White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer delivers the press briefing for June 26th:
[TRANSCRIPT] – 1:47 P.M. EDT:
MR. SPICER: Good afternoon. I want to say at the top that with respect to the Supreme Court decision on the President’s executive order, the President was honored by the 9-0 decision that allows him to use an important tool to protect our nation’s homeland.
His number-one responsibility as Commander-in-Chief is to keep the American people safe, and that’s exactly what this executive order does.
In terms of next steps, the government is reviewing the decision and determining how to proceed going forward. The decision obviously just came down a few hours ago, so we’ll probably have further guidance for you as it becomes available. In the meantime, I would suggest you reach out to the Department of Justice as they — as details become available.
The Supreme Court also today handed down its own decision in the Trinity Lutheran case. That was a 7-2 decision, which is a significant victory for religious liberty and an affirmation of the First Amendment right of all Americans.
The Court recognized there’s a clear difference between the government supporting a particular religion and the government simply treating all people the same — fairly — regardless of their religion.
This ruling reaffirms that the government cannot discriminate against individuals or organizations simply because they or their members hold religious beliefs. The President believes that America is stronger when people of faith and their organizations can exercise their religion freely, and he’s pleased with today’s ruling.
In terms of the rest of the schedule this week, it’s going to be extremely busy and action-packed leading up to the July 4th weekend, and the President’s subsequent trip to Poland and the G20.
This week we’re going to wrap up a month-long focus on American jobs with a week dedicated to American energy. President Trump is committed to utilizing our abundant domestic energy resources both to create jobs here at home and to strengthen America’s global influence and leadership abroad.
Today, energy is going to be a key topic of discussion when the President meets with the Prime Minister of India, including how important our strategic energy partnership and how American energy will help fuel India’s growth and development.
In addition to their statements in the Rose Garden, we’re adding a pool spray at the top of their dinners this evening. And later this week we’ll have an important announcement on the President’s agenda in terms of how it will help establish American energy dominance.
Of course, it’s also a big week for healthcare with an anticipated vote in the Senate later this week on the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The Trump administration is holding events around the country highlighting the failure of Obamacare and what that failure has cost American families. From the 6.5 million Americans who paid a penalty to the IRS instead of buying an unaffordable product that didn’t meet their needs, to the people in states like Utah, where Secretary Price is today, and where premiums have increased an average of $1,900 since 2013.
The Secretary has a great op-ed in the Deseret News today that I would encourage you all to take a look at.
After a small-business roundtable in Utah with some of those who have been shouldering the burden of Obamacare for both themselves and their employees, Secretary Price will travel to Texas and participate in another listening session with physicians in Dallas.
In Washington today, the Vice President and Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services Administrator Seema Verma will be hosting a listening session here at the White House focused on the adverse effects of Obamacare on families and individuals with disabilities. Many of the participants include families who support children with disabilities, as well as those who have been left with no choice when insurers fled their states’ Obamacare exchanges.
According to recent reports, roughly 41 percent of counties could have only one insurer on the exchanges next year, which is up from roughly about 33 percent with one insurer this year. And there will be 47 counties as of now that have no insurer on the exchange at all.
Washington has been ignoring the struggles of families for these — like these for too long. And the faster that we can repeal and replace Obamacare, the faster that we can ensure that they and the millions of other Americans who are paying the real price of this failed law get the help that they need.
Healthcare is making a lot of the headlines on the Hill and in Congress, but there’s also important work being moved forward in fulfilling the promise to crack down on sanctuary cities. The House is expected to vote on two bills towards the end of this week which are major priorities of the President.
The first — the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act — would prevent states and localities that refuse to follow federal law and cooperate with immigration authorities from receiving certain grants from both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Those funds would instead be granted to states and localities that are in compliance with federal law.
And the second is Kate’s Law, which is named in honor of Kate Steinle, which would increase the mandatory penalties for aliens who illegally reenter the United States with stronger penalty increases for those who have been previously convicted of a crime. This is an issue that should unite all Americans in both major parties.
Over 80 percent of the American people support this common-sense, mainstream approach. These measures also represent an essential tool in the fight to dismantle the dangerous MS-13 cartel, and is widely supported by law enforcement.
We fully expect these bills to move through Congress and look forward to the President signing them both.
With that, I’m glad to take a few questions.
