Unless you were in the White House briefing room on Monday, you could not watch or even listen to press secretary Sean Spicer answer reporters' questions. So, we are offering the next best thing — an annotated transcript of the session.
The Fix has marked up Spicer's off-camera, no-audio briefing, using Genius. We'll do the same if the White House restricts access in the future. To view an annotation, click on the yellow, highlighted text.
MR. SPICER: Good afternoon. A belated Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Hope you enjoyed your day. I also want to extend a very happy birthday in absentia to Jeff Mason. Sorry he can’t be here, but I’m sure he’s enjoying his birthday a little bit more.
Q: Slacker is what he said. (Laughter.)
MR. SPICER: I do want to start by saying that the President and the entire administration extends our thoughts and prayers to the sailors — the seven Navy sailors who lost their lives this past weekend. Their deaths while on patrol in the Western Pacific are a sobering reminder of the dangers that the men and women of our military face every day.
The President has been made aware of the attack in London and is receiving consistent updates from the staff. His counterterrorism adviser and other senior White House staff continue to track the situation and have been in frequent contact with their British counterparts since it occurred. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families, and we’ve made it very clear to our British allies that we stand ready to provide any support or assistance that they may need.
Today, as you may have seen, is the beginning of Tech Week here at the White House, in which we’ll see the President and his Cabinet and staff traveling both inside and outside the Beltway to highlight how government can take advantage of new technologies and ways of thinking to provide better services to all Americans, and at the same time encourage our economy to grow quickly and efficiently. The incredible ingenuity of American innovation and technology has provided us with more efficient solutions to problems large and small — from making it easier to get a ride across town, to safely shifting lifesaving medications around the world.
But the federal government has been unable to take advantage of these advances, leaving citizens stuck with an outdated and ineffective system that makes it more difficult to access critical services. Just a few examples that have been highlighted by others: Americans spend about 35 hours a year filling out government forms. The veterans who appeal a disability claim wait an average of five years for a decision. And the VA has over 1,000 different support phone numbers.
Last week, the Office of Management and Budget decided to pull 59 of its 253 guidance and policy documents, which included an ongoing report requirement for Y2K. And I know some of you may be too young to remember, but Y2K occurred 17 years ago, which completed — that completed the first phase of OMB’s war on waste.
So, this week, we’re particularly emphasizing how we can use technology to improve government services. It’s part of the administration’s wider goal to modernize and streamline our federal government to make it more respectful of taxpayers. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of room for optimization in the federal government.
Today, the President will hear from leaders in the private sector about what they’ve done in their businesses and organizations to adapt their services and practices for the constantly changing landscape of the American economy. And throughout the week, the administration will be discussing how to become more adaptable to new technologies that can help our government work better for our people, with state and local officials, job creators, and educators throughout the country.
Outside the Beltway, while in Arkansas to visit the Fayetteville Medical Center, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Shulkin will also visit Walmart headquarters to learn about their logistical supply chain program and how its best practices can be adapted to help the VA deliver better practices and care to our nation’s veterans. We’re also looking at ways that the federal government can act as a partner for the private sector to encourage future innovation.
Here in Washington, Secretary Ross of Commerce is at the SelectUSA investment summit where over 1,200 international firms, attendees from 64 markets, are gathering to promote and facilitate high-impact business investment from the United States — in the United States from foreign investors. SelectUSA is the only national-level foreign direct investment promotion program in the United States, and by leveraging the influence of the United States government on the world stage, it has created a powerful catalyst for state, regional, and local economic development.
Throughout this week, we’ll be highlighting the opportunities for government to combine its potential for large-scale change with technological advancement, such as the ones produced by the private sector to move our economy forward and make our government work better for every American.
And the American people can see that the President is making the right moves to get the economy going again. Just this morning, CNBC’s All-America Economic Survey showed that economic optimism has reached historic levels. It’s clear that the President’s pro-growth economic message is resonating with the American people, and he will continue to unleash the private sector, level the playing field for American businesses abroad, and invest in the technology of the future.
