Sarah Sanders Hosts Press Briefing: Russia, North Korea, 2020 Census, Gun Control


President Donald Trump's press secretary Sarah Sanders holds White House news briefing. On all Stormy Daniels questions, she directs reporters to the president's lawyer Michael Cohen. One reporter noted that it has been "15, 17 hours" since the president last tweeted, to which Sanders said he had been busy, "incredibly engaged."

Notably, Sanders also said there is currently no investigation at the White House into whether Jared Kushner broke laws with regard to new loans.

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

I want to talk a little bit about the census decision here. A lot of critics have concerns that including a citizenship question will discourage immigrants from participating. Can you talk us through how the government's going to address those concerns?

SANDERS: Look, this is a question that's been included in every census since 1965 with the exception of 2010, when it was removed. This is -- we've contained this question that's provided data that's necessary for the Department of Justice to protect voters, and specifically to help us better comply with the Voting Rights Act, which is something that's important and part of this process.

And again, this is something that has been part of the census for decades and something that the Department of Commerce felt strongly needed to be included again.

QUESTION: Has there been any talk of -- of trying to do some (inaudible) campaign or some other type of outreach to ensure that immigrants participate so states like California, for instance, that have large immigrant populations, are counted appropriately?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of those specifics, but I'd refer you to the Department of Commerce.


QUESTION: Yeah, Sarah, the president in the last few weeks has reached out to a number of high-profile lawyers to take him on as a client in the Russia probe. Dan Webb took a pass recently. Ted Olson took a pass recently. Others have as well.

I'm wondering why the president has had so much trouble finding an experienced lawyer willing to take him on, and who at this hour is his lead counsel in negotiating with Robert Mueller, the special counsel.

SANDERS: Look, the president has a highly qualified team with several individuals that have been part of this process, Ty Cobb, Jay Sekulow.

For specific details on any search process outside of the White House, I would refer you to his outside counsel.

QUESTION: (inaudible) his lead counsel now?

SANDERS: I would refer you to...

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SANDERS: ... outside -- outside of the White House, I would refer you to Jay Sekulow, who can address any detailed questions on that front.


QUESTION: Ambassador Nikki Haley said, in reference to Syria, that Russia cynically negotiated a cease-fire it instantly denied. You say the only way that we can cooperate with Russia is if they changed their behavior.

What about their actions recently speak to them changing their behavior?

SANDERS: I didn't say they had changed their behavior.

I think that's why you're seeing the United States, along with over 25 countries, step up and take action. And why we expect to see another -- other countries follow our lead on that front.

Kevin (ph)?

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah.

A question about Russia, and a follow if I might.

On Russia, I heard you say previously that we, as an administration, have been exerting maximum pressure on North Korea, for example.

I'm curious: Is the administration applying maximum pressure on Russia? Do you believe that that's what's happening by way of what we saw yesterday and beyond? And if not, why not? SANDERS: We're certainly applying pressure on Russia. We're certainly encouraging and working with our allies and partners also to do so. And I think you've seen an unprecedented number of countries step up and join the United States in that effort.

QUESTION: Let me ask a quick follow, if I might. And I understand the irony in asking you this, so if you'll indulge me anyway.

The president, at least on social media, has been somewhat silent, dating back more than 15, 17 hours. And I only ask because with all the things going on, Russia and Stormy Daniels, usually he likes to communicate directly with the American people. He has chosen not to.

Is that part of a new strategy that the White House is employing? Or is it just the president taking a break?

SANDERS: Look, the president's still been incredibly engaged. He gives us messages to come out and deliver on his behalf on the regular basis. But he's also put out a number of tweets over the last week, and I think you can expect that he'll continue to do that.


QUESTION: ... of silence, we asked Raj yesterday why it is the president and those associated with him offer payments to people to, essentially, buy their silence? Raj said that, "False claims are settled out of court all the time."

I'm hoping you can explain why the president's attorney paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the days before the election if her claims were false?

SANDERS: Look, that's a question you would have to ask the president's attorney. I certainly can't speak for him, I can only speak on behalf of the White House.


QUESTION: The president's attorney's not here, and you -- as you say, you do speak for the president. Can -- can you explain why this payment was made in the week before the election?

SANDERS: Look, I can tell you the president's denied the allegations. Anything beyond that, I would refer you to the president's outside counsel and his attorney, David Schwarz.

QUESTION: One more question, if I may, on this topic.

The president's attorney, Michael Cohen -- there was a line for "DD" that Donald Trump was supposed to sign. Why did he not sign on that line on the NDA?

SANDERS: Once again, I would refer you to the president's outside counsel on that matter. I can't speak to the particulars...


QUESTION: Sarah, one very quickly to follow up, and then one on the census.

To be clear, he continues to deny the fundamental charge that she has, which is that she had this sexual encounter with him in 2006? He denies that?

SANDERS: Yes. The president has denied those allegations.

QUESTION: And on the census, Sarah, what do you say to critics who argue that ultimately this is a way to target immigrants; that it's going to be fewer resources for immigrant communities?

SANDERS: Once again, I would argue that this has been practice of the United States government.

The purpose is to determine individuals that are here. It also helps to comply with the Voting Rights Act. Without that information, it's hard to make those determinations.

And that information needs to be gathered. And it has been part of the United States Census every time we've had a census since 1965, with the one exception of the 2010 census.


QUESTION: Well, but -- but there's a sense that, ultimately, this is going to disproportionately affect blue states. Do you acknowledge as much when you talk about voting rights?

SANDERS: I think that it is going to determine the individuals in our country, and provide information that allows us to comply with our own laws and with our own procedures.

QUESTION: The census ultimately determines how resources are allocated. So doesn't this mean fewer resources are going to be allocated to immigrant communities? That's one of the big concerns.


I mean, I think we have seen this in practice before. And this is something that the Commerce Department has -- feels should be part of the census. And for anything specific and further information, I would refer you to them.


QUESTION: Sarah, I wanted to ask one about the wall but first, the president's meeting now, or just finished a meeting, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.

And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about what was on the agenda for that meetings, and specifically if they're discussing the president's request to find new ways to limit Chinese technology investments. We know that that's something that certainly has been on his -- on the forefront of his mind (inaudible).

SANDERS: I don't have any specific announcements on that.

The president spoke with the secretary on a number of issues: trade certainly, the economy. There were quite a few topics that were discussed.

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