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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:37 P.M. EDT

MR. SPICER:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome back.  Got a busy week ahead of us.  Before I get started, I want to just give you a quick update on something I know in the past there’s been several questions about the President donating his salary to charity.  I got an update for you on that.

To that end, the President has spoken with Counsel and made the decision to donate his first-quarter salary, in total, to a government entity, and he has chosen this quarter to donate it to the National Park Service.  The Park Service has cared for our parks since 1916, and the President is personally proud to contribute the first quarter of his salary to the important mission of the Park Service, which is preserving our country’s national security.

So it is my pleasure, on behalf of the President of the United States, to present a check for $78,333 to the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, and Superintendent of the Harper’s Ferry Park site, Superintendent Brandyburg.

Q    After taxes?

MR. SPICER:  No, it’s straight up.  It is every penny that the President received from the first quarter since the day he was —

Q    But it’s not a full quarter.

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, right, because the Constitution says that — (laughter) — sorry, that was — so it’s from January 20th, noon, forward.

SECRETARY ZINKE:  We think it will cash, though.  (Laughter.)

MR. SPICER:  With that, I’m going to let Secretary Zinke make a few comments about the Department of Interior and the work that they’re doing.

SECRETARY ZINKE:  Well, thanks.  I’m Secretary Zinke, from the Department of Interior, for those who don’t know me.  Obviously, great to be with you.  Those who don’t know, I get my inspiration from Teddy Roosevelt.  And the motto now in the Department of Interior, if you go to Yellowstone and you have the opportunity to look at the Roosevelt Arch, it says, inscribed in stone is: “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”  And that’s our pledge.

So for those who aren’t familiar with the Department of Interior, we span 12 time zones, from the Virgin Islands, all the way to Palau.  And within our holdings are 20 percent of the nation’s land.  We have 417 national parks, we have 562 federally recognized Indian nations, 567 wildlife refuges, and 221 wilderness areas.  And I’m the steward of our nation’s finest and most majestic holdings.

After riding on a horse on my first day — we were pretty busy — just on public lands alone, I signed directions, on the first day, to expand public access — important if you’re in the West, especially in the far West, as Montana is.  We’ve made sure we increased opportunities for traditional hunting, fishing, and conservation efforts.  And we’ve invested millions across 12 states on preserving our conservation efforts there.

On energy, much of last week was spent on energy.  We held one of our most successful leases — 122,000 acres for wind development on federal lands, off Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  We also stopped the war on coal by continuing a coal leasing program.  And I established an oversight committee to review and analyze across the board rents, royalties on our federal lands, with the objective of, number one, being transparent; number two, being Reagan — trust, but verify; and number three, making sure the taxpayers that own the public lands are getting fair value.

On the management side, we have unfortunately uncovered a lot of internal controls that weren’t there.  There’s been in the news several incidents of sexual harassment and a culture of discrimination.  And you can hear it from me — I put policies forth — zero tolerance for sexual harassment or discrimination.  We have 70,000 full-time employees, and each employee deserves the right to enter a workplace that’s innovative, teamwork, but free from harassment.

On the brighter side, we will pilot the first-ever dog-friendly Department of Interior.  Puppy Day is coming up, so we’ve established that.  And people ask, why are you doing that?  Well, in some way we compete on millennials.  So we’re trying to develop ourselves as a friendly department that’s going to work with people, who are going to be an advocate for collaboration.  And in doing that, we’re going to start with being dog-friendly.  And also, we’ve taken to Twitter.  As you know, this administration is Twitter-friendly, and so am I — @SecretaryZinke.  (Laughter.)

And finally, as a veteran myself, I tell you, I am thrilled at the President’s decision to donate the check he did today.  I did talk to the President last night, and he has decided, as you know, to donate his entire quarter salary.  And we’re going to dedicate it and put it against the infrastructure on our nation’s battlefields.  We’re about $100 [million] or $229 million behind in deferred maintenance on our battlefields alone, and that’s on our 25 national battlefields.  And we’re excited about that opportunity.

So thank you very much for the opportunity to be with you, and thank you for — the American people to trust the stewardship of our nation’s greatest holdings with us.

So I’d like to thank our Superintendent Brandyburg for being here.  He’s Harper’s Ferry.  If you haven’t been out there, please do.

With that, I’ll turn it back to Sean and I will take questions.

