President-elect Trump’s transition team is holding daily media calls to update the press on how the transition is progressing. We will be posting the transcripts from these calls after they happen. Here is the transcript from Thursday’s call.
On the call were Sean Spicer, President-elect Trump’s pick for press secretary, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
OPERATOR: Good day, and welcome to the transition daily briefing call. Today’s conference is being recorded.
At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Sean Spicer. Please go ahead.
SPICER: Hey, thanks a lot, guys. Welcome. A lot of news this morning, so let me jump right in.
For those of you who don’t own a calendar, we are eight days out from inauguration. This morning — breaking this morning, the president-elect announced that he has asked Mayor Rudy Giuliani to chair a committee on cybersecurity. This is in reference to the commission — task force that he pointed out last Friday after meeting with the intelligence chief.
The mayor will be sharing his expertise with the president-elect concerning cybersecurity challenges and emerging solutions in the private sector. He believes the answers to America’s cybersecurity threats will be found within America’s innovative private companies. In an effort to facilitate the process, the mayor will organize an ongoing series of meetings with the president-elect and senior executives from companies working to mitigate the rapidly changing cybersecurity threat.
The mayor was asked to initiate this process because of his longstanding and very successful government career in law enforcement, and his now 16 years of working in private security solutions in the private sector. I want to note that afterwards, we can take some questions on this.
This morning, Amazon announced that it will create more than 10,000 jobs in the United States over the next 18 months. This will bring its full-time workforce to over 280,000 employees by mid-’18. The announcement was made after the president-elect met with heads of several other tech companies and urged them to keep their jobs and production inside the United States.
So, the — this, as you know, Jeff Bezos and others were part of that. And the president-elect was pleased to have played a role in that decision by Amazon.
Since we didn’t hold a press call yesterday, I’m going to briefly run through the president-elect’s schedule for yesterday before I get to today. He held a news conference that I think most people are aware of. During the news conference, the president-elect and his lawyer, Sheri Dillon, laid out how the president-elect is going above and beyond what is required in an effort to ensure that the American people know that he is always acting in their best interests, and that when he takes office on January 20th, he will be completely removed from running his business, so that his entire focus will be on running the country and making America great again.
Even though he doesn’t have a conflict of interest and those laws don’t apply to the president, in order to even eliminate the appearance of conflict, the president-elect will place his business holdings in a trust run by his sons Donald and Eric Trump and Allen Weisenberg, another Trump Organization executive. He’s already disposed of his investments in publicly traded or easily liquidated investments. While he’s in office, there will be stringent restrictions on new deals. And the president-elect will have no role in deciding whether the Trump Organization will pursue any new deals.
SPICER: The president-elect will sharply limit his access to information regarding his companies.
Additionally, the Trump Organization has established a new position of chief compliance officer, whose sole responsibility is to ensure that the Trump Organization’s businesses are operating at the highest levels of integrity and are not taking any actions that exploit or even could be perceived as exploiting the office of the presidency.
Further, the president-elect will donate to the U.S. Treasury any profit from foreign government payments to his hotels. This way, the American people are the ones that will profit.
The structure being put in place will address all conflicts of interest and concerns while preserving a great American company that provides jobs for so many people.
As discussed during the press conference — was a lot of the fake news that had come out of the site. The outrageous and total false disgrace of the journalism profession. And the documents that were — admittedly, according to Buzzfeed’s own editor, raised serious doubt to the allegation contained wherein.
In fact, the foreign intelligence agent alleged to have presented this information was, according to CNN, employed by a rival campaign.
These attacks display a reckless disregard for the truth and serve as a perfect illustration for America why trust in the media is at an all-time low.
There was no coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and any suggestion otherwise is totally irresponsible.
Politics shouldn’t play a role in our intelligence efforts and our intelligence efforts shouldn’t play a role in our politics.
As you all heard yesterday, David Shulkin was announced as the next secretary of veterans affairs. Let me just read you the statement that was officially read out afterwards.
