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Travel Pool Report No. 14 - SPICER GAGGLE
Philip Rucker • The Washington Post
May 25, 2017: 07:34 PM

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and a second official who was speaking on background as a senior administration official held a gaggle with the pool in our hold room at NATO, as the NATO dinner continues on. Below are comments followed by Q&A, in the order in which they were asked.

Spicer first gave us a read-out of the early discussion at the NATO dinner:

"Right off the bat, there was unanimous support for a resolution to commit to burden sharing and combatting terrorism, which are two things the president talked about during his campaign and now as president. To see unanimous support for the two main priorities of the president, and the secretary general was praiseworthy of the president's effort, was a great way to start it off."

Spicer said the NATO countries agreed to commit 2 percent of their GDP to defense. Secretary General Stoltenberg gave a presentation at the dinner using "a big chart" to show how burden sharing was negative and has become more positive.

"It was a very positive reaction and affirmation of the president's priorities today."

Spicer on why President Trump did not explicitly support Article 5 in his remarks:

"At the beginning he talked about it being invoked right after 9/11, but second of all the entire ceremony was called an Article 5 dedication. I think it's a bit silly because by being here at such a ceremony, we all understand that by being part of NATO we treat the obligations and commitments...by having to reaffirm something by the very nature of being here and speaking at a ceremony about it is almost laughable."

Spicer on British intelligence sharing concerns:

"The president has made it very clear going back months that leaks threaten national security and that he is outraged at these allegations and he wants to get to the bottom of it."

Spicer on whether May and Trump discussed it:

"She's sitting next to him at the dinner. I don't know…

"The president was outraged by this, that someone in a government agency would potentially leak classified information that would undermine an ongoing investigation and further compromise national security."

Spicer on NATO takeaways:

"What's being overlooked is actually the results the president's getting. They are talking tonight… they're all talking about burden sharing. The entire discussion is focused on the priorities that the president laid out."

"What you're seeing tonight is actually quite powerful, all of these countries committing to further meeting their obligation financially."

Spicer again on why Trump didn't mention Article 5 specifically:

"We're not playing cutsie with this. He's fully committed."

"If you are standing at a ceremony talking about the invocation of Article 5 after 9/11 and talking about that, that is a pretty clear indication of the support that exists for it. I've seen some of the questions I've gotten from you guys, but there's 100 percent commitment to Article 5. I am somehat perplexed when you're at a ceremony that is centered around Article 5 people [that] could expect to hear certain words."

Spicer on video showing Trump appearing to brush aside Montenegro's prime minister:

"I have not seen the video." He also explained that the standing order at the family photo was predetermined, as per usual.

Spicer was asked whether Tusk raised concerns about the gap between US and Europe over Russia, and Michael Anton chimed in that he had spoken with officials who attended the expanded EU bilateral meeting and Russia did not come up.

Spicer on Trump's relationships with European leaders:

"The relationships continue to grow stronger and stronger. Today was another great day in terms of the relationshps that have been made and continue to be built."

"I don't think anything surprised him today."

Spicer on Trump's reaction to meeting Macron:

"When they were walking out, they seemed to have real, great chemistry, when he was sending him off. From everything I heard, it seemed to go very well."

Spicer on whether Trump would hold a news conference before his foreign trip is completed:

"We'll keep you updated."

Spicer on Trump using the same language to alliance members face-to-face as on the campaign trail back home:

"What he thinks is important is to get results and I think one of the things that they recognized is that that's where his focus is, to get results. He talked about how it wasn't fair for the American taxpayer, and he talked about that in the working dinner they've having, and that our taxpayers are funding up to 4 percent and it's frankly not fair to see some of these other countries that benefit more from NATO not paying their fair share"

Senior administration official on Trump and Stoltenberg:

"I walked into the conversation the president was talking to the secretary after the speech and he [Stoltenberg] was saying how much the president's leadership on burden sharing has helped him get these more substantial defense bills. It was striking to watch the beginning of the closed-door session they led with his presentation on how countries are starting to pay more."

Discussing Article 5 and Trump not addressing it explicitly, this senior administration official said that Stoltenberg "seemed bemused that it would ever be asked. He said deeds are what show the commitment to Article 5, and he came to the Article 5 ceremony...Everyone's surprised anyone's even asking that question."

Senior administration official on the speech strategy:

"The speech had a few purposes. One was to honor the victims of the Manchester attack and then to dedicate the 9/11 memorial and finally to address burden sharing. That was the goal of the speech."

Senior administration official on Trump support of NATO:

"The United States is in NATO, so obviously we support all the articles in NATO."

Senior administration official, again on Stoltenberg and Article 5 concerns:

"The secretary general, who I presume would be the person most attuned to these issues, he was shocked that anyone would even ask the question."

Senior administration official on the impact of NATO on Russia:

"The more NATO countries spend, the worse it is for Russia....As Trump's pushing NATO to spend more and more and more, that's obviously making life more difficult for Russia and that's creating a stronger and more vibrant Europe."

This official continued, "What Trump's doing really is increasing nato's ability to deter any kind of aggression on its borders, including from Russia."

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