And before I wrap up, I just want to mention that, earlier today, the President and the first lady released a statement commemorating Juneteenth, a historic day recognizing the end of slavery. They share their warmest greetings with all those separating — celebrating this historic moment. On June 19, 1865, that the residents of Galveston, Texas first heard the words the Emancipation Proclamation, as President Lincoln’s message finally reached the southern states.
And with that, I’ll take some questions. In honor of Jeff, I will call on his colleague, Steve Holland.
Q: Thanks, Sean. How are you responding to this Russian threat to shoot down American planes over Syria?
MR. SPICER: Well, obviously, we’re going to do what we can to protect our interests. And this is something that we’re going to continue to work with — keep the lines of communication open.
And ISIS represents a threat to all nations, and so we've got to do what we can to work with partners. And we're going to continue to keep an open mind of communication with the Russians.
Q: So will the U.S. change its flight patterns or behavior in Syria?
MR. SPICER: I'm going to refer — I mean, I think this is a question more for DOD to answer. But I think, obviously, it's important and crucial that we keep lines of communication open to de-conflict potential issues.
Q: Thanks, Sean. Following up on that — and a second one for you, as well — what would the U.S. government's response be? Is the White House going to issue a warning to the Russian government if they were to follow through on this threat? It seems that your statement — would that be a provocation or something worse, potentially?
MR. SPICER: I mean, I think that the escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody. And the Syrian regime and others in the regime need to understand that we will retain the right of self-defense, of coalition forces aligned against ISIS.
Q: And just a separate question, given that we're off-camera and off-audio today, the President isn’t speaking in a formal setting later. So can you explain why our friends in television and radio can't use this live?
MR. SPICER: I've said it since the beginning — the President spoke today, he was on camera. He'll make another comment today at the technology summit. And there are days that I'll decide that the President's voice should be the one that speaks, and iterate his priorities.
Q: Thanks, Sean. You got some of the most high-profile CEOs on the planet here today. They're from the tech industry, though, and there's been a lot written about the fact that the tech industry has been doing a lot to eliminate jobs in terms of automation and self-driving cars, eliminating staff at retail outlets — that sort of thing. This administration is all about creating jobs. Can you tell me what the President's message is to the tech industry, broadly, in terms of the need to create jobs in the United States?
MR. SPICER: Yeah, I mean, if you look at the collection of individuals that's here that you mention, you've got 18 CEOs that represent over $3.5 trillion of market value. I mentioned just a minute ago, you have an OMB report that we're talking Y2K. I can't speak certainly, but I would imagine that much of that market value in those companies has come post-Y2K. So we have an ever-changing economy.
There are things that — if you think about all of those things that they're creating, some of the companies were in their infancy back 17 years ago. But they are creating new opportunities for Americans, as I just mentioned. And I think that they have allowed us to live better lives, in many ways; allowed us to be more efficient, and provided services.
So there are certain things that we're not going to do anymore. The market for typewriters has probably gone down. But we have added a whole new technological sector. Several of the companies that are represented there not just have services, but products that have come to light in the last decade or so.
So I think that's part of the reason the President wants to bring them here is to talk about how they can utilize those levels of innovation and entrepreneurship to help our country grow.
Q: Is there any concern that they're not doing enough to create jobs?
MR. SPICER: No. I think the idea is to make sure that we have an economy and a government that is giving them the most opportunity to create jobs, whether it's the regulatory system or a tax reform system. We need to be having that conversation with this sector, the technology sector, the manufacturing sector, the mining sector.
I mean, I think American industry and companies from coast to coast want to be hiring more, want to be growing, want to be expanding here in this country. And I think the message that the President has heard over and over again has been give us a lower regulatory burden, take the shackles off of us, and we want to grow and create, pay higher wages, expand in this country. So that's part of it.
But obviously the big goal out of today is to figure out how we can use some of that innovation to make our government more effective and efficient for our citizens.