Quote, “I have no doubt Dr. Shulkin will be able to lead and turn around the Department of Veterans Affairs. So many of our great veterans have not gotten the level of care that they deserve, but Dr. Shulkin has the expertise and the vision to ensure that we will meet the health care needs of every veteran. Dr. Shulkin, incredibly gifted doctor, is using elite talents for medicine to care for our heroes and Americans have faith that he will get the job done right,” end quote.
As the current undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Shulkin leads the nation’s largest integrated health care system, currently serving 8.76 million veterans every year at over 1,700 locations. His nomination fulfills the president- elect’s promise to appoint a Veterans secretary whose sole purpose will be to serve veterans.
Having seen the inner workings of the Department of Veterans Affairs from the inside, Dr. Shulkin is the perfect person to fix the struggling agency and meet the health care needs of millions of veterans. Under a Trump administration, the need of D.C. bureaucrats will no longer be placed above those veterans.
Yesterday, the — the president (sic) also had a series of additional meetings — just, I’ll read them out.
Mr. Michael Kramer from Ducera Partners. Last name is K-R-A-M-E- R. The name of the company is D-U-C-E-R-A Partners.
Mr. Werner Baumann; W-E-R-N-E-R, last name B-A-U-M-A-N-N. He’s the CEO of Bayer AG.
Arthur Schwartz, S-C-H-W-A-R-T-Z, from Axiom Auditors.
Hugh Grant is the CEO of Monsanto.
Robert Fraley, F-R-A-L-E-Y, is the CTO and EVP of Monsanto.
Mr. Peter Thiel, T-H-I-E-L, is a transition team executive member.
He met with Dr. Francis Collins, the current director of the NIH.
Congressman Andy Harris, Senator Joe Lieberman and Congressman Randy Neugebauer — and that’s N-E-U-G-E-B-A-U-E-R — from Texas.
Finally, he met with Mr. Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Los Angeles — Las Vegas Sands Corporations; A-D-E-L-S-O-N.
Yesterday afternoon, the vice president travelled to Washington, D.C., where he held a bipartisan individual meeting on Capitol Hill with senators Tim Kaine, Lisa Murkowski, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, Susan Collins and Chuck Grassley. After his meetings on the Hill, he attended transition meetings and remained overnight in Washington.
SPICER: Moving on to the president-elect’s schedule for today, the president-elect spoke on the phone today with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal — first name, M-A-R-C-E-L-O; last names, capital R-E-B-E-L-O, small D, small E, capital S-O-U-S-A. And he — the president-elect was congratulated on his recent victory.
The two men spoke about the importance of maintaining strong relations between the United States and Portugal and agreed to work closely to continue strengthening that relationship.
The president-elect met with Mr. Randall Stephenson, S-T-E-P-H-E- N-S-O-N, chairman and CEO of AT&T. He then met with the former U.S. ambassador to Uruguay, Mr. Martin Silverstein, S-I-L-V-E-R-S-T-E-I-N, who currently serves as senior counsel with the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig and has been a member of the transition team.
He then met with former ambassador to Tanzania Mark Green, G-R-E- E-N, no E. Mr. Green currently serves as the president of the International Republican Institute. He then — Mr. Green and Mr. Silverstein are both being considered for positions within the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID.
Following this, he’ll meet with — and I’m just going to spell it straight out. First name B-E-L-A-J-I; last name, capital S-R-I-N-I-V- A-S-A-N, who currently serves as the CEO and cofounder of 21.co and is a partner in Andreessen Horowitz. He has won FDA approval as a genomics entrepreneurial (ph).
His next meeting is with Jim O’Neill, O’-N-E-I-L-L. He’s the managing director of Mithril Capital Management. First name of that company is M-I-T-H-R-I-L Capital Management, and the former principal deputy — associate deputy, rather, at the Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. Both are being considered for positions in the FDA.
This evening, the president-elect will receive his intelligence briefing from General Flynn, and General Dunford of the Joint Chiefs will be here as well.
