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White House Briefing with Sanders and Mnuchin. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired January 11, 2018 - 14:30   ET

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


MNUCHIN: This is just the first step in a three-step process.

Next, the IRS will be releasing a new withholding calculator that will be available on IRS.gov by the end of February. This will help provide individuals with certainty, so that they are neither over-withheld or under-withheld and can plan their financial decisions.

We have reviewed this very carefully, and based upon last year's withholding tables, approximately 76 percent of taxpayers were withheld so that they had refunds at the end of the year. We expect based upon the new tables there will be no material change in this number.

We will encourage taxpayers to use the calculator when it is released and will launch a marketing effort to make sure people understand that.

Finally, I'd like to say that the Treasury and IRS will work together to release a new W-4 for 2019. We expect to release that later in the year. We will be meeting with employers, payroll providers to determine how to best to design the form to reflect the new law. And the IRS will continue to focus on simplification and a user-friendly process.

MNUCHIN: These new tables will help deliver the tax cuts as soon as possible to as many Americans as possible, with as little disruption as possible. This will continue to focus and fuel the optimism and economic growth that is returning to this country.

I'd also like to highlight the announcement this morning from Walmart. We want to thank them. They will be increasing their minimum wages, issuing bonuses and expanding family benefits for over a million employees.

Walmart is the latest company to make such an announcement, directly a result of the Tax Cuts Act. And they join over 130 other companies across the nation who have already given such relief. We're now up to over 2 million workers that have seen either special bonuses or additional wages.

And with that, I'm happy to answer any questions.

I have to start with you, because you had the hat. QUESTION: OK, thanks.

MNUCHIN: Made you laugh.

QUESTION: In regards to Walmart and the minimum wage with -- since they already have the money and are increasing the minimum wage, does that mean that we can expect movement on the federal government's behalf to increase the federal minimum wage for everyone?

MNUCHIN: Well, I -- I think the most important issue is for companies to increase their wages and Walmart's number is already above the minimum wage. This is obviously an issue for the federal government, it's an issue for states.

But I'd say the real focus, which is what the Tax Cuts Act has been all about, is putting more money in companies. We've said all along, we believe that 70 percent of this will be returned to workers.

QUESTION: Quick follow-up. Do you believe that they should raise the minimum wage, that it should be a federal raise?

MNUCHIN: Next question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, just for those who are watching, on February 1st, will these withholding tables go into effect, and that's when the American taxpayers will first see a change in the withholding of their paycheck?

MNUCHIN: Well, it'll definitely be in February. Some companies will have it set up for February 1st, some companies may have the -- the next pay cycle. But we are encouraging companies to do this as quickly as possible.

We're ahead of schedule in the release of this. And we'd expect that, in any event, it's in -- in February.

QUESTION: (inaudible) What is the point of the Trump administration going to a place that is regarded usually as a hangout for globalists?

MNUCHIN: Well, I don't think it's a hangout for globalists.

I think the -- the idea is the economic team is going to go over and talk about the America First economic strategy. We're -- we're thrilled that the president is coming. And I think what we know is that the economy that's good for the U.S. is good for the rest of the world.

QUESTION: You just talked about Walmart, and that's a big deal. What has been the effort with Walmart, with this administration, for them to raise their wages?

MNUCHIN: Well, again, the whole purpose of the Tax Cut Act was to put more money in companies so that they could compete competitively with international companies. I think you know we had one of the highest tax rates in the world, we taxed on worldwide income; we've changed that. I mean, this is really a revolutionary process.

We thought it would be great for the economy and we're thrilled with, already, the number of companies that we see reacting accordingly.

QUESTION: But have you been talking with Walmart on this? How long have you been talking...

MNUCHIN: We've -- we've been talking with lots of companies for a long time. And we're thrilled with how people are responding.

Yes?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

You are using an outdated -- or the system will use an outdated W-4 form for this year. You will encourage people to go on to a calculator on the IRS website to maybe try to figure things out.

Taxes are messy to begin with. How is this not going to lead to, in one way or another, some sort of implementation mess?

MNUCHIN: Well, you know, I -- I give an enormous amount of credit for the team at Treasury and the team at IRS who've literally been working around the clock through the holidays.

