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White House Press Briefing's Main Focus, Michael Flynn's Russian Payments. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 25, 2017 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00] SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He signed a historic 13 Congressional Review Acts to clear unnecessary regulations and keep government out of the way of the American people.

[14:00:00]

He's extended the Veterans Choice program, giving our nation's heroes the peace of mind they deserve, while this administration continues to work with Congress to enact comprehensive reform and modernization at the V.A.

He has refocused NASA's mission to dream big for American space exploration again, and promoted programs dedicated to encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM fields.

All told, he has signed 28 pieces of legislation. And it's not just through legislation that the president has made serious progress on his top priorities.

The president promised to enforce our nation's borders. His attorney general, Homeland Security, and their staffs have been working around the clock to fulfill that promise. He has directed a halt of federal funding to jurisdictions that do not comply with federal immigration laws. He has ordered the hiring of 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and agents, and 5,000 Custom and Border Patrol agents.

And it's working. Illegal alien border crossings have plummeted more than 61 percent since January of this year. The world is responding to the leadership that the president is bringing under this -- is bringing to Washington.

In all, during his first hundred days, the president has made 68 calls with 38 different world leaders, and hosted a total of 16 bilateral meetings. The president has rebuilt America's standing in the world.

And these meetings and calls have led to real action.

NATO's secretary-general was here a few weeks ago, and he directed credited the president for his tough talk that was fair but tough, as a candidate and now as a president, for helping to put pressure on the counties -- excuse me, on the countries that are not contributing their fair share to the alliance.

Just last week, Aya Hijazi finally came home after the president personally addressed her situation with President el-Sisi.

And China continues to take positive steps, both at the U.N. and in other arenas, to help us combat the threat posed by North Korea.

The president has also turned his words into action here at home. For too many years, the hard-working men and women of this country were poorly served and -- with a government that wasn't working for them but itself and special interests.

As the president said during his inaugural speech, those forgotten men and women are not going to be forgotten by a Trump administration.

From the moment he took office, the president has been taking action and putting America back to work, by putting the people back into the government; unleashing the American economy by slashing overly burdensome and unnecessary federal regulations; welcoming union representatives, top business leaders and small-business owners into the White House to personally hear directly from them about the policies that prevent them from creating and maintaining well-paying jobs.

He's reinvigorating our domestic energy sector, reviving private infrastructure investment that helps us become more energy- independent.

And today, he's signing an executive order setting up a task force that will produce a 180-day review of the regulations, policy and legislation that unnecessarily hinders economic growth in the agriculture sector.

That task force will be led by our newly sworn-in secretary of agriculture, former Governor Sonny Perdue.

Secretary Perdue, who was sworn in earlier this morning, along with many Cabinet members, will be traveling outside Washington this entire week to share these tremendous achievements with the American people.

Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon is in Orlando for multiple events, including a roundtable with Hispanic small-business owners.

Tomorrow, Secretary Carson will be in Columbus, Ohio, for the fourth stop of his listening tour, where he'll speak to the Ohio Housing Council and meet with local leaders and residents of public housing developments.

And Secretary Perdue is getting right to work, traveling to Kansas City, Missouri, Thursday and Friday, to visit agricultural facilities and meet with Governor Greitens.

The president and his extraordinarily qualified Cabinet have made incredible progress in just these first 100 days. But this is just the beginning.

We look forward to even more prosperity as consumer and CEO confidence continues to rise in the wake of these pro-growth policies; an even safer world from destroying ISIS and other forms of radical Islamic terrorism that threaten our entire globe; to keeping our smallest communities safe for American families; and a government that serves the people, not the special interests or political -- or personal political alliances.

Finally, before I take your questions, I just want to proudly announce that on May 4th, the president will speak aboard the USS Intrepid in New York City to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Coral Sea, a major naval battle during World War II in which the United States joined with Australia to halt the advance of enemy forces.