Today, the vice president-elect began his day with the PDB and transition meetings in Washington D.C. He’ll then travel to New York City for more transition meetings and will return to D.C. later tonight.
The following nominees have been — have had confirmation hearings that are currently underway: General James Mattis, secretary-designate of defense; Dr. Ben Carson, secretary-designate of HUD, Housing and Urban Development; and Congressman Mike Pompeo, the next director of the CIA.
General Mattis is the living embodiment of the Marine Corps’s motto Semper Fidelis. He is always faithful, always has been. The American people are fortunate that a man of his character and integrity will be the civilian leader atop the Department of Defense.
Dr. Carson courageously lifted himself out of poverty, is an inspiring choice who as a household name will further elevate HUD and its mission. He will work to make our inner cities great again for everyone, particularly those who have been left behind by the failed politicians and policies of the past.
Congressman Mike Pompeo is a U.S. Army veteran with a lifelong record of service in the pursuit of keeping the American people safe and secure. He brought his years of military experience with the House Intelligence Committee which will oversee America’s intelligence-gathering efforts and his experience makes him the ideal choice to serve as the next CIA director.
Before I open it up for questions, as I mentioned earlier this morning, the president-elect tapped Mayor Rudy Giuliani to lead the cyber task force. We have with us less — no later — no less than that great leader himself, the former mayor of New York and the chairman of that commission, Mayor Giuliani, who I’ve asked to say a few words about the effort that he’s going to undertake.
GIULIANI: Thank you very much, Sean.
It’s a great privilege to be asked by President-elect Trump to be in charge of this group that is going to tap the private sector for both the problems and the solutions to cyber defense.
I think it was during Rex Tillerson’s hearing yesterday that he made it quite clear, as well as many others, that our cyber defense is not what it should be. That’s true not just for the government. That’s true for the private sector.
In our effort to gather information and our effort to analyze information, in our effort to do all of these tremendously creative things we’re now able to do with the internet, we’ve let our defense fall behind. Our offense is way ahead of our defense. This is not just true of the United States. It’s true throughout the world. And the reality is that in the private sector, a lot of the problems occur and a lot of the solutions take place.
And it’s going to be my role to, from time to time, to bring together the leaders in the private sector, the corporate leaders and the thought leaders to meet with the president so that he can get from them directly the problems they’re facing and maybe even more importantly, the solutions that they have.
I’ll conclude by just giving you sort of an analogy. It’s kind of like cancer in the sense that there are so many different things being done to cure cancer, you almost feel like if you could put all the people in the same room, and they’d all share the information with each other, maybe we’d cure it.
Well, I happen to know because I travel the world studying cybersecurity that by putting all of these people in the same room, I don’t know that we will solve it and create a perfect defense, but we can do a heck of a lot better job than we’re doing. And that information should be made available both to the president — the president-elect now, and when this happens, president — as well as, of course, all of the key people in his administration. And that will be our aim, to create a very vibrant and a very robust cyber defense for both the private sector and for the government.
SPICER: Thanks, Mayor. Appreciate it. Thank you for sharing — for answering the president’s call to chair this important effort.
With that, operator, we’d like to take some calls.
OPERATOR: Thank you.
If you would like to ask a question, please signal by pressing star-one on your telephone keypad. If you’re using a speakerphone, please make sure your mute function is turned off to allow your signal to reach our equipment. Again, press star-one to ask a question.
And we will begin with Geoff Earle from the Daily Mail.
QUESTION: Hey, Sean. Thanks.
I’m wondering if the president-elect is considering legal action against any of the former intelligence officials who, you know, put together this dossier of information. And also, you know, whoever paid for putting it together, as well as people who promulgated it, like (inaudible) and anybody else.
SPICER: I’m sorry, just so I’m clear. So your question is: Is he concerned about retribution from the I.C. community?
QUESTION: No, I’m asking if he’s prepared to sue the people who put together the dossier.
