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White House Press Briefing; Senate Health Care Bill; Trump's Comments on Warmbier's Situation; Trump's Popularity in Georgia Race. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 20, 2017 - 14:00   ET

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


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But I think the president worked really hard to do what he could to secure the release of him. And it's a shame what happened.

[14:00:00]

And I -- I -- I think he was very clear about that when he spoke to -- to members of the media earlier today.

SPICER: Vivian (ph)?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

Two questions. Also on Otto, the president today said that he -- he thinks it's terrible what happened to Otto. Do you have any more details -- do you have any more details on specifically what he endured there?

SPICER: I -- I -- I do not. And I -- we would not share them at this point.

QUESTION: OK.

SPICER: I think there's -- so.

QUESTION: And second question...

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: ... there are reports that your role is changing here at the White House. I wanted to know if you can address those reports. Are they true or not? And if so, can you tell us what -- what's in store?

SPICER: I'm right here.

(LAUGHTER)

You can keep taking your selfies and (inaudible).

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

SPICER: So -- but look, it's no secret we've had a couple vacancies, including our communications director who's gone for awhile. We've been seeking input from individuals as far as ideas that they have. We've been meeting with potential people that may be of service to this administration. I don't think that should come as any surprise.

But we're always looking for ways to -- to do a better job of articulating the president's message and his agenda and we'll continue to have those discussions internally.

And when we have an announcement of a personal nature, we'll let you know. That's a good (ph) deal.

I'm going to go to Dave Price of WHO in Iowa, in light of tomorrow's visit.

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

You already mentioned, the president is coming. We understand that our longtime governor and now ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, will be there with him.

The president has already praised Ambassador Branstad's longtime relationship with China's president, Xi. As you know, the president has a certain style, the way he tweets and talks and that, that doesn't mirror the way Terry Branstad has -- has had his career.

In -- in light of that, how do you see this dynamic playing out in Ambassador Branstad's role with China?

SPICER: Thanks, Dave.

Tomorrow the -- the -- as you noted, the president will be joined by Governor Branstad at Kirkwood to not just discuss some of the agriculture aspects of -- of what's going to be discussed but also talk about trade.

I think he was clearly impressed with Governor Branstad's -- you know, as Chuck Grassley put it, he's been an ambassador for Iowa for decades, if not his whole life. And I think the president feels those skill sets, his understanding of China and his dedication to help export U.S. products and agriculture goods and other stuff, services to China in particular is going to be a huge asset for the United States.

He chose Governor Branstad because he was impressed with what he had done as ambassador -- as governor in Iowa and the respect that he has for the people of Iowa I think is going to serve this country well. So...

QUESTION: Sean?

SPICER: Kevin.

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

I want to circle back on the Georgia 6th. Is it fair to say the president will be watching with great interest the race that happens tonight? And what's his message -- I know he had a couple tweets. What's his message to the people of the Peach State as they consider the direction for that particular district?

And if I could follow up.

SPICER: OK -- so, just so we're clear, I'm not going to comment on political races.

That being said, as I've noted before, it's no surprise that the president is going to support Republicans up and down the ticket, especially to maintain our majorities in the House and the Senate as we move forward.

So, obviously, as you've noted, he has tweeted about that. He believes that there's a clear and stark choice. But I'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Let me ask you about the communications shop here. I know that you're probably wearing more than one hat at the moment and yet there's been a great deal of unrest, certainly in this room and perhaps in other spaces, about a lack of press briefings, a lack of communication with you directly outside of, say, the office.

I just wanted to know if you would, sort of, unpack the idea behind fewer on-camera briefings just to, sort of, help make sense of what's going on.

SPICER: Sure.

I mean, what I will tell you is I've said it -- look, multiple times prior to actually taking the job in December and January, explained that, you know, we're going to do what we can to communicate our message. We will -- we have a tremendous respect for the First Amendment, your ability to do your job and -- and report and seek out ideas, and that we're going to work with you.

