James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:22 P.M. EST
MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and took the opportunity to enjoy some downtime with your friends and family.
As you all can see, we’re quickly transitioning from Thanksgiving to the Christmas season here at the White House. This morning, the First Lady unveiled this year’s decorations, and she personally selected and was involved in every detail.
The theme, “Time-Honored Traditions,” was designed by Mrs. Trump to pay respect to 200 years of holiday traditions at the White House. During the month of December, the White House will host more than 100 open houses and numerous receptions, and more than 25,000 visitors will walk the halls taking part in public tours.
Speaking of Christmas, the President is looking forward to the Senate bringing us another step closer to delivering a big, beautiful Christmas present to the American people in the form of massive tax relief. To that end, on Wednesday, the President will travel to St. Charles, Missouri to deliver an important address to the nation on the need for tax cuts and reforms.
Unemployment is already at a 17-year low, wages are starting to raise, the stock market continues to hit all-time highs, and optimism is through the roof. Just imagine what’s going to be possible when this plan passes. And I think it will be a great lead-in to the Christmas season and something we can all be excited about.
And with that, I will take your questions.
Q Sarah, is Director Mulvaney firmly in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection agency today? Or is there still a back-and-forth between him and Leandra English on who’s actually the boss?
MS. SANDERS: Director Mulvaney has taken charge of that agency, and he has the full cooperation of the staff and appeared there this morning, and things went very well on his first day over at CFPB.
Q How did he handle that power struggle when he arrived there?
MS. SANDERS: I think that the legal outline shows very clearly who is in charge of that agency. And both he and the White House, as well as the general counsel for CFPB, who was appointed by Cordray, said that he has the legal standing to be there and serve as the director. And we all agree with that, and, again, feel very confident in moving forward.
Q But why not just fire Leandra English?
MS. SANDERS: Look, she’s still the deputy director and has a legal standing in that capacity, but not as the director.
Q And do you believe — does this White House agree with Mick Mulvaney when he called this agency a “joke”?
MS. SANDERS: Look, we think that a lot of the past practices under the previous director and under the previous administration were used more to advance political ambitions and not about protecting American consumers, which is what that’s supposed to be. And our goal is to make sure we get back to that.
Q Thanks, Sarah. Does the President still accept the authenticity of the Access Hollywood tape that he apologized for during the campaign?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President addressed this. This was litigated and certainly answered during the election by the overwhelming support for the President and the fact that he’s sitting here in the Oval Office today. He’s made his position on that clear at that time, as have the American people and his support of him.
Q So he apologized for it, which would seem to acknowledge its authenticity. And that position hasn’t changed?
MS. SANDERS: No. Like I just said, the President hasn’t changed his position. I think if anything that the President questions it’s the media’s reporting on that accuracy.
Q Thanks a lot, Sarah. Just two questions on the CFPB. The first one has to do with whether or not you would like the courts to clear up any confusion as to who is in control of the CFPB. Of course, the lawsuit has been filed. They’d like that case to be — a ruling on that case to be decided very quickly.
MS. SANDERS: Look, of course we’re aware that a lawsuit has been filed. But we’re also aware that the law is extremely clear and that Director Mulvaney is the acting director here as has been outlined by the counsel’s office, by the Department of Justice, and, as I said before, CFPB’s own general counsel, which was appointed by Cordray. So I think that everybody is in full agreement that he’s the director of this office.
Q How do you envision the agency operating under Director Mulvaney?
MS. SANDERS: Much better than it has in the past. Q In what way? What are the functions of the agency?
MS. SANDERS: Like I said, we’re not going to put political ambitions as the number-one priority. We’re going to make sure that the consumers are actually being protected, which is what the agency was created for.
Q Thanks, Sarah. On the Senate race in Alabama. Does President Trump plan to campaign for Roy Moore?
MS. SANDERS: The President is not planning any trip to Alabama at this time. And, frankly, his schedule doesn’t permit him doing anything between now and Election Day.
Q Over the weekend, the President weighed in about this race on Twitter. Does the President continue — does he have plans to continue his campaign against the Democrat in Alabama, Doug Jones?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I’m not going to get into a back-and-forth from the podium. As you know, I’ve declined that opportunity many times. But I can tell you that the President obviously wants people who support his agenda and certainly wants people that are looking to make America better — to improve our education system, to grow our economy, to continue to fight against ISIS, continue growing the economy. Those are the President’s priorities, and he wants people in place that are going to help and support those priorities.
Q Sarah, at the event that the President just did with the Navajo Code Talkers, he referred to “Pocahontas” being in the Senate. Why did he feel the need to say something as offensive to many people while honoring the Navajo Code Talkers — these genuine, American heroes?