Q    How is that war on coal been working there?  You’re saying that you’re going to open it up because of the war on coal.  Isn’t that kind of contrary to what Teddy Roosevelt wanted and preserving land?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  Well, there’s no doubt — three things.  One is, environmentally it’s better to produce energy here under reasonable regulation than watch it get produced overseas with none.  Secondly, jobs matter.  There’s a social cost of not having a job.  In some communities, coal mining, forestry are the only jobs.  And you can take it from the Crow Nation in Montana, which I’m familiar with.  Chairman Old Coyote — the chairman once said, a war on coal is a war on Crow Nation, and coal jobs are the only jobs.

And lastly, national security.  It is, from a SEAL perspective, it is better to make sure we’re not held hostage on our energy needs in this country.  And like you, I don’t want my kids — sons and daughters — to have to fight for war or energy resources we have here.  So national security is critical in our energy picture.  And look, the world is safer when America is stronger, and America stronger is not being dependent on foreign services for energy.  We can do it here right, and we will.  I’m the steward, and certainly we’re not going to sell or transfer public land.  And I don’t pick winners and losers.

So coal isn’t getting any more of a better deal than anything else.  We’ll let the market play.  But I want to make sure that what we do is cost-effective and it produces reliable, abundant, and affordable energy.

Q    But I think, to the point, are you going to return the land to its original, pristine value when you’re done?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  I’m a Boy Scout.  So I was taught long ago that when you leave a campground, you leave it in the same or better condition than you found it.  And that’s why we’re looking at royalties to make sure we have a reclamation program that makes sense.  All of us want clean air, clean water.  And I’m concerned, as well as you are, to make sure what we’re doing is in the best interest of the public in perpetuity.

Last question.

Q    Have you thought about re-designating the Gold Butte Monument in Nevada?

SECRETARY ZINKE:  We are looking at everything across the board.  When I came in, there was a lot of talk about different monuments in different places, and I talked to the senators.  And so everything is on the board, looking at it.  No monument in specific, but looking at the process, looking at the law, making sure that the monuments follow the law.  And at the end of the day, it’s important that we operate collaboratively.

If you’re outside of Washington, D.C., there’s a lot of anger out there.  And I want the Department of Interior, our rangers and land managers, to be first viewed as rangers and land managers, not law enforcement.  I don’t want us to be heavy-handed.  And I want us to work with local communities, because that’s where we’re embedded.  Our rangers, they have children, they play soccer, they coach, they do all those things — I want to make sure the Department of Interior is the department that works with local communities, works with the states, and we want to be the “yep” team; that means be an advocate rather than an adversary.

Thanks.  We’ll come back.

MR. SPICER:  Okay.  I know it’s already been a full first day back, but I want to run down a couple of quick things that happened over the weekend.  We’re fortunate to be championing many great causes during the month of April that are near and dear to the White House.  We released several proclamations on Friday that are available at White

This morning, specifically, the President proclaimed April 2nd through the 8th as National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

On Saturday, the President declared a major disaster in the state of California as a result of severe winter storm flooding and mudslides in February.  Federal assistance will be supplementing recovery efforts in the area moving forward.

Also on Saturday, the Vice President traveled to Columbus, Ohio to discuss American jobs and the economy.  He spoke with business leaders at DynaLab, an American-owned and operated electronic manufacturing services company.  The Vice President told the crowd that the actions that the President has already taken to create jobs in this country make it easier to do business, from taking a serious look at the regulatory process to ushering in a new era of American energy.

With respect to today, the President, as you know, welcomed President Al-Sisi of Egypt to the White House this morning.  The two Presidents had an honest discussion focused on areas of cooperation.  The President made clear that this is a new day in the relationship between Egypt and the United States, and the President affirmed his strong support of the Egyptian people.  It was a candid dialogue during which they discussed both areas of cooperation and of concern.

Also this morning, the White House released the official portrait of the First Lady, which is similarly available on White

And just about now, the President began a meeting with Secretary of State Tillerson, where they’re expected to discuss several topics, including the Secretary’s recent trip to Brussels where he attended the NATO foreign ministers meeting.

As you may have known, just prior to the briefing the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the President’s selection for Neil Gorsuch to the full Senate.  While the White House was pleased that beyond the committee partisan vote, more Democrats have moved passed partisan obstruction to acknowledge that Judge Gorsuch is simply qualified and deserving to be on the bench, but we’re obviously disappointed that the overwhelming majority of them are still playing politics with the nation’s highest court.  If the Democrats get their way — and I know the numbers are looking that way — this is going to be the first successful filibuster of a nominee to join the Supreme Court, which is clearly unprecedented.

