tv White House Briefing CSPAN March 16, 2018 3:12pm-3:48pm EDT
10k a.m. on sunday. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979 c-span was created by a public service by america's cable television companies and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress. the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c., and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> a look now at today's white house briefing with spokesman sarah sanders. among other things she said there will be no immediate personnel changes expected at this time.
she was joined by white house legislative affairs director ark short. sarah: pulling out the big guns for friday. serious business. good afternoon.
let me start by addressing the blackhawk helicopter crash in iraq. at least from initial reporting, the crash does not appear to have been caused by enemy action. however, this incident is under investigation. this tragic crash reminds us that all our courageous men and women take extraordinary risks every single day in service of our country. american troops alongside their coalition partners continue their efforts to defeat isis in iraq and syria and to prevent its re-emergence. as the president tweeted, our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones lost. their sacrifice and service to our country will never be forgotten. looking ahead to next week, the president will be traveling to new hampshire on monday. the purpose of this trip is to further enforce the administration's commitment to combating the opioid crisis. as the president said in his state of the union address, this administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in needs, for those who have been hurt so terribly.
the struggle will be long and it will be difficult, but as americans always do, in the end we will succeed. we will prevail. as you all know, the last couple of weeks we have highlighted democrats' unprecedented effort to stop the president from filling his administration with highly qualified nominees. today, we have a special guest with us to provide some additional details on that front, mark short, our director of legislative affairs will come up now to make a statement and take a few
questions. then will be back up after he's done to take your questions on other news of the day. ark. mark: good afternoon. since i know you are interested in white house personnel issues, we wanted to take a few minutes to discuss the historic obstruction that we have faced by senator schumer and senate democrats in confirming our nominees to enable us to fill out our white house. the senate obviously has the constitutional responsibility for advice and consent. so what that looks like in real life is the president selects
the nominee. they undergo an entire f.b.i. background check. they work with the office of government ethics. that's a process that takes a good amount of time. a good amount of resources. only then after cleared through an f.b.i. background check and the office of government ethics is a nominee submitted to the united states senate. when they get to the senate they go through several additional evaluations including meetings with staff, meetings with the members on both sides of the aisle. the nominee then undergoes a hearing and the committee then votes on the nominee to get out of that committee. at that point the nominee moves to the senate floor for full confirmation. traditionally, the senate routinely confirms the administration's nominees once out of committee. it is there to respect the will of the american people and the election for an administration to fill out its roles under a new president. instead, what senator schumer has done is to require cloture
votes to essentially slow down the process and to obstruct. at this point in the past four -- and the past four administrations combined, the senate has conducted 17 cloture votes combined. cloture votes in essence being a filibuster on a nominee. 17 cloture votes in the last four administrations combined at this point. today, the senate has had 79 cloture votes in the first 14 months of our administration. 17 over the last four administrations versus 79 in the first 14 months of our administration. that is more than -- that is roughly five times the number of the last four dministrations combined. senator schumer is essentially weaponizing a senate procedure and demanding cloture votes on our nominees that he
essentially supports. 11 of the president's nominees have been approved without a single dissenting vote. still forced to go through 30 hours of debate to essentially slow down the senate calendar simply for the purpose of obstruction. even senate democrats have begun to call this out and to say it is getting to the point of ridiculous. at this rate, the united states senate would take 11 1/2 years to confirm our nominees. 11 1/2 years to confirm our nominees. so let me give you one more example of the comparison historically. in the first entire term of the george h.w. bush administration, his entire four years, he faced one cloture vote. in the entire four years of the clinton administration he faced 10 cloture votes. under the george w. bush administration, the entire first term he faced four cloture votes.
