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State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert from the White House Lawn with Hugh

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The audio:


The transcript:

HH: On the front lawn of the White House sitting across from Heather Nauert who you saw on the Fox News Channel for years. I’ve never actually done any work with you before, Heather. I never was on Fox and Friends when you were there, so welcome. It’s great to meet you in person.

HN: Thank you. It’s so nice to meet you in person, and of course, I know you so well and your program and everything, but it’s great to sit down face to face.

HH: Welcome to the State Department as well. How do you like Foggy Bottom?

HN: It is, it is fantastic. It is even so much better than I had anticipated. I’d worked for Fox News for years. I worked for ABC News for a couple of years. And so my background is the news business, your business. And now, to join an administration and to help represent America and talk about our ideals and our policies is really a dream to me, and an incredible honor to serve my country in what I say the only I’m qualified to do so.

HH: Yeah, I talked to Hadas Gold on my MSNBC show on Saturday. There are women now as spokespeople at the White House, Sarah Huckabee, we’ve got you at the State Department, at the Pentagon, Sarah Isgur Flores at Justice, at HHS, a female. Is that kind of extraordinary?

HN: I think it’s a testament to what this president sees as the importance of the role of women in his administration. And even at the State Department, the people who surround our Secretary, Rex Tillerson, by and large, a lot of women. So I think obviously women’s opinions, women’s advice, women’s expertise, we’re good at our jobs, and that’s why we’re here.

HH: All right, you’re a newsperson, so you won’t mind a high hard one. There are rumors that your boss is leaving. True or false?

HN: Secretary Tillerson is committed to staying at the State Department. One of the things that he has said is that he will be there as long as there are rogue nations doing things to undermine the United States and world security, such as North Korea. He serves, however, at the pleasure of the president, and he has the president’s support, and he intends to stay there.

HH: All right, the biggest criticism, one I’ve brought up, is that you haven’t got any political appointees except you and Brian Hook and the chief of staff, and the deputy.

HN: There are more than that.

HH: When do the assistant secretaries start to arrive? When do the nominations start to arrive?

HN: So we have a lot of folks in the pipeline. There are ambassadors who are before the Senate right now. Things have been a little slow. Things have been a little bit of a long logjam. There are ethics reports that everybody has to fill out, and you have to get passed through that. That is a very lengthy process. I went through just a small portion of it myself. And then the Senate has been slow to take people up and get things moving, as you know, you know how Congress moves. So that has taken a while. It is not happening as quickly as we would like it to, but we are slowly making progress.

HH: Is there an assistant secretary for the Far East in line, because we have a crisis with North Korea, which is a slow rolling crisis.

HN: Yes. So let me tell you this. And one of the things that I did not anticipate coming out of the private sector was just how fantastic the people are at the State Department. And I’m talking about foreign service officers and career civil servants. They have been 100% supportive, very professional, and apolitical from what I have seen. There is a woman, Susan Thornton, who handles that for us now. She’s been through many administrations, serving both Republicans and Democrats, and she’s doing a fantastic job. She staffs the Secretary when he travels overseas, and when he goes to the United Nations to speak about North Korea. She’s extremely competent, and well-liked. She’s in that position right now. And so when we say we have a deep bench, we really do at this point. These people are patriots, and they’re serving their country and their duty.

HH: Were the reports of the confrontation between Secretary Tillerson and Brian de Stefano overplayed, underplayed, were they accurate?

HN: I think they were overplayed. Look, one of the things that we’re doing is staffing up. And in staffing up, the State Department, and also at the White House, there’s a little bit of give and take about who should be in those positions.

HH: Diplomatically put.

HN: Well, as there should be, a give and take about what people are best to fill those positions. And so we’re having those conversations.

HH: What is your briefing schedule in terms of when do you get information? For example, Israel is in the middle of a crisis right now.

HN: Yes.

HH: It’s heating up. They seem to have resolved the Jordanian Embassy problem.

HN: Well, actually, things are starting to calm down.

HH: Good.

HN: And we are optimistic about that, cautiously optimistic. And we won’t say a whole lot about that situation, because we don’t want to inflame tensions over there. It is such a delicate region of the world, as you well know. One of our priorities has been to try to form a platform to work toward Middle East peace, and we acknowledge at the State Department, and also the special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, who was tapped by the President to handle that, he’s in the region right now. Yesterday, he arrived because of this crisis to sit down and talk with Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s going to Jordan today. And so his position has been to help calm this crisis, and get to a point where we can start getting back on track with having peace negotiations.

HH: That is good news.

HN: So I think he’s off to a good start, and we’ve started to see an easing of tensions. This will not happen overnight. I mean, we have seen this story unfold, and it’s been largely the same for the past fifty or so years.

HH: So what is the working relationship between Secretary Tillerson and Jared Kushner, who’s got the point out of the West Wing on the Middle East?

HN: Yes, so Mr. Kushner is handling a lot of that. And we work cooperatively together. So for example, when Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt go overseas, they go to Israel, they talk with folks over there. They’re staffed by the State Department. So our ambassadors will join them. Our charge d’affaires, our lawyers will join them and help out. So we are very much a part of that process, and they join us and debrief us as well when they get back.

HH: Okay, and a last question, Heather Nauert, and congratulations again on your job.

HN: Thank you.

HH: You said the Secretary as staying as long as he is needed, so that’s not an imminent departure. How long are you going to stay at this? This is a wearying job. What’s your plan?

HN: You know, I love this job. I thought I might miss the news business. I love the news. I’m passionate about the news. And working at the Fox News Channel was an incredible opportunity. I did that for, I hesitate to say how long, I don’t want to date myself, but 16 or so years.

HH: Wow.

HN: But this is incredible. It feels like the right place for me at the right time, and I am so honored to be serving in this administration, and serving a country I very much love.

HH: Thanks for joining me at the top of the second hour. I appreciate it very much.

HN: Thank you.

HH: Continued good luck on our little radio row this morning.

HN: Thank you, Hugh.

HH: Thank you, Heather.

HN: Great to see you. I appreciate it.

HH: Thank you.

End of interview.


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