With a vote on Judge Gorsuch expected Friday, the American people will see which senators are willing to keep this seat open to get in the way of President Trump making progress on one of his most significant choices so far.

Also, today opens the application process for this year’s H1B visas.  The President has spoken about the H1B visa program in the past.  The White House acknowledges that there are issues with the program as it currently stands; however, there are several laws that are on the books that went unenforced in the previous administration.  As the Department of Justice made clear and was released this morning, the Trump administration will be enforcing laws protecting American workers from discriminating hiring practices.

Looking ahead to the schedule for the rest of the week, the President will host a CEO town hall meeting on the business climate tomorrow morning.  And then in the afternoon, he’ll make remarks to the 2017 North America’s Building Trades Union National Legislative Conference.

On Wednesday, as I mentioned last week, he will host His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.  And on Thursday, after welcoming participants of the Wounded Warrior Project, Soldier Ride, the President will depart for a visit with President Xi of China to Mar-a-Lago.

The President has been briefed on the devastating flooding that has killed several hundred people in Colombia, and we are working closely with the governments of both Colombia and Peru to support efforts to address the extensive losses and damage caused by this natural disaster.

The President has also been briefed on today’s attacks in the St. Petersburg metro.  The United States condemns this reprehensible attack and act of violence.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and with the Russian people as we extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones who have been killed and injured.

Attacks like these on ordinary citizens just going about their lives remind us that the world must work as one to combat violence in all forms.  The United States is prepared to offer assistance to Russia that it may require in investigating this crime.

And with that, I’ll be glad to take your questions.


Q    Thanks.  A couple questions on the same topic.  Jared Kushner’s trip to Iraq today — why is he there and not the Secretary of State?  What is the message that the President is sending by having Jared Kushner be the one to take this trip?

MR. SPICER:  I don’t think — it’s not a binary choice.  In this particular case, both Jared Kushner and Tom Bossert, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, are on the trip at the request and invitation of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was going there and believed it was an opportunity for both of them.  It’s, ironically, the first trip for both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Bossert.

They’re going to receive briefings and updates with respect to what’s going on on the ground, our military involvement there, and our efforts to defeat ISIS.  Jared is going to specifically express the commitment of U.S. — of the United States to the government of Iraq, meet with U.S. personnel engaged in the campaign.  And Mr. Bossert will participate in meetings and briefings to reinforce the strong U.S.-Iraqi partnership to defeat ISIS.

But it’s not like this is a one-shot deal.  In the course of conversation and extensive meetings, that invitation was extended and they took it up.

Q    His portfolio is jam-packed.  It has grown in recent weeks.  Among the things that is our understanding that are in his portfolio is to broker Middle East peace and overhaul the federal government.  Can he do all of these things?

MR. SPICER:  I think — not to — it’s not like he does — he has a team that he oversees, and I think there’s a lot of areas that he has been working very diligently on behalf of the government, on behalf of the President’s agenda.  So going over and getting a firsthand understanding of the work that’s being done — to thank the government of Iraq, to see some of the sacrifice and progress that our team is making on the U.S. side — is an opportunity that I think every government official and every member of the media should, frankly, take advantage of if offered that opportunity.


Q    A recent ProPublica report out today revealed that President Trump can draw money from his businesses at any time without disclosing it.  So on that, I have two questions.  One, has the President withdrawn any money from his businesses since taking office?  And two, can the White House commit that the President will disclose future withdrawals if they take place?

MR. SPICER:  I’m not sure what he’s withdrawn.  I think that — I’m somewhat surprised in the sense that anyone would find it shocking.  A blind trust, or any kind of trust, rather, the whole entire point of setting it up is that somebody can withdraw money.  And that’s, frankly, part of the point of setting it up.

Q    Then why was this change not made — it was made after — (inaudible) —

MR. SPICER:  No, no, I do — but again, I think that you just went and started to say “this change was made.”  I’m not aware that there was any change.  Just because a left-wing blog makes the point of something changing doesn’t mean it actually happened.  I’m not aware that there was ever a change in the trust.  And the idea that the President is withdrawing money at some point is exactly the purpose of what the trust — why a trust is set up regardless of an individual.

Q    So just last question on this.  So you’re not saying whether or not it has changed?  Just to clarify, you’re not sure whether this was —

MR. SPICER:  No, no.  I’m actually — to the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t changed.


Q    I got a couple for you.  One, there are multiple reports that the administration is looking at arms packages for Taiwan, including missile defense and fighter jets.  Can you confirm or clarify?