barack obama faced 17 in his first entire four years. we have faced 79 in our first 14 months. that adds up to 32 combined in the entire first four years of those administrations relative to 79 in our first less than a year and a half. so let me give a couple morill strations of specific individuals -- more illustrations of specific individuals. pat is our nominee to be deputy secretary of our department of labor. we still don't have a deputy secretary, a number two person at the dep of labor. pat was nominated 269 days ago. he was reported out of committee in october. he was confirmed in the george w. bush administration by unanimous voice vote. so he's already been confirmed by a previous congress without any dissension, and, yet, 269 days later we still do not have
a deputy secretary at the department of labor. at the e.p.a., deputy administrator andrew wheeler. he was nominated 152 days ago. scott pruitt still till this day he does not a deputy serving at the e.p.a. he was reported out of committee in november. arms will be deputy of control. it's an important issue for national security and particularly heightened in light of upcoming negotiations with north korea. e was nominated 298 days ago and has previously been a staff director at the house foreign affairs committee. isabel nominated 270 days ago, reported out of committee in july as nominee to be assistant secretary of the treasury for
analysis. this helps with many of the sanctions you have covered. so many of these positions in fact are national security positions. and lastly, kevin to be commissioner of the customs and border patrol was nominated 298 days ago. obviously it's been a priority of this administration to highlight the security threats we face our southern border. kevin in taking that role will be safeguard those borders and help terrorists and contraband from entering the united states. yet, congress and the senate continues to dither and not have a confirmation vote. we're pleased he finally got through a cloture vote last week. we expect him to be confirmed monday night. 298 days as the american people have been anxious to make sure our border is being secured, we still don't have a head of customs and border patrol. so this level of obstruction is beyond historic. it is something that you i know are focused on personnel inside the white house. we ask you shed light on the
historic obstruction that's happening in the united states senate to make sure we are able to fill out our administration, to do the job of the american people and help make sure our ountry is safe and secure. reporter: thanks for coming out. you mentioned your nominee at the state department for the arms control position. you mentioned the need for having that person for the upcoming negotiations with north korea. yet, you still do not have a nominee to be u.s. ambassador to south korea. why is that? when will you have that nominee? is that position also important for your efforts? marc: sure. i think there's been several conversations about that internally with putting forward nominees as they go through that process. in many cases it gets so delayed and so long nominees have withdrawn from the process before actually being submitted to the senate. so there's a couple examples where that's happened recently. that includes that post. but we've been having ongoing conversations about nominating someone soon. reporter: on the ambassador to
germany. which senator is actually ?olding up the nomination why doesn't senate majority leader mitch mcconnell [inaudible] why isn't mcconnell force a vote on the nominee? marc: mary elizabeth is one of the stars on our team that's been with us since day one and helped staff justice gorsuch and is in charge of the nominations. i will phone a friend on that one. he got out of committee so basically he's waiting for final vote on the senate floor. and so that -- i believe he got out of committee several months back so he's another one that should be on our list of those that should be waiting. the challenge leader mcconnell faces, when you are not allowed to bring up for voice vote he has to go through cloture and has to prioritize these and that's one that's been
obstructed. reporter: toxic nature that's been going on for several years, i mean, the democrats are pushing back because republicans. what are you doing to ease or water down that toxicity? what can you do? and secondly, explain to those who don't understand how it is a minority party when you control both the congress -- you know, both the how and senate how you're unable to get it through because that's one of the stumbling blocks people don't understand why you're complaining? marc: i think the reality is this is a senate process, not a house process. as you nominate the candidate to the senate for personnel issue, the senate has the ability to go through the nomination process, the committee process but it requires a supermajority to get past the motion to proceed. and what the senate has done is they basically said, we're going to require a cloture vote on these nominees where historically once out of committee they would bring it to the senate floor. they would require an up or down vote. you say it's part of the
toxicity that's been going on for some time. i think that's the point we're trying to make. it hasn't been going on for some time. this hasn't been the tradition of the united states senate to do what they're doing right now under senator schumer. it has not happened. the numbers i went through. we faced, again, four times the number of cloture votes in 14 months than the last four terms, last 16 years of the first term of a presidency. this is not what historically been done. reporter: it's a reflection, for example, when obama was in office and the republicans said they would make it their prime concern not to pass any legislation that obama favored, don't you see that as part of the problem? marc: i think part of the challenge the american people got so frustrated the way washington worked they elected an outsider to come to washington to try to fix it. what we're trying to do is shed light on the way this town works and the way the united states senate is broken. we are shedding that light to senator schumer and the democrats. even fellow democrats saying
