates on that front. If there’s a meeting, we’ll let you know. But at this point, they continue to work together and both show up every day and do their jobs.
Q And just one more back on Kavanaugh. You said a couple minutes ago — you criticized Democrats for undermining Dr. Ford’s privacy, and when the President referred her last night, aren’t you there trying to have it both ways — by sort of attacking Democrats for doing something that wasn’t in your interest, and then the President was out onstage last night, essentially mocking her testimony?
MS. SANDERS: Not at all. We’re pointing out the hypocrisy. Again, none of these this would be taking place if Democrats had done this in a normal order, and not exploited Dr. Ford and attacked Judge Kavanaugh in such a public manner. All of this could have been handled completely differently. And the Senate Democrats hold all of the responsibility for that process.
Q The New York Times reported yesterday that the President had engaged in outright tax fraud throughout the ‘90s with suspect tax schemes, and — you know, basically getting more money from his parents than he said, using thousands of documents. You rebutted the story. Can you explain what is inaccurate about that story — if there’s anything that is actually inaccurate about it?
MS. SANDERS: It’s a totally false attack, based on an old recycled news story. I’m not going to sit and go through every single line of a very boring, 14,000-word story.
Q Can you give us anything —
MS. SANDERS: The only thing — I will say, one thing the article did get right, was that it showed that the President’s father actually had a great deal of confidence in him. In fact, the President brought his father into a lot of deals and they made a lot of money together, so much so that his father went on to say that everything he touched turned to gold.
The President’s lawyer addressed some of the specific claims and walked through how the allegations of fraud and tax evasion are 100-percent false and highly defamatory. There was no fraud or tax evasion by anyone.
He went on much further and I would encourage you to read every word of his statement, which completely undercuts the accusations made by the New York Times.
Q Are the President’s taxes still under audit?
MS. SANDERS: I know that a number of his taxes are still under audit.
Q Are the ones from the ’90s and the early-2000s — are those as?
MS. SANDERS: I’d have to check and get back to you.
Q Would the White House be willing to provide any of his tax returns?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of any plans to do so.
Q Thank you, Sarah. It was just a couple of days ago that the President called Christine Blasey Ford “a very credible witness.” A “very credible,” “very compelling” — but now he’s basically making her out to be a liar, so which is it?
MS. SANDERS: Certainly the testimony by Dr. Ford was compelling, but you can’t make this decision based on emotion. It has to be based on fact. They have to determine what the facts are of this case. That’s one of the reasons that they asked and begged for the FBI and delayed a hearing vote, is so that they could get more facts on this case.
We expect the FBI to turn those facts over to the Senate and they can make a determination based on that. That’s all we’re asking for.
Q You said that he was stating the facts at that campaign rally, but this was so much more than stating the facts. This was a full-scale campaign rally assault on a woman who says she is victim of sexual assault. But what do you get out of that? Is that to help Kavanaugh’s nomination? Is this to rally the base? Is this going to help with the midterms? Like what’s the point in doing that?
MS. SANDERS: Again, I dispute that it wasn’t anything other than the President stating facts — in fact, facts that were laid out in the prosecutor’s memo that she put forward to the Senate.
Each of the things that he called out were things that were laid out in that memo.
Q Thanks, Sarah. There’s conflicting feelings on Capitol Hill right now over whether the FBI investigation into Judge Kavanaugh should be made public or not. Does the White House commit to transparency on this effort and let the American people see the full reign of this investigation, regardless of the findings?
MS. SANDERS: Look, we’ve been very open and transparent through the process. The President is the one that ordered the FBI investigation to take place and has allowed the Senate to actually control and dictate the terms and scope of the investigation. We’re continuing to do that and allowing the FBI to actually do what it is they do best, and that’s their jobs to do this investigation.
Q Another question for you, if I may, on declassification, since we haven’t spoken in a while. The President has said that —
MS. SANDERS: I missed you guys too. (Laughter.)
Q The President said that he would refer the declassification process to the DOJ inspector general, but he wants to see that happen quickly. What does “quickly” mean? Are we going to see these documents before the midterm elections?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not going to walk through a timeline, but we’re continuing to work through that process. And when we have an update on it, we’ll certainly let you know.
Q Sarah, why did you say earlier this year that Michael Cohen was acting on his own in an arbitration proceeding to prevent Stormy Daniels from doing a television interview when the President actually directed that move?
