Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 4/24/2017, #40
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:31 P.M. EDT
MR. SPICER: Hi, guys. Well, can’t outdo Gronk, but I brought some special guests today. As you know, the ambassadors to the U.N. Security Council are here today visiting, and Ambassador Haley wanted to come by and make sure we have an update as to what they’re talking about — some of the issues. When she’s done, she’s got to join a meeting that’s in progress.
Secretary Mnuchin has some comments that he’d like to make. We’ll take some questions from him and then resume the briefing.
So without further ado, the Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
AMBASSADOR HALEY: Thank you, Sean. I will tell you, we have had an exciting day in D.C. We are hosting the members of the Security Council. And when you think of that, this is the most powerful group that decides sanctions, relief, any sort of conflict that comes up. This is the group. And so the idea that they were able to come to D.C. is overwhelming for them. They are extremely pleased.
We started the morning at the Blair House with Senators Graham and Cardin, as well as Congressman Smith and Congresswoman Bass. So they had a lot of interaction, probably about an hour and a half, talking about issues from budget all the way to peacekeeping issues, as well as conflicts in North Korea and Syria, and then with the problems in Iran. So it was a very healthy discussion there.
From there, we came over to the White House, and the President greeted all of the members, had his picture taken with them, and then we all sat down for lunch. And it was an open dialogue, very much of the members wanting to hear from the President what his plans are, what he was going to continue to do on Syria or not continue to do — North Korea. All of those issues are certainly at the forefront. And the idea that he would have that dialogue with them is tremendously helpful to me — whereas in the Security Council, we need them to really engage, we need them to now know that we are about action.
And I think that what we’ve tried to do in the U.N. is really bring reform — reform in the way we spend, reform in the peacekeeping operations, but also reform in the resolutions that are passed, that what we pass actually means something and that there’s accountability in what we pass.
And so I think they heard that loud and clear today from the President. I think that they are thrilled with the engagement that they had. And I think it shows that the President is very engaged on foreign policy, and they see that. The idea that he would sit down and want to talk to them about each of their countries and the Security Council collectively is massive for a President to be able to do this, and it was certainly helpful for the United States.
Now they are in briefings with General McMaster focusing on North Korea, also focusing on ISIS and engaging on that front. And we’ll continue to have other conversations as well. But as far as we go, great day for the Security Council, great day with the President, and certainly more good to come out of this meeting.
So thank you very much, I’ve got some ambassadors waiting, and we will talk to you soon. Thank you.
MR. SPICER: Thank you, Ambassador. So without further ado, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Seems like I’m becoming a regular here. It’s nice to see all of you again.
Q: We have no problem with that, sir.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Earlier today, the United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control imposed sanctions in response to the April 4th, 2017 sarin attack on innocent civilians by the regime of Syrian dictator Assad. OFAC is sanctioning 271 employees of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center — the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing nonconventional weapons and means to deliver them. OFAC has targeted these 271 employees because they have expertise in chemistry and related fields, or have worked in support of chemical weapons programs since at least 2012.
Today’s action, less than three weeks after the attack on Khan Sheikhun, is one of the largest ever executed by OFAC. In a single action, we are more than doubling the number of individuals and entities sanctioned since the start of the Syrian conflict pursuant to Syria-related executive orders. These sweeping sanctions are intended to hold the Assad regime and those who support it, directly or indirectly, accountable for their blatant violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118.
The United States is sending a strong message with this action that we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons by any actor, and we intend to hold the Assad regime accountable for its unacceptable behavior. The Treasury Department, together with the Department of State and our international partners, will continue to relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of any individuals involved with Syria’s production or use of chemical weapons.
I’d also comment that, recently, we had sanctions on North Korea and Iran, and will also continue to add to and monitor those as appropriate.
And with that, I’d be happy to take a few questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, is this the only round of sanctions we can expect against Syria in the wake of that chemical weapons attacks or are you considering more? And are you considering the possibility of sanctions against Russia for not going far enough to try to dissuade Assad?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: We don’t comment on the specifics of sanctions that we are going to do in the future. But again, what I will tell you is, these sanctions programs are very important, they’re very effective, and we will continue to use them to the maximum amount available by law.
Q: Secretary, on the budget, is the border wall a deal breaker for the President, even to the point of a government shutdown?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: I’m not going to comment on the specifics of that, but I will say is, I was in a meeting this morning with Director Mick Mulvaney and other senior people. The President is working hard to keep the government open and addressing various issues.
