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White House Daily Briefing; Discussion of Issues Raised in Briefing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 14, 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: Secretary Shulkin of the V.A. will also be traveling this week to commemorate V.A. Research Week, speaking at the Brain Trust Pathway's event in Boston on Wednesday. This event brings together public and private experts in research, treatment, prosthetics, I.T. and other specialties to focus on new and innovative ways to support veterans coping with the effects of traumatic brain injury and head trauma.

The State Department also had a few briefings today on the next step in addressing the Assad regime and the horrors it has committed on the Syrian people.

The Trump administration believes that Syria's political future should be decided by Syrians in a free, credible and transparent process. However, we also believe that in a free process, it's unimaginable that Syrians will choose to continue under the -- Assad's leadership.

Syria will never be stable and secure as long as Assad is in power. The Assad regime has sunk to a new level of depravity and it has done so with seemingly unconditional support from Russia and Iran.

For these reasons, we continue to support the political transition process contained in U.N. Security Resolution 2254 and support the political process taking place under U.N. oversight in Geneva.

As we've said before, the United States remains open to working together with both Russia and Iran to find a solution that leads to a stable and united Syria, but in order for us to work together to bring an end to the violence in Syria, Russia and Iran need to acknowledge the atrocities of the Assad regime and use their influence to stop them.

As you can see, it's going to be a busy week for the president, the Cabinet and the staff leading up to the president's first foreign trip, that launches this Friday. We take off for Saudi Arabia later on Friday and I plan to have General McMaster here hopefully tomorrow to walk through the trip with further detail.

And with that, your questions.

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.

Just in China, as the senior director of (inaudible) says the U.S. is forming a Belt and Road working group, and says the U.S. company has -- has much to offer. So what's the perspective of the U.S. future collaboration in his Belt and Road (inaudible)?

SPICER: Yeah.

As I mentioned with respect to the hundred-day plan, I think there's a lot of areas that we are going to continue to work with China to develop a way forward. I think the relationship that the president established with President Xi down in Mar-a-Lago is continuing to pay dividends for our country. And whether it's this policy or trade or market access, we're going to continue to see all of those individuals from the president's Cabinet that were down in Mar-a-Lago continue to work with their counterparts in China to find a path forward.

John (ph)?

QUESTION: Sean, a couple of topics. First of all, back on what you said about Syria, is the official policy of this administration now regime change in Syria?

SPICER: I think I've made it very clear what our policy is and continues to be.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, a lot of complaints from Democrats about the Comey replacement process. First of all, that Jeff Sessions is leading the search. A lot of Democrats (inaudible) recused himself of the Russian investigation, he should not be in that position. Secondly, some Democrats in the Senate are saying that before they will consider the president's next nominee, they want a special prosecutor appointed to look into the Russian investigation.

Can you respond to both?

SPICER: I -- I think this is a process that's running completely as it should. It's being headed by the deputy attorney general and the attorney general. As you -- we've noted in the past, the FBI director reports to the deputy attorney general.

They continue to move through a series of highly qualified candidates and it's -- you know, obviously this is a huge priority for the president, to make sure that we have someone that has the ability to administer the proper leadership to the FBI.

Blake?

QUESTION: (inaudible) on the special prosecutor?

SPICER: I think that's -- there's -- there's, frankly, no need for a special prosecutor. We've discussed this before. You have two Senate committees that are looking into this, the FBI is conducting their own review. And -- and I think if you even look at what Acting Director McCabe said last week, he made it very clear that they have the resources that they need and that the work continues.

But the bottom line is -- again, I think part of it is there's a difference between what we've talked about and that (ph), and it's been made very clear that there's been -- with respect to the president himself, both Senator Schumer, Senator Feinstein, Senator Manchin, everyone else who have been briefed on this have been very clear that there was no collusion with respect to the president himself and no investigation there.

Blake?

QUESTION: Thank you.

Let me pick up where Mr. Bossert left off about the this -- about this ransomware attack.

In the short term -- a short-term question, a long-term question. The short term, is it the advice of the administration should somebody be -- have their computer be infected not to pay the ransom?

SPICER: As I said, I think that what we have seen so far that is the most effective is that if people take their necessary proper steps in advance and use the patches that are available to ensure that it doesn't happen. So prevention is, right now, the -- the key that we're stressing.