the level of this is getting absurd and it's time we allow the president to fill out the administration. reporter: the republicans don't bear any of the blame? marc: republicans are moving forward for these votes. as far as the solution, this will be obviously an issue for the united states senate. but i do think this will force pressure to continue to see more rules changes in the united states senate. reporter: specifically, marc, does the president still feel -- do you still feel -- do you feel that rule 22 should be amended or eliminated to prevent what you're describing which are national security ramifications? you have a number of positions that you are arguing are essential to the national security of the united states and you say this is something democrats are obstructing to. republicans have 51 votes. what should happen? marc: i think that the united states senate is going to continue so have internal conversations about potential rule changes. i think that's a very fair question. i want to be respectful have a white house determine what the united states senate rules should be. continuing to highlight it and
recognize the level of obstruction, i think it continues to put more pressure on the senate to address this internally. reporter: are you concerned about -- are you concerned this obstruction will carry over to the nominee for secretary of state, nominee for c.i.a. director? marc: i think obviously the current director of the c.i.a. is somebody who's incredibly qualified, as people know. he graduated top of his class at west point. graduated top of his class at harvard law school. i think he's done a phenomenal job as director of the c.i.a. earned bipartisan support to be director of the c.i.a. so we would certainly hope considering only 14 months ago 15 senate democrats crossed over to support his nomination they would also support his nomination to be secretary of state. gina is we feel that uniquely qualified as someone who served in the c.i.a. for 33 years, has been station chief in multiple localities, has been commended by republicans
and democrats alike for those that she served under in previous administrations. i think she has incredible qualities. we are excited about her nomination. we're excited she would be the first female director of the c.i.a. and we would expect a very quick -- we would expect a quick hearing and moving forward a vote because these are critical national security positions. reporter: marc, has the president had any personal conversations with senator schumer about his obstruction, in your words specifically, as he's been having conversations about infrastructure and other matters, does he have -- why haven't we heard more from him about this? also, do you believe just given the backlog here, how many more confirmation hearings can this senate withstand as it leads to other potential personnel announcements that we may or may not be seeing in the coming days here? marc: i think you're going to -- i think the president has been vocal about this.
a warm-up aps on act for him to make his case to the american people that the obstruction has gotten ridiculous. yes, he's spoken to senator schumer about his frustration with this. reporter: is there a possibility the president may offer something, make a deal where not everyone gets what they want but has he offered anything to senator schumer in helping to get some of these nominations through? marc: i guess it's hard for me to understand what we should be offering when the american people elected a president and new administration to come in and the expectation they should fill out their administration. the senate has an advise and consent role. why should we offer on making a deal on something that should be a normal process for the united states senate? that is hard for us to understand. reporter: on daca, is there suggestion -- we will have concession on daca if you get some of the nominations through? marc: on daca the president has put forward a rational
proposal, one that will provide a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million people. we're frustrated that democrats don't want to come to the table. they want to politicize the issue. we stand ready to make a deal on that. but, again, i reject the notion this is something that should be offered for them just doing their job. let's just do the job for the american people. it shouldn't be something we have to barter in order for them to do what they're supposed to do. reporter: on daca is there room for a smaller deal? are you working a smaller deal now? one that doesn't have all four pillars but that might be part of the omnibus? marc: the president has been very open to continue negotiations on this. he's anxious to get a deal. he believes that it's important to secure our border but also believes passionately these are people who have been in our country working productively. in order to get a darka permit have been obeying -- daca permit have been obeying the law. e are anxious to get a deal. [inaudible]