I think the briefing is one aspect of what we do. We're here really early in the morning and really late at night, available to all of your questions, whether it's e-mail or in person. This is one avenue to do that.

We've, as you noted, opened up Skype questions to bring more people into the briefing room.

But we have done, you know, multiple, more opportunities for people to interact with the president, according to several folks that have been here for several administrations.

We've looked at a lot of data that suggest that when you look at the number of availabilities and -- and interviews that the president's given, it's pretty significant compared to past administrations.

So I think that we -- while you guys will always advocate for greater transparency and more access, I think that we have done a very good job of not just providing opportunities here at a daily briefing, but also making ourselves available as a staff, you know, almost 20, 24 hours a day when it comes down to it. SPICER: And I think you look at the steps that we've taken to -- to give access to reporters, and I do think it's pretty significant.

I understand you'll always have issues, you always want more, and that's fair. I mean, that's your right. That's what a lot of the press is -- is there to advocate for. You have an association that does that as well.

And I think that you'll continue to fight for it, we'll continue to do our job, and hopefully -- but I -- I do believe that if you look at it holistically, you'll see that we have a staff that's very accommodating, very -- tries to get you -- responsive to your questions.

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Richard?

QUESTION: Thank you, Sean.

Two questions.

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, the Quebec premier was in town to talk NAFTA and he met, among others, Secretary Ross and the governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin.

SPICER: And of Kentucky.

QUESTION: I'll let you say it.

SPICER: Well, no, I was -- I thought you said Connecticut.

QUESTION: No.

And the -- the governor said that he needs good-quality aluminum. His homebuilders need good-quality softwood lumber.

Is the president receptive to this type of argument in his negotiations with NAFTA?

SPICER: You mean with respect to Canada?

QUESTION: Yes. SPICER: Look, I think that Wilbur Ross and the Department of Commerce has made it very clear with their -- with the softwood lumber case that they want to get a better deal for -- for our country.

I understand the governor's point and we're going to continue to work through the proper channels and dispute resolution settlement to get that -- to achieve our goals and make sure that the concerns that we have are settled correctly through the mechanism that exists.

Speaking of Kentucky...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: Hold on. Yeah.

QUESTION: Today is World Refugee Day. Does the president feel that refugees are a threat to American security?

SPICER: I think the first and foremost thing that the president is concerned about -- obviously, you take an area like Syria, for example. He's been very focused on trying to get countries to agree and to work together on creating safe zones, because refugees, for the most part, in a lot of areas, would rather be in their country where they're from safely, have a place to raise their family and not be resettled.

That's our number one goal for them in those cases.

But number two is I think the president's also been very clear his number one goal as commander in chief is to protect the -- our country, our homeland and our people, and that he needs to make sure that people coming into this country are doing so through peaceful means. And so, his number one priority, as the number one priority of any leader is, is to protect their people first and foremost.

But then, obviously, as we look throughout the globe and find areas and regions that need support, we've tried to work through diplomatic and economic channels to create solutions.

Speaking of Kentucky, I'm going to go to Will Clark, who's at WAHS (sic).

QUESTION: Sean, thanks for taking my question.

My question is about the administration's position on coal.

The administration had during the campaign said they wanted to bring back coal jobs to eastern Kentucky, and now there's a lot of those coal miners in that part of the state who are saying that they want tech jobs. They're going back to college to get the skills for those jobs.

Does the administration still support the -- the return of coal to those portions of eastern Kentucky and into West Virginia?

And what is the president's relationship with Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin? I know he was at the White House last week and was also at the nominating convention in Cleveland, among other places.

SPICER: Yeah, he's been here a few times and I think the -- they have a fantastic relationship. Governor Bevin has been a great advocate. He's done a lot in Kentucky to grow jobs and really fight for innovation down there. And I know that his ideas and his input have been very well-received here at the White House and we want to continue to work with him.

