White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer brief the media on the issues and events of the day and Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta discusses the administration’s apprenticeship initiative.
Full transcript of White House press briefing with Sean Spicer and Alex Acosta
MR. SPICER: Good afternoon. As youve all by now probably heard, the President is placing a big emphasis on workforce development. Secretary of Labor Acosta and Secretary of Education DeVos, along with the Presidents daughter, Ivanka, and Reed Cordish from the Office of American Innovation, have been deeply involved in this effort. And Secretary Acosta had the opportunity to address this issue just a few moments ago at the Presidents first meeting with his fully confirmed Cabinet.
So I’d like to kick it off by having Secretary Acosta come up, talk to you a little bit about this initiative, and take a few questions.
With that, Secretary Acosta.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Thank you, and good afternoon. I especially want to thank the work thats been done by Ivanka Trump and the Office of American Innovation to develop the proposals that we’ll be talking about this week. I’ll be traveling with her tomorrow to Wisconsin where we’ll be looking at some excellent programs. Her leadership on this issue has been invaluable.
As you know by now, the President will be making an important announcement regarding apprenticeships this week. He’ll be visiting the Department of Labor on Wednesday.
There are currently 6 million job openings in the United States — vacant jobs that can be filled. This is the highest number of job vacancies ever. A Business Roundtable survey released just last week found that 95 percent of executives reported problems finding qualified workers. Americans want to work. American companies want to hire. The issue is a mismatch between available jobs and prospective employees job skills.
This skills gap is a particular challenge in some of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy — healthcare and information technology. And it also persists in some of the more traditional sectors of the economy. There are currently 360,000 job vacancies in manufacturing. There are 200,000 job vacancies in construction. And with the upcoming plans for infrastructure, those job vacancies in construction are only going to increase.
Apprenticeships teach skills needed to bridge this skills gap. An apprenticeship combines a paid work component with an educational component. Apprentices earn while they learn, and in the process they largely avoid the substantial student debt that you see with higher education today.
The most obvious benefit of apprenticeships is a good job. Individuals who complete apprenticeship programs have an average starting salary of about $60,000 a year. Nine out of ten are employed upon completion of the programs. Both the starting salary and the employment rate are higher than that of traditional college graduates.
Apprenticeships are also going to increase to labor productivity. Apprentices hit the ground running. When they start a job, theyre more able, more productive, and tend to be more loyal to the employer. Despite these benefits, apprenticeships make only about 3 percent of the American workforce. This administration will expand apprentices across most, if not all, industries.
Higher education, too, should assume responsibility for promoting apprenticeships. Community colleges and four-year colleges have an obligation to work with students to educate them in skills they need to succeed. Demand-driven, experience-based education is not new. It’s used to some extent in the healthcare sector. Demand-driven, experience-based education can be improved and it can be used in a wide variety of sectors to further expand the workforce. Incorporating apprenticeships into two- and four-year degree programs would offer students both traditional learning and skills-based learning.
And this is particularly important for those students who learn better by doing. President Trump has seen firsthand the success of apprenticeship programs in the building trades where hes very familiar. The building trades invest nearly a billion a year of private money into the apprenticeship program. President Trump has made clear his commitment to expand job opportunities here in America. Apprenticeships is one very important way that President Trump will fulfill that promise.
And again, I’m very excited to work with Ivanka Trump and Reed Cordish in the Office of American Innovation as this program goes forward.
Q How exactly do you plan to expand these apprenticeships? What is the government going to do? I guess it’s our understanding that it’s not necessarily — you’re not going to put more money towards these programs. So how are these apprenticeships going to expand?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So if you look into building trades, theres almost a billion that’s spent every year, and that’s all private sector money. The building trades have put together labor management organizations that jointly invest in these apprenticeship programs because they know both on the labor side and the management side that a skilled workforce is critical to the building trades. And that’s how it’s worked for a number of years.
I’ve talked to several CEOs, Ivanka Trump has spoken to several CEOs, and theres excitement in the business sector. The private-private partnership where businesses come together with educational institutions to actually focus on demand-driven education, to focus education on the skills that business is demanding has worked in other sectors and can work throughout the economy.
