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tv   MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin  MSNBC  May 12, 2017 10:00am-11:01am PDT

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craig melvin is up next. >> hey, droandrea, enjoy the weekend. craig melvin here in new york. a live look now at the white house briefing room. there it is. any moment we expect to see sean spicer return to the podium there. his deputy had been filling in while he was on navy reserve duty. mr. spicer will return to an onslaught of likely uncomfortable questions, beginning with that series of bizarre tweets from this morning from president donald trump. the president suggesting that he might actually cancel all future white house meetings. he also delivered a warning. some have characterized it as a wa threat to james comey, may have been recorded. already there are conflicting stories about what happened that the dinner. president trump's exclusive terview with lester holt will comeup, as well. while we wait for mr. spicer, let's play a portion of that
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interview. this is president trump talking about jim comey's firing and its relation to the russian probe. >> look, he's a show boat, a grandstander, the fbi has been in turmoil. you know that, i know that. everybody knows that. you take a look at the fbi a year ago. it was in virtual turmoil. less than a year ago. it hasn't recovered from that. >> monday you met with the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. did you ask for recommendation? >> what i did, i was going to fire comey. my decision. it was not -- >> you had made the decision before hand? >> i was going to fire comey. there's no good time to do it any way. >> in your letter, you said i accepted their recommendation. >> i was going to fire regardless of recommendation. he made a recommendation. he's highly respected, very good guy. very smart guy. the democrats like him. the republicans like him.
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he made a recommendation. but regardless of recommendation, i was going to fire comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. and in fact, when i decided to just do it, i said to myself, i said, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the democrats for having lost an election, that they should have won. and the reason they should have won is the electoral college is almost impossible for a republican to win, very hard. because you start off at such a disadvantage. so everybody was thinking they should have won the election. this was an excuse for having lost an election. >> are you angry with mr. comey because of his russian investigation? >> i just want somebody that's compete competent. i'm a big fan of the fbi. i love the fbi. >> are you a fan of him taking up that investigation? >> about the hillary clinton investigation? >> no, about the russian investigation --
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>> i don't care. as far as i'm concerned, i want that thing to be absolutely done properly. when i did this now, i said i probably, maybe will confuse people. maybe i'll lengthen the time, because it should be over with, many my opinion, should have been over with a long time ago. because all it, is an excuse. i said to myself, i mightven lengthen out the investigation. but i have to do the right thing for the american people. he's the wrong man for that position. >> more of lester holt's interview. kristen welker is in the briefing room. bring us up to speed on the last 4 hours, the tweets, the tax return information, and the conflicting tales about that dinner conversation. >> reporter: let's start with that tweet storm a lot of folks woke up to. i'll read through some of the top tweets. he raised some eyebrows when he tweeted --
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>> let's just start right there. that is, of course, a vigorous pushback for some of the criticism that he and some officials here are getting for having conflicting information. so putting out that threat of potentially canceling press briefings. of course, this is a chance for the white house to speak directly to the american people about the issues that they're working on, on any given day or week. so really something that impacts not the press, but rather the people who they're trying to reach. the other tweet, craig, that's getting a lot of headlines, this is about director james comey. he tweeted out -- >> reporter: of course, one of the top questions at the press briefing is going to be, there are, in fact, tapes of the president's phone conversations, that dinner he talked about with
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the former fbi director. in terms of the conflicting accounts that we are getting today, former and current fbi officials say that director comey was invited here to the white house instead of the other way around, which is what president trump said to lester. and they're also saying that he felt somewhat uneasy about it. we just heard james clapper tell andrea mitchell that he didn't want there to be any appearance of any lines crossed, as he did conduct that investigation. so that certainly contradicts what we heard from the president. then to your point about his taxes. we know that he submitted a letter to congress to lindsey graham saying he has no holdings or debt in russia, with the exception of a few things that he has resolved, which he pointed out. he had the miss america in russia several years ago. so that will undoubtedly be one of the things that we ask sean spicer
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so a lot of tough questions for the returning press secretary. >> kristen, stay with me as long as you can. i want to bring in jeff stein, the national security correspondent for "newsweek." michael warren is a writer for "the weekly standard." jeff, this possibility of a secret tape, it was reported last year in "the new york times," including in "the new york times," that trump employees have suspected him of using surveillance equipment at his properties. this is what "the times" wrote a year ago in may. in part, sin -- >> jeff, what were your initial thoughts when you read that tweet from the president a few hours ago? >> didn't surprise me at all. and i should also mention, buzz
