White House press secretary Sean Spicer returned to the briefing room on Monday for the first time since June 26. He seemed out of the loop after the long layoff, often punting on basic questions.
Most puzzlingly, Spicer claimed at one point that “there was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act” when Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer last year.
Sure. Nothing except Trump Jr.'s own admission that a revelation of damaging information about Hillary Clinton was the “pretext for the meeting.”
There is no footage of Spicer's gaffe, however, since the White House banned cameras and live audio broadcasts. The Fix has annotated a transcript of the session, using Genius, since it could not be seen on TV.
We'll continue the practice whenever White House spokesmen go off camera. To view an annotation, click on the yellow, highlighted text.
MR. SPICER: Sorry I'm a little late.
Q Good to see you.
Q We miss you, Sean.
MR. SPICER: Well, I miss you too.
Good afternoon. For the rest of July, this administration is going to be honoring the people, the products, and the principles that have made America a global leader. This week, we will be spotlighting American-made products and industries. Later on in the month, we'll also be highlighting American heroes and the American Dream.
Since day one, the President has been fighting for the hard-working people of this country, and he has done a lot on their behalf. He signed an executive order to Buy American and Hire American, which is a historic action to ensure that federal projects are made with American goods, and to keep American workers and companies from being cheated out of contracts by countries that break the rules. He took action to reform our immigration system so that it puts the needs of American workers first. We continue to make progress on that. He withdrew the United States from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership and began renegotiating NAFTA.
Whether it’s removing job-killing regulations, protecting our borders, or unleashing American energy, the President is working to keep his promises and deliver for the America's workers.
So, today, as I mentioned, we’re kicking off “American Made” week with a showcase of 50 products that are made here in the United States, representing each of the 50 states. From the South Lawn to the State Floor, the White House will be lined with these examples of American innovation and investment in manufacturing and technology.
From the SH-3 Sea King helicopter made in Connecticut, which most of us affectionately know as Marine One when the President is on board, to the iconic cowboy hats made in Texas, this country is already responsible for the invention and creation of an incredible span of amazing products.
But for decades, Washington has been doing its best to discourage these companies from investing here at home, through job-killing deals and a rapidly expanding scheme of unnecessary regulations. This administration has been working hard to ease these burdens, making it easier for companies to compete and grow so they can contribute more to our economy and hire more American workers.
We’ve already created over 50,000 new manufacturing jobs this year. And as the President moves forward with his pro-growth agenda, including repealing and replacing Obamacare, reforming our overcomplicated tax code, and revitalizing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, that number is sure to grow even higher.
We hope that the companies represented here today and the rest of the businesses who put Americans to work manufacturing their products will see the numbers grow as the Trump administration continues to unleash American industry.
In about a half-hour, the President will head out to the South Lawn to view some of the larger products, like a forklift from Mississippi and a firetruck from Wisconsin. He'll then proceed to the Blue Room and continue along the State Floor to see everything from California wine to body armor manufactured in Iowa. He will then make remarks and sign a proclamation declaring July 17 as Made in America Day.
The Vice President, Cabinet members, members of Congress, and White House senior staff are also visiting the state displays throughout the rest of the afternoon.
Later in the week, the President will host a Made in America Certification Event and attend the commissioning the USS Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Virginia.
Also here today, the Departments of Transportation and Energy are making important investments in domestic air travel and the new generation of bioenergy. The FAA will award over $290 million as part of its Airport Investment Program to 105 airports in 38 states. These grants fund various types of projects, including runways, taxiways, and airport signage, which makes our airports safer and will create thousands of jobs.
And the Department of Energy will award $40 million for the establishment of four Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers, which are designed to lay the scientific groundwork for the next generation of energy technology.