Q: Secretary, can you tell us what these sanctions actually do? What is different today than was different yesterday before OFAC moved?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Well, the sanctions are enormously important. So by identifying 271 additional people, these sanctions, as you know, will both freeze assets, if there’s assets here, and prevent U.S. entities from doing business, as well as these sanctions have enormous impact with all of our partners around the world who also work with us on these issues.
Q: As you know, the administration is trying to grapple with the Paris Climate Agreement and come to a decision on that. Where do you stand on it? Do you support staying in Paris or coming out?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Again, I would just comment that we’re having discussions on that, and that’s where I’ll go on that.
Q: The President said last week there would be a tax reform proposal Wednesday.
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: He did indeed. It’s been widely reported.
Q: I imagine that surprised you a little bit. What can we expect?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Let me just first say, I’ve been working with the President for over the last year on his economic plan in regards to creating growth. The President is very determined that we can get to sustained economic growth of 3 percent or higher. We’re working on tax reform, we’re working on regulatory reform, we’re looking at job creation, and this is something that, on the tax side, I’ve been meeting weekly with the House and the Senate on designing things. And we’ll be coming out, as the President said, with more details on Wednesday.
Q: Secretary, thank you very much. Along the lines of tax reform, I know the specifics of the broad details will be delivered on Wednesday, but without getting into the specifics, what does the middle class gain if there is a simplification but also a loss of deductions, whatever they might be. If we lose the deductions, how does that help the middle class?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Well, let me just say, we’ve been clear on what the President’s objectives are for tax reform: Middle income tax cut — a priority of the President’s. Simplification — the average American should be able to do their taxes on a large postcard. Business tax reform — we need to make business taxes competitive, and we expect, with doing that, we will bring back trillions of dollars from offshore.
Q: Thank you, sir. I guess the question I have is to sort of bounce off of what John was asking about this announcement on Wednesday. It doesn’t sound like we’re going to get the finer details of what this tax reform package will entail. Is it a good idea to start talking about tax reform — something that you say can’t be accomplished by August — when you don’t have all the details?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Well, there will be details that will come out. And yes, I think it is important that we’re talking about it and we are going to move forward.
I’ll just take a couple more. Right there, yes.
Q: Can I just follow up on what Major was asking you? For those of us who are not completely clear about the 271 employees, are you suggesting, by looking at these sanctions, that there are U.S. companies, or they have holdings in the U.S., or they would be traveling or doing some sort of business that we’re actually freezing or barring?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Again, I can’t comment on the specifics of these sanctions beyond what we release. But I can assure you that when the U.S. puts out sanctions, they have impacts both here and throughout the world, and we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think it is impactful; it’s quite impactful.
One more. Back there, yes.
Q: Mr. Secretary, would you say that simplification of the tax code or cuts would be the first priority? You’ve mentioned both the Coast Guard —
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Both.
Q: — and closing the gap with growth. But which is the first thing that we’re going to hear about on Wednesday?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Again, what I’d say: On the personal side, we’re about a middle income tax cut and simplification. On the business side, we’re about making them competitive.
This is the last one. Go ahead.
Q: Can you say if the tax plan will be revenue-neutral?
SECRETARY MNUCHIN: Again, what I’ve said before is, the tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth.
Thank you, everybody. Nice to see you.
MR. SPICER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary and Ambassador Haley. So I just want to kind of walk through what the rest of the day and the week, and then we’ll get to some questions.
As you know, this morning, the President had a call with German Chancellor Merkel who had extended a gracious invitation for the First Daughter and Assistant to the President, Ivanka Trump, to attend the W20 Summit. Tomorrow, Ivanka will be in Berlin at the W20 participating in a panel that is entitled, “Inspiring Women: Scaling Up Women’s Entrepreneurship.” This follows the roundtable on vocational education and workforce development — issues that are central both to Ivanka and the Chancellor’s agenda that they hosted here at the White House in March.
While in Germany, Ivanka will also visit a school for an interactive tour and discussion with students participating in the apprentice program. In commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, she will visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. A readout of the President’s and Chancellor Merkel’s call should be out already.
Following that call, the President spoke with Dr. Peggy Whitson, the commander of the International Space Station via video teleconference. As I told you guys last week, Dr. Whitson, who is on her third extended stay aboard the International Space Station, breaks the record for the most space time of any American astronaut. The President was honored to celebrate this incredible achievement by Dr. Whitson and the American space program, and discuss the exciting future of space exploration and space science — including how the Inspire Women Act, which the President recently signed, ensures that NASA continues recruiting women for important STEM-related jobs in aerospace.
After that, as I mentioned at the top, the President had a working lunch with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and the other ambassadors of the countries that are part of the U.N. Security Council. Under the President’s leadership, America has once again taken a leadership role on the world stage, and our global partners have welcomed this renewal of American diplomacy.