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feed also did a story on that. so that's been dribbling out for some time. back in february, i asked the white house, i asked a spokesman for the national security council whether they had a taping system and he never responded to me. many presidents have done this, going back decades. nixon wasn't the first. lbj had secret tape recordings. so given what we know about donald trump and his try, it's not surtrprising at all. >> kristen, to your point again, i know this is going to come up during the press briefing. at this point, do we know? has the white house ever said anything about the possibility of a recording system there in the west wing? >> reporter: not once, craig. and i reached out the a number of officials here at the white house to put that question to them today. i haven't heard back from them. there's no reason to believe that there are such recordings. but again, this is something that we're going to drill down
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on withean spicer when he comes to the podium just a few minutes from now. but we've never had that indication. this has never been raised here within the west wing. certainly that tweet raises questions about what specifically the president was referencing. >> michael, jiaime clapper talkd to andrea mitchell a short time ago. he says he talked to jim comey before that now infamous dinner. take a listen to what he said. we don't have the jim comey sound bite. there it is. we do have it. >> the president told lester holt that comey was appealing for his job and the president asked him, you know, am i under investigation? and he said three times, twice on the phone and once at that dinner, no, i can assure you that you're not under investigation. knowing jim comey, most people who know him well say he they
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have said that to him. >> obviously, i don't know what was actually said at the dinner. i wasn't there. but i would find that very inconsistent with what i know of jim comey. and it would really be, i think, inappropriate and certainly in jim's case out of character for him to ask to stay on. >> michael, to some this version of what happened at that dinner, the president's version appears to be suspicious. and then you have the tapes tweet that appears as if a sitting u.s. president might be threatening the former head of the fbi, who could also potentially be a witness should a trial develop. or a hearing. is that how it reads to you, michael? >> yeah, i should say james clapper isn't an unimpeachable source. he politicized a lot of the intelligence. but that being said, there's really no reason -- you look back to everything we learned
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this week and had to relearn from this administration. there's no reason to take anyone at the administration on their word for this. that is what a is a bigger problem, which is the simple fact that you can't get a straight answer from anyone i the administration, and you really don't even know if the people you're speaking with, officials that i speak with, when i do my reporting, are even speaking with information that they know to be true. and that's a big problem that ultimately i think hurts institutionally the white house and sort of the bigger conversation that we're having about all of these issues. >> to that point, kristen, i want to play this exchange with vice president mike pence on wednesday. here it is. >> intelligence officials said there's an investigation -- [ inaudible ] >> that's not what this is about. the president took strong and decisive leadership here to put the safety and security of the
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american people first by accepting the recommendation of the deputy attorney general to remove director comey as the head of the fbi. >> accepting the recommendation from the vice president, that of course, before that interview with lester holt with the president says i already had my mind made up. it seems as if the vice president was sent out with incorrect talking points. is there anything he can do about it? >> top officials at the white house are pushing back against that criticism. they say their statements are not inconsistent with what the president was saying. their pushback, craig, is that the president provided a fuller picture yesterday. and they say look, we are giving you the -- the vice president is giving you the best information that we have when we have it. i put the question to them, does the president's tweet not make their job more difficult to effectively question the accuracy at the podium.
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they said look, he's just speaking to the reality, that there are a lot of moving parts at the white house, which is certainly the case. having said that, craig, these are real inconsistencies. we saw this when the vice president was sent out to defend mike flynn and his statements turned out not to be true. the vice president's office hasn't reacted to this yet. so we're still awaiting that. i can tell you that's going to be one of the top lines here in just a few moments, craig. >> jeff, let me bring you back into the conversation as we wait for this press briefing to start, if it does, i apologize for cutting you off. one of the things that continues to strike me about all of this. there was a story yesterday in "the washington post" where the writer cited 30 different sources. it seems as if every day there are a handful of stories where a number of high level officials
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or source. have you ever seen a white house leak like this? >> never. i mean, not to this degree. we've seen every white house, every administration leak a lot, when there are officials who have vehement disagreement with what is being said or done. so that's not new. but it wasn't just a writer at "the washington post." another ten people or so were contributing. the white house deliberation seems like an open book every day. we can talk to these officials now. they are sputtering mad at each other over various issues that develop every day, whether it's north korea to venezuela. of course, with this scandal over the firing of director comey.