Here at the White House and across the administration, we’re working around the clock to make America safer and more prosperous. But as the Democrats proved again last week, they’re willing to put anything on the line, even national security, just to keep the President from putting his own team in place to carry out his agenda.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer continued this unprecedented pattern of obstruction when he decided to politicize the number-two job at the Department of Defense at a time of rising national security threats. Rather than allow Patrick Shanahan, the President’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of Defense, to be voted on by unanimous consent as proposed by Senator McCain, Senator Schumer objected, further delaying his confirmation.
Mr. Shanahan is eminently qualified and was even praised by the New York Times as “a good complement” to Secretary Mattis, but his nomination has languished in the Senate for over a month as a casualty of these partisan attacks.
This is on top of an even more brazen example from earlier this month where Senate Democrats used every available tool to delay the confirmation of a judge that was eventually confirmed 100-0. They all supported the nomination, they all voted for him, so the Senate Democrats’ delay tactics had nothing to do with questions about his qualifications, and everything to do about pettiness and politics.
While that effort was partisan, last week’s move to block a vote on a key national security post is downright dangerous. Just one in four of the President’s 187 nominees to date have been confirmed, and we’re nearing six months into the administration. It’s time for Senate Democrats to drop this pointless and petty gamesmanship and start working with this administration on behalf of the American people.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
Q Sean, good to see you back here. Question for you. One on Iran. Will this administration certify Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal?
MR. SPICER: The JCPOA authority was delegated to the State Department. And the Secretary of Defense — excuse me, the Secretary of State will have an announcement very shortly on that deal.
I think you all know that the President has made very clear that he thought this was a bad deal — a bad deal for the United States. And I will wait until the State Department makes further action before going any further.
Q And secondly, your counterpart in Russia, Dmitry Peskov, who speaks for Vladimir Putin, said today that they expect their properties that were seized by the prior administration to be returned and without any stipulations or attachments to that. Was this discussed with the President? Does the President have a strong view? What is it that the President would like to see in return before handing these properties over?
MR. SPICER: I know that Secretary Tillerson — that falls under his purview. He has been having discussions, and I would refer you to the State Department for —
Q But this came from Vladimir Putin’s office, not —
MR. SPICER: I understand that. But in our country, right now, the Secretary of State is handling that portfolio, and so I would refer you to him on that.
Q But did the President bring this up at all in his conversations in Hamburg with Vladimir Putin?
MR. SPICER: I don't know. I’d be glad to find out on that. I don't believe it did, but I’d be glad to find out.
Q Thank you, Sean. The President tweeted earlier today that most politicians would have gone into the meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get info on an opponent. He said that's politics. His FBI Director nominee said that anyone who was approached by a hostile government for opposition research should contact the FBI rather than taking the meeting. Who's right? And what’s the White House’s position on whether or not it’s okay to meet with a hostile government for opposition research?
MR. SPICER: Look, you know I’m not going to get into the specifics of this. But I will say that it is quite often for people who are given information during the heat of a campaign to ask what that is. That's what simply he did. The President has made it clear through this tweet. And there was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.
But I would refer you back to counsel on that one.
Q Okay. And can I ask about counsel, about Marc Kasowitz? He was — reportedly, he exchanged emails with a private citizen with a number of threats and a profanity-laced set of comments. Does the White House and the President still have confidence in Mr. Kasowitz to speak for the administration on this Russia matter?
MR. SPICER: Yes, he does. And I know Mr. Kasowitz has issued an apology on that matter.
Q Sean, first a follow-up to his question there. The President’s tweet this morning regarding the Russia investigation — did Ty Cobb vet that? Can you talk a little bit about his role? Is his job here to manage the President’s personal response to the Russia investigation?
MR. SPICER: Mr. Cobb — as you know within the counsel’s office, there are various attorneys that have different portfolios. And while we have outside counsel, a lot of times the requests that we get from this room require us to go to counsel and say, can we answer this question? What can we say or can't we say? You do your best a lot of times to get us to make a case why this should be answered by the White House.
