Press Room of James S. Brady
3:18 P.M. EST
MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. As you have seen, the President has just closed a meeting in the Oval Office with four families from different parts of the country. They are veterans, owners of small businesses, workers, mothers, fathers and students. And they all had one thing in common: the president's plan to cut taxes and reform our tax code will help them prosper and build a better life and a better future for themselves and their children.
This event was an important reminder that while Washington focuses on the politics of the day, the president focuses on the forgotten men and women of our nation. These are the families that deserve a tax cut for Christmas, and that is exactly what we are going to offer.
Looking ahead, the president will visit Mississippi on Saturday, where they are celebrating the state's bicentennial, 200 years of statehood. To commemorate the occasion, the President will participate in the grand openings of the Mississippi History Museum and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
Tomorrow, First Lady Melania Trump and Second Lady Karen Pence will travel to Texas to continue their efforts to help those affected by this year's devastating hurricane season. They will participate in a meet-and-great with first responders in Corpus Christi and then travel to Rockport to meet a family whose house was destroyed in the hurricane.
Mrs. Trump and Ms. Pence will also visit a local elementary school to talk with teachers and students about the hurricane. And your last stop will be at a local food bank to meet with volunteers and help sort boxes for donations.
Finally, I know there have been many questions about the president's decision on Jerusalem. Tomorrow, the President will comment on this action.
At 5:30 in the afternoon, senior administration officials will hold a background briefing to explain the President's decision.
And with that, I'll take your questions.
Q Sarah, a topic you may have seen this morning: Is the White House, or the President, at any level, considering the creation of a global or regional espionage network that would elude the US intelligence apparatus? UU serve the President outside the normal and legally defined mechanisms of intelligence gathering?
MS. SANDERS: I do not know any plan for something of that definition or something similar to that at this time.
Q Would the President oppose that?
MS. SANDERS: I have not had that conversation with him, but I'm not aware of any plans for something like that to advance.
Q Do you know if a senior official has been informed about that idea, or has it been discussed at any level in this administration?
MS. SANDERS: I have not done a complete survey of each member of the administration, but I can say that, from now on, that is not something that is currently being planned, and it is not something that I am aware of that is progressing in any capacity . .
Q Is it possible?
MS. SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to answer all the hypotheticals for each member. Did any random person from the street come in and say something? I do not know, commander.
Q No, but is it possible that it could be something the president could consider?
MS. SANDERS: Sorry?
Q Is this something the president could consider?
MS. SANDERS: Again, I have not asked you, but it is not something that is in process.
Q World leaders have spoken, Sarah, in the last 24 hours about the possible change of the USA. Embassy of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Mahmoud Abbas says that it would have great consequences for peace and stability in the region. King Abdullah said almost the same thing. Saudi Arabia, at least publicly, saying the same thing; however, they told me in private, they say something different than that. French President Macron said he thought it was a bad idea.
In view of all that, would the President ignore that advice from world leaders and move forward and make the move at this time?
MS. SANDERS: I will not go ahead of the President's comments that he will do tomorrow. He spoke with several leaders this morning and will continue to have conversations with relevant stakeholders. But, ultimately, it will do what it considers to be the best decision for the United States.
Q Is it safe to say that, apart from Israel, who thinks that this movement is 22 years late, all the comments that you have been receiving from world leaders is overwhelmingly negative about this idea?
MS. SANDERS: No. Once again, he spoke with five leaders. That is not indicative of everyone in the whole world. But it will certainly continue to have conversations with different leaders around the world, and we will keep you informed as those calls are made, and we will let you know when the President has made a decision.
Q Thanks, Sarah. Yesterday, the president said he felt very bad for General Flynn. Would you think of forgiving him?
MS. SANDERS: I am not aware that any process or decision has emerged on that front.
Q. So you have not talked to him about it or said you would not consider it?
MS. SANDERS: I have not asked the president if he would or not.
P You do not have –
MS. SANDERS: I think before we start discussing pardons for people, we should see what happens in specific cases as well.
Q: Is it fair to say that it is on the table?
MS. SANDERS: No. I just said that I did not have the conversation with him because I do not think it's necessary until, you know, you get further along the way and determine if that is necessary or not.
Q Back at the embassy. Has the President made the decision on this or is the decision still a bit weak?