Q: Eric Schmidt obviously campaigning pretty aggressively for the President's opponent in the last campaign. Any particular message from the President to Eric Schmidt today?
MR. SPICER: Help us make a more efficient and effective government. I think it's pretty telling that the President brings these kind of people together. We will work with individuals, regardless of what their past political beliefs are, to further the President's agenda and to bring ideas to the table. And that's what, I think, a lot of these folks are coming to do.
And there's a few things — I don’t want to get ahead of the comments — but when you look at a lot of the services — and one that didn’t come out of this but it's a perfect example; I highlighted it last week — you have veterans' medical records, something that has been talked about for literally decades, and this administration getting it done. And Dr. Shulkin, working with some of the folks here, taking the President's charge, figuring out how to make it happen.
But that is such a — something that has been a huge obstacle for the military and veteran community for a long time. And to have that kind of innovation come forward will improve the lives and safety of so many of our veterans and the impact it has. That kind of thinking — how do we take a process, an interaction with the government that is unwieldy right now, and figure out a way to make it easier for someone to schedule an appointment to get to the VA, or get a mortgage or a student loan. There are so many issues.
And when you hear a lot of the ideas that are being talked about today, it's pretty fascinating to think if we can solve just a fraction of them, what a better government we will have for our people.
Q: Thanks a lot, Sean. We got a reaction today from Cuba's foreign minister as it relates to U.S.-Cuba policy, which was announced by the President last week. And one of the things he said is, under no circumstances will Cuba release any of those fugitives that President Trump asked Cuba to release. What kind of pressure can be brought to bear on the Cuban government to get that particular element of what the President wanted actually taking place?
MR. SPICER: The number-one piece of what the President did was to lay the groundwork for empowering the Cuban people to develop greater economic and political liberty. That was at the heart of what this did. It was a promise that he made during the campaign trail. And I think instead of empowering the Cuban military and its ability to control the money that goes through, which was not getting to the people, the President's actions that he took on Friday are going to help empower the people and make sure that not only does he maintain a promise that the American people follow the law, but the bigger result is that we empower the Cuban people. And I think that's the real big takeaway that I have.
Q: Do you anticipate the President announcing any further sanctions on the Cuban government to get various things related to Cuban rights solved or these fugitives brought back to America?
MR. SPICER: I think — let's let the first — we're one business day into these actions that the President took. I think they're being widely hailed as a step in the right direction to accomplishing — empowering the Cuban people. Let's give it a little time. But as the President says on a variety of subjects, let's not project what we're going to do and make sure that we see how things — and reserve the right to go forward.
Q: Thanks, Sean. Obviously, a major escalation over the weekend in Syria. What message does President Trump have for the government of Russia as these tensions continue in the region?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think I mentioned it — I think it was to Zeke earlier — but, I mean, the escalation of hostilities among all of the factions that are operating there doesn't help anybody. And so making sure that people understand that, while we want to de-escalate the situation there, that we have to understand that we will always preserve the right of self-defense.
Q: And just a quick follow-up on the Middle East. Can you talk about how the President was involved in the decision to send Jared Kushner to Israel and Palestine later this week?
MR. SPICER: So both Jared and Jason Greenblatt — Jason is already — I think he should have landed. I'm trying to remember the time change in my head. But Jason is headed over there; Jared will join him later this week. This is a continuation of the President's trip and conversations that he began in Israel to further Middle East peace and make incremental changes in the right direction.
Q: I wondered if the — the President called the H1-B visa “very, very bad” for workers during the campaign, and I noticed that it's part of the agenda today. Is the President going into this meeting today open to the idea of expanding H1-B visas?
MR. SPICER: I think the President is going into this meeting to listen, primarily as — again, remember the focus is really going to be on making sure that — how can we harness some of the technological innovation and entrepreneurship of these successful companies to help our government. That's pretty much the focus.
But I think there's also a worker component to this. We've talked a lot about visa reform in the past, and I think the President wants to make sure that he listens to the various people who have interest in this subject.
