Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

White House Briefing Continues. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 16, 2017 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: We can't do that anymore. We can't spend money on programs just because they sound good and great. Meals on Wheels sound great. Again, that's a state decision but to take the federal money and give it to state and say we want to give you money to programs that don't work, we can't defend that anymore. We're $20 trillion in debt. We can't spend money on programs that cannot show they actually deliver promises to people.

REPORTER: There's a program called the SHINE in Pennsylvania. Rural counties in Pennsylvania that provides after school educational programs for individuals in those areas which just so happens to be the state that helped propel President to the White House. I'm curious what you say to those Americans where they tell me 800 children will no longer be provided the educational care they need.

MULVANEY: You all are at an advantage over me because I have to memorize all 4,000 line items. Let's talk about after school programs, they're supposed to help kids who don't get fed at home get fed so they get better in school. Guess what? There's no demonstrable evidence they're actually doing that. That they're helping kids do better in school. When we took your money from you, the way we justified it was these programs are going to help these kids do better in school and get better jobs.

REPORTER: To be clear this administration is saying that no after school programs are working to help educate these kids.

MULVANEY: No, I don't believe we cut the funding for all those types of things.

REPORTER: Just to follow-up on that you were talking about the steel worker in Ohio, coal worker in Pennsylvania, but they may have an elderly mother who depends on the Meals-On-Wheels program or who may have kids in head start. Is it also a hard-hearted budget?

MULVANEY: No. I think it's one of the most compassionate things we can do.

REPORTER: Not focusing on elderly and kids?

MULVANEY: We're trying to focus on both recipients of the money and folks who give us the money in the first place and I think it's fairly compassionate to say we're not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore. Single mom of two in Detroit give us your money --

REPORTER: But the head start --

MULVANEY: Please let me finish, that that money be used a proper function. I think that's about as compassionate as you can get.

REPORTER: A question on the border wall. The budget as I understand it asked for 4.1 billion so 1.5 this year and 2.6 the following year, there's no mention whether or not Mexico is going to help pay for it or reimburse as the President pledged so where is the money coming from?

MULVANEY: It's 1.5 for 2016 and 2.6 for 2018, people asked does that get the wall built? No. We increase funding in 2018, but the wall will take longer than two years the build. The funds that's up to the treasury and the state department. We're the guys and gals at OMB and allocate it on a budgetary process. So up to somebody else to figure out where the money comes from.

REPORTER: The DOJ zeros out reimbursements for jails -- some goes to sanctuary cities is that promise to withhold from sanctuary cities and are there others of the President to carry that out?

[15:35:00] MULVANEY: I'm not that particular with this, also Homeland and increases in Homeland that deal with this, you're going to see an increase in homeland for increase in detention facilities. It's significant because the President has said he wants the stop catch and release and he signed an executive order to do that and increased the amount of money for detention facilities.

REPORTER: A follow-up to the questions about the cuts you're making to things like transportation and housing. You said those will be paid for later with other appropriations but said this would be balanced and it sounds like a bit of a shell game where you're saying now this is a balanced budget but now saying you're not stopping to pay for other things, but where are you going to pay for the other things?

MULVANEY: Just to clarify it's not a balanced budget. There will still be an offset. Moving projects out of the base agency and into is it infrastructure, the infrastructure program is something just recently started probably won't come until summer or early fall we have to do Obamacare repeal and replace, tax reform and then may come after the recess in august. You're making an assumption I'm not willing the make. You're saying that's going to the deficit and I'm not willing to make that assumption.

REPORTER: Robust funding for embassy securities, does that mean there will be an increase considering all the criticism that the President and Republicans against President Obama for supposedly cutting U.S. embassy?

MULVANEY: That's up to Secretary Tillerson. He talked about the state department budget and how he decides to allocate that. There are some embassies that don't need as much security and some that do.

The gentleman in the back. REPORTER: President Trump -- will cut the corner because many getting

U.S. aid -- how does President Trump feel about. U.S. taxpayers to be asking that we don't have to spend on those countries who are against the U.S.?