reporter: just to be clear, marc. challenges of getting personnel cleared through u.s. congress prevent the president from changing his main cabinet right now if he wanted to? marc: no. i believe that the president always has the ability to make the changes that he wants. i don't think when he's ready to make a change he'll do that. i'm not sure he's worried what that process is. again, i think our challenges -- our requirement is to put forward quality people. if you look at gina and director pompeo, they're incredibly qualified. we think they'll make enormous contributions to the administration and the
american people and we hope the united states senate will confirm them quickly. thanks for coming. sarah: thank you, marc. because it's friday and it's st. patrick's day weekend, i'm sure you are have exciting plans. we'll take a few questions and then let everybody get out of here. go ahead. > sarah, an attorney for the
porn star stormi daniels said she [inaudible] affair of president trump. i wonder if you talked to the president about that. if he knows who might have threatened her or if he has concerns of women accusers being threatened in that way? sarah: we take the safety and security of any person seriously. certainly would condemn anyone threatening any individual but i have no knowledge of that situation and would refer you to the president's outside personal attorney. reporter: did the president have anything to say about that? sarah: i have not spoken to him about that. reporter: a law firm staff saying they're on edge, people are worried, they don't know what's happening in terms of staffing, firing. has the president or the chief of staff made any kind of assurances today about what's to come? sarah: the chief of staff actually spoke to a number of staff this morning reassuring them there were personnel
changes, no immediate personnel changes at this time and that people shouldn't be concerned. we should do exactly what we do every day and that's come to work and do the very best job that we can and that's exactly what we're doing. that's exactly what we're focused on and many of us have relayed that to other staffers that weren't part of that meeting and we're going to continue to focus on having record success in the second year as we had in our first year and we fully expect to do that and we expect to do that as a staff and as a team. kevin. reporter: thank you, sarah. life sentences for drug dealers as part of the fight opioid abuse and distribution. i am curious about the president's plan with respect to thought and his -- that and his thoughts on that. broadly speaking, is the ultimate penalty something that should be on the table when it comes to dealing with drug dealers and opioid abuse? sarah: i am not going to get ahead, as you said, of any potential policy rollout we may
or may not have at the white house. i know the president is headed to new hampshire wednesday to reinforce the administration's commitment to combating the opioid crisis. this builds on some of the previous action the administration has taken and we're going to continue to look for ways that we can combat that crisis but in terms of specifics on our rollout i don't have that. what i can tell you are some of the things we have done. particularly with the president's budget where it included $10 billion for h.h.s. to combat the opioid epidemic by preventing opioid abuse and helping those who are addicted get access to overdose, reversal drugs, treatment, and recovery support services. also empower attorney general jeff sessions and he announced the establishment of a team to elp federal enforcement of opioid sales. the department of veterans affairs released opioid prescribing rates and the president signed the interdict act which authorized the appropriation of $9 million to u.s. customs and border
protection to prevent, detect, and interdict the unlawful importation of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. those are things and steps the administration has taken. in terms of additional things and policies that had we may roll out, i'm not going to get ahead of any potential announcement that may or may not happen next week. reporter: you took to twitter last night to ensure the public that mcmasters' job is safe. but has the to mcmaster, shulkin that their jobs are in fact safe? sarah: again, like i said last night, i spoke directly to the president last night. he asked me to pass that message along to general mcmaster. i know the two of them have been in meetings today. whether or not that came up i don't know but, again, our focus is not on a lot of the new stories that you guys would like us to be focused on but we're actually focused on what the american people want us to do and that's to come here and do our job. general mcmaster is a dedicated public servant and he is here not focused on the new stories
that many of you are writing but on some really big issues. things like north korea. things like russia. things like iran. that's what he's doing. and that's what we're going to be focused on every single day we show up for work. reporter: there san issue when you look at the number of people you're hoping to confirm. to look at the people in these top positions that continue to change, just wanting to know if the president gave assurances to carson, to shulkin as well as mcmaster that their jobs are in fact safe? sarah: look, we are not making, as i said, we don't have any personnel changes at this time. the president shouldn't be bound because the senate and democrats can't do their job. if the president wants to make a change because he feels it's the right thing for the american people his hands shouldn't be tied because they failed to do what they were elected to do. the president was elected to put forward policies with the team he selects, not the team that the democrats thinks he should have. that's not how the system works. just because they don't want the president to have his full team, that doesn't mean if he
