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White House Briefing Amid New War Between Trump and Bannon; Trump "Furious, Disgusted" at Bannon's Comments. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired January 3, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:15] SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He never actually sat down with the President just to be very clear.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did they ever speak on the phone?
SANDERS: There was one brief conversation that had nothing to do originally with the book. It was I think around five to seven minutes in total since the president has taken office. And that's the only interaction that he's had.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Phone calls?
SANDERS: That's the only interaction that the presidents had with Michael Wolf since he took office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you reconcile the president's statement with the author statement about how the book came to be?
SANDERS: I'm not sure what the author's statement is on how the book came to be. I know the book has a lot of things so far what we've seen, that are completely untrue. You have many people that have quotes that are sourced to them that are now coming out publicly saying those things are not true. And so, I can't speak to what the author's comments were. I can only speak for the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the White House have that copy of the book now?
SANDERS: I believe there may be some individuals that do - Jim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, the statement -- the president's statement suggests that Steve Bannon had very little influence in the White House. But the President elevated him to the same level as the Chief of Staff and put him on the National Security Council. How would you reconcile that?
SANDERS: I wouldn't say he elevated them to the same level as the Chief of Staff. And I think that in the actions that Steve took, the President was clear that it didn't have a lot of influence on him or the decision-making process throughout his time here at the White House - Margaret.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, can you clarify, because many of us here have seen Michael Wolf at the White House on multiple occasions. We've seen him firsthand. So, we know he was here. Who gave him access to the White House? What was he here for? Can you explain any of that? Since we don't have access to the logs.
SANDERS: So far from what I can tell of the roughly just over a dozen interactions that he had with officials at the White House, I think close to 95 percent were all done so at the request of Mr. Bannon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the compliance really you would just say came from Steve Bannon, other White House officials were not working with him and helping to --?
SANDERS: Any that did so far as far as we can tell did so at the request of Mr. Bannon -- Deborah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President tweeted that he'll be announcing the most dishonest and corrupt media wars of the year Monday at 5:00 p.m. Can we get some details of that? Where will he say it? Will it be televised? How many awards will he present?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will there be an audience?
SANDERS: I certainly don't want to spoil anything, but my guess is that there are quite a few individuals that could be up for those awards. And beyond that I think we'll have to see what happens on Monday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will the press core be in the room for that?
SANDERS: We'll certainly keep you posted. It might be hard for him to present trophies if you guys aren't there, but I don't know. We'll have to wait and see what happens on Monday -- Justin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have two questions. First one is there's some controversy over the weekend from the Department of Transportation, suggesting that the administration doesn't support the split federal state framework for the Gateway Rail Tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey. Since its infrastructure week, I'm wondering if the president --
SANDERS: Is it infrastructure week?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- in principle supports a least a 50/50 split on that? And if not, what's changed from when he met with the bipartisan New York delegation earlier last year?
SANDERS: We don't have any new policy announcements on that front at this point. But as we get further into the year and further into the conversations on infrastructure, we'll be roll out more details on what we want to do, what we hope to accomplish and what plan is to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I have some questions yesterday about the sort of shorter list of the demands on immigration. I'm wondering if that's something that Nick Mulvaney in short brought up to Capitol Hill today as part of those discussions?
SANDERS: It's possible that it comes up. We are certainly open to having conversations on that. The conversation today, the primarily focus is on the budget. Once again, we'd like a clean budget bill. And so, that's not what our focus is going into today's meeting. But our priorities on what we would hope to have in any immigration bill and any DACA deal haven't changed. They would include securing border with a wall. Ensuring interior enforcement. Eliminating the visa lottery program. And ending chain migration. All those are still the same -- Steven.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nailed down the data points with respect to Steve Bannon. You said that the last time the President spoke with him was in the early part of December. Was that before or after the special election in Alabama?
SANDERS: I would have to look back at the exact date.
[15:35:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The drafting of the statement the President today, it's rather lengthy. Did he write it in his own hand or dictate it?
SANDERS: Look, these are the President's words. I think they're very clear and there's not much to add beyond that -- Kevin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been reported that he was furious when these reports first came out about Bannon was quoted as saying. Is that an accurate depiction?
SANDERS: I think furious, disgusted would probably certainly fit when you make such outrageous claims and completely false claims against the President, his administration and his family -- Kevin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, thanks. I wanted to ask you personally, and I know you speak on behalf of the President and behalf of the American people. How surprised were you at what you read these excerpts attributed to Mr. Bannon? Did that surprise you in any way? And if so how?