Q The question is, where exactly do you see these apprenticeships? Because most of the complaints against it is that it’s for low-paying jobs and not the higher-education jobs that you need, and that it amounts to nothing more than indentured servitude.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So that’s just factually wrong. If you look at Department of Labor data, the average starting salary for an apprentice is $60,000 a year. And that’s higher than a college graduate.
I was out in Michigan at the port facility and I met with some of the apprentices at the port facility, and they love it.
Q But they (inaudible), correct?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: They love it — let me finish — they love it, they are excited about it. And they are being paid a very, very good wage. I should add, though, that you see apprenticeships in white-collar positions as well. There are a number of firms that we’re talking to that are looking at it for areas like bookkeeping, accounting.
If you look at law schools, for example, theres been conversations even in law schools about the need for more experience-based education. The Carnegie Commission came out with a report a number of years ago about the importance of experience-based education and law.
So the point I’m making is we need to stop thinking that this is limited to a certain kind of the job sector. Experience-based education works throughout all sectors of the economy.
Q Just a quick follow-up, if I may — just a quick follow-up.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: One follow-up.
Q But is your program geared towards the white-collar jobs, or to mostly —
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Our program will be geared to all industries and all jobs. The point here is to foster private-private partnerships between industry and educational institutions so that when students go to a community college, or when students are looking at apprenticeship programs in the building trades or in four-year institutions — when they leave, they have the skills necessary to enter the workforce.
Q In the Presidents budget it talks about work requirements. Also, Congress is talking about some new welfare reform for able-bodied people. Could this sort of integrate into that at all?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Well, certainly one of the important aspects of this is the portability of credentials. When someone learns a skill, it’s important to signal to other employers that this person knows a certain set of skills. And so, I should say, the emphasis is on high-quality apprenticeships because it’s important to not water things down, and it’s important to have skills that are portable and that are indicative of quality.
Q In terms of the overall focus on workforce development, the Presidents budget contains about 40-percent cut in all workforce skills programs from the last budget. If workforce development is a priority, why is the President calling for that? And secondly, my understanding is the budget has about $90 million for apprenticeship programs, which is also what President Obama had requested. How is this expanding what the last administration wanted to do?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So let me circle back to the point I made about private-private partnerships and what the building trades do. The building trades invest a billion dollars a year of private money to develop a skilled workforce. And so I want to challenge the assumption that the only way to move policy is to increase government spending. What we’re trying to measure here is outcomes, right?
So private-to-private partnerships — if industry is, in the building trades, willing to work with labor to foster these programs, that’s exactly — isnt that exactly what we want to see? And so we should measure success based on outcomes and not based simply on spending.
Q So do you foster these private-to-private relationships? Is there some executive action that will be taken? Is there a tax policy proposal? How exactly are you proposing that this would happen? Because it hasnt, I guess, organically happened beyond what already exists.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: I will answer in two parts. First, you’ve already seen that to a large extent as we’ve had roundtables with business leaders, as Ivanka Trump has conducted several meetings with CEOs around the country here at the White House.
And the second part to your answer is, stay tuned and listen to the Wednesday announcement.
Q Is there a certain region or a group of people you’re trying to focus in on with these apprenticeships, especially since, even as the President is saying that the unemployment rate is doing well under his administration, there are still groups of people, be it by region or be it by race, or be it by gender, that still have issues when it comes to employment? Is there a focus on certain groups, certain regions, certain genders?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So, ma’am, you are correct. So the unemployment rate, I believe, is 4.3 percent. The broader unemployment rate, that is the U6 rate, I believe is now at 8.4 percent. And as we’ve had discussions with CEOs that are looking at these apprenticeship programs, one of the items of discussion is a way to work with communities that you typically dont see going into the STEM fields and other fields.
And part of that discussion has been, how do you target those groups, how do you reach out. And it’s interesting, because apprenticeships help here because apprenticeships bring students together in a cohort model with individuals who are currently working in their field. And so it allows the possibility of role-modeling. An apprentice can have a role model that can provide support and can introduce them to the field.
