White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds a briefing to update the media on the issues and events of the day including:
- The president’s de-regulation event [Live Stream]
- Tax reform progress
- Rosenstein’s committee hearing
MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. The President will speaking at 2:30 on the administration’s efforts to reduce red tape and federal regulations. Within 10 days of taking office, President Trump issued Executive Order 13771, instructing the Office of Management and Budget to remove two government regulations for every new one created. Washington scoffed, but the administration acted. And under a year, we have unleashed the American economy, businesses, and job creation.
These efforts, and the rest of the President’s agenda, have fueled economic growth, including all-time highs in the stock market, a 17-year low in unemployment rolls, new highs in manufacturing and consumer confidence, and much more.
As the President said yesterday, we’re at the final stages of historic tax cuts and reforms that will provide massive relief to middle-class families, lower tax rates on American businesses to make us more competitive, and make our tax code simpler and fairer for the first time in decades.
We want to begin lowering the tax bills in Americans’ paychecks starting next year, where Americans who faced economic headwinds for eight years will have the wind at their backs as they seek the American Dream.
And with that, we’ll get started because we are on a short timeframe. And I will take your questions.
Q Sarah, on the taxes, what is the President’s message to those Americans, including some in the middle class, who will face tax increases under this tax bill?
MS. SANDERS: Look, our focus since day one has been to aggressively push to make sure as many Americans as possible get a tax break, particularly those in the middle class. That’s going to continue to be our focus as we continue in this process, as I’ve said time and time again.
Q But the message to those that will face an increase? I mean, every analysis showed some people, including middle-class Americans, are going to face an increase.
MS. SANDERS: And, overwhelmingly, the middle class will get a huge tax break, as most Americans will. And that is, again — our goal is to make sure that more Americans see more of their hard-earned money. That’s what we’re pushing for and that’s what we’re going to keep working with the House and Senate to make sure happens.
Q On taxes, you got two “no’s” in the Senate so far. You got Senator Corker who’s been a “no” for a while. Senator Rubio came out and told us a short time ago that he’s a “no” unless he can get an expansion of the child tax credit. Is the President willing to be a little more generous in the child tax credit in order to get Senator Rubio’s vote?
MS. SANDERS: Look, we’re really proud of the work that we’ve done already up until this point, with Senator Rubio, already doubling the child tax credit, taking it to $2,000 per child. We’re going to continue working with the senator. But we think we’ve made great strides and, frankly, pretty historic movement in terms of the child tax credit. And we’re very proud of that work. We’re going to keep working with him until we get the job done, which we still expect to happen before the end of the year.
Q Is there more room to move?
MS. SANDERS: Right now, we’re going to focus on letting some of the Senate move forward in the progression of their conversations. Again, we’re extremely excited about the progress that we’ve already made to double the child tax credit. I think that’s something important to note and something that we’ve worked very closely with Senator Rubio on. And we think he should be very excited about the progress we’ve made on that front.
Q Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.
MS. SANDERS: Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to you, as well.
Q Thank you. What have you learned this past year? And what changes would you make in the coming year?
MS. SANDERS: What have I learned this past year? I would have to say that we would be here a really long time if I walked through everything I’ve learned this past year. But some of my favorite things would probably be to take time to appreciate some of the really incredible moments and the special time and opportunity and honor that certainly I have, but I think that all of us have that we get to come to the White House every day, serve our country, and we get to call it work. I think that’s pretty impressive, pretty amazing, and something that I hope none of us ever lose sight of.
Thanks, Connie. Mara.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Does the President think that Roy Moore should concede? In other words, does he believe he lost the election fair and square, or does he think he was the victim of widespread illegitimate voting?
MS. SANDERS: I think the President’s position is pretty clear. In his outreach to Doug Jones directly, he called and they spoke yesterday. They had a great conversation, a very positive conversation. He likes Doug Jones and looks forward to meeting him in person, and hopes that he will come and follow through on his commitment to work with the President on some things that they agree on.
Q So Roy Moore lost fair and square. That’s what you’re saying?
MS. SANDERS: I think the numbers reflect that, and I think the President’s outreach shows that.
Q Thanks, Sarah. There’s some reports out this morning that Speaker Ryan is considering stepping down at the end of this Congress. Has the President spoken to Speaker Ryan about those reports? And does he want to see Speaker Ryan continue in that role?