Later on, this afternoon, the President will sign a proclamation on Holocaust Remembrance Day, part of the weeklong Days of Remembrance first held in 1979, and later established by Congress as our nation’s commemoration of the Holocaust.
Tomorrow, as every President since the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in 1993, President Trump will participate in a Days of Remembrance commemoration. As he said during his video message to delegates of the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly, the Trump administration is committed to stamping out prejudice and anti-Semitism everywhere it is found.
Following the proclamation, the President will host a credential ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors. He will then have dinner with Senator and Mrs. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham.
Later this evening, the Vice President will return to Washington where he finished his time throughout the world. While in Hawaii today, the [Vice] President will have lunch with U.S. troops at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and participate in an arrival ceremony at USPACOM before boarding Air Force Two for the ride home to Washington.
As we get closer to the President’s 100th day in office, throughout the week the White House is hosting briefings and events to provide several opportunities for many folks in the press to hear directly from the administration and our officials on what we’ve achieved in the first 100 days, and what we’re looking to continue to achieve on days 101, 102, 200, et cetera.
Throughout the week, the President, Cabinet officials, and senior White House staff will be talking about the President’s agenda on national, local media, and various platforms.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the distressing reports regarding American citizens coming out of the Ukraine and North Korea. We’re deeply saddened by the death of a paramedic, a United States citizen, serving in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe — Special Monitoring Mission. We extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones, and wish his colleagues who were injured in the blast a quick and speedy recovery.
We call on all parties to cooperate with the Special Monitoring Mission to allow it to fully investigate this incident. The tragic death of a staff member only serves to underline the urgent need for all sides, particularly the Russian-led separatist forces, to implement their commitments under the Minsk agreements.
We’re also aware of reports a United States citizen was detained in North Korea over the weekend. The protection of United States citizens is one of our government’s highest priorities. I would direct any further inquiries on this matter to the State Department.
Also on North Korea, on Wednesday, the White House campus will play host to a briefing for all U.S. — 100 U.S. senators on the subject. The briefers will be Secretary Tillerson and Mattis, Director Coats and General Dunford. This is a Senate briefing convened by the Majority Leader, not a White House briefing. We are just serving as the location. For further questions, I’d direct you to the Majority Leader’s office and the office of the four briefers.
With that, I’m glad to take a few questions.
Q: Talking about the budget, how committed is — this was asked earlier, but can you talk about how committed the President is to having the border wall funded this week or having some funding in that spending bill? And if it is not in there, will he sign it?
MR. SPICER: Again, those negotiations continue with House and Senate leadership. Obviously, the money for our military and our border security and wall have been part of that request and that is something that really are the President’s priorities heading in — with respect to the CR and keeping the government open.
I think we feel very confident where we’re headed, and I’m not going to get ahead of the negotiations that are ongoing. Director Mulvaney has been very, very deep in those discussions and I expect there to be an announcement soon with what — but I’m not going to start to take things on and off the table with respect to what the President may or may not do.
Q: Yes, Sean, just doubling up on that question there about the CR debate and the funding, does he specifically expect there to be funding for the border wall, or would border security measures be enough to satisfy the President? And how do you differentiate between the two? For example, what could be funded in the CR that you could say is part of the wall even if it’s not explicitly funding for the wall?
MR. SPICER: There’s obviously a lot of components to that. You’ve got fencing and drones, and again, I don’t want to get ahead of those negotiations. They are ongoing. But the President’s priorities have been very clear from the beginning.
Q: Sean, just to follow up — are we backing off from the wall? Are you saying it is on the table?
MR. SPICER: No, we’re saying that the President has made very clear that he’s got two priorities in this continuing resolution — number one, the increase in funding for the military; and number two, for our homeland border security and the wall. But I’m not going to start to get into — we are having a negotiation with House and Senate leadership, and to prejudge where it ends up at this point would be — would not be prudent.
Q: Two questions for you. On the Syrian economic sanctions, how would the administration determine how effective they are?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think there’s going to be a lot of ways. But I think first and foremost is to send a clear signal to make sure that they understand that we don’t take their actions lightly and that we want to do everything we can to have stability in the region. So I think there’s going to be a lot of ways in terms of their behavior going forward that we’ll know whether they’re working. But I think as the President has made clear and Secretary Mnuchin just did, I think we have a lot of tools at our disposal to try to achieve an outcome that brings stability to that region.
Q: And my second one on North Korea. The fact that a third U.S. citizen has been detained by the regime in Pyongyang, does this make it more difficult for the President to negotiate through China to try to denuclearize North Korea?