That same day at the museum, the president will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia. The president looks forward to meeting the prime minister and to showcasing the enduring bonds, deep friendship and close alliance the United States has with Australia.

And with that, let's go.

John Roberts?

QUESTION: Sean, does the White House believe that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn broke any laws in filling out his Standard Form 86 disclosure?

And furthermore, why is the White House apparently stonewalling the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on its request for some of the documents that should be in the White House's possession on Mr. Flynn?

SPICER: I will correct you on that. The committee sent a form letter to several agencies, including the White House, asking to find those documents. The documents in question the Department of Defense possessed and sent over to them. The documents that occurred before he worked here would be up to him to turn over.

So my understanding is the committee has the documents that they were looking for.

QUESTION: In the letter that (inaudible) -- and I know that SF- 86 was referred to the DIA and apparently...

SPICER: It wasn't just referred to them. That's where it...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I know, but they were referred to the DIA for the SF- 86 and apparently they have -- they have gained access to that document. But there were other documents that should be in the White House's possession, that Mark Short (ph) in the letter to the committee said the White House can't provide because of the sensitive nature. He also said that there were no documents that were available prior to the 20th.

SPICER: Right. QUESTION: But I also asked the question: Does the White House believe that Lieutenant General Flynn might have broken the law when he filled out SF-86?

SPICER: I don't -- that -- that would be a question for him and a law enforcement agency whether or not he filled -- I don't know what he filled out and what he did or did not do. That all happened -- he filled that form out prior to coming here, and so it would be up to the committee and other authorities to look at that. I don't know.

But with respect to the letter, they asked for three things: the SF- 86, which you properly point out was in the possession of the DIA. They -- my understanding through reports is that they have obtained that. Then they asked for documents prior to January 20th. As you know, through the Constitution, we didn't assume the White House until January 20th at noon, so we don't have the documents prior to assuming the White House.

And then the third would be they listed for every call and contact that he made, which is an extraordinary number that -- that's a very -- a very unwieldy request.

QUESTION: So was it the sheer volume of...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Well, I mean, it's -- to say we want the national security adviser, whose job it is to talk with foreign counterparts on a daily basis, to document every call that he may or may not have made, is not exactly a request that they will (inaudible). But every document that they asked for, my understanding is that they've gotten.

QUESTION: So is it your position that during the transition, the Trump transition has no custodial possession of any of these documents?

SPICER: Well, I would, again...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... that Lieutenant -- I mean, that Flynn filled out as part of the process to become the president's national security adviser? I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: No, no. Because the...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... suggesting he has an arms-length relationship...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Right. Thanks. There's two -- two issues. He had an SF-86, which is the security clearance form. It was filled out during the Obama administration. He had a re-investigation in 2016. That was done under the last administration. And again, those...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: ... those are not documents that the White House would ever possess on any employee. They would come from the requesting authority.

QUESTION: OK. So...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: And so in that case, again remember, they sent out a form letter to I think five or six agencies requesting the same documents. The place for the documents that they questioned did fulfill that request.

QUESTION: Right. And I'm just trying to find out from your perspective, is there no obligation either through the transition or the White House, to do anything more than you have done or has been done in this matter?

SPICER: Everything that the White House has been asked to do, we have -- that -- that -- the only documents that were made available -- that were made available to them that they asked for were the ones that the Department of Defense had.

QUESTION: And how about these calls made when he was working during the transition on behalf of a future President Trump? Aren't those things that you should have some either responsibility or obligation to provide if you can?

SPICER: Well, I think again it's a question of if you can. When you ask for every call...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: No, but I think that's a pretty -- that there is -- I mean, to ask for every call or contact that a national security adviser made is pretty outlandish, if you will; to say that we want to have a list of everything -- that -- that, you know -- there is no...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: But -- but theoretically, those calls were made on behalf of the Trump transition, were they not?

SPICER: When?

QUESTION: When he was in the -- I mean, this...