MS. SANDERS: The President did speak to the Speaker not too long ago and made sure that the Speake knew very clearly and in no uncertain terms that, if that news was true, he was very unhappy with it. The Speaker assured the President that those were not accurate reports and that they look forward to working together for a long time to come.
Q So did this catch the President by surprise, the Ryan report that was out today?
MS. SANDERS: It sounds like it may have caught Speaker Ryan by surprise — (laughter) — because I dont think it was very accurate reporting. And so it sounds like they’re both committed to and looking forward to spending a lot more time together over the next, hopefully, seven, eight years.
Q And let me ask you about Marco Rubio, as well. We have heard folks who might be “no” votes, potentially undecided votes. But Marco Rubio’s potential “no” vote is one that we know it concerns, but him voting no is seemingly here suddenly out of left field. Has that caught the White House by surprise at all? Or have you braced for the possibility that you might not have Marco Rubio in your corner?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not sure if the President has spoken with him specifically today. Again, we’re proud of the work that we’ve done with Senator Rubio, and we look forward to making sure that the progress that we made to double the childcare tax credit — that’s kind of a mouthful — goes into full effect when this piece of legislation is signed.
Q Sarah, two things. Should Roy Moore just give his concession speech now, versus holding it out?
MS. SANDERS: It probably sounds like it may have — should have already taken place. Look, the President has already called and congratulated Doug Jones and expressed his willingness to work with him and to meet with him when he arrives in Washington.
Q And the second issue: Did you watch GMA this morning? And what are your thoughts about this tell-all and the un-comfortability of Omarosa while she was here with some issues?
MS. SANDERS: I did see some clips of that. In terms of a tell-all, that’s a question I think you would have to ask her. She resigned from her position yesterday. She’ll be here later this afternoon. We put out a statement yesterday, and I don’t have any changes to add to that.
And certainly, as has been the practice in the past and will continue to be in the future, we don’t comment much further than that on personnel matters.
Q Sarah, if she’s resigned and she’s going to —
MS. SANDERS: It’s confusing because you guys are sitting next to each other. (Laughter.)
Q If she’s resigned, but you said she will stay on — Omarosa will stay on through January 20th — why are the taxpayers continuing to pay her salary for another month if she’s no longer here at the White House?
MS. SANDERS: As I just said, I’m not going to weigh in any further, as we often do. And as is the practice, we’re not going to get deeper into personnel matters. We’ve put out a statement. The President likes Omarosa, thanked her for her service. And, again, she’ll be here later this afternoon, so she’s resigned from her position, but there’s really nothing else to add on that front.
Q If she has resigned, though, why is she still on the payroll for another month? Is that normal?
MS. SANDERS: Look, there’s a lot of different protocols that take place in the government. That’s part of the process. If you want to reach out to HR, they might be able to walk you through that in a more detailed way — certainly not that I’m privy to. Thankfully, I haven’t been through the process myself, so I can’t speak to it from firsthand.
Q On a separate matter, on the tax plan, if I could just ask: Will the President ask the House and Senate to stay here in Washington and finish this bill, even if it means bleeding into the Christmas holiday?
MS. SANDERS: We’re pretty confident that we’re going to get there before then, but this is something that I think that both the House, the Senate, and the President are all committed to seeing happen. And we’re very hopeful that it will take place at the first of next week.
Q Sarah, does the President have any thoughts about the Disney deal to buy 21st Century Fox?
MS. SANDERS: I know that the President spoke with Rupert Murdoch earlier today, congratulated him on the deal, and thinks that — to use one of the President’s favorite words — that this could be a great thing for jobs, and certainly looks forward to, and hoping to see a lot more of those created.
Q And what does the President think about the FCC decision on net neutrality? There are a lot of Americans, polls show, who are very opposed to that change.
MS. SANDERS: Look, the Trump administration supports the FCC’s effort to roll back burdensome regulations. But as we have always done and will continue to do, we certainly support a free and fair Internet. Anything beyond that, I’d refer you to the FCC.
Q Getting back to that Alabama result, does what happened down there change the President’s relationship at all with Steve Bannon, given his big support for Moore? And has it changed the President’s thoughts on Moore — on, excuse me, Mr. Bannon’s opposition to other incumbent Republican senators?
MS. SANDERS: That’s a question you’d have to ask Mr. Bannon. I’m certainly not going to speak for him.
Q Well, I’m asking about the President’s relationship.
MS. SANDERS: I know, but the second part of the question you asked about whether or not he would support more candidates, and I can’t answer that.
