Aboard Air Force One
En Route Lewisburg, West Virginia
5:31 P.M. EDT
MR. GIDLEY: I’m going to just go ahead and open it up for questions. We have a short flight; I want to make sure we get a couple things in.
Q Gotcha. Okay. Firstly, can you clarify — so the President spoke with three Supreme Court Justice potential nominees today. He spoke with four, plus Lee yesterday. So that’s eight in total he’s spoken to?
MR. GIDLEY: You said four and three?
Q Three, and then I think he spoke with Senator Lee as well yesterday.
MR. GIDLEY: I guess, theoretically, that would be eight. I was told there would be no math; I’m just a press guy. But I think that’s correct.
Q And then, I was going to say, he hasn’t spoken to any additional — other than the four, the three, and Lee — right? That’s the total amount? Okay.
Q Is he getting closer to his decision at this point?
MR. GIDLEY: Look, the President said he would make his mind up on Monday and make the announcement — excuse me, I guess — make his announcement on Monday. He may make it before then.
But, look, he’s been very clear what he wants. He wants somebody with a superior intellect. He wants someone who will uphold the Constitution. He wants someone with the right temperament. Those are the criteria he’s looking for, and he’s going to go through the process in totality.
It’s an important pick to him. You know he wants it done quickly, as he’s said many times. And so we’ll have an announcement on Monday.
Q Hogan, in terms of the process, do you expect that the President will do follow-up interviews later this week in Bedminster?
MR. GIDLEY: I’m not going to get ahead of anything — any potential meetings. As you guys know, we’ve been pretty tightlipped about this. But I refer you to one Mr. Raj Shah, who I believe everyone knows, if you have any more questions about details on any of the upcoming meetings.
Q Has he met with anybody not on that list of names he said he was going off of — anybody he’s met with who is not on that list?
MR. GIDLEY: Not to my knowledge.
Q And one more thing on NATO, the President’s letter today — or that became public today — what type of actions is he planning if the member states don’t comply with his request for more funding?
MR. GIDLEY: I’m not going to get ahead of any announcement or any action he could potentially take, but as you guys know, he’s shown some frustration there on the financial burden that the United States unfairly is forced to bear, and he wants changes. And that’s something he’s been very clear about, but I can’t get ahead of anything he’s going to announce on that front.
Q What would be the President’s message to Putin on Crimea? What does he intend to tell him about Crimea?
MR. GIDLEY: We don’t recognize Russia’s attempts to annex Crimea at all. You guys know that we plan to have a conversation with Vladimir Putin.
Look, we think it’s important to have a good relationship with Russia because the President feels as though there are times when you need to work with Russia in areas like — in very shared areas of interest like preventing terrorism.
But, as you know, he’s also been the toughest on Russia of any other President. And when it’s time to work with Russia, it’s time to work with Russia. And when it’s not, it’s not. And he’s been pretty clear about that.
Q Can you say where Scott Pruitt stands with the President at this point, given the reports that we saw this week?
MR. GIDLEY: We’re aware of the numerous reports out, and the President is looking into those, we’re looking into those, but we don’t have any announcement to make on this front at this time.
Q But you’ve been looking into these reports for quite some time now. I mean, is there a timeline on when there’s going to be a decision?
MR. GIDLEY: There’s no timeline, but obviously the reports are troublesome, and there are many of those troublesome reports. It’s something we’re taking a look at. And again, if we have an announcement, we’ll let you know,
Q You’ve been saying that for a while, though. I mean, the troublesome reports keep coming out. How should people — what should people conclude from that?
MR. GIDLEY: Well, look, we’ve been very clear about that. Scott Pruitt — the reports that have come out are something the President is concerned about, and there are many of those reports.
The President feels, though, as Scott Pruitt has done a really good job at deregulating the government to allow for a thriving economy; that’s important to him. But these things matter to the President as well, and he’s looking into those. And when we have an announcement, we’ll make it.
Q Hogan, at this point, how many parents have been reunited with their children — the people who were separated at the border? And why isn’t HHS providing an update daily to reporters about those numbers?
MR. GIDLEY: Yeah, I have to turn you over to HHS and DHS for specifics on those things. The President has been very clear about what he wants to do, as it relates to the EO he signed. He gave Congress time to fix this problem. Democrats refuse to come to the table.
We’re faced with a crisis on the border. This has been about 30 to 40 years in the making of bad economic — excuse me, bad immigration policy. The President wants it fixed; he wants a lasting solution. And these stopgap measures put us in this position in the first place, and it’s time to fix it. And he wants Democrats to come to the table, and, for whatever reason, they refuse to. And that’s a shame.