(CROSSTALK) SPICER: Look, Major, he -- he did not -- we started this administration on January 20th. All the information that they're talking about occurred prior to him being at the White House. So...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Right, but he was working for the transition, and I'm just saying is there any...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Not at the White House. Everything that is being questioned occurred prior to January 20th.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: But you're acting as if you had no custodial or -- or responsibility of your own transition. That's what I'm trying to...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: No, no. And I guess that question is is that what... (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... he was not making calls as a private citizen. He was making these as a future national security adviser.

SPICER: I understand that. And right now to ask the White House to produce documents that were not in the possession of the White House is -- is ridiculous.

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: John (ph).

QUESTION: Thanks a lot, Sean.

A few weeks ago, when General Flynn's attorney wrote to the Senate Intelligence Committee suggesting some sort of immunity deal for General Flynn, I asked you a question about whether the White House would be invoking executive privilege.

QUESTION: And your response at the time was, "No. We have no problem with General Flynn testifying. He's free to do so. We won't be invoking any type of privilege."

Does that also apply to any documents that the White House may have relating to General Flynn, his service -- his short service as the national security adviser to the president and the time in which he served in the transition period as an adviser to the president- elect?

SPICER: I -- I -- I think -- look, when you ask -- I know that when -- when Chaffetz was asked that -- whether or not the -- what he is looking into had anything with the White House, my understanding is he was very clear that that had to do with his time prior to that.

So, talking about what his role is at the White House seems not germane to any of the questions that're being asked.

QUESTION: What about prior to his service at the White House?

SPICER: That, again, would have to go to General Flynn.

There's nothing that is being asked for with respect to his service here at the White House. The documents that Major was referring to rest within the Department of Defense. My understanding is that they were provided.

QUESTION: And the overall issue of privilege, would you be invoking...

SPICER: I -- I -- we're not...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: ... that's -- I -- the -- I'm not, at this time -- that's -- to answer that question. I don't know the answer. There's nothing that -- that would -- that I'm responding to on that particular matter.

Trey?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

Generally speaking, within the Trump administration, how important is it to the president that everyone working for this administration is honest on their security clearance forms? SPICER: Very. And so -- and if they don't, then they're going to be, you know, investigated.

I mean -- but you assume -- I mean, look, everybody fills out forms all the time. All of us, in some point, we sign our name and swear under oath that we -- everything that's done there. So, I think each and every one of us, in different ways, signs our names and -- and agrees to abide by the information that we provide.

QUESTION: Just following up, do you know if the president is aware of the comments that were made by the House Oversight chairman today? And does he agree at all with the assertation (sic) that it seems as though General Flynn was not in compliance with the law?

SPICER: I'm not.

And again, that's not -- that would be a matter for them to look into, not for us.

Kaitlyn (ph)?

QUESTION: Sean, does the White House consider Mike Flynn's payment from Russia Today to be a payment from a foreign government?

SPICER: I don't know. That was, again, all the -- all of that occurred prior to his service...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... White House. Does this White House consider a payment from Russia Today to be a payment from a foreign government?

SPICER: I understand. But what I'm saying is everything that he did was prior to coming to this White House.

QUESTION: Correct.

SPICER: So, for us to determine someone else's thing...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: ... as a consultant.

QUESTION: ... today, do you consider -- consider that to be a payment from a foreign government?

SPICER: I'm sorry. If what?

QUESTION: If -- if someone took money from Russia Today today...

SPICER: If they were an employee of the -- of the White House, absolutely.

But, I mean, again, I don't know the exact circumstances -- everything that is being discussed occurred prior to -- to his employment at the White House, occurred as a consultant. And so, whatever he did, as long as he did it in compliance with the law, as every one of us as a citizen has the right to do, that -- that's up to -- to an individual to do and then comply with the law.

QUESTION: To follow up on that, why didn't he -- why wasn't he more closely vetted during the transition period?

SPICER: Well, again, you fill out forms and I -- I...