QUESTION: As it relates to the long term, at the end of the day, this is extortion from likely hostile foreign actors. Might the administration set some sort of guidelines or policies as it relates to U.S. individuals, U.S. companies should they be approached as to what to do and maybe what not to do?

SPICER: Yeah.

I -- I -- I think we can -- our immediate goal right now is to make sure that we're protecting our both individual, commercial and government enterprises. And that work has proved to be -- the prudent steps that were taken have proven to be fruitful, and I think we're going to continue that.

Right now, obviously that's -- that's the number one priority.

QUESTION: Do you know why he mentioned FedEx? Do you know if that was a -- did something specific happen to FedEx?

SPICER: I -- I don't. I can have Tom follow up.

Jim. Brad, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Thanks. (inaudible)

Yeah, wanted to ask about the election integrity commission. If -- is the primary goal of this going to be looking for recommending reforms to the (inaudible), or looking at cleaning the rolls, or is it going to be more of an audit of the 2016 election?

SPICER: The executive order that the president signed and the vice president and Secretary of State Kobach are leading is a bipartisan commission of the state -- of state elections officials. They're going to look at all aspects of election integrity, including voter fraud, improper registration and allegations of voter suppression. So I think they're -- they're looking at this holistically.

QUESTION: OK.

And one more. As far as North Korea goes, with the new South Korean government coming in, does the administration advise against their reaching out or (inaudible) had towards the North Korean regime, particularly after...

SPICER: I'm sorry, say the...

QUESTION: The -- the new South Korean government. Is the administration advising against South Korea reaching out to North Korea after the -- this weekend's missile test?

SPICER: I think the -- the president looks forward to having a conversation with the new president and discussing the way forward. But I'm not going to get ahead of that discussion at this point.

John?

QUESTION: Thanks a lot, Sean.

On the search for the new FBI director, the president today said that it's moving rapidly.

One name that was put forward over the course of the past 24 hours by the Senate majority leader has been Merrick Garland. Is that a name that the president would possibly consider in the move to name a new FBI director?

SPICER: The search for a new FBI director is being handled by the Department of Justice. My expectation would be that once they've come -- conducted that search, they'll present names for consideration to the president. But they are the ones that are leading that effort.

Alexis?

QUESTION: Sean, can I follow up on the -- Katie's (ph) question from last week?

As you know, several Republicans have joined Democrats in seeking additional information from the White House in writing about the existence of any tapes, producing the tapes and any further information about the potential taping of conversations. Is the White House intending to cooperate with those requests and furnish that information as requested in writing?

SPICER: I think I made it clear last week that the president has nothing further on that.

Hunter?

QUESTION: Wait, Sean. Does that mean that the president will deny the request?

SPICER: I think -- I said -- I was very clear that the president would have nothing further on that last week.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... the president would defy the legislative branch's request. That's what you're saying.

SPICER: I understand. Alexis, I made it clear what the president's position is on that issue.

Hunter?

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.

People clearly still have concerns about Russia's role in the election, even though the president has essentially said there's nothing to it. If there is nothing to hide, why not back a special prosecutor or independent commission just to settle it beyond any doubt?

SPICER: Well, again, it's not a question of -- it's at what point you have a House, a Senate -- a House committee, a Senate committee, the FBI. I don't know what -- why you need additional resources when you already have three entities.

QUESTION: We saw polling this weekend from NBC News and The Washington Journal.

SPICER: I understand that, but that's...

QUESTION: Eighty percent of people want this and they don't have confidence (inaudible).

SPICER: Right, I -- with all due respect, I think the bottom line is you have three entities already looking into this matter.

I think the president's position's been very clear that there is two issues at hand. One is the involvement of Russia potentially in -- in -- with respect to an election and then the president's involvement. The FBI director and others have made it very clear that the president's not a subject of anything. I think we have plenty of entities looking into that.

Trey?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

On -- two questions for you.

On North Korea, is there a new sense of urgency for President Trump to act following the successful ballistic missile test over the weekend?

SPICER: I think there's no question that North Korea continues to threaten the United States, our allies Japan, South Korea, and its neighbors, including both China and Russia. I think we are calling on all of those folks in the region, particularly China and Russia, to do everything they can in terms of sanctions to help resolve the situation and -- and bring stability to the peninsula.

QUESTION: On a quick domestic issue, what characteristics is President Trump looking for in an FBI director?

SPICER: I think, obviously, he wants someone with high integrity and -- and the leadership skills to lead the entity. But I have not specifically discussed the qualities with him.