♦ Q Thanks, Sean. Over the weekend, in an interview on Fox, President Trump seemed to acknowledge that he does believe that Russia interfered in the U.S. election. Is that how that statement should be interpreted? Does he believe that Russia interfered in the election?
MR. SPICER: The statement that he made in January is consistent with what he said the other day, which is that he believes that Russia probably was involved; potentially some other countries, as well, could have been equally involved — or could have been involved — not equally. And he stands by the statements that he made in January.
♦ Q And just a quick follow-up. Over the past 48 hours, he’s really been hitting his predecessor hard for not doing enough to respond to that. So what is he doing? Or what does he intend to do different?
MR. SPICER: Well, there’s two aspects to that question. One is, if you believe the story that was written, that means from August through November 8th, two things: One, that if you believe that, then they did know about this. And there’s some serious questions about what they did or did not do in terms of acting. And the second is, I think it’s then pretty clear that they knew all along that there was no collusion. And that’s very helpful for the President.
But as to the point of what he’s doing, that continues to be what I mentioned the other day. He signed an executive order on cybersecurity to strengthen our ability to combat anybody from interfering not just in our elections but in a lot of our key infrastructure, cyber infrastructure.
And secondly, he’s got a commission that will continue to have more activities this month looking holistically at the election process to make sure that we’re taking all the steps to protect the integrity of our voting systems.
♦ Q The President tweeted that his predecessor did nothing in response to this Russian meddling. Curious what you think that Barack Obama should have done.
MR. SPICER: I don’t — I think, you know, it’s not just the President. I think Congressman Adam Schiff, a ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, expressed very similar concern with what wasn’t done.
Obviously, I don’t have all the understanding of what they knew and when they knew it, but there does seem to be a bit of hypocrisy in terms of what they didn’t clearly do if they truly believed all of this was happening.
But as I mentioned to Kristen just a second ago, I think what’s also important to note is that, if they did know all this, then they clearly do know that there was no collusion.
♦ Q At the time, though, what I’m sure a lot of us remember, in August and September and October of last year, the President was saying — Mr. Trump was saying, “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest. We’re running against a rigged system.”
On October 19th, at the debate, he was asked by Chris Wallace, “Will you absolutely accept the result of this election?” And he refused to say. Is there any reason to think that Barack Obama, given all of that, should have done more? Does the President believe that, given what Mr. Trump was saying at the time, that Barack Obama didn’t do enough and may have choked — I guess was the way to put it?
MR. SPICER: I think the President addressed that in the tweet, Steve. Obviously, he does think he should have done more if he knew all of this.
Again, I don’t — I have not asked him what additional steps. I think his tweet made it clear that he does believe, if you believe the story, that he should have.
♦ Q I wanted to ask you about the Supreme Court decision today. They said that anybody that has a bona fide relationship with another person or another entity is still permitted. So in a way it limited the initial — or the second executive order. So I’m curious if the administration feels that what is now permitted by the Supreme Court does indeed protect the homeland.
MR. SPICER: Well, again, I think it’s a positive step forward. As I mentioned at the outset, the Department of Justice in particular is reviewing this in terms of both its implementation and its impact. So I don’t want to get too far ahead of all of these brilliant legal minds as they review the impact. But I think — as I noted, I think the President feels very, very pleased with the 9-0 decision.
♦ Q And let me ask you about healthcare. John Cornyn said over the weekend that August 1st is the real drop-dead deadline. Does the White House see it that way, as well?
MR. SPICER: You mean for final passage?
♦ Q Yes.
MR. SPICER: I think we’d like to see whenever they leave for their August break — their August recess — it done by then. So I don’t have at the tip of my fingertips when they plan to leave town, but whenever that date is, whether it’s August 1st or 2nd or 3rd or whatever.
♦ Q What was President’s involvement over the weekend? How would you characterize that?
MR. SPICER: He made several calls to multiple senators to hear their concerns and get their ideas, and understand where they’re at and what needs to get done.
♦ Q Does the President still see this version of the travel ban as “watered down” and “politically correct”?
MR. SPICER: Again — well, remember, they’re looking at the totality of it. So I think part of it, as I mentioned to Blake a second ago, will be dependent on what the lawyers believe its impact will be in terms of how it goes forward and what we can do. So I’m going to punt on that for a moment and let the lawyers take a look at that and give an update.
