I was joined this morning by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
HH: Pleased to welcome Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary, longtime friend of the show. Sarah, good morning, great to talk to you.
SHS: Good morning, Hugh. Thanks so much for having me on.
HH: Well, it’s day three of the Schumer Shutdown. What is the impact at the White House, if any?
SHS: I mean, obviously, there’s an impact here, but the one that we’re most concerned about is far beyond these walls. It’s sad that the Democrats are playing political games with our great men and women that are serving all over the world, with children’s health insurance and a number of other federal government employees. I think we saw some of the effects of that over the weekend at some of the national parks. We’re doing what we can to mitigate a lot of the impact as best we can as an administration. But there’s certainly, I think, a lot of frustration that Democrats aren’t willing to come to the table and vote for something they actually support. That’s unheard of, and a little bit mind-boggling that you have a piece of legislation that everybody agrees on, and everyone supports, both Democrats, Republicans, House and Senate, yet it can’t get through to make it to the President’s desk.
HH: Now Sarah, I’ve got to ask you personally, you’re working for free today. And if your boss figures out that you will work for free, aren’t you a little bit worried he’s going to want to have more of that?
SHS: You know, as somebody who is always looking to save the government money and make the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars, I hadn’t thought about it. But now that you mention it, Hugh, we probably should all be a little bit concerned. So we’re going to try not to remind him of that all day today.
HH: All right, let’s talk a little bit, I’ve got three subjects, then I want to come back to the shutdown after that. First of all, do you have any comment on the blockbuster about the missing emails between FBI Agent Strzok and FBI lawyer Page, all of which would be very relevant to the conversation we’re having about the Russia probe?
SHS: I mean, look, I think it’s absolutely outrageous, but sadly not surprising. If all of these things turn out to be true as they’re being reported right now, it is a sad, sad day in American when you have that type of corruption at the place where you should feel most safe, and that’s at one of the intelligence agencies. And certainly, I don’t think that the actions of these few are definitive for the organization. You have some incredible men and women that put their lives on the line, make great sacrifices to help serve and protect our country at places like the FBI. But these rogue operators certainly need to be looked at, investigated, and you know, if these things are true, punished to the full extent of the law. But there’s certainly a lot there that we find incredibly troubling.
HH: Have you had a chance to talk to either the President or the Chief of Staff, yet, about this revelation, because it is astonishing that these texts are all gone.
SHS: I have not about that specific piece. We’ve talked about some of the earlier texts that were released, and that was troubling enough. I mean, it just seems like every day there’s more and more that adds on to the fact that the only one colluding had to do with Democrats and people that didn’t like this president. And frankly, that’s a terrifying thing, I think, to have people like that operating within our intelligence agencies, and something we should really, really look at and make sure it doesn’t happen again, and certainly that it doesn’t continue.
HH: Now there is also a hashtag movement underway, #ReleaseTheMemo, which goes to a House Intelligence Committee summary of what has been discovered thus far. Apparently, the House will move to declassify and release that memo. Does the President support the release of that memo?
SHS: You know, we support full transparency, and you’ve got a number of members, very well-respected members like Representative Jordan, Representative Meadows, that have come out and said what is in these memos is incredibly troubling, and something that everyone should know. Certainly, I haven’t seen them, but I very much trust these individuals that have talked about it, and think that if they find this to be something of such great concern, then I hope that they will offer the transparency that they’ve demanded out of this White House day in, day out, and we’ve tried to deliver. And we’ll see what’s in there, but it definitely sounds like there is great cause for concern, and certainly that transparency should happen in this case so the American people can see it and decide for themselves.
HH: All right, back to the Schumer Shutdown, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary, joining me this morning. Senator Schumer stepped up to the microphones and called the White House Jell-O, said that the President and the Republicans in Congress are the equivalent of Abbott and Costello. Is that helpful?
SHS: I don’t think much of what Senator Schumer is doing right now is helpful. If he wanted to get something done, it’s really simple. He has the ability to get Democrats to come to the table and support this legislation to vote to fund our government. It is absolutely mind-boggling that they are holding hostage the men and women of our military, and trying to force a conversation over illegal immigration. I mean, like the concept is so, I think, hard to grasp that they think that that is an appropriate process and an appropriate measure that they would put the men and women of our military behind people who have broken the law, and that they’re not doing every single thing they can to help protect those individuals that are you know, putting their lives on the line. Their families are sacrificing day in, day out. That that wouldn’t be their number one priority is just completely crazy to me. You have Nancy Pelosi this weekend saying that she’s very proud Democrats shut down the government and went so far as to take Democrats out on the town in Washington at a very nice restaurant. I mean, the message that that sends to the men and women of our military serving all across the country and all across the globe is absolutely outrageous, and she should be embarrassed that she’s made a statement like that.
HH: Now Sarah, I have a theory I articulated on my MSNBC show on Saturday morning, which is that the President set up Chuck Schumer in a very funny way, and Chuck Schumer stepped on the rake. He called him up and said come talk to me in the Oval. Chuck jumps in the car, drives down there, and the President says will you please keep the government open, and Chuck Schumer says no, and boom, it’s branded, the Schumer Shutdown. Was that in fact the President’s plan?