I think, with respect to your question, Will, it's not really a binary choice. I think the president wants to continue to, and has supported several measures to really restore the coal industry and to bring it back.

And then, you know, to touch on the theme of this week, we want to do what we can to really focus on technology, helping our government bring back jobs, create new opportunities for our country for jobs.

We talked about this a couple weeks ago when we talked about workforce development -- or only a week ago, I guess. But part of it is to make sure that people have the training and the skills that they need, whether that's going to a vocational school or another training opportunity that gives them the skills in an area like high-tech and technology to pursue a new change in life or a new career or just, you know, out of high school.

But we need to make sure that we have the training and the support, the loan system, et cetera, that will support people who want to go into a lot of these fields.

So I don't think it's a choice of one -- one industry over another. Obviously the president has and will continue to do a lot to support coal, especially the clean coal industry, and at the same time make sure that we have opportunities to give the workforces of the next century -- or the Americans the skill set to compete.

And that's something that Secretary Acosta spoke from this podium on extensively last week.

QUESTION: Sean?

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

Has the president seen the draft of the Senate health care bill?

SPICER: I don't know that. I know that there was chatter today. I know the president has been on the phone extensively with the leader and with key senators. So I don't know if he's seen the legislation or not.

But I know that they've been working extremely hard and the president has been giving his input and his ideas, feedback to them. And he's very excited about where this thing is headed.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you know if anyone on the staff has seen the draft of the bill?

SPICER: I don't. I know that they are up there working hand-in- glove with them, so to the extent that it's -- I don't even know, you know, where -- where we are in terms of a final plan. I know that the staff has been working very closely with the leader's staff, with Senate Finance and others.

So, I don't want to get ahead of an announcement on Senator McConnell saying when that final product is done. So, I will refer you back to him.

QUESTION: I think it's kind of two questions...

SPICER: Of course.

QUESTION: So the first one is just in the last few minutes, Gary Cohn spoke at a meeting and kind of laid out a September timeline for a bill on tax reform that would actually get to the floor of Congress. Is that realistic? (inaudible) prior timelines, though, we've heard a lot of different things that keep getting pushed back. You know, (inaudible) we haven't gotten to a final vote on health care, let alone, you know, all the other things that have been talked about.

Is that -- do you think that that's actually going to be a realistic timeline?

SPICER: I think we've -- we're working really hard. I think you saw the speaker and the vice president, as I mentioned at the top, both talk about this. There's a strong commitment to doing it, and I think it's frankly bicameral and bipartisan. I saw Senator Warner from Virginia earlier today talking about his concerns with the corporate tax rate and the need for it to come down into the 20s. That's great. We would love his support on a package like this. So I think that there is going to be very bipartisan, bicameral support for tax reform. And as we move forward on this, the degree to which we can get some of those individuals to join on and craft a bill will determine the schedule. But I think that's -- that's mostly a congressional timetable that we have to move with.

QUESTION: And will there be outreach to Democrats in that timetable?

SPICER: I think they've already met with some Democrats and they'll continue to. But I don't -- that has been part of the plan. It's already been part of the plan. They'll continue to reach out to members of Congress that share these goals.

QUESTION: The other question is just on Ford -- today announced that they're going to be building a new factory in China.

SPICER: Right.

QUESTION: The president, one, kind of was very, like, kind of declared victory when this plant was not going to be built in Mexico. So one (inaudible) is there an administration reaction to the decision to go there? And then two, there's been some signs that the administration wanted to get tougher on China and autos. You know, are we going to see that (inaudible)?

SPICER: Well, with respect to your first question, Secretary Ross has put out a statement with respect to Ford's decision. And I think the general consensus is that the president wants to create a tax system that companies want to come back and bring back jobs and manufacturing here in the United States.