MR. SPICER:  No.  I’m not going to discuss.

Q    Okay.  And then, last August, the President sharply criticized then-President Obama for not making more of a public case for human rights throughout the Muslim world — throughout the Arab world.  You guys have now said that it’s better to raise those issues privately; I’m trying to understand the evolution of the thinking there.  What changed his mind?

MR. SPICER:  What changed —

Q    The President’s mind.

MR. SPICER:  I think the President recognizes that those are conversations where we can — as I said in the statement — that there are areas of — that we can work with in cooperation and concern.  And that’s best discussed privately in terms of how we address areas that need to be discussed like that in order to make progress on them.  I don’t think that should be a huge surprise.

Q    Did he raise them in this meeting, do you know?

MR. SPICER:  Again, I’m not going to get into what they discussed privately, but I will tell you that we understand the concern, and I think those are the kind of things that I believe progress is made privately.


Q    Thank you, Sean.  I have two.  One, has President Trump spoken with President Vladimir Putin about the terror attack in Russia?

MR. SPICER:  Not yet.  I know that obviously the President of Egypt just left moments ago, prior to me coming out.  But I do know that, as I mentioned at the top, our teams have been reaching out to both the government of Russia, the government of Colombia — and I know that there has been some outreach, I believe, to the folks — the government of Peru with respect to their situation, the mudslides there.

And then obviously, the violence that occurred in Russia is something that we’ve already started reaching out from a government-to-government standpoint.  If there is a call, we will make sure that we read that out.

Q    Okay.  And secondly, Senator Rand Paul has called the reports that Susan Rice ordered the unmasking of President Trump’s associates a “smoking gun.”  Does the President agree with that characterization?  And what does he think of these reports?

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, I saw Senator Paul’s tweet.  Look, I think — I want to make sure I’m clear and consistent.  I think we’ve been trying to say that, from the get-go, that there’s been an ongoing investigation that we have supported.

Looking into this matter, I will say that we have continued to say that I think there is a troubling direction that some of this is going in, but we’re going to let this review go on before we jump to it.  But I think that it is interesting the level of — or the lack of interest that I’ve seen in these developments when it goes in one direction versus where I think it was going — where other amounts of interest that have come from this room and beyond.  I am somewhat surprised in terms of the level of interest that I’ve seen from the press corps at one set of developments versus another set of developments.

That being said, I’m not going to start getting into a further discussion of that.


Q    Sean, thanks.  Let me pick up here.  A couple questions, but I’ll start here.  Does the White House believe Susan Rice may have done anything illegal?

MR. SPICER:  I think — I’m not going to — appreciate the effort there.  I’m not going to start going down that road.  As we’ve said before, we go down one road, we need to go down them all.  And I think at this point, we have supported this review that we’ve asked for.

But I do think that when you see the developments that we’ve seen in terms of the public, on-the-record comments that Dr. Farkas — Evelyn Farkas, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for Russian Affairs, said very publicly that this was part of an attempt of the Obama administration to spread classified information, and then you see the developments that have happened today, I would just say that as, again, I’m — somewhat more from a media standpoint — somewhat intrigued by the lack of interest that we’ve seen in some of these public revelations in reporting that has gone in that direction that we’ve seen in some of the other directions that we’ve seen.

That being said, I’m not going to get into —

Q    So let me ask you, as it relates to Neil Gorsuch, is the White House comfortable with the nuclear option potentially being invoked?

MR. SPICER:  The President said several weeks ago that this was something that he would support.  We’re comfortable in the sense that obviously that decision is up to Leader McConnell to make how he wants the Senate to deal with this.  I think the Majority Leader’s comments are very clear in the direction that he’s heading in.

But I think this is — we have entered a whole new league if this goes forward in terms of Democrats really going and saying — it’s one thing to vote against the nominee; we’ve seen that in the past, and I understand that.  But we’ve now gone from the devolution of agreeing that there are certain people that a President has the right — as long as they’re qualified, right?  We’ve seen that in the past; John Roberts, I think, got 78 votes.

But when you see that going one direction, versus now that there’s literally going to be the first filibuster in modern times on a qualified judge that going to end up going on the court, we have really come a long way.  And I think Democrats are setting a very dangerous precedent when it comes to how they want to do this.  Because this isn’t about voting against somebody or having an issue with them.  It is literally trying to stop — using the filibuster for something that it was never intended for.  Nor has it ever really been the principle that we would vote down someone who was qualified.