MR. SPICER: No. I think China — and we noted it before, Ambassador Haley noted it in several interviews this morning — but China has been very, very helpful in this process and continues to be. And I think we hope to see a change in behavior. But it is a very positive sign, the level of engagement that China has been — has enacted.
Q: Is the Trump administration calling for the release of this U.S. citizen currently being detained?
MR. SPICER: Well, absolutely. I mean, we want to make sure that all of our citizens are protected and returned home. But the State Department is playing the lead on that.
Q: Thanks, Sean. You know there’s quite a bit of concern among Republicans on Capitol Hill about the federal deficit. When you roll out the tax plan on Wednesday, are you also going to include pay-fors in there, that is those things that raise revenue as well as those things that are tax cuts, so that conservatives can be confident that this won’t blow a hole in the deficit?
MR. SPICER: I think we will have further details. I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s rollout, but I’m not going to — the level of specificity in terms of the pay-fors and the cost, we’ll have to see how comfortable the President is.
Q: Sean, can you tell us if the President is aware of the American pastor jailed in Turkey? And did he raise that with President Erdogan in the call he made to congratulate him?
MR. SPICER: I’m not going to get into the specifics of the President’s conversation. We’re obviously aware of that action, and we’re going to continue to work through the State Department on that.
Q: Sean, can you explain why President Trump didn’t use the word “genocide” to refer to the killing of 25 million Armenians in his statement today?
MR. SPICER: Yes. The statement that was put out is consistent with the statements that have been put out for at least several of the past administrations. So I think if you look back to the language that President Obama, President Bush have used, the language the President used is consistent with all of that.
Q: I have two questions on two different topics. First, the border wall, the logistics of that. Secretary Kelly said he still expects construction to start this summer. There are still a few ranchers in Texas and Arizona who welcome the security but are skeptical of giving up family-owned land that’s been in their families for generations. So what is the White House message to them directly? And what — can you guarantee that they will be compensated?
MR. SPICER: We’re going to — we will do everything in accordance with the law. This has been an issue that has gone on several times as that issue has been raised over the last several decades — excuse me — several years. And so we will do everything in accordance with the law with respect to the land that’s needed for that. But again, the Homeland Security Secretary understands what’s going to be needed and will do surveys and the appropriate planning to make sure that we minimize that to the extent possible.
Q: And on the next question on a different topic — the FBI and Justice Department last week arrested two doctors in Michigan for allegedly performing genital mutilation on little girls, as young as six years old. It’s the first case in the United States. What is the White House reaction to that case?
MR. SPICER: We’ve talked before about having investigations and we don’t comment on any pending investigations or actions by the Justice Department.
Q: Is 100 days, as the President said on Twitter, a ridiculous benchmark, or an important one?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think obviously in the context of an entire administration, there is a lot that I think we feel very proud of what we’ve gotten done and taken care of. You look at the immigration piece in particular, border crossings way down. The number of executive orders and pieces of legislation the President has signed — I think we feel very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and fulfill the promises that he’s made to the American people.
But I think it’s got to be kept in context. And I think that’s — there is sort of this artificial number that gets thrown out. So on —
Q: What is the context?
MR. SPICER: Well, I mean, the context is it’s 100 days, and four years in your first term and eight years for two terms — that I think —
Q: In the campaign Mr. Trump introduced a contract with the American voter over 100 days —
MR. SPICER: Right. And so, again, I think when you look at the number of pieces of legislation, the executive orders, business confidence, the U.S.’s role in the world — there’s a lot that we feel — a lot of accomplishments that have occurred. And we feel very good about what we’ve done as we head up to this first 100 days. But I think you’re going to continue to see a lot of action, a lot of results going into the second 100 days, the third 100 days, all the way through.
Q: If in that 100 days there is no funding — explicit funding for the wall, and there’s no healthcare reform or repeal of Obamacare — would the President consider that, and would he invite his supporters to consider that a conspicuous failure, based on the promises he made during the campaign?
MR. SPICER: I think when you look at the totality of what we’ve accomplished on job creation, on immigration, on trade, it is unbelievable what he has been able to do. And so it’s not — you can cherry-pick any couple of things and say, okay, well, what about this and that. But I think when you look at it overall in terms of the drop in border crossings, if you look at consumer confidence, and the relationships that we’ve developed around the globe, and the accomplishments this President has had in protecting the country, in bringing back jobs and starting — those have been unbelievably significant.