And once we can pass that plan that you just asked about, that really gets our companies more competitive; doesn't leave them with a highest tax rate; and also deals with a lot of other aspects about our tax -- business tax code that puts them at a disadvantage to their foreign competitors, then I think you're going to see more and more companies not just go to other countries, but come back to the United States, grow in the United States, manufacture more in the United States.

And that's where I think overall we continue to see the need to have tax reform to achieve those results.

Sarah?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

The president today said that if Otto Warmbier had been brought home sooner, the results would have been a lot different. Does the president believe that the Obama administration is partly responsible for what happened to Otto Warmbier?

SPICER: The president was pleased that he was able to work with the State Department and get Otto home as soon as he could. But I think when you -- when you realize what happened, the president, you know, believes that had it happened sooner or quicker, potentially there might have been additional medical resources that could have been provided.

He's just obviously saddened by this entire situation, and just would have hoped that it could have been resolved earlier.

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

I just want to ask, the House (inaudible) and at least three GOP senators have suggested that the (inaudible) should either be scrapped or just greatly shortened, and so more business can be done (inaudible) an Obamacare repeal bill through (inaudible) first step (inaudible) reform.

Is that something could the president support either scrapping or shortening the August recess (inaudible)?

SPICER: I think that's going to be up to the House and the Senate to determine their recesses. They don't -- generally, we don't get involved in their schedule.

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: I'll let -- I'll let Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell decide what's appropriate in terms of their...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... is the president satisfied with the pace that Congress is moving?

SPICER: If -- if the -- if we continue to move forward with health care the way that we're -- the way that we're -- we've been told we're going to, and the -- but I think we're great. We've got our priorities. We want to get health care done. We want to get tax -- tax reform done. And obviously, the president's spoken very extensively about infrastructure. If we can get those done, I think we feel really good.

Hallie?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean. I have two questions.

SPICER: I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I have two questions.

QUESTION: How can you get those done by August?

SPICER: It -- I -- we'll go as quick as Congress wants. You know, that's -- that's a little out of our hands. But it's -- as soon as Congress can do it, we'll do what we can.

You saw when the president, when the -- the House had its bill up, the president worked feverishly to make sure that he did everything he could to get it over the finish line. I think we'll do the same for all those other scenarios as well.

Hallie?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

I have one on North Korea, but I'd like to follow up on health care there.

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: You were around when Republicans were criticizing Democrats back in the day of Obamacare for it being, as you put it fairly recently, jammed down people's throats. You said it was rushed, it was secretive. That was the criticism. So how is what's happening now with this bill getting crafted (inaudible) behind closed doors any different from what Republicans criticized Democrats for doing?

SPICER: I think we wanted to be part of the process back then. If you look at what...

QUESTION: Are Democrats part of the process...

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: You -- you look at what Senator Schumer said both in February to a MoveOn.org call, where he said that, you know, we're -- no one's going to be -- no Democrat's going to go near this. And what he said in a letter in May 9th, that -- he said that no Democrats will be part of an effort that would repeal Obamacare. So they have chosen to take themselves -- not -- to not make themselves part of this process.

There is -- when Senator McConnell brings the bill forward, I'm sure that there'll be plenty of time to have debate. It's the Senate; there's always plenty of time to debate.

QUESTION: He's talking about including next week.

SPICER: Well, OK.

But again, I'm not going to get ahead of -- I'll let Senator McConnell determine the schedule -- the Senate schedule and run the Senate that he -- that he sees fit.

But let's not mistake ourselves with how they approach this thing. Their leader, Senator Schumer, made it very clear on at least two separate occasions that they didn't want to be part of this process. They didn't want to repeal and replace Obamacare. They were happy with Obamacare.

We believe Obamacare is failing. We want a better system for the American people, a patient-centric health care system that brings down costs and gives more accessibility to people. That's it.

They chose not to -- made it very clear that they didn't want to engage in this process. So, you know, to turn around now and to second guess -- that that -- that's something they should take us with their own leader.

