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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, 12/12/2017, #40

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

3:08 P.M. EST

MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. Let me start by introducing Francis Cissna, the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. He's here to provide a briefing on the attempted suicide bombing in New York and how it was enabled by flaws in our immigration system.

After he speaks and takes some of your questions, I'll be back up to answer questions on other news. And, as always, if you can stay focused on the topic at hand, that would be great. Thanks so much.


MR. CISSNA: Hello. I'm here to talk to you about yesterday's incident and kind of give you some of the context and perspective in the immigration system -- how it works, or how it didn’t work, in this case -- and what are the sorts of things our administration is proposing to change it to make it better.

So, as you all know, yesterday, the suspect, Akayed Ullah, was arrested in an attempted bombing in New York City. And there's an immigration aspect to this. The immigration aspect is that he immigrated to this county; he was a green card holder, a lawful permanent resident. He came to this country based on family connection to a U.S. citizen. He was a national of Bangladesh. The U.S. citizen in question was his uncle, and that U.S. citizen, many years ago, came to this country originally as a visa lottery winner.

So this is the general background. I now want to try to explain what all that means, where those terms come from, and what the significance of all that is.

First, I would explain that, for those who aren’t aware, our immigration system has two principal components. There's a family-based component through which the suspect in yesterday's attack -- alleged bombing incident -- came through. And there's an employment-based component.

In any given year, we have about 1 million immigrants. One million people come here to get green cards, immigrant visas. In fiscal year '15, for example, of that 1 million, about 72 percent of our immigrants came based on a family connection, and only 6 percent -- or about 1 out of 15 -- came based on an employment or job connection, job offer. So you can see the immigration system is heavily weighted towards family migration.

There are other categories of people that immigrate as well, besides just family and employment-based, including refugees, asylees, and, of course, the visa lottery people that I just referenced. But those are very small compared to those two larger categories.

I want to talk now about these in particular -- the family-based, the employment-based, and then the visa lottery. In the family-based migration category, there are multiple categories of people. The principal category -- family-based immigrants -- are called "immediate relatives." These are people who are the spouses or children, nuclear family members, of U.S. citizens. In a given year, you have about half a million people in that category. In fact, I have better numbers than that. In fiscal year '16, in that category -- these are people who are the nuclear family members of U.S. citizens -- there were about 566,000 people that immigrated.

An additional category in the family-based universe are what are called "preference" categories. These are more extended family connections. These include unmarried -- the first category -- unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; second category -- spouses of green card holders, unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders; third category -- married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; fourth category is brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens and their children. That's the category that yesterday's suspect came in under.

So the suspect in yesterday's bombing came in under the most extreme, remote possible family-based connection that you could have under current U.S. immigration law -- that being the child of the sibling of a U.S. citizen.

Under the employment-based categories -- that's a much smaller number -- only 140,000 slots are allocated in a year to that category, but you're only really getting about half that number of actual workers because the spouses and children don't count towards that category.

There you have a number of categories, including categories for extraordinary ability of workers. You have people with advanced degrees. You have people who are skilled professionals and immigrant investors. There's multiple categories, but a much smaller number than the family-based categories. And again, I remind you, only 1 out of 15 of our immigrants come in under those skilled categories.

Let me turn now to the diversity visa, which is the other visa program that is relevant to yesterday's events. The diversity visa, or visa lottery as it's called colloquially, is a program that was established back in 1990. There were some precursor programs before that, but, basically, the program as we know it was established in 1990. That's seen 50,000 people a year based on an immigration lottery.

The qualifications for registering for the lottery are that you have to be from a country that had low immigration in the previous five years, and the person who's applying for the lottery has to either have a high school degree or, if they have no education, at least two years of experience in a job that requires two years of training. So the criteria are very low.

The problems with the visa lottery are various. First, because the criteria are so low, either you have no education at all and very little skills, or you have a minimum of education and no skills at all. And because it's a lottery, pretty much anybody on the planet who is from a qualifying country can take advantage of this.

In 2003, the State Department's Inspector General Office observed that this low eligibility criteria could lead to exploitation by terrorists. They warned about this in 2003. The GAO, in 2007, echoed that warning -- again, warning that terrorists could take advantage of the diversity visa program.

Also, the program is racked with fraud. In 2003, the State Department IG, 15 years ago, noted that the program was rife with pervasive fraud. The fraud, the low eligibility standards, all these contribute to its potential exploitation by terrorists and other mala fide actors.

Bangladesh is an interesting case. That's the country where yesterday's suspect came from. That country was a high user of the visa lottery program. In fact, in 2007 -- which was the peak year for that country's use of the visa lottery -- 27 percent of the immigrants from that country came through that program, through the visa lottery program.

Uzbekistan, which was the country of origin of the alleged -- the truck driver from October 31st in New York City -- in 2010, 70 percent -- 7-0 percent -- of immigrants from Uzbekistan came through the visa lottery program.

So that program is used as a prime avenue for immigration for many countries.

Finally, let me touch on the subject of chain migration. When I use that word, what I'm talking about is a person who comes to this country and who, in turn, employs one of these many avenues that I just described, principally family-based, to sponsor relatives who are in the home country to come and join him or her.

Because the categories that we have that I just described in family-based migration are so extensive, it's not just nuclear family. You also have, as I say, adult unmarried children; brothers and sisters; nieces and nephews. You can sponsor a person like yesterday's alleged terrorist at the extremity of that chain, and then that person, in turn, can sponsor people and so on, and so on, indefinitely.

Hundreds of thousands of people come into this country every year based on these extended-family migration categories. And it is my view, it our administration's view, that that is not the way that we should be running our immigration system. A system like that, that includes something like the diversity visa program, these extended-family categories are not the way anybody would have designed this immigration system if we could start from scratch today.

What we need is an immigration system that is selective. We want to be able to select the types of people that are coming here based on criteria that ensure their success; criteria that ensure their ability to assimilate successfully in our country. And random lotteries, extended-family connections -- that's not the way to run our immigration system.

So I appeal -- we appeal -- to the Congress as they consider these matters as we speak, and in the coming weeks, to seriously take into account these concerns that we have with the way the immigration system is structured and its vulnerabilities, as I just described, and correct that.

At that point, my formal comments are concluded. I'll answer any questions you have.

Q Thanks a lot, Mr. Cissna. I want to ask you a question about what you're suggesting. Is it your belief that the only changes that can be done to the immigration system are ones that need to emanate from Congress? Are there any things that the President can do on his own, by executive action, by executive order to change the process for either chain migration or the visa lottery?

MR. CISSNA: Well, I mean, that's something we're looking at right now in USCIS -- my agency -- which is the agency that administers all these visa programs. And there are some things that we could do. There are some things that the President has directed us to do by executive order, in particular with the temporary visa categories. We're talking about green cards here. But if you look at temporary visa categories, yes, there's a lot of things that we can do and that we're going to do, for example, to increase protections of American workers.

In the green card domain, it's a little harder. Congress has kind of occupied that field a little more densely than it has in the temporary visa area. But there could be. There could be. There could be some things that we could do to clarify how these categories are administered, yes.


Q There's so much talk about DACA legislation right now. Do you think any DACA bill would have to be tied to bring in a merit-based system?

MR. CISSNA: Well, I mean, about two months ago, the President announced his immigration priorities. You can find it on the White House website. It's a long list of about several dozen priorities that we, career officials at DHS and at the other relevant immigration agencies -- at the time I was a career official -- came up with as the things that we need to be able to do our jobs.

And in that list, there are these fixes that I'm just talking about, including getting rid of the diversity visa program, because it just degrades the integrity of our immigration visa programs, generally; ending chain migration. These are all things that we have suggested in the priorities that the President has advanced.

So we hope and expect that Congress will take those priorities seriously and will do as much as they can to accomplish the goals that we set forth.

Q If the (inaudible), if the President signed the DACA bill, it would have to have a merit-based system (inaudible)?

MR. CISSNA: I can't speak for the President's priorities and what he does or doesn’t want in a bill. But I know that what I want is something that I can implement and that I can implement well to get at the priorities that we set forth, is something that we need to do our job.

Yes, sir.

Q Would you be in favor of extending the blanket travel bans, as far as the countries are concerned, such as Bangladesh, which isn't on the list, currently?

MR. CISSNA: My position on that is that my agency needs as much information as it can get from these other countries to be able to vet and screen people adequately to ensure that mala fide actors don’t come into the country. To the degree that that can be done under the executive order -- the protocols established by the executive order -- I'm all for it.

But I'm not in a position to prescribe whether the blanket ban, as you put it, should be extended or not extended. I want the information that these countries can give us to screen people.


Q How do you deal with people who have been here for years and then become radicalized once they're here? How would any of that deal with what actually happened in New York? He had been here for many years.

MR. CISSNA: So, on that, there's two points. I think the criticisms that we have of the diversity visa program or chain migration -- in particular the diversity visa program -- the vulnerability to exploitation by terrorists because of the low eligibility criteria and because of the prevalence of fraud, that's not changing. That's a sad fact of that program. For that reason, regardless of when the person became radicalized, I just want that door shut because it's a vulnerability. It's been recognized for 15 years.

Now, with respect to that person in particular and what do we do of people who radicalize afterwards, my agency in particular is focused very much so on ensuring that immigration doesn’t stop when the person gets the green card. It's an ongoing process. I view it that way. I think that --

Q How so?