decided to make changes he shouldn't be able to. peter. reporter: just for clarity on this. i know you said this is something the media wants to talk about right now. frankly, it's the president who has stoked the speculation. just yesterday he said, i think you want to see change. earlier this week he said we are very close to getting the cabinet and other things that i want. isn't it the president himself who sort of creating this aura of -- some use the word chaos, but simply put, turmoil or potential upheaval within the west rink wink and across the administration? sarah: taking two sentences out of the thousands he makes and say it's the focus of his administration -- reporter: we are close to getting the cabinet and other things i want. there will always be change. i think you want to see change. sarah: you just nominated two new people to be part of his cabinet. so we are getting close. we'd like those two individuals to be quickly confirmed, quickly put through that process so they can take a seat at the table, so they can continue to engage with the president on big issues that actually matter to the american
people. sorry. i am going to keep moving fear. reporter: saying he had the best people -- reporter: it's been a week since the u.s. accepted the north korean's offer for a meeting. can you give us any update? have the u.s. had direct or northin direct contact with the north koreans or are you relying on this? sarah: i am not going to go into the details on the internal u.s. government preparations but i will say this is a comprehensive approach in had support of the president. we're continuing to move forward with those conversations. reporter: anything on timing? sarah: no updates on time or location. dave. reporter: thanks, sarah. the government said this week we reached a point where the government has added $1 trillion to the debt since president trump took office. obviously that's not the direction he promised to go in the campaign. and he really doesn't talk about deficits much anymore. has he given up on cutting
deficits? is he still concerned about it? what can he do about it? sarah: yes, he's concerned. that's why the budget he put forward tried to address some of those concerns. we're continuing to look for ways we can cut government. i think we've done that in a number of ways through the deregulation process, cutting out of a lot of inefficiencies in government and we'll continue to do that and continue to push for policies that will do that. reporter: thanks a lot, sarah. it's been a week the president said he would impose stiff sanctions on imported steel and imported aluminum. today the e.u. published a list of american products that would be targeted in retaliation for the tariff the president intends to impose. it's an exhaustive list. agriculture products. orange juice. motorcycles like harley-davidson. blue jeans. tobacco, motor boats. what's your reaction to this threat of retaliation to the president's plan to impose those tariffs? sarah: the president's going to
continue fighting for the american worker. he's also working with a number of individual countries in negotiating on areas of national security where we can work together and there's some flexibility there and we're continuing to have those conversations and will continue through the next part of the -- end of next week which is when i believe the deadline happens. reporter: in your view and the administration's view, would those e.u. tariffs hurt american workers? will they hurt american industry? sarah: again, we're going to continue to have those conversations with individual countries and we'll keep you posted on specific policies that happen. chris. reporter: [inaudible] quick confirmation of the c.i.a. director. congressman mccain put out a statement. [inaudible] a dark period of torture and what he calls torture. are you concerned about that nomination? it looks like one or two republican senators that could be against it. sarah: again, we're highly confident and very he excited
about the nomination of deputy director to take over at the c.i.a. she is an incredibly qualified. she's someone who's been in the c.i.a. for over 30 years, has the respect of both republicans and democrats. there have been a number of republicans who came out and praised this nomination, including senator feinstein, a democrat, who came out and -- in support of her today. as well as people that worked with her a number of years from both sides of the aisle that have very good understanding of the type of individual she is. everyone from leon panetta to james clapper that have praised her work and support her in this process. sorry. reporter: brief committees whatever they want to know about -- black night. the white house is going to be fulfilling the request regarding of c.i.a. [inaudible] sarah: we will be as cooperative as we can but we want to make sure people have
an accurate reflection which i know some of the senators, including rand paul, make comments off incorrect information so we certainly want to make sure they actually have accurate information, particularly before they go out and speak on behalf of their constituents. as a member of the united states senate, we hope they take that role very seriously and get accurate information before they peddle it out in ront of the american people. trey. reporter: you said you spoke to the president about potential staff turnover at the -- [inaudible] share rhode island -- sarah: specifically to mcmaster. the president said it was not accurate and he had no intention of changing, that they had a great working relationship and he looked forward to continue working with him. reporter: if i could ask you about syria. the president last month called the situation on the ground in syria a humanitarian disgrace, especially in the suburb east of damascus.
