Aboard Air Force One
En Route Joint Base Andrews
4:01 P.M. EST
MR. SPICER: Hi guys, how are you? Hope you had a great day. I want to start off by congratulating the five-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. It was a great day for football last night. And the President looks forward to welcoming the New England Patriots to the White House later this year.
As you know, during the weekend, the President spoke to four world leaders. On Saturday, he spoke with Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni, during which they discussed strengthening cooperation around a large range of shared interests. The President also agreed to attend the G7 meeting in May, where he looks forward to meeting with the Prime Minister on the sidelines.
Also on Saturday, the President spoke with Ukrainian President Poroshenko, addressing a variety of topics, including Ukraine’s long-running conflict with Russia. They also discussed plans for an in-person meeting in the future.
On Sunday, the President had a call with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, where he reiterated the United States’ interest in (inaudible) NATO. The two leaders agreed to continue close coordination and cooperation to discuss the full range of security issues facing NATO and its member countries.
Following that call, the President spoke with New Zealand Prime Minister English, affirming the close relationship between the two countries and our appreciation for New Zealand’s significant contributions to international peace.
You guys, as you saw this afternoon, the President had an opportunity to visit with leaders of both SOCOM and CENTCOM to get an update on the issues facing our military and the hotspots around the world, the challenges we face, and the actions that our brave men and women around the globe are taking to help keep this country safe. The President obviously had a chance to sit down with enlisted members of our military after that, and hear from them their concerns and issues, and, most importantly, thank them for their service to our nation.
Tomorrow, we have a delegation that is heading out to attend the inauguration of the Haitian President in Port-au-Prince. The State Department’s Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Tom Shannon, will lead the delegation, which includes representatives from both the State Department and the White House.
The President is also looking forward to welcoming the Prime Minister of Japan this Friday, and we’ll have further guidance on that visit this weekend.
With that, I’ll take a few questions. Steve.
Q Can you give us an example of a terrorist attack anywhere that the news media has not reported on?
MR. SPICER: We’ll provide a list later. There’s several instances. And the President, again, got a great update today on the fight against ISIS that’s going on throughout the region and what our military is facing throughout this globe, trying to combat ISIS. But there’s a lot of instances that have occurred where I don’t think that they’ve gotten the coverage it’s deserved, and I think that’s what the President was clearly referring to there.
Q Are you rethinking your strategy toward this executive order? What’s your next step in pushing this ahead?
MR. SPICER: We’re not rethinking the strategy at all. I think the court has asked both parties to present their cases. Remember, what we’re discussing right now has nothing to do with the merits of the order. The law is very clear on this, that the President has huge discretion to protect the safety of the American people and our nation’s institutions with respect to who can come into this country. This is just purely on the injunction that the judge issued, and I think that we’re going to make that case tonight — or he’s got — both sides have put forward their rulings.
But again, when you look at the case in Massachusetts — or the judge in Massachusetts, clearly the law is on the President’s side. The Constitution is on the President’s side. He has broad discretion to do what’s in the nation’s best interests to protect our people. And we feel very confident that we will prevail in this matter.
Q But you’re not thinking about withdrawing the executive order or rewriting it?
MR. SPICER: No, no, no. This law — this executive order was done in the best interest of protecting the American people. And I think this is something that has broad support from the American people from one coast to another, and we’re going to continue to do what we have to. And this President is committed to making sure that the country and its people are safe.
Q Sean, the President over the weekend said that he believed that jihadis were now pouring into the country. Is there any evidence to suggest that that’s true? Is that what intelligence is telling him?
MR. SPICER: I think part of the reason he issued the order the way he did was to ensure that people didn’t have an advance notice, and he protected the country and ensured that we have an idea of who’s coming in and out of the country.
Q Is anybody coming in?
MR. SPICER: I’m not going to get into specific information that the President has. Needless to say, again, that his number-one priority is to do what he can to keep the American people safe.
Q John Yoo, who was obviously a major figure in the Bush administration, who spoke about — was a big proponent of executive authority, today wrote in The New York Times about his concerns about the way that the new administration is taking action. What do you say to him?
MR. SPICER: Well, again, I think if you look at Secretary Kelly’s comments from last week, this was an action that was fully coordinated through departments to make sure that everyone understood what we’re going to do, to make sure it was compliant, and that it was in the best interest of keeping America safe.