MR. CISSNA: Well, I mean, because what you want is an immigrant to become a citizen. I mean, citizenship is in the name of my agency. We ultimately want people to naturalize because naturalization is one of the best -- it's one of the best signs that a person has fully assimilated. And it's also -- once you naturalize, it's one of the best guarantors of that person's continued success in our society. We want people to naturalize.

And my agency is seeking to do everything it can to insure that people are enabled to do that and succeed in that quest.

Q Just to follow up quickly -- is it your understanding that the suspect was radicalized before he came here? Or do you think that it happened here? And if it did happen before he arrived, then was something inherently missed?

MR. CISSNA: No, I have no idea. I don't know.

Q Can you give us any sense of where he picked up this --

MR. CISSNA: I truly have no idea if he was radicalized at all. I don't know. I don't know that part of the investigation.

Q Well, you just said that because of the criteria and how low it is, that chain migrant immigrants or diversity lottery immigrants are more susceptible to being self-radicalized. Do you have data on that?

MR. CISSNA: No. What I think my point is, is that if you have immigrant visa programs where the eligibility criteria are low to non-existent -- or even an outright lottery -- you're not selecting for the types of people that we want in this country, according to a criteria that will ensure their success in our nation; that will ensure that they will assimilate well.

Q I get that that's a matter of priority. You want to select the immigrants, not just have them come in. I get that part. But you seem to saying that these kinds of immigrants are more likely to become terrorists.

MR. CISSNA: No. What I'm saying is that if you have a system that doesn’t select at all, or is barely selecting anybody, we don't know what we're going to get. It's better if we take an active affirmative role in our immigration process and establish criteria that correspond to things that we want to see in our immigration pool.

Sir, in the back.

Q Yes, sort of following from that -- the data shows that immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. Other than these isolated incidents, is there any data behind this plan?

MR. CISSNA: Well, I don't know that I agree with your first point. I don't know where that data came from, but I can't comment any further on it.

Q Can you provide a couple of examples? The incarceration rates would be one example.

MR. CISSNA: That's a bigger debate that I don't know that we have time for here. But based on my questioning the validity of -- the premise of your question, I don't know that I want to engage in that dialogue at this time.

Q Does this administration believe that immigrants are more dangerous than U.S. citizens?

MR. CISSNA: I don't know that anybody has said that.


Q Just two, sort of, points of clarification. I have you saying, with the diversity visa program, that there is a certain vulnerability because of the low eligibility criteria. By that, I think you mean because there is no higher education standard required. I mean, what is it that makes these people more vulnerable to radicalization and becoming terrorists?

MR. CISSNA: Well, there's two parts to that. My criticism of the diversity visa program is that the eligibility criteria are minimal or next to nothing and that there's a random element to it.

Q These are vulnerabilities?

MR. CISSNA: Right. The program is vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists because it's a combination of the low eligibility criteria and the ability to defraud the system. Fraud is pervasive, as I said, in the program. So if you are a mala fide actor and you want to use that program to come into this country, it's easy to fake a high school graduation certificate.

Q The charging document said that this suspect was radicalized approximately in 2014. He entered the United States in 2011. So that is why so many of us are asking these questions, because it sounds like you are implying that U.S. intelligence or Homeland Security missed something, and this guy was radicalized.

MR. CISSNA: Oh, I’m not implying that at all. No, no. I’m just talking about the immigration programs. I’m not talking about this one guy. I don't have sufficient --

Q So this isn’t actually effective at screening out terrorists. You're saying when they get here -- because these people are more vulnerable -- if they come in on this program, they are then subject to exploitation more easily?

MR. CISSNA: No. What I’m saying is that --

Q We're just not getting the nexus to terrorism.

MR. CISSNA: The nexus to terrorism is that if you have a visa program that is easily exploited by mala fide actors, including terrorists, because --

Q But you don’t know that he did that.

MR. CISSNA: I don't know that -- he didn't come in on the visa lottery program. He came in as an extended-family-based immigrant.

But I’m saying, with respect to the diversity visa program, which is also at play here, that program is -- as the State Department IG found 15 years ago, as the GAO confirmed in 2007 -- exploitable by terrorists or mala fide actors because the criteria are so low and easily faked. And it’s a lottery, so on multiple levels it’s an open door, it’s problematic. It needs to shut. That's what I’m saying about that.

With respect to the individual in yesterday’s attempt, I would say, I don't know. I don't have a command of the facts relating to the investigation as to whether or if he was ever radicalized.

What I’m saying is, if you have any sort of visa program which is minimally selective, which is based solely on chance or lottery or low eligibility criteria, then we, as a government, aren’t doing our job in picking the people that come to this country in a competent and careful and intelligent way.

And if we're not doing that, bad guys can come in.

MS. SANDERS: We’ll take one last question, guys.

Q Are lottery winners vetted?

MR. CISSNA: Yes. Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah.

Q So it's screening -- that's the problem?

MR. CISSAN: Oh, yeah, they're screened like any other immigrant. Yeah, yes.

Q So that's an intelligence failure then?

MR. CISSAN: I don't know that there’s any failure.

Yes, last question.

Q Thank you. We know from your confirmation hearings, testimony, that both your mother and your mother-in-law are immigrants. How did their experiences shape your thinking on this position? And do you have any reason to believe that they would both still have been able to come in and lead productive lives as Americans under the tightening that you're at looking at now?

MR. CISSAN: The fact that my own mother and my mother-in-law are both immigrants has indeed influenced everything. I mean, that's one of the reasons why I’m interested in this field, why I’m interested in it, and why I very passionately carry out my duties every day.

I think, though, that a policymaker or a citizen who is examining all these questions should not be handicapped or shackled by previous immigration programs from which we all -- everybody in this room has benefitted from the immigration laws of the past. That doesn't meant that every generation doesn't have its own prerogative, its own duty and responsibility to look at the situation that we have now and determine for itself, ourselves, whether the immigration laws should be changed. It’s perfectly rational. So moving forward, maybe we’ll change things.

MS. SANDERS: Thank you, Director.

Continuing with national security theme, as many of you saw this afternoon, the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation, which was approved with bipartisan support, represents an important milestone in the President’s plan to rebuild our military and bolster our national security.

For the first time in seven years, we are increasing rather than shrinking the size of our forces. This NDAA also provides our military servicemembers with the largest pay increase they've seen in eight years.

To put into historical context, it authorizes one of the largest defense spending increases since the days of Ronald Reagan. Previous administrations sadly oversaw deep cuts to our armed forces with serious implications for our military readiness and capabilities. This hindered the fight against ISIS and other enemies of freedom, and made our people less safe.

In signing this bill today, the President once again made it clear that we are serious about enhancing military readiness, expanding and modernizing our forces, and providing our incredible men and women downrange with the tools they need to do what they do best: fight and win.

President Trump also called on obstructionist Democrats in Congress to stop threatening to shut down the government. As the President said, at this time of grave global threats, Congress should send a clean funding bill to his desk that fully funds our great military.

We certainly hope that will happen, and we look forward to that taking place. And with that, I will take your questions.


Q Thank you, Sarah. The President said today that Senator Gillibrand would “do anything” for campaign contributions. Many, many people see this as a sexual innuendo. What is the President suggesting?

MS. SANDERS: I think that the President is very obvious. This is the same sentiment that the President has expressed many times before when he has exposed the corruption of the entire political system. In fact, he’s used similar terminology many times when talking about politicians of both parties, both men and women, and certainly in his campaign to drain the swamp.

The system is clearly broken. It’s clearly rigged for special interests. And this President is someone that can't be bought, and it’s one of the reasons that he’s President today.

Q So you're saying that this quote -- “Senator Gillibrand would do anything” -- is a reference to campaign contributions in Washington, the swamp? This has nothing to do with her being a female? What is he alleging would happen behind closed doors with her?

MS. SANDERS: He’s not alleging anything. He’s talking about the way that our system functions as it is; that politicians repeatedly beg for money. That's not something new. And that comment, frankly, isn’t something new. If you look back at past comments that this President has made, he’s used that same terminology many times in reference to men. There’s no way that this is sexist at all. This is simply talking about a system that we have that is broken, in which special interests control our government. And I don't think that there’s probably many people that are more controlled by political contributions than the senator that the President referenced.


Q Does the President want Roy Moore to be seated in the Senate if he wins tonight? And does he plan to call him tonight?

MS. SANDERS: In terms of calls, I’m not aware that anything is scheduled, win or lose. In terms of being seated, I can't speak on a hypothetical -- certainly not one that could potentially influence an election one way or the other due to the Hatch Act.


Q Sarah, does the President agree with his outside legal counsel that a special prosecutor should be appointed to look into the goings-on at the Department of Justice during the election campaign in 2016 since the revelation about Bruce Ohr, the former associate deputy attorney general?

MS. SANDERS: I think it’s something that certainly causes a lot of concern, not just for the President and the administration, but I think probably for all Americans, and something that if we're going to continue to investigate things, let’s look at something where there’s some real evidence and some real proof of wrongdoing. And this looks pretty bad, and I think it’s something we should certainly look at.


Q So would he support the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into this?

MS. SANDERS: I haven’t asked him that directly, but I know that he has great concern about some of the conduct that's taken place, and something that we certainly would like to see looked at.


