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Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters

June 28, 2018

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Joint Base Andrews

3:41 P.M. EDT

MS. WALTERS: So I just want to start with like a few brief opening remarks.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the horrible shooting at the Capital Gazette Newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. We are grateful for the first responders who are at the scene. The President has been briefed on the situation, and the White House has been in contact with the FBI.

As you all know, we are headed back to Washington, D.C., where tomorrow the President will mark his six-month anniversary of the tax cuts becoming law with a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

Today, in Wisconsin, ground was broken on a facility that is a result of the business-friendly tax code, trade and regulatory policies President Trump has brought forth since taking office. The Foxconn plant will take two years and 10,000 workers to build, and employ 13,000 workers when in full production.

Since President Trump took office, more than 300,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created in the United States. And last year, the U.S. experienced a net addition of more than 4,000 new factories after suffering the loss of 65,000 factories between 2001 and 2013.

American workers are seeing more and more job opportunities, with openings reaching their highest level on record. President Trump is fighting for the people of Wisconsin and creating new opportunities for all Americans.

Lastly, we again thank Justice Anthony Kennedy for his 30 years of distinguished service to our nation's highest court. He has authored landmark opinions during his tenure in countless areas of constitutional law, leaving the enduring legacy. As the President noted yesterday, Justice Kennedy has been a tireless voice for the individuals' rights and the Founders' enduring vision of limited government.

The selection for his replacement has begun, and we will keep you posted on any announcements.


Q: Can you tell us, does the President -- what's the President's timeline in terms of making an announcement for a successor to Justice Kennedy? And does he hope to announce a name before he leaves for Europe in a couple of weeks?

MS. WALTERS: As the President has said, the process has already begun to find a nominee to replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court. The President's nominee to replace Justice Kennedy will have a tremendous intellect, judicial temperament, and impeccable qualifications. He or she, above all, will have a duty to uphold the law and the Constitution. And this is a process that the President has begun. And if we have any further announcements, we'll let you know when we do.

Q: When you say the process has begun, what exactly does that mean? Is he reviewing paperwork, bios, past opinions? Can you be a little more specific about what exactly the process he's going through is?

MS. WALTERS: As the President said yesterday, he is going through the process of finding a nominee. He will pick one off of the list that you all have previously seen. This is something that the President takes very seriously, and we will move through that process. And when we have an update to report out, we will let you know what it is.

Q: Lindsay, one of legacies of Justice Kennedy is on LGBT rights, gay rights. Is that something that the President will look for, a justice who would uphold that, as well, on the court?

MS. WALTERS: As I said, the President's nominee to replace Justice Kennedy will have a tremendous intellect, judicial temperament, and impeccable qualifications. He or she, above all, will have a duty to uphold the law and the Constitution.

Q: Lindsay, there's a report in the Wall Street Journal that the President is looking at replacing Kelly. Can you say anything about when Kelly is expected to depart? Is that in the plans at all?

MS. WALTERS: I spoke to the President, who refuted this article. He said it is absolutely not true and that it is fake news. Since speaking to the President, that article is inaccurate.

Q: So he's not talking to others about a potential replacement for Kelly at any point in the future? That's just not a discussion at all?

MS. WALTERS: The President pushed back on the article. He referred to it as fake news. I've also spoken to General Kelly, who said this was news to him. So both individuals in question have said there is no truth to this article.

Q: In his briefing, does the President have any more detail about what caused the shooting, what the motive was, if there was any connection to terrorism or anything else?

MS. WALTERS: I don't have anything further to report out to you other than what I said in my opening, that the White House has been in contact with the FBI. We are continuing to monitor the situation, and as we have updates, we will let you know.

Q: On the Supreme Court justice, can you tell us, who's going to be helping him with that choice and the vetting? Has anyone been vetted at all yet? Because I know you said he's going to pick from the list. Has everyone on that list been vetted? Is it Don McGhan who's going to help lead? Can you talk us through either vetting and who's going to help?

MS. WALTERS: So the President will seek the advice of the Senate in choosing a nominee. But ultimately, this will be the President's decision. At the end of the day, the pick will be an individual whom the President chooses to sit at the highest level of court.

As for the -- who is involved in this, you know, we don't often let out who is dealing with what parts of it. When we have information that's relative to report out, we'll let you know.

Q: Has anybody been vetted at all? Are any of the people on the list vetted?

MS. WALTERS: I'm not going to get into the internal processes of going through that list.

Q: Do you have an update on what's going on at the border? Have any more children been reunited with their families since, I think, Secretary Azar gave an update midweek, or something like that?

