Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Dallas, Texas
3:47 P.M. EDT
MR. GIDLEY: Okay, I know we have kind of a short flight into Dallas, so I'll go ahead and just open it up for questions now.
Q: What was the President's reaction to the Russians visiting North Korea?
MR. GIDLEY: I haven't spoken with him directly about that. I know that his main focus now is on the potential meeting with North Korea and trying to denuclearize the Peninsula. We now know that we're going to welcome the North Koreans to D.C. tomorrow. And we understand there's a letter coming, and we look forward to receiving that letter and trying to work toward our ultimate goal of denuclearization.
Q: Who exactly is coming tomorrow? Is it just the same people that met with Secretary Pompeo?
MR. GIDLEY: I don't have the details of everyone who's coming. I defer you to State on that. They have that information.
Q: Will the President be meeting with these officials, or is it a lower-level meeting?
MR. GIDLEY: It's my understanding Kim Yong Chol is coming and has the letter from Kim Jong Un. But I don't know all of the other players involved that will be coming.
Q: And still no idea of what the content of the letter might be?
MR. GIDLEY: No. It's my understanding that it's a sealed letter, so I have not seen it.
Q: Would the President make the content of the letter public no matter what it says?
MR. GIDLEY: I can't -- I'm not going to guess on what he's going to do with the letter.
Q: Do you expect the President to meet with him in the Oval Office for extended talks, or is just a handover of the letter?
MR. GIDLEY: Again, I'm not going to get ahead of the details, because we don't know them yet. I'm not exactly sure what the plan is. They're still working those out now. States -- for any details, I defer you to State.
Q: Can you tell us who the President met with in Houston at the meeting, at the airport hangar, and how it went and how he received them?
MR. GIDLEY: I don't want to get into the private meeting as it relates to the grieving families that experienced such a horrific tragedy. But it was very impactful. It was a very emotional time. They've suffered a great loss and a great tragedy. And out of respect for them and the grieving process, I'm not going to get into the details of the meeting.
Q: Can you just give us a sense as to, were these the families of people who were killed, were they first responders? Do you have kind of -- even just -- even not names, but can you categorize the kind of people he met with?
MR. GIDLEY: I can just say they were all affected in some way by the shooting.
Q: Two of the people the President mentioned for pardons -- he's considering Blagojevich and Martha Stewart -- they both have connections to "Celebrity Apprentice." Is there a reason he's thinking about them and not some of the other 3,000 people on the list?
MR. GIDLEY: He's thinking about all of those people. One of the things he mentioned also is that Jack Johnson, the former heavyweight champion, was one of the ones that really impacted him. It was a great disservice done to him. The President felt as though it was a wrong that needed to be righted. And he has the power, under the Constitution, to right that wrong -- and that's what he did.
The same applies to Dinesh D'Souza. He thought there was some selective prosecution there. Reviewed the case, looked at the merits, and made the decision. He also mentioned Mr. Blagojevich and also Martha Stewart. He's looking at those. But I can't get ahead of his deliberations or decisions on that.
Q: The people you mentioned, though, were all celebrities. Is that a fair way -- in their own right and in different ways. Is that a fair way to view the commonalities?
MR. GIDLEY: Look, there are plenty of people the President is looking at right now under the pardon process. But I don't have anything further than that right now.
Q: (Inaudible) Ted Cruz was one of the people who did make the President more aware of the D'Souza case. I think there's been some reports about that, and I think we saw Cruz tweeting about it. I know the President didn't comment on that. But can you talk any more about --
MR. GIDLEY: I'm not aware of any conversation he had with Senator Cruz on that matter.
Q: Can you speak to who else may have impacted his thinking on it?
MR. GIDLEY: No. All I know is what the President has told me, which is he saw the case, he thought it was a grave injustice, he thought the punishment did not fit the crime, and felt as though it was important to do what he did.
Q: How did he see the case? It hasn't been in the news recently, I don't believe.
MR. GIDLEY: Repeat that question.
Q: You said he saw the case. But like how did get on his radar? It hasn't been a particularly buzzy issue recently, unless I missed it.
MR. GIDLEY: He's familiar with the case. I mean, it's been covered for quite some time. He understands the case, he knows the case. And he has the right to make the decision, and that's what he did, under the power of the Constitution.
Q: What about the case that Kim Kardashian raised yesterday? How serious is he looking at that one?
MR. GIDLEY: He's looking at that one, as well. It was a brief meeting, but one that -- again, he takes these things extremely seriously. That's a power outlined by the Constitution, one in which he understands the gravity. And much like the other cases you guys mentioned and other ones you don't know anything about that he's already looking into as well, I can't get ahead of the decision that he's going to make, but he's looking at all those seriously. He takes them seriously, because they impact people's lives.
Q: Last week, there were two different meetings for lawmakers to get briefed on materials by that informant who was connected to the Trump campaign. Has the President himself asked for a readout or some sort of briefing of those meetings and what was discussed?
MR. GIDLEY: I'm not aware if he's asked for those, no.
Q: Does he agree with Trey Gowdy that basically the FBI did what was right? Or does he have reason to believe that Trey Gowdy is not telling the truth there?
MR. GIDLEY: I'll tell you what he agrees with Trey Gowdy about, is that Trey Gowdy's ultimate conclusion after seeing the evidence -- that after all this, there's still not one shred of information that has anything to do with Russia collusion, obstruction of any kind.
And I find it somewhat comical that the mainstream media at-large would focus on a disagreement about the process as opposed to the actual conclusion, where they are in total agreement that after a year and a half -- actually, we're leading into the second year now -- a million and a half documents, hours of testimony, there's still not one shred of evidence of any collusion of any kind.
Q: One more about Kim Yong Chol. He's under sanctions in the U.S. He's been accused of causing the deaths of thousands of South Korean troops, of various other human rights atrocities. Does the President have any misgivings with sitting down with him in the Oval Office? Does that lend him a certain amount of credibility?
MR. GIDLEY: Again, no one is saying they're sitting down in the Oval Office yet. The details are still being worked out. That's something that I have to defer you to State on.
But we understand he's got the letter. The President obviously wants to see the letter at the behest of Kim Jong Un. And we're going to look at that -- because when you have the opportunity to potentially denuclearize the Peninsula, making it safer for the American people and also for the world, the President is going to take that opportunity.
Donald J. Trump, Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/335830