Q Thanks, Sarah. Congressional leaders are saying that they have no plans to re-impose sanctions on Iran by the deadline tomorrow that the President initiated back in October when he decertified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. Is the White House okay with this no-action? And, if so, where are the teeth in the President's move to decertify them from compliance?

MS. SANDERS: Look, the administration continues to make encouraging progress with Congress to fix the U.S.-Iran deal and address long-term proliferation issues. There was actually no deadline to act by this week, as the administration did not ask that Congress introduce legislation to re-impose JCPOA-related sanctions.


Q Thanks, Sarah. Senator Grassley said that he's advised the White House to reconsider the nomination of Jeff McClure to the federal court in Texas and Brett Talley in Alabama. Has the President spoken to Senator Grassley about his concerns? And does the President plan to pull back those nominations?

MS. SANDERS: I'm not sure if they've spoken directly. I'll have to check and circle back with you.


Q Thanks, Sarah. Bashar al-Assad and Rodrigo Duterte have both recently have used the phrase "fake news" to dismiss damaging reports about their regimes. And a state official in Myanmar recently said that the Muslim minority, Rohingya, don't exist and added it's fake news.

Is the White House concerned at all about authoritarian regimes adopting this phrase "fake news" to try to delegitimize the press? And does President Trump bear any responsibility for the popularization of this phrase among some world leaders?

MS. SANDERS: I think the White House is concerned about false and inaccurate information being pushed out and to mislead the American people. I think I made that clear yesterday.

In terms of other leaders, I'd have to look at their comments to be more specific on what they've said. But our concern is making sure that the information that the people receive in this country is fair and accurate, and, when it isn't, that it's corrected and corrected in the same fashion in which it was first presented when it was wrong, which is very rarely the case.

Q But when you hear autocrats using the term "fake news" to describe events that reflect poorly on their regimes, that doesn't cause concern here?

MS. SANDERS: Look, I'm not going to speak to specifics of another country when I don't know the details. What I can talk about are the problems that we have in this country with inaccuracies that happen frequently within news stories. And so, that, I feel comfortable speaking about. Without that information and that detail in front of me, I don't want to weigh in too deeply.


Q Sarah, thank you. The President tweeted today that the accusations against him are "false, fabricated stories of women who I don't know and/or have never met. Fake news." And yet, the reality is he's pictured with a number of the women who have accused him of the misconduct. So do you concede that that part of his statement is not true?

MS. SANDERS: The President was referencing the three individuals that were part of a press conference yesterday, and simply stating that you don't know someone means that you don't have a relationship with them --

Q So (inaudible) of all of his accusers? Because --

MS. SANDERS: Correct. He's referencing the three from yesterday.

Q And, Sarah, members of Congress have called for an investigation into these accusations. Is President Trump as confident that they are not true? Would he support such an investigation?

MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has answered these questions. He has spoken to these accusations, and denied and pushed that they are all false and fabricated accusations. Frankly, I think if Congress wants to spend time investigating things, they should probably focus on some of the things that the American people would really like them to investigate, like how to secure our borders, how to defeat ISIS, how to pass tax reform that actually impacts them.

If you look at the issues, in poll after poll after poll taken by a number of the outlets in this room and pushed out regularly, the issues that are top-mind, number one, every single time: the economy, jobs, national security, immigration, healthcare. Yet we never talk about those issues.

In fact, 90 percent of the coverage that is --

Q And yet, this moment is an important moment, as well, Sarah. This is a moment that's getting a lot of attention.

MS. SANDERS: Hold on, I let you finish. I'm going to finish this statement. Ninety percent of the coverage that comes out of the media is negative and rarely covers those topics. And those are the things that the American people want to talk about. If Congress wants to investigate something, I think that they should look at some of the priorities of the people that they actually represent.

Q And yet, Sarah, this is something that is being discussed in businesses all across the country. There have been a number of people who have been fired over this. So why not allow this congressional investigation to go forward? And if the President, he's confident in the accusations being involved --

MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has addressed these concerns. He's addressed them directly. You guys spent months talking about them on the campaign trail. And the American people voted for this President, they have confidence in this President, and they wanted him to lead our country and they wanted him to focus on things like the economy, focus on healthcare, focus on fixing our broken tax system, focus on fixing our borders, and focus on national security.

That's what we're here to do, that's what we're focused on. These questions have been asked and answered, and we're ready to move forward and focus on the questions of the day that the American people have.


Q Is Gillibrand owed an apology for the misunderstanding of the President's tweet this morning? Because many -- including the Senator -- thinks that it's about sexual innuendos.

MS. SANDERS: I mean, only if your mind is in the gutter would have read it that way. And -- so, no.

Q No, it's not. What he said was open, and it was not mind in the gutter.

MS. SANDERS: He was obviously talking about political partisan games that people often play and the broken system that he's talked about repeatedly. This isn't new, this isn't a new sentiment, this isn't new terminology. He's used it several times before. As I said a few minutes ago, he's used it several times before, referencing men of both parties, in fact. And so I think that there -- if you look back at the past comments he's made, it was very clear what his reference was.


Q Thank you, Sarah. Looking at this issue with the system, the President gave almost $8,000 to Senator Gillibrand over the years. His daughter also gave her $2,000. What specifically did they get for these contributions that she was offered?

MS. SANDERS: Look, I think oftentimes what you do -- you're getting access. A member of Congress will take your phone call, they'll take your meeting, and if you're driving something as a businessman that the President may or not have been driving at any particular point, you can talk to that individual about it. And sometimes they carry your water. That's the reason that we have a broken system. That's a reason that often special interests control our government more than the people do, and that's one of the reasons that this President ran to be president.

And it's one of the top reasons, I think, that he won and that he's sitting in the Oval Office today and Hillary Clinton is not. Because he couldn't be bought, and everybody knew that she could because they'd seen it time and time again.

Q So he is admitting that he bought access in a corrupt way?

MS. SANDERS: Look, I think he is admitting that he is participating in a rigged system. He said that on the campaign trail. He knows how the system works. I think it would be disingenuous for anybody not to understand that, but at least this President is being honest about the process and his willingness to actually fix it and drain the swamp.


Q So Kirsten Gillibrand called for him to resign, and he says over and over again that he's a counterpuncher. So the next day, after she does that, he wakes up and you're saying that he's tweeting about the campaign finance system. Is that what you're saying?

MS. SANDERS: I'm talking about the fact that she's controlled by special interests. I'm talking about the fact she's a wholly owned subsidiary of people that donate to her campaign. She's a puppet for Chuck Schumer. I'm talking about a number of issues that she has, none of which make her an independent individual, but more somebody that is controlled by people that helped donate money to her cause. That's simply all I'm saying.

Q And what kind of campaign finance reform does the President want?

MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has been talking about the need for us to put a stronger ban on lobbyists participating in the government process. We've taken a stronger ethics pledge under this administration than previous administrations. I think those are some of the first steps and something that we're going to continue working on over the next seven years.


Q Thanks a lot, Sarah. You're familiar with the President's tweets. He tweets pretty often. In this particular --

MS. SANDERS: I've noticed that too. (Laughter.)

Q Yeah, a little bit. In this particular case, his criticism of Senator Gillibrand was very personal. Why must he criticize in such personal terms? He called a sitting, elected U.S. senator a "lightweight." Why go after her in such a personal manner?

MS. SANDERS: I don't think that's all that personal. I mean, if you want to talk about personal, look at the comments that she's made about this President over the last several months.

Look, the President is always going to be somebody who responds. We've said that many times before. And he's simply talking about a system that doesn't work for the citizens of this country, and he wants to fix it.


Q Thanks, Sarah. Two quick question for you. One following up on John's question from earlier about a second special counsel. Does the President have confidence in the FBI as it exists today?

MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has confidence in Director Wray and his ability to clean up some of the mess left behind by his predecessor. I know I've addressed that before, and he certainly has confidence in the rank-and-file members of the FBI.

Q And then a follow-up on foreign policy. Today, Bloomberg has an article out about the Trump administration encouraging Saudi Arabia to consider bids from U.S. companies as it relates to building nuclear reactors. Does the President see this as an opportunity to bring up human rights in Yemen during these talks with Saudi Arabia?

MS. SANDERS: I'm not aware of those specific conversations in this process, so I would have to ask and certainly get back to you.

I'll take one last question. Margaret.

Q Thank you. H.R. McMaster gave some really interesting remarks at a luncheon earlier today. And he spoke in really strong terms about China and Russia. He said they were "undermining the international order and stability" and "ignoring the sovereign rights of their neighbors and the rule of law." He went on to talk about Russia, in particular. He didn't use the words "election meddling," but he talked about subversion, disinformation, propaganda, and basically pitting people against each other to try to create crisis of confidence.

So what I wanted to know is: Does the President agree with all of General McMaster's statements? And is that a foreshadowing of a national security strategy that will take a harder tack on Russia and China than the administration has so far?

MS. SANDERS: Look, I think we've been very hard on Russia from the beginning. There have been sanctions, we've increased energy exportation from this country, and we've done things to put pressure on Russia, asking them to engage in a bigger and greater way on some of the common enemies that we face.

In terms of like a rundown, I haven't had a chance to sit down with the President and go detail-by-detail. But General McMaster certainly is someone who understands and knows the President's feelings and our relationships with foreign partners, and something that we certainly feel confident in him speaking about.

Thanks so much, guys.