Q    Thank you, Sean.  What is President Trump doing behind the scenes to make sure that his pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, ultimately is confirmed by the Senate?  And what message does he have for Democrats on Capitol Hill who have said they’re going to filibuster?

MR. SPICER:  Well, I mean, if you look at — I think it’s four Democrats that are now supporting, saying that they’re going to vote against the filibuster.  I think we feel good about that level of support.

We’ve, I think, done a very good job of making sure that we have the Republican majority support that we need to pass it.  It is now an internal question for senators to determine how they want to do it.  But make no mistake — and I believe Leader McConnell when he says, on Friday, Judge Gorsuch will be voted as the next Supreme Court Justice.

Q    Can you just take me through what Friday looks like for the President?  Obviously, a major meeting with the President of China, but his eyes are going to be here on Washington.  Is he going to making phone calls Thursday night trying to gauge the situation?

MR. SPICER:  Well, I think he’s going to be — we look forward to heading down to Florida Thursday to engage in some bilateral and — bilateral-plus meetings — meetings with the President and his team from China.  Obviously, that will continue into Friday morning.  But we’ll see how Friday evolves.

But again, I’m not — I don’t think there’s any question right now, according to Leader McConnell and others, that we’re going to have an associate justice of the Supreme Court ready to go.  It’s a question of how it happens.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  Just a couple questions about the check presentation earlier in the briefing.  You mentioned that, when he decided to give the money to the Park Service and had the advice of counsel.  Is there going to be an issue with him making a donation to a non-profit?

MR. SPICER:  I think there was just — that when given the options, he decided that there was a list of government entities that can accept donations.  Ironically, it’s not as easy to give money to the government as you would think — aside from the IRS.  (Laughter.)  And then, I don’t think you’re giving.

But my point is, is that he looked through a variety, and for this quarter he chose the National Park Service.  But it was a decision that he made based on — his counsel presented him with several options, and he believed that — as Secretary Zinke pointed out — that there was some great work being done there, especially that needed to do to restore our great battlegrounds, and wanted to do his —

Q    Speaking of giving money to the federal government, the President has been — going to Mar-a-Lago again this weekend — has been facing calls from both officials in New York and in Florida either to appropriate federal funds or request federal funds, which were not in the budget for the additional security burdens that they have faced, given his residence there, travels to those places, or to reimburse those local governments out of his own pocket.  Obviously, this President is far wealthier than any President we’ve seen in modern times, and he has the capability to make those outlays.  Is that something the President is considering, or has he decided to make those outlays to reimburse the —

MR. SPICER:  I think there’s a few things.  Number one, the request to go to Mar-a-Lago was something that was negotiated with the Chinese.  And so I think this is a very high-level visit that really has a huge impact on both economic and national security.

Secondly, the President has an opportunity, as all Presidents — President Bush traveled to Crawford; President Obama went to Hawaii often — this is not something that you can control.  There is a security aspect that the Secret Service determines when the President and the family travels.  That’s not dictated by the President of the United States.

And third, I would note, ironically, this is a day that the President just donated a significant amount of money of his salary back to the federal government.  And so respectfully, it’s like — at what point does he do enough?  He just gave a very sizable donation —

Q    (Inaudible), though, that’s a very small —

MR. SPICER:  But that’s not how we judge — I think to be able to say that — he isn’t taking a salary, I think he’s stepped down from his business.  He’s walked away from a lot.  I think at some point he’s done quite a bit in terms of handing — making a donation to the government.


Q    Sean, back on Susan Rice, if I could.  The fact that it’s allegedly the former national security advisor who requested the unmasking when it came to the incidental collection of people who were associated with the Trump campaign and the Trump transition puts that now squarely in the White House.  When you look at that, combine it with the NSC rules that were promulgated at the end of the Obama administration to more broadly share intelligence, does this White House look at what she allegedly requested as a national security issue or a political issue?

MR. SPICER:  Well, I’m not going to — that’s a nice backdoor into a line of questioning.  I think until there’s a finding of that, I don’t want to start getting into the motives, because we still have a — again, me getting to the motives assumes certain things in fact that I don’t think we’re ready to go to yet, because that, again, would be getting in the middle of an investigation.

I do think that there’s been enough public discussion and reporting on this stuff that I’m not going to comment on this any further until those committees have come to a conclusion of that sort.  So we’re not going to start going down — guessing the motives of something that is not assumed in fact yet.  But I do think that it is interesting, as I mentioned earlier, the level or lack thereof of interest in this subject versus what has been commented on previously in terms of alleged people involved and processes.