And so we end up spending a lot of time talking to the counsel’s office about what can and can't be referred to outside counsel, what still remains in our purview. And so it was the decision of the White House to bring someone on board that, like in a lot of other areas that we have counsels dedicated to that, that there was significant interest in the subject to do that.
Q So in the case of the President’s tweet this morning, was that something that went through Mr. Cobb?
MR. SPICER: I don't believe so.
Q And once more, a follow on Made in America. You mentioned the Sikorsky helicopter parked on the South Lawn — that would be known as Marine One — who paid for that to fly here from, I guess, probably Quantico? And also, is it appropriate military resources for a political event?
MR. SPICER: Well, it would be at Bolling, is where I believe that's held. But I think we're very proud. The idea is to showcase this week things that are made in America. And I know Sikorsky and the state of Connecticut are very proud of the fact that they contribute to our national security, that there are, I assume, hundreds if not thousands of people whose job depends on that. And I think, like most Americans, we're all proud of the helicopter and other military equipment that so many Americans worked tirelessly to do. So, of course, it’s appropriate to highlight that.
Q Thank you, Sean. I’m wondering whether you can tell us if Made in America Week will include the Trump organization or Ivanka Trump brands committing to stop manufacturing wares abroad.
MR. SPICER: Say that — I’m sorry? If the —
Q As part of Made in America Week, if the Trump Organization or Ivanka Trump’s brands will make any kind of commitment to stop manufacturing gifts, clothes, and other wares abroad?
MR. SPICER: So there’s a couple things that are interesting about that question. First, I think what’s really important is the President’s agenda, regulatory relief, and tax relief are focused on trying to make sure that all companies can hire here, can expand here, can manufacture here. That's something that he wants for every company, and you've seen him talk about that extensively.
With respect to his own companies, obviously it’s inappropriate to discuss how anything would affect their own companies. But I can tell you that, in some cases, there are certain supply chains or scalability that may not be available in this country. I’m not going to comment on specific products, but I will tell you that the overall-arching goal, of course, though, is to grow manufacturing — to grow and invest here in the United States and to grow U.S. workers here. So that remains the overall objective.
Q Obviously, it might be a sacrifice, given certain questions about going rates and stuff, but wouldn’t it be sort of a way to show leadership?
MR. SPICER: Again, it’s not appropriate for me to stand up here and comment about a business. I believe that's a little out of bounds. But again, I would go back to the President’s broader goal which is to create investment here, to bring back the manufacturing base. And I think when you look at a lot of these indices that measure confidence — both in terms of CEOs, manufacturers — that they're all-time highs. And I think part of that is that there’s a lot of confidence that the President’s agenda is going to accomplish that.
Q Just a question about the DHS decision to allow 15,000 new temporary worker visas. How does that not conflict with the President’s Hire American message?
MR. SPICER: Again, I’ll refer you to DHS on this. But I think one of the things that you're seeing through this is it’s not just the number, it’s a lot of the qualifications and a lot that goes through there to ensure that we hiring and bringing in the people.
As you know, the President has been supportive of the RAISE Act, by Senators Cotton and Perdue, which seeks to really look at more of a merit-based immigration system. And that's something that he continues to push for, and we’ll continue to work with Senators Cotton and Perdue and others to help get that in a place that will focus more on merit-based and really provide the overall reform that he’s been talking about for a long time.
Q Sean, thanks. What’s the White House reaction to the government of Iran announcing that they've sentenced the Chinese-American student from Princeton to 10 years for espionage? And also, could you fill us in on any new sanctions on Iran?
MR. SPICER: I’m not going to comment on any new sanctions. If there are some, at that point Treasury would be the one to make that announcement when that's appropriate.
Obviously, we're disappointed in that. And with respect to that individual, he is someone that we're keeping an eye on.
Q Thanks, Sean. With regard — I wanted to ask you about steel tariffs. The President told reporters on the plane last week that he was considering tariffs and quotas with regard to foreign steel. This being Made in America Week, can we expect an announcement? Has the President made up his mind on whether he’s going to do tariffs, quotas, or both?