Q: Does the President have a position on EB-5 visas?
MR. SPICER: The President is — I think — I'll leave it at this: The President believes that we have to do a lot to overhaul our entire visa process, whether it's — well, I'm not going to get into the —
Q: So a visa overhaul will be included in this?
MR. SPICER: No, no. I'm sorry. I think the question you were asking wasn't specific to the summit. So I just want to be clear. But I think he has made it clear in the past that, looking at all the visa programs and how we apply them and who gets them, and whether we're doing it in the smartest way, is something he addressed in the Joint — if you remember, that he talked about it a little in the Joint Address as well. And so we'll continue to have that conversation.
Q: Just to follow up, firstly, on Jared's trip. Can you talk just a little bit more about what the specific goal is here? I mean, is this the first step to potentially setting up some kind of meeting here, to bringing the leaders back to the U. S.? What specifically are his aims?
MR. SPICER: Well, look, as I just mentioned, I mean, I'm not going to get — let's let them get over there and have these conversations. They're going to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and senior officials on his team. They're going to meet with President Abbas and officials on his team later in the week. And I think part of it is to figure out how to make incremental change that results in a lasting peace.
And that's — but I don't want to get ahead of this. Part of this is really to utilize the trust that has been built up, and not have these negotiations out in public. But I think that they had a very successful visit when the President was over there and they're going to continue to build on that.
Q: Okay. And then secondly, we heard from one of the Sunday shows, a member of the President's legal team mentioned something about us potentially seeing some answer on this question of recordings of conversations between the President and Comey. Can you explain to us what he meant when he said that we might get an answer in the week ahead? Are you planning to do some kind of release, some kind of announcement?
MR. SPICER: I do not have a specific answer to that, but I will tell you I believe the President will comment in the next couple of weeks. So it's possible that we have an answer to that by the end of this week.
Q: Thank you, Sean. Tomorrow is zero-hour in Georgia's sixth district. And earlier this morning, the President tweeted out a very robust endorsement of Republican Karen Handel. The Democratic nominee, right up to the end, has called this a way of sending a message to the President. Does the President view this as a referendum on his administration? And will he have a response tomorrow to any outcome in Georgia?
MR. SPICER: Well, look — as you know, in the past, I've made it clear it would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific political races from this podium while they're ongoing. So that being said, I will just say, obviously the President is going to do whatever he has to help support growing his majorities in both Houses. But let's wait and see how that turns out. And I'm sure we'll have some kind of readout. We'll be able to provide that.
Q: Do you feel good about it?
MR. SPICER: I haven't spent a ton of time thinking about it. I know it's obviously garnered a lot of attention. We feel very good. The President has been very helpful down there. But I'm not going to go any further from this podium.
Q: Two issues. One, can you clarify, last week DHS put out the memo regarding DAPA, and said that DACA dreamers were status quo. What is the status of that? Is there a certain amount of time that the administration is going to study that and decide what to do with that?
MR. SPICER: As I recall, the DAPA issue was in reference to a pending court case. So it just was that the DAPA announcement and action was due to a pending case. The DACA thing is still something that is ongoing.
Q: Yeah. And how long — I mean, is there a timetable on that study?
MR. SPICER: I think it's — as I mentioned, I mean, there is an entirety of immigration that deals with visa reform and other aspects, including that, that the President continues to review. Members of the team are working on. I don't have anything for you at this time.
Q: And then the second question — this was actually from last week but I don't think I had an opportunity to ask you. The President was quoted as saying that the House health care bill was “mean.” I'm just wondering, forward-looking here, does that hurt the prospect of getting something through the Senate? If you could just comment on that. How does that help or hurt?
MR. SPICER: Well, I think this is something that Senate Majority Leader McConnell is working very closely with the administration on. He's mentioned scheduling a vote. He's working with his Senate colleagues. And we've had some senators over here to discuss it. We feel very good about the progress that's happening and a lot of the meetings that are happening behind the scenes to further that. And I think the House looks forward to taking up the next piece of this when it comes out of the Senate.