QUESTION: (inaudible) like the White House and the Trump transition team should've known about this before they were having him come to the White House.

SPICER: Well, again, you -- you fill out the forms, you do an investigation, you do a background check. Every employee gets that background check done. And they have a security clearance, and they fill it out, and that's how everyone operates under the same guise.

QUESTION: I have two questions. But I want to follow up on that.

So, you're saying that it's a problem with the process of vetting -- is a vetting process and not...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: No, I'm just saying that...

QUESTION: ... not sure.... SPICER: I'm not saying it's a process of vetting.

I'm saying that every single person who comes to work in here at a certain level is required to fill out the same form, an SF-86. And the -- that background check is adjudicated.

You rely on that person when they sign their name, and then investigators pick it up. But there's always going to be a -- you know, in the case of people who had a prior clearance, that between the time that they filled it out and had it adjudicated, they could've engaged in something. And whether or not they -- they updated that or not is -- is always the onus is on the individual.

QUESTION: Right.

I do want to ask you really quickly about the wall. Yesterday, President Trump reportedly said that he's going to delay pushing the wall through.

SPICER: Yeah, he did not...

QUESTION: And so, can you just clarify...

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: ... what the status of it is... SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: ... what's happening when?

SPICER: Thank you.

The -- the president made it very clear -- I think he tweeted about this earlier -- his priorities have not changed: There will be a wall built.

It's an -- important to prevent human trafficking, gangs like MS13 coming into the country, the flow of illegal drugs, illegal immigration. There is a national economic safety issue by having a wall that ensures our country's safety.

And there's plenty of planning that can be done in F.Y. '17. We're going to continue -- our priorities are clear going into F.Y. '17, the remainder of budgeting for that. And we'll continue to ask for more in F.Y. '18.

QUESTION: So it's delayed for now...

SPICER: No, I didn't...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: No, no. No, no. I never -- no one said "delayed."

No, no. There's a...

(CROSSTALK) SPICER: No, no.

It's -- there's two budget processes.

Right now, we're going to end F.Y. '17 this week. We hope to continue to get funding in that, as the president laid out, for both border security and homeland security and national defense, as we've always maintained.

And then when we come to F.Y. -- excuse me, F.Y. '18, that starts at the end of -- or beginning of October, end of September, in that next budget we'll go for the next group of money. But...

QUESTION: So, you do expect (ph) partial funding...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: I -- I think we're going to make -- we -- we've made our priorities very clear as we continue to negotiate. And I think nothing has changed on the president's priorities.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on health care?

SPICER: Sure, one more.

QUESTION: Just the president has threatened to withhold cost- sharing payments from insurance companies. So is that still the case?

SPICER: He hasn't -- I -- I think we've made it very clear that we want to repeal and replace Obamacare. And I think we continue to see there's a prop-up right now, and that's why we need to act as soon as possible to get an insurance plan in place -- a new insurance plan -- system in place that will protect people's insurance and -- and not have these skyrocketing costs.

But we have an artificially propped-up insurance system right now because of these payments. And I think that we've got to make sure that we do everything we can as quick as we can to put a system in place that will solve that.

Jonathan?

QUESTION: So just to follow up on two -- three topics, the wall and on Flynn.

First, on the wall, I just want to be clear, so is the president no longer insisting that there is money for the wall in this current appropriations bill?

SPICER: The president's priorities are clear for F.Y. '17. There's a lot of things that we can do in F.Y. -- in the remaining months up until the end of September for planning and making sure that we get everything that we need, funding that we need for that aspect of things. And then as we go into F.Y. '18 we'll continue to ask for more.

I don't think anything's changed.

QUESTION: So the president is not insisting that he has money for actual construction of the wall...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Look, we're going -- I'm not going to get -- we are still in discussions with the House and Senate leadership.

But I think the president has been very clear that he wants a wall. He wants it done as soon as we can do it.