You mentioned, we had an existing form, we had existing technology. We had to figure out how to fit this in this format. The fact that we've been able to keep the same percentage of people that get refunds -- we wanted to make sure that people were not over-withheld or under- withheld, so we ran, you know, lots of models to run this. That's phase 1.

Phase 2, as soon as the calculator comes out, the calculator will work with the new tax system, child tax credits, $10,000 deduction, so a taxpayer can see, "Do I have the right number of exemptions that are filed or should I adjust that?"

And then, as I said, we're going to work on a super-user-friendly form that fits the new tax system. We're going to try to do that. I want to make sure we get a lot of feedback as we design that and -- and update this.

QUESTION: I guess when people hear a three-step implementation process of a massive tax system, in no way this was rushed to try to get this out there for -- for paychecks in February?

MNUCHIN: Absolutely not.

I mean, we update the withholding tables every year. You know there's more work. But again, our objective is to get people money as quickly as they can. Ninety percent of the people will see changes.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Secretary. I just want to be clear. It sounds to me like you are saying that the administration's policies are partly responsible for the Walmart wage rise, but that the layoffs are nothing to do with you. Is that -- am I understanding that correctly? And is that not inconsistent?

MNUCHIN: What I'm saying is the -- the administration's economic policies are a function of what we see, growth and investment.

Different companies will do different things. Some companies will invest capital. Some companies will return money to workers. Lots of things are going on in the economy, and we appreciate what Walmart's doing.

Yes?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Last year at Davos, Chinese leader Xi Jinping made a speech. And he talked about isolationism not necessarily being a good policy for most countries around the world, and sort of was viewed as very much as China making an entreaty to the global economy, saying, "Hey, we're open for business at a time when other countries are turning inward."

Is the president going to response to that line of argument when he goes to Davos? What is he going to say when he's there?

MNUCHIN: Well, I think you've heard a lot of the president's messages. I expect that they'll be consistent. I expect the president will talk about trade: reciprocal, free and fair trade.

We have obviously been very clear with the Chinese on the issue that we have with the trade deficit, making sure that U.S. companies can compete fairly. And the president will talk a lot about his economic program and the impact on the global economy.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Staying with trade, can you give us an update on the negotiations over NAFTA? And how concerned is this administration over the fact that Canada has recently made a complaint to the WTO, and that Mexico is concerned that this administration will in short order withdraw from NAFTA?

MNUCHIN: We gave the president an update this morning on trade. I think he's very pleased with where things are going.

Ambassador Lighthizer's doing an amazing job renegotiating NAFTA. And we expect that will be renegotiated or we'll pull out.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Secretary, (inaudible) taxes, but since we have you here, could you give us an update on Treasury's progress on this list of Russian oligarchs that Congress has asked for? I believe we were expecting it some time in January. Can you let us know where that's at?

MNUCHIN: We're working on it as we speak. It should be released in the near future. And it's something we're very focused on.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if I heard you correctly, you're predicting that there won't be a great increase -- decrease, rather, in the number of American taxpayers who used to get a refund who -- basically, the same number will still get a refund that had been expecting to get a refund all along. Is that correct?

MNUCHIN: That is correct. Again, what we're...

QUESTION: And then, can you then address the Democrats' charge that you all are -- are juicing this?

MNUCHIN: Again, I think this is another ridiculous charge. That's why I specifically want to make clear that there won't be a change in that number.

We have people who have worked very carefully on this. Our objective is not to have taxpayers over-withheld so they owe money at the end of the year. As I've said, kind of, we have a system. Ninety percent of the people will get money, kind of, the same number of people will get refunds.

And we're going to actively encourage and make sure that taxpayers understand how to go on to the calculator, once it's up and running. We'll work with payroll providers, we'll work with companies, we'll do education sessions, so that taxpayers are properly withheld.

QUESTION: Are you expecting any new sanctions on Iran to come through Treasury?

MNUCHIN: I am expecting new sanctions on Iran. We continue to look at them. We've rolled them out. And I think it's a -- you can expect there will be more sanctions coming.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Leaders in some states, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, are talking about ways to limit the impact of the SALT scaleback, such as letting people pay their property taxes in a way that would then be charitably deductible.

Is the administration going to try to halt any of those efforts? And how are you responding to that?