3:44 P.M. EST

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Company That Used Russian Coders for Pentagon Project Strikes Deal

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The subcontractor that hired the coders signed a non-prosecution deal to end a criminal investigation.

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ICYMI: State and Local Leaders Push for Tax Reform

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Reforming our outdated, complex, and overly burdensome tax code and cutting taxes for hardworking families has the critical support of State and local officials across the country. As Congress works to have a bill on President Donald J. Trump’s desk before the end of the year, a majority of governors have indicated their support for tax reform and 21 governors recently signed a letter to congressional leadership supporting the effort. The governors urge the two chambers to swiftly pass meaningful tax reform legislation, writing, “We’ve proven in our states that you can cut taxes, create jobs, and generate budget surpluses all at the same time. If it can work in our states, it can work for America.”


Governor Doug Ducey (R, AZ): “Make no mistake, special interests will fight like crazy to keep their loopholes and special treatment. But government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers. We need to set a rate for businesses that’s fair, close the loopholes and make our tax code simpler and more equitable for everyone.”

Governor Paul LePage (R, ME): “From his long and successful career in business, President Trump knows firsthand that a burdensome tax code doesn’t create jobs, it kills them. When he outlined his vision for tax reform last week, I was pleased to see it will help Maine families keep more of their hard-earned paychecks.”

Governor Chris Sununu (R, NH): “America's business tax rates are probably the most self-destructive feature of the current system. By reducing the highest business tax rate in the developed world, something that we have shown, right here in New Hampshire, is a huge boost to competitiveness that creates new jobs and higher wages. And finally repealing the death tax is long overdue.”

Governor Kim Reynolds (R, IA): “Iowa families are burdened with high income taxes that lower their take-home pay and business tax rates that limit economic opportunities and wage increases. Because up to 75 percent of the burden of business tax rates falls on workers, paychecks are smaller and raises are all too rare. When working families should be dedicating money to savings, college and retirement accounts, they're sending too much out of their hard-earned paychecks to Washington, D.C., instead.”

Governor Rick Snyder (R, MI): “It has been more than 30 years since Washington, D.C. passed major tax reform. Since then, the tax code has become a 74,000-page Goliath puzzling American families and businesses. We need reform now to ensure Americans receive much-needed tax relief, provide a boost to our nation’s economic growth and allow millions of workers to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

Governor Phil Bryant (R, MS): “With a level playing field, American businesses and workers will once again dominate a global economy. I am grateful the president and the Republican congressional leadership are committed to making that happen. The framework deserves to become legislation and should pass Congress. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.”

Governor Henry McMaster (R, SC): “For too long, our tax code has been overcomplicated and uncompetitive, placing an outsized burden on business while perplexing the average American. This is a rare opportunity to fix a broken system, putting money back in taxpayers’ pockets and encouraging more companies to invest, expand, hire and profit. It’s a win for South Carolina.”

Governor Jim Justice (R, WV): “President Trump is continuing to keep his promise to Americans to help grow our country by providing our average families with significant tax relief.”

Governor Matt Bevin (R, KY): “Recently, our national economy has been rebounding following a long period of tepid recovery. That makes this the perfect time to tackle federal tax reform and I applaud President Trump for his leadership on this issue.”

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R, AR): “Washington’s system of taxation takes too much money, is too complicated and hampers economic growth. The result is a system that places too heavy a burden on our businesses and citizens. It places our country at a disadvantage in an increasingly competitive and mobile world.”

Governor Eric Greitens (R, MO): “For too long, our tax system has been complex, corrupt, and high. We need a system that is simple, fair, and low. In Missouri, we’re trying to do our part at the state level—but the biggest changes that small business owners need begin at the federal level. The President understands this. We were pleased that he chose Springfield, Missouri, to announce his effort on tax reform. And we were glad to host him in St. Charles, Missouri, on Wednesday, where he again sent a message to Congress to get tax reform legislation done and delivered.”

Governor Gary Herbert (R, UT): “If we want businesses to come to the United States and stay, we have to create the right conditions. I commend Congressional leaders for their efforts to lower the U.S. corporate tax rate and move to a system that will encourage companies to bring their profits to the United States and invest in the American economy. Our corporate rate—highest in the industrialized world—and our treatment of overseas earnings are glaring exceptions to an otherwise business friendly environment. Lower taxes and a simpler tax code means faster economic growth, more jobs, and higher wages. There are still important differences to be ironed out, but it’s refreshing to see Washington tackling something difficult but necessary. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a new trend.”

Governor Matthew Mead (R, WY): “Eliminating onerous restrictions and regulations would allow businesses to afford to pay employees higher wages and reinvest in their own growth.”

Governor Mary Fallin (R, OK): “Our nation’s tax code, on the other hand, is outdated and in desperate need of reform. Due to incomprehensible regulations and untold pages of forms and instructions, nearly 90% of taxpayers need external help to simply pay their taxes.”

Governor Susana Martinez (R, NM): “New Mexicans deserve a tax system that puts their household budget ahead of more government bureaucracy. Real tax reform on the federal and state levels is long overdue and it is now time we put our communities and businesses first.”

Governor Greg Abbott (R, TX): “Listen, the fact of the matter is that it has been far too long since we’ve had tax reform in the United States of America. This is a meaningful step toward the kind of tax reform that the United States needs. I think it is important especially at the corporate level so that internationally we will be more competitive. … We will be advancing the United States of America economically if this tax plan passes and so I hope it does.”

Governor Rick Scott (R, FL): “My budget cuts $180 million in taxes to build on our success of cutting taxes 75 times saving Floridians more than $7.5 billion. DC needs to follow our lead and get tax reform done now.”

Governor Pete Ricketts (R, NE): “I applaud the President and congressional leadership for making tax reform a top priority this year . . . . Providing relief will put more money back into the pockets of hardworking families and unleash economic growth in communities across our nation.”

Governor Bill Walker (I, AK): The House and Senate conference committee on tax legislation has a singular opportunity to open one of the most prospective onshore areas in the world to safe oil and gas exploration and development – limited to 1/750th of the Coastal Plain or 1002 Area, which itself is just eight percent of ANWR – right here in the United States, on the North Slope of Alaska. It is critical that Congress act and get this legislation over the finish line to put the national resources of the Coastal Plain to use for the good of the country. Alaska’s economy needs this boost, and our nation needs a strong Alaska.

Governor Doug Burgum (R, ND): “North Dakota leaders have worked hard over the past 25 years to reduce individual and corporate income tax rates, pass sensible regulations and foster a business-friendly environment that stimulates investment and job creation, and we appreciate President Trump recognizing those continuing efforts . . . . We share the president’s goals for tax reform: simplify the tax code, lower rates to ease the burden on middle-class families and set corporate tax rates at levels that allow U.S. businesses to better compete in the global economy, bringing back jobs and wealth from overseas. And we urge Congress to work with the administration to achieve meaningful tax reform that encourages economic growth and saves taxpayers time and money.”

Governor Dennis Daugaard (R, SD): “I thank @SenJohnThune, @SenatorRounds and @RepKristiNoem for their support of tax reform. They understand that responsible reform can jumpstart our economy.”

Governor Scott Walker (R, WI): “Our nation’s tax code, on the other hand, is outdated and in desperate need of reform. Due to the incomprehensible regulations and untold pages of forms and instructions, nearly 90 percent of taxpayers need external help to simply comply with paying their taxes. Across the country, this time and energy spent adds up to some 6 billion hours and $15-16 billion in tax compliance costs, according to the Internal Revenue Service and the National Federation of Independent Business.”

Governor Kay Ivey (R, AL): “President Trump is proposing the largest tax cut for American families and businesses in decades . . . . The current tax structure is oppressive to families and businesses alike, and it simply sets us up for failure in today’s global economy. We’ve proven in Alabama, with the lowest unemployment rate in history, lower taxes and less government regulation produces jobs – it’s time Washington joins us in our efforts.”

Governor Eric Holcomb (R, IN): “We must simplify, close loopholes, institute fairness and lower overall rates—especially for small business.”

Governor Brian Sandoval (R, NV): “Reforming the nation’s tax code is an incredibly complex task that is long overdue. I applaud the President for making this a priority in this Congress, and I appreciate Congress’ attention as they reform our tax code with a focus on fairness, competitiveness and economic growth. I continue to appreciate the leadership of Senator Heller and our entire Congressional delegation; their willingness to work with the state will help ensure the final legislative product will be one that will help Nevada grow, put more Nevadans to work, and allow Nevadans to keep more of their hard-earned money.”


Lt. Governor Casey Cagle (R, GA): “To reach our nation’s potential we need a tax system that empowers entrepreneurs and businesses to invest in our workforce. Our leaders have an opportunity to set us on a path of economic growth, job creation, and prosperity to enable more of our families to climb up the economic ladder. I applaud the leadership of President Trump and our state’s congressional delegation for their support of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, delivering hardworking Georgians the tax relief they deserve. Americans have waited 31 years for meaningful tax reform, and the stakes have never been greater.”

Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R, WI): “I am grateful that President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan are finally tackling reform of our broken federal tax code. They're working right now on an ambitious plan to make the federal tax code simpler, flatter and fairer.”

Lt. Governor Mary Taylor (R, OH): “The President is proposing the biggest tax cut to small and midsize businesses in 80 years, and as we have seen in Ohio, this will jumpstart the nation’s economy. The Council of Economic Advisors has estimated that the average American household income could increase between $4,000 and $9,000 a year in wages and salary alone from this proposal.”