And so I actually think this is going to be a great thing for expending opportunities, for example, to women in STEM.
Q One follow-up on that. So with that — and you’re saying women in STEM, but there are still women who — and going down to race — the African American and Hispanic unemployment numbers, particularly in STEM. Is this administration looking to push, also, apprenticeships for those communities, as well, for the private-to-private partnerships?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: We’re looking to push apprenticeships across the board — all people, all industries. This is an opportunity for everyone.
Q You mentioned that you’re targeting this towards all sorts of professions, not just blue-collar professions. How do you get around — in many states, there are laws that would prevent this sort of thing, such as the in the legal profession, where most states, I believe, dont allow people to do things like read for the Bar anymore. How do you get around regulations and state laws?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So let me circle back and clarify. The question was, is this just targeted — earlier — to blue collars? And then I said, no. In fact, it’s across the board. And I gave an example where experience-based education has been advocated. And I want to be clear: The vast majority of apprenticeships are not for law, okay? Let’s start there. So the question about state barriers I really think is a non-issue because the vast majority of apprenticeships are going to be in the types of professions where students are starting out — entry professions, professions that you typically see coming out of community college, professions that you typically see at most large state, four-year institutions. And for those professions you dont have those types of barriers.
Right behind you. Sir.
Q Yes. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Given the advantages of apprentice programs, what are the CEOs telling you about why they arent used much more often?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So I dont want to speak for the CEOs, because they havent told me why they’re not used more often. What I can tell you is that every CEO that I have spoken with has made a personal commitment to pursuing these. The CEOs are excited. I attended a business roundtable event around this. And to a person, the CEOs are looking forward to it because the CEOs need these skilled workforce. And they recognize Americans want to work; we just need to marry up the desire to work with the workforce skills.
In the back. Yes, sir.
Q Thank you, Mr. Secretary. You’re one of the newcomers at the administration here. I believe maybe this is the first time we’ve heard from you on camera. So I’m wondering if you could give us more of a broad reading of how you see the labor market currently, eventually. The unemployment rate is at 4.3 percent, and you brought up the U6. But I’m wondering if you could give us your read on what some of the bright spots are with the job market right now, and what some of the challenges are as you see it.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So the bright spots are obvious. We’ve had almost 600,000 new jobs so far, this calendar year. The 4.3 percent unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 16 years, since 2001. The number of job vacancies in a sense points to the skills gap, but it’s really a phenomenal number that’s quite positive — 6 million job vacancies. It means that if we can fix the skills gap, there are 6 million jobs that we can fill right now. And if you compare that to 6.9 million individuals that are unemployed — and wow.
I think one of the — to fully answer your question, one of the challenges that we need to look at is the labor force participation. There are a number of Americans that are forgotten, that have been ignored, and that have dropped out of the workforce. Labor force participation is lower than it should be. And our hope, and Ivanka Trump’s hope, and this administration’s hope — and certainly President Trump just this morning referenced these individuals who are forgotten, because they’re the ones that elected him — through this apprenticeship program, we’re hoping to bring them back into the labor force. Because to have growth, we need that labor force growth.
Q And you would admit that this is just a small part of bringing the labor force participation rate up? What else do you think needs to happen? Is it tax reform? Is it — what else needs to happen?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: All of the above, right? This is a small but very, very significant part, because if you start providing — if you starting changing the system to demands-driven education, where educational institutions — whether they be two- or four-year colleges, or experience-based educational institutions — are providing workforce skills, with each passing year, for every hundreds of thousands of folks that go through this, those are all new jobs. But certainly, all the policies that you see this administration administering, whether it be tax reform or other, is part of bringing individuals back into the workforce.
Q Yes. When we would see results? When would the skills gap close? And what types of jobs are we talking about exactly, versus professions?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So, one, I think it’s a very speculative question. I can’t provide you an exact date.
And the second question was? I’m sorry.