He has -- there are things that we need to do to protect our country, like human trafficking, the flow of illegal drugs and gangs, that are going to make sure that while we've achieved a significant drop in illegal alien border crossing -- down 61 percent since January -- that this is something that's in our country's long-term national security interests.

QUESTION: But the actual construction can wait until the fall?

SPICER: No, that's -- it's not a question of wait until the fall.

I think there's a lot of things have to happen. It's like any construction...

QUESTION: Before you even start construction?

SPICER: Well, you've got to start doing some planning and things.

And so we will take the first steps now, and then we will continue to seek funding through the F.Y. '18 and further budget to make sure that the actual -- it is completed.

QUESTION: And on Michael Flynn, does the president feel that he was misled by General Flynn?

SPICER: I don't -- I think the president made a decision a while ago, because General Flynn was not straight with the vice president at the time, and let him go. I think he stands by that decision, and it's up to others to review the -- all this information that's coming out.

QUESTION: But does now feel that he also wasn't straight with him...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: I don't -- I think a lot of the facts are still coming out, Jonathan.

So I know that the president made a decision a couple of months ago. It was the right decision. And we've moved on. And we're continuing to stay focused on... QUESTION: At the time he made that decision, he said that Flynn was the victim of a media witch hunt, and said he was a good man that had been a victim of...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Right. So let's...

QUESTION: Is he still -- is he still...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Let -- I think all of the facts are still coming out on that. Let's see where they come.

I think he made a decision a few months ago. He stands by that decision.

John?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

Two questions.

Last night the president said -- and some have reported it -- some pretty sensational charges about the Iran treaty. We know he's called it the worst agreement in history and the worst he ever saw himself.

But he also said that at the time of the treaty, the government of Iran was on the verge of collapsing. And that is something I don't believe that has ever been reported before.

He also said that the unfrozen assets, the billions, they are not used to fund terrorists but they were in Swiss bank accounts.

Is this based on intelligence reports he's received or other information?

SPICER: I'm not going to get into what the president knows.

But there's a reason that we are undergoing an inter-agency process right now to look at the deal.

Yes, Jessica?

QUESTION: I had a second question.

SPICER: Oh, I'm sure.

QUESTION: OK.

On General Flynn, anyone who was at his level and some levels below undergoes an investigation by the FBI, with a final report. Was the president ever given a final security report by the FBI on General Flynn? SPICER: I don't know. I don't -- he had -- he was the head of DI -- of the department of -- the Defense Intelligence Agency. He had an existing clearance.

Jessica? QUESTION: (inaudible) just talk a little bit more about the overall efforts that the administration is making.

We note the United Nations meetings yesterday. Now you've got an up- and-coming meeting with Congress.

Are you, as an administration, trying to get a coalition together to build a stronger diplomatic case around actions against Pyongyang?

SPICER: Yeah.

Well, I think you saw Ambassador Haley yesterday and the discussion that -- the other ambassadors who visited the White House engaged in a very robust discussion with respect to North Korea, both as a group and then with the president.

SPICER: So obviously, the more that we can solve this diplomatically and continue to apply pressure on China and other countries to use the political and economic tools that they have to achieve a goal in stabilization in the region, but also to tamp down the threat that North Korea faces, I think that that is something that we all share.

QUESTION: How would you characterize the administration's overall strategy on the DPRK?

SPICER: I think it's -- we're -- we're -- you know, it's ongoing. And I think -- but it's -- I think we've seen very positive signs with respect to a nation like China. I think the relationship the president built with President Xi down in Mar-a-Lago is definitely paying off dividends. And this president's relationships that he's building with heads of government is clearly reestablishing America's place in the world and getting results for the country.

Kayla (ph)?

QUESTION: (inaudible) strategy on Wednesday when you have the meeting of the senators?

SPICER: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Will you be able to articulate that strategy and put a finer point on it for the senators...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Just to be clear, that -- that meeting is a Senate meeting led by Leader McConnell, just utilizing our space. So that is their meeting. So we're not there to talk strategy. They are going to be briefed by the...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Can I answer the question?