QUESTION: On North Korea, does the president support a travel ban to those heading to North Korea?

And given Senator McCain's comments that he believes Otto Warmbier was murdered, is this administration's position that North Korea killed that young man (ph)?

SPICER: On the first one, I think the State Department is mulling additional advisories. And I'll -- I'll leave it to them. That's -- that's how they -- our travel is -- restrictions and such is run through the State Department, so I would refer you to them.

And again, I don't want to -- before anything further goes on, with -- with respect to him, I -- I'm not going to comment on whether or not his -- his situation, how it was handled, until we have further information on that.

Trey?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sean.

Two questions for you.

From the perspective of the administration, how transparent have lawmakers been on Capitol Hill when drafting this health care bill?

SPICER: How what?

QUESTION: How transparent have they been?

SPICER: Well, I mean, I think that we've had a very robust discussion with lawmakers first in the House and now in the Senate, who have ideas and input.

But ultimately, each of those bills is the product of their own chamber. I mean, the House, we obviously had plenty of sessions with -- with members of the House as they moved forward. We've done a lot in the Senate.

But each of those Senate -- each of those chambers runs their own chamber respectively by their -- by the leadership they have. It's not our job to go in and dictate how they do it.

We have been -- tried to be as helpful as we can throughout this process, by highlighting the need for repeal and replacing a failed system. And we'll continue to do that. But it's not for me to get up and talk about how their -- their process works through each of their respective chambers.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on Steve's question on Russian sanctions?

Just very plainly -- a -- yes-or-no answer: Does President Trump believe that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections?

SPICER: I -- I think I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing. Obviously, we've been dealing with a lot of other issues today.

I'd be glad to touch base and...

QUESTION: Generally speaking, I mean, this conversation about Russian interference in our elections, there's 16 intelligence agencies that say that they did. The former FBI director said that without a doubt the Russians interfered.

SPICER: I understand. I've seen the reports. QUESTION: Does the president share those views?

SPICER: I -- I have not sat down and asked him about his specific reaction to them. So I'd be glad to touch base and get back to you.

Yeah?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Sean...

QUESTION: Didn't he say it was fake news, Sean? Didn't the president say that Russia was fake news?

QUESTION: Sean, regarding the president's Cuba policy...

SPICER: Yeah.

QUESTION: ... the Cuban foreign minister just yesterday said that it is a grotesque spectacle. President have any reaction to that?

SPICER: The -- the policy that the president laid out for Cuba, first and foremost, is something that will help the Cuban people. It will stop making -- encouraging payments to the military and help them economically lift themselves up.

That is the greatest form of human rights that we can hope for right now, to make sure that those efforts that we do and that the American citizens who travel or do business in Cuba follow the law. Our goal is to make sure that the policies from this government, first and foremost, help the Cuban people.

And I think that's -- that's what the president has done. And we will continue to advocate for.

QUESTION: OK. Second question, if I might, about the tapes between the president and James Comey. Were those tapes made? Do they exist? And will the president be releasing them to the House Intelligence Committee by Friday?

SPICER: The president has said that he will make an announcement on this. I expect it this week. And so when he's ready to make that announcement, we'll let you know.

How's that? Thank you, guys. See you tomorrow in Iowa.

Thank you.

[14:20:45] SPICER: The president has said that he will make an announcement on this. I expect it this week. And so when he's ready to -- to make that announcement, we'll let you know. How's that.

Thank you, guys. See you tomorrow in Iowa. Thank you.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So, that final question again on the tapes.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Just jotting down my list of headlines made on tapes, potentially Sean Spicer's role changing, the all-important Georgia six, the sixth district congressional race happening today, health care and North Korea.

So, I've got a lot of great voices joining me. I will point out that our colleague Jim Acosta not called upon there in the briefing. And to channel him from yesterday, you know, at least we had camera -- cameras and audio today, so that was a win for journalism.

