WH press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes questions on President Trump's controversial tweet about Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that she "would do anything" for a campaign donation.
Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2017
Highlights from yesterday's briefing below transcript:
SANDERS: Thank you, director.
Continuing with national security theme, as many of you saw this afternoon, the president signed the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation, which was approved with bipartisan support, represents an important milestone in the president's plan to rebuild our military and bolster our national security.
For the first time in seven years, we are increasing rather than shrinking the size of our forces.
This NDAA also provides our military service members with the largest pay increase they've seen in eight years. To put into historical context, it authorizes one of the largest defense spending increases since the days of Ronald Reagan.
Previous administrations sadly oversaw deep cuts to our Armed Forces with serious implications for our military readiness and capabilities. This hindered the fight against ISIS and other enemies of freedom and made our people less safe.
In signing this bill today, the president once again made it clear that we're serious about enhancing military readiness, expanding and modernizing our forces and providing our incredible men and women downrange with the tools they need to do what they do best, fight and win.
President Trump also called on obstructionist Democrats in Congress to stop threatening to shut down the government. As the president said, at this time of grave, global threats, Congress should send a clean funding bill to his desk that fully funds our great military. We certainly hope that will happen and we look forward to that taking place.
And with that I will take your questions.
QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.
The President said today that Senator Gillibrand would do anything for campaign contributions. Many, many people see this as a sexual innuendo. What is the president suggesting?
SANDERS: I think that the President is very obvious, this is the same sentiment that the President has expressed many times before when he's exposed the corruption of the entire political system. In fact, he's used similar terminology many times when talking about politicians of both parties, both men and women. And certainly in his campaign to drain the swamp. The system is clearly broken, it's clearly rigged for special interests, and this president is someone that can't be bought, and it's one of the reasons that he's President today.
QUESTION: So you're saying that this quote Senator Gillibrand would do anything is a reference to campaign contributions in Washington, the swamp. This has nothing to do with her being a female? What is he alleging would happen behind closed doors with her?
SANDERS: He's not alleging anything; he's talking about the way that our system functions as it is. That politicians repeatedly beg for money, that's not something new, and that comment frankly isn't something new.
SANDERS: If you look back at past comments that this president has made, he's used that same terminology many times in reference to men. There's no way that this is sexist at all, this is simply talking about a system that we have that is broken, in which special interests control our government. And I don't think that there's probably many people that are more controlled by political contributions than the Senator that the President referenced.
QUESTION: Does the president want Roy Moore to be seated in the Senate if he wins tonight? And does he plan to call him tonight?
SANDERS: In terms of calls, I'm not aware that anything is scheduled, win or lose. In terms of being seated, I can't speak on a hypothetical -- certainly not one that could potentially influence an election one way or the other due to the Hatch Act.
QUESTION: Sarah, does the president agree with his outside legal counsel that a special prosecutor should be appointed to look into the goings on at the Department of Justice during the election campaign in 2016, since the revelation about (inaudible), the former associate deputy attorney General?
SANDERS: I think it's something that certainly causes a lot of concern not just for the president and the administration, but I think probably for all Americans, and something that if we are going to continue to investigate things let's look at something where there's some real evidence and some real proof of wrongdoing. And this looks pretty bad, and I think it's something we should certainly look at.
QUESTION: So, would he support the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into this?
SANDERS: I haven't asked him that directly, but I know that he has great concern about some of the conduct that's taken place and something that we certainly would like to see looked at.
QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah. The congressional leaders are saying that they have no plans to reimpose sanctions on Iran by the deadline tomorrow that the present initiated back in October when he decertified Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal. Is the White House OK with this no-action? And if so, where are the teeth in president's move to decertify them from compliance?
SANDERS: Look, the administration continues to make encouraging progress with Congress to fix the U.S.-Iran deal and address long-term proliferation issues. There was actually no deadline to act by this week as the administration did not ask that Congress to introduce legislation to reimpose JCPOA-related sanctions.
SANDERS: Thanks, Sarah.
Senator Grassley said that he's advising the White House to reconsider the nomination of Jeff Mateer to the federal court in Texas and Brett Talley in Alabama. Has the President spoken to Senator Grassley about his concerns? And does the president plan to pull back those nominations?
SANDERS: I'm not sure if they've spoken directly. I'll have to check and circle back with you.
QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.
Bashar al-Assad and Roderigo Duterte have both -- recently have used the phrase "fake news" to dismiss damaging reports about their regimes. And a state official in Miramar recently said that the Muslim minority Rohingya don't exist and added, "it's fake news."
Is the White House concerned at all about the authoritarian regimes adopting this phrase, "fake news," to try to delegitimize the press? And does President Trump bear any responsibility for the popularization of this phrase among several world leaders?
SANDERS: I think the White House is concerned about false and inaccurate information being pushed out and to mislead the American people. I think I made that clear yesterday. In terms of other leaders, I'd have to look at their comments to be more specific on what they've said, but our concern is making sure that the information that the people receive in this country is fair and accurate, and when it isn't, that it's corrected and corrected in the same fashion in which it was first presented when it was wrong, which is very rarely the case.
QUESTION: When you hear autocrats using the term fake news to describe events that reflect poorly on their regimes that doesn't cause concern here?