Q: What about the President's comment?
MR. SPICER: I'm not going to comment on rumors that came out of a private meeting.
Q: Are you saying it's not true?
MR. SPICER: No, I'm just saying I'm not going to comment on rumors of alleged comments that were from a private meeting with the President.
Q: Sean, does the President have full confidence in his Deputy Attorney General?
MR. SPICER: The President has confidence in everyone who serves him in this administration.
Q: Including Rod Rosenstein?
MR. SPICER: He serves in this administration.
Q: Following on that, last week Sarah told us that the President has no intention of firing Rosenstein as the Deputy Attorney General, but he has the right to do so. Rosenstein testified that only — I'm sorry, right to fire Rob Mueller, the special counsel. Rosenstein testified that the regulations give him that power. So how is the White House concluding that the President has the right to fire the special counsel?
MR. SPICER: I mean, I think the broader point here is that everyone who serves the President serves at the pleasure of the President. It may take — I get there may be a technicality as to whom reports to whom. But the bottom line is, is that everybody who is in a status of that serves at the pleasure of the President of the United States.
Q: Even though the regulation says that —
MR. SPICER: Again, I understand your question that, on an org. chart, the FBI goes to the Deputy Attorney General. But at the end of the day, that person then reports to the President. So, ultimately, everybody who is a political appointee of some sort reports to the President, right?
Q: Sure. I'm just wondering if you think that the regulation enjoins the President —
MR. SPICER: Again, I'm not here to argue the HR component of this. I do know that, again, if you look at the org. chart, the Deputy Attorney General, who is appointed by the President, the FBI director reports to him.
Q: The special counsel.
MR. SPICER: The special counsel — I apologize. So yeah — so, I mean, that's how —
Q: As you know, in 2016, when the President visited Las Vegas, he didn’t have a position on Yucca Mountain, this nuclear waste facility. He said he’d articulate something, but he didn’t then. He still hasn’t quite said anything, but we have had money in the “skinny budget,” things seem to be moving forward. And I just want to know, what informed the President’s thinking on Yucca Mountain? Does he want it to be a nuclear waste facility? And if so, what kind of checking did he do to get there?
MR. SPICER: That's a great question. I probably need to do some following up on that. I don't have an answer right now for you on that. I can try to get you —
Q: Do you know when you’ll have an answer?
MR. SPICER: As soon as I — I will follow up with our team to find out on the policy side where we are on that and what conversations we're going to have.
Q: I have a question for you, following up on health care, and then another one. A lot of criticism this is happening behind closed doors. This is something that Republicans criticized Democrats about a few years ago when Obamacare was being worked out. The Senate is working, obviously, some say in secret on this. Is the President comfortable with that?
MR. SPICER: I can't say I've actually asked him. I mean, this is more of a Senate process question. I will say — and I don't have the quote in front of me — but I believe that at the beginning, Senator Schumer made it very clear that something along the lines of “I don't intend to work with anyone who seeks to repeal and replace Obamacare.” So it's not that they were shocked that after he let it be known that they didn’t want to work with people, it's a little odd that now they’re saying, you're not working with us.
Q: But the President is comfortable leaving this —
MR. SPICER: I don't think the President gets involved in deciding how the Senate does its business —
Q: Okay. The second question for you: Does the President think it's appropriate for his campaign, just this month, to cite to an organization, Infowars, that called Sandy Hook a hoax and says 9/11 was not —
MR. SPICER: I'm not familiar with that. Obviously, it would be better to contact the campaign on something like that.
Q: Does the President have plans to meet the Ukrainian President, Poroshenko?
MR. SPICER: I believe that the Vice President — he will be meeting with the Vice President. We'll have a readout after that. And then if we have any updates on the President’s schedule, I'll let you know later today as far as what his schedule looks like for tomorrow.