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so they're going straight to the press. they're hardly doing a two-bang shot now. we're going to see a lot of pushback from inside the fbi, the justice department about the way this is being handled, this particular crisis over comey. i would say that the deputy attorney general rosenstein is probably wondering how much longer he should say on. because he came into this job with a sterling reputation from democrats and republicans for his work as a u.s. attorney in maryland. and now his reputation is at risk. and any fbi official who falls in line with the white house instead of acting independently, their reputations are on the line. so there's a lot at stake here, not just for the trump white house and the administration, but many officials in government. >> glenn thrush has joined us. glenn thrush of "the new york times." glenn, you've been in the white
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house briefing room asking sean spicer questions. going back to wt the president tweeted this morning, this idea that perhaps we should just hand out written statements, maybe we should cancel all of these news conferences, these press briefings, because it is unreasonable to expect that the white house press secretary or a deputy can get it right. did the president throw spicer, throw sarah huckabee sanders and the rest of the press office under the bus this morning? >> i think they had to get -- not this morning. i think this morning, believe it or not, the way that i interpreted his initial tweet in terms of the kind of the kremlinology of this -- well, that's probably not the way to put it. it was almost a veiled apology to vice president mike pence. it's essentially saying that things are moving so fast, they couldn't have gotten the accurate information. that's what -- and i've talked
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with a couple of people over there and they interpreted it like that. but when you throw people under the bus, you're going have to get a newer, bigger bus. this is a president who views a lot of his defenders as being disposable. he's a guy in the private sector who tends to hire people. and you make them sign nondisclosure agreements and they fight for you and you can yell at them and move them around like so many pieces. -- comey refusing to do a loyalty oath to trump. people's loyalties are supposed to be divided between the constitution and serving their immediate supervisor. that's the way the system is set up. when you pull that other imperative out, serving the american people in the larger interest, you get a distorted
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situation. it doesn't matter who is standing up there. the quality of the information we've been getting from these briefings from day one has been substandard. the administration doesn't need to change their personnel, they need to change their approach to the quality of information that they're giving out. >> do you think it's deliberate, glenn, in terms of the quality of that information, or is it just a president that's detached from the people who are going out and disseminating this information? >> i think a combination of all things. for a while here, and we've been going at this for more than 3 1/2 months now, i thought some of the initial stumbles had to do with core competence. but the president was vetoing members of the press staff that people were thinking of hiring. he shouldn't be doing that. that's below the presidency. he even initially attempted to veto spicer, because spicer had
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said some things right before the election indicating that spicer wasn't confident that trump was going to win. who cares about that kind of thing? that's just -- i mean, he's micromanaged his press operation. we know that he's called spicer in on the carpet to yell at him. he watches the briefing. he talks about the ratings that spicer is getting. so it's a combination of the fact that we don't have a professional and experienced communications staff who knows how to do this in the context of the white house versus a president just intent on micromanaging his image. let's not forget one of the most startling stories about donald trump was that he used two aliases to talk to reporters, claiming that he was a pr agent. so he's behaving exactly as he did when he was a developer and a reality tv star. and that just doesn't cut it in the white house. >> let's take a break. it seems as if mr. spicer is
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running a few minutes behind, actually about 19 minutes behind for that scheduled white house press briefing. when that happens, when it starts, we'll bring it to you live. plus, president trump saying that he supports an investigation into russia's role in hacking the election. we'll check in with a member of the house intelligence committee for the latest on their investigation. pon a time hansel and gretel came upon a house made out of gingerbread. being quite hungry, they started eating the roof. the homeowner was outraged. luckily the geico insurance agency had helped her with homeowners insurance. she got all her shingles repced. hansel and gretel were last seen eating their way through the candy cane forest. call geico and see how easy it is to switch and save on homeowners insurance. there's nothing more than my vacation.me so when i need to book a hotel room, i want someone that makes it easy to find what i want. booking.com gets it. they offer free cancellation if my plans change.
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any moment now, we are expecting sean spicer at that
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podium for today's white house press briefing. before that, let's play more from lester holt's interview. this part, presint trump says he actually backs the probes into russia's involvement in the election. take a listen. >> there is an investigation under way, an fbi investigation. is that charade? >> i don't know if it's an fbi or -- there's so many investigations. i don't know if it's an fbi investigation or if it's congress, if it's the senate. >> james comey testified there was an fbi investigation. >> i think they're also helping the house and the senate. so you probably have fbi, but you have house, you have senate. they have other investigations. >> but when you put out tweets, it's a hoax, a taxpayer charade and you're looking for a new fbi director, are you not sending that person a message to lay off? >> no, i'm not. i think that we have to get back to work. but i want to get to the bottom. if russia hacked or did anything having to do with our election, i want to know about it.