SANDERS: Certainly surprising. I for one was somebody who very much believed that the President could and would win. Otherwise I wouldn't have dedicated so much time to that. But not only that, I worked in the White House since the very first day, and a lot of the characterization that I saw that he was pushing out was the opposite of what I saw take place every day that I've been here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very quickly on North Korea. There's been some folks in town who've said, listen, it doesn't help, despite the idea being we are going to be forceful and push back. Some have said it doesn't help when the tweets come out the way they do. And yet we know that the President made it clear, I am who I am and I'm going to tweet the way I want to tweet. Has there been any consideration that tweets like the one on North Korea actually don't advance the agenda, meaning working with other partners in the region?
SANDERS: I think what didn't help was the complacency and silence of the previous administration. This is a president who leads through strength and he's going to do that and he's going to focus on everything that he can do in order to keep America safe and he's not going to be pushed around by the leader of North Korea. Our policy with North Korea has not changed. We are fully committed to continuing to apply maximum pressure and working with all of our partners in the region, including South Korea, who we have a better relationship now than ever before. We are going to keep working with them and keep pushing forward and hopefully North Korea will start making better decisions -- Kristin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You just said that people should question the mental fitness of Kim Jong-un. So then isn't it dangerous for the President to be taunting him on Twitter?
SANDERS: I don't think that it's taunting to stand up for the people of this country. I think what's dangerous is to ignore the continued threats. If the previous administration had done anything and dealt with North Korea, dealt with Iran, instead of sitting by and doing nothing, we wouldn't have to clean up their mess now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Taunting tweet to say that he has that he has a larger nuclear button.
SANDERS: I think it's just a fact.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just one more. What does it say about the president's priorities that he unleashed a four-paragraph statement about Steve Bannon and one tweet on North Korea?
SANDERS: The president has issued a number of statements, as I have, as have the administration, Ambassador Haley, Secretary of State, Jim Mathis, Secretary of Defense have all talked extensively about North Korea. To try to limit it down to one tweet is just disingenuous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president says there is no actual nuclear button. He said it was actually bigger.
SANDERS: But the President's very well aware of how the process works and what the capacity of the United States is. And I can tell you that it's greater than that of North Korea.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two foreign policy questions. One yesterday you said there would be more details on Pakistan in the next 24 to 48 hours. We're seen some reports that the administration plans to announce as soon as Wednesday or Thursday that it plans to cut off security assistance to Pakistan. Is that accurate?
SANDERS: We'll continue to keep you posted as those decisions are finalized.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, and then regarding Jerusalem and Israel, the President tweeted last night that we have taken Jerusalem the toughest part of the negotiation off the table. But Israel for that would have to pay more. First, taking it off the table, when the president announced that Jerusalem was capital of Israel, the administration policy was stated as that the borders were not being decided. This doesn't affect negotiations. This tweet seems to contradict that.
SANDERS: I don't think so. It doesn't affect the negotiations. We still want to continue to have conversations and continue the peace process. We're still very much committed to that. And hope we can continue to push forward at that point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what is this pay more thing?
SANDERS: I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said that Israel would have had to pay more?
SANDERS: I'd have to check on the details of that. I'm not sure - Jordan.
[15:40:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Sarah. In light of this book and the back and forth over how much access Michael Wolf had to the White House, will the White House reconsider its decision to block public release of visitor logs? Will you release visitor logs to the public?
SANDERS: I don't anticipate any changes to that policy at this point. But if it happened will certainly make sure that you guys are aware -- John.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sarah. Two questions. First, during the campaign the president said repeatedly entitlements were off the table. Tan he would preserve social security, Medicare, Medicaid, part D as they were. Now with the passage of the tax reform legislation and the recent statements of House Speaker Paul Ryan that entitlements should be considered. Has the president changed his position from the campaign?
SANDERS: The president hasn't changed his position at this point. Again, as conversations go on, if that does changes we'll let you know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it safe to say Steve Bannon is off the list of social invitations for the White House?
SANDERS: Probably so. Since those are controlled by the first lady, I think her statement is pretty clear on her position as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Sarah. A couple of questions ton Steve Bannon and one on North Korea. How would you describe Steve Bannon's role in the White House when he was serving in this administration?