MULVANEY: Again, I come back to what the President said on the campaign which is he is going to spend less money overseas. This came up the other day, hard power versus soft power. There's a very deliberate attempt to send a message to allies, India and other countries that this is a hard power budget, this administration intends to change course from a soft power budget to a hard power budget. One more. Yes, ma'am.

REPORTER: Can you explain more about what message the President is trying to send by eliminating a lot of funding for science and climate change research and just a follow-up later.

MULVANEY: Sure. A couple different messages when we talk about science and climate change. Let's deal with them separately. On science, we're going to focus on the core function. There's reductions for example I think in the NIH, National Institutes for Health. Why? Thank you. Why? Because we think there's been mission creep we think they do things outside their fund. There's tremendous opportunity for savings, a couple of facilities we recommend be combined and this comes back to the President's business view. If you look at this on a spreadsheet and say why do we have seven when we can do the same job with three and the answer is yes, so part is focusing on efficiency and doing what we do better and with regard to climate change, the President was fairly clear we're not spending money on that anymore. That's a specific tie to his campaign.

REPORTER: Quick on meals on wheels you mentioned it's one of those programs determined not have been doing its job effectively what evidence are you using to make that statement. Is not feeding seniors in and of itself the fulfillment?

MULVANEY: My understanding from having been in the state government. I've been wrong several times today but my understanding is that that is a state determination. Federal government doesn't directly fund that. It funds the central block grants and some states choose to take the money and do meals on wheels. Other states in localities might choose to do something else.

[15:40:00] We look at the CGDBS, we look at $140 billion without the showing of that type of expenditure.

REPORTER: How Sean does this every day for an hour and a half I have no idea. I've been up since 4:00 a.m. this morning so I'm going to turn it back other the Sean.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thanks, guys. Anyway, so kick it off. Jonathan Karl.

JONATHAN KARL, REPORTER: So, Sean, day before yesterday you said you were extremely confident that the house and Senate intelligence committees would ultimately vindicate the President's allegation that Trump tower was wiretapped. As I'm sure you have now seen the intelligence committee have said they see no indication that Trump tower was the subject of surveillance. That seems to be a pretty blanket statement. What's your reaction?

SPICER: Several things. It's interesting to me that you know just as a point of interest that when one entity says one thing that claims one thing you guys cover it ad nauseam, when Devin Nunes came out and said I think it's very possible, there was crickets, when Devin Nunes said there was no connection to Russia, there was crickets, when tom cotton --

KARL: He said no evidence of wiretapping at Trump tower, now the house intelligence committee --

SPICER: Here is the direct quote I think it's very possible, end quote that's what he said when he said the President's communications could have been swept up in collection.

KARL: He said no indication of wiretapping.

MULVANEY: And I think the President has been very clear when he talked about this and talked about it last night talked about wiretapping he meant surveillance and there have been incidents that occurred Devin Nunes couldn't have stated it more beautifully but you chose not to cover that part, refused when Tom Cotton, Chairman Nunes.

Where was your passion and where was your concern when they all said, there was no connection to Russia? Where was it then? Crickets from you guys.

KARL: But --

MULVANEY: Hold on hold, on I'm making a point number one, evidence comes out and people briefed on the Russian connection say they have seen nothing, you choose not to cover that, you continue to perpetuate a false narrative, when he said quote, I see no evidence, quote I think it's possible, should know later -- you only cover --

KARL: And --

MULVANEY: If you look at what "The New York Times" reported, quote in its final days the bam administration has expanded the power with the government's 16 other intelligence agents before applying the -- long standing limits on what the NSA may do gathered by the powerful legislation unregulated by the -- separately the Obama administration amended a long standing executive order allowing information intercepted through FISA warrants or through the national security agent to be shared by a wider audience as Obama was leaving offices. Intelligence normally reserved for a handful of intelligence leader was spread throughout briefings to scores of workers and soon leaks, often in stores lacking context of how national security investigations are actually concluded.