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>> so many questions on this friday afternoon. sean spicer is at the podium to provide some answers, we hope. let's take a listen. >> our goal is to kind of start that process now and then next week bring the general back and give you a more detailed update as to what the president's going to be doing in each of the areas and some of the highlights from the trip. we'll have background briefings for you, as well, to give the people that's going to be traveling from the press core some updates. without further ado, general mcmaster. >> will you take questions afterward? >> yes, i will be glad to take your question. in fact, you get to go first today. >> thank you, sean. good afternoon, and happy mother's day weekend, everybody. as you all know, in exactly one week, the president will embark on his first trip abroad since taking office. today, i would like to explain the president's objectives for his visits to the middle east
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and to europe. and also preview a bit of the schedule. the trip has three core purposes. first, to reaffirm america's global leadership. second, to continue building key relationships with world leaders. and third, to broad cast a message of unity to america's friends and to the faithful of the three -- of three of the world's greatest religions. the president prioritizes building strong relationships as you see here every day. with world leaders, as a way to strengthen our alliances. and he's been successful. you can see that in his diplomacy with a range of leaders, from prime minister may to president xi. president trump understands that america first does not mean america alone. to the contrary, prioritizing american interests means strengthening alliances and partnerships that help us extend our influence and approve the
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security of the american people. this trip is truly historic. no president has ever visited the homelands and holy sites of the jewish, christian and muslim faiths, all on one trip. and what trump is seeking is to unite peoples of all faiths around a common vision of peace, progress, and prosperity. he will bring a message of tolerance and of hope to billions, including to millions of americans who profess these faiths. the president will focus on what unites us. the president's trip will begin in saudi arabia, home to the two holiest sites in islam. he will encourage our arab and muslim partners to take bold, new steps to promote peace and to confront those from isis to al qaeda to iran, to the assad
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regime, who perpetuate chaos and violence that's inflicted so much suffering throughout the muslim world and beyond. he will lead the first steps toward a stronger, more capable, and more robust security partnership with our gulf, arab and muslim partners and develop a strong, respectful message that the united states and the entire civilized world expects our muslim allies to take a strong stand against radical islamist ideology, an ideology that uses a perverted interpretation of religion to justify crimes against all humanity. he will call for muslim leaders to promote a peaceful vision of islam. the president will travel to israel with prime minister netanyahu, he will reaffirm america's unshakeable bond to
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the jewish state with. president abbas, he will express his desire for dignity and self-determination for the palestinians. and to leaders and peoples alike across the entire trip, he will demonstrate his hopes for just and lasting peace. in rome, the president will be honored to accept an audience with pope francis. he looks forward to paying his respects and to discussing religious freedom. ways to combat religious persecution, human trafficking and cooperating on humanitarian missions across the globe. he will also pay his respects to the italian people by meeting with the president, the head of state and one of america's most important treaty allies and trading partners. you al he will also see the prime minister. from rome, the president will continue to brussels for the
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nato leader's meeting and reaffirm america's commitment to the alliance. while stressing the need for members to pay their fair share, to shoulder responsibility to share burdens, and for the institution to continue on the path of strengthening the alliance. president trump will end his trip in sicily for the g7 meeting where he will promote american leadership, and also address unfair trade practices. he will remind our friends and partners that we are eager to explore further ways to address threats to our mutual security, from north korea, to afghanistan, to the broader middle east. before leaving, the president will visit naval air station siganella there he will thank our servicemen and women for their sacrifices to keep us safe. and across the trip, he will meet our diplomats, the staff and our embassies who represent
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us so well across the world. lastly, just a few words on how this came together. the impetus of this trip came from the president himself, and he's been fully engaged from the beginning, setting objectives, overseeing the planning. the president is receiving regular briefings from his cabinet and from our senior staff here on the national security side, and on the economic side, as well. most of the leaders the president will meet on this trip, he's already met in person or by phone. these relationships are off to a very strong start. and the trip is an opportunity to broaden and deepen those relationships. the administration continues to be in close contact and consultation with congress, and we're drawing all the expertise across the senate and house for preparation of the trip, as well. and finally, this really is a team effort. the white house and national security staff continue to work closely with our departments of state, treasury, defense, and
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otrs to fulfill the president's objectives and ensure smooth execution. on behalf of the president, i express the whole administration's thanks for all the hard work it takes to organize a trip of this scope and of this importance. so the president of and all of us are looking forward to the journey. with that, i'll take a couple of questions. >> general mcmaster, how is this president viewed among our arab allies compared to his predecessor? >> i would just say the president's leadership has been welcomed. welcomed enthusiastically. there was a perception that america had largely disen gaund from the middle east, and so now there's a broad recognition among all our partners that american leadership is necessary to help address this catastrophe, and to begin to
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move the region toward the peace, security, and stability that the people there so deserve. and so what you're seeing i think is a galvanizing effect of the president's leadership and bringing those leaders together across the region. and bringing them together for a positive agenda. who is against ending this catastrophe. who is against confronting these terrorists, who are the enemies of all civilized people. confronting iran who is participating in this cycle of violence, and to bring prosperity, peace to the region. >> general mcmaster, somebody who is leading the national security council, i have to ask you, there have been a lot of reports that intelligence officials are extremely concerned about how james comey was fired. do you believe that threatens national security right now? >> well, i told sean that i would pass all those questions to him. he'll be happy to answer that after this. what i would like to do is focus on the trip and i'll come back
