MSNBC Hosts Take Turns Interrogating Sean Spicer

On Monday morning, White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer was a guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. He was there to address any remaining questions concerning the events that transpired over the weekend, like Trump’s immigration order. The segment began with political analyst Mark Halperin, grilling Spicer about Trump’s beliefs concerning the Islamic religion. Conversely, their other guest that day, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, was treated with kitten gloves.

Halperin began with, “Sean, does the President believe Islam is one of the world's great religions? And what role do Islam dominated countries play in fighting the war on terror?” Spicer answered the question by explaining, “He clearly respects people of peace going faith -- who are Muslim and peace loving. But he recognizes that certain countries and certain areas of the world produce people that are -- seek to do harm and we’ve got to make sure that those people undergo a certain amount of vetting before they come into our country. So I think there’s a big difference between the religion and the location.”

Since Spicer’s answer was not as provocative as Halperin would’ve hoped, Spicer was asked the same question again. Halperin asked,“What role does he see countries like Pakistan, countries like Iraq, playing in fighting the war on terrorism against ISIS and other movements that aim to do the United States harm?” Spicer answered again, “I mean absolutely, yes... Those countries that want to join us to fight ISIS or combat terrorism, that’s phenomenal. We’re gonna work with any country, frankly, that shares that view.”

The repetition of questions was a common theme throughout the exchanges, as well as finding ways to bash Trump and his cabinet’s ability to make smart decisions, mainly concerning the travel ban. David Ignatious, the editor of the Washington Post, proceeded to ask about intelligence experts and officials on their opinion of the executive order:

“Among intelligence professionals, long time counterterrorism experts, there’s a feeling that, although the President's intention was to make the country more safe, that by affirming the ISIS narrative, the extremist narrative, this immigration ban, it has made the world more dangerous for us because people have new propaganda points to make. What would be you reaction to that?”  

Spicer answer by explaining that the President is making important connections, discussing safe zones, and that having the capability to work along side other countries with this issue is extremely important. He continued, “When we look at in context – and that’s important. 325,000 in the first twenty-four hours flew into this country to airports form foreign countries. 109 people were affected. They were slowed down in their travel. And I understand that that’s an inconvenience, but at the end of the day that’s-- that’s a small price to pay, as opposed to somebody losing their life because a terrorist attack was admitted.:”

<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>

After this exchange, a debate ensued. This concerned whether Trump and his cabinet’s messages about this travel ban were clearly communicated. Spicer explained the issue of broadcasting exactly what is supposed to take place with an order like this beforehand, because it essentially becomes a security threat. He continued to explain by saying, “If we had sent this down to every low level individual, more people would’ve flooded into the country in a short amount of time to take advantage, before the ban went into effect.”

Following this, Host, Joe Scarborough continuously interrupted Spicer because he claimed all the confusion concerning the ban caused “ Worldwide disruption.” After Spicer tried to retort, Scarborough encouraged Jeremy Peters, a reporter for The New York Times, to jump in. Peters decided to attack from a different angle, accusing Trump of not listening to his cabinet officials:

PETERS: “ I want you to tell us how exactly you can run an efficient National Security process when you have cabinet officials, like the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security, cut out of the process? Because they–“

SPICER: “How are they cut out–“

JEREMY PETERS: “No, but they weren’t informed about this executive order until the very last minute.

Spicer pushed back: “He’s listening to them all. He’s listening to General Mattis and Secretary Kelly, all of these individuals-- To make the assumption, that he’s not listening to them is insane. He sat down with the Secretary of Defense for an extended period of time yesterday. He’s on the phone with these guys constantly. But to make an assertion that he’s not consulting--”

Again, Spicer was interrupted during his answer. The rest of the segment continued the same, with Spicer being forced on the defensive. The panel proceeded mainly by questioning why Trump’s cabinet did not notify the correct officials of this order, and the ways in which it should be carried out. Spicer continued to reiterate all of the right people were involved in the process, but the panel could not accept this as fact. Mika Brzezinski had her turn when she asked Spicer the same question a total of seven times. The exchange:

BRZEZINSKI: So, Sean, Pompeo, Mattis, Tillerson, Kelly– They all were–

SPICER: Amazing people, aren't they?