Richard?

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean. Two questions.

First one, you told us over and over that for NAFTA we were waiting for Lighthizer -- Robert Lighthizer to be confirmed. Now he's going to be sworn in. Can you give us a better idea on the pace of the negotiation -- renegotiation of NAFTA now that we have a trade representative?

SPICER: Well, I think -- I'd have to check his calendar, but I think we've got an hour or two before he's actually sworn in. So you may want to give him a little bit of time.

QUESTION: Can we...

SPICER: I don't, because until he's sworn in and assumes positions, as I mentioned, he's going to immediately go up to Capitol Hill and then off to APEC and Vietnam. So I'm sure we'll get around to it, but right now we still need to just go through the process of getting him sworn in.

Jim?

QUESTION: Just last -- last week, quickly, H.R. McMaster touched the topic, but when the president will be with NATO allies, is he going to ask for a larger, bigger involvement in Afghanistan with troops on the ground from the members?

SPICER: I'm not going to get into what he will say or will not say. It's -- he'll have an opportunity to make his position very clear when he -- when he goes in (ph).

QUESTION: But more allies with soldiers on the ground?

SPICER: I think he has until -- he hasn't even -- I don't think -- we haven't announced the Afghan strategy yet.

I think he's been very clear with respect to NATO there's two issues. One is he'd like to see a greater effort placed on counterterrorism, on combating terrorism; and two, is to see most -- more of the countries live up to their financial obligation that they agreed to.

Jim, sorry.

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.

A two-part question. Is President Trump still committed to his 15 percent corporate tax rate? He's also under pressure to keep some existing loopholes, such as the -- eliminating the state income tax write-off for high state taxes, such as New York and California.

So is he committed to the 15 percent corporate tax rate? And is he also full steam ahead on getting rid of the write-off for high-tax states?

SPICER: Well, as we -- I mean, Secretary Mnuchin and Director Cohn outlined the principles of his tax reform plan. We continue to meet with stakeholders and members of Capitol Hill. But that -- that conversation continues. As I said at the outset, they're continuing to meet with individuals, and those are part of those talks.

So his -- his plan has been pretty clear from the beginning as far as what he wants to see and the framework in which he's -- it's being guided.

QUESTION: Should low-tax states, though, subsidize these higher- tax states, because places like Florida and Tennessee can't write off zero income tax?

SPICER: Again, I'm not going to get ahead of that debate.

I think the principles that were outlined explain where the president's starting point is. He's going to continue to have those discussions.

Eamon?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

On the search for the new FBI director, there've been some critics who said in this particular political climate whoever it is shouldn't be a current or former politician. We saw the list of people who've been interviewed, we see that at least two of them are either current or former political figures.

Does the president have a -- a feeling on whether or not having held elected office is a plus or a minus to hold that job?

SPICER: I -- I don't -- you know, as I mentioned just a minute ago, I've not talked to him about the specific qualities he's looking forward -- for to -- to seeing. But I know the Department of Justice continues to meet with these individuals, and so we'll have to see who they put forward.

Hallie?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean. I have two questions for you, but I -- I guess I'm just looking for some clarity on one of my colleague's questions here. Why won't you just explain whether or not there are recordings of (inaudible) conversations (ph)?

SPICER: I think the president's made it clear what his position is.

QUESTION: That's not my question. SPICER: I understand that.

QUESTION: Why won't you explain it (ph)?

SPICER: Because that's what the president's position is.

QUESTION: So given that you refuse to confirm or deny any of this, how is any senior official supposed to feel comfortable having a conversation privately with the president?

SPICER: As I've said, Hallie, I -- the president's made it clear what his position is.

QUESTION: Even with these congressional lawmakers (inaudible)...

SPICER: Hallie, I've asked -- Hallie, I -- I've answered the question over and over again in the same way, so.

QUESTION: The second question I have for you, then, is on the arguments they're having now in the 9th Circuit regarding the administration's travel ban. One of the lines of questioning has been why the president has not disavowed his Muslim ban. Will he do that?

SPICER: The president -- the -- the executive order is fully lawful and will be upheld. We fully believe that. I think there's no question.

In fact, in one of the arguments in the previous cases, it was made clear that if anyone else had proposed this -- which just shows that it is legally sound, people are misinterpreting it. It was based on the law and the authority that the president rightfully has. That's it, plain and simple.

And that's...

QUESTION: (inaudible). My question is will he disavow the ban? He's never said it.