Lt. Governor Brian Calley (R, MI): “The reform plan President Trump unveiled last month will be a game changer for all Americans. We know its principles are sound because of our experience here in Michigan. A simple, fair and efficient tax code will go a long way for everyone.”

Lt. Governor Mike Foley (R, NE): “President Trump is following through on his commitment to help grow America’s middle class with federal tax reform.”

Lt. Governor Mike Parson (R, MO): “The President of the United States is offering a tax plan that would greatly benefit Missouri families . . . . The President’s plan would reduce taxes and allow families to keep more of their hard-earned money. It would also allow the next generation of Missouri workers to invest in themselves, afford a quality education, and get a good job here in our state.”

Lt. Governor Tim Griffin (R, AR): “Individuals and families know how to spend the fruits of their labor and provide for their families better than bureaucrats a thousand miles away. Tax reform will allow Arkansans to save for the future, pay off credit-card debt, or simply make ends meet.”


Bill Schuette, Attorney General (R, MI): “The last president to reform America’s tax code was Ronald Reagan. During his time in office, America added 15.9 million jobs, an increase in the nation’s workforce of more than 17 percent. Now more than ever, our economy needs a booster shot. President Trump’s tax reform is just what the doctor ordered to simplify the code, create more jobs and spur greater growth in our economy.”

Josh Hawley, Attorney General (R, MO): “President Trump has a bold plan to change course and give working Missourians a chance to move ahead. His plan honors real work and prioritizes the taxpayers instead of the tax takers.”

John McMillan, State Agricultural Commissioner (R, AL): “Farmers in Alabama and across the nation face natural disasters, significant price fluctuations in the market, increased regulations and many other challenges. Without comprehensive tax reform, the American farmer may eventually be taxed out of business or at least taxed where he or she can no longer pass the farm on to the next generation. The elimination of the estate tax is just one of the revisions in the Tax Reform plan that provide farmers hope.”

Jeff Witte, State Agricultural Director (NM): “The farm and ranch property often has to be split and sold to satisfy estate taxes upon the death of a family member. This predicament leads to the next generation having to take family assets to satisfy the tax in order to preserve the enterprise as a whole, leaving these individuals in a position in which they cannot succeed financially, eventually losing the family business.”

Mike Strain, State Agricultural Commissioner (R, LA): “A lowering and restricting of tax rates will put more money in the pockets of our citizens and will ultimately allow farmers and other business owners to have more money to invest and help grow the economy. Lower tax rates for consumers will also increase their purchasing power for better nutrition for all American families.”

Dave Yost, State Auditor (R, OH): “Tax reform would be good for the economy, and it will be good for Ohio families. The President's plan will double the standard deduction so that more income is taxed at zero percent. It will increase and expand the Child Tax Credit to help more middle-class families and -- finally! -- eliminate the marriage penalty.”

Ron Knecht, Controller (R, NV): “The special interests that benefit from exemptions, deductions and credits available only to some parties are few in number, but each member of the group has a large stake in keeping these provisions.”

John Dougall, State Auditor (R, UT): “As the Republican Congress and President Trump take up the daunting issue of tax reform, we encourage our federal colleagues to follow Utah’s lead and create a system that is simple, equitable, and stable for American taxpayers.”

Walker Stapleton, State Treasurer (R, CO): “I applaud and support the efforts of federal lawmakers and President Trump to simplify our nation’s tax code and jump-start our economy. As Treasurer, I know Colorado families and small businesses will benefit from a tax plan that is simpler and our economy will thrive with a lower corporate rate. It will bring jobs and investment back to America and make us more competitive in a global economy . . . . This is a once in a generation opportunity to fundamentally change the structure of our complicated and burdensome tax code. I support the efforts of Congress and the President to get it done.”


House Speaker Mike Turzai (R, PA): “It's the number one policy initiative . . . and nothing will help families and employees and jobs more.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R, FL): “Nationally, it’s clear that we need broad tax reform, and I'll gladly support any effort to simplify the tax code and cut rates. Luckily for the nation, the conservative spirit that drove Florida's success is alive and well in the tax framework that Trump laid out.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R, IN): “With one of the top business climates in the nation, Indiana’s economic environment stands in stark contrast to the dysfunction of federal tax policy and job-killing regulations.”

House Speaker Tim Moore (R, NC): “Tax relief is about protecting hard-earned paychecks and empowering all families in the workforce to succeed together in the entrepreneurial spirit of the United States. It’s about helping everyday people provide themselves a higher quality of life and build opportunities without an excessive burden on their bottom line. Again, for Congress and President Trump to realize the full potential of the American economy, North Carolina is the bellwether state when it comes to tax reform.”

House Speaker Tim Armstead (R, WV): “President Trump’s plan would provide significant tax relief to the backbone of West Virginia’s economy – our small businesses. Perhaps no segment of West Virginia’s economy has had to weather the economic storm more than our small and family-owned businesses. The President recognizes the challenges our small businesses must meet and has proposed to cap the maximum tax rate these businesses must pay. This step will provide a much-needed boost to these struggling small businesses who mean so much to our neighborhoods across West Virginia.”

Tax Letter 1

Tax Letter 2


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President Donald J. Trump will Make the American Military Great Again

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

“As long as I am President, the servicemen and women who defend our nation will have the equipment, the resources, and the funding they need to secure our homeland, to respond to our enemies quickly and decisively, and, when necessary, to fight, to overpower, and to always, always, always win.” – President Donald J. Trump

A BUDGET THAT SUPPORTS AMERICA’S INTERESTS: President Donald J. Trump has signed into law a defense budget that will support our national security and America First policies.

• The Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) supports a topline defense funding level of $692 billion that goes in the direction sought by President Trump. The NDAA:

o Authorizes funding to ensure the continued defeat of ISIS;

o Provides legislative authority to implement President Trump’s South Asia strategy;

o Authorizes critical missile defense capabilities to confront the threat posed by North Korea; and

o Takes concrete steps to rebuild our readiness and build the needed capabilities to continue to deter our adversaries and assure our allies.

• The NDAA authorizes $626 billion of the base budget resources for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy, providing an additional $66 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. 

• The NDAA is vital to rebuilding, modernizing, and preparing our Armed Forces for the future so that our military remains the world’s preeminent fighting force and we can continue to ensure peace through strength.

FUNDING OUR TROOPS: President Trump calls on Congress to eliminate the defense spending limits included in the sequester and support America’s troops.

• The President calls on Congress to raise the Budget Control Act National Defense spending cap and, once and for all, stop the endless budget cuts to our military.

• The NDAA authorizes a 2.4 percent pay raise for our troops, providing a significant improvement in quality of life for the members of our military.

• The NDAA authorizes $146.2 billion for military personnel, including costs of pay, allowances, bonuses, death benefits, and permanent change of station moves.  

• Congress must now pass defense appropriations legislation to complement the NDAA.

REBUILDING OUR MILITARY: The budget realizes the President’s call to rebuild our military and make it the great and powerful force it once was.

• The NDAA lays the groundwork for a larger, more capable, and more lethal joint force consistent with a new National Defense Strategy, authorizing:

o Increases to the Army’s end strength of 7,500 and to the Marine Corps end strength of 1,000, helping to reduce stress on the force;

o $26.2 billion for shipbuilding, including multi-year procurements of Virginia class submarines, which can save money for the Government and increase both our capacity and capability to deter threats and maintain control of the sea;

o $10.1 billion to procure 90 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft that will ensure our dominance of the air domain; and

o $2.2 billion for Army ground combat vehicles and provides authority to modernize our Army and Marine Corps with best in the world capabilities.

• The Trump Administration is committed to reversing the effects of under investment and the Fiscal Year 2018 NDAA provides several key authorizations:

o Increases funding authority to support military facilities; and

o Increases authority for Navy depot maintenance and afloat readiness, while also authorizing additional funds for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force operation and maintenance accounts.

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Remarks by President Trump at Signing of H.R. 2810, National Defense Authorization Act for FY2018

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Roosevelt Room

12:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Vice President, Secretary Mattis, General Dunford, senior military leaders, and distinguished guests, thank you all for being here as we prepare to sign something that is extremely important: the National Defense Authorization Act. We're signing it into law.

This historic legislation demonstrates our unwavering commitment to our men and women in uniform -- the greatest fighting force in the history of the world. And we're making it a lot better than even that.

Before we begin, I want to address the terrorist attack that took place yesterday in New York City, and to praise the first responders, local police, and federal law enforcement for their quick action. They did an incredible job.

There have now been two terrorist attacks in New York City in recent weeks carried out by foreign nationals, here on green cards. The first attacker came through the visa lottery and the second through chain migration. We're going to end both of them. The lottery system and chain migration -- we're going to end them fast.

Congress must get involved immediately, and they are involved immediately, and I can tell you we have tremendous support. They will be ended.

These attacks underscore the dangers we face from around the globe. The National Defense Authorization Act could not come at a more opportune or important time. This legislation represents a momentous step toward rebuilding our military and securing the future for our children. I applaud the work of the members of both parties who came together to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support -- something that sounds very nice to my ears.

I especially want to thank Chairman Thornberry, who is here with us today, for his tireless efforts. Fantastic job.

In recent years, our military has undergone a series of deep budget cuts that have severely impacted our readiness, shrunk our capabilities, and placed substantial burdens on our warfighters. And great warfighters they are.