Q: A couple of weeks ago, we asked you if the President believes in climate change, and I don't think we got an answer on that. And what’s going on with the tapes?
MR. SPICER: I answered the —
Q: Sorry, I missed it.
MR. SPICER: Oh, I just said, the President, I believe it was in the two-and-two, said that he would have an answer shortly. That would probably mean by the end of this week. And so —
Q: And the climate change question?
MR. SPICER: I have not — I mean, it really has not been a focus of —
Q: So is he meeting with the Vice President today?
MR. SPICER: No, that's tomorrow.
MR. SPICER: Yeah.
Q: Real quick follow-up. With Russia — I'll ask all three of them. On Russia, are we saying we're on the brink of war with Russia? Are you saying that that's a possibility?
MR. SPICER: No, I didn’t say that.
Q: Okay. And number two, as far as what we're talking about with what Jim asked — or I guess the question there is, is he reserving the right to fire everyone down the line until it gets to the special prosecutor? Or is he saying he’s going to leave him alone to do his job?
And three, on days that you come out here and there’s not a camera and there’s not a microphone, and the President speaks, could you ask him if he’d be ever so kind as to step up here and answer some questions from us on that day?
MR. SPICER: I'll let him know you're — I'll be sure to share your sentiments with him.
Q: But can you answer the other one about —
MR. SPICER: Well, what Steve said was — he asked about — I'm sorry, you were —
Q: On Rosenstein, you're saying that —
MR. SPICER: No, I was explaining to him how it works.
Q: So everyone is ultimately responsible to the President. He reserves the right to fire everybody on down the line until he gets to the person he wants. Is that what you're —
MR. SPICER: No, what I'm saying is that the way it works is if you're appointed — if you serve at the pleasure of the President, you serve at the pleasure of the President. That's a fact.
Q: So I get that. But would he work his way down the line if he was —
MR. SPICER: That's a hypothetical question. I mean, the bottom line is, I answered a question as to how the system is set up. That's it.
Q: Thanks, Sean. Last week, the United States took action to begin extradition of the former Panamanian President Martinelli, who’s been living in Florida and faces corruption charges back home in Panama. Was the White House aware of that in advance of this meeting? And was that sort of a condition for this meeting?
MR. SPICER: I’m not going to — obviously, the White House was aware of it. I’m not going to comment any further on it, though.
Q: Sean, when it comes to London, what is the intelligence community doing in helping with trying to solve some of the terrorist acts there? And have we been getting any information, like in past administrations, on the chatter — hearing things prior to it? What can you tell us from an intelligence standpoint?
MR. SPICER: Well, respectfully, I’m not going to get into anything —
Q: I mean, just on the basics, that you can give.
MR. SPICER: Obviously, there’s a lot of cooperation that continues to happen. One of the reasons that the President was so pleased to see the terror finance center set up in Saudi Arabia was looking at techniques. There is so much recruiting that goes on online and communication. The center that got stood up is a real positive step forward of being able to utilize tools and experiments to figure out if we can reverse engineer that same propaganda and figure out if there’s a way to help deter people from doing that or detect it.
But there’s a lot of things that are happening in the intelligence community where they’re monitoring things at all times and trying to get ahead of the situation.
Q: And a follow-up on this. Since 9/11, we’ve heard it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” it would happen here in the States. Is this still a thought in this community, in the intelligence community and here at the White House, with the ramp-up of terror acts overseas — is there a concern here that — are you still using that philosophy “it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’”?
MR. SPICER: I know that both the President and Secretary Kelly in particular, as well as the NSC team, this is what they — is what is their top priority. I mean, if you talk to Secretary Kelly — and the reason that the President has taken the actions that he has, including the travel ban and including — is to make sure that we’re looking at both enhancing and reading the intelligence piece, but taking steps to secure this country, to make sure that the people who are coming here are doing so with the intention of coming here peacefully.