SPICER: Right, the point is.

QUESTION: (inaudible) he never has?

SPICER: But the point is, is that the ban -- the -- the measures that he took in that executive order are fully lawful, fully compliant, and make it clear that they seek to keep this country safe. That's it. Richard?

QUESTION: But since these questions come up, is there any occasion the president will come out and say, "Yes, I disavow it and I'm letting (ph)..."?

SPICER: Right now the president's focused on making sure that we make the appropriate arguments to get the ban in place.

QUESTION: Thank you. Considering -- in contrast to much of the expression during the French presidential election and that -- that has been reported in France especially, there may be a lot more in common between President Trump and the new president, Emmanuel Macron, of France. Both former successful businessmen, both leaders of two very powerful countries and two of the oldest allies going (ph) basically.

Would -- knowing this, would the president look forward to an opportunity to -- to bring this young president closer to him, maybe meeting on the borders in -- at the G-7 or maybe if he -- even inviting him here to the -- the Maison Blanche in the next few months?

SPICER: If we have updates to share on additional member -- individual leaders that he will be meeting with or meetings that he'll have during his trip, we'll be sure to give you an update on that.

But with respect to, whether it's the French president or any other head of government, the president looks forward to reasserting America's role in the -- in the world and re-establishing some of the relationships. And I think what you've seen so far, whether it's President Xi or Prime Minister Abe or other individuals, you can see by the week that we're having this week that the UAE, Turkey, Colombia, the president has made it very clear that he's going to do everything he can to re-establish relationships around the globe to help protect and advance our -- our national interests.

QUESTION: And this is a special one.

SPICER: They're all -- I mean...

QUESTION: The oldest one. Before we were a republic.

SPICER: I understand. There is a lot of relationships that the president wants to strengthen for the good of this country.

John?

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.

Two brief questions.

First, there are reports, and it may be confirmed by now, that Mrs. Calista Gingrich will be the third woman to be U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. Official? SPICER: Nothing's official until it's announced.

QUESTION: Has her name been vetted with the Vatican?

SPICER: I'm not -- it's a nice back -- back try, but I'm not going to...

(LAUGHTER)

The -- the answer is we have no personnel announcements.

QUESTION: The other question is not related to personnel but process with the FBI director. Sarah spoke last week about an interim or acting director of the FBI, but with the interviews that you describe with the Department of Justice, can we expect that the name who is nominated for the position from that podium will be for permanent director and promptly submitted to the Senate?

SPICER: That's -- that's what I believe the president's expectation is, yes.

QUESTION: So no interim or acting?

SPICER: Well, I mean, you have an acting now until someone's selected. But the -- I mean, the -- the reason that the president's team is going through this process is to select the next director.

Mara?

QUESTION: I have a -- I know this isn't on the front burner right now, but I have actually a health care question.

SPICER: OK.

QUESTION: As it goes to the Senate, I'm wondering if the president's negotiating strategy will change. Does he want to get involved earlier? Does he want to wait 'til the Senate, kind of, comes up with something? Does he have anything in particular he wants them to keep from the House bill, get rid of from the House bill?

What's his approach to this new chapter in the AHA -- ACA repeal process?

SPICER: Well, I think he feels very strong about the product that came out of House, but he recognizes that the Senate has a duty to review it and to come up with ideas. And if it can be made stronger, then great.

He's continued to have conversations with members of the Senate. His staff has had them as well. Our legislative team and others are in communication with the Senate and we'll continue to work with them.

But obviously, they're an independent body. They have a right to go through their own process. But if -- and if we can -- if we can make the bill stronger in any particular way, you know, that's something that he'll support. QUESTION: But he, kind of, came in at the end to, kind of, close the deal on the House. Does he want to get involved more in the earlier stages of the process in the Senate or just stick with the same process (inaudible)?

SPICER: I think that the team has been intricately involved in the process for quite some time and the president by several accounts was, you know, involved in a -- in a way that people hadn't seen on Capitol Hill in a long, long time.

Jill?

QUESTION: Sean, thanks. Just going back to the FBI director search, should we expect the president to begin interviewing personally the short short list before he leaves on the trip?

SPICER: I -- I think that's going to be driven by the Department of Justice. And as soon as the Department of Justice has a recommendation for the president, then we'll move on.

But at this time, I don't have -- there's no update on -- on where that is.

QUESTION: And then I want to go back to (inaudible) with Syria there.