MNUCHIN: Well, let me just say again, you know, from the Treasury standpoint and IRS, I -- I don't want to speculate on what people will do.

But I think it's one of the more ridiculous comments to think that you can take a real estate tax that you're required to make, and dress that up as a charitable contribution. I -- I hope that the states are more focused on cutting their budgets and giving tax cuts to their people in their states than they are on trying to evade the law. (CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

As the national debt clock approaches $21 trillion, I have a few really quick questions. First of all, is this something that the administration is concerned about?

MNUCHIN: Again, I think we've said, under the last administration, the debt has gone from $10 trillion to $20 trillion. And -- and of course we're focused on the debt. And that's why we're focused on economic growth.

This tax plan was about economic growth that will create more revenues for the economy and more tax receipts for the government.

QUESTION: OK, so then -- what can we -- so what can we realistically expect the national debt to be by the end of the pres -- and no, this is not hypothetical, but by the end of the president's first term, what can we...

MNUCHIN: I don't have a projection for that right now, but...

QUESTION: Is it going to be up or down, though (ph)?

MNUCHIN: ... thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

You talk about the tax being flatter and 90 percent of the taxpayers benefiting from it. Yet it would seem that under those circumstances you're going to eliminate a lot of the deductions which so many small businesses and self-employed business people depend on.

Is there really a major cut in deductions? And how do you expect that will play with the small business community?

MNUCHIN: Well, I think there have -- you know, this is about tax simplification, and getting rid of deductions; a lot of these options that rich people take.

But I will tell you, on small businesses -- I mean, one of the best features of the tax plan are all the features that go to small and medium-sized businesses and pass-throughs. I mean, there are tremendous incentives -- whether it's the automatic expensing, or whether it's the discount for pass-throughs. I mean, we've heard more good news from small business of -- than even from the Walmarts of the world.

QUESTION: And self-employed businesses?

MNUCHIN: Self-employed too, yes.

QUESTION: Mr. President (sic), when you're talking about the...

QUESTION: Mr. President? QUESTION: I'm sorry, Mr. Secretary.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: He just gave you a bump in your pay.

MNUCHIN: He's in the other room.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: (Inaudible). Not yet.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in talking about the impact and the benefit that most American workers will see under the tax cut plan, wouldn't this be a good day for the president to release his tax returns, so we can see how he benefits from the tax cut bill? And have you recommended that?

MNUCHIN: Again, I've had this question before when I've been up here. I'll say the same thing. I'll give you the same answer I gave you last time.

I think that there's a ton of financial disclosure that the president has given the American people. They voted for him. He's the president. I think people are happy with that. And the president will decide what he wants to do.

QUESTION: Yes, what does the administration hope to achieve with these additional sanctions on Iran?

MNUCHIN: I think the president's been very clear, OK, that -- that many aspects of the Iran deal need to be changed; that there are many activities outside of the Iran deal, whether it be ballistic missiles, whether it be other issues, that we will continue to sanction that are outside the JCPOA -- human rights violations.

We couldn't be more focused. We have -- we have as many sanctions on Iran today as we have on any other country, in -- in the process. And we'll continue to look at things.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Just two quick follow-ups to a couple of questions that have been asked.

(inaudible) question related to the Democratic charge about the issues that could come up next year. Are you at all -- just yes or no. Was there any consideration given to the midterms when you guys ensure that the implementation of this would happen in February and not, for example, later to give you more time to sort all this out?

MNUCHIN: Again, let me just explain.

The IRS issues tables every January. We knew we were changing the tax bill, so it obviously made sense to wait from January to February so that we gave people time to institute this.

Any claims that we're doing this for political issues are ridiculous, OK?

I'd also make a comment, you know, the Democrats made a bunch of noise about our numbers and -- and tax policy. The inspector general just came out with a report that made very clear there was no political interference in this in how we ran these numbers.

So I would hope the Democrats are focused on doing things that are good for the economy and the American people.

QUESTION: And just a follow-up on Davos too, with Major's question on (inaudible).

You talked about the message being consistent that the president will deliver in Switzerland. Obviously one of his big messages has been aimed at middle-class Americans. He got elected on this populist platform.

I'm hoping you can explain how it's consistent to take members of his Cabinet, many of whom are very wealthy, to go rub elbows with a bunch of other very wealthy people in Switzerland. Can you explain the consistency on messaging?