March 3rd, Fox News Bret Baier said June 2016, a FISA request to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several other campaign officials then turned down then in October then they were renewed and -- Trump tower and Baier continues a June FISA requests -- Jonathan, you can ask, you can follow-up. A judge says no go to Trump tower, go back in October, this is wiretapped going on in a monitoring of computers tied to Russian accounts. They don't come up with anything in the investigation but the investigation continues.

[15:45:00] November 11, days after the election, heat street reported two leaks confirmed that the FBI sought and was granted a FISA permission to examine U.S. persons in Donald Trump's campaign with ties to Russia. The first request which sources say named Trump was denied back in June but second drawn more narrowly after evidence was presented of a server possibly tied to the Trump campaign, sources suggest that a FISA warrant was suggested to a full context of related documents. Two separate sources linked confirmed that the FBI confirmed and was granted a warrant to examine the activity of U.S. persons and Donald Trump's ties to Russia.

The warrant was granted in connection with the suspected activities between the server and two banks however it is thought in the intelligence community that the warrant covers any U.S. person connected to this investigation and thus three further men who acted as surrogates. June 19, American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are investigating intercepted possible leaks between Russian associates and President-elect Donald J. Trump. Based on some of the wiretapped communications have been provide today white house, it is unclear Russian officials what particular conversations caught the attention of American eavesdroppers is low, Andy McCarthy, quote from three reports it's appear it is FBI has concerns about the private server in Trump tower connected to one or two Russian banks, Heat Street describes these as centering on the banks. We go on, Sara Carter reporting, intelligence professionals. It was leaked to a much larger audience then back in February. When it expanded executive order 12333 which allows employees unfettered access by raw NSA, they allowed to share raw general intelligence communications including those involved in phone calls and e-mails frankly it allows too many people access to the raw data.

The U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity and was not granted to speak on the authority. Numerous out lets including "The New York Times" reported into Mr. Trump's advisors, BBC and a working group. On February 14th "The New York Times" again refers to phone records and intercepted calls quote them American law enforcement intersection agency intercepted the communications around the same time that Russia was trying to disrupt the Presidential election by hacking into the Democratic committee. The intersection agencies then thought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding on hacking other efforts, they have seen in recent weeks so far they have seen such cooperation.

They were not limited to Trump campaign officials, the call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove the FBI is sifting through. Days later "The New York Times" reports, some White House officials scramble Russian efforts to undermine the Presidential election of Donald Trump and elections across the government. But increasingly hard escaping conclusion that individuals in our government were instead trying to undermine the new President saying quote this is "The New York Times" again intelligence agencies there was a push to process as much raw intelligence into possible analysis to keep the report at relatively low classification levels to ensure a widespread readership across the government and in some cases quote among them European allies this allowed upload of as much intelligence as possible to a secret wiki analysis to share information.

Sean Hannity went on Fox News to say procedures have been put in place to protect Americans not under warrant, American citizens caught up in surveillance and quote by the way their identities are protected their constitutional rights are to be protected. This was not the case with Lieutenant General Flynn, a transcript was created and given to intelligence officials who then leaked this information which is a felony to the press that printed it end quote.

[15:50:00] Last month judge -- three sources informed Fox News, he didn't use the NSA, the FBI and the Department of Justice, he used GRU, the initials for the Russian intelligent agency, the President needs transcripts involving Trump's conversations, he's able to get it and there's no American fingerprints on this. Putting the published counts and common sense together this leads to a lot.

Despite the findings, the bipartisan findings of the Senate intelligence committee --

KARL: They're not findings. There's a statement out today they have not begun this. Two days ago, the department of justice asked for an additional week. The statement clearly says at this time they don't believe

SPICER: I just read off to you, it's interesting. When "The New York Times" reports --

KARL: So, are you saying that the President still stands by his allegation that President Obama ordered wiretapping or surveillance of Trump tower despite the fact that the Senate intelligence committee says they see no indication that it happened? Does the President still stand by the allegation?

SPICER: He stands by it, but you're mischaracterizing what happened today. No, no --

KARL: Exactly from their statement.