MS. SANDERS: As you know, I’m not going to get into a back-and-forth. That’s an issue for the President’s outside counsel. I’d direct you there to answer it.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Two brief questions: First, the impact and meaning of the President’s comments in Mississippi notwithstanding, it is a fact that Senators Collins, Murkowski, Flake, and Manchin are the undecided votes critical to the nomination. Are there any plans for the President to call any of them between now and next week and make one final pitch? Perhaps explain his remarks a little bit more.
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of a specific scheduled call. But we’ve certainly been in close contact with a number of members, and we’ll continue to do so up until the vote.
Q The other thing I was going to ask was, two of the President’s early supporters in the House — Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California — are running under indictment. There are rules of the National Republican Congressional Committee barring support for members who are under indictment. Does the President still support both of them for reelection?
MS. SANDERS: I can’t get into a lot of details, one, for Hatch Act violation, but also, with an ongoing investigation, I’m not going to be able to comment on that from up here.
Q Yes, Sarah. Thank you. As this briefing was beginning, Bloomberg put out an article about the FBI background investigation. And Bloomberg is reporting right now that the FBI hasn’t interviewed Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford because the White House hasn’t given investigators clear authority to do so. Is that indeed the case?
MS. SANDERS: As we’ve said several times, the President has indicated that whoever the FBI deems necessary to interview, he’s fine with that. But he’s also asked that the Senate be the ones that determine the scope of what they need in order to make a decision on whether they vote Kavanaugh up or down.
I can also tell you that both Kavanaugh — Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford were questioned in the most public way possible by the members of the Senate who are ultimately the ones who have to make the determination on whether or not they vote for Judge Kavanaugh. If they had additional questions for either one of them, they had a time and an opportunity certainly to ask those.
Q Does the White House believe it is appropriate then —
MS. SANDERS: Ayesha — sorry?
Q Does the White House believe it is appropriate for these two — I know you’re saying that the FBI —
MS. SANDERS: Again, we’re going to allow the Senate to make the determination of the scope.
MS. SANDERS: Ayesha, go ahead.
Q Thank you. So President Trump talked a lot yesterday about this issue of being concerned about men being guilty before — being thought guilty before proven innocent and this idea of due process.
But in the past, with the Central Park Five, he put out an ad basically calling for the death penalty before they had been found convicted. And even after they were exonerated, he still basically said that they may be guilty. And, even as President, he has talked about — presided over rallies where people say, “Lock her up,” talking about Hillary Clinton. So I guess, is there a disconnect between when the President is interested in due process for some, but not for others?
MS. SANDERS: Not at all. The President actually encouraged the Senate to hear Dr. Ford’s testimony in the same way he encouraged them to hear Judge Kavanaugh’s. He is simply stating the fact that we are a country of law and order, we are a country that still believes that you’re innocent until proven guilty, and we want to see that process go through in its entirety. And it should be on a fair playing field. That’s simply the only point he’s making.
Q (Inaudible) guilty. He said —
MS. SANDERS: Sorry.
Q He said the Central Park Five was guilty.
Q And he — does he feel that now?
MS. SANDERS: I’d have to look back at those specific comments.
Q But that’s a real question in the midst of this. The President has taken this moment —
MS. SANDERS: Sorry, Dave, go ahead.
Q This President has taken this moment to say that he’s been affected personally by all of these allegations, and he’s picking and choosing — just as this question was. He said the Central Five — Park Five was guilty, and then he has made Bill Clinton guilty. Has he decided to change his mind on the Central Park Five, as they have been exonerated?
MS. SANDERS: It’s interesting that you bring up Bill Clinton. Nobody wants to hear those accusers’ voices be heard, but you’re certainly happy to hear all the others.
Dave, go ahead.
Q No, he had them — the President had them at the debate.
MS. SANDERS: I addressed this. I don’t have anything else to add.
Q The President had them at the debate.
MS. SANDERS: Dave, go ahead.
Q Is he still talking to them?
Q Thank you, Sarah. Several times in the last week, the President has tried to reassure voters that he’ll protect people with preexisting conditions from losing their health insurance. Is that a sign that he’s worried Republicans are losing the argument on healthcare in this election?
MS. SANDERS: I think it’s a sign that the President wants to protect people with preexisting health conditions. I think it’s pretty simple. He said that he supports that, and he wants to make sure that that’s not something that gets lost.
Q Sarah, I wanted to go back to this — I mean, it was pretty obvious that the President was mocking Christine Blasey Ford last night. He said:
“How did you get home?” “I don’t remember.” “How did you get there?” “I don’t remember.” “Where is this place?” “I don’t remember.”