MS. SANDERS: The president, I would say, is quite solid in his thinking at this time.
P Sarah, a couple of questions. One, there are comments from people from the NAACP, black ministers, who plan to protest and boycott this weekend for the President's visit to the Civil Rights Museum. What do you say?
MS. SANDERS: I think it would be, honestly, very sad. I think this is something that should unite the country to celebrate the opening of this museum and highlight the civil rights movement and the progress we have made. And I hope those people join that celebration instead of protesting. However, they have every right to protest.
P They feel it's an insult that he comes as we have had problems with Charlottesville, the swaying: the president could not get his statement directly about Charlottesville.  MS. SANDERS: I think he had his statement very clear when he condemned all forms of racism, intolerance and violence. There is no gray area there, and I think he made it clear what his position is.
P Thank you, Sarah. Did the President know that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI at the time he fired him in February?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President knew that he lied to the Vice President, and that was the reason for his dismissal.
P I have a follow-up. Then, his predecessor said June 6: "… is the president of the United States, so they are considered official statements by the president of the United States regarding their tweets." Is that still the rule for the President's tweets?
MS. SANDERS: Yes. And I know that you are probably referring to the tweet that the President's lawyer wrote, and he already clarified it, and would refer it again to the lawyer's clarification in this regard.
MS. SANDERS: Thanks, Sarah. The White House originally said that if the accusations against Roy Moore were true, then Moore should step aside. I wonder how the President came to the conclusion that all of Moore's accusers, including those who have submitted evidence, are lying.
MS. SANDERS: He did not say they were lying. The position of the President has not changed; He still finds the concerns. But as we also said, the president feels that he would prefer to have a person who supports his agenda in front of someone who opposes his agenda every step of the way. And until the rest of the process is over, you can choose between two individuals, and the President has chosen to support Moore.
P Even if that person who supports your agenda has done what the accusers of Roy Moore said they already did. ?
MS. SANDERS: Once again, we have said that the accusations are worrisome, and, if true, he should step aside. But we do not have a way to validate that, and that is something that the people of Alabama must decide, what we have also said, and we maintain it. And finally, it will be up to the people of Alabama to make that decision.
Q Sarah, can you tell me a little about the process and the moment when the President came to the possible announcement of Jerusalem? morning? Do you have some background story about that to the extent that you can at this point?
MS. SANDERS: I can tell you that it was a very considered inter-institutional process. In terms of details, that is something that will be addressed in more detail later tonight in the background briefing and then by the President in his comments tomorrow.
P And just a quick follow-up. The role of an evangelical in this, how crucial is that being in terms of the Faith Advisory Council?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President wanted to make the decision that was the best decision for the United States. And I'm not going to go any further than the events of today and tomorrow.
P Thank you very much, Sarah. I have a question for you about the special lawyer's office. Does the President believe that Special Advisor Robert Mueller, or any of his staff, is biased in any way against the President?
MS. SANDERS: I think we have seen some reports that certainly caused great concern, and we hope that they will be fully analyzed and investigated.
P Just follow up for you, if you'll allow me, Sarah. I think it was about five or six weeks ago that you indicated from that podium, on some occasions, that you believe and the White House believes that Mr. Mueller's investigation will end soon.
From that moment, we & # 39; As I have seen that a very high level adviser to the President, former adviser to the president, the former national security adviser has reached an agreement with the special prosecutor's office. Do you still think this investigation is ending soon?
MS. SANDERS: we do it. And I refer you to the comments that Ty Cobb made, where he indicated it, in the last days.
P Sarah, thank you. Let me ask you two questions about the so-called "red lines". If Robert Mueller ends up investigating the President's finances, or if he has already investigated the President's finances, does the President believe that this White House is a red line? And, if so, why?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think it's important to keep in mind, and I hope you have seen the statement that Jay Sekulow, member of the President's legal team, has issued in the last hour, which confirmed that the news reports that the special lawyer had cited financial records related to the President are completely false. No citation has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.
I think this is another example of the media going too far, too fast. And we do not see that it goes in that direction.