In terms of their relationship, I haven’t spoken with the President directly about the nature of that relationship and whether that has altered it.
Q Thank you, Sarah. I know that you said that you can’t go much further on this personnel matter, but I do want to try to separate out some of the things that we’re hearing here and just be crystal clear.
So you’re saying that Omarosa Manigault was not fired on Tuesday evening, that she didn’t get belligerent in her conversation with General Kelly, she wasn’t yelling at him, she wasn’t cursing at him, and she wasn’t escorted off the property — and Secret Service has said not by them — but she wasn’t escorted off the property by someone or some entity other than Secret Service that evening?
MS. SANDERS: Look, as I said, Omarosa resigned from her position. I’m not going to go into a detailed process any further than that. We’ve put out a statement, as is standard practice. We’re not going to get into the weeds of a personnel decision here at the White House.
Q In an interview with STAT News this morning, Kellyanne Conway said she and other administration officials have been urging Congress to appropriate additional funding for the opioid epidemic. The President declared a public health emergency earlier this fall, but that fund only has $57,000 in it. Economists have predicted that it will cost upwards of $190 billion over a decade to treat the crisis. Can you tell us how much money the White House will be urging Congress to appropriate? And what do you have to say to critics who believe that the President hasn’t dedicated enough resources to combatting the epidemic this year?
MS. SANDERS: Look, one of the reasons that the President has put one of his top people here at the White House, Kellyanne Conway, on this is because he sees this as a priority; he sees it as a major concern, not just for the White House, but certainly for America. There’s a number of stories, as you just said. The amount of money that it will take to combat this crisis is huge. We’re going to continue looking at the best ways to do that. We’re working in an interagency process to see what that number looks like. That hasn’t been finalized, but we’re going to continue looking at every way possible —
Q Is it more —
MS. SANDERS: I don’t — right now, that’s still part of —
Q Is it around $45 billion that was a part of the Republican healthcare plan?
MS. SANDERS: Look, that’s, I think, a start. But to fully address this, we want to make sure that we get it right and make sure that we really address this head on. And that’s why the President has made it such a focus and put Kellyanne and others here at the White House to really make an emphasis and make that a priority.
Q Is that money something that you guys will get done — that appropriation — by the end of this year? Can the President promise that?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware that we can promise that a full funding for that would take place by the end of this year. This wasn’t a problem that happened overnight. We’re not going to be able to fix it overnight. But what we want to do is make sure that we address it and that we make it a priority for the administration. And we’re going to continue doing that until we beat it — the President has spoken about this several times — and making sure that we address it from all fronts and all sides.
Q Sarah, thank you. With Omarosa leaving, how many senior staffers here, at the White House, are African American?
MS. SANDERS: Look, we have a really diverse team across the board at the White House. We always want to continue to grow the diversity here. We’re going to continue to do that and continue to work hard.
Q Do you have a number on how many are African American?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t have a number directly in front of me — specifically not African American. But I can say, again, we have a very diverse team at the White House, certainly a very diverse team in the press office. And something that we strive for every day is to add and grow, to be more diverse and more representative of the country at large, and we’re going to continue to do that.
Q She was really tasked with reaching out to the African American community. Have you identified who is going to take that role? And how critical is it to this President, to this administration, to make sure that that role is, in fact, filled?
MS. SANDERS: Yeah, I think there are number of people that will be part of that process, and have been part of that process, that will continue to be. This wasn’t something that was a singular effort by any one individual. A member on the Cabinet, Ben Carson, I know has been engaged and talked with the President on this issue. But it’s not just within the White House. The President met with Senator Tim Scott. I know he wants to continue those conversations as well, to look at the best ways to do that and to do outreach to that community.
Q And just to follow up one of April’s questions. What Omarosa said today was, “I’ve seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people.” Were her concerns ever addressed or dealt with?
MS. SANDERS: The comments that she made, that was the first time I’d heard those. Whether she raised them with other individuals, I’m not aware. I know she regularly brought up specific issues where they were talked about in meetings, and we addressed them at the time.
Q Do you know if any of the issues or any of her concerns were?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t. That’s a question that you would have to ask her, and I’m certainly not going to speak on her behalf in that regard. But I do know that it’s something that we take seriously and something that we want to see improve, I think, across all fronts.
Q Sarah, today is the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in which so many children were killed. That, of course, as a tragedy, was eclipsed by what happened in Las Vegas, which is now the most tragic mass shooting on U.S. soil.