MS. WALTERS: There have been over 500 children who have been reunified with their families. HHS, DHS, and DOJ are continuing to work through ensuring that remaining children are reunified with their parents. Again, they need to go through a process to ensure that the children who are going to be reunified are placed back with either the person who is their parent or a sponsor. There is a vetting process that takes place to ensure that the child's wellbeing is being put first.

Q: Lindsay, can you tell us about the upcoming meeting with Mr. Putin? How Mr. Trump is preparing for it, what he thinks are the advantages or some of the risks that he's taking with the meeting.

MS. WALTERS: As you all know, President Trump and President Putin will meet on July 16th in Helsinki to discuss the U.S.-Russia relations and a range of national security issues. The President is pursuing this meeting in the interest of America's national security to determine whether Russia is willing to make progress in our relationship.

The President hopes that the meeting can help reduce tensions and lead to constructive engagement that improves peace and security around the world.

Q: Lindsay, the President tweeted today that Putin keeps saying he didn't interfere in the election. The intelligence community obviously says different. Does the President side with the intelligence community, or does he believe Putin?

MS. WALTERS: The President has made his views on this clear. He has again said that there was no interference on behalf of his campaign in the election. And for anything else, I refer you to outside counsel.

Q: Lindsay, will the President demand that President Putin and Russia return Crimea to Ukraine?

MS. WALTERS: I'm not going to get ahead of what the President is going to say in his talks with President Putin. But what I can tell you is that he is pursuing this meeting in the interest of America's national security to determine whether Russia is willing to make progress in our relationship.

Q: Back on the border, will the government be able to meet the court order to reunite all families and children within 30 days? And what is the White House doing to try to help make that happen?

MS. WALTERS: The court ruling two days ago clearly shows the need for congressional action to fix our broken immigration system. This ruling further complicates the already convoluted judicial ruling that makes effective enforcement impossible. The injunction must be removed immediately or we can't keep the country safe. And the President has made his position on this very clear, how he feels about securing our border and protecting our communities here in America.

Q: Can you tell us about the European allies? The President seemed very critical of European allies -- how he anticipates this trip to Europe and just anything more about that?

MS. WALTERS: I'm sorry. Can you repeat --

Q: About the European Union, the President's criticism of the European allies. In his upcoming meeting, he's going to Europe and I'm wondering how he sees some of the potential problems that he might face with the criticism that he's had of the Europeans for the trade issues and so on.

MS. WALTERS: I've not had a conversation with the President on his thoughts heading into his meetings in the coming weeks, so I'll need to get back to you on that.

Q: You said that that meeting in the East Room is tomorrow?

MS. WALTERS: Yes. The six-month tax anniversary event will be tomorrow, held in the East Room.

Q: And he's giving remarks? Anything else?

MS. WALTERS: He will give remarks, yes.

Q: The President referred to his remarks just now to cars and talks with the EU about trade and auto tariffs, and then he said sort of jokingly, to the audience, "Don't tell anyone but they've already come back to talk about this." What was he referring to?

MS. WALTERS: The President is focused on free, fair, and reciprocal trade, and his goal to negotiate trade policies with the EU that benefit U.S. workers and companies. He's working to do that effectively for workers in Wisconsin and across the country, and that's what he was referring to.

Q: Lindsay --

Q: So, wait. Hold on a second. Hold on. Hold on. That doesn't answer the question. Like, was he referring to -- are there talks going on right now with the EU about the auto tariffs that he has threatened to put on?

MS. WALTERS: I'm not going to get into specifics around conversation. Again, what I can say is that the President is focused on free, fair, and reciprocal trade.

Q: Can you talk about whether Bill Shine is coming aboard to take over the communications and press operations at the White House?

MS. WALTERS: We have no personnel announcements at this time.

Q: There are reports that the President is going to Montana week to campaign against Jon Tester. Can you confirm that? Montana newspapers are reporting that he's coming next -- the day after 4th of July, July 5th.

MS. WALTERS: I can confirm that the President will be traveling to Montana next week.

Q: (Inaudible) from that?

MS. WALTERS: Okay. I think we're --

Q: What day is that, Lindsay? Sorry. What day is Montana?

Q: Day after July 4th.

MS. WALTERS: It is next Thursday.

Q: There's also been some reports that North Korea is continuing to make improvements on one of their nuclear sites in Yongbyon. Do you know if the President is aware of those reports and has any reaction to them?

MS. WALTERS: I will need to get back to you on that.

Q: Lindsay, one more thing. We don't know very much about what happened in Maryland with the shootings, but I'm wondering if you have any concerns about all of the things that the President says about the media, about the criticism of the media; whether, you know, there's any danger to this sort of -- this battle that's going on right now.

MS. WALTERS: The White House and the President, and you've heard Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, say there is no room for violence, and we stick by that. Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against. There is no room for violence in our country.

Thank you, guys.

Donald J. Trump, Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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