SPICER: I understand that. At the same time, they acknowledge that they have not been in contact with the department of justice. So, again, I go back to what I said at the beginning. It's interesting -- hold on. Hold on. It's interesting how at the same time where were you coming to the defense of that same intelligence committee and those members when they said there was no connection to Russia. You didn't steam to report it then. There was no -- no, no. Hold on. You want to comment and you want to perpetuate a false narrative --

KARL: Clapper said that.

SPICER: When those individuals have gone out time and time again, when chairman Nunes said number one there is no information he's aware of that existed, there was zero reporting. When he said it's very possible, you don't include that in the question mark. The bottom line is the President said last night that he will be providing -- there would be additional information coming forward. There is a ton of media reports out there that indicate that something was going on during the 26 election. I believe he will. Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Were you just quoting Sean Hannity there? The house and Senate intelligence committees are --

SPICER: I get you're going to --

ACOSTA: The FBI director, you're citing Sean Hannity.

SPICER: You also look over -- you tend to overlook all the other sources because I know you want to cherry pick it. No, no, but you do. But where was your concern about "The New York Times" reporter? You didn't seem to have a concern with that.

ACOSTA: We have done plenty of reporting on all of this, Sean.

SPICER: You want to cherry pick one piece of commentary.

ACOSTA: The President to the Russians that has all been looked at.

SPICER: How do you know all this? How do you seem to be such an expert in this?

ACOSTA: I'm saying that this has been looked at, Sean --

SPICER: How do you know it's been looked at? Hold on, where is -- I'm sorry, I'm afraid -- can you tell me how you know that all of this has, quote, been looked at?

ACOSTA: You're asking me whether or not I looked at --

SPICER: You made a statement and said, quote, all of this has been looked at.

ACOSTA: All other outlets --

SPICER: So, when your outlet says it's all been looked at --

ACOSTA: The Russians during the 2016 campaign, it sounds like during the context of that investigation there might have been some intercepted communications, the house intelligence committee chairman did mention that, and we have reported that. Others have reported that. On air and various publications. But, Sean, what you are refusing to answer, the question that you are refusing to we are is whether or not the President still --

SPICER: No, I'm not, I said to Johnathan --

ACOSTA: You have a Senate and house intelligence committee both leaders from both parties on both of those panels saying that they don't see any evidence of any wiretapping. So, how can the President go on and continue -- SPICER: Because that's not -- you're mischaracterizing what chairman

Nunes said. He said, quote, I think it's possible -- eg's following up on this. To suggest that -- you're stating unequivocally you somehow -- right, and sing we've already cleared that up. And he said exactly that. But the President has already said clearly when he referred to wiretapping he was referring to surveillance. So --

ACOSTA: But it sounds like, Sean, you and the President are saying now, well, we don't mean wiretapping any more. That's not true anymore. So now we're going to entertain other forms of surveillance. What's it going to be next?

[15:55:00] SPICER: I think that's cute but at the end of the day we've talked about this for three or four days. What the President had to quote wiretapping in quotes, he was referring to broad surveillance. And now you're basically going back. We talked about this several days ago. The bottom line is that the investigation by the house and the Senate has not been provided all of the information and when it does -- hold on.

ACOSTA: News reports, not evidence --

SPICER: I'm saying the President addressed that last night and said there is more to come. These are merely pointing out there is widespread reporting that throughout the 2016 election there was surveillance that was done on a variety of people.

ACOSTA: There was an investigation going on as to whether there were contacts between the president's campaign and Russia -- of course, they're going to be looking at these various --

SPICER: I get it somehow you seem to believe that you have all of this information. You've been read in on all of these things which I find very interesting.

ACOSTA: I haven't been read in by the FBI. The house and intelligence committees have --

SPICER: You are coming to serious conclusions for a guy that has zero intelligence --class --

ACOSTA: Give me some credit. A little intelligence maybe.

SPICER: Clearance. I wasn't done. Clearance.

ACOSTA: Those two panels --

SPICER: Maybe both.

ACOSTA: Come on. Those two panels have spoken with the FBI director and they're told there is no evidence of this.