is the president taking any steps to try to correct humanitarian disgrace other than releasing statements by the administration? sarah: we're continuing to look at different ways the u.s. denounces the syrian regime and their violations of the united nations security council. and we'll continue to look at this and we'll make determinations and announcements as we move forward. reporter: thank you, sarah. turning away from personnel within the administration. personnel in the mid terms elections, danny, the insurgent candidate of senator heller, abandoned his candidacy to run for the house he said at the urging of the president. will the president be involved in other contested primaries involving republican incumbents and try to discourage these kind of challengers who i might add more often than not are backed by steve bannon and
sebastian? sarah: i can't get into any specific races due to a little thing called the hatch act but i can tell you the president is going to continue to support people that support his policies and his agenda and certainly those will be the type of candidates he'll look to support. reporter: thanks, sarah. couple. north korea -- i want to go back to shannon's question. has the united states received any direct or indirect confirmation that they are interested or is the united states acting on the representation of their negotiations? sarah: again, i can't get into the details of the preparations and the progress being made but i can tell you we're continuing to move forward in hopes of taking -- having the meeting take place. reporter: seizing the opportunity offered by marc's presence here today, my understanding and from several people in congress that the administration has been asking lawmakers to hold off on sanctions saying the executive branch powers are sufficient should the need arise to impose
more but also inflating the situation. would either you or marc address that? sarah: i know that we are continuing our maximum pressure campaign on north korea. we're continuing to ask our allies to engage in that maximum pressure campaign, not to let up at any point for any reason until we see real progress on the promises that have been made by the north koreans. beyond that i can't say more. take one last question. reporter: we are entering the 15th month of this administration. why is there a need for change inside the president's cabinet or among his circle of advisors? sarah: look, as we said many times before, you want the right people for the right time. and as policy, priorities change, that means sometimes you are going to have personnel change. that's not different for this administration as it has been in any other administration, and we're going to continue to add new staff regularly.
one last question. sorry, jeff. i'll go to your colleague here. reporter: thank you. britain, france, and germany have proposed fresh sanctions on iran. maybe in a bid to preserve the nuclear deal. do you have any response to that or any response to their kind of proposal to put new sanctions on iran? sarah: we don't have any new announcements on sanctions at this time. as always we're continuing to look at the best ways to promote and protect the american people and certainly push the president's agenda. thanks so much. hope you guys have a great friday. happy st. patrick's day. >> happy
st. patrick's day. >> yesterday, the house homeland security committee held a hearing with federal, state and local officials on the lessoned learned from 2017 natural disasters, including hurricanes harvey, irma and maria and you can see that at 8:00 on c-span. also tonight, testimony from
interior secretary ryan zinke on president trump's 2019 budget request for his department. he spoke before the senate energy and natural resources committee and we'll air that tonight starting at 8:00 eastern on c-span2. >> this weekend on the c-span networks -- saturday at 9:00 a.m. eastern -- "american history tv" on c-span3 with day-long live coverage from ford's theater in washington, d.c., for the annual abraham lincoln symposium with the author of "our little monitor: the greatest invention of the civil war," william harris, author of "lincoln and congress," michael, "abraham lincoln: a live," stanley, "lincoln and the abolitionists" and author of "lincoln's war secretary." book tv on c-span2 is live from the new museum of the bible in washington, d.c.
discussing the bible's influence on literature and its impact on government, legal systems, education, and human rights with the museum's director seth pollinger. we'll also take your calls during the program. watch this weekend on the c-span networks. >> the house armed services committee earlier this week heard testimony from the top u.s. military commander in europe. he talked about russia's intervention in ukraine. disinformation campaigns from russia. and russia's alleged use of biological weapons in the united kingdom. texas congressman mac thornberry chairs the armed ervices committee. mr. thornberry: the committee will come to order. committee welcomes general scaparrottii back today to testify on the threats and posture in the european commands area of responsibility. there, he faces the full range of security challenges from russia's constant modernization of its nuclear weapons and