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next week with more details of the trip, as well. >> you said the president was -- the impetus of the trip came from the president himself. was it the president who decided to begin this trip in saudi arabia, the firth place birthpl, and how many countries, muslim majority countries will he represent at the meetings in saudi arabia? >> this is the president's initiative to begin the trip in the middle east, hosted by the kingdom of saudi arabia. and the king is going to bring together partners from across the region to meet with the president. so the answer to the question is, he'll meet with a broad range of leaders in the middle east. of course, many of whom -- most of whom he's already met here or by phone certainly.
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and we have the crown prince is coming for example on monday, as well. >> general mcmaster, at the beginning of this very long week, we were hearing speculation that the president was considering thousands more troops for afghanistan. when he goes to brussels on thursday of next week, what is the message to the nato partners with respect to their commitment in this long night is >> well, the key is that all of us have to be committed to achieving our fundamental objectives in afghanistan. americans know better than anybody, because the mass murder against our own country on september 11, 2001, originated with a support base in afghanistan. recently, we have been engaged against isis with highly successful operations there in afghanistan that you'll hear more about at the department of defense here in the near future. but what has happened in afghanistan is the afghan army
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is taking the brunt of the fight against these transnational terrorists and the taliban. and so we're working with our allies to figure out what more we can do to have a more effective strategy in afghanistan. what our options we can bring to the president to be more effective in meeting our objectives in afghanistan. and what more can we ask our allies to do which we're asking them now. this is going to be consistent with the president's guidance to us. >> has the president -- >> the president has not made a decision yet on a course of action. what we have done, which is what we have done on many cases on the north korean problem, is we have consulted broadly across our government and with allies. the president wants to hear from our allies, as well. this is a president who listens to his allies and partners, who have an opportunity to do so at the nato summit, at the g7. and so what we'll have at the end of this next few weeks here is an opportunity for a much more effective strategy for the
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problems in afghanistan, pakistan and the region broadly. >> jessica? >> thank you, sean. general, if you could talk about the evolution from the way the president campaigned to this multilateral engagement that you're emphasizing and the way you're rolling out this trip to explain that. and if you could talk about the decision to send a delegation to the one belt, one road forum in china. and what you hope to get out of that. >> so america first didn't mean america alone ever. so what we have done is advanced the president's agenda in national security by strengthening alliances by burden sharing. americs dot have to bankroll everythi, and our allies and partners are grateful for the president's leadership in asking them to do more. so there's an alliance in which each of the members are doing their fair share. the president has done a great
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deal to strengthen our alliances. and america first didn't mean america not leading. so for america to secure and advance its interest, that requires american leadership. and so the president's leadership has been welcomed in all the places that we'll be visiting on this trip. and his agenda, i think he laid out in the campaign, is being operationalized and implemented by his cabinet with the assistance of our team in the white house. >> two questions. first -- [ inaudible ] -- and also to nbc news yesterday, the president said that general mattis and his other generals would be announcing something on isis next week. as one of the generals on his administration, can you talk to that? is there an announcement coming next sfwheweek? >> a lot of what we do in the
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national security council is keep up with the president. i think there are plans to -- [ inaudible ] >> the final plans aren't set yet. we can comment about that more next week. but it will be up to the president and those leaders how he wants to engage with them. he'll engage with both those leaders there. in terms of the campaign against transnational terrorist organizations and isis in particular, the president asked us to do everything we can to defeat isis and in particular to ensure that we defeat isis in this so-called caliphate that they are endeavoring to hold onto in syria, iraq, afghanistan, and other areas. and what the president has also told us, he doesn't want to telegraph what he's doing tactically day-to-day. he wants the department of defense and military commanders to execute those campaigns consistent with his policies. so next week it will be an opportunity for our milit
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leadership to lay out how we are -- how they are executing the president's guidance, the progress we have made in the campaign, and what remains to be done. so that's really the emphasis of the press conference next week. >> thank you, general. >> can we hear about russia and the agreements made this week with russia's top diplomat? you're going to the region to speak with arab allies. how are you going to speak to agreements made with russia? >> i would characterize the engagements with russian leadership by our secretary of state, the brief meeting that the president had with foreign minister lavrov, the phone conversations that we've had with russian leadership as engagements, not decisions or specific approaches. i think what the president has med che made clear is he will confront
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russian behavior and its enabling of iran and destructive policy they're executing in the middle east, what it's done and continued to do in the ukraine. he will confront that. but the president is looking for areas of cooperation. there are a lot of significant security problem sets across the world. all of them would get easier if russia were to come to the conclusion it could best advance its interests through cooperating with the united states and others to resolve those conflicts rather than perpetuate them. >> aren't they party to those conflicts and causing them in syria? the president said at the end of his meeting with lavrov that it was very good. are you saying there was no agreemen >> the president spoke in positive, affirmative, strong terms in his engagements with russian leaders. >> thank you very much.