MNUCHIN: I -- I can assure you that the members of his Cabinet have no interest in going over there and rubbing elbows with anybody.

This is about meeting business leaders. This is about meeting our counterparts. This is all about creating jobs, creating economic growth for the U.S.

As you know, there's...

(CROSSTALK)

MNUCHIN: There's a tremendous investment in -- in the U.S., OK? There's tremendous trade deals going on.

I think we've been very clear and the president has delivered. Look where the stock market is again. The president is delivering for American workers.

So this trip is all business. I can assure you it has nothing to do with anything other than that.

Yeah?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you please say, when it comes to charitable giving, people worry that the new tax code with the higher standard deduction could limit giving to charities. Do you share that concern?

MNUCHIN: I don't share that concern at all.

And I would say quite the opposite: that we've raised the limits that rich people can give to charity to encourage charitable donations.

So I'll take one more question. (inaudible) in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Will the president decide today on the Iran deal? And do you anticipate that he will waive sanctions like he has done in the past?

MNUCHIN: I -- I'm not going to make any specific comments on that. It is still under discussion. And I know the president is contemplating recommendations.

Thank you very much, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Thank you, Secretary Mnuchin.

Just a quick addition, because I know all of you are wondering about that Walmart announcement. It is based in Arkansas, so just in case anybody -- clear that up, because I knew you guys were going to ask.

In all seriousness, the tax law is already having an incredible impact on American workers and families. And this is only the beginning of what people have to look forward to in the Trump economy.

Eight days from now, funding for essential government operations will run out. Unfortunately, Democrats are continuing to refuse to fund our troops and other important national security priorities that keep our people safe.

Some Democrats are beginning to realize how irresponsible this is. Just yesterday, Senator Whitehouse said that funding the government should not be tied to immigration; that they should be separate issues. Threatening a government shutdown like that would be, in his words, "counterproductive."

What's interesting about this is that it's the position most Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, held right up until the moment Donald Trump became president.

Democrats should stop making our brave troops and essential government functions political pawns in their swamp games. They should stop their obstruction and work with Republicans to fund the government.

Looking ahead to tomorrow, the president will receive his annual physical at Walter Reed. Dr. Ronny Jackson, the president's physician, will conduct the exam. And Dr. Jackson has been a physician to the president for three consecutive administrations. He will release a statement tomorrow after the exam and then will join me here in the briefing room next Tuesday to give a detailed readout and answer a few questions.

And with that update, I will take your questions.

(CROSSTALK) SANDERS: Jonathan (ph)?

QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.

Can you walk us through the events in the building this morning that informed the president's tweets about the FISA re-authorization both on the House today? They seem to be in very -- took different positions at different times.

And as a follow-up to that, would you say -- what do you say to the idea that, you know, having these seemingly in-conflict stances undermines the administration's ability to get an agenda done?

SANDERS: We don't think that there was a conflict at all.

The president fully supports the 702 and was happy to see that it passed the House today. But he does have some overall concern with the FISA program more generally.

The president doesn't feel that we should have to choose between protecting American citizens and protecting their civil liberties. He wants to do both. And that's exactly what he's going to do.

We don't see any contradiction or confusion in that.

Roberta (ph)?

QUESTION: A quick question about Dr. Jackson's statement. It will come tomorrow after the...

SANDERS: Yes, it will be kind of tricky if it came before.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: No, but it will come tomorrow, though, right?

SANDERS: Yeah. He will put out a brief statement. But will take the weekend to compile the rest of the results -- lab results, things like that. And he will join me here on Tuesday to give a detailed readout of the president's exam, and then answer a few questions from you guys.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... Walmart, if I might just, because it's in Arkansas...

SANDERS: Great state. Everybody should go.

QUESTION: At the same time as it announced the raises, it also announced that 260 Sam's Club stores are going to close without much notice. I'm wondering if you have any comment on that aspect of what's happened today.

SANDERS: I don't have any comment on that specific component.

We are, again, very excited about the raises and the overall influx of investment that they're putting into their company, and helping over a million workers here in the country. Walmart is the largest employer in the country, and to see them do -- and make that kind of effort to over a million workers is a big deal, something we're excited about, and I think further evidence that the tax reform and tax cut packages are having the impact that we had hoped.

