Aboard Air Force One
En Route Joint Base Andrews
6:25 P.M. EDT
GIDLEY: Good evening, everybody. I know it’s been a long day. I’m not going to start with anything other than just to take your questions. So we’ll go ahead and open up now.
Q Can you tell us, please, what is the President’s reaction to the idea of impeaching Rod Rosenstein? Does he agree with this? Talk us through his thinking.
GIDLEY: The President has been clear that he wants the DOJ to be transparent and cooperate with Congress. But anything further than that, I have to refer you back to Congress or the DOJ.
Q So he doesn’t have an opinion on it, one way or another?
GIDLEY: What I just told you was the line.
Q Does he have confidence in his Deputy Attorney General? Does he have full confidence in Rosenstein to keep doing —
GIDLEY: I have to refer you to Congress or the DOJ. As I just told you guys, he’s for transparency; he’s been very clear about that. And that’s where he stands.
Q Hogan, what can you tell us about North Korea possibly returning U.S. remains? Do you have anything on that right now?
GIDLEY: I can’t confirm any of those. I saw some of those reports on the ground. I can’t confirm those at this point. What I can tell you is that that was one of the things that obviously the President and Kim spoke about at the summit. It’s one of the things — the good-faith efforts that we expect Kim to make. And when we have some more information on that, we’ll let you know.
Q There’s a report from Australian Broadcasting that the United States is preparing a strike on Iran, or is looking at that option. Is that something that you can confirm? What’s going on there?
GIDLEY: I can’t confirm that report. I’d refer you to DOD on that matter. What I can tell you is the President has been very clear about where he stands on Iran. And their actions — their destabilization of the region, their desire and efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon — it’s one of the reasons that he called the Iran deal the worst deal he’d ever seen, the worst deal in history, and why he got out of it. Because now we know that the Iran deal did not prevent a pathway to — prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon; it actually paved it. But we’re working with our partners and allies to try and get Iran to change its behavior and stop its action across the region. And we’re working with Israel to do the same thing.
Q So is ordering a strike, though, one of the options to kind of force a change in the behavior?
GIDLEY: I’m not going to get ahead of any options. As you know, the President doesn’t telegraph anything he’s going to do in those matters.
Q But is it now the administration’s policy that if you guys don’t like the questions that we ask in pool sprays, we will be asked not to attend open press events?
GIDLEY: That’s not in the policy. It had nothing to do with the content of the questions. Those are news-of-the-day questions. What it had to do with — and you guys know how it works. When the President thanks the press for attending an event, the event is over — or at least the press engagement is over at that time. This — the reporter in question that you’re talking about was told repeatedly to leave the Oval Office. They refused to do that. Stayed in the Oval Office, despite staff, Secret Service, everyone trying to usher everyone out of the room. And that can’t happen.
Q But there were multiple reporters, including people in this group right here, who were in that room. There were a ton of press. There was a bottleneck. There was one European reporter who was kind of going back and forth. That — your account of how it transpired does not match what people in the room say happened.
GIDLEY: Well, I was standing there, as well. So I was in the room, too. And there was one reporter in particular who refused to move. And the bottleneck you mention can only occur when people are moving. Somebody stayed in place, wouldn’t move. And when those events are over and we say “thank you,” that means the rule is you leave the Oval Office. Someone stayed there and refused to leave after being told repeatedly to leave. And so that was fallout from that action.
It’s about process, procedure, and protocol. And everyone who goes in there understands when the President is done with a conversation, everyone leaves. The press are escorted out, typically in an orderly fashion. But in this particular instance, someone refused to leave after being told repeatedly to do so.
Q (Inaudible) Michael Cohen tapes? I mean, the last week, the campaign — the campaign had said they knew nothing about the supposed payments to McDougal, and so now we have tapes that suggest otherwise. What is happening here?
GIDLEY: I have to refer all questions about Michael Cohen to Rudy Giuliani, the President’s outside attorney.
Q Hogan, can I ask you about that fund the President mentioned earlier this week, the $12 billion fund for farmers that have been impacted by the tariffs? Do you have any further information about how individuals that have been impacted by the tariffs would apply for those funds? Is that offer still on the table, given the progress the President made — says that he made with the EU?
GIDLEY: I’m not sure where that stands at this moment, but I would refer you the Department of Agriculture. But I can help you get that answer.
Q Hogan, I just want to say with the record that I disagree with your characterization of what happened with the CNN reporter. But I don’t want to go back and forth on that.
I want to ask about the Turkey sanctions that the President previewed on Twitter. Do you have any additional information about that? The Turkish Foreign Minister said that that country will not be threatened and not allow any other country to dictate what happens there. So what’s your response to that?
GIDLEY: Well, the President was clear on Twitter today, as was the Vice President, that they fully expect — that the President expects and wants Pastor Brunson to be returned immediately to the United States. And if not, they can expect sanctions.
Q When? When would those sanctions start? Do you have a sense of how far along the process is in terms of getting those ready?
GIDLEY: I can’t get ahead of the process. But when we have an announcement, we’ll let you know.
Q This is the second time this week that the President has done a government-paid event, official government business trip, and openly endorsed Republican candidates. Why is that okay for that to happen?
GIDLEY: There’s no legal prohibition for that to occur. There’s no violation of any law. The President can do that. And Presidents, over the course of history, have done that repeatedly. It’s nothing new.
Q Is that appropriate, with taxpayer-funded events, to be openly politicking during a taxpayer-funded event?