And so to minimize that, or to look and pick out two or three things — but I think, look, we’re going to continue to push for healthcare reform. We feel very good about the direction that it’s going in. It’s been very positive. And I think the construction of a wall is going to continue to be an area that moves forward. But all of that stuff is happening just as the President asked for and committed to doing. Some of it has been a little slower, but mostly because of working through Congress and getting things done. But when you think about what he started — he’ll move forward on tax reform, healthcare, on immigration, on trade — it’s been a hugely successful first 100 days.
Q: And without the President necessarily describing it as a failure or not, would he say that he’s learned something about the process and how long things take that he perhaps didn’t appreciate as a candidate? Maybe he over-promised on the speed with which he’d achieve these things?
MR. SPICER: Look, with all due respect, I think that when you look at the list of things in each of the various areas that he’s been able to do, I think he’s very pleased —
Q: I’m talking about some conspicuous campaign promises that, at rally after rally, he made and said, don’t worry it’s going to happen.
MR. SPICER: Right. And I think on healthcare —
Q: All I’m asking is, does he have a different awareness of how difficult those things are than he did as a candidate?
MR. SPICER: I’m sure that there are things that you learn on the job, but I think that he is very proud of what he has set out to do and the progress that we’ve made. And I think you’re going to see healthcare get done, but it’s going to get done right, and that in particular is something that we’re continuing to work at. We can’t make people vote, but we’ve made significant progress and moved the legislation forward and improved it greatly. And I think that we are going to see progress on that.
Q: Thanks, Sean. Two questions on two different topics. First, to follow up on Jordan, and the other question is on the budget. Is the President willing to sign a continuing resolution that is not deficit-neutral or deficit-reducing? For instance —
MR. SPICER: Sign a continuing resolution?
Q: Yeah. Continuing resolutions that would increase the deficit.
MR. SPICER: I have not seen a score on anything that’s come out. And I think we’ll have to wait and see what the final —
Q: You’re not ruling that out one way or —
MR. SPICER: I’m not — not at this point.
Q: And following up on Jordan’s question, the President talked a lot about — he has not been shy about criticizing his predecessors for some of their missteps from both parties, and also hasn’t — has made a point of often balking (inaudible). So why not take this moment to label the killing of a million-and-a-half Armenians a genocide?
MR. SPICER: I think, again, as I noted to Jordan, the statement that the President put out is consistent with the last several administrations.
MR. SPICER: I understand that. But it is perfectly in keeping with the language that’s been used over and over again.
Q: Would you agree with the assessment that some within the administration have that a vote on healthcare this week is very, very unlikely?
MR. SPICER: I think the vote is going to get scheduled when Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy and Congressman Scalise determine that they have the votes and they feel confident. I think we’ve been very clear — the President made it clear on Friday when he was walking back over from the Treasury Department — that if it happens and we have the votes this week, great; if it’s next week or the week after. But I think we want to make sure that we’ve got the votes and we’re headed in the right direction before putting some kind of artificial deadline.
Q: But would you think that this week is unlikely?
MR. SPICER: I think that whenever the Speaker and the Leadership over at the House tell us that they feel confident that they have the votes, then we would encourage them to move forward. I hate to — I’m not trying to not answer the question, but I think that’s the answer. It comes down to when they feel as though they’ve got the commitments to push the bill forward.
Q: But there was a push to try to get something on the legislative scoreboard by the 100th day. Does it look like that now will not happen?
MR. SPICER: As I said, we have been very clear from here, and I think the President has been very clear in his comments that our goal is to get it done and get it done right, and get it done to make sure that we have the votes. I think there have been some — I’ve read some background quotes and sources about when it — but we’ve been very clear publicly about when we want to get that done.
Q: The President has been very clear that Judge Gorsuch, now Justice Gorsuch, is a big part of his first 100 days’ accomplishments. And the White House, in the rollout about the 100 days, said there would be a dinner with the President and all the justices of the Supreme Court. Now that is off the list. Is the dinner not happening, or is not publicly being talked about because it’s wrapped up in the politics of the White House?
MR. SPICER: I think we’ve moved some things around on the President’s schedule this week, but we hope to have something at some point.
Q: Was it unfortunate to sort of sweep the High Court into the politics of 100 days?
MR. SPICER: No. I think having a relationship and meeting with the Supreme Court at some point would be a great idea and something that we hope to have on the schedule some point soon.
Q: Can you explain the President’s change of thought on DACA?
MR. SPICER: I think he’s been consistent about two things. One, that he has a heart. He wants to make sure that he does what’s in the interest of children in particular. But secondly, I think the President’s priorities since he took office have been very clear that the focus would be on folks who presented a danger to public safety. And that’s what it’s been, and that’s where it continues to be. And I think he is someone who understands the issue and the priorities that need to get laid out by this country. And so everything that he has done has been consistent with what he said from the get-go.