John (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, if it was no contradiction between the president's tweet this morning and official White House policy, can you tell us why his first tweet sparked off a flurry of activity and phone calls between the White House and Capitol Hill and...

SANDERS: I think there's a flurry of activity at the White House every day.

QUESTION: ... and the White House and White House staff, leading one government official to say, "We did more work before 8:00 this morning than most people do in a week."

SANDERS: That government official probably doesn't work at the White House, because we usually do more work by 8:00 in the morning. As most of you know, because you start calling us usually around 5:00 am, and we try to respond to e-mails and phone calls about 24 hours a day from you guys.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I -- I'm not sure about the flurry of activity. Again, to us, that's a pretty normal day. And we're always engaged with members on the Hill, members of our staff, so that seems pretty standard practice.

Major?

QUESTION: Two questions.

One, Senator Flake is -- left some on Capitol Hill with the impression that there is a deal on immigration and DACA. Is there one? And does the White House believe it's one it can support?

SANDERS: There has not been a deal reached yet. However, we still think we can get there.

And we're very focused on trying to make sure that that happens. The president's been clear about what his priorities are, in that process. And we're going to continue working with members of the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, to make sure that we try to get that deal done.

QUESTION: Related to that, is the White House familiar with what -- the contours that Senator Flake is talking about? And would it regard it as progress?

SANDERS: I can't speak to the specifics of Senator Flake.

I can tell you that a deal has not been reached, and we've outlined what a deal would need to look like on our end for it to happen.

QUESTION: Can -- can you explain the administration's point of view of the value of demonstration projects in the 10 states that have asked for it, for those who are able-bodied who receive Medicaid?

Because there are critics who say this fund -- even as a demonstration project, it would fundamentally change Medicaid orientation to those who receive it because they qualify, and that's historically been the method. If you qualify, you receive.

SANDERS: You're referencing the CMS, the new policy.

QUESTION: Yes.

SANDERS: Yeah.

The -- they're announcing that to support states in efforts to strengthen the Medicaid program, and getting Americans engaged in getting back to work. The policy will allow states to design programs that help beneficiaries improve health and well-being. At the same time, the policy protects the most vulnerable, including those determined to be medically-frail or suffering from a substance use disorder. That's what the focus of that program is on.

Cecilia (ph)?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

Back to FISA, if I can. Many people are interpreting that first tweet from the president to mean he didn't actually know how FISA works, and, for that matter, that he wasn't familiar with his own administration's policy.

SANDERS: That's a...

QUESTION: Does he know FISA? Was he familiar with the policy?

SANDERS: He does, which is why he issued a presidential memo last week expressing concerns and asking for a review of it, which is also why DNI put out a new policy, this morning.

This is top of mind for the president, top of mind for the administration, and he has a full understanding. If you don't believe me, ask Speaker Ryan, look to the comments that he made. He's somebody who's been in constant contact, had many discussions with the president on this issue. And he stated that in his press conference earlier today.

QUESTION: And how exactly was the Trump campaign so badly surveilled and abused under FISA as he seemed to claim in that tweet?

SANDERS: Look, I -- I think that there are a lot of things that indicate the surveillance that took place there. And I'm not sure what the part of confusion is on that front. You guys have reported on it many, many times.

Jim (ph)?

QUESTION: If you're a DREAMer out there, should you have confidence that this president is going to reach an agreement that will protect you from being deported?

SANDERS: Yeah, you should.

I think you saw that. You guys got to come into the room in a pretty unprecedented way, and sat in there for almost an hour, listening to the president talk about it, listening to the president commit to getting a solution on this.

Right now, we're counting on Republicans and Democrats to come together, which we think they will, to make a deal on DACA and on border security, which is a vital part of that conversation, and something that we insist be part of it.

QUESTION: And a quick follow-up on FISA: There seems to be a pattern -- and correct me if I'm wrong, if there is no pattern -- where the president watches something on "Fox & Friends" and then he tweets about it.

Apparently, this morning, one of their personalities, Andrew Napolitano, said that -- that, "This is not a good deal, Mr. President. Don't do this," and then he went on Twitter and tweeted about the FISA program.