SANDERS: I think the President addressed what he feels it was. And to me that's the most important voice in this process. And he has spoken very clearly on that front.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And could follow up. Is the President looking for an apology from Steve Bannon? What was he looking for in the future from Steve Bannon?
SANDERS: I don't think anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On North Korea, discussing earlier on the idea that Kim Jong-un would be the one who is mental I'll. Is the President concerned that tweeting about nuclear war could cause someone like Kim Jong-un to tact with military force? SANDERS: Again, I have addressed this. I think the president is
concerned about the continued threats that this individual has made towards the United States and others. And he's not going to allow him to continue doing that without saying something and standing up for the people of the country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two questions. First, three former secretaries have said the deadline for DACA really is this month. That there is not enough time to put a new program in place by March if it's not done this month. Do you all agree with that? I mean, does that make you feel like you have to get this done sooner? I know there has been some talk here about not worrying about it until March.
SANDERS: We'd like to get something done. But again, we want to make sure that we have complete and responsible immigration reform. And we are not just dealing with one piece of it. And we've laid out what our priorities are and what it would take for us to make deal on that. And we look forward to having those conversations and getting that done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it have to be done this month as they are saying?
SANDERS: I don't know it has to necessarily be done this month. Look, we'd like to make a deal on securing funding for the border wall as well as ending chain migration, ending the visa lottery program, interior enforcements. We'd like to do that right away. So, if the Democrats are willing to sit down and make that deal, I think we'd be happy to get that done by the end of the month. Sorry, we'll do a quick one here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just a very quick one. I don't understand the timing of something. Steve Bannon left in the summer, late summer. If the President says he lost his mind when he left, why did he continue to talk to him for so many months?
SANDERS: Look, the President continued to have conversations with him, often asked for by Mr. Bannon. The President spoke with him. But that doesn't mean that he can't hold that position.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you base your -- your comments about Kim Jong-un and his mental stability, is that based on a U.S. government assessment, a psychological assessment or is that your opinion?
SANDERS: I am not going to get into any more details on that front. I'll take one last question. Go ahead, Andy. Sorry I'll come back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president enjoyed a slight bump in popularity when he was down in Florida golfing. I'm sure you saw this. Is it possible that Americans like him more when he's not in the news hand not tweeting?
SANDERS: I think Americans like the fact he got the largest tax cut in history done. I think they like the fact they'll see more of their paycheck. I think they like the fact that American companies are investing back in this country and not other ones. I think they like the fact that American companies are now giving out massive bonuses across the board. We are seeing every single day more and more companies announce decisions like that. I think that's what most Americans certainly were very happy about particularly as they went into the holiday season. And had a little bit more money to consider spending as they celebrated Christmas with their family. Take one last question. Hunter, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the past day or so we have seen president Trump attack the press, the Justice Department and now his former ally Steve Bannon. By attacking critics and key institutions in our democracy, isn't the president engaging in authoritarian behavior?
[15:45:03] SANDERS: Not at all the president is simply responding often to news of the day. I think if the president can't respond aggressively to an individual like the leader of the North Korea that continues to threaten Americans, then that's a dangerous place that we don't want to go down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president called for critics to be fired from their jobs, that's not the president of North Korea?
SANDERS: I'm sorry I couldn't hear the first part of the question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen both you and the president calling for critics to be fired from their jobs?
SANDERS: I don't think it's necessarily critics. We are certainly happy with people have different opinions. But there is a difference between different opinions and different facts and people are entitled to an opinion but not entitled to their own facts. And we have a big problem with people putting out misleading information. Those are very different things. Thanks so much, guys.
(END OF WHITE HOUSE PRESS BRIEFING)
BALDWIN: All right. Let's chat for we just heard, Dana Bash, Gloria Borger, S.E. Cupp, Jeffrey Toobin with me. On this unprecedented attack from the president on his former chief strategist Steve Bannon. Let me read something that we got from our White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Dana, I am going to start with you.
But first. In his blistering statement today, President Trump said Steve was rarely in one on one meeting with me. One official says that's not true. Steve Bannon could walk into the oval office, as he often did, it was only steps away from his office. Quote. He met privately with the president all the time. The official said adding more than any other top advisers. As for the line Steve pretends to be at war with the media. The official says that is it ironic given how frequently Trump has spoken to multiple newspapers. Dana Bash, what are you hearing?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, yes. Jeff of course is exactly right, that Steve Bannon did have walk in privileges to the oval office and a lot of people did who were on the president's senior staff before John Kelly came in as chief of staff and changed the way that worked. The fact of the matter is that Sarah Sanders in that briefing described the president as furious and disgusted at what he read or at least was told about that was in this book from Steve Bannon.