♦ Q And is he still critical of the way the Department of Justice has handled the rollout of it?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think, like I said, right now we’re just pleased with what the Supreme Court has done. And once we have a better idea of its full impact, we’ll be able to have a better analysis of that.
♦ Q Thanks, Sean. Can you characterize how the President thinks the Kushner-Greenblatt meetings went in Israel? And specifically, is there any truth to reports out of Israel that relations are strained between the U.S. and the Palestinians due to these demands that they stop sending payments to terrorists?
MR. SPICER: Well, first, I think the meetings were extremely productive. They’re going to make incremental movements forward, but it’s going to be a process. It’s not going to get solved in a night. And I think they made some good progress overall, and also continuing to build trust between all the parties.
It’s no secret, I know, that when President Abbas was here, we discussed the payments as an issue then, and so it should be no surprise it came up. But I would argue that the relationship continues to be very strong and move forward in a positive way.
♦ Q Sean, thank you. On several occasions the President has suggested he wanted the Senate bill improved. He said he was looking forward to making it really special and he said, in Iowa, put more money into it, make it more generous, it should have heart. Does he believe that the Senate has done that, or is he looking for more improvements in the bill?
MR. SPICER: He’s very pleased with the developments that have come. He’s been impressed with the work. He, obviously, as you mentioned, he wants a bill that has heart. He wants a bill that does what it’s supposed to do. When you look at what happened with Obamacare, he wants to make sure we think through this. As I mentioned to Blake, he had several calls over the weekend hearing ideas and opinions about how to strengthen it, and he’ll continue to support ways to make the bill stronger.
♦ Q But are his criteria still that we should, as you said in the past, cover everyone with lower premiums and lower deductibles?
MR. SPICER: Sure.
♦ Q So that’s his bar and —
MR. SPICER: Well there’s a lot. I mean, obviously he wants to make sure that people have access and that it’s affordable. So coverage is obviously key. But as I’ve mentioned multiple times here before, when you have a card and no coverage, that’s not good. It doesn’t get you the care that you need and it doesn’t do so within means that you can afford. So we’re going to continue to figure out a way to make that work.
♦ Q Sean. Sean. Can you answer whether the President still believes —
♦ Q The reports out of Israel —
MR. SPICER: There’s no camera on, Jim.
♦ Q Maybe we should turn the cameras on, Sean. Why don’t we turn the cameras on? Why don’t we turn the cameras on?
MR. SPICER: Jen, I’m sorry that you have to —
♦ Q Why not turn the cameras on, Sean? They’re in the room, the lights are on.
♦ Q Is it not true that there were tensions and some strain between the U.S. negotiators which were Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt and the Palestinians? Is it not true that there were tensions on this trip?
MR. SPICER: I’m not aware of any, no.
♦ Q Okay, so none?
MR. SPICER: When I talked to them about the trip, it was very positive. I’m not aware of any. I know that there was one story — I believe that story has been updated that came out of there, but I know that that’s been updated.
♦ Q The President said two weeks ago that he would have press conference in two weeks on ISIS —
MR. SPICER: As soon as I have an update on that, I’ll let you know.
♦ Q And then the antitrust out of the European Union. They’re expected to levy a fine against Google for over $1 billion. Do you have any reaction?
MR. SPICER: I don’t, not yet.
♦ Q Can we have cameras — can the President hold a press conference, Sean? Sean.
♦ Q Senator Corker says he will use his authority as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman to block arms sales to Saudi and Qatar until that crisis is resolved. Is that a constructive step in your view?
MR. SPICER: I think we share Senator Corker’s goal on two fronts. One, obviously we want to resolve this situation. I know that the states that are involved are viewing this as a family matter, and Secretary Tillerson is helping to facilitate some of that. We believe that’s positive. We share that concern, and we also share the concern about terror financing that Senator Corker has, and I think we can work together on both of those goals.
♦ Q And one more for you. In one of your answers on the Russia meddling you said other countries were either equally involved or involved.
MR. SPICER: Yeah.
♦ Q What other countries?
MR. SPICER: The statement that the President gave — and I don’t have it off the top of my head — in January said, I believe Russia was probably involved and there could be — I think he said — an there could be others as well. Whatever that statement was.