He seemed to be, to the delight of the crowd there in Mississippi, mocking her repeatedly. Isn’t there something wrong with the President of the United States mocking somebody who says she was sexually assaulted?
MS. SANDERS: It seemed to me that he was stating facts that Dr. Ford, herself, laid out in her testimony. Once again, every single word that Judge Kavanaugh has said has been looked at, examined, picked apart by most of you in this room, but not — no one is looking at whether or not the accusations made are corroborated, whether or not there’s evidence to support them.
Every person that she named has come out and said either they didn’t recall it, or it didn’t happen, or they weren’t there. Every single bit of evidence and facts that we’ve seen in this moment have supported Judge Kavanaugh’s case. And the President is simply pointing out the facts of the matter. And that is what the Senate will have to use to determine whether or not they vote to support him or not.
Q Are you saying Judge Kavanaugh —
MS. SANDERS: Jon.
Q — are you saying Judge Kavanaugh is the victim in all this?
MS. SANDERS: I think both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh are victims at the hands of the Democrats. I think it is absolutely disgraceful what they’ve done and exploited this process. They exploited Dr. Ford. They’re exploiting all of the women that have come out to make any type of accusation.
This is isn’t the process that should have been done. And certainly, everybody deserves to be heard. But that includes Judge Kavanaugh, and that should be part of this process. And the facts have to be looked at. And I think you have to look at the prosecutor’s memo. Those are where you see all of those facts laid out, and I think she makes a very compelling case.
Q And you don’t have any problem at all with defending the President’s comments last night?
MS. SANDERS: Jon, go ahead.
Q You don’t have any problem defending the President’s comments last night?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t have any problem stating facts. No.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Just five days ago —
MS. SANDERS: I know that’s something you probably do have a problem with, but I don’t.
Q Actually, Sarah, we do state the facts, and I think there have been many occasions when you don’t state the facts, if I may respond.
MS. SANDERS: John, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Just five days ago on Friday, the President, when asked about Dr. Ford’s testimony before the Senate, said that “she was a very credible witness.” And we saw a different tone, a different substance last night in those remarks to that campaign rally audience in Mississippi. Why the change in tone? And does the President still believe what he said on Friday that “she was a very credible witness”?
MS. SANDERS: I’ve addressed this a number of times. The President also said she had a “very compelling” story. And nobody disagrees with that —
Q (Inaudible) the credible —
MS. SANDERS: Hold on —
Q — the credible part.
MS. SANDERS: And nobody disagrees with that. But the President is simply stating the facts that she laid out in her own testimony and that the prosecutor laid out in her memo. At the end of the day, the Senate has to make a decision on where they stand.
I’ll take one last question. Weijia, go ahead.
Q But to the point about whether he believes she is still credible — does he still — but does the President still believe that Dr. Ford’s testimony was credible when she testified under oath in the Senate hearing?
MS. SANDERS: The President believes that Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed. He has a lot of confidence in him and he’d like to see a vote to see that happen.
Q Thank you, Sarah. A couple questions. President Trump has seemed to link the credibility of a claim with how much time has passed since the individual made it. President Trump has also called the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church “very sad,” but many of those victims waited decades before coming forward. Why does the President seem to assume men who are claiming abuse but wait to come forward are telling the truth, but not women?
MS. SANDERS: That’s just completely untrue. The President has supported, again, throughout this entire process, Dr. Ford’s ability to come forward and tell her story. He’s the one that ordered the FBI to do a background — further supplemental background check to look into each of the accusations and allegations that the Senate deems necessary before making a vote. He’s also been more than happy to give a platform to the accusers that have come out against then-President Bill Clinton. To say that he’s never sided with women is just ridiculous
Q No, but he has implied that they’re coming out of the woodwork all of a sudden and cited that as a reason why, even though he has called for an investigation, even though —
MS. SANDERS: He’s saying that because after Judge Kavanaugh has been in public service and in the public eye for over 26 years, been through six backgrounds investigation — now part of a seventh — that this is the first time you’re ever hearing of any of these allegations.
The fact that, through all of those background checks, not even an inkling of any of those things has ever come up, despite the fact he was one of the top prosecutors for Ken Starr and in a major public position, none of these things came up. When he was nominated to be on the federal bench, none of these things came up.
He has been a public figure, and there has been a lot of opportunity for people to raise this issue, and it never has. And now, at the 11th hour, the Democrats have exploited this process and done so publicly. And it’s a shame, and he’s simply calling that out.
Thanks so much guys. We’ll see you soon.
1:46 P.M. EDT