The State Department today, of course, announced the Syrian government has apparently been carrying out mass killings, burning thousands of prisoners. I'm wondering if that crosses any kind of red line for the president and whether we should expect to see any military response to that.

SPICER: Well, the president's always been clear that he's not going to telegraph actions that he takes. So that's number one.

Number two is I think what is important about what the State Department did today was to really enumerate the atrocities and the human rights violations that have been committed and then further ask the -- the world community to join with us to put pressure on Syria.

QUESTION: Should we expect any direct action by the president?

SPICER: Again, I don't think -- the president's made clear over and over again that he doesn't telegraph his actions. He's going to be continuing to raise this issue, but when he's ready to act, he'll let everyone know.

Jen (ph)?

QUESTION: (inaudible).

When it comes to vetting for the FBI director, after the experience with Michael Flynn, is the White House recommending doing anything differently with vetting the FBI director? Are you -- are you already doing something different towards that vetting?

SPICER: I'm not going to get into internal processes that exist. But obviously, you know, we'll -- (inaudible) the full resources of the FBI. So I'm not going to get into how that process is handled.

QUESTION: Is it a good idea to change things (ph)?

SPICER: I'm not going to get into the processes of -- of how that's being done.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Sean?

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: OK.

Two questions, one to follow up on Hallie's question. How has the president made it clear what his position is on...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Yeah, I've answered that several times.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: How has he made it clear? All I've seen is the tweet (ph)?

SPICER: Right. So that's -- that's his position. He said that he has nothing further to add.

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Kaitlan, I understand.

QUESTION: OK, I just wanted you to...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: There's nothing further to add on that.

QUESTION: My second question is, has he made any other inquiries about the Russia investigation to any other FBI officials?

SPICER: I don't -- no, not -- I haven't asked him about that, but I'm not aware of anything.

QUESTION: OK.

And one small follow-up. Last week you said you would get back to us on who requested the dinner between him and Comey.

SPICER: I -- I still don't -- I -- I apologize. I will follow up on that today.

I think one of the things that's important with respect to that, just to clear something up, I think that there was clearly bipartisan support that Jim Comey wasn't up to the job. The president has every right to fire a person because he believed Director Comey lacked the judgment and the decision-making skills and wasn't up to the job.

The president's reaction to this, to -- what his position is has been completed misrepresented. You think about what he said to NBC News: He said, one, he didn't care that this action would make matters work for -- worse for him; that it, quote, "might even lengthen out the investigation" because he would take action against Jim Comey in firing him. He said that he wants the investigation to be done, quote, "absolutely properly." And he said that he might even confuse some people that he would take this action, knowing it would make matters worse for him. The actions that he took he knew could be detrimental to himself, but none of those things mattered, because the president had to do the right thing for the American people, because he believes that Jim Comey was the wrong man for that position.

And I think that we've got to be very clear as to the reason that the president took the actions that he did. He knew that what he did could be detrimental to himself, it could lengthen the investigation, but he knew it was the right thing for the country, the right thing for the FBI, and the right thing to get to the bottom of this.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Why does he believe Comey was the wrong person for the American people?

SPICER: Because he didn't have the leadership skills necessary to lead this -- that institution. And as he said in the statement at the time, the FBI is the crown jewel of law enforcement, and they deserve a leader that can properly lead the institution.

Thank you guys very much. I'll see you tomorrow.

[14:53:09] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We are there wrapping up the briefing, the White House briefing.

I want to bring some of my panel in, David Drucker, joining us from New York on this.

A number of things, David, that stood out to me, one being this issue of the Trump tapes, whether they exist or not. It was interesting that the president secretary, again, said that there's not going to be anything further to say.

I want to go ahead actually and bring Dana Bash in on this question.

He said this again, the same thing, there's nothing further to say. It's odd in that it's a White House that doesn't have a problem saying that's not true, if they feel that a story is inaccurate. So what's going on here?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are still reeling from the notion that the president of the United States, putting out his staff, including Sean Spicer, but also the way up to the vice president, to say things this were not true and the president himself then undermined in the interview.

But I think the idea that they can continue to get away with, "We're not going to say anything more on the tapes," when you have fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill, who were giving them a pass on the firing of Comey and pretty much everything else, but the idea of a taping system in the White House, that was and is a bridge too far for them.