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>> can you tell us more about the america first policy, about how it changed over time? because it's not been very clear what it meaning and how other people would want to sign up for it. >> what it means is that the president is prioritizing the security and interests of the american people. you can see that with what secretary ross has done in the economic relationship with china. to look for ways to advance american prosperity. every theme of this trip is wholly consistent with the president's approach to prioritize the american people, american security, american jobs, american prosperity. so you'll see that with i think almost a refreshing i would say integration of what we're doing in terms of security partnerships, along with economic relationships, and the diplomatic engagement that the president's cabinet has been engaged with since he's taken
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over as president. and this trip is going to be a tremendous way to solidify the gains already made and advance them further. >> thank you very much. >> all right. thank you, general master. i'm going to go through a couple of updates and schedule before i get to your questions. and jeff will get the first one. first off, secretary ross was up here last night to tell you about the developments that have happened in trade. we have the initial results of the 100 day action plan of the united states/china economic dialogue which began with the meeting in mar-a-lago. the united states has negotiated intensively to reach consensus in areas including agricultural trade, financial services, investment, and energy.
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one of the actions i want to point out in particular sets the stage for china to allow imports of american beef beginning no later than july 16th of this year. it's been 13 years since our cattle producers have been effectively locked out of the chinese market. china is the second largest beef importer in the world, buying roughly $2.6 billion of beef every year. in a statement last night, the national cattlemen's beef association, the nation's largest association of cattle farmers said "it's impossible to overstate how beneficial in will be for america's cattle producers and how the trump administration deserves a lot of credit for getting this achieved." this announcement came on the same day that secretary purdue visited a large barge loading facility on the ohio river and will appoint the first undersecretary of trade at the u.s. department of agriculture.
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this is further proof of the seriousness which the administration is approaching the promotion of u.s. agricultural products abroad. that's just one part of the deal reached. here are some of the other highlights that we have worked with china. eight pending biotech patents from united states firm also be evaluated at a meeting by the end of may. welcome china to receive import, liquefied natural gas with companies allowed to proceed to negotiate contracts. china will allow financial services firms to provide credit investigations and rating services. by july 16th, china will issue further guidance to allow american own sup pliers to operate in china and china will allow two american financial institutions to issue underwriting licenses no later than july 16th. as we continue to make progress, including discussion of a one-year plan to solidify action to ben fight bo-- benefit ameri.
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>> this policy was formulated after consultation with the prosecutors that handle these cases each day around the country. with these additional options available, they have the leverage they need to get at the root of drug trafficking and the violent crime that surrounds it. as the attorney general said this morning, this will take the handcuffs off of our nation's prosecutors and if i can add, it puts the handcuffs on the drug traffickers who threaten the safety of our families and communities. the trump administration is signaling to the worst of the worst, the drug traffickers w violate our drug laws to move these dangerous substances around our border and into our communities, that the united states department of justice will no longer look the other way.