So I think the bigger question is — or the bigger answer is that everything that we do and the President does and Secretary Kelly does — obviously, Secretary Mattis, General McMaster, the entire team — is to protect the people and to make sure that there is not an attack here, and that not only do we prevent anything from happening on our homeland, but eradicate it where we can in places throughout the world.
Q: Can you be successful in protecting the people with that equation off the table at this moment?
MR. SPICER: What equation?
Q: The travel ban.
MR. SPICER: Well, yeah — I mean, we’re going to do — I mean, that’s why the President is going to continue to fight for it. He’s going to use every tool possible to make sure that we vet people, that we have the proper studies, that we use the proper tools and techniques. But, yeah, we’re going to do everything we possibly can.
Q: Sean, six individuals resigned over the weekend from the President’s advisory council on HIV/AIDS, saying the President doesn’t care about the disease. What’s your reaction to that?
MR. SPICER: Well, I mean, respectfully, the President cares tremendously about that and the impact it has. Obviously, the individuals that he’s appointed here in the White House have been in communication with various stakeholders in that community to help develop policies and formulas going forward, but we’re going to continue to do what we can from a government standpoint.
Q: What is the President’s strategy to combat HIV/AIDS?
MR. SPICER: As you recall, I think it was HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell came in and fired all of the Bush appointees. So this is — if you look at how that happened, it probably wasn’t the best sign, either.
Q: What is the President’s strategy to combat HIV/AIDS?
MR. SPICER: Again, I know that they are working from the White House standpoint, from a policy standpoint, hand in glove with the commission and other members throughout the government to continue to develop a strategy and provide — I think it’s a holistic approach, both in this country and helping people abroad where that’s a big issue.
Q: And one more question. Will the President replace those six members who resigned from that council?
MR. SPICER: I really don’t have a personnel update. I’ll try to get you something on that.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk since last week’s shooting about whether the divisive political climate contributed to it. What does the President think about that?
MR. SPICER: I don’t believe that we have the intelligence at this time to make it formal. I think there’s obviously an investigation that’s ongoing and it would be highly inappropriate to stand up here and determine the exact nature of the cause while that investigation is happening.
Q: What does he think about the shooter’s reported support for Bernie Sanders and being a —
MR. SPICER: Again, I think that it would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation in terms of the motives until investigators have an opportunity to do their job.
Q: At last word, the FBI and the CIA were still not handing over to the House Intelligence Committee the information they had requested on unmaskings and leakings. Does the administration believe that there should be a special counsel appointed to look into those issues separately, or do they have faith that Mueller will look at those —
MR. SPICER: That’s a question that is best directed towards the special counsel that exists right now. I don’t know if that’s the case. I’m not — I don’t have an update on that, so I don’t have —
Q: The President has tweeted his desire to look into —
MR. SPICER: I understand that. I know what the President’s goal is. I don’t know the status between the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and what information they do or do not have with respect to those agencies.
Q: They seem to feel they’ve been stonewalled.
MR. SPICER: Again, I just don’t have an update as far as what information they do or don’t have. A lot of that is classified, so I wouldn’t be able to share it if I could. But that’s obviously something that’s ongoing.
Q: Thank you, Sean. Has the President or members of his legislative team seen the text of the health care bill?
MR. SPICER: I don’t know. I’ve not asked that question. That’s a good question. I just have not talked to the legislative affairs guys, so I know they are in constant communication. So whether they’ve seen the final draft, I know that is something that we’ve been working very closely with the Senate on. So I know that there’s been a level of involvement.
Q: So what informs the view of the White House that you feel very good about a vote being held by recess? And do you believe that not only a vote will be held, but that it will secure 50 votes?
MR. SPICER: I think Senator McConnell — no one probably knows the Senate better than Senator McConnell when it comes to getting things done. He knows his members, he knows the Senate, he knows the issue, and he is completely committed to the goal of repealing and replacing Obamacare with a patient-centric bill that will bring down costs and increase access. So we have every confidence in Senator McConnell’s ability to get this done.
Thank you guys very much.