Q The types of jobs.
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Again, what types of jobs — I think we’re looking to apply this broadly across all industries. You know, it’s interesting, because as some of you know, I was at a university, and I know a student that really wanted to be a police officer, and so that student majored in criminal justice. And when he graduated, he probably had student debt but he didnt have a job, because criminal justice doesn’t prepare you to be a police officer.
So what would things be like if, actually, a criminal justice degree allowed students that wanted to, to have the option of also attending a police academy? And I want to give that as a specific example of what these possibilities would be. What would a legal studies degree be like if you could actually also get paralegal or legal assistance training? There are possibilities all across that we can look at.
Q Two things, so bear with me. There is an idea out there, for at least one big city, to require students graduating high school to have either a letter saying they’re going to college, the military, or entering a trade school, which would lead to these kinds of jobs. I’m wondering what you think of that.
And my second part of that is: To really help us understand what the White House is doing with these meetings with the CEOs, is anything being reduced to a memo of understanding or a letter, so we actually get the pledge? Because I want to have more of a sense of what the “is” is out there. Nice meetings are nice, but what is the promise that you could say that people are telling you? And how are you codifying it so you have it written down so you can go back to the CEO and say, “You say you’re going to do it and you did it”? So could you explain how you’re — what can be —
SECRETARY ACOSTA: Happy to answer both. First, what do we think about requirements that every student have a letter saying what they’re going to — I’ll speak just for myself on this one. I worry about a requirement that requires students to do A, B or C. I think our nation is about choosing, and I think you need to respect individuals’ choices. And you certainly encourage; you can say, what are you going to do with yourself, what do you want to do? But I always worry when I hear the word “requirement,” because I think we’re about choice.
Going to your second point, I’ll say in part, stay tuned for the Wednesday announcement as to what specifically we’re going to be doing. And I would say after that Wednesday announcement you can certainly expect quick and vigorous follow-up with the various CEOs and industry associations with which the administration has been speaking, because at least for myself the expectation would be, “Okay, you said you’re very interested in this; let’s sit down and let’s pen something out, and let’s see how we can go forward.”
One last question. Ma’am.
Q Can I get you to clarify your answer to Julie’s question about the budget? Because there’s so much confusion about this. When you’re saying the President is interested in outcomes — and you come from an academic environment — is the President saying that the Labor Department has evaluated all the existing programs before recommending cutting grants or workplace support for young people, seniors, agriculture, adults who have been displaced? Are you saying you’ve evaluated all those programs in recommending that they be cut because they’re not working, or because the President merely does not want to spend the money?
SECRETARY ACOSTA: So, as you pointed out, I come from an academic setting, so let me try to answer that question by analogy. It used to be that the question of whether a university is doing well was a function of how much the university spent. And, in Florida, you’re now seeing questions like, “what is your graduation rate?”, “how many students that are graduating are holding jobs?” And so you’re seeing a focus on outcome as opposed to spending.
And the point that I was trying to make, and I’ll reiterate, is that we tend in Washington to simply say, how much more money can we spend on something, rather than let’s think outside the box and try to solve a problem. And I think we owe it to the American taxpayer that is ultimately footing this bill to focus less on how much we spend, and more on whether, in fact, the problems are being solved.
So thank you very much.
MR. SPICER: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I appreciate you coming by today.
As we get back to what’s going on today, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the three servicemembers that were killed this weekend in Afghanistan. The injury — excuse me, the incident is currently under investigation. But our thoughts and our prayers are with the families of these American heroes who lost their lives in this tragic event.
As the Secretary said, it’s Workforce Week here at the White House, so that’s going to be a major emphasis for the administration. But we’re also moving ahead on another — on several other items on the President’s domestic and foreign policy agenda.
Today, the Department of Agriculture released guidance for American beef producers who are preparing to ship U.S. beef to Chinese markets for the first time since 2003. As we announced last month, as part of the U.S.-China 100-Day Action Plan that followed up the President’s meeting with President Xi, China agreed to reopen this $2.5 billion market to American ranchers and cattle producers.