Mr. Yoo has obviously spent some time in the Justice Department, and I think he should understand better than anybody that we did — we took all the necessary steps and did it in a way that protected country.
Q You said — just to be clear — before you said that, you’re going to follow up later with the unreported terrorist — were they unreported or under-reported?
MR. SPICER: Under-reported.
Q And what are the reasons? The President said that we all know what the reasons are.
MR. SPICER: Look, I think the President’s comments were very clear at the time. He felt as though members of the media don’t always cover some of those events to the extent that other events might get covered; that a protest will get blown out of the water, and yet an attack or a foiled attack doesn’t necessarily get the same coverage.
He’s doing what he can to protect this nation and protect our people. And that’s why I think sometimes the polls don’t reflect what you see on the media. You see a wide degree of support for the President’s policies to protect this country, to create jobs, to grow the economy, and yet a lot of those stories and successes that he’s had in a mere two and a half weeks in office aren’t exactly covered to the degree to which they should be.
Q So he thinks that these terror attacks are under-reported to make him look bad?
MR. SPICER: No, that’s not what he said at all. I think his statement was very clear on that.
Q Do you have a plan to reinstate extreme vetting?
MR. SPICER: What?
Q Extreme vetting of refugees, do you have — is there a plan to reinstate it?
MR. SPICER: Reinstate it?
Q Reinstate, yes. After the ban has been overturned.
MR. SPICER: Once we win the case, it will go right back into action. We’re complying with the court. Once we prevail, it will go right back into action.
And again, part of that plan was a 90-day and 100-day plan respectively with respect to refugees and then people coming in to make sure that we took the steps and developed a further plan to protect the country. Whether we add people or go more stringently in other aspects is up to part of what is determined during that period.
Q Sean, can you elaborate a little bit on what the President said to Bill O’Reilly about the irregular voter registration list and what Vice President Pence is going to be doing on that?
MR. SPICER: I think he’s very clear that he is going to — he has named Vice President Pence to lead a task force that will look into this. But obviously when you see so many people that have registered in two states, that that presents a problem. There are people that have registered in two have died and been still on the rolls. I think we need to look into this to make sure that we’re protecting the integrity of the vote; that one person’s vote should count the same as the next. And any attempt to undermine that really undermines anyone else’s vote right now, and that’s the problem — is that we need to make sure that when somebody votes, that we have the highest degree of integrity of that counting.
Q Hey, Sean, when the President tweeted this morning — “I call my own shots” — was he referring to Steve Bannon’s role in the White House or his TIME magazine cover? What was he referring to?
MR. SPICER: It was nothing specific. But I think the President — there’s been a lot of attempts to discuss how this works. The President, from day one, back through the campaign and, frankly, his time as a successful businessman, always called the shots. He’s the decider. He’s the one who develops the policy. He’s the one who makes the decisions. And I think that there are so many times when you see things that don’t recognize that he is the guy that calls those shots. He develops the policies, he implements the policies, he makes the key decisions.
Q Just to follow up on that, The New York Times said this morning that you’re rethinking your strategy of how swiftly to roll out initiatives. Are you going to slow things down?
MR. SPICER: I would say that that story was so riddled with inaccuracies and lies that they owe the President an apology for the way that that thing was — there were just literally blatant factual errors. And it’s unacceptable to see that kind of reporting, or so-called reporting. That is literally the epitome of fake news.
Q What part of the story was the —
MR. SPICER: I mean, you start at the top — I don’t think the President owns a bathrobe, or definitely doesn’t wear one. There was no meetings in conference — I mean, it’s just — from top to bottom, it made up stories that just don’t exist. And I think that’s unfortunate for people that look to news institutions like that for their news because it is just not an accurate portrayal of what’s really happening.
Q Was the claim about whether he was briefed on the order — the makeup of the NSC?
MR. SPICER: What’s that?
Q The story talked about how the President was disappointed that he hadn’t been adequately briefed on Bannon taking —
MR. SPICER: The President is briefed on all aspects of —
Q So could you just address that specifically? What was he told and who briefed him on it?
MR. SPICER: I’m not going to get into detail, but I would say that the President is clearly aware of the policies that come out of the White House with his name on it. That is what I was getting at earlier to Steve. The President — when it comes to decisions and policy, it’s the President who leads, the President who tells us how to implement it.
Thank you guys very much. Enjoy the landing.
4:10 P.M. EST