MS. SANDERS: I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career.
Q But she said it was a racial slur. She said it was a racial slur. What is your response to that?
MS. SANDERS: I think that’s a ridiculous response.
Q If I could follow up with that, because the President was speaking at an event to honor members of the Greatest Generation — people who fought in World War II, who are in their eighties and nineties now. And the moment had many people online asking whether the President lacks decency. What’s your response to that notion?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think the President certainly finds an extreme amount of value and respect for these individuals, which is why he brought them and invited them to come to the White House and spend time with them, recognizing them, and honoring them today.
So I think he is constantly showing ways to honor those individuals, and he invited them here at the White House today to meet with them and to also remind everybody about what the historic role that they played many years ago.
Q Why is it appropriate for the President to use a racial slur in any context?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t believe that it is appropriate for him to make a racial slur or anybody else.
Q Well, a lot of people feel as though this is a racial slur. So why is it appropriate for him to use that?
MS. SANDERS: Like I said, I don’t think that it is, and I don’t think that was — certainly not the President’s intent.
Q Sarah, does he see —
MS. SANDERS: I think, like I said, I think the more offensive — the most offensive thing —
Q Does he see political value in calling people out racially?
MS. SANDERS: I’m sorry?
Q Does he see political value in calling people out racially? Why use that (inaudible)?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think that Senator Warren was very offensive when she lied about something specifically to advance her career. I don’t understand why no one is asking about that question and why that isn’t constantly covered.
Q Two on Syria. First, on Friday, the President’s call with Erdoğan in Turkey, where he seemingly announced to him that he was not going to — the U.S. is not going to continue arming the Kurds — the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS. Can you address sort of concerns that the U.S. now seems to backing away from its previous support of a partner in the fight against ISIS?
MS. SANDERS: No — look, once we started winning the campaign against ISIS, the plan and part of the process is to always wind down support for certain groups. Now that we’re continuing to crush the physical caliphate, that we’re in a position to stop providing military equipment to certain groups, But that doesn’t mean stopping all support of those individual groups. But that was the whole purpose, was to help defeat ISIS. We’re making massive progress in that front. And once that was moved forward, that has always been the plan and that hasn’t changed.
Q And just quickly on Syria. Is it still a policy of the United States that Assad must go? Or is there sort of more of a containment policy, sort of, emerging at the White House?
MS. SANDERS: We don’t have any change in our position at this time.
Q Sarah, back to the Access Hollywood tape — you said that he made his position clear at the time. And he said — at the time, he said, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” But you just said the media’s reporting of its accuracy. So can I ask again: Does the President acknowledge saying that — what was on the Access Hollywood tape last year?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I said that he’d already addressed it and that we didn’t have any updates to that. I said, what he didn’t like and what he found troubling were the accounts that are being reported now.
Q What accounts are being reported now that weren’t reported last year? What accounts are you talking about?
MS. SANDERS: The ones that are current that he’s questioning.
Q Quick follow on Zeke’s question. So what is the official policy on Assad’s position? Should he stay or go?
MS. SANDERS: Look, as I just said, we don’t have any changes into past statements that we’ve already made on that front. Nothing new.
Q Sarah, just a couple on the CFPB. Does the White House believe that Leandra English is unqualified for that position?
MS. SANDERS: We believe that Director Mulvaney is the right person at this time to lead that agency and that’s why he’s over there.
Q If you believe that he’s the right person, I guess the follow up then is, what is the White House — or what does the President have against Leandra English in that spot?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I’m not saying that we do have anything against her. I’m saying that we want Director Mulvaney to lead this agency and that’s a decision that the President is allowed to make, and one that he’s made and has legal authority to do so.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Two questions about personnel. The President’s appointment of Governor Brownback for the ambassador-at-large slot, dealing with religious liberty, has been stalled, and the Senate has yet confirm him or vote on his confirmation. Now, at the same time, National Security Council staff has a vacant slot with the same issue — religious liberty — that doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Is he going to fill that slot on the NSC?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of any specific announcement for that position at this time, but if one happens, we’ll certainly make sure you’re aware of it.
Q Now, the other question is regarding the appointment of Director Mulvaney to a simultaneous presidential appointment. It seems a little odd because this has not been done, according to many accounts, since before World War I.
MS. SANDERS: We’re an administration that likes to break new ground, John.
Q Well, you broke it. The last time was before World War I, when the Secretary of the Treasury was also the first chairman of the Fed. Whose idea was this? Or did the President decide to give the dual positions to director Mulvaney?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think the President felt like he was the right person to lead this agency, and he made that decision. I don’t think there’s more to it than that.