Q: But I understand that he said that the criminals would leave first, but last August he said that DACA defied federal law and was illegal. So does he still think it’s illegal?
MR. SPICER: I understand. And I think that his comments that he made last week, that he understands that in a lot of cases this involves families and small children who have been here, and he has a heart, and we’re going to work through the immigration —
Q: But does he still think it’s illegal?
MR. SPICER: I understand. What I’m trying to do is answer the question. I think the President wants to make sure that he addresses the issue of illegal immigration and all of its components in terms of visa reform, border security, the wall, all of these things, in a system of priorities. And right now, the priority is to make sure that folks who present a public-safety concern to the United States and to our citizens are dealt with first, and that’s what’s happened. He’s also very pleased that, through his action and his vision for how he wants to move forward on this, sees a huge drop of illegal border crossing. That is a big accomplishment for this presidency and is something that we’re obviously very proud of.
Q: Border crossing is a big thing, but amnesty is a big part. Does he —
MR. SPICER: I understand that. I’ve just walked through the question.
Q: Sean, how confident are you that there will not be a shutdown? Can you, from that podium, guarantee that there will not be a government shutdown?
MR. SPICER: I can’t guarantee anything. (Laughter.)
Q: How close can you get to confidence —
MR. SPICER: But I think that the work that Director Mulvaney and others have made in these negotiations has been very positive. They feel very confident that that won’t happen.
Q: So he won’t insist that his priorities get funded on the border, the wall, or increase security?
MR. SPICER: That’s not what I said. I said that I think that —
Q: Is he willing to shut down the government to accomplish that?
MR. SPICER: No, it’s not — look, they are currently negotiating. We feel very confident that they understand the President’s priorities and that we’ll come to an agreement by the end of Friday.
Q: And on the 100 days, if I could just follow up. The contract with the American voter that the President signed included 10 pieces of legislation. Right now he’s over 10, and only one of those has been introduced.
MR. SPICER: Right. And I think we’re going to continue to work with Congress — as he says in that document, I will work with Congress to achieve these things; we are going to continue to work with Congress to achieve those.
Q: But why have nine of them not even been introduced yet?
MR. SPICER: I think when you look at what he has done in terms of the Supreme Court justice, the executive orders, the number of legislation, there’s a lot that has gotten done. I don’t think anyone — I remember very clearly the first few weeks and still, to some extent, the comments that got made about the pace that we were keeping and we have kept. The President has been extremely busy. And I think when you recognize the amount of issues that he’s tackled and the amount of progress that he’s made, it is very significant, and we will continue to present all that throughout the week. But again, as I said to Major, I think you can look at a few of these areas and nitpick a couple of them, but I think overall he has signed a record number of executive orders, he has rolled back regulatory reforms —
Q: But this isn’t nitpicking. These are 10 pieces of legislation —
MR. SPICER: No, I understand that, but —
Q: — he promised to take action on in his 100 days.
MR. SPICER: But I don’t think there’s any question that the President has done a significant amount for the American people on the issues that he has put forward during the campaign.
Q: And just to be clear, you’re not describing the wall and healthcare as nitpicking, are you?
MR. SPICER: No, I’m not — those pieces are not small. But I’m saying in terms of overall, what he has accomplished, has been unbelievably significant when you talk about all of the other areas — the regulatory relief, the efforts that he’s made on immigration, on trade. All of those issues. And again, what I’m trying to say is, when you look at everything that he’s done and the amount that he’s accomplished in these first 100 days, I think you can go back and find an area, one or two, and say, okay, well, he didn’t do this. But I think you have to look at it in totality of what he actually did get done.
Q: Sean, on the wall, why is there even a discussion about shutting down the government over paying for the wall? Isn’t Mexico supposed to pay for the wall?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think, Jim, the President has made very clear that initially we needed to get the funding going, and there’s several mechanisms to make sure that that happens. That funding piece will happen in due time.
Q: But that is a promise that the President made during the campaign time and again —
MR. SPICER: I understand that.
Q: — that Mexico would pay for the wall. And now we’re having a discussion that the government might shut down over the wall and who’s going to pay for it.
MR. SPICER: Right. So a couple things. One, as I pointed out to Jonathan, we feel very confident the government is not going to shut down. Number two is, I think the President has been very clear in the past about the fact that — and this is not a new thing; he talked about this — that in order to get the ball rolling on border security and the wall, that he was going to have to use the current appropriations process but he would make sure that that promise would be kept as far as the payment of it.