P Let me ask you: a second red line. This White House has consistently said that there are two red lines in the tax reform: relief from the middle class and then a corporate rate of 20 percent. But the president, over the weekend, seemed to suggest that he would be receptive to a corporate rate of up to 22 percent. Why would he be willing to go over his own red line on that subject?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President said, I think, maybe a couple of hours ago, that we are firm and that we firmly believe in 20 percent. And we are very excited about the progress we have made on that front, and we think we will achieve it on both sides, in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Q Then, two quick things. In the first place, does the President believe, as the attorney for the attorney general's office said in court today, that a baker could put a sign on his window saying "We do not bake cakes for gay weddings" and that would be legal?
MS. SANDERS: I'm sorry, could you say the first part of that question again? My cough chokes him.
P Yes, then the attorney general – the attorney for the attorney general's office for the administration said today in court, in the Supreme Court, that it would be legal, that it would be possible for a baker to place a sign on his window that says: "We do not bake cakes for gay weddings". Does the President agree that this would be fine?
MS. SANDERS: The president certainly supports religious freedom. And that's something he talked about during the campaign and since he took office.
P And that would be, that would be –
MS. SANDERS: I think that would include that.
Q And one more question only about Russia, but not one that can be expected. What does the President think of the decision to ban Russian athletes from the Olympic Games in 2018?
MS. SANDERS: I have not had the ability to talk to him directly about that decision, since it was done here today. But I'll certainly be happy to talk to him and stay with you on that.
Q Sarah, Republican House leaders had to turn down a vote on a short-term budget bill this week to avoid a shutdown. Does the White House believe a lockout is possible?
MS. SANDERS: You know, it's always a possibility, but it certainly is not what we expect. And we have Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer arriving later this week. And the president hopes to have conversations with them to make sure that does not happen.
P And a follow-up. So, does not the president think it would be politically advantageous?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I said no, that's not what we'd like to happen, and we're going to have meetings and try to make sure it does not happen.
Q Two faster for you. And just a statement of facts: When did the President know that Mike Flynn lied to the FBI?
MS. SANDERS: As I said before, I went back to John Dowd's clarification, and I would –
Q I'm asking for an appointment. I'm asking for an appointment. When did you discover it? Was it when the announcement was made on Friday? Was it before that?
MS. SANDERS: Once again, I'm not aware of those details, but I would recommend them to John Dowd for that specific question.
Q Would you mind following the President since Dowd has not responded to that?
MS. SANDERS: Actually, I would recommend John Dowd to that specific question. As it is a legal matter, I am not authorized to analyze it.
Q No problem. One point for you has already been involved in other special advisory matters. It is only a statement of fact when, during the administration, what day the President discovered this lying problem.
MS. SANDERS: And I tell you, as a statement of fact, that you should contact John Dowd. It does not seem so difficult.
Q. My second question is about Roy Moore, Sarah. You said, just a minute ago, that the president would want someone in the Senate to support his agenda against someone who does not. And I just want to clarify here that, is it the position of the White House then, more or less formal here, that it is worse to have a Democrat in that seat in the Senate than someone accused of sexually abusing a teenager?  MRS. SANDERS: Look, as I said, we find that the accusations are disturbing.
Q: Then why does the President approve?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think those are different things in terms that we're not going to be the ones to determine that process. That is for the people of Alabama to determine what those things are based on. He wants people to support his agenda. He is obviously not going to support a Democrat. And I think, if that is our standard, then we have to look at a number of members of Congress who have filed complaints against them who are still in office.
P Thanks, Sarah. I want to clarify something about John Dowd and what he has been telling us in recent days. He argued that the president can not be accused of obstruction of justice because he is the principal agent of the law in the country. That is your opinion. Does the White House share that opinion? Did the White House Law Office analyze this question? Do you share that perspective?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I'm not going to go in and out on legal theories. But I can tell you, as the President has said, that there is no collusion, that there is no obstruction, and that we are sure that the facts will show when this is over.
Q: What do you think of the whole notion? of the obstruction of justice, however? It has been discussed in recent days. Many people have been talking about that. What's your opinion about it?
MS. SANDERS: I'm not a lawyer. And, as far as I know, only Jon Decker is in the room. (Laughter.) So if you want to ask him legal questions, you certainly can. I do not know if he will answer them. But that's all I'm going to do.
P I'm not a lawyer either. Let me ask you about –
MS. SANDERS: I know, that's why I did not call you.
Q Thanks, I appreciate it. This decision on Jerusalem: Does the president worry that there may be violence as a result of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Have you been seen by this White House?