♦ Q Are you guys talking about an intelligence finding? Is that just a hypothetical? I don’t understand where that —
MR. SPICER: Again, it’s the same statement that he’s had since January.
♦ Q Will President Trump rely on that previous list of potential conservatives for Supreme Court justices for future picks?
MR. SPICER: What’s that?
♦ Q Will President Trump rely on that previous list of 21 potential Supreme Court justices for future picks?
MR. SPICER: I’m sure that that will definitely be a strong part of it. I can’t say that there won’t be someone added on or not, but it proved to be a very helpful list the first time. So he feels very comfortable about the list but I can’t say for certain that there’s no one that couldn’t get added to a future list.
♦ Q Earlier, in your response to the Russia question, you used the conditional “if this story is true.” I was hoping you could provide some clarity on whether or not the President believes this is an accurate statement. Has he been briefed on that on what President Obama knew, and also given that he was briefed along that same timetable by the intelligence community.
And then separately on that, does the President have a response or any retaliatory measures if he believes Russia was behind this?
MR. SPICER: In terms of — I’m sorry. I’m just trying to figure out what part —
♦ Q I’m asking, does the President believe that Russia was involved in an attempt to influence the 2016 election? And then, if so, what is he going to do in response to Russia’s doing it?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think I mentioned this to Kristen and I’ll say it again. He’s answered this questions since January that he said Russia is probably involved in this. And then, secondly he’s been taking steps to —
♦ Q No, he hasn’t said that since January, Sean. He hasn’t.
MR. SPICER: He’s taken steps to ensure that our cybersecurity network —
♦ Q (Inaudible.)
MR. SPICER: Well, I’m not going to get into specific details, but I will just say that he’s taken steps on both of those fronts and on the election.
♦ Q And just a separate question. Yesterday, in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu reversed on a deal to create a third — a gender-neutral space on the Western Wall. And a number of American Jewish leaders are blasting the Israeli Prime Minister. Does the White House — has there been any contact on this sensitive issue? And does that the White House take any position on that?
MR. SPICER: I don’t have anything for you on that right now. I would probably refer you to the State Department.
♦ Q I have a couple questions about the Supreme Court decision. I don’t really understand the practicality of it. I understand they’re going to take it up in the fall. But one is, do you still need a 90-day review now or is that — has that 90 days has already passed? And secondly, in the fall when they take it up, I think the Court also addressed, won’t the point be moot by then? I mean, you’ll have a number of months to implement this and have the review process. So what’s the point?
MR. SPICER: Well, again, I’m going to let the Department of Justice fully analyze this. But obviously, there’s certain things that were enjoined when both the 4th and the 9th Circuits issued their opinions on this. And I think part of what the Department of Justice, among some of the other agencies that are involved, have to look at —
♦ Q Do you know when they’ll get back to us? Like what timing — days?
MR. SPICER: The decision is hours old.
♦ Q Okay.
MR. SPICER: Hopefully sooner rather than later.
♦ Q Quick question about today. They’ll be delivering statements in the Rose Garden this afternoon. I’m just wondering why that ended up being statements and not — the last couple times that the Prime Minister came, for whatever reason President Obama and the Prime Minister did not have statements, nor did they take questions. Today you have statements, no questions. Whose decision was that? Did the Prime Minister not want questions?
MR. SPICER: I’m going to just say, we obviously — on each visit there are discussions at the diplomatic level back and forth about what will go into that visit, what issues will be discussed. All of those kind of things get worked out by the two teams, and I’ll leave it at that.
♦ Q Two quick questions. First, back to the Russia thing since I know you never tire talking about it. One of the things in the President’s tweets that I’ve noticed is that he doesn’t reference the conclusion that the intelligence agencies have made — that Russia intervened on his behalf, or perhaps, to put a finer point on it, against Hillary Clinton. Does the President accept that aspect of what the intelligence agencies have said?
MR. SPICER: Honestly, I’ve never asked him that specific question. I’d be glad to follow up.
♦ Q And the second thing is, just to dig the hole a little bit deeper on his comments in January. Have you ever discussed with him — he has said this in debates, he’s talked about 400-pound kids sitting on edges of beds. Can we cite anything — or if you can’t provide it today, can you provide it in a subsequent briefing — that gives us some sense that other countries may have been involved in this other than Russia?