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, they are. Very strong.

SPICER: Right.

BRZEZINSKI:  They know what they’re doing. So they were all in on this and thought it was a great idea?

SPICER: Everybody that–

BRZEZINSKI:  Yes or no?

SPICER: Everybody that needed to be consulted was consulted.I’m not gonna go–

BRZEZINSKI: So they all were consulted, and behind this, and they are completely on board

SPICER: I am not gonna–

BRZEZINSKI: They sit down for interviews today and they would support this completely? Because they understand--

SPICER: Everybody understands what the President was doing, and why he was doing it, and everybody that needed to be consulted was.

BRZEZINSKI: Including the gentleman that I mentioned?

SPICER: Everyone that was consulted -- everyone that needed to be part of the process was consulted.

BRZEZINSKI: Do they need to be a part of the process?

SPICER: Absolutely. I'm just gonna--

BRZEZINSKI: Ok. So they were consulted?

SPICER: I think I've asked and answered it!

Here is the full transcript of the January 30th exchange:

7AM Segment
[7:05:50 - 7:17:00]

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mark Halperin is in Washington and has a question.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: New York.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: In New York I mean, New York has a question, Mark.

MARK HALPERIN:  Sean, does the President believe Islam is one of the world's great religions? And what role do Islam dominated countries play in fighting the war on terror?

SEAN SPICER: Well, I think he clearly respects people of peace going faith -- who are Muslim and peace loving. But he recognizes that certain countries and certain areas of the world produce people that are -- seek to do harm and we’ve got to make sure that those people undergo a certain amount of vetting before they come into our country. So I think there’s a big difference between the religion and the location.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mark, do you have a follow-up?

MARK HALPERIN: Well, just, again, what role does he see countries like Pakistan, countries like Iraq, playing in fighting the war on terrorism against ISIS and other movements that aim to do the United States harm?

SEAN SPICER: UAE, Dubai, I mean absolutely, yes. He had significant calls over this weekend with the Jordan UAE. Tthe King of Jordan is here today. Those countries that want to join us to fight ISIS or combat terrorism, that’s phenomenal. We’re gonna work with any country, frankly, that shares that view.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: I think one of the most interesting read-outs this weekend, David ignatius, was the read-out from the Saudi king. Where–

SEAN SPICER:  Safe Zones.

SCARBOROUGH: Where the President actually put– and you can see this coming now. What’s gonna happen next. You had the Saudi king and also the leader of the UAE both agreeing to work with the United States to create the safe zones in Syria that we’ve been talking about for sometime.

DAVID IGNATIUS: Obviously, that’s an advantage and that was outreach that’s helpful. I just want to ask, Sean, among intelligence professionals, long time counterterrorism experts, there’s a feeling that, although the President's intention was to make the country more safe, that by affirming the ISIS narrative, the extremist narrative, this immigration ban, it has made the world more dangerous for us because people have new propaganda points to make. What would be you reaction to that?

SEAN SPICER: Well, the first point is, I don't think you can underscore Joe's point enough. The idea that he talked to both the king of Saudi Arabia and  the crown prince of UAE about these safe zones really shows that we have an ability to work with these countries to make the world safer. But, secondly, when you look at what happened. We– we’re talking about seven countries that the Obama administration identified as needing further travel restrictions. We’re making sure that the priority is American citizens, American institutions, American businesses and American families, that’s the number one job of any government and any leader here, to protect its people. And I think by making sure -- and when we look at in context – and that’s important. 325,000 in the first twenty-four hours flew into this country to airports form foreign countries. 109 people were affected. They were slowed down in their travel. And I understand that that’s an inconvenience, but at the end of the day that’s-- that’s a small price to pay, as opposed to somebody losing their life because a terrorist attack was admitted.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: So– Okay, so let's talk about the communications message in planning this out. We have crossing the Associated Press right now that the Iraqi Parliament has approved a reciprocity measure after Trump's travel ban to apply to Americans entering Iraq. Meaning, you ban our people, we’ll ban yours. In terms of communication and planning, was this completely thought out?