MR. SPICER: I think the President’s comments on Air Force One speak for themselves. When he’s ready to make an announcement on that, we’ll share that with you. But that's something that the team is still discussing with him.
Q Thanks a lot, Sean. Is the President resigned to the idea that it seems unlikely that the Senate will vote on any type of repeal-and-replace bill anytime in the immediate future?
MR. SPICER: I know that Senator McConnell has made it clear that he would like Senator McCain back. We obviously wish him a speedy recovery. And as soon as Senator McConnell — as soon as Senator McCain can travel back, and Senator McConnell feels it’s appropriate, he’ll schedule that vote. We feel very confident about where we are now, and we look forward to getting that bill on the President’s desk and getting it signed.
Q On Made in America, I just wanted a real quick question. I realize you can't speak, as you said, specifically about the President Donald J. Trump organization’s companies, but I just wanted to get a view from you on what critics are saying about whether the President is the right vessel for this message. After all, he has shirts made in China and Bangladesh and India. Other products made — like Trump vodka made in the Netherlands. So give me a sense, if you could, about whether the President is the right vessel for the message that he’s going to deliver later today before the press?
MR. SPICER: I actually look at it in a very different way, which is the President has been a very successful businessman on a number of fronts and a number of areas and industries, and to understand firsthand what the tax burden and what the regulatory burden do to a business that wants to grow or expand here or hire here. So I think he actually is — in a very unique way understands the challenges that our regulatory system and our tax system put on businesses that want to hire here, that want to grow here, that need scalability and capacity here in a way that maybe isn’t because of some of our arcane trade laws, our regulations, or our tax laws. So I actually think that he’s in a very unique way able to talk about the challenges that so many of these companies face as they choose to expand, and some of the tariffs and quotas that they face in other markets.
I know that some of the stuff — you look at a company like Caterpillar, who is out there, and you talk to them about some of the tariffs that they face going into other countries. When you're talking about an earthmover, a D11 or something else, when you're talking about a million-plus-dollar piece of equipment, a 20 percent tariff is $200,000. So if you're going into a country where our companies are disadvantaged by a huge tariff, that's immediately putting them at a disadvantage.
And the President understands what that means to a company that wants to grow and expand throughout the globe and meet new markets, and go into other places.
So I think he understands it probably very, very uniquely.
Q Okay, thanks, Sean.
MR. SPICER: I’ll get to you, Andrew. Don't worry.
Q Thank you, Sean. A couple of questions on the Voter Integrity Commission’s meeting on Wednesday. I wanted to ask you, without full cooperation of all the states, would the commission consider buying some of the registration information sort of the way campaigns do? Or using maybe a private organization like Aristotle International?
MR. SPICER: Most of this information is available. All that those companies are doing is buying it from the states. So I don't think there would be any reason to go to a private vendor. I think we should be able to do this utilizing official resources that exist within a state.
Again, I think there’s been some miscommunication on what they're seeking. The commission has asked that each state provide that information that is public that they share. And because that varies from state to state, what they're willing to give out, the commission was illustrative in its letter in trying to describe what it was looking for. But I think we're going to move forward very well.
Q I’m sorry, I do have another. And that's — there was hacking into voter registration rolls in Illinois and Arizona, and we found out recently South Carolina was reported. Is that going to be something the commission will look into at all?
MR. SPICER: I think the commission has got a very broad mandate to make sure that there’s the greatest degree of integrity in our voting system and confidence in it. So I don't want to get ahead of their agenda, but I think all areas like that are going to probably get brought up. But the first meeting is Wednesday. We’ll see what comes of it.
Q Thanks, Sean. Two foreign policy questions for you. First, what steps is President Trump taking to ensure that the Israelis are comfortable with the U.S.-brokered ceasefire in Syria?