David Chalian, let's start on health care. I was just passed along, our latest reporting from CNN, we have confirmation, it sounds like, from Senator Bob Corker, Republican from Tennessee, saying they are expecting to get some text of this bill by the end of the week. We heard from Sean Spicer saying he doesn't know if the president has seen the bill. How confident did he sound answering those health care questions to you? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, he sounded like someone

who did not want to get in Mitch McConnell's way at all in this process.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: He knows they are moving along. He knows Mitch McConnell has set this deadline. There clearly have been meetings with the White House and they've been briefed on what's going on. But he did not want to step on anything that the Senate majority leader is doing.

What I thought was interesting was how Sean handled the political question about health care and the hypocrisy that has sort of been this charge that has been levelled against Republicans who --

BALDWIN: He was ready for it.

CHALIAN: Oh, without a doubt. I mean, he flipped through his book and got to his response.

BALDWIN: Yes, he did.

CHALIAN: But, yes, this notion that in 2009, 2010, when Obamacare was being passed, Republicans were demanding transparency, that Democrats were doing this behind closed doors and jamming it down the country's throat. Sean's line on this is, well, we were trying to get involved in the process and Democrats have said they don't -- they want nothing to do with repealing Obamacare. I don't know that that's going to hold up against all the tweets and statements that exist from Republicans, from Mike Pence on down, from all those years ago.

BALDWIN: But I also thought the question earlier -- there was a young woman who stood up and asked about that victory lap, you know, when the president brought all those House Republicans over once that bill was finalized on the House side and then, what was it, just a couple days ago, the president referred to, you know, in his dealings with senators, Gloria, referred to the House version, the House Republicans' bill as "mean." Did Sean have an answer for that?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, his answer was that, and I quote, "the president clearly wants a bill that has heart in it." And we have heard that phrase now time and time again from the White House. It's clear that Sean has talked to the president about this. And if I'm a House Republican who voted for this bill, and walked out on that limb, which the president just sawed off, I would be -- I would be a little upset about that because I guarantee you that every Republican who voted for that bill would have a different way of characterizing it. And it wouldn't be that it didn't have heart. So -- and what heart may mean, by the way, Brooke, is more money. Is it more money for Medicaid? What does heart exactly mean and how does Paul Ryan then explain what heart means to his Republicans?

CHALIAN: And, Brooke, just very quickly, to add to Gloria there before you change topics.

BALDWIN: Yes. Ys. CHALIAN: I -- the notion that Sean was up there at the podium and said, well, the president wants to see a bill that meets his priorities and goals, well, then, what was the Rose Garden ceremony about?

BORGER: Yes.

BALDWIN: Right. Right.

CHALIAN: Did the -- did the House bill not meet his goals? Because he was championing it just a few weeks ago in the Rose Garden.

BALDWIN: It was a victory lap. We all talked about it. Right, right, totally, totally.

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: So, Perry, let me stay on to health care issue, Perry Bacon, senior political writer at FiveThirtyEight.

So, you know, question to you on the health care bill and specifically, you know, the fact that Sean Spicer was saying that he, being the president or his staff, hasn't seen it yet.

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT. COM: Yes, that was what stuck out at me was the -- you know, this health care bill is the biggest story in Washington that actually affects the American people a lot as well. And Sean, he -- Sean would not say that the president knew much about the process or the details of it at all, which was very striking.

[14:25:14] My understanding is actually the Trump staff is being briefed on the details of the bill. I actually think that was -- he probably could have answered that question more precisely. And so I think the president's staff is involved in the middle. But the fact that they couldn't necessarily say what it was about was odd. And I think it goes to the idea that when you -- when you say the bill maybe is lacking in heart, you can't also say, we're heavily involved in the bill. So you've got to reconcile those messages. If the bill is heartless and mean, then I think Trump has to be away from the bill a little bit.

BALDWIN: Can't have it both ways.