History teaches us that when you weaken your defenses, you invite aggression. The best way to prevent conflict or be -- of any kind -- is to be prepared, and really be prepared. Only when the good are strong will peace prevail.

Today, with the signing of this defense bill, we accelerate the process of fully restoring America's military might. I also want to thank Senator John McCain for the work he's done on this bill. He has fought very, very hard to make it just the way he wants it and that we all want it.

This legislation will enhance our readiness, expand our modernized -- and modernize our forces, and help provide our servicemembers with the tools that they need to fight and to win. We will fight and win. But hopefully, with this, we won't have to fight because people will not be wanting to fight with us.

It authorizes funding for our continued campaign to obliterate ISIS. As you know, we've won in Syria, we've won in Iraq. But they spread to other areas and we're getting them as fast as they spread.

We've had more success with ISIS in the last eight months than the entire previous administration has had during its entire term.

It approves missile defense capabilities as we continue our campaign to create maximum pressure on the vile dictatorship in North Korea. We're working very diligently on that -- building up forces. We'll see how it all turns out. It's a very bad situation -- a situation that should have been handled long ago by other administrations.

It upgrades our Ground Combat Vehicles, allows for the purchase of new Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, and paves the way for beautiful new Virginia-class submarines -- the finest in the world.

Finally, the defense bill authorizes major investments in our military's greatest weapon of all: its warriors. The NDAA increases the size of the American Armed Forces for the first time in seven years, and it provides our military servicemembers with their largest pay increase in eight years.

Now Congress must finish the job by eliminating the defense sequester and passing a clean appropriations bill. I think it's going to happen. We need our military. It's got to be perfecto.

At this time of grave global threats, I urge Democrats in Congress to drop their shutdown threats and descend clean funding and a clean funding bill to my desk that fully funds our great military. Protecting our country should always be a bipartisan issue, just like today's legislation.

We must work across party lines to give our heroic troops the equipment, resources, and support that they have earned a thousand times over. Together, we will send a clear message to our allies and a firm warning to our enemies and adversaries: America is strong, proud, determined, and ready. And I might add, when we're completed -- and it won't be that long -- we will be stronger than ever before -- by a lot.

So thank you to all of our friends in Congress. And we do appreciate the bipartisan support, and we appreciate your hard work on this historic defense authorization.

And thank you, most of all, to our brave warriors for standing watch over our country, our families, and our freedom. Brand-new, beautiful equipment is on its way -- the best you've ever had by far. We make the best in the world, and you're going to have it.

God bless you, God bless our military, and God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

I won't be showing all of this to everybody, believe it or not. That's a lot of pages. That is a lot of pages.

(The bill is signed.) (Applause.)



12:12 P.M.

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WTAS: Support For President Trump's Signing Of The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Members of Congress

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI): “Proud to watch as @POTUS signs this legislation into law, giving our men and women in uniform their largest pay raise in 8 years.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): “Today, President Trump signed a bill that will make America safer. This defense bill authorizes money for our troops, for our national defense and homeland security, and to make sure America has the best technology in the world to protect ourselves. This bill passed the House 356 to 70, including more than half of the Democratic caucus. It passed the Senate by voice vote—not a single Democrat opposed it.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ): “I am encouraged that the President today signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which authorizes nearly $700 billion of spending for national defense. The NDAA authorizes the resources and provides the policies necessary to begin the process of rebuilding our military—and it is the result of an open and bipartisan legislative process.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX): “Having the President sign the NDAA conference report into law is a critical milestone in the effort to rebuild America’s military strength, support our troops, and reform the way the Pentagon does business. The policies in this bill reflect months of bipartisan work and agreement.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “Thank you @POTUS for supporting our troops. With the ‘National Defense Authorization Act of 2018’ signed into law, we’re equipping our U.S. armed forces and personnel with the resources they need to protect America and counter global threats.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS): “@POTUS just signed the bipartisan #NDAA to give our troops their largest pay increase in eight years.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS): “With his signature, President Trump has confirmed the United States’ resolve to meet the growing needs of our U.S. Navy. Building up our nation’s fleet is essential to protecting our national security and projecting American power around the globe. We are asking too few ships to do too many things, and today the President took a major step toward rectifying that problem.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): “It’s official—@POTUS has signed the NDAA and I’m proud of the House and Senate’s hard work to make this happen.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD): “Today, @POTUS signed the #NDAA for fiscal year 2018 into law. The NDAA is one of the most important pieces of legislation that we pass each year. It authorizes funding for DOD so our armed forces are able to successfully carry out their missions.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL): “With President Trump’s signature of the National Defense Authorization Act today, this is the beginning of the rebuilding of the U.S. defense forces after eight years in which we dangerously cut our armed forces, endangering the security of the American people.”

Rep. French Hill (R-AR): “I appreciate President Trump signing into law a bill that continues our support for Arkansans - and their families - serving in our nation’s military…. Our military is the most effective military in the world, and our brave men and women in uniform deserve the funding, tools, and support to successfully complete their strategic missions around the globe.”

Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR): “Today @POTUS signed the #NDAA into law which secures our men and women in uniform the largest pay raise in eight years. This bipartisan legislation restores readiness, resources, and reform to our fighting forces.”

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO): “As chairman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, and as a Marine Corps combat Veteran, my goal is to ensure that we have the best trained, best equipped, and best led military in the world. The signing of the FY18 NDAA is a very important step in providing the necessary resources to DoD to do just that. I applaud the President for signing the NDAA into law today.”

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA): “Today, we saw another victory for America and Georgia as the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act. Not only does this bill reverse the decade-long trend of dismantling our military, it gives our men and women in uniform a much-deserved pay increase.”

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN): “The FY18 NDAA @POTUS signed today gives our troops their largest wage increase in nearly eight years, significantly boosts active duty end strength for each branch of service and increases funding for military facilities and new oversight tools.”

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN): “Today @POTUS signed the National Defense Authorization Act #NDAA that gives our troops the largest pay raise in 8 years.”

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN): “Proud that the @POTUS signed the #NDAA into law today! It provides our servicemen & women the largest pay raise in 8yrs & provides resources needed to keep our nation safe at home & abroad.”

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN): “We have the best military in the world and now, with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 signed into law, our troops will have resources they need to protect us, and they will receive the care and pay they deserve. By signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 into law, President .@realDonaldTrump is following through on his promises to strengthen our military and make our world a safer place.”

Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA): “Proud to see that President Trump is signing our #NDAA bill into law. Gives troops largest pay raise in 8 yrs & provides resources to rebuild our military.”

Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI): “Today President Donald J. Trump signed into law the #FY18NDAA. This bill will help restore our military strength, provide the largest pay raise to our war-fighters in 8 years, and protect our homeland and our allies.”

Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI): “.@POTUS just signed the #NDAA into law, giving our troops the biggest pay raise in 8 years. @POTUS was correct when he said ‘only when the good are strong will peace prevail.’ Proud to have supported this important legislation.”

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO): “Thank you @POTUS for signing #NDAA today. This law provides our troops with the tools and equipment that match their skills and proficiency.”

Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS): “Today, President Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I look forward to continuing working with my colleagues to make sure military men and women have the tools they need to keep America safe.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC): “Today @POTUS signed the #FY18NDAA to ensure our troops receive a pay raise and have the tools they need to defend our nation both at home and abroad.”

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC): .@POTUS just signed the #NDAA giving our servicemen and women their biggest pay raise in 8 years & also providing our military with the resources they need to keep American safe!

Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH): “Today the President rightfully called again for an end to the sequestration of national defense…. Our troops face enough uncertainty--their budget shouldn’t be on the list of things they need to worry about.”

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK): “The FY18 NDAA rebuilds and restores our military by supplying our men and women in uniform with the critical resources needed to protect our country from harm. Our troops work tirelessly to defend our flag. By giving them a well-deserved pay raise, we recognize their constant commitment and lend our gratitude for their brave sacrifice…. I applaud President Trump for his strong support of our nation’s military and this year’s NDAA.”

Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA): “America’s military is made up of hardworking men and women who wake up every day to serve others. We should be making it easier for them to transition to civilian life with a steady job, and infuse our workforce with leadership skills only the military can provide…. I am glad President Trump has signed this legislation into law.”

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC): “Grateful that #ndaa is now law. The bill, signed today by @potus, makes critical investments in our military & national security - and it represents a big win for South Carolina. #maga”

Rep. John Carter (R-TX): “BREAKING: @POTUS has signed the #NDAA into law, ensuring our troops have the resources they need to deter and defend!”

Rep. John Culberson (R-TX): “Watch as @POTUS signs #NDAA into law - it provides the LARGEST pay raise in 8 years for our troops & empowers the great men & women that serve our country.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA): “I’m grateful to see President Donald Trump sign this bill into law, and commend Rep. Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, for his work on behalf of the men and women in uniform who serve our great nation and keep us safe.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI): “.@POTUS just signed into law the #FY18NDAA-- now Congress must pass a budget deal to ensure our warfighters have what they need to deter threats, support our allies, and above all, keep the American people safe.”

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, 12/11/2017, #39

Monday, December 11, 2017

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:20 P.M. EST

MS. SANDERS:  Good afternoon.  This morning, while New Yorkers were making their way to work, a terrorist set off a pipe bomb strapped to his body in one of Manhattan's busiest commuter hubs.  Thankfully, there were no life-threatening injuries. 