SPICER: Well, I think, look, I think the president has been very clear about, one, it’s a false document. He’s disgusted that it’s in the dialogue right now. A lot of it has been proven to be false, patently false. I mean, just take for example the Michael Cohen thing that we brought out yesterday. I mean, that’s — I guess that people might not fully appreciate the fact that in a country of 320 million people, there’s two Michael Cohens or more.
SPICER: But the fact of the matter is is that it took about eight seconds for us to prove, with the real Michael Cohen here in the Trump Organization, that it’s not true. So the president-elect, as you know, and you can see it from the amount of meetings that he’s had in the agenda — the legislative agenda and the (ph) amount of time that he’s spending meeting people to help lead his administration effort to — to make this country great is — is, sort of — I think he’s been very clear.
I think a lot of people in the media themselves have dismissed this as uncredible and unworthy of the journalistic standards that they were taught and that some of their publications choose to continue to uphold.
So, he’s moved on. He’s focused on — on policies that are going to put people back to work and create economic growth, keeping the country safe again.
So, thank you for the question.
OPERATOR: We’ll go next to Alex Mallon (ph) with ABC News.
QUESTION: Hi, there.
I just want to see if you guys have any reaction. Yesterday, the OJE director said — he called the president-elect’s announcement to separate himself from his businesses “wholly inadequate” and that “it cannot achieve the president-elect’s goal to eliminate conflict of interest.”
Considering this is a non-partisan executive agency, I just wonder, is there any plan to coordinate with them, to try and address any of their concerns? And — I mean, what is the — what is the reaction of the transition team just to that?
SPICER: Well, I think it’s twofold.
First and foremost, I don’t know how many times it can be stated: The president by law doesn’t have conflicts. I mean, it’s somewhat of a silly discussion.
But second and foremost, I — I think that Sheri Dillon just did a phenomenal job of outlining the — the additional steps — the unnecessary steps, frankly — that he is going to to show the American people how focused he wants to be on moving the country forward.
So, I would just refer you to Sheri’s statements. I think when you start going through the different arguments — and Sheri laid them all out there — that anything but the actions that he took are — are ridiculous. And the steps that he taken — that he did take are, frankly, extraordinary.
So, I think, A, this discussion should just — at some point, people need to understand that it’s very clear that he can’t have a conflict; and that, secondly, what he did was go above and beyond and then — and so, I get it, that other people may want him to do something, but he has gone well above and beyond. And I would refer you to the comments Sheri made yesterday and laid out why some of these silly arguments to the contrary are just implausible and ridiculous.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go next to Brian Schwartz with Fox Business.
QUESTION: Hey, Sean.
So, I know that the AT&T CEO, like you said, met with Donald Trump today. Did they discuss the impending AT&T/Time Warner deal? Is Donald Trump’s stance on the deal changed since his last public statement? And does he plan on meeting with the Time Warner CEO as well any time soon?
SPICER: I’m just going to leave it at this.
I think you’ve seen by the meetings that he’s had with other CEOs, his — his primary focus is how companies can continue to create jobs, lift up wages and the policies and regulations that are standing in the way of creating further jobs for Americans, creating higher- paid jobs and also creating economic growth, and them doing additional business in countries, market access and things like that.
That’s — that’s generally been the subject of all his meetings with these CEOs.
OPERATOR: And we’ll go next to Allyson Versprille with Bloomberg BNA.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for taking my question.
So, the Senate took a significant step forward late last night on repealing Obamacare. And I was wondering if there’s any concern with the — you know, the Trump team. He had said that he wants to repeal and replace almost simultaneously. Are you concerned that that may not happen?
SPICER: Quite the contrary. I — I think last night was a great step in the right direction of repealing and replacing Obamacare and getting it over to — to the House. So — so, we look at that as an enormously positive step.
SPICER: And again, I mean, at the end of the day, this effort’s not just about repealing and replacing at a high level. It’s about making sure that the American people have a health care system that’s frankly more affordable and gives them the choices they were promised.