MR. SPICER: I’ll try. Yeah, look, to the extent that it’s not classified, I can at least ask the intelligence communities for an update on that.
♦ Q Thanks a lot, Sean. Do you happen to know if the White House has made any progress with those five Republican senators who have already stated they’re opposed to the Senate healthcare bill?
MR. SPICER: I can tell you, as I mentioned, that the President talked extensively with several Republican members over the weekend, and he felt very positive about those discussions. But they’re ongoing.
♦Q Can you tell us who they were?
♦ Q And were those phone calls with those particular individuals?
MR. SPICER: I know — for example, I know that he’s talked to Senator Cruz. He’s talked to Senator Paul. I believe he’s talked to Senator Capito, Senator Johnson. I don’t have the extent — but I know those individuals in particular, and I think several others.
♦ Q And then one thing that you mentioned at the top in your statement and the President also put in his tweet, you mentioned that the Supreme Court ruling, which came out today, as it relates to the travel ban, was unanimous — 9-0. Where are you getting that particular number from? Because it was a per curiam ruling by the Supreme Court, meaning we don’t know the actual breakdown of the Court in voting for this particular decision.
MR. SPICER: I’d have to — I’m going to get back with counsel and ask them. That was on them. So I’ll find out where they got that from. Maybe they’ve got —
MR. SPICER: Sean, thank you. Could you walk me through what Secretary Kelly is going to do to immediately implement the travel ban now that parts of it have been restored?
MR. SPICER: No. As I mentioned — I mean, this is — first and foremost, the Department of Justice needs to review the ruling, and then they’re going to coordinate with both DHS and other federal government departments and agencies to figure out how to implement that going forward.
♦ Q The San Diego Tribune reported that the prototypes for the President’s wall has been delayed. Is that true?
MR. SPICER: I’m not aware that that’s true. I would contact DHS on that one. They’re the lead on that.
♦ Q So the wall is going ahead as scheduled?
MR. SPICER: Nothing that I understand — I know that there are pieces of it. DHS has been actively involved in both repairing, working on some new sections. So, you know, you could check with DHS, but my understanding is it’s been — the work to repair sections that needed to be repaired is being done. And then there’s some new sections that they’re actually already starting on. So I’m not aware of any delays that may or may not exist.
♦ Q Did you guys get the prototype?
MR. SPICER: Again, all that would be a DHS issue.
♦ Q Thank you. When asked about what actions President Trump might take against Russia in retaliation for meddling in the election, you cited the cybersecurity executive order. Can you be more specific, though? Does he support, for example, the new bill for a fresh round of sanctions against Russia?
MR. SPICER: Well, the new bill that the Senate parliamentarian rule didn’t follow proper procedure. So, I mean, there is no new bill at this time. The House is looking at taking up legislation.
♦ Q Would you support a new round of sanctions?
MR. SPICER: Depends on — let’s see what the bill looks like. I’m not going to comment on a hypothetical.
♦ Q Does he support some type of punitive action directed at Russia specifically?
MR. SPICER: I do know, when it comes to how the President works, he doesn’t telegraph what he’s going to do on a lot of these things. He does a lot of quiet diplomacy, he enacts things, and so until we’re ready to announce something, we’re not going to telegraph it through here.
♦ Q And can you clarify what he meant in his tweet? He accused former President Obama of colluding or obstructing. What evidence does he have?
MR. SPICER: I think — again, what I will just leave it at is that clearly they, according to this report, knew back in August. If they were so concerned, why didn’t they stop it? What did they do?
♦ Q Well, the report is very extensive. It goes into all of those details — that they were blocked in a number of different measures; that they were concerned about looking like they were intervening in the election on behalf of Hillary Clinton. President Obama did talk to President Putin —
MR. SPICER: Well, they seemed to throw —
♦ Q So what evidence does he have that President Obama was colluding or obstructing?
MR. SPICER: Well, again, I think it comes back to this idea that they’ve been very clear, they’ve been playing this card about blaming Trump and Russia. And yet, at the same time, they were the ones who, according to this report, knew about it and didn’t take any action.
So the question is, were they — if they didn’t take any action, does that make them complicit? I think that there is a lot of questions that have to get answered about who didn’t know what and when.
♦ Q Well, is there an element of hypocrisy here, Sean? Because this was President Trump on the campaign trail: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
How can you accuse President Obama of obstructing, when he was egging Russia on?
