James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:53 P.M. EDT
SANDERS: Good afternoon. Many by now have heard that I was asked to leave a restaurant this weekend where I attempted to have dinner with my family. My husband and I politely left and went home. I was asked to leave because I work for President Trump.
We are allowed to disagree, but we should be able to do so freely and without fear of harm. And this goes for all people regardless of politics. Some have chosen to push hate and vandalism against the restaurant that I was asked to leave from. A Hollywood actor publicly encouraged people to kidnap my children.
And this weekend, a member of Congress called for people to “push back” and make clear to those serving their country in this administration that they are not welcome anywhere, anytime, for anything.
Healthy debate on ideas and political philosophy is important, but the calls for harassment and push for any Trump supporter to avoid the public is unacceptable.
America is a great country, and our ability to find solutions despite those disagreements is what makes us unique.
That is exactly what President Trump has done for all Americans by building a booming economy, with record low unemployment for African Americans and Hispanics, the defeat of ISIS, and the ongoing work to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Earlier today, the President spoke with the new President of Colombia and congratulated him on his recent electoral victory. President Trump noted the strong partnership between our two countries and discussed the security challenges the new Colombian government will face as he enters office.
We are also working to set up a call between the President and the President of Turkey to reaffirm our strong bond. We encourage Turkey to take steps to strengthen its democracy and continue progress toward resolving issues in the bilateral relationship.
Lastly, and on a slightly lighter and more positive note, it should be an exciting national championship at the College World Series since the Arkansas Razorbacks will be playing and take on Oregon State starting tonight in Omaha. So, go Hogs.
And with that, I’ll take your questions. Jonathan.
Q Sarah, I want to ask you about the President’s tweet over the weekend, where he said that people who cross the border illegally should be sent back with no court cases, no judges. Does the President believe that undocumented immigrants have no due process rights whatsoever?
SANDERS: Virtually all Americans agree that it makes no sense that an illegal alien sets one foot on American soil and then they would go through a three- to five-year judicial process to be removed the country. Thousands of illegal aliens are removed every month without seeing an immigration judge as a result of procedures in current law, including voluntary removal and expedited removal. Just because you don’t see a judge, doesn’t mean you aren’t receiving due process.
The President is focused on securing our borders and reforming our immigration system to prevent the crisis at the border from getting worse.
Q But he’s saying no judges, no court cases. So no opportunity to claim asylum, no opportunity to have their cases heard before a judge?
SANDERS: No, like I just said, just because you don’t see a judge, doesn’t mean you aren’t receiving due process. Also, the President would like to see us stop people from illegally entering the country at all. We’d like to have secure borders. The Democrats are the ones that want open borders. The President would like us to secure the borders and have a very legal and easy immigration process so people can come here the right way, not the wrong way.
Q Just in addition to what Jon was asking, under current law — and you spoke to this — contiguous countries to the United States, like Mexico and Canada, where people can be removed on an expedited basis, they can basically just be taken to the nearest border crossing and sent back. Does the President want to implement that type of policy for people from noncontiguous countries? Is that what he’s looking for here?
SANDERS: The President would certainly like to see more expedited removal. But ultimately, the President would like to see our border secured so that we don’t have all of these problems to begin with. The President wants to fix our immigration system completely, and not just tinker with it. He actually wants us to have a system that works, and he wants to have a secure border.
He doesn’t believe in the philosophy that Democrats do, that we should have open borders. He wants to stop that. He wants to stop the crime that comes into this country. And that’s what we’re hoping to do, and we’d like to see Congress step up and work with us.
Q The President also said in the Oval Office that people have proposed adding 5,000 judges. Who’s proposed to add 5,000 judges? I’ve seen 750 as a max number.
SANDERS: There have been a number of different proposals; quite a few that we’ve seen. We’ve laid out what we would like to see, and hopefully Congress will work with us to make that happen.
Q Sarah, thank you. Let me ask you about a couple statements on trade. What is the President’s reaction to the Harley-Davidson announcement today? Does he still feel that tariffs are the way to go?SANDERS: The President’s trade and economic policies have been a huge benefit to the American economy, and this includes the creation of over 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Unemployment is at 3.8 percent, the lowest since 2000. And manufacturing confidence is at historic highs.
The European Union is attempting to punish U.S. workers with unfair and discriminatory trade policies. And President Trump will continue to push for free, fair, and reciprocal trade and hopes that the EU will join us in that.
Q And on the story about Chinese investments — curtailing possible Chinese tech investments — the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said five hours ago that a statement would be forthcoming, and we still don’t have it. When might that be coming? Or what exactly is that administration’s stance on this?