SPICER: Absolutely. I think there’s a big difference with the appropriate people, at the appropriate agencies and departments, including the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security, were clearly informed. The problem is that, the more you telegraph what you're about to do the more that we pose a significant security threat. If we had set this down to every low level individual more people would’ve flooded into the country in short amount of time to take advantage, before the ban went into effect.

SCARBOROUGH: Wait– what about the confusion regarding green card holders?

SPICER: Again, I understand --

SCARBOROUGH: It bounced back and forth. And then we had the word, the disturbing word that actually DHS got a last-second look at this, looked at it, said it applied to green card holders, and then Steven Miller overruled that-- And then it caused confusion, why you had to clean up the next day.

SPICER: But again– let’s look at the scope of what we’re talking about. 109 people out of 325,000 people that flew into airports. I understand that– you know, when look at it on television, you pick out one individual or two individuals. But we’re talking about 109 people that were slowed down. And I understand that --

SCARBOROUGH:  It seemed to cause worldwide disruption.

SPICER: But I understand that, but I think that what happened is initially because of the way that we had to rule this out for security purposes, to protect our own country and our people, we did it in a way– But it happened, and it was over, and right now everything is flowing perfectly.

SCARBOROUGH: Jeremy?

JEREMY PETERS: Sean, I think this larger issue here over Steve Bannon's presence on the national security council is a question of who president Trump listens to. And I want you to tell us how exactly you can run an efficient national security process when you have cabinet officials, like the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security, cut out of the process? Because they–

SPICER: How are they cut out--

JEREMY PETERS: No, but they weren’t informed about this executive order until the very last minute.

SPICER: Well first of all, again, all we’re doing is codifying something that was done under the Obama administration with Axelrod and Gibbs, frankly attending--

PETERS: No, no, no, I am talking about the larger question of, who Trump is listening to? And how–

SPICER: But he’s listening to–  He’s got a national security adviser, a deputy national security advisor, who he’s listening to them all. He’s listening to General Mattis and Secretary Kelly, all of these individuals-- To make theat assumption, that he’s not listening to them is insane. He sat down with the Secretary of Defense for an extended period of time yesterday. He’s on the phone with these guys constantly. But to make an assertion that he’s not consulting --

SCARBOROUGH: But– But what–

PETERS: No, but they weren't brought into the process until the very last minute.

SPICER: But that was–

SCARBOROUGH: Weren’t– thoug, there been the complaint in the media, by a lot of the principles, that they were cut out by Steven Miller who decided to do this basically on his own --  and cut out–

SPICER: But that’s just not true!

SCARBOROUGH: It's not true that -- that his agency had–

SPICER: They were all involved in this process. And in fact, one of the stories noted that he’s been working for months with the Department of Homeland Security. I think there are some people that may not like the way it was done, or the final decision but at the end of the day they were all consulted and part of the process.

SCARBOROUGH: But there was still confusion even over green cards the night this s --

SPICER: I understand that there might’ve been confusion, right? But, again, look at the scope of the problem and look at the fact that it lasted for a few hours, as it initially was implemented, and now it's working perfect --

SCARBOROUGH: But Sean you will admit, there was, obviously, a roll-out problem as far as getting the message out, and the interagency coordination.

SPICER: Right, and I understand but I would argue that there’s a flip side, which is, you could’ve telegraphed to everybody what was gonna go on and that would’ve posed significant security threats to the United States.

SCARBOROUGH: Do you think–what lessons have been learned by the White House? Do you think some lessons have been learned by this process?

SPICER: I think we can figure out how to inform people quicker and more comprehensively once the decision has been made, but at the time we made the best decision, it was in the best interest of securing this country and our people. And we’re gonna continue to make sure that that’s always gonna be the priority. Now how we inform them as quick as we can, to the highest and lowest levels, sure we can constantly be  working on that.

ROBERT COSTA: Sean, a lot of people are looking at these pictures coming out of the White House and seeing these different personalities around the President. And I keep encountering when I’m walking through some of these protests, as a reporter, a lot of confusion about who these people are and kind of what their rapport is with the President on national security. I thought maybe– Like, what is Flynn's role versus Bannon's role, versus Steven Miller versus Jared Kushner versus the Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus? I know we don’t have that much time