MR. SPICER: So obviously — you’re talking about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments.
MR. SPICER: One, I would refer you to him to that. But there’s a shared interest that we have with Israel, making sure that Iran does not gain a foothold, military base-wise, in southern Syria. So while we’re going to continue those talks, obviously we want to have the productive ceasefire, but we also want to make sure that we’re not — one of our other objectives obviously remains to make sure that Iran does not gain a foothold in southern Syria. So we need to continue to have that discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu about his concerns, but I think there is a shared goal there.
Q Thanks, Sean. With the health care bill in limbo, what’s the administration’s plan to move forward on tax reform? Can you do it without having moved on health care first?
MR. SPICER: Well, obviously, the Senate is still on track to vote, which is great, and the President will sign it as soon as it’s possible. We’re going to continue to plan. We’ve had well into the hundreds, if not close to a thousand listening sessions with different entities — so the number of entities, not the number of meetings. So they’ll continue that outreach, continue to hear with folks. There’s been a very robust discussion with House and Senate leadership and the committees of relevant jurisdiction, and we’re going to continue that.
But we’re going to keep moving that along. I expect there will be some activity in August and then into September, but we’re still on track to do that. And we hope to have the health care bill completely locked up as soon as Senator McConnell deems it appropriate.
Q Sean, a follow-up.
MR. SPICER: Kristen
Q Thanks, Sean. There’s concern among those who support the health care bill that this extension is going to give the opponents of the bill more traction. What specifically is President Trump going to do to try to get this bill over the finish line? What will the —
MR. SPICER: He’s been very active on the phone. He’s going to continue to meet with senators. I think he’ll have some senators over tonight. He’s been very active over the weekend. The Vice President has been extremely engaged as well. We’ll continue those discussions.
So I think we’re going to do what we did the last time. The President is going to be engaged, he’s going to get this done. And then — you know, it’s been said before, but there’s no one better than Mitch McConnell when it comes to knowing how and when to make a bill successful in the Senate. So we have every confidence in the Majority Leader’s ability to get this done, and the President will do whatever he has to support those efforts.
Q And who’s coming over tonight? Is it just —
MR. SPICER: I don’t have a list for you.
Q And one quickly on Russia. President Trump has referred to the Russia investigation as a “hoax,” “a witch hunt.” Given the meeting that Donald Trump, Jr. had, does he now acknowledge that the special counsel is a legitimate investigation?
MR. SPICER: I think Mr. Sekulow answered that question very extensively this weekend.
Q What would you say?
MR. SPICER: Again, I think it’s been asked and answered.
Q Sean, can you tell me how these products were selected from each of the 50 states? And do you know if most of the owners are Trump supporters?
MR. SPICER: I don’t. You’re free to ask them. I think the pool will be out there. I think there’s some folks, so feel free to talk to them. This was an engagement where we asked for suggestions from governors and members of Congress to give us a list, and then, working within the different offices here, an ultimate selection was made. But we sought input from the governors and the congressional delegation.
Q Sean, since Friday the President has tweeted four times about health care, but he’s also tweeted six times about the U.S. Women’s Open, which was held at a private property that was owned by his company. So the question is: Is it appropriate for him to essentially advertise his private business using his Twitter feed and use of time, when comparatively less time is being spent on health care, an issue that, as you know, is the most important issue to Americans right now?
MR. SPICER: Well, I respectfully disagree with that in the sense that sending off a tweet takes, what, five, ten seconds? As I just mentioned to Kristen, he’s been extremely engaged throughout the weekend, making phone calls, talking to folks, meeting with his team, getting updates. So to compare a tweet with a meeting or a phone call of substance is probably a little —
Q But he did spend a lot of his weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open. He seemed to be very engaged in it. I mean, the tweets are, perhaps, a second long, but it seems to indicate what the President is spending his time on. So how do you assure the country that he actually is, in fact, engaged on health care when we know where he was over the weekend — he’s been tweeting about it?