SANDERS: Again, as the Secretary said, a statement would go out that targets all countries that are trying to steal our technology, and we expect that to be out soon. We’ll keep you posted.
Q Thanks a lot, Sarah. Back on immigration. In terms of what the President envisions for the immigration policy that he’d like to see put in place, should asylum-seekers be able to get their case heard before an immigration judge?
SANDERS: Certainly there is a process in order to go through. There are points of entry that asylum seekers should go to, and we encourage them to work through the system and not come across the border illegally.
In fact, anyone that goes to a port of entry seeking asylum will not be prosecuted, and we would encourage people to use the correct system and not try to break the law.
Q And one more, on trade, and following up on what Blake asked about Harley-Davidson. They announced in an SEC filing they’re moving a significant amount of their operations to Europe because of the EU tariffs that were placed on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Is this what the President envisioned for what the impact would be by placing tariffs on the EU and the retaliation the EU has put on the U.S.?
SANDERS: Again, the European Union is trying to punish U.S. workers because they have engaged repeatedly in unfair trade practices, and the President is saying enough is enough. We’d like to work with the EU to work on a level playing field.
Sorry, Steve, I did come to you. Go ahead.
Q Yes. The President today in the Oval Office, sitting next to the King of Jordan, mentioned some progress in the Middle East peace process, but he didn’t give us any specifics. There’s been quite a bit of shuttle diplomacy going on in the last few days in the Middle East with Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. Do you have anything concrete to tell us about any sort of positive movement whatsoever from all of this?
SANDERS: Again, we think that the meetings that took place over the last week with Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and Special Representative Jason Greenblatt, they met with a number of officials and principals in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Qatar last week.
They discussed the situation in Gaza as well as the next stages of the peace effort. We’re going to continue those conversations and we’re committed to the peace effort, and we’re going to keep working forward. But those conversations were productive.
Q Sarah, the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection said today that they’re no longer going to be referring people who cross the border without authorization for criminal charges if they’re traveling with children, which is essentially returned to the Obama administration practice and administrations before that. Does the President support that approach? And if so, does he regret trying to push forward on a zero-tolerance approach in the first place?
Q No, the President certainly supports keeping families together, which he has outlined several times over the last week, but he’s also called on Congress to actually fix the system. They’re the only ones that ultimately have the ability to change the law. The President’s executive order has given a temporary solution to the problem, but it’s not permanent and we need Congress to step up. We need Democrats to stop playing political games, do their jobs, work with this President, and let’s fix the problem at the border.
Q Can you talk about why you tweeted from your official account about the episode that you had the restaurant on Friday night?
SANDERS: Sure. I was responding to a number of news stories. I’d been reached out to by over a dozen reporters and there were multiple news stories that had already been issued. It was considered news of the day, so I responded in the way I would to any other news-of-the-day story.
Q Sarah, you said just because you don’t see a judge doesn’t mean you don’t get due process. Can you explain what you mean by that, specifically, and how the President envisions that this would work while still maintaining what the Constitution upholds in having a swift immigration system?
SANDERS: Again, there are other ways for removal. There are thousands of illegal aliens that are removed every month that don’t see judges. Sometimes that’s through voluntary removal, and sometimes that’s through expedited removal. Again, the President’s ultimate goal would be that we have actually a secure border and people aren’t coming into the country illegally, but that we have a system that works and the people that come into the country come in through a legal system.
Q What is the President doing specifically this week to ensure that Congress passes a bill? He spent all week in Nevada talking about — or all weekend, excuse me, on Saturday — talking about how Democrats want open borders and crime. But specifically, has he made phone calls to Republican members in the House where the bill is pending? Has he tried to bring Democrats together? What is he doing specifically to try and get a new law passed specifically, other than just railing against the current law?
SANDERS: The President met with a number of lawmakers last week, talked with several over the weekend, some that he was with while he was traveling. Last week, he made an open invitation to Democrat lawmakers that they were welcome to come to the White House to discuss what they’d like to see, because the President wants solutions. We have yet to have any of them show up, actually willing to have those conversations, actually willing to fix the problem. Instead, they’d rather rant and rave about not allowing members of the Trump administration to step foot in public.
The President wants to see solutions. That’s what we’re focused on. It’s Congress’s job to do that, and we’ve laid out very clearly that we want to be part of that and what we’d like to see in that package.
Q Is Congress doing its job on this?