Q But this is a basic transparency number — releasing the number. There has been a judge’s order that says that in 14 days, you need to reunite some; in 30 days, the rest. Are you going to meet that deadline? And what’s the problem with releasing the numbers?
MR. GIDLEY: It’s obviously a difficult situation because of some of the injunctions put on the case by certain courts, judges. And — but I don’t have any specific numbers. I have to turn you to DHS or HHS to give you those numbers.
Q You said that the deadline somehow makes it more difficult. Why does the deadline — why does that impact —
MR. GIDLEY: Injunctions make it more difficult —
MR. GIDLEY: Which the President said as well. He did the same thing.
Q But why does that ruling — how does that make it more difficult?
MR. GIDLEY: It’s more difficult because the situation is in full crisis mode around the border, as you guys know. You’re seeing upwards of 50,000 people come into this country per month for the first time three consecutive months in a row. They know that this — the border is porous. They know that loopholes exist. Drug smugglers, child smugglers — people who want to come to this country — MS-13 gang members who — one of the most brutal, bloodthirsty gangs in the world coming here to wreak havoc in our American communities — and he wants it solved. He wants it fixed.
But when they flood the border that way, you don’t the resources, you don’t have the staff, you don’t have the manpower to do the things the President wants to do. That’s why it’s got to be fixed, and the American people deserve that.
Q Has the President seen the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report that basically confirmed the intelligence community’s finding about Russian interference in the election, and that Putin launched an interference campaign designed to hurt Hillary Clinton and help his candidacy? Related to the President’s tweet earlier this week, I guess, or last week, questioning whether Russia interfered in our elections, does he have any response?
MR. GIDLEY: He didn’t question that. He maintained — what he said was that Vladimir Putin maintains his position. The President has been very clear, and has said it many times, that he feels as though Russia had meddled in the election.
Q The President is going to be — the President is going to Europe a week from today. What does he expect — or what would he like to achieve, both at NATO and then at the UK? And is he concerned about the amount of protestors that are likely to show up in Europe, and whether that will overshadow his trip, particularly in the UK?
MR. GIDLEY: Look, we see protestors every day standing out front of the White House. The President has done an incredible job actually, I believe, regaining some credibility across the globe. The President has made this country more respected, more feared, and quite frankly more beloved in a lot of areas than we were before.
What the President is going to do is go into these meetings with the mindset to protect the American people, to stand with our partners and allies.
But as he said many times before, America is thought, so often, to be the world’s piggy bank, and that’s got to stop. We have problems here we have to fix at home, and that’s what the President is focused on. And he’ll convey those messages, I’m sure, and sentiments to those other leaders.
Q What evidence are you referring to when you say the U.S. is more beloved around the world?
MR. GIDLEY: Israel.
Q That’s one country.
Q Anyone else?
MR. GIDLEY: That’s one, but I’m saying the relationships that we thought — that many people predicted we would have with other nations — the doom and gloom — was all over the place when the President was elected. And instead, we’ve gone to grow those partnerships. You’ve seen partnerships on air strikes in Syria, for example.
You’ve seen the relationship with Israel that is greatly enhanced because of this President. It’s the only democracy in the region, and it was virtually thought of to be an enemy of the American people in the last administration.
So I think he’s turned things around in a big way. To be respected, and feared, and beloved again is what the — I think, the American people voted, and it’s what they got.
Q So what did you just say was thought to be an enemy of the American people in the past administration?
MR. GIDLEY: No, I said, under the Barack Obama administration, many people though — yeah, that they almost viewed them as an enemy, it seemed like, in some ways with the way he treated Netanyahu. And so, this President came in and changed the relationship. It’s the only democracy in the region, and it’s important that we keep our partners and allies close and happy, and that’s what he did there.
Q Just real quick on North Korea, is the President concerned at all about these intelligence findings, that North Korea is continuing their nuclear activity? Do you have any response on that?
MR. GIDLEY: We’re not going to confirm or deny any of those reports. The President is looking forward to having Secretary Pompeo go right after — on the 5th, I believe, of July, and he want denuclearization. We think we can achieve that. It’s what the President wants.
But he’s gone clear-eyed into this from the get-go. He knows the actions of the past. We’ve already gotten so many concessions on the front end by North Korea, with our POW remains coming back. In addition, the refusal to fire any more missiles. And we got four detainees back without giving up a thing.
So we’re on the plus side so far, but what we really want is denuclearization. It would be safer for this country and for the rest of the world.
5:41 P.M. EDT