GIDLEY: It is no surprise that the President of the United States would want people in office, in Congress, who would support his agenda of lower taxes, a better economy, crushing ISIS. If Democrats are against that, he wouldn’t want those people to be in office. The President has the legal authority to say those things, and so he did.
Q But in the past, the campaigns — either the party or the President’s own campaign — has paid for that leg of the trip. No?
GIDLEY: These are official events, in talking about the economic impact this President has had in the Midwest. In Iowa, how he’s protected farmers. The deal cut yesterday — the agreement to begin working on no tariffs, no barriers. And, overwhelmingly, as you guys know, as you were there, these two events were official events.
Q Representative Brady, yesterday, and other lawmakers who the President has a good relationship with, asked the President to meet with President Xi and talk through the trade issues. They put this in a letter to him. Is that something that the President is considering? He keeps talking about this good relationship he has with President Xi, and it’s such a big issue on trade on the table. Why doesn’t he get together with him and meet with him, or talk to him? He hasn’t even talked to him since May 8th.
GIDLEY: Could you go back to the first part of that question? I’m sorry.
Q Representative Brady and others wrote a letter to the President urging him to meet with President Xi, negotiate directly on these trade —
GIDLEY: Yeah, look, the President has a good relationship with Xi, as you know, and the President is looking at all options. I mean, he wants to create — you know, as you heard today, the free, fair, and reciprocal trade with countries like China. They have a lot of shared interests, but I don’t have any announcement on any meeting at this point.
Q Why hasn’t he talked to him since May?
GIDLEY: Why didn’t he —
Q Why hasn’t he spoken to President Xi since May — May 8th?
GIDLEY: I don’t know that he hasn’t spoken to him since May. As you guys know, we give you readouts and confirmations of lots of calls. But you also know we don’t give you confirmation on every call he has.
Q Can you explain the thinking —
GIDLEY: And, by the way, our officials in the administration meet with their counterparts in other countries on a regular basis, on a wide range of topics.
Q Can you explain the administration’s thinking in not continuing the practice of informing the American public and providing an American-perspective readout of every foreign leader call that the President does?
GIDLEY: We do that. You mean — we don’t have —
Q When he speaks directly with foreign leaders, with his counterparts. Are you saying that the policy is to continue releasing readouts of those calls?
GIDLEY: As we’ve said, we will give you readouts of those calls in various forms.
Q Every time? Every one?
GIDLEY: We don’t do every call and every time. But no President has done every call, every time. Some of them are private conversations. There’s someone on the other end who wants to keep a conversation private, and we respect that.
But look, you guys have more access to this President than any President in history. Many people in the press corps have told me that on countless occasions — the times you get with the President, the questions you get, whether it be on Marine One — or on the way to Marine One, whether it be in the South Portico, whether it be when he walks up to Pebble Beach, or whether he’s just talking to you after a meeting in the Oval Office.
So we’ll continue that, I’m sure, because the President believes in getting his message out there, and he uses you guys routinely to do that.
Q Can you tell us when in 2016 the President learned that Karen McDougal was trying to tell her — or sell her story of an affair with him?
GIDLEY: Again, anything dealing with that case has to be given to the outside counsel and Rudy Giuliani.
Q Was it the President’s decision to ask Bill Shine and Sarah to ban or bar Kaitlan from the Rose Garden event?
GIDLEY: Look, we’ve issued a statement on this. I’ve commented on here. You know our position. The President does feel strongly about this. And everyone I’m talking to right now, and everyone listening to this back in Washington, D.C., knows how these events go. You know the protocol. And when the President is done with the press portion of the event, it’s the job of the press to orderly leave whatever room the President is in, whether it’s the Oval Office, the Roosevelt Room, or the Cabinet Room, or wherever.
That was not adhered to at this time, and the person was simply disinvited from the next event. We — Bill Shine and Sarah Sanders both made it clear that CNN and the rest of the press were welcome at the events. It was only dealing with that one reporter — that was the issue. But — that’s it.
Q There are times where it seems like the White House staff doesn’t know, sort of, the order of these events because the White House staff tries to usher reporters out while the President is still talking, or the President decides to take a question after you all say we’re done and there are no questions. So this idea that there is this order that everyone knows how to follow, it seems like sometimes the White House staff doesn’t follow that order.
GIDLEY: It’s the President’s purview; it’s his prerogative. If he wants to stop and take questions, he can. In the particular instance we’re talking about —
Q Right, but it’s not always clear.
GIDLEY: Right, in this particular — it was very clear. He said, “Thank you. Thank you.” He repeated it several times, and this particular reporter, at the behest of the staff, Secret Service, and others to try and move along, did not. And that’s where we stand today.
All right, thanks.
Q One other thing, on the security clearance issue.
Q One last — Hogan, just one more. Hogan, I just want to ask you this one question regarding that. So the President has been in office since January of 2017. Has this never happened before? Has this type of incident never happened before, in which a reporter continually asks questions of the President after it’s been announced that an event may be over? Has that never happened? And what makes this instance so different?
GIDLEY: Again, it’s the President’s prerogative. If he stops and opens up for questions, then you guys have the right, obviously, to ask questions because he’s opening up for questions. In this one, he didn’t. He said the event was over. The reporter in question —
Q He did not say the event was over.
GIDLEY: He said, “Thank you.” And you know that’s the cue —
Q He says that all the time.
GIDLEY: You know that’s the cue to leave. And he did not open up for questions. Someone remained after being repeatedly asked to leave, and they didn’t.
All right. Thanks.
6:39 P.M. EDT