MR. SPICER: I would suggest to you — one, I just told you he’s been extremely engaged in talking to different senators. I know that some of them have mentioned they had extensive discussions with him. Number two, this is the same group — we got a lot of that it will never get through the House. He continued to work hard. He continued to be engaged then, and it came out. We continue to do what we have to do, and we’ll make it work.
But we’re going to get this done. We’ll move on. We’ll do tax reform. We’re going to do infrastructure. The President has a really robust agenda, and I think when you look at the amount of activity that he’s been able to do and the results that he’s getting, I think that speaks for itself.
Q Can I ask you a Made in America question, Sean?
MR. SPICER: Yeah, sure.
Q Just a quick one. Ivanka Trump’s — the head of Ivanka Trump’s business said that it is currently not possible to make her products here in the United States. So what is the White House’s or this administration’s policy remedy for companies like that who say there’s just no way to do it? How do they make their products here in America?
MR. SPICER: I mean, I can’t answer that question in the sense that I’m not — but I can tell you that it depends on the product, right? There are certain things that — certain industries that we don’t do as much anymore, and there’s certain things that we do more. There’s a certain aspect of technology and labor. But as I mentioned before in terms of scalability, there’s certain things that we may not have the capacity to do here in terms of having a plant or a factory that can do it.
The beautiful thing about a capitalistic society is that if there’s enough of a demand for it, it will happen, and I think that’s what the President is trying to do. If you lower the tax rate, if you lower the regulatory burden, you will hopefully grow businesses and grow manufacturing.
I’ve talked to several CEOs and business leaders in the past couple of weeks about tax reform, and it’s amazing how many of them tell you that they pay the 35 percent rate. And you say to them, what will you do if that rate drops? And the number-one thing they talk about is they’re going to invest and build more in their company. And I think that’s what we need to do.
But some lines, some industries, some products may not have the scalability or the demand here in this country. But like so many other things, if there’s enough of a demand, then hopefully someone builds a factory and does it. But we've seen that in your own industry, where you saw the decline of newspapers, for example, and you've seen a lot more online content and online publications. That’s the evolution, sometimes, of some industries. But I'm sure somewhere around the world that newspapers still get delivered every day in a much greater way than they do here.
Q But is it appropriate, if there is no — in the case of Ivanka Trump's businesses — handbags, shirts, purses, whatever — if there is no capacity, is it appropriate to make those things overseas?
MR. SPICER: Well, think about all of the things that we buy every day. Of course there's a market, because we depend in this country for so many goods and services, some of which are made in America, some of which aren’t. Obviously, we want to create an environment in which more things are made here, more things are exported from here. And that's what the President's agenda sets out to do.
I got to go to the birthday girl, Micaela. Oh, I'm sorry — Sarah.
Q Oh, thanks. It's not my birthday but — (laughter) —
MR. SPICER: (Laughter.) I don’t even want — it's Micaela's birthday, she's not here. I saw Eamon and I thought CNBC. My apologies.
Q I'll take a second question. (Laughter.)
Q Back to the JCPOA, I know you don’t want to get ahead of the announcement about the recertification, but the administration has been reviewing it for some time now, even though the President has already made definitive statements about what he thinks should be on the Iran deal. So did he make those statements without having sufficient information about the Iran deal? Or is the review ongoing because he's open to changing his position on the Iran deal, if new information came to light?
MR. SPICER: I got to say — I mean, I think the President, from throughout the campaign until now, has made very clear that he thinks it's a bad deal. And initially he recertified it because he had the luxury of having an entire team here, both from State, DOD, NSC, to review it. That time is up and State will make its announcement very shortly.
But I think he's been very consistent with the fact that he thought it was a bad deal.
Q Thank you, Sean. Two questions and a short follow-up. When the President took office, one of the things he ordered was a 90-day cybersecurity review. That deadline came and went. It's been several months. Can you update us on where that report is? Has it been completed? And if it hasn’t been completed, why?