SPICER: I think this question has been asked and answered, Jim. It is interesting how you jump to all these conclusions about what they have and don't have,

and you seem to know all the answers. But at the end of the day there was clearly a ton of reporting -- hold on, Jim, let me answer -- I think that there has been a vast amount of reporting which I just detailed about activity that was going on in the 2016 election. There is no question that there were surveillance techniques used throughout this. I think by a variety of outlets concluded. When you ask those two people whether or not as chairman Nunes said yesterday, when you say wiretapping, the President is clear he didn't mean wiretapping, he had it in quotes. To fall back on that is a false premise. That's not what he said. He was clear about that when he talked about it yesterday, major.

ACOSTA: Sean, just to be clear, you're good and the President's good with stories that have anonymous sources?

SPICER: No, it's interesting. I think when it comes to the Russia story and the one on the record sources who have been briefed by the FBI, continue to conclude that there is nothing there, you guys continue to fall back on these anonymous sources and perpetuate a false narrative. And yet when it comes to us talking about all these reports in there, you then criticize anonymous sources. No, it's just interesting that this sort of the double standard that exists when it comes to us citing stories when it comes to -- and then how you intend to use them.

REPORTER: Let me ask you about what the President said last night. He was asked by Tucker Carlson, you're in charge of the various intelligence apparatus that report to you -- you can ask them --

SPICER: He did.

REPORTER: He said he was reluctant to do that. You just put two things together. Earlier this week he told us when asked has the President directed the justice department to collect and distribute information to the various relevant Congressional committees? If I remember your answer, he hadn't given that specific direction. Has it changed, has he directed the justice department?

SPICER: No.

REPORTER: Is he asking himself, the intelligence agencies that report to him to provide specific answers to these underlying questions that are --

SPICER: No.

REPORTER: What you're citing why not?

SPICER: Because I think we covered this before. That gets into interfering and I think the appropriate process is to allow the house and the Senate to do this so it doesn't appear as though we're enter firing -- I understand that. As I mentioned this to you the other day, major, if we go at them, you're going to turn around and say you guys interfered in something, you pressured them. It's a catch 22 for us. The bomb only line I think the President made it clear two Sundays ago, he wanted the house and Senate intelligence committee to work with the agencies to collection the information and make a report. That's what we're doing. In order to make sure that there is a separation from us so that you can't turn around and then accuse us of forcing or pressuring an agency to produce a document. We're asking them to go through the process --

REPORTER: What process?

SPICER: Of the separation of powers and actually going to those different entities, the department of justice said yesterday they want an additional week. We're allowing that process to play through. Got it?

REPORTER: Sean, is the President making these statements based on classified information?

SPICER: I'm not going to get into how the President makes a decision. I think that what I think is clear, though, is through the reporting that I just read is there is clearly widespread open source material pointing to surveillance that was conducted during the 2016 election.

REPORTER: That information is available to members of the house and Senate, it's public as you noted, they are looking at that same information and making conclusions --

SPICER: That's not true.

REPORTER: They did not see any evidence to back up the President's claims. So, if there is other information, why won't the President release it?

SPICER: I'm not going to get into that yet. I think the President discussed that last night on his interview and we'll let the process play out. I understand what he discussed. They have -- they have clearances in the house and the Senate intelligence committees. They are able to conduct this. Alexis.

REPORTER: Sean, I'd like to ask you about two topics. Can you help us?

SPICER: No, I'm going to -- I actually call the questions. Alexis, if you don't want to answer the question, I can call on somebody else. Thank you. Gabby.

REPORTER: Thanks, Sean. In the case that judge issued the restraining order against Trump's -- sorry, the President's second travel ban, he included one of the President's tweets and this is also included in the Washington state case. So, I'm wondering, does it give the President any pause that this virtual paper trail is creating -- is having an impact on advancing his agenda?

SPICER: Well, I mean, I think that the department of justice statement speaks for itself when it comes to that last night. The federal law that I read out clearly gives the President the authority. This is what we argued during the first one. I think for a judge to ignore that statute and talk about tweets or interpreting something that happened during the campaign trail is not in keeping --