Undercover Port Authority Police Department Officer Jack Collins apprehended the terrorist, along with several other officers.  These brave first responders and the others who rushed to the scene are heroes.  On behalf of the President and a grateful nation, we would like to thank them and commend them for their bravery.

This attack underscores the need for Congress to work with the President on immigration reforms that enhance our national security and public safety.  We must protect our borders, we must ensure the individuals entering our country are not coming to do harm to our people, and we must move to a merit-based system of immigration.

Additionally, this attack comes as our coalition continues to make great gains against ISIS.  Still, there is more work to be done on the ground in the shrinking ISIS-controlled areas, and the President's plan to annihilate ISIS is moving forward. 

But we must also destroy the evil ideology that is behind ISIS and attacks like today's.  This ideology has no borders but it must be eradicated.  The President has successfully rallied the world behind this cause and we will not stop until it is accomplished.

And with that, I'll take your questions. 


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  I wanted to ask you about the women who came forward today against the President.  They first were on a television show and then they were at a press conference.  And they said that he should resign, and then also that there should be a congressional investigation.  And I know that you've said that this has already been litigated in the last election, but I wanted to get your specific reaction to this idea that there should be a congressional investigation into this.

MS. SANDERS:  Look, the President has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations.  And this took place long before he was elected to be President.  And the people of this country, at a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process.


MS. SANDERS:  Sarah, thank you.  I want to follow up on that.  But first, a little bit of breaking news we just learned about:  The Pentagon apparently will now allow transgender people to enlist in the military beginning January 1st.  Your reaction to that?  And any follow-up action you're going to take?

MS. SANDERS:  Yeah, as of right now, they're simply complying with a court order and preparing to implement a previous policy to remain in compliance.  The Department of Justice is currently reviewing the legal options to ensure that the President's directive can be implemented.

And for anything further and any specifics on both of those matters, I'd refer you to the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice.

Q    Okay, and one follow-up --

MS. SANDERS:  Sorry, Mara.

Q    One follow-up very quickly on -- just very quickly, Sarah.

MS. SANDERS:  Sorry, Kristen.  Mara, go ahead.

Q    Can I just ask you about Nikki Haley's comments saying that the President --

MS. SANDERS:  Mara, go ahead.

Q    I'll pick that up for you, Kristen.

MS. SANDERS:  She's going to pick it up for you.

Q    Nikki Haley, as I'm sure you know, said, when asked does the election mean that's a settled issue -- which you've been arguing from the podium here -- she said, "I know he was elected, but women should always feel comfortable coming forward and we should all be willing to listen to them," specifically referring to the accusers of the President.  Does the President agree with her?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, as the President said himself, he thinks it's a good thing that women are coming forward, but he also feels strongly that a mere allegation shouldn't determine the course.  And, in this case, the President has denied any of these allegations, as have eyewitnesses.  And several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the President's claim in this process.

And again, the American people knew this and voted for the President, and we feel like we're ready to move forward in that process.

Q    But he thinks it's a good thing that the women who accused him are coming forward now, again?

MS. SANDERS:  The President has said that it's a good thing for women to be able to feel comfortable in coming forward, generally speaking.


Q    I just want to go off of that, Sarah.  But the President told Howard Stern in 2005 that he had walked into a teen beauty pageant dressing room where he said that teen contestants had no clothes on because he could sort of get away with things like that.  Is that not an admission of sexual harassmen

MS. SANDERS:  Look, the President has spoken about this directly.  I don't have anything further to add on the process.

Q    And the American public --             

MS. SANDERS:  We're going to do one question today, guys, to move around.

Q    Two ISIS attacks in New York City -- or ISIS-inspired attacks in New York City just recently.  Is the President concerned that there is a growing threat against people inspired by ISIS who have been radicalized online?

MS. SANDERS:  I think that the President is certainly concerned that Congress, particularly Democrats, have failed to take action in some places where we feel we could have prevented this.  Specifically, the President's policy has called for an end to chain migration.  And if that had been in place, that would have prevented this individual from coming to the United States. 

So the President is aggressively going to continue to push forth responsible immigration reform, and ending chain migration would certainly be a part of that process.


Q   Thank you, Sarah.  The President reacted quite angrily over the weekend to a Washington Post reporter's tweet about crowd size that was quickly deleted.  I'm wondering if you could help explain the discrepancy between the President's reaction to incidents like this, which he calls "fake news" and talks quite a bit about, and his silence on actual disinformation campaigns like Russia ran during the 2016 election to deliberately spread false information.  So both his silence on that, and does he recognize the difference between these two?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, the President is simply calling out a very direct and false accusation lodged against him.  There was nothing more than an individual trying to put their bias into their reporting, and something that, frankly, has gotten a little bit out of control.  We've seen it time and time again over the last couple of weeks.

A number of outlets have had to retract and change, and rewrite, and make editor's notes to a number of different stories -- some of them with major impacts, including moving markets.  This is a big problem and we think it's something that should be taken seriously.  

Q    Does he see a difference between reporters' mistakes and a disinformation campaign by a foreign government?  Does he see a distinction there?

MS. SANDERS:  I haven't spoken with him about that, but certainly we would take any misinformation like that very seriously.  But it's not something we're comparing the two on. 


Q    And I would just say, Sarah, that journalists make honest mistakes and that doesn't make them fake news. 

But the question that I --

MS. SANDERS:  But when journalists make honest mistakes, they should own up to them.  

Q    We do.

MS. SANDERS:  Sometimes -- and a lot of times you don't.  But there's a difference -- there's a very big difference --

Q    The President hasn’t --

Q    This wasn’t going to be my question. 

MS. SANDERS:  I'm sorry, I'm not finished. 

Q    Okay. 

MS. SANDERS:  There's a very big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people -- something that happens regularly.  You can't say --

Q    You mean like tweeting stuff on the Middle East --

MS. SANDERS:  I'm not done.  You cannot say --

Q    He retweeted something that was completely fake, Sarah.  Can he admit it?

MS. SANDERS:  You cannot say that it's an honest mistake when you're purposefully putting out information that you know to be false, or when you're taking information that hasn't been validated, that hasn't been offered any credibility, and that has been continually denied by a number of people, including people with direct knowledge of an instance.  

This is something that --

Q    Are you speaking about the President?

MS. SANDERS:  I'm speaking about the number of reports that have taken place over the last couple of weeks.  I'm simply stating that there should be a certain level of responsibility in that process. 

Q    This was not --

MS. SANDERS:  Brian, I called on Jim. 

Q    I know, I know. 

Q    This is not the line of questioning that I was going down, but can you cite a specific story that you say is intentionally false; that was intentionally put out there to mislead the American people?

MS. SANDERS:  Sure, the ABC report by Brian Ross.  I think that was pretty misleading to the American people.  And I think that it's very telling that that individual had to be suspended because of that reporting.  I think that shows that the network took it seriously and recognized that it was a problem.


Q    Sarah, if I may though, I was going to ask a question about something else. 

MS. SANDERS:  Well, you used it on something else.


Q    Well, Sarah, if I may, --

MS. SANDERS:  Not today.  We're going to keep moving, guys. 

Q    Sarah, if I can ask about the President's accusations --

Q    The other Jim.

MS. SANDERS:  I'm moving to a different Jim.  I'm sorry.

Q    I know, but I didn’t get a chance to ask the question that I wanted to ask, which is --


Q    -- can you just say, once and for all, whether these accusations --

MS. SANDERS:  Jim, I'm going to say, once and for all, that I'm moving on to Jim Stinson, and I'm not taking another question from you at this point. 

Q    Sarah, a question about investment -- investment taxes.

Q    I think I was within my rights to respond to your attacks on the news media.  If that's okay, I would like to ask the question that I had about these accusations of misconduct against the President.  You said that he's denied them.  Can you say whether or not they are false?

MS. SANDERS:  I'm not going to respond to the other question.  Go ahead, Jim. 

Q    Sarah, some investors are saying the tax reform package favors mutual funds over individual investors.  Other critics who want tax reform say the bill will cause some tax increases for a few middle-class tax filers.  By a few, I mean maybe tens of thousands, but maybe more. 

Will the President sign the tax bill, even if there are inadvertent tax increases and some of the criticisms are correct?

MS. SANDERS:  As I've said many times before, our focus and our priorities are making sure that we provide middle-class tax relief, and simplifying the code, bringing businesses back here to the U.S.  We're going to continue pushing for that and continue working with Congress to make sure that we get the best tax package possible. 


Q    Thanks a lot, Sarah.  Tomorrow there is a special Senate election in Alabama.  Back on September the 23rd, the President went down to Huntsville, Alabama -- campaigned alongside of Luther Strange -- and since that time, he never went down in the course of the campaign -- the campaign, alongside the Republican nominee, Roy Moore.  Was the President embarrassed in terms of campaigning alongside Roy Moore?  Is that the reason why we didn't see him down there in Alabama?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, the President has spoken directly about this race, and who he supports and who he doesn't.  Due to the legality of that, I'm not going to go any further and would refer you back to his past statements. 


Q    Sarah, what is the disconnect, as it relates to this White House, when it comes to then-candidate Trump bringing the accusers of Bill Clinton to the debate, against Hillary Clinton, and now the accusers of Roy Moore -- making these accusations -- and his accusers?  What's the disconnect here?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, as the President said, he found the allegations troubling.  And if they were true, then he should step aside.  And ultimately, the people of Alabama will make a decision in that race. 