Before the market was closed, the U.S. was Chinas largest supplier of beef, providing 70 percent of its imports. The actions by the U.S. Department of Agriculture today are an important first step in the process of re-opening this lucrative market to American businesses.
Tomorrow, the Vice President will be speaking at the Department of Health and Human Services about the continuing death spiral of Obamacare and why we need to keep our promise to the American people and repeal and replace it with a patient-centric alternative as soon as possible.
This weekend, the President Vice President was in Wisconsin — the President will be there tomorrow — where he met with the everyday Americans who have lost their plans, their doctors, and a lot of their hope for this failing law. As the Vice President said on Saturday, President Trump will never stop fighting for those families who are facing impossible choices every day as their premiums and deductibles continue to skyrocket. He wont rest until we have fixed this.
The Presidents tax reform team is also continuing to hold meetings and discussions both at the principal level and the staff level as we work towards a consensus plan that will deliver middle-class and tax simplification for everyone.
Secretary Mnuchin of the Treasury and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn continue to listen to members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. And Director Cohn will lead a listening session on tax reform with auto industry leaders later this week. These meetings have been incredibly productive, and we believe that tax reform is well on track for the President to sign later this year.
Together, the three pillars of infrastructure, tax reform, and repeal and replace of Obamacare are key to reaching the Presidents goal of a booming and vibrant American economy, and the administration is going to continue to work every day to turn the Presidents promises into policies.
Looking ahead, on Friday, the Presidents Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis will meet here. The meeting will be open to the public through a livestream on WhiteHouse.gov.
I am also pleased to announce that President Trump will welcome Indian Prime Minister Modi to the White House on June 26th. He looks forward to discussing the ways to strengthen our ties between the United States and India and advancing our common priorities — fighting terrorism, promoting economic growth and reforms, and expanding security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. The two leaders will look to outline a common vision for the U.S.-India partnership thats worthy of India’s 1.6 billion citizens.
And before I take your questions, I want to wish the 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush, a happy 93rd birthday from all of us at the White House. I hope he has a fantastic day in celebration.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
Q Thank you. Following up on your India announcement, the President, in his speech to the Indian-American (inaudible) in New Jersey had said if he’s elected he would be the best friend of India ever in the White House. What steps does the President want to take in his next four years, or eight years, to implement his promise he made to the community here?
MR. SPICER: Well, I know — and we’ve read these out a few times — but the President and the Prime Minister have had a number of positive phone conversations and expect to further that discussion when they meet in person on June 26th, as I mentioned just a moment ago, whether it’s economic growth and reforms, fighting terrorism, expanding our cooperation as major defense partners.
U.S.-India trade has grown six-fold since 2000, from $19 billion to $115 billion in 2016. And the Indian economy is growing at over 7 percent. U.S. energy and technologies, including natural gas, are helping to build Prime Minister Modis vision for a new India and creating thousands of U.S. jobs in the process.
I think you can expect the two of them to set forth a vision that will expand the U.S.-India partnership in an ambitious and worthy way of both countries people.
Q Sean, thank you. Two questions on trade. Number one, you talked about the beef arrangement. Is that beginning today? And can you flesh out a little bit more about what it looks like? I understood there was going to be an announcement from USDA. Are we waiting for that to actually make this is a fact? Or where are we in the process?
MR. SPICER: The U.S. Department of Agriculture will have many more details on the process moving forward, but the announcement is coming from them today.
Q The shipment leaves today?
MR. SPICER: No. I think the announcement is coming today.
Q And secondly, my other quick question is on steel and aluminum, and the review that the administration is doing. The President said — and was quoted in one of the pool reports as saying that there is legislation being drafted on antidumping. The 232 process goes to Congress anyway. Was he referring to additional legislation, or this 232 review that you had already initiated as reported by Secretary Ross?
MR. SPICER: So Secretary Ross should have a further update on the review — the 232 review later this week, I believe. When that comes out, there are certain recommendations that will be made to Congress to address antidumping provisions in the steel and aluminum and other markets — so when that comes out. But I think there will be recommendations to Congress to follow up on on how to rectify some of the problems.