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this week, the administration has also been busy engaging with senators and staff, now that the american health care act and the relief it promised to the american people is in the senate's hands. i know sarah talked yesterday about how aetna pulled out of obamacare exchanges completely. another report showed that the average premium for individual plans has spiked 39% since 2014. in some cases, insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses have become family's most significant expenses. with each new report, it becomes clearer and clearer, we can't wait to repeal and replace this failing system. until we enact serious reforms of the health care system, the american people will continue to suffer under the consequences. tomorrow, the president will deliver his first commencement address at liberty. he's greatly looking forward to
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visiting with students and faculty who gave him such a warm welcome last year. many of you know, lib the erty e largest christian school in the nation and has made many strides forward in academics and athletic endeavors. the president will be congratulating the graduates on their accomplishments and encouraging them to be a force for good in the country by standing up for their values. he will be offering congratulations, thanks, and praise and encouragement on a day of optimism and new beginnings for the graduates as well as the nation. in terms of the rundown next week, the president has a packed schedule before we depart on his first foreign trip. monday, he's hosting the crown prince of the united arab emirates. tuesday, he will welcome the president of turkey. wednesday, the president will travel to new london, connecticut to deliver the commencement address to the
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united states coast guard academy. on friday, we set off for -- on the trip stopping in saudi arabia. in honor of mother's day, the first lady will host a reception in honor of military mothers in the residence, followed by the marine band. the white house will issue a mother's day proclamation later, as well. this is the official reminder to everyone to get your flowers and cards before it's too late. and with that, jeff mason. >> thank you for that reminder, sean. moving on to the news of the week and the day, did president trump record his conversations with former fbi director comey? >> i assume you're referring to the tweet. the president has nothing further to add on that. >> why did he say that? why did he tweetat? >> as i mentioned, the president has nothing further to add on at. >> are there recording offices in the oval office?
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>> for the third time flsh, the nothing further to add. >> does he think it's appropriate to threaten someone like director comey? >> the tweet speaks for itself. i'm moving on. >> the president said, russia must be laughing watching as the u.s. tearing itself apart over a democratic excuse for losing the election. how specifically is the u.s. tearing itself apart? >> i think the president's comment about the russia collusion have been very clear. with respect to some of the charges that have been made, he's been very clear that it's one thing that he believes that the investigation -- that the notion that there's collusion is a hoax. it's been reaffirmed by several people, including several grassley and others. and he wants to make sure he's focused on what's best for the american people.
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>> how is the u.s. tearing itself apart? >> i think obviously this has been a subject that comes up of and over again, when it oets been clearly stated on multiple occasions that there's no collusion that along, interfere in the election? >> i have no idea. what i'm just telling you is i think we have made it clear at this podium several times, i think the president made it clear what his feelings are on this. >> sean, in the dinner that the president had with james comey earlier in january, did the president implore him to pledge his loyalty to the president? is that true? >> no. >> it did not happen? >> no. >> how important is it that his staff show loyalty to him, particularly the fbi dictor? >> i think the president wants loyalty to this country and to law. >> does anybody in this white house have an audio recording of what unfolded during the january
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27 dinner between the former fbi director and the president of the united states? >> i'm not aware of that. >> i have one follow-up question for you. what can the administration do better when it comes to communication? today the president tweeted out that he felt from behind that podium it's not always possible to present the information with perfect accuracy. >> so, look, i think we come out here every day and try to do the best job we can communicating what the president has done and the accomplishments he's making on the american people. we get here early, we work beyond being here at this podium. as many of you know, we get here early, we work pretty late. we do what we can, but the president is acting as president. he keeps a very robust schedule, as many of you know, as you can tell from the activities next week leaalone. we don't always get the opportunity to speak with him. in those cases we do our best to follow up with you. there are times when you more
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than not read a story where somebody is trying to pull apart one word, one sentence and say, aha and make it a gotcha thing. we work hard to give you the most up to date information throughout the day. we don't always get the opportunity to get in and see the president. in those cases i think we do a pretty good job of following u and getting you the information after the briefing or subsequent. so tt's exactly what he meant. >> is the president considering cancelling the daily press briefings? >> i think he's a little dismayed, as well as a lot of people, that we come out here and try to do everything we can to provide you and the american people with what he's doing on america's bl a's behalf, what h doing to keep america safe, what he's doing to grow jobs. yet we see time and time again of you trying to parse every word and making it a game of gotcha as opposed to why somebody is being pursued or what's the update on this. i don't think it's something that just alone the president feels.