So I think there is — Margaret.

Q    Sean, you mentioned that Jared Kushner has a team working with him.  Can you help us understand exactly what’s in the portfolio and who’s on the team?  And I have a follow to that.

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, he’s announced the Office of American Innovation the other day.  We named a bunch of those folks that have been part of that team.  And as you looked at various aspects of government, he works with different people in the White House that oversee different parts of that portfolio, whether it’s part of the team that’s doing the Middle East was one thing; you’ve got Jason Greenblatt, who’s been traveling to the Middle East and other places to do that.  There’s people like Reed Cordish and Chris Liddell that are part of the team that are talking about the Office of American Innovation that he discussed last week with respect to opioid use and others.

So there is a team, depending on the subject, that is working with him, and he is providing oversight and direction.

Q    So he’s overseeing teams handling all these different issues — whether it’s Mexico, Canada, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Saudi, all of that.

MR. SPICER:  Sure.  Well, again, remember, on Iraq, don’t go too far there.  He was invited by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as was Tom Bossert, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, to see the work that’s being done there firsthand.  I don’t think to sort of then translate it into “he’s overseeing Iraq” is an accurate assessment.

He was invited to go see something by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he’s doing it.

Q    But my follow on that is — I appreciate how he’s in such a unique position and so trusted by the President, but there are people who could look at the situation and say, the White House isn’t meant to be run as a family business.  There are institutions with experienced diplomats who have years of decades of linguistic and experience on the ground.  Why —

MR. SPICER:  But with respect to that —

Q    — with whatever these issues are, the foreign policy issues in particular, that you laid out.

MR. SPICER:   But you just said — right.  Can you just be clear, though, because you just said “with years of linguistic experience.”  So what situation are you specifically referring to?

Q    That’s partly why I was asking exactly what’s in the portfolio.  Because it’s our understanding that Mr. Kushner is involved with Mexico, that he’s involved with Saudi Arabia, that he’s involved with Canada, that he’s involved with a number of different issues — China, in particular.

MR. SPICER:  I think that there has been, as he has made clear — initially, during the transition, he played a very key role in helping facilitate a lot of those.  But now that his State Department is up and running he has started to push a lot of those.  But there’s obviously people that are going to continue —

Q    He’s pushing those to the State Department?

MR. SPICER:  Absolutely.  But there’s a lot of relationships that Jared has made over time with different leaders — Mexico being one of them you mentioned — that are going to continue to have conversations with him and help facilitate.  That doesn’t mean by any means that it’s being done without coordination with the State Department; quite, in fact, the opposite.

He continues to work with them and to facilitate an outcome, but he brings a perspective to this and began doing that during the transition.  But again, it’s not a binary choice where it’s — he’s doing this at the expense of somebody else.

Q    So he has a direct line to the President, whereas the other institutions are not.

MR. SPICER:  Okay, great, that’s even better then.  I think that’s a win for our government.


Q    On healthcare, has the President been reaching out, or anyone in the administration, to Democrats in Congress?  Can you say specifically who?  And does he still see the opportunity to work more closely with Democrats given the difficulties with the House Freedom Caucus?

MR. SPICER:  I think the President has made clear that he intends to work with anyone who wants to help him get to the number of votes.  He obviously has had a very productive discussion this weekend with Senator Paul.  I know the Vice President has been actively engaged, as well as other members of the staff, with members of the House in particular.  And they’re going to continue to try to find a way forward.

But there are some — I’m not going to expose every member that’s had some of these — some of them will want to backchannel this to offer solutions and constructive ways forward.  But those conversations are happening at several levels within the White House to see if we can find a way forward to get the number of requisite votes.

But the President continues to work hard.  He’s having these conversations.  Members have reached out to him to make their suggestions known.  And so that’s — but we continue to feel optimistic in the sense that there’s a lot of constructive ideas that are coming to the table to get us to a way forward on healthcare.

I just want to make one admin announcement.  Tomorrow, the President is — as I mentioned, he’s giving a speech tomorrow with a roundtable of CEOs on the American workforce.  And then tomorrow he’ll be speaking again at the American National Building Trades union.  So we’ll have some kind of background briefing before the day because he is speaking live.  So we will, on the guidance tomorrow, have something for you in terms of what we’ll do for a briefing.  We’re working on that now.

With that, I’m going to end for today and let you guys have a good one.  Take care.  Thank you, guys.

3:11 P.M. EDT