Q Thanks, Sean. A couple questions for you. First, does President Trump have audio recordings of his conversations and meetings with the former FBI Director, James Comey?
MR. SPICER: The President made clear in the Rose Garden last week that he would have an announcement shortly.
Q Do you have any sort of timeline on when that announcement will be?
MR. SPICER: When the President is ready to make it.
Q And a quick follow-up on the Attorney General. From the perspective of President Trump, what role did Attorney General Jeff Sessions play in the firing of James Comey?
MR. SPICER: I’m not going to discuss private conversations between the President and the Attorney General.
Q Sean, to that end, when Jeff Sessions testifies tomorrow, do you believe that he should invoke executive privilege on conversations between himself and the President as it relates to Jim Comey?
MR. SPICER: I think it depends on the scope of the questions. To get into a hypothetical at this point would be premature.
Q In any way, did Jeff Sessions, folks at the DOJ ask for the White Houses permission, in essence, for him to testify publicly tomorrow?
MR. SPICER: I don’t know the answer to that question. I know Congress, generally speaking, sets whether a hearing is open or closed based on the sensitivity of the subject.
Q Is the President okay with him testifying in this open setting tomorrow?
MR. SPICER: I think he’s going to testify. We’re aware of it and we’ll go from there.
Q But just to follow on that, the President seemed to indicate that he thought that it was a mistake for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself in the Russia investigation. He said that his preference would have been to the contrary, off-camera. What does the President think about the fact that Sessions will be testifying tomorrow and, according to the Department of Justice, wanted to testify in an open session rather than closed classified session?
MR. SPICER: I think the President has been clear, last week in the Rose Garden, that he believes that the sooner we can get this addressed and dealt with — that there’s been no collusion — he wants this to get investigated as soon as possible and be done with it so he can continue with the business of the American people.
Q If I could ask you about the other headline of the day — the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia filing a lawsuit against the President, seeking rulings on two points in the emoluments clause in the Constitution. The RNC thinks that this is a bogus lawsuit. What is the President and what is the White House’s perspective on that?
MR. SPICER: I think the President’s interest, as previously discussed, do not violate the emoluments clause for reasons, at length, that the Department of Justice filing enumerate in their Friday night filing, with respect to the CREW lawsuit — it was just the first one. This lawsuit today is just another iteration of the case that was filed by that group, CREW — filed actually by the same lawyers. So it’s not hard to conclude that partisan politics may be one of the motivations behind the seat.
The suit was filed by two Democratic attorney generals. The lawyers driving the suit are an advocacy group with partisan ties. It actually started with a press conference as opposed to filing it, which is interesting. And the suit challenges the sort of business transaction that everyone from Penny Pritzker, who served in the last administration, and others have engaged in while in office. So I think we’ll continue to move to dismiss this case in the normal course of business.
Q Thanks, Sean. I wanted to just — two questions. But first, why leave open this question of whether there are tapes? Don’t the American people — do they deserve to know whether Comey was lying to the Senate? Why leave this question open?
MR. SPICER: I think the President made it clear what his intention is on Friday.
Q But is — I mean, it’s an open question that —
MR. SPICER: I understand that, and he said he would answer that question in due time.
Q Okay, but to follow up on — speaking of lawsuits, for the Ninth Circuit — they just came out and they upheld the block of the travel ban. Any response to that?
MR. SPICER: We’re currently reviewing that opinion. I think we can all attest that these are very dangerous times and we need every available tool at our disposal to prevent terrorists from entering the United States and committing acts of bloodshed and violence. We continue to be confident that the President’s executive order to protect this country is fully lawful and ultimately will be upheld by the Supreme Court.
Q Hey, Sean. So two questions for you then. I want to follow up on the tapes issue. If the President does have evidence that the FBI Director lied under oath, what is he waiting for?
MR. SPICER: I think the President made it very clear on Friday that he would get back as soon as possible on this, and his position on that conversation.