The idea that the president's son and son-in-law and Paul Manafort acted in a treasonous way, and the pretty nasty things said about Donald Trump Junior about the fact that he would crack like an egg, when talking about Russia in public. Having said all that, sources I'm talking to tell me that the president is angry, he's certainly not pleased, and that he felt he had to respond kind of in an eye for an eye way, which is why he put out that pretty unequivocal and harsh statement from the president of the United States going after Steve Bannon.
Having said that, I'm also told that at the heart of it, the president has privately said he believes, he agrees with, rather, some of the ideas that Steve Bannon was talking about. Namely, that that June 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer was a mistake. It was amateur hour. It wasn't the right thing to do. But believing that and thinking that potentially in private and saying the things that were said by Steve Bannon that looked like complete disloyalty, those are two different things.
BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, I haven't heard from you yet on this. What do we call it this war now between these two men?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know. Let's call it "1600", you know, a new series, a new TV series.
BASH: Latest episode.
BORGER: Latest episode. The context of this, if we just step back for a second, the context of this is that Steve Bannon is at war with a lot of people in the Trump family. He doesn't like Jared and Ivanka. He hasn't been particularly close to the kids. He's in open battle with the more moderate people in the administration, like secretary, like Cohen, for example. And so, when he talks about the Russia meeting, yes, he may believe it's treasonous, and that's a word that's going to grab anybody's attention.
But, you know, he doesn't like Jared or Ivanka. And he has more to say about them. And I think that's no secret. So what Trump is doing here, and who knows who helped Trump with this statement, I kind of feel like maybe there was a little Jared in this statement getting back at Steve Bannon. But the president is defending his family here. And you can cross the line with the president in a lot of areas, but the family is dangerous. And so, Bannon publicly weighed into some pretty dangerous territory here.
[15:50:00] And I agree with Dana 100 percent, the president thinks that meeting at Trump Tower was a dumb idea, but I think you cross the line when you go public about the family here and that's what Bannon has done. Will the president talk to Bannon at some point in the future? Of course, he welcomes back everybody into the fold. But at this point this eye-popping statement is really because they attacked the family.
BALDWIN: That's interesting. The thought it would have Jared Kushner's fingerprints on it would make sense.
BORGER: And maybe other people. Maybe others. There are a lot of people in that White House with knives out for Bannon.
BASH: But the president signed off on it.
BALDWIN: Right. Totally. That's the most important piece. S.E. and Jeffrey Toobin, just also on this, does this seem like a pattern, you know, once somebody says something mean about the president, the president's like, oh, he was never, you know, good for me. Downplaying any sort of role, they had in the administration. You're nodding.
S.E. CUP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. What we're witnessing is a political war of the roses here. These were two people who were very much in love with the idea of being married at one point. And there is proof of that. They talked openly about how they saw in each other equals and political equals and they were the -- cut from the same cloth. They very much wanted to be a family and now what we're seeing is they're literally putting tape down the house dividing it up.
CUPP: You know, you just have to hope that a dog doesn't have to die in this process, but this pretense that they were never, you know, that Steve Bannon was never important to the Trumps and to his campaign is demonstrably false. I think Trump is very good at sort of rewriting the story. Well, he wasn't really influential. He wasn't all that important. He did that with Manafort and, you know, name your adviser. He's doing that with Bannon.
This is a lot harder to say, though, that these guys weren't on the same mission. They were really married at the hip for some time, you know, effusively talking about how great each other was in their roles and how important they both were for the country.
BALDWIN: What do you think?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I have to say, I am less interested in the can this marriage be saved between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon than I am in the portrait of the president of the United States in the chapter in "New York" magazine, someone who doesn't read anything, someone who doesn't know anything, someone who doesn't investigate or ask any questions about policy, someone whose staff doesn't even engage with him because they think it's a waste of time. I mean, the portrait of the person who was president, who has the nuclear codes --
TOOBIN: Is so chilling. Is so -- I don't know about unbelievable. It is so disturbing. That's what I am worried about in this book. I mean, you know, whether Steve Bannon is in or out, well, you know, that to me is not terribly important, but I do think the idea that someone whose allies and staff portray him in this incredibly -- as an incompetent, evil guy, that's chilling.