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>> one final question. >> it's friday. >> on the original question i had about the dinner on january 27th with james comey, the president wasn't clear during the nbc interview who invited the fbi director to the white house at that time. how many invitations did the white house send to director james comey after january 20th and before the director was fired? >> i don't know. i'll try to get back to you. katy? >> hey, sean, i have a question about the president's visit next week. president erdogan originally called for peace between the palestinians and i see rasraeli. what is his response thoo that? >> i think you've seen in his meetings with the foreign leaders, he tries for peace and i think he's had good results in
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that. whether it's the progress he made with china or overseas, the president is trying to protect the united states. as general mcmaster noted, it's those decisions and that trust and relationships continue to be built. [ inaudible question ] >> there is a difference, katy. if we can get out here, i think what the president believes is that behind-the-scenes diplomacy pays dividend in terms of affecting behavior and outcomes and furthering goals of the united states. that's as much as i want to say there. >> my other question is, is the discussion about the refugee crisis which is fueling problems in europe, the president talks about refugees being a problem in the united states, refugees hiding -- terrorists hiding, excuse me. is he going to talk about that with arab leaders specifically when he visits saudi arabia, or is that not something he's going
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to bring up to those leaders? >> he talked about safe zones with the foreign minister earlier this week. he brought it up on the calls. i'm not going to get ahead of his conversations he's going to have, but i think the president has been very publicly clear about his desire to address that situation and some of the solutions that exist. but in a lot of the readouts we've had, that is part of it because he believes that has to be part of the solution. john? >> in the interview the president conducted yesterday with nbc, he indicated and confirmed that on three separate occasions he asked the director of the fbi and received assurances from the fbi that he was not under investigation by them. why was the president seemingly so consumed by this that he would ask that question on three separate occasions? >> i think because the narrative continues to be per ppetuated a he wanted clarity to be sure. again, i haven'tpoken thim
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on the reason, but i think he answered it yesterday very clearly, and so i c g back to you, but that's the answer. >> i would appreciate you getting back to me. as far as asking that question, did the president ask the white house counsel whether it would be appropriate to ask such a question given that it was against, generally, justice department guidelines to indicate whether or not investigations are ongoing against any individual, let alone at the white house? >> i don't knowment. i will tell you i know several legal scholars who said there was nothing inappropriate about that. >> general mcmaster mentioned on the trip the president is going to be raising the issue of religious persecution with the pope. i want to ask you about a case last week in indonesia when the president of jakarta was imprisoned for the last two
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years. does the president find that troubling? does he plan to say anything? >> did john give you this question? >> i'm sorry. >> i don't have any updates on that particular case. i would ask you to check with the state department. >> i just want to affirm a point. this is a yes or no question. is the president confirming meetings taking place in the oval office? >> i think i indicated that the president has no further comment on this. >> you gave me a blanket answer saying at the time it was all up to deputy general rod rosenstein. why did you come out later with a reason that was contradictory with the president. who else was involved? why weren't the american people given correct information that night? >> i don't believe that's necessarily true, zeke. there was a decision-making process. the president explained it in the interview process.
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the bottom line is that the director of the fbi serves the president. the president made a decision to replace him, as he has stated very clearly now publicly. the president is now focused on making sure that he finds a replacement that has the leadership qualities to lead the fbi. that's it, plain and simple. cam? >> what you said tuesday doesn't match what the president was laying out yesterday in his interview. can you offer up why the discrepancy as to whose decision it was? >> it's always the president's decision. that's it, final. as i mentioned to zeke, this is always going to be the president's decision. everybody who serves for the president, it's always going to be his decision to hire someone or fire someone. he is now focused on making sure we'll have a replacement at the
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fbi toin sti instill the proper leadership we need. [ inaudible ] >> how many people have been interviewed? does the presint hope to wrap this up before he goes overseas? >> on the ting i think as soon as he finds a candidate that fits the qualities that he feels are necessary to lead the fbi, that's the timeline of that. i know that the department of justice has begun to create that list and i believe if they haven't already, they are going to be starting the process of interviewing people either today or through the weekend. but, i mean, the president obviously wants to make sure we have the right person, and that process is being headed by the department of justice. >> i would imagine someone being ministerial in that role. if there is someone that is a member of congress past or present, does that disqualify them in that role? >> i haven't asked the
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president. i don't believe he's stated a certain in and out. the justice department is reviewing a list of candidates, and the president will study that and make a decision. >> someone asked after the testimony of andrew mccabe the other day, is that still -- >> i have not asked him about his -- generally i don't go through the list of covert employees and i have not asked him specifically about that. >> yesterday sara told us the president expects that the fbi investigation will be wrapped up with integr that's what the white house wants. today the president tweeted and called it a witch hunt. how does tweeting and calling it a witch hunt help wrap that investigation up with integrity? >> the president -- you know, no one wants this done -- he wants to know very clearly -- there's two pieces to this, right, which was what was russia's involvement? the president is obviously very

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