Q: And just a real quick follow-up. If border crossings are down — and that’s a talking point that the White House uses time and again — is the wall even necessary?
MR. SPICER: Absolutely. The wall does several things.
Q: How can the border crossings be down when the President is saying, well, we’re going to have all these drugs flowing in if we don’t have a wall?
MR. SPICER: Because you can’t — just because you have a couple good months in a year, I think you want to make sure that you take prudent long-term steps. So the President is going to fulfill it, and frankly, it’s a promise that he made to the American people. I think if you are coming in from our southern border, he has taken a lot of steps so far that has deterred border crossing. But this is a permanent step that will extend beyond his presidency. Eight years from now, the next President will have that wall in place to make sure that it doesn’t continue.
Q: So Mexico is going to pay for it?
MR. SPICER: That’s right. Thank you. Alexis.
Q: Sean, this might relate to Jim’s question, too, but on Wednesday — I have two questions. On Wednesday, when we see the outline that Secretary Mnuchin was just describing, will the President help aim Congress toward his decision about whether the border adjustment tax is the right idea, and also, related to that, whether the pay-fors for the wall that might be of interest to lawmakers will become evident as part of the outline of what he’d like to do in terms of taxes?
MR. SPICER: Right. Well, I don’t mean to evade that, but I think there’s a reason he chose — we’re waiting until Wednesday to have the details that he wants to share out. We got a couple days before that happens, so I’m going to have to ask you to wait 48 hours.
Q: Can you say whether we will have a generally better idea? Will we have a generally better idea of where his thinking is?
MR. SPICER: I think you will have a better idea of where the President stands on tax reform and what he wants to accomplish. Yes.
Q: Wait, wait, I have one follow-up. When you were just describing, and Secretary Mnuchin was describing, achieving economic growth of 3 percent or higher, which is slightly lower than what the President talked about in the campaign, which was a very ambitious goal of 1 percent — I’m just trying to figure out, what is the timeline for that? Is the President thinking he would like to achieve 3 percent or higher in his first term because of the headwinds that obviously the United States is facing abroad? I mean, that’s a very ambitious goal still — 3 percent.
MR. SPICER: Well, and I think that he has taken a lot of steps not just on the tax side, but on the regulatory side, as well, that I think are clearly already paying dividends in terms of what you’re seeing — we’ve talked about this before — manufacturing come back and jobs come back. And I think there’s going to be a renewed commitment of manufacturers, American companies to bring back jobs, to grow, to hire, to expand here in the United States. And so I think that that growth will proceed the President’s actions, both on the tax front and on the regulatory side.
Q: Thanks so much, Sean. As you know, the first go-around at replacing Obamacare was not successful. Since then, are you any closer to getting 218 votes in the House to pass or replace the Affordable Care Act?
MR. SPICER: Yes. (Laughter.)
Q: Got a number?
Q: Yeah, elaborate a little more than “yes”?
MR. SPICER: Well, first of all, we only need 216. You’re making it a little tougher on us right now. But I do think that we have seen progress with members in terms of some of the changes that have been made to make it a stronger bill. But we’re getting close. And as I mentioned at the outset, when I think the President feels confident that — or when the leadership of the House tells him that they feel confident that they have the votes, then I’m sure they’ll call a vote. But that’s up to them to decide.
Q: And a separate one, obviously a different topic, and that’s the election over the weekend in France. Any comment on the results that came out of France over the weekend? Would the President be satisfied with either alternative, Macron or Le Pen?
MR. SPICER: Yeah, obviously it’s up to the people of France to decide who their next leader is. And we respect the decision that they make in May. So let’s — our job is to work with whomever the French people choose.
Q: Two questions. One, on the budget, the spending plan, what is the President doing? I understand Mick Mulvaney and others are doing things. Is he calling members? I don’t see anything on his schedule for this week. Are members coming over?
MR. SPICER: As needed, he’ll be involved. I think the legislative team has been giving him updates, and as he needed —
Q: Has he been calling members?
MR. SPICER: He’s talked to members. I just mentioned he’s having dinner tonight with Senator McCain and Senator Graham. He’s had lots of discussion with members at various times. This is not — we’re not at a position now where he is actively engaging the way he was at, say the end of healthcare. I think as his team tells him that he needs phone calls, but he is actively monitoring and been given updates by the senior team that is working with the Hill.
Q: When he calls, is he talking about his priorities? I would like you to include —
MR. SPICER: I think his priority have been crystal-clear. I mean, remember, starting in the first week of March, Director Mulvaney engaged with appropriators on the House side. And I’m not sure when he started. So this has been an ongoing discussion now, almost for eight weeks, with the senior team here and appropriators in the House in particular.