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Major, I...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: You want to come on up? (CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SPICER: I understand there are...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Hold on.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... characterize it as you presenting your strategy to the U.S. Senate?

SPICER: There are four briefers that are coming up to talk about the situation in North Korea. They will be briefed by -- they will -- this is a Senate-led meeting that they are getting. Those four briefers will share with them the current situation in North Korea.

Kayla (ph)?

QUESTION: ... strategy be articulated then?

SPICER: Huh?

QUESTION: So the senators should not expect...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Well, no, obviously, the secretary of state and others are going to talk about our posture and the activities that we're undergoing. And Chairman Dunford will lay out some of the military actions and the way that they see the lay of the land. I mean, they're going to answer questions as they routinely do on a situation like this.

Kayla (ph)?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: How long would you reasonably expect the government to take to be fully staffed with essential personnel to draft, negotiate and implement complicated policies like tax reform, and put forward something that's a little bit more meaty than just broad principles?

SPICER: Well, I think we're going to -- we'll have an outline -- something to share with you tomorrow. And then we're going to continue to work with allies and individuals who want to be part of this process. That conversation has really kicked off in earnest with members of the House and Senate -- House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee, the leadership. And so we will continue to engage in that discussion and outside stakeholders to try to get a plan really put together and details laid out in the next several weeks once we make the announcement tomorrow. QUESTION: Well, what progress have agencies been able to make in carrying out the executive orders that the president has put forward? Because today is actually the deadline for the regulatory reform officers to be in place. How many of those are there?

SPICER: Right. I don't have a number on that. I can look -- talk to our personnel office and get back to you. But I think we have been able to work with -- you know, in many cases, and I think I went over this early on in the process, but we installed we call "beachhead teams" during the transition process. We put 400-plus individuals into these departments that in most cases transformed into schedule C employees. So we have been able to be up and running on almost every one of these in a very, very early process, when you look at the totality of how we handled the transition of government.

Eamon (ph)?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

On -- staying on taxes for a minute, can you give us a sense -- the president said that he's going to present this plan tomorrow. Can you give us a sense of what we're going to see and when we're going to see it?

SPICER: No. I'm going to wait until tomorrow. I think we'll have plenty of time to talk about that tomorrow.

Adam?

QUESTION: ... just a bit of color. The president on Friday when he announced that it was going to happen on Wednesday, aides here at the White House and over at Treasury seemed a little bit surprised to find out that this was coming as early as Wednesday. Can you tell us who inside the White House and the Treasury the president told he was going to announce this on Wednesday before he made the announcement?

SPICER: I think tomorrow we'll have a great plan for you to see.

Adam?

QUESTION: The secretary of the treasury actually said that the goal of tax reform is to spur growth of 3 percent or more, but already people are worried about deficits. And Taxpayers for Common Sense put out a statement saying that growth is hogwash; growth is the magic pixie, thus policy makers throw in economic plans to make them appear fiscally sound when they are not.

What would you say to Republicans on Capitol Hill who are worried about this being a tax reform that would blow a hole in the deficit and the debt?

SPICER: Well, I will wait until tomorrow. You can see the plan. But I think obviously we've got to do everything we can to get economic growth going and job creation going. The president's made tremendous headway on the regulatory front. And he's going to do everything he can on the tax front. But we've talked about this before. I mean, if you look at the corporate side in particular, we have become largely uncompetitive because of our rates. And I think the more we can do to make our country, our businesses, our manufacturers in particular, more competitive, that's good for American workers. It's good for our economy. It's good for economic growth.

And I think the president, as I noted, I mean, when you look at the regulatory side of what he has done, it has really helped a lot of industries start to see light. And that's why I think you see the confidence levels in so many surveys so strong under this president because he's achieved real results already.