BALDWIN: Go ahead, Dana. I could tell that was your voice.
BASH: I agree with Jeffrey that those descriptions of the president are -- just kind of make your mind blow.
BALDWIN: Which might explain the 16 tweets yesterday.
BASH: It could. It could. I was told that maybe that was -- that he is angry about Russia, but that's another conversation.
BASH: But about Steve Bannon, it does matter going into this midterm election year. We are in 2018. Steve Bannon has vowed to burn the house down with regard to the Republican establishment. Run primary challengers against people who are supportive of the senate Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, even the house speaker but much more focused on the senate side. The big question in Washington today is how much does the president at least publicly cutting off Steve Bannon and cutting him down affect the revolution that Steve Bannon was planning on waging this year? The happiest person in Washington right now is Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, because he's hoping that it undercuts Steve Bannon a lot.
BORGER: But we know these things with Trump never last, by the way, right? I mean, he was never supposed to talk to Paul Manafort. He talked to Paul Manafort until the attorneys said you can't do that anymore. He still talks to Roger Stone. This will pass. And then when he gets frustrated with the political advice he's getting inside the White House, he'll talk to -- he'll talk to Steve Bannon again. I mean, this is the way this president operates.
[15:55:00] He doesn't ever discard anybody permanently because he wants everybody to come back in the fold and adore him again. And so, I think that, you know, I think that is likely to continue. I do think, though, that people are going to try to use this, as Dana points out, to drive a wedge so that the president would be more likely to listen to McConnell and Cory Gardner, who runs the senate campaign committee, about which candidates the president ought to support.
TOOBIN: And where does Steve Bannon -- where is his great power? What has he accomplished, you know, since November? He got a Democrat elected from the senate in Alabama. Which seemed impossible.
TOOBIN: What Republican incumbent senator is afraid of Steve Bannon's challenge at this point? I can't think of any. I don't think any of them are, I mean, you know --
BASH: There is no question that his -- Yes, there is no question that his credibility and his scariness to those incumbents diminished greatly after Alabama. Absolutely no question. But he wasn't giving up. And it -- and I think that -- I know that there are a handful of incumbent Republican senators who are still bracing for a challenge from the right from the grassroots that are listening to Steve Bannon and frankly many of those who supported Donald Trump.
CUPP: Let's not forget, you know, a lot of us dismiss the importance and influence of Breitbart coming into the election. He's back at Breitbart and I think it would be a mistake to dismiss the influence and the importance of that outlet going into 2018.
TOOBIN: S.E., what side is Breitbart on now?
CUPP: That's the question.
TOOBIN: We don't know. Its own island? And Bannon is trying to steer that ship somewhere.
TOOBIN: Is it pro-Trump or anti-Trump?
BASH: It's Bannon.
CUPP: Figuring itself out, with Bannon on the outs, that's sort of in question.
BALDWIN: Hold on just a second because I wanted to make sure I got to you. Speaking of former Trumpers. You have a big interview. Tell me about that, S.E. Cupp.
CUPP: I'm going to be interviewing Sean Spicer. I'm going to have him on S.E. Cupp unfiltered on HLN for the full hour and I'm going to ask some very pointed, serious questions that we would all have of Sean Spicer, but he also wanted to come on to the show and sort of mix things up and ask some of his own questions. So, we're going to have a really interesting, spirited, lively conversation about all kinds of things from Trump to the media to I'm sure Steve Bannon.
BALDWIN: This is tonight.
CUPP: This is tomorrow night. Thursday night, 5:00 p.m. on HLN on "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED."
BALDWIN: Sean Spicer.
CUPP: I know. The full hour.
BALDWIN: Here you go. "S.E. Cupp Unfiltered". We will be tuning in for all of that. Thank you, S.E. and everyone thank you all so much.
By the way, just in, we are getting reports of a fire at a home associated with Bill and Hillary Clinton's hope in Chappaqua, New York. That is next.
BALDWIN: Just in here, crews are responding to a fire at a home in Chappaqua, New York, that is associated with bill and Hillary Clinton. We are told the situation is now under control, that there are no injuries. No word if the former president or former secretary of state were actually home at the time. Keep you posted. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me here. Reminder, check out "American woman." THE LEAD with Jake Tapper.