Q: Okay. And then on the second issue, on the 100 days, someone mentioned the President tweeted that it was a ridiculous timetable or whatever. Why is the White House doing so much this week? You have indicated that all these activities this week, from hearing from different people, are because of the 100 days. Why do this 100-day push if it’s a ridiculous amount of time?
MR. SPICER: I think we’ve gotten a fairly decent amount of inquiries from you and your colleagues. And so in order to answer those inquiries —
Q: So you’re doing something for us?
MR. SPICER: Yeah, well, you know, we’re givers. (Laughter.) But I don’t think there’s anyone in this room that hasn’t lodged a request to say, “We’re writing a story on the 100-day mark, we’re doing this on the 100-day mark.” And so we want to make sure that we answer your questions as truthfully as possible and as thoroughly and comprehensively. So we will have to fulfill all of these requests that are coming in from you and your colleagues, but I also think that we are very proud, and the President is very proud, of what he’s been able to accomplish in the first 100 days.
And as we sprint towards these final 100 days, there’s two things. One, I think because of the inquiries we’ve had, we want to make sure we take an opportunity to make sure that people understand how much he’s done in all the different areas, but we also want to start talking about the next 100 days and what else is left to be done, and how we’re going to continue to work hard to get all of that done. But there’s a lot that has been accomplished, and I think it’s appropriate to comment and to share with the American people all the things that he has done to fulfill the pledges that he made to the American people.
Q: And just to clarify, are we going to hear, prior to the rally on Saturday, are we going to hear directly from him? There was some talk of a press conference.
MR. SPICER: I’ll have further updates on the schedule going forward.
Q: So there will be one, or maybe not?
MR. SPICER: Huh?
Q: The press conference —
MR. SPICER: We’re working on some scheduling issues for the rest of the week, and I’ll make sure I give you an update as we move forward.
Q: Thanks, Sean. I just want to circle back on healthcare, because at the top of the President’s listed agenda items for the first 100 days was repealing and replacing Obamacare. So does the President want to, expect to see, a vote on healthcare this week?
MR. SPICER: Look, he’d love to do it. If the Speaker and the Majority Leader and the Whip come and tell him that they’ve got the votes, then we’d love to do it. I think his goal isn’t to fit it into a finite timetable, as he mentioned on Friday. If it happens this week, that’s great. If it happens next week, that’s great too. The goal is to get it done, and get it done right. And so we’re not going to jam it through just for the sake of it.
Q: So he’s concerned about potentially rushing it through.
MR. SPICER: No, no, he —
Q: I hear what you’re saying is he doesn’t want it to happen this week just to meet that.
MR. SPICER: Exactly.
Q: Okay. Let me ask you about tax reform. I know you don’t want to get ahead of the announcement on Wednesday.
MR. SPICER: Thank you.
Q: But there’s a sense that it is more realistic to pursue targeted tax cuts as opposed to broad tax reform. Will we, on Wednesday, see a proposal for targeted tax cuts?
MR. SPICER: As you stated in your question, I’ll let the President and the team speak on Wednesday with respect to what they’re going to outline, but I’m not going to get —
Q: But does the President think that it’s realistic to do broad tax reform without having to repeal or replace Obamacare?
MR. SPICER: I think that the President said that he’s going to —
Q: Is it possible, mathematically?
MR. SPICER: There’s a lot of things that are possible, but let’s let the President — he made a commitment to get it out on Wednesday, so let’s be patient and wait until Wednesday.
Q: And just one more.
MR. SPICER: Of course. (Laughter.)
Q: Is there a plan for infrastructure reform in the works? Will we get that before —
MR. SPICER: That’s another thing that’s on the list, but I think we seem to have our hands full right now with healthcare and tax reform. He’s obviously still committed to seeing infrastructure, something he’s talked about a lot in terms of roads and bridges and rebuilding things. But let’s get these first two things moving. But I think you’re going to see a continued commitment to infrastructure as well.
Q: It’s one of the things that could potentially have bipartisan support. Is there urgency to get infrastructure reform passed?
MR. SPICER: (Laughter.) So either we’re doing too much or we’re not doing enough. But I think — look, he has made it very clear that that is a priority of his. As you point out, it’s something that I think both sides of the aisle, of both chambers, probably agree on. There’s a public-private partnership that could really benefit our infrastructure in terms of the financing piece of this. We’ll have further details on that moving forward, though.
Thank you, guys, very much. I’ll see you tomorrow. Have a great Monday.
2:14 P.M. EDT