There have been folks out there who have said, you know, there's a cause and effect: He watches something on "Fox & Friends" and then he tweets about it. Is that what happened this morning? And does that go on?

SANDERS: I'm sure you're disappointed that he's not watching CNN. But...

QUESTION: I think he watches a lot of CNN, if you don't mind me saying.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: I don't think that's true. Your numbers would be higher. I -- so...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: We're actually better than we've been in a long time...

SANDERS: ... in reference to the question, specifically...

QUESTION: ... but we can keep going.

SANDERS: No, let's not.

In response to the question, as I just said, the president has a great deal of understanding. This is top of mind. He was talking about it last week. He is -- issued a presidential memo on it. So it's not something that just happened this morning; it's been an ongoing discussion and something of great importance.

The president doesn't believe that Americans' rights or liberties should be abused, but he certainly believes that Americans should be protected. And he wants to make sure we do both of those things. And that's why he supports the 702, but has concern with FISA more generally.

Matthew (ph)?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

Sticking on the FISA topic...

SANDERS: At least we're consistent.

QUESTION: Yeah. If you didn't see confusion and contradiction between that first tweet and the White House past stated policy, then why, two hours later, issue that second tweet that seemed to clarify the position?

SANDERS: We weren't confused, but some of you guys were. We want to make sure you knew the White House position.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... people on the Hill or people in these offices that have been saying...

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: We got -- I had several questions from people in the room, as I'm sure all of you know, because most of you are the ones sending them.

The president's been clear about what his position is. We've issued several statements on this, put out one last night that had to do with this.

Look, I can't be more clear. I'm speaking on behalf of the president, on behalf of the administration on what our position is. And I think I've laid that out several times here today.

Blake?

QUESTION: Yeah, Sarah, on Medicaid and what CMS put out today, critics would say you need to be healthy to get a job in the first place. How are they wrong?

SANDERS: Look, certainly, we want the American workforce to be healthy. And we're focused on helping improve health care across the board. But we also want people to have jobs.

We're working on both of those things simultaneously. I don't see how that conflates with one another.

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Do you think people are taking advantage of the system? Does that have...

SANDERS: I'm sorry?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you think people are just flatly taking advantage of the system...

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: I think there are certainly cases where that happens. We don't think that's, you know, the overwhelming majority. But there certainly -- that's an issue and something we want to be sure to address.

Shannon (ph)?

QUESTION: Sarah, back in the summer, the president said 100 percent he would talk with Special Counsel Mueller. Yesterday, he said, "We'll see what happens." He seemed to raise questions about whether there would be an interview.

What's changed between the summer and now in the president's thinking about speaking with Robert Mueller?

SANDERS: Nothing's changed. We're going to continue to be fully cooperative with the special counsel, as we have been.

However, the president and his personal attorneys are going to discuss this matter with the Office of the Special Counsel, not reporters. And that's going to be the process that we follow.

Dave (ph)?

QUESTION: Those decision -- those discussions are still going on?

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: We're still cooperating fully with the special counsel, yes.

Dave (ph), go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

Back on the tax cuts, you mentioned that the Walmart bonuses are having the impact that you had hoped. As you know, Republicans alone on -- in Congress passed the tax cuts. The Democrats didn't vote for it at all. Why do you...

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: We think that's sad. We wish they had.

QUESTION: How do you explain, then, that almost twice as many Republican incumbents are quitting Congress this year, as opposed to Democrats?

SANDERS: Look, it's a midterm election.

But we fully anticipate moving forward with strong House and Senate Republicans, whether it's this year or next year. We're still focused on getting things done for the American people.

And I really can't weight in too much on specifics of the election or the midterms, but we feel really comfortable with where we are, and certainly with the record of success that we've had in 2017, to be able to run on that in 2018.

(inaudible)?

QUESTION: I am still confused about the timing of the tweet this morning.

Because it was 7:30 this morning. And the president referenced the fact that the House was going to vote today on this controversial FISA bill. He said that -- he intimated that under FISA his campaign was abused.

Why would he do that this morning, the morning of the House vote on -- on a program that he so cares about and wants...

SANDERS: As I said, it was top of mind. DNI also put out a new policy on FISA this morning.

This is something that's been ongoing, a regular topic of discussion. And the president wanted to put something out. There's not much more than that.