Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders en route Washington, D.C., 8/30/2017
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Washington, D.C.
5:21 P.M. EDT
MS. SANDERS: Just a quick update -- and I’ll try to get you guys copies unless you get them in your inboxes -- about the time we land and I don't have time to turn around fast enough.
But the President, while we were in flight, spoke with King Salman from Saudi Arabia, and we put out a readout. But you guys wouldn’t have gotten that here in the last little bit.
He’s continued to do meetings and calls throughout the flight. We’ll keep you guys posted on any details on that, but we’ll jump right into questions beyond that.
Q The President tweeted this morning about extortion money to North Korea and said talks are not enough. What did he mean by that? Is he suggesting some kind of strike?
MS. SANDERS: The State Department has put out a statement on that, and I would refer to you to that; I think it explains that pretty well.
Q But Sarah, is he saying that diplomacy is being abandoned?
MS. SANDERS: No. I mean, as we've said before, we're going to use all methods and that will continue to be one of them, but only a part of the integrated policy and plan moving forward.
Q Haley said yesterday that “something serious needs to happen” with North Korea. Does the President agree with that?
MS. SANDERS: I think the President has been very clear about his position on North Korea, certainly in his statement by saying all options are on the table, and that continues to be the case.
Q But "something serious needs to happen" is a little different from "all options are on the table." Does something serious need to happen in North Korea?
MS. SANDERS: Look, again, I think we've been taking serious action by putting strong sanctions, continuing to put pressure across the board, and weighing our options. And when we make a -- you know, the President makes a decision about next steps, we'll certainly keep you guys in the loop on that front.
Q Sarah, we didn't really have a chance to ask you about it when he said it, but Steve Bannon, last week or maybe the week before, said that there was no military solution in North Korea -- kind of pointed out what would be a catastrophic loss of life if one was undertaken. Is that an opinion that the President shares?
MS. SANDERS: Again, I think the President has been pretty clear that he feels that there could be. And certainly, I think that if he was looking at that direction, he would be leaning heavily on people like General Mattis, the Department of Defense, and others.
Q Can I ask you about Harvey funding? There's some movement in Congress to maybe pass the CR and wrap up some Harvey funding in that, and then not include funding for the border wall. Is that something the President would support?
MS. SANDERS: Again, as I said to several of the folks traveling yesterday, we're looking at the best way to help the people of Texas, and we're going to continue pushing forward to make sure they get funding, and we'll see what that looks like as we move forward in the process and determine the next best steps.
Q Does he still feel like a shutdown might be appropriate given the events in Texas and Louisiana?
MS. SANDERS: As he said earlier this week, he doesn't see those things tied to one another.
Q What did he mean by he had seen the horror and devastation firsthand?
MS. SANDERS: He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster. He talked extensively with the governor, who certainly is right in the midst of every bit of this, as well as the mayors from several of the local towns that were hit hardest. And detailed briefing information throughout the day yesterday talking to a lot of the people on the ground -- that certainly is a firsthand account.
Q You said yesterday you would check if the President or the First Lady had made a personal donation to hurricane relief. Have you gotten anything back on that?
MS. SANDERS: No, I know they're looking into some different options.
Q There was a report that the President turned down a couple offers from China to reduce its steel capacity by 150 million tons. Is that accurate?
MS. SANDERS: I'm not aware of that, so I certainly can't comment right now.
Q Sarah, why did the President not mention Gary Cohn today from the stage?
MS. SANDERS: It's pretty standard practice for us not to specifically call out staff. He regularly mentions Cabinet members but very rarely mentions staff in speeches.
Q But he mentioned his daughter and he mentioned Kelly.
MS. SANDERS: His daughter, I think, in this case, would be a little bit different. But again, it's pretty standard practice for him to mention specific Cabinet members.
But I mean, you know, a lot of times when he talks about foreign policy and different things like that, he doesn't necessarily call out National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster even though he plays a very integral role in that process.
Q What's different about Ivanka? You say she's a little bit different in this case.