I think too often we see (inaudible) plans where in that plan, the doctor that you may have gone to for years is no longer there or no longer part of the plan or participating in the plan. And I think what he wants to do is foster more competition, bring more options and accessibility, driving down costs, and making sure that they get quality care.
I mean, that’s what this is all about, as opposed to just the process piece of it. But, you know, at the end of the day, the Senate’s action last night was a huge step in the right direction of bringing that reality into focus.
OPERATOR: And our next question is from Alexis Simendinger with Real Clear Politics.
QUESTION: Hey, Sean. I wanted to ask you a question about the collection of things this week. I was wondering if the president- elect feels that the combination of a high transition disapproval rating in a recent poll, for instance in Quinnipiac, 51 percent; or the tussles with the OGE or the intelligence community, or with Republicans on the Hill, and including the media, of course — would in any way suggest that he’s coming into office in eight days as a weakened president?
SPICER: I am kind of — I don’t know how you — I mean, when I look at the polls, his approval rating continues to go up. And at the end of the day, I mean, you tell me. He sends out a tweet the other day, the House is about to vote on repeal of a particular rule within the House. He sends out a tweet and they remove it. I think that the power of his movement, the power of, you know, you want to call it a mandate you can.
I don’t — I think from lawmakers around this country, from the lowest level to the highest level, have understood that the American people voted for change and that he is the instrument of that change. So, I think, look, you’re watching these CEOs coming in over and over again, wanting to be part of this effort. Amazon announcing 100,000 jobs today; Sprint a couple of weeks ago announcing 5,000 jobs; SoftBank, Alibaba.
These people are dying to come and talk to him that because of his administration, because of his philosophy and outlook and vision for this country, they want to get back on board. They want to bring jobs back to the country. They want to build. They want to be part of a Trump effort to make the country great again.
Then you look at the personnel, you know, that are up there testifying starting this week. The level of quality and caliber of these individuals is bar none probably the greatest Cabinet ever assembled. So when you — and then when you look at the people who just want to staff the Trump administration, it’s overwhelming, not just in the numbers, but in the quality.
So I would — I would — I would push back on anything like that because I believe that it has been so contrary to the other side about how positive from the highest levels of this country in terms of CEOs, to workers, to staff that are all excited to be part of a Trump administration, a Trump effort, and a Trump philosophy that moves this country in the right direction.
OPERATOR: And the next question is from Steve Holland with Reuters.
QUESTION: Rex Tillerson and General Mattis are expounding some views on Russia that don’t necessarily sync-up with the president- elect’s views. Do you see this as a problem or as it an asset in terms of encouraging debate around the Cabinet table?
SPICER: Well, I think depending on the question, right? So at the end of the day, each one of them is going to pursue a Trump agenda and a Trump vision. In some cases, when the committee of jurisdiction asked them a question about a personal view or something that they may or may not have done, I think they’re going to make sure that they explain it.
But I don’t see any problem — I mean, I don’t — I’m sure that there is no one that’s going to staff or be part of an administration for any president that’s going to be 100 percent pure and in line, but they’re being asked their — their personal views here and there. They’re giving them.
But at the end of the day, and frankly that’s what the president- elect wants and that’s why he chose them, is to share their views with him, to help shape his opinions and ideas and thoughts.
You know, and — and again, I’m sitting across from Mayor Giuliani. The reason he tapped him to lead the cybersecurity task force is because he has an expertise that he can go out across the world, frankly, get an understanding of the threats that we face and the solutions that we can offer, and bring those ideas and thoughts and opinions to the president-elect, make suggestions about how we can make this country stronger against — how our cyber defenses can be stronger against cyber attacks.
OPERATOR: And this concludes our question and answer session. I’ll turn the call back to Mr. Spicer for any additional remarks.
SPICER: Thank you guys, again. I enjoyed seeing so many of you yesterday here at Trump Tower. I will look forward to hearing you again tomorrow at 10:30. Until then, have a great day.
OPERATOR: And this concludes our call for today.
Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.