SHS: No, I think his plan and his priority is to make a deal so that we can fund the government and then we can continue negotiations. Look, the President doesn’t want to play games. He wants to actually do what he was elected to do, and he wants to put in place massive, responsible immigration reform. But he can’t do that if the government’s not operating. He’s not going to. I mean, we’ve made it very clear we’re not going to negotiate on immigration or anything else until the Democrats reopen the government. And the President would like to see some big things happen – border security, the end to chain migration, the end to the visa lottery system. And so he wants to get those things done. But he can’t do that while we don’t have a government open. So we’re very much focused on trying to get the government back open and hope that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats will get on board.
HH: Now your colleague, Stephen Miller, is taking a lot of flak in the Washington Post this morning by Lindsey Graham and others. Is it fair that he’s being described as a puppeteer of the President on immigration matters?
SHS: Not at all. I mean, Stephen is a great guy, and he’s somebody that’s an important voice here in the White House. But at the end of the day, we’re all here to carry out the President’s agenda, and no one else’s. And Stephen is very loyal to the President and wants to see his agenda carried out, and he wants to be part of that process. But to the attack game that they’re playing, it’s frankly sad, I think, particularly from those in our own party. Look, Lindsey Graham’s been an outlier for years. Hopefully, he will start making some good decisions, get on board with reopening the government, and help be part of the solution and not part of the problem moving forward.
HH: Senator Graham and the President have been golfing. What you just suggested is that there is now some bad blood there. Is there?
SHS: No, I mean, I think they have a very good relationship, but that doesn’t mean that they agree on politics or policy all of the time. I certainly think that some of the golf outings have helped mitigate some of those disagreements, but at the same time, the President, just because he enjoys being around him, doesn’t mean he’s going to change his politics or his policy that he’s been talking about for years, including securing the border and ending a lot of these loopholes that you have through chain migration and the visa lottery system because he likes Senator Graham. He likes dozens of other senators that are aggressively against Senator Graham and his proposal. Most Republican senators don’t support his legislation, and don’t support his approach on this, and we’re certainly more in line with the majority in this other group of senators.
HH: And to your knowledge, when Senator Schumer came to the White House on Friday, did the President point out to him that the Schumer Shutdown would stop paying our E-1’s and our E-2’s who are, you know, $1,500, $1,600 bucks a month, and some of them are married and have kids, and they’re young kids walking point in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan? Did the President point out that this would shut off paying the military to the senior senator from New York?
SHS: I know that was certainly a topic of discussion. I don’t know to what depth they got into and how detailed that conversation was, but certainly the impact that it would take on the military was front and center in that conversation. The President was at the Pentagon last week getting a briefing, and update from Secretary Mattis on what the impact of a government shutdown would look like, so he was very well versed in the details of that. And I know that those were things that came up and were discussed at that meeting.
HH: A couple of quick closing questions, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Why is the Trump administration sending so many people to Davos?
SHS: You know, right now, that conversation is on hold as we wait to see how things go today. But if we move forward on that front, look, you have a number of leaders from around the world that will be there, particularly a number of people that lead in the economy. And we have been talking about the need and the priority of an America first economic system. This president has, I think, driven that message stronger and bigger than anyone probably ever has, and that’s a message we want to continue to carry, and we want to continue to talk about the trade deficits that we have with other countries. We want to continue to try to close those gaps, continue to build American companies, and bring those jobs back home from other places. And we’re going to do that everywhere we go. And this is an opportunity, given the makeup of the number of world leaders and the number of economic leaders from around the globe that’ll be in one location.
HH: Now Sarah, I wanted to ask you about CBS’ Face the Nation. They’re facing a choice for a new anchor. Do you think a woman should go into that chair?
SHS: Look, I think the best person for CBS and the person that they think can best carry their banner, I don’t think there’s a woman on the planet that wants to get a job because she’s a woman. I think that we, like everybody else, we want to get a job because we’re the best one for that job. I think if it’s a woman, that’s an incredible moment and breakthrough, and certainly would support and congratulate that individual. But at the same time, I don’t ever want a job, and I don’t think any woman in that type of role would ever want the job simply because she was a woman, but because she was the best. And there are plenty of women out there that are the best. And hopefully, CBS can find one to put in that slot that they think fits their network, and certainly that fits the banner and the message that they’re trying to carry every day.
HH: Quick round. Is the President going to go to the Gridiron this year?
SHS: We’ll see. You know, I never like to get ahead of a good announcement, so we’ll keep you guys posted.
HH: And is the President pulling for the New England Patriots, otherwise known as the organized crime family of the NFL in this Super Bowl?
SHS: You know, I have not had a chance to ask him what his pick is, but I will probably get that question a few more times, so I’ll probably try to track that down. But you know you don’t want to make half the country angry and half the country love you.
HH: Oh, don’t worry. If it’s for the Eagles, he’s got 90% approval rating right there. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, thank you for joining me. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. Come back often. She’s always so forthcoming. It’s great to talk to Sarah.
End of interview.