Q Right, but so what is he waiting for? What’s the delay?
MR. SPICER: He’s not waiting for anything. When he’s ready to further discuss it, he will. But I think he laid out his position very clearly, very concisely on Friday.
Q On the travel ban, Sean — this is the second question — you just mentioned you obviously responded to the Ninth Circuit ruling today. That ruling also cites the President’s tweets from June 5th on the travel ban. And it cites your statements — this administration’s statement that the President’s tweets are official statements. So given that measure, given that the travel ban is obviously a priority for the President, how is it that the President is not putting his own agenda in danger when it comes to his Twitter habits?
MR. SPICER: I think the bottom line is, as I just noted — I mean, cases should be decided on the rule of law and on that. And when you look at what the law is and the U.S. code that allows the President to do whatever he needs to, that’s what we were deciding on. And frankly, I think any lawyer worth their salt 100 percent agrees that the President is fully within his rights and his responsibilities to do what is necessary to protect the country.
Q The Twitter question, Sean — it’s a different question, though.
MR. SPICER: Olivier.
Q It comes to the Twitter issue. So I just want to —
MR. SPICER: Olivier. Thank you.
Q Sean, what is the President’s reaction to the Russian government’s crackdown on anti-corruption protests today?
MR. SPICER: Are you speaking in general or with respect to —
Q Well, Mr. Navalny in particular, but I assume that would be part of your overall —
MR. SPICER: No, I just wanted to be clear we’re talking about the same thing. I think the United States strongly condemns the detention of hundreds of peaceful protestors throughout Russia that happened on June 12th. Detaining peaceful protestors, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values. The United States will monitor the situation, and we will call on the government of Russia to immediately release all peaceful protestors.
The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear or retribution.
Q Thank you. One more. The President mentioned a press conference in a couple weeks on the ISIS review. Can you say where and when? And has he made a decision about changing the policy?
MR. SPICER: When we have an update on his schedule, I’ll let you know. But we don’t have one at this time.
Q Thank you, Sean. You said that the President wants to see this Russia investigation and all these investigations wrapped up as soon as possible. He said on Friday that he would be willing to testify under oath. Can you say when he would be willing to do that? Would he be willing to do that before Congress goes into recess to get this done as soon as possible?
I think that he was actually specifically asked whether or not he would talk to Director Mueller, and he made it very clear what his position was.
Q So he would — sorry, just wanted to be very clear about this. So he’s not saying that he would go before Congress —
MR. SPICER: I don’t know. I have not had a further discussion with that. I know exactly what he said on Friday in the Rose Garden is exactly what he believes.
Q Does he have confidence in Director Mueller, Sean?
MR. SPICER: John.
Q Thank you, Sean. Two questions. Does the President have a reaction to the vote in Puerto Rico yesterday — the nonbinding measure calling for statehood as the first choice of the people for their future?
MR. SPICER: This matter is something that’s going to be determined now that the people have spoken in Puerto Rico. This is something that Congress has to address. So the process will have to work its way out through Congress.
Q My other question was, there are widespread stories and speculation that when the President goes to Miami this Friday he will undo the executive orders from the Obama administration that eased relations with Cuba. Can you confirm whether he will undo all of them or some of them?
MR. SPICER: (Laughter.) That’s a good try. I will say that when we have an announcement on the President’s schedule, we’ll let you know. But just stay tuned. We have a very busy week — an ambitious agenda this week.
Q Thanks. Following on some of the stories over the weekend in England, when the President signs off on a foreign trip, how much does he factor in his personal popularity in that country?
MR. SPICER: None. And so since you brought it up, just so we’re clear on that, Her Majesty extended an invitation to the President. He’s accepted that invitation and we look forward to scheduling that trip. But there is nothing that was scheduled, and we look forward to working out a mutually acceptable date with the United Kingdom, and then looking forward to sharing that date with you all when we have it.
Thank you. Have a great Monday. Take care. I’ll see you in Wisconsin.Wake up Right! Subscribe to our Morning Briefing and get the news delivered to your inbox before breakfast!