Q    Well, what about his own accusers though?  He has accusers as well. 

MS. SANDERS:  Look, the President has firsthand knowledge on what he did and didn't do.  He can speak directly to those, and he has, and he's addressed them.  And I don't have anything further to add. 

Q    Will he address the American public about this?  Because this is spinning, and it's focused on him now as -- 

MS. SANDERS:  And he's addressed it directly to the American people. 


Q    But will he -- it's coming up new and a fresh, and more people are now speaking out.  Will --

MS. SANDERS:  April, I'm going to keep moving.  Sorry, trying to cover as many of your colleagues today.

Q    I understand.  But will the President address the nation on this?  This is a huge issue, Sarah.

MS. SANDERS:  I know, and there are a lot of big issues today.  I'm trying to cover as many of them as possible by calling on a number of your colleagues.  And I've called on Trey, and I'm going to move to him. 

Q    Will the President come out and address this, please?

Sarah, all you have to say is yes or no. 

MS. SANDERS:  He has, April.  I've already said -- I've already addressed this.  The President has addressed it.  I don't have anything else to add. 


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Today, the suspected terrorist in New York City, he was described as a Bangladeshi immigrant.  Bangladesh is not on the President's travel ban list.  Does today's attack change the way that President Trump is evaluating travel restrictions?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, we can -- we do know, and the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed, that the suspect was admitted to the United States after presenting a passport displaying an F43 Family Immigrant Visa in 2011.  And so we know that the President's policy calls for an end to chain migration, which is what this individual came to the United States through. 

And if his policy had been in place, then that attacker would not have been allowed to come in the country.  That's why the President has pushed for not one part of immigration policy, but a responsible and total immigration reform.  And that's why we have to look at all sectors and do what we can to make sure we're doing everything within our power to protect the American people.


Q    Thanks, Sarah.  At the top of your remarks about ISIS, about the attack today in New York City, you talked about the need to destroy the ideology, intimating would-be attackers and the actual attackers.  What policy changes are required to do that?  How do you defeat an ideology that's been attempted since 9/11 with, really, no great success?  What are you doing differently?  What can you do differently in order to do that?

MS. SANDERS:  I think one of the best ways that we have moved forward is in a process where we're allowing the members of the Department of Defense to aggressively move forward in defeating ISIS and, in hopes, annihilating a lot of that evil ideology through part of that process.  We're going to continue pushing and continue looking for the best ways possible to make sure that we protect Americans. 


Q    Thanks, Sarah.  Two quick ones on Korea.  Do you have an update on sanctions?  Last week, you said it would be coming in a number of days.  And secondly, Victor Cha was just nominated to be the Republic of Korea Ambassador.  Do you have any comment?

MS. SANDERS:  On the first part, we're working through a legal process and, again, hope to have details further on that.  It's a little bit more complicated.  And once we get through that, we'll be able to walk through a little bit more detail on the reason for some of the delay.  And on the other, I don't have any personnel announcements or comments on that at this time. 

Q    Sarah, I'm interested in the comment you made about the suspect in New York.  Does the White House have any proof that this suspect was radicalized outside of the United States?  He's been a lawful, permanent resident living here for some time. 

MS. SANDERS:  I can't get into any further details on that front at this point.  But as we have them available, I'll be happy to let you know. 

Q    But why would his chain migration be an issue unless you were saying that something happened outside the U.S.?

MS. SANDERS:  There are certain parts that I'm allowed to discuss at this point in the process; that's one of them.  Anything further, I can't get into at this point.  But as soon as I can, we'll be happy to let you know. 


Q    On the directive on space the President is going to announce this afternoon, will he call for an increase in spending for NASA, or will there be commercial partnerships?  Or will he reduce NASA funding in other areas such as earth science, which includes the study of climate change?

MS. SANDERS:  I'm not going to get ahead of the President's announcement that's coming later today, but we'll have further details once that process is completed.


Q    Thanks, Sarah.  Two questions.  Who were the eyewitnesses who dispute these allegations against the President?  And can you stand here right now and say, without a doubt -- 100 percent certainty -- that the more than dozen women who have come forward to accuse this President of misconduct are lying?  Do you wrestle with this personally at all?

MS. SANDERS:  I'm here to speak on behalf of the President.  And I can say that the President has directly responded and said that these allegations are false, and that's what I'm doing in relaying that information to you. 

In terms of the specific eyewitness accounts, there have been multiple reports and I'd be happy to provide them to you after the briefing has completed.


Q    So let me just follow up on that question a little bit.  As a woman standing up there talking to us -- I know your job is to relay what the President says -- have you ever been sexually harassed?  And do you understand -- and I'm not saying by the President -- I'm saying ever.  And secondly, do you have an empathy for those who come forward?  Because it's very difficult for women to come forward. 

MS. SANDERS:  I absolutely would say that I have an empathy for any individual who has been sexually harassed.  And that certainly would be the policy of the White House.  I'm not here to speak about my personal experience on that front, but I'm here to relay information on behalf of the President, and that's what I'm focused on doing here today.


Q    Thanks, Sarah.  Following up on the President's announcement last week on Jerusalem, declaring it's the capital of Israel, we saw days of protests -- sometimes violent protests in the Middle East, changes to the Vice President's schedule as he goes through the region.  Does the White House acknowledge, does the President acknowledge, that that decision increased tensions in an already volatile region?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, we're continuing to urge calm, and we're open and willing and want to continue meeting and discussing a peace deal.

Look, violence is always going to be the responsibility of those who carry it out -- not the President or anyone else.  And again, we urge individuals and groups to remain calm, and we want to continue working with our partners, allies, and others in the region to continue moving forward on the peace conversations.

Q    Sarah, but this is about more than violence.  This is about meetings being cancelled.  It’s about diplomatic outcry from everyone from -- you know, the governments of the United Kingdom, the Pope, and the like.  So why is it beneficial to the U.S. interest, as the President declared, if all those groups, all those countries and allies are condemning that announcement?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, the President is taking a bold and courageous action on a law that Congress passed and had failed to implement for the last couple of decades.  The President is simply moving forward and taking that action on legislation that Congress has supported time and time again.


Q    Yeah, following up on that, President Abbas, as you know, has said he will not meet with the Vice President next week.  Does the President have a reaction to that?  And doesn't this mean that the U.S. has effectively taken itself out of the peace process when one side won’t even show up to meet with the United States?

MS. SANDERS:  We certainly hope not.  We find it unfortunate that they're walking away from the opportunity to discuss the future of the region.  But the administration remains undeterred in its efforts to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and our peace team remains hard at work putting together a plan.  And we're going to continue pushing forward.

I’m going to take one last question.  Philip.

Q    So the last suspects of terrorism were not training in Syria or Iraq.  And Thursday, the Russians stopped their operations, said that they’d gotten rid of ISIS in Syria.  Saturday, the Iraqi Prime Minister said this fight against ISIS is won.  Why would the U.S. still need to fight on the ground?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, as long as there’s any member of ISIS left, we want to continue pushing forward and making sure not only that they're eradicated, but that they don't quickly turn around and come back.  And we’ll continue to push forward in making sure we do what we can to defeat ISIS on all fronts and certainly that we do what we can to protect Americans lives.

Thanks so much, guys.



2:39 P.M. EST

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The Wall Street Journal: "The Economy Revs Up"

Monday, December 11, 2017

“But the biggest change has been in U.S. economic policy, notably the Trump Administration’s deregulatory efforts and the boost they have given business confidence.”

The Economy Revs Up


The Wall Street Journal

December 8, 2017

The Labor Department reported Friday that the U.S. created 228,000 net new jobs in November, in the latest sign that the American economy is growing at a healthier pace.

There’s little doubt now that the economy has reached a higher growth plane over the past nine or so months. Growth in GDP hit 3% in the second and third quarters, and all signs point to another in the fourth quarter. That would mark the first such string of 3% quarters since 2014, after which growth fell back to the 2% range.

The rising growth is touching most industries and parts of the country. Manufacturing is healthy—note to Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross —thanks to growth abroad and rising exports. The housing market is doing well overall, and consumer confidence is high.

The best news may be the surge in small business optimism that began with the election and has persisted, as measured by the National Federation of Independent Business.

The jobless rate among college graduates is down to 2.1%, which has to be near full employment and is close to the lowest since before the 2008 recession. Even more striking is the rapid decline in the jobless rate among workers over age 25 without a high school diploma.

But the biggest change has been in U.S. economic policy, notably the Trump Administration’s deregulatory efforts and the boost they have given business confidence. Barack Obama’s economists dismissed regulation as a minor concern, and even called it a boon to growth, but the costs of compliance were real and added to uncertainty. Businesses held back because they didn’t know how or when government might strike next, which contributed to historically low levels of capital investment in this expansion.

That has begun to change, and the main promise of tax reform is to create the incentive to produce an investment surge.

But for now U.S. economic portents look as good as they have in years. If Congress can get its tax reform over the finish line without watering down its pro-growth elements, “secular stagnation” may go down in history as one more failed progressive diagnosis.

Read the full editorial here.

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Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs

EXECUTIVE ORDER - - - - - - - REDUCING REGULATION AND CONTROLLING REGULATORY COSTS By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, ...

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