Q Thank you, Sarah. One on the CFPB. As far as reforms to the agency, the House has pressed the CHOICE Act. That’s still — no action on that in the Senate. Is this something — does the administration see this as an opportunity to try to push congressional reforms to the agency?
MS. SANDERS: Look, this is Director Mulvaney’s first day. We’re going to let him get settled in before we start announcing new policy. But when we do, we’ll certainly keep you guys posted.
Anita. Sorry, I’m going to try to jump around for — save time.
MS. SANDERS: Speaker Ryan said the other say that DREAMers — the issue of the DREAMers would not be in the spending bill. We’re reaching the end of the year now and I’m wondering what the — you know, the President said that he would take this back up if Congress couldn’t act. Negotiations aren’t really going anywhere. What does the President propose to do? Does he see that happening in Congress in the next few weeks? Does he wish for a standalone bill?
MS. SANDERS: Are you talking about specific to — I’m sorry, I missed the first part.
Q DREAMers. What to do about DREAMers.
MS. SANDERS: Look, we hope that the Democrats aren’t going to put our servicemembers abroad at risk by trying to hold the government hostage over partisan politics, and attaching that. To that, we’ve laid out what our principles on immigration are. We want to see responsible immigration reform, that would include DACA, but that would also include the priorities that we’ve already previously laid out.
Q And if they don’t come up with anything?
MS. SANDERS: Like I just said, we hope that the Democrats are willing to actually make responsible immigration reform. We’ve laid out what we want and — look, the President has got a meeting with various members tomorrow, and I would imagine that that will come up at that time.
Q Sarah, what would you say to consumers who are concerned about somebody who once called the agency that he’s now extensively leading — Mick Mulvaney calling the agency a sick, sad joke? What would you say to consumers who are concerned about somebody like that now extensively leading this agency that was designed to protect them?
MS. SANDERS: I think that consumers should be glad that they finally have somebody in there that actually wants to fight for consumers and not fight for their own political ambitions, which we’ve seen in the previous leadership and which will be a very different change under Director Mulvaney.
Q Sarah, at this point, Senator Al Franken has allowed that there may be more women coming forward. He doesn’t know that there are, but he said there might be more women coming forward. At what point does the President condemn him? How many women does it take? How many accusations does it take before the President says Al Franken should resign? And is he holding back because of some unresolved accusations against himself?
MS. SANDERS: No, I think it’s — look, the President is not going to weigh in on every single matter like this. Look, every single day we’ve got people from the media, from Hollywood, from members of Congress that have allegations brought against them, and we think that this should go through a due process. And that’s something that Senator Franken should first be the one to address, and not for the President to weigh in every single time one of these accusations comes up. But there should be a process that we go through, and we want to make sure that that’s completed.
Q You said with the Access Hollywood tape that the people have spoken, the President is president. So that’s kind of been litigated. Do you think the fact that —
MS. SANDERS: I think the President also addressed it at the time.
Q Fair enough. Do you think the fact that the President has been elected — that that’s all been litigated — means that the public believes the women who have accused him in the past of sexual misconduct are wrong?
MS. SANDERS: I think that the President has been very clear that he denies any of those allegations having taken place.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Just to follow up on you saying that the CFPB has not looked out for consumers, can you point to some specific cases where the CFPB did not act in the best interest of consumers?
MS. SANDERS: Yeah, we have a list of those. I’ll be happy to provide them after the briefing today.
Q Can you list them now?
MS. SANDERS: Yeah, I’ll be — I don’t have it right in front of me, but I have read multiple things. I’ll be happy to provide it to you after the briefing.
Q And separately, over the weekend, the President went after CNN International. Today he called out CNN in a tweet. In the conversations that the President has had with Rupert Murdoch, has he ever brought up CNN or talked about the AT&T-Time Warner merger?
MS. SANDERS: Not that I’m aware of. Not that I know of.
I’ll take one last question. Veronica.
Q Sarah, thank you. The last time the President met with congressional leaders, he surprised a lot of people making this — the deal, if you will — with, he came out and said, “Chuck and Nancy.” It seemed to take Republicans by surprise. Should we expect something like that out of tomorrow? Should Republicans feel anxiety or concern leading into tomorrow’s meeting that he may, if you will, throw them under the bus, if you will, leading into tomorrow’s meeting?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I don’t think the President threw anybody under the bus. But if the President — I’m not going to get ahead of that meeting. But if the President can make a deal and any of those Democrats would like to come on board and support tax reform, I think that’s something we’d certainly welcome and be happy to celebrate with them after, as my guess is most of the Republican senators would also be excited about that, as well.
Thanks so much, guys. Have a good afternoon.
3:40 P.M. EST