MS. SANDERS: Several things that have been weighed in the President's decision have been analyzed. But as I said a few minutes ago, I will not anticipate your comments. And we will be happy to address them at a later time.
P Following Roy Moore, just very fast – other people have a couple of questions – Is not there a moral decision that you are making here? And I'm sure you've heard this in the latest news in recent days, since the president decided to back Roy Moore. This is someone who has been accused of child abuse, of child sexual abuse. How can that vote in the Senate be so important as to bet someone who has been accused of sexually abusing minors, of harming someone under age?
MS. SANDERS: As I said, that's something that the people of Alabama must decide. And that depends on them –
Q Is that something the President has fought in some way? Have you struggled with that question?
MS. SANDERS: As I said, the accusations are very worrying. And, again, this depends on the people of Alabama to make that decision. I am not a voter in Alabama and I can not make that decision.
Q Sarah, thank you. The president said the tax plan will hurt him individually. Will the President release his taxes to prove that?
MS. SANDERS: I'm not aware of any plan to do that, but if it changes, I'll let you know.
P Why not? I mean, he can publish it, even if he's under audit, he could publish his tax returns if he wanted to.
MS. SANDERS: As you said, while you're under audit, you're not going to do that. And I'm not aware of any plans to change that policy at this time.
P Yes. Thank you, Sarah. A matter of procedure on Roy Moore's endorsement. Did the president have any conversation with President McDaniel of the RNC after he made his position known? Or did he speak with state president Lathan in Alabama or with any of the players involved in the Republican National Committee before deciding to return to the race and support Roy Moore?
MS. SANDERS: I know there have been conversations between administration officials and the RNC, and supported that measure. But, legally, I can not, due to the Hatch Law, go much further than that.
Q Can not say who the officials are?
MS. SANDERS: I know there were multiple conversations. I am not aware if the President spoke specifically with the president. I would have to verify that and let you know. But I do know that the administration supported the decision of the RNC. However, I can not go beyond that at this time.
Q Thanks, Sarah. Given the support of the President, do you agree with Roy Moore that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress?
MS. SANDERS: I have not asked you about a past statement by Roy Moore.
P But, I mean, you're saying that your agendas are something like closed. Does that go both ways?
MS. SANDERS: I'm saying that you support the President's agenda. The president does not necessarily support everything that is mentioned in Moore's agenda.
P Thanks, Sarah. Does the President expect Deutsche Bank or any financial institution to cooperate with requests for documents from the US law enforcement agencies? UU If you get them?
MS. SANDERS: As I said a few minutes ago, Jay Sekulow, member of the President's legal team, published that –
Q: What is the President's message to the financial institutions themselves? If they receive an application, should they comply with that?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I will not go into hypothetical situations and I will try to determine and project everything that could happen. We know that it has not happened until now and that the reports were totally false.
And, again, the media went a bit ahead of their skis pushing and pushing that story that was not true.
P Just to follow Roy Moore a little. Are you saying that? You say that people decide, but this administration has backed Roy Moore. Why support it if you want people to decide? You are influencing the decision by endorsing it. And secondly, are you saying that it does not matter who shows up as a member of the GOP, is it okay while you are in contact with the President and vote in whatever way he wants?
MS. SANDERS: Once again, I will not go into every person who could or could not run for office.
Q For this person. This person.
MS. SANDERS: Wait. I will finish answering the question, if you allow me. But I'm not going to address, you asked, the end of your question was: each person who is running for office. One, I will not weigh, because I do not know who can run for office.
But what I can say is that the President made that decision, and decided that it was better to have someone to support his agenda than a Democrat who did not. Again, it's up to the people of Alabama to decide. Ultimately, they are the only ones who can vote in that election. We'll see what happens.
Last question. Dave.
Q Thanks, Sarah. The administration reported today that illegal border crossings have fallen to a minimum of 45 years. Does the urgency decrease, since we are beginning to make decisions here, about whether to continue with the construction of the wall in this budget?
MS. SANDERS: I think it probably shows the effectiveness of the Trump presidency and another success story as we close the year and certainly something that could be seen.
But I think the need for the border wall and border security, as well as responsible immigration reform, still stands. And we still have to look at all the ways in which we can protect our national security, and we still firmly believe that that is one of them.
Thank you very much, guys.
3: 39 PM EST