MS. SANDERS: Well, I mean, he was also recognizing her as his daughter. So I think that's a little hard to separate in that sense.
Q So we shouldn't read anything into that about their relationship? How are they getting along? The rumors about Gary --
MS. SANDERS: Well, look, Gary is here. The President is here. They're both working hard and extremely committed to providing tax relief for middle-class America. The President has made very clear this is a top priority for him, for his administration, and Gary is one of the people leading the charge in that effort for him and will continue to do that.
Q On DACA, I know that you guys said that you were reviewing it, but also the President has talked about how this is a tough one for him -- between the kids and between the law, and is it -- the legality, is it constitutional. Does the review of the program also include talking to his advisors, talking to stakeholders on what they think about the program?
MS. SANDERS: They've taken a lot of accounts, certainly, into this process. This has been a very lengthy review and it's certainly not over. It's something that is still being discussed and a final decision hasn't been made.
Q Does the President still think that tax reform can get done by the end of the year?
MS. SANDERS: I think he certainly, for the American people, hopes so. This is, again, like I just said, a top priority for the administration. But not just for the administration but for all of America. The ability to give pay raises and pay increases to people across the country, particularly the middle class -- to really help those people out is something that the President campaigned on, talked about, and is extremely committed to. And it's something we certainly hope to see by the end of the year.
And, hopefully Congress will get on board. Frankly, I think it's really sad if they don’t. If they are not here to help the American people, then maybe they should look into doing something else.
Q Well, on that point, a big part of the speech today was about unity. How does it inspire bipartisanship when he takes aim -- levels a political threat at the home-state senator?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I would hardly call a political threat not asking all members of Congress to step up and do their job. It's not a political threat when you ask a member of Congress to do their job. And if you don't, you shouldn't get to keep it.
I mean, I think if you didn't do your job at the Wall Street Journal, they'd certainly fire you and they should. If I didn't do my job, I should expect to get fired. If Congress doesn't do their job, they shouldn't get to keep it.
Q Sarah, can you explain when the President said that under President Obama, there had never been quarterly 3 percent GDP growth? That's happened multiple times under President Obama. What was he referring to?
MS. SANDERS: Do you know where that was? I'm sorry, I just didn't see that today. Was that --
Q That was in his speech today.
MS. SANDERS: I'll have to look into that. I must have missed that specific --
Q Both in the background call yesterday and the speech today, the President is going to be talking a lot about the corporate tax rate. Is he still committed to lowering the individual tax rates?
MS. SANDERS: He certainly still wants to help create jobs and that's one way to do that. And we're looking for, as he said many times before, both during the campaign and as President, every opportunity we can find to create jobs and increase wages we're going to do that.
Q What was the magazine cover that the President tweeted about this morning?
MS. SANDERS: I'll have to ask. I'm not sure, Justin. I'll take one more so I don't fall on Bender when we land.
Q Is it Congress's job to follow the President's orders and support whatever he says, as far as tax plans go?
MS. SANDERS: It's Congress's job to do what the American people are asking them to do, and I don't think you'll find an American, probably, anywhere in this country that doesn't want tax reform, that doesn't want a more simplified process, that doesn't want more money in their pockets.
Look, the American people know that they can spend their money a whole lot better than the government can. They'd like to keep more of it. If you can find somebody that doesn't want that, you let me know, because I'd be really surprised.
So it's not just that the President, although he is laying out an extremely bold and optimistic vision for the country -- Americans have demanded this. This is what they want. This is one of the reasons they elected Donald Trump, and frankly it's one of the reasons they probably elected a lot of the members of Congress. If you go back and look at most of their past statements, they probably campaigned on reforming the tax code, making things better for the American people, and this is one of the biggest ways that they can do that.
Q One last one -- I'll catch you if you fall here -- does the President have confidence in Secretary Tillerson?
MS. SANDERS: Absolutely. I answered this question yesterday. Thanks, guys.
5:29 P.M. EDT