The other thing that I just want to say --

KEILAR: But did either exists or does not -- (CROSSETALK)

BASH: That's what I'm saying. It's hard for them to avoid that.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: They are not sure if it does, or are they being, I guess, ignorant, or we do not know?

BASH: I'll give you my sense. My sense is that Sean Spicer touched the stove a couple times throughout the past several months, but especially last week, and he got burned. This time, he's not touching it.

KEILAR: He doesn't want to go out on a limb?

BASH: He doesn't want to go out on a limb. Because I don't know if he knows the answer. Nobody knows if he knows the answer. And let's be honest, if he said there's no taping system, based on the experience we had last week, are we going to believe him. I think he knows in his heart of hearts it would be hard for people to believe him because the president himself says he can't always inform his press secretary and other aids.

[14:55:22] KEILAR: That's crazy if the press secretary can't get to the bottom of a very simple issue like this. We're not talking about Donald Trump's intentions when it comes to firing the FBI director. We're talking about a taping system that either exists or does not exist.

PERRY BACON JR, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I'm going to say I assume. It's hard to assume here, but the Trump tweeted something that was outlandish and they don't want to deny things that are outlandish that Trump tweets. My assumption is there's no taping system, but we're not allowed to say that out loud about Sean Spicer. He has yet to say it when you can't deny the president's tweet, which was --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Or maybe the president -- is there a possibility that the president wants Comey to be on notice?

BACON: Of course.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, that seemed to be the initial tweet.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: A chilling effect

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: -- he could not mind at all, being a cool cucumber on this issue. But I'm not sure if there's a taping system, right? I mean, all sorts of stories have come out about Trump's tendency to surveil and tape people in some of his --

(CROSSTAKL)

KEILAR: But he did in his civilian life tape people.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: We know that.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I'm with Perry that it's impossible to know for sure because the White House won't say. I'm skeptical if he wasn't taping people why they wouldn't say he's not taping people, except as a face-saving maneuver.

But can we just go back to one thing that super annoys me about that press conference, which is this.

KEILAR: There was just one thing?

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: It's so true. I have a long list, but I'll stick to one.

I get what Sean is doing, "I don't want to talk about it." But to say the president has made his position clear is ridiculous. The president put a tweet out on Friday morning in which the word "tapes" was in quotes, and now they have no comment for four days. There's no position. What is that supposed to mean? Why is it in quotes? Did you tape James Comey? Did you not? This is the White House and the FBI director we're talking about. Again, I think there's a tendency with Trump to say, golly, everything can't be a mountain, therefore, everything is a mole hill. But this seems to be a thing we should continue to try to get the right answer to because it's serious.

KEILAR: David Drucker, what's your impression of this?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is fascinating. This is one of the few times where Spicer has really obfuscated in this way. Usually, it's the president's tweet speaks for itself. We can all kind of run around like hamsters trying to parse every word and every punctuation mark and dot, dot, dot, ellipses in the president's tweet. But in this case, he's saying the president has nothing further to add. Either the president or the White House decided they want to make everybody lock over their shoulder on this and make everybody who has ever had a conversation with the president in the White House look over their shoulder and wonder whether or not they were recorded.

And don't forget, it's perfectly legal for the president to tape conversations in the White House without getting their consent. But if these tapes exist, they don't belong to the president. Since Nixon, they belong to the government. Eventually, people have a right to hear what's on them. It's not something that it Trump can take away with him he runs back to Trump Tower in eight years. They are very relevant questions for that reason. The product does not belong to Trump.

KEILAR: Chris Cillizza, I want to talk about the need for a special prosecutor, or there being no need for it. You wrote about this because there are poll numbers that show eight in 10 Americans believe there should be a special prosecutor. This was the word today during the White House briefing. And I should say a special prosecutor, when it comes to investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Here's what went down at the White House press briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPICER: I think this is a process that's running completely as it should as it should, as being headed by the deputy attorney general. And as you have noted in the past, the FBI director reports to the deputy attorney general. They continue to move through a series of highly qualified candidates. And obviously, this is a huge priority for the president to make sure we have someone that has the ability to administer the proper leadership to the FBI.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- on the special prosecutor?

SPICER: I think there's, frankly, no need for a special prosecutor. We have discussed this before. You have two Senate committees that are looking into this. The FBI is conducting their own review. And I think if you even look at what Acting Director McCabe said last week, he made it very clear that they have the resources that they need and that their work continues.

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KEILAR: I want to play devil's advocate on this, because having covered Hillary Clinton --