SANDERS: Clearly, they aren’t. If they haven’t passed a law to fix the system, then they haven’t. Republicans have laid out a number of proposals that they support. The President has voiced his support for those.
Q The bills are going to probably fail this week though. The Republican bills will probably fail this week.
SANDERS: That’s because no Democrat will get on board and actually support a solution.
Q (Inaudible) a Republican issue. Republicans cannot pass these Republican bills. What is the President doing as the leader of the party to try to get Republican —
SANDERS: Jeff, these aren’t Republican bills. These are bills that fix a broken system. They may have Republican sponsors, but these should be bipartisan. This shouldn’t be complicated. Look, the House has already passed over 500 pieces of legislation, but they can’t get through the Senate because Democrats refuse to actually find solutions. We have 50 bills that passed just last week to address the opioid crisis that passed through the House. The Senate still hasn’t taken then up. Hopefully, they will. And if they do, that will show that we actually can come up with bipartisan solutions. And that’s what we’d like to see them do on immigration as well.
Q Can I follow up on Julie’s question about the zero-tolerance policy? The President said last week, after signing the executive order, that he believed that zero tolerance was still important. You guys made a point of the fact that the EO did not actually get rid of the policy. How does that square with the fact that CBP is now saying that they are no longer referring for prosecution any adults who come in with children?
SANDERS: Again, this is a temporary solution. This isn’t going to last. Congress still has to step up. They still have to do their job. This will only last a short amount of time, because we’re going to run out of space, we’re going to run out of resources in order to keep people together. And we’re asking Congress to provide those resources and do their job.
Q Some sort of a temporary solution. Does that mean at some point you’re going to change that policy back?
SANDERS: We’re not changing the policy. We’re simply out of resources. And at some point, Congress has to do what they were elected to do, and that is secure our border, that is stop the crime coming into our country. The country has made extremely clear that they don’t want open borders. And Democrats need to understand that, and they need to work with Republicans and find some solutions.
Q And then just another one. Other people had several.
SANDERS: Sorry, Jill. I’m going to keep going. Annie, go ahead.
Q Sarah, you mentioned the state of resources and running out of them. Can you be specific about what the resources are right now for housing parents and children together? Is there enough housing right now? Is the Pentagon stepping in? Like, what’s being done about the resources?
SANDERS: Again, we’re looking at every option available. We have asked the Pentagon to help with additional space. But a lot of that will depend on our ability to stop people coming into the country illegally. And we, again, encourage people to go through ports of entry instead of crossing the border illegally.
We’ve requested through legislation — we’re working with Congress, hopefully — to provide more resources and the ability to actually enforce the law.
Q I just want to see if you can kind of narrow down exactly what the President actually intends to do when it comes to this idea of not having judges. You say that there are instances where people don’t have judges. But my understanding is that if you do ask for asylum, you do have certain rights. So is there going to be a change in that policy? Or what is this administration planning to do to make it so you don’t have to see a judge (inaudible)?
SANDERS: I’ve addressed this a couple of times. There are multiple instances in where you wouldn’t: voluntary removal, certain cases of expedited removal. If somebody comes through a port of entry seeking asylum, those cases and that process will be heard. But at the same time, the President’s ultimate goal is to secure the border and stop illegal immigration.
Q I understand that. But so what does that mean practically? Like, is the President planning to do anything differently, or you’re just saying he doesn’t like the way things work now?
SANDERS: The President has laid out what he’d like to see. We’ve put out the things that we want to see in an immigration package months ago. We’re still waiting on Congress to give us the ability to do that.
Q So unless Congress acts, nothing is actually going to change? The administration is not changing anything right now when it comes to judges?
SANDERS: You mean, are we walking around making up laws? No. Because we’re not the Obama administration. We’re actually trying to enforce the laws that are on the books. We’re actually asking Congress to do their part in the process and pass new legislation that will fix our immigration system.
Q So, but nothing is actually changing on the ground? So this is — the President is complaining about judges and saying that we shouldn’t have all these judges, and people who come over should just be put out, but nothing is actually going to change? He’s just saying — he’s just complaining about the process as it stands now?
SANDERS: Things that we have the ability to do administratively we are working to do. But again, Congress is the only one that has the ability to write law, and we hope they’ll do that this week.
Q Honing in on that point, I’m trying to understand what it is the President understands about the current policy. Because as you’ve explained, expedited removal allows the government to remove hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants a year without seeing judges. Did the President know that when he issued the tweets?
SANDERS: Yeah, but there are still thousands that go through a very lengthy process. We’d like to see the process consolidated. We’d like to see the backlog stopped. We’d like to see our border secured.