Since that time, what has President Trump done to try to protect the American people against a similar type of massacre? Does he think anything has been done? What is the administration trying to do? Is there anything at the executive level that he thinks needs to be undertaken?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think that there are a number of different ways that we look to protect our citizens. Every single day, one of the areas that the President has been outspoken about — not necessarily to those two instances — but just more broadly speaking in terms of national security and protecting individuals certainly through border security, stronger vetting processes, and looking at whether or not there are other regulations that we could put in place that would offer protection —
Q But these were domestic shooters. These weren’t people who entered the United States.
MS. SANDERS: Right. And I said I’m speaking more broadly in terms of national security as a whole. And look, this is a President who knows that his number-one responsibility is to look for ways to protect American citizens. And we try to do that every single day.
And whether or not there’s a regulation that could have been put in place, or not, that could have prevented those things, frankly, I’m not aware of what that would be. But we want to look for every opportunity, every way possible, that we can to protect American lives. And we’re going to continue doing that.
Q So is it correct to say that the administration is looking at how to prevent these kind of mass shootings by domestic shooters on U.S. soil? Or is it just the issue of immigrants and terrorism?
MS. SANDERS: I know that’s something that — absolutely, I know that’s something that the Department of Homeland Security looks at and talks about and works on every single day. I don’t think there’s a person in this country that wouldn’t like us to find ways to protect people, and we’re certainly very supportive of that. And that’s something that would be —
Q But no one issue that that the President has highlighted that says he wants to make a priority to push forward?
MS. SANDERS: Well, I don’t think there’s any one thing that you could do that could have prevented either one of those instances — those horrible, horrible tragedies.
Q But there were prescriptions given very quickly just the other day for this failed terrorist attack, which is why in these cases — I mean, this is the worst shooting on U.S. soil on President Trump’s watch.
MS. SANDERS: I understand that. And that’s why I also think that you have to take these matters, obviously, very seriously. But if you could name a single thing that would have prevented both of these, I’d love to hear it, because I don’t know what that would look like. But we’re looking every single day at how you can protect American lives, how we can best protect American citizens.
In terms of New York, we know for a fact this individual came through a chain migration system. This is something the President has been outspokenly against and something that he wants to stop. And that individual wouldn’t have been here in order to commit that crime if that wasn’t in place. So that’s a fact that we do know.
Q Does it involve a weapons ban, any kind of regulation, any kind of mental health concerns? Has the President specifically mentioned that as a possibility?
MS. SANDERS: I know that they’re looking at some of the mental health issues. It’s something the President has raised before. But in terms of a specific policy that we’re moving forward with that would have prevented that, I’m not aware of what that would be.
Q Thanks, Sarah. Has the President expressed any concerns regarding the FCC’s decision today to roll back these Obama-era regulations on net neutrality? And then, moving forward, are there any assurances that the White House can offer to the American people who are concerned that the decision and vote today will lead to a less-free Internet?
MS. SANDERS: As I said a few minutes ago, the administration supports the FCC’s efforts. And at the same time, the White House certainly has, and always will, support a free and fair Internet.
We’ll take one last question for the day. Brian.
Q I’m going to ask a question about taxes. The Federal Reserve, yesterday, said that the tax bill would provide a modest lift to the economy. That’s in stark contrast to words that the President has used, like “rocket fuel” to the economy. What is the data the President is basing his rosier picture of the impact on the economy of the tax bill, versus the experts at the Federal Reserve?
MS. SANDERS: Look, there are several individuals. I would point you to Kevin Hassett, who has spoken in this room and on a number of networks that I see represented here that has repeatedly stated that a lot of the statistics, a lot of the data, shows that this will be a huge boost to the economy, it will bring companies back, it will grow our jobs, push the stock market higher.
I think that those are all places I would point back to. And certainly, I think there’s great support that we have seen, just based on the idea that this passes — that you’re seeing the stock market increase, and they think a lot of that is tied to that.
Q Was the President upset the word “modest” was used?
MS. SANDERS: I haven’t asked him about that. I think “upset” is maybe not the right word. He might think that the other opinions that have been offered were a little more accurate.
Q For example, your own Treasury analysis used —
MS. SANDERS: The President — hold on just a second — because I know the call time is here momentarily and the President will be speaking here in a few minutes.
I just want to say thanks, have a good week. And, April, I’m looking forward to having some pie with you here momentarily. Thanks, guys.