MR. SPICER: I will get back to you on the report. He did sign an executive order on cyber, making sure that we have the resources necessary to protect our key critical infrastructure.
Q Last week there was a march online — day of action on net neutrality — organized and participated by many of the largest companies in America — Amazon, Apple, Facebook — a lot of the technology economy that's been driving the U.S. economy. Granted, the FCC is an independent agency, but does the President believe that network neutrality is an important thing and an open Internet is important to the American economy?
MR. SPICER: Well, again, as you noted, the FCC is an independent agency and I refer you to them with respect to —
Q I'm asking what the President believes.
MR. SPICER: I have not addressed net neutrality specifically.
Q Can you get back to me?
MR. SPICER: I will definitely. Caitlin.
Q Thanks, Sean. The Ukraine government reportedly went into damage-control mode in an effort to make amends when President Trump won the election after working with DNC and administration officials to undermine his candidacy. Is this an issue that was discussed during President Poroshenko's visit to the White House in June? And has the President discussed it with him?
MR. SPICER: Actually, that's an interesting question. I will have to get back to you. Obviously, there's been a lot more interest in recent days with respect to what the DNC did in coordination with the Ukrainian government to try to collude and achieve a goal of having someone removed, which ultimately did happen.
So I don’t know whether that came up with the President. I'd be glad to look into the call. I know that that story and the DNC's collusion with the Ukrainian government has definitely gotten a lot more attention since that meeting, so I'm not sure that it was necessarily topical at the time. But now that there's been renewed interest in what the DNC did, I'm glad to look further.
Q Does what the DNC did have any impact on this administration's policy towards Ukraine?
MR. SPICER: Again, I don’t — it wasn’t something that was discussed at the time of the visit that I'm aware of. I'd be glad to follow up and find out whether that did come up. But again, my only point is that, at the time of the visit, I don’t believe it was as topical as it is now.
Q At a briefing last month, you said you didn’t believe the President factored in, when he made a trip, what his popularity is in that country. Now we have a report of a transcript of a conversation between Prime Minister May and the President in which he asked her to “fix” his popularity so he gets a better reception. Do you have any reason to doubt the accuracy of that transcript, that that conversation took place? And do you still believe that he doesn’t factor in his popularity?
MR. SPICER: I believe that — I'm not going to comment on rumored leaked conversations. I will say that he was pleased to accept Her Majesty's invitation and looks forward to visiting the United Kingdom.
Q On North Korea — South Korea has offered to hold talks with the North Koreans. What's the President's view of that? And are there certain conditions that the President would like to see met before those talks take place?
MR. SPICER: Well, obviously those comments came out of the Republic of Korea and I would refer you back to them. That being said, I think the President has made clear in the past with respect that any type of conditions that would have to be met are clearly far away from where we are now.
Q Sean, has the White House been monitoring the demonstrations in Venezuela, and do you have any reaction to that?
MR. SPICER: Yeah, we obviously are concerned about that. We've been watching what's been going on. We congratulate the Venezuelan people for the huge turnout in the referendum yesterday and the unmistakable statement that they made and that they delivered to their government.
We condemn the violence inflicted by government thugs against innocent voters, and efforts by the government to erode democracy in Venezuela. We once again call for the constituent assembly of July 30 to be canceled, and for free and fair elections to be scheduled.
Q Just one follow-up on Iran. A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard said today that if the United States designated the group a terrorist organization and applied new sanctions, that it would be perilous for U.S. forces in the region. Do you have a reaction to that?
MR. SPICER: I don’t think our forces will ever be — what was the word?
Q In peril.
MR. SPICER: No. I think our forces are the greatest fighting machine in the world, and we'll do everything we can to protect our country and to make sure that we extinguish any threats that we face.
Thank you, guys. Hope to have you get a good look at what's going on outside, and the pool will do a great job.