So I will see you guys tomorrow. We'll talk about the tax plan.

Thanks.

[14:55:18] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So that's a wrap there.

Let me bring my panel back. Let's begin with the former national security adviser, Mike Flynn. A lot of questions at Sean Spicer on that specifically.

Susan, let me bring you back, Susan Hennessey.

Sean Spicer was asked, do you believe General Flynn broke the law. He said, I don't know. But the questions kept being why, why would the White House want to stonewall Congress and not give over the documents. He was very clear in saying that the documents, the security clearance came prior to January 20th. But the push back was obvious, which was, hand on a second, wasn't General Flynn integral in the Trump transition team, and why wouldn't you have your hands on any of this. What did you make of the response?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY & LEGAL ANALYST: It seems as though the White House is trying to distance themselves from any responsibility here, suggesting that General Flynn obtained his original SF-86 security clearance under the CIA director under President Obama, was issued during a transition period and, somehow, they are not responsible --

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: How long is that going to work for the White House to say that?

HENNESSEY: Not very long. One of the things that happened whenever an individual leaves the government and comes back, they have to fill out a new SF-86 form. They have to have a reinvestigation. This is a little bit of a punt. Certainly, the White House should have had the information. Should have known the public information. The discrepancy should have been caught in the vetting. It's troubling to the White House that don't know what Michael Flynn said on his form. That might indicate there's a serious problem with their clearance process.

BALDWIN: That was on General Flynn.

Quickly, Gloria, to you.

You have new reporting on the shutdown due at the end of the week. The discussion being, hang on, is it that President Trump wants money to build this wall in this spending bill by the end of this week for fiscal year 2017, and we heard Sean Spicer say there will be a wall built. I'm not sure I got a full definitive answer on where the wall money comes from. Tell me what you heard and also what you're learning about the shutdown.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: There isn't any definitive answer. I think I was told by somebody who is involved in the negotiations that there seemed to be some progress between both sides and that they do need eight Democrats on the Senate side if they are going to avert a shutdown. There seems to be some progress. And Chuck Schumer went on TV and said, OK, the president isn't insisting on building the wall. And then the president tweeted, yes, he is insisting on building the wall. And those things can blow up in a nanosecond because they are internal and these statements are external. It creates a big problem. So I think where you are now is the Democrats saying no wall. And by the way, the Republicans now saying, OK, we don't want to do these subsidies to insurance companies to pay for Obamacare so we're not going to do that. And so I think they are in a bit of a struggle right now. And the best thing they can hope for at this point is to kick the can down the road for a week and try and go back and figure out what they can do unless one of the principles blows it up again for them.

BALDWIN: There's just that.

BORGER: Yes.

BALDWIN: OK. So I think some of what you're discussing and some of maybe the consternation over this is he also -- evident with these Senate Republicans, as we've just learned, thanks to Lauren Fox and her reporting.

Tom, let me put the question to you.

Some of the CNN reporting we're getting as we were listening to Sean Spicer was that according to some of these Senate Republicans, they believe that the president, ala the wall and ala health care, has a tendency to inject confusion into some discussions and debates about key legislation a little late in the game.

Let me quote some of the Senators. One Republican Senator saying that Trump is, quote, "overestimating his leverage," given that the president's approval ratings are in the 30s. Someone else said Trump's last-minute demands, quote, "make it difficult sometimes once you have a negotiation."

Tom, how do you see that the president's moves -- is this how he sort of rolled in business and this is his negotiating tactic that maybe worked for him? Will it work here?

TOM ROGAN, COLUMNIST, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think you have two issues here. I mean, as Gloria suggests, you have the difficulty in terms of negotiations in Congress being most effective when they are at least insulated until there's relative coalesce between various parties. And then they come into the public eye and you expand it to the broader Congress. The issue with the president though is he sees the personal relationship building is important and, to some degree, he's done well on that. But he doesn't seem to understand that those issues behind the scenes require a step back.