MR. SPICER: He was joking at the time. We all know. I mean —
♦ Q He was joking? He says that as a candidate, and he was pressed during that press conference over and over again.
MR. SPICER: I understand. And I think the idea was, is that you had Hillary Clinton with a secret server that was very clear about what she had done to evade it. And I think that that’s probably a bigger concern right now in terms of what they were doing and the lack of security that they had.
♦ Q Sean, thank you. Jeff Mason sent an account out of the meeting that he had with you to the members of the White House Correspondents’ Association about the future of the press briefings. Would you say that his account of that meeting was accurate?
MR. SPICER: I was not provided that. I had the —
♦ Q Could you give us an account, from your perspective, of what happened in that meeting and what we —
MR. SPICER: We had two since then. We had another one since then. Jeff has stated the position of the board that he believes, and I’ve shared with him where we are on that — that we have been consistent since December and January where we addressed this issue with them specifically and publically, and that we will continue to have a mix of opportunities to stay in touch with the media.
♦ Q Well, there has seemed to have been a drastic shift, starting from maybe the week before the President took his first trip abroad, that now we see you on camera about once a week. Is that a new normal that we would expect?
MR. SPICER: We’ll see. We’re just — we’ll continue to mix things up.
♦ Q Why are the cameras off, Sean?
MR. SPICER: Trey.
♦ Q Why did you turn them off?
MR. SPICER: Trey.
♦ Q Can you just give us an answer to that?
MR. SPICER: Trey.
♦ Q Can you tell us why you turned the cameras off? Why are they off, Sean?
♦ Q It is a legitimate question.
MR. SPICER: Trey.
♦ Q It’s a legitimate question.
MR. SPICER: Trey.
Q You are a taxpayer-funded spokesman for the United States government. Can you at least give us an explanation as to why the cameras are off?
♦ Q Can we get this out of the way? Can we address the cameras issue? Do you think this will be —
MR. SPICER: Yeah. Some days we’ll have them, some days we won’t. The President is going to speak today in the Rose Garden. I want the President’s voice to carry the day. Look, this is nothing inconsistent with what we’ve said since day one.
♦ Q Can I ask you about healthcare?
MR. SPICER: Yes.
♦ Q Where does the responsibility lie in the success or failure of the Senate healthcare bill? Obviously, the President and this administration have been directly involved. There’s a chance that it may go to the Senate floor and not pass.
MR. SPICER: Well, obviously the Senate — I mean, look, the President has made it clear, he wants a bill with heart. He understands. He tweeted earlier that Obamacare is dying. And if we don’t take action — the Democrats own Obamacare. They’re the ones who gave it to us. They’re the ones who championed it. And they own that result. The President has been the one who has been trying to fix it, trying to give people accessible and affordable healthcare.
But make no mistake about it that Obamacare is dying. And the reality, as I mentioned last week, is that, when you look at the majority of House Democrats, they support a single-payer, $32 trillion bill backed by Bernie Sanders. That’s what the alternative is.
It’s not a question of Obamacare versus the American Health Care Act. It’s a question between we need to accept that Obamacare is dead, we need to understand that the reality is that what the choice is is between putting in a system that is affordable and accessible, or a single-payer $32 trillion healthcare plan that the majority of House Democrats support.
♦ Q Once the CBO score is released, do you envision the President going back to the drawing board? There’s a high number of people expected to be uninsured as a result of the Senate healthcare bill. What steps will the President take once he has those numbers?
MR. SPICER: I think we’ve addressed CBO scores in the past. We feel very confident with where the bill is. And he’s going to continue to listen to senators who have ideas about how to strengthen it. But it’s going to follow the same plan as we have.
♦ Q Sean, if I could ask you about the —
MR. SPICER: I’m sorry. The gentleman in the back.
♦ Q Could I ask you, Sean, about the goal of U.S. energy dominance, which is being highlighted this week. How is that defined in terms of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East?
MR. SPICER: In terms of what?
♦ Q What does energy dominance mean?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think we’ll continue to talk about that throughout the week. But I think we have gone — we have now — you take LNG, for example. I think our ability to now export it is a big issue. The idea of using additional power supplies and be able to find ways not only to be self-sufficient, but to figure out how to grow businesses from it, create jobs from energy, use our natural resources.