OK. Let's move off health care. Let's talk about North Korea and the tragic passing of this 22-year-old, Otto Warmbier, now that he's finally come home for just a couple of days to be with his family, you know, unresponsive, died. This is what Sean Spicer said addressing that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Does the president believe that the Obama administration is partly responsible for what happened to Otto Warmbier?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I -- the president was pleased that he was able to work with the State Department and get Otto home as soon as he could. But I think when you -- when you realize what happened, the president know -- you know, believes that had it happened sooner or quicker, potentially there might have been additional medical resources that could have been provided. He's just obviously saddened by this entire situation and -- and just would have hoped that it could have been resolved earlier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, Karoun Demirjian, we have you back, congressional reporter for "The Washington Post." Let me just ask you on, you know, what Sean Spicer just said. We do know, by the way, that there was efforts underway under the Obama administration. But, you know, this again was a president -- this came up in the briefing -- this is a president who said once upon a time, hey, maybe I'll meet with the leader of North Korea. Now perhaps changing their tune.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. You know, the president was tweeting slightly less diplomatically earlier than what Sean Spicer said today. But certainly this is something where the White House got a lot of accolades from people on both sides of the political spectrum for having actually brought Otto Warmbier home.

Now, of course, you know, it would have been better if it had happened earlier, in enough time potentially to have saved him, if that was even a possibility. But the president came off looking good after this. And it's a question of, how does he take a victory lap on that without looking petty. And it's not really the right time to say that, oh, well, you know, we brought home an American citizen who was in this sort of physical state in North Korea, a coma that hadn't been disclosed for so long, and then dies almost immediately after he gets home. That's not exactly the right moment to say, North Korea's great. And so they're not going there anymore. So it's a shift definitely in the policy, the test balloons that were being sent out before and now everybody wants to take a stronger stance and Trump's in a position to look fairly strong on North Korea if he goes forward from this episode in a way that everybody, again, both sides of the aisle can stand behind him, as they did on this (INAUDIBLE).

BALDWIN: Let's talk about that, the moving forward piece, Gloria, because we know the president condemned the brutal regime, his words, lamented the loss of a young man, quote, in the prime of his life. But moving forward, what does he do? What are his options?

BORGER: Well, I think that, you know, that's not for me to say at this point. Obviously, they're looking at everything. They're talking to allies. He -- Sean mentioned that they've had some positive movement from China on this, and that they continue to work to put appropriate pressure over there. But short of some kind of military action, it's not clear -- it's not clear what their options are.

This is a difficult problem. I believe that President Obama told him this was going to be one of the most difficult things on his plate.

BALDWIN: Right. BORGER: And he is now discovering, in fact, that it is. Having said that, of course, early on he would sit down and talk with everybody and that he'd be willing to talk with North Korea. I think now the president is getting a real dose of real politics here and how difficult and untenable this situation really is.

BALDWIN: He was also asked a couple questions, David, on the Georgia sixth congressional district, you know, this race being fought tooth and nail. It comes down to today. Karen Handel, Jon Ossoff. And when Sean Spicer was responding, he seemed to downplay the results saying, don't read too much into it. What was that about, lowering expectations for Republicans?

CHALIAN: Well, I can assure you, there's almost no chance that we're not going to over read the results of this election, both we in the press and whoever ends up winning I'm sure will over interrupt the results as well.

But you are right to note, I thought it was interesting to hear Sean say, Brooke, sort of a reminder. He's like, hey, the president only won this district by one point. And it's going to be very competitive. So he certainly was trying to level said expectations here. It did not sound like somebody who was supremely confident that the Republicans were going to have a victory tonight. And I understand that the president won it by just one point, but Mitt Romney won it by 23 and Tom Price never got less than 60 percent of the vote in this district. It is a really Republican district. And the fact that even Sean Spicer from the podium says it's going to be this competitive I think shows you sort of where we are.

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