Q Well, just to follow up — under current law —
SANDERS: Sorry, Steve, I’m going to keep moving.
Q — there are a couple of things that the President could do. He could expand that policy. You’ve said that he would like to see more expedited removal. Does the President intend to expand it to the full two-year limit under the current statute?
SANDERS: Again, we would like to see more expedited removal. But ultimately, we would like to see the border secured and people stop coming into the country illegally. That seems pretty simple to me. And it would stop a lot of the problems, and would eliminate the need for so many of these additional laws.
Q Thanks, Sarah. You began the briefing talking about the importance of civility. Do you consider it a civil policy to separate more than two-thirds of children from their parents?
SANDERS: We consider enforcing the law the role that the administration has to play. Certainly the President has taken an executive action to the furthest that he has the ability to do to minimize the separation of families. We’re working hard to make sure families get to stay together, and we’re calling on Congress to help us in that effort. And we’re continuing to focus on the reunification and making sure that the families, again, stay together and that Congress will give us a permanent solution to fix that.
Q Would you say that they’re working to make families stay together? It was your administration that separated them in the first place.
SANDERS: It wasn’t our administration that created these laws, but it is our administration’s job to enforce it, and we’ve done that. If someone breaks the law, it’s our job to enforce it. If somebody doesn’t like the law, then they need to lobby Congress and ask them to change it.
Q I have one immigration question and wanted to clarify one thing. So, I understand that not every adult with a child is going to be prosecuted. If there are families that are being held together, detained together somewhere, and 20 days goes by, what is going to happen then? I didn’t get an answer about that last week. I don’t understand. The law says you can’t keep them together or keep the children — even with parents — for longer than 20 days. So then what happens?
SANDERS: Hopefully, Congress will pass a law and fix the problem.
Q In the next 20 days?
SANDERS: Well, why should it be so hard? They all say that they don’t want to separate families. Seems like it should be pretty simple to me.
Q I said I had a clarification.
SANDERS: Go ahead.
Q So Jeff asked you a question about Congress and the bill. Were you, in your response, referring to just a standalone bill that deals with family separation? Or were you referring to the bigger immigration bill that the House is supposed to take up this week?
SANDERS: Our preference would be a bill that addresses all of the pillars that we’ve laid out that we’d like to see addressed in an immigration package. And that’s what our focus is right now, is there’s a bill that does that on the table. If that doesn’t happen, then we’ll talk about other pieces of legislation at that point.
Q So the President still wants that bill to go forward even though he said they don’t want to — they shouldn’t waste their time?
SANDERS: Look, Democrats in the Senate have made clear they’re not going to support this. And because we need at least some Democrats to get on board, they’ve made it very clear that they don’t want to work with the President, that they don’t want to fix our immigration system; that they’d rather have open borders and rampant crime than work with the President to create solutions.
Until they change their mind, we’re going to continue looking at the best ways that we can fix these problems, but we need Congress to help us.
Q Thank you, Sarah. This President is the first in the television age who has yet to address the American public on nationwide television from the Oval Office. Many Republican consultants have said he might have a stronger hand in influencing Congress if he made a nationally televised address on immigration and what changes he’d like to see, to explain it. Is that something that’s on the table within the administration?
SANDERS: Certainly don’t want to take anything off the table or any tool away from the President. He does address the American people in a number of different venues and formats. And I’ll certainly pass along that suggestion to him.
Q Just a follow-up on the Middle East. In the recent (inaudible), Mr. Kushner said that if President Abbas is not willing to negotiate, he’s going to proceed with the deal. Can you explain how the White House is hoping to achieve any progress in the Middle East peace talks if the principal party is not taking part in it?
SANDERS: We’re going to continue meeting with the other partners in the region. And again, we’re going to continue pushing forward in the peace process. We had productive meetings over the last week, and we’re going to continue those conversations.
I’ll take one last question. Saagar.
Q Thanks, Sarah. To follow up on the judges — on the issue of immigration judges, why is the President so opposed to an increase in the number of immigration judges when it would expedite the asylum processing — the asylum process and expedite deportation?
SANDERS: We’re not opposed to the speeding up the process. What the President would like to see, once again, is that we stop the problem at the very beginning. He’d like to see us secure the border and people work through the system, through the ports of entry, so that we’re not dealing with things on the back end. We’d like to stop the problem before it starts, and that’s what the President’s focus has been all along, is on securing the border. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
Thanks so much guys. Have a great day.
4:14 P.M. EDT