You’re going to hear more and more throughout the week about what the President is doing. As I mentioned, he’ll have more action on this later in the week where he’ll have some action that he’s going to be taking on behalf of the administration to move forward our dominance, our independence, our ability to maximize our natural resources and create jobs.
♦ Q Does that mean trying to put pressure — downward pressure on rural oil prices to impact Persian Gulf suppliers?
MR. SPICER: I think it means a lot of things. I mean, just the ability to now be an exporter helps us in economic ways, but then obviously there is a political aspect to this.
♦ Q Thank you, Sean. Two great questions. It was widely reported on Sunday that the President is the first person in the White House since Thomas Jefferson not to have the traditional dinner to mark the end of Ramadan. Was there any reason for this, or was it just an oversight?
MR. SPICER: I don’t know, John.
♦ Q The other thing I wanted to ask — I was a little taken aback by the question on the Supreme Court list. On May the 3rd, I asked Sarah if the President would stick to the list of 21 he had in the campaign from which Judge Gorsuch came, and she said that was her understanding, that he would stay with it and there was no reason to expand it. Has there been any discussion or change of policy in the month between her statement and what you just said?
MR. SPICER: Well, my only point is that as we fill a lot of vacancies at the circuit-court level all the way up and down the judiciary, there may be people that come into contact that are highly qualified for one reason or another, and that the President may choose at some point down the road, if there’s every a vacancy, to consider someone else.
I think obviously the list that the President put down initially of 21, but now that Justice Gorsuch is off that list he may want to put one additional on. But he always has the flexibility, as he encounters additional members — potential members of the bench.
♦ Q Do you approve of the attacks on Senator Heller by allies of the President? And is there any danger of putting a Republican Senate seat at risk?
MR. SPICER: Well, look, I think we’re going to work with all of the senators to try to get their support on the American Health Care Act, something that, as I mentioned, the President has been reaching out to all of them who have concerns and issues. And we’re going to continue to do that.
♦ Q Do you have a message to those who are attacking Heller?
MR. SPICER: I have not seen the ad that you’re talking about, but I would just suggest that, obviously, we want to do what we can from a White House perspective to continue to reach out and work with them.
♦ Q Thanks, Sean. You mentioned that the President had been in touch with some of the senators who had concerns about this healthcare bill. I didn’t hear you mention any Democrats. And Joe Manchin said yesterday that he had not been called by the President yet. Has the President reached out to any Democrats?
MR. SPICER: I don’t know the answer to that.
♦ Q Okay. And then a follow-up on that going back to Joe Manchin, who you had brought up on Friday as somebody who you guys could potentially work with on this bill — he said in his interview that he would be willing to sit down with the White House if you guys were willing to call it a repair bill or repair effort versus a repeal effort. Is that something that you would be willing to do, the President would be willing to do in order to get some Democrats onboard in a working group?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think what we need to do is to — we’re going to continue to have a team that will reach out. I’ll check with our legislative affairs team and see what they’ve — and see what they’ve done. That being said, we’ve made it very clear for seven-plus years that we’re going to repeal and replace this.
♦ Q One question on India-U.S. relations. This afternoon at the White House, the world’s most two powerful leaders — Prime Minister Modi and President Trump — of the world’s largest and (inaudible) two democracies will be meeting and greeting and have a number of discussions about U.S.-India relations. But Prime Minister Modi said that India will join U.S. to fight against terrorism. At the same time, yesterday, addressing the India-U.S. — Indian American community in Tyson’s Corner, he said that India had been suffering of terrorism for the last 30 years and telling the world to join us. Now time has come that entire world can join India to fight against terrorism. Before it was Taliban and al Qaeda, and now ISIS. What is, do you think, going to happen in fighting against terrorism?
MR. SPICER: As you mention, I mean, they’re going to have a long opportunity today to meet and then have dinner together. They’ll talk about their ongoing cooperation, including areas like counterterrorism, our defense partnership in the region, global cooperation, et cetera.
But I think that energy — there’s a lot of things that they’re going to have an opportunity to discuss, but that will definitely be one that they have plenty of time to discuss. And after they’re done, we’ll have a readout for you and we’ll make sure that you know what areas they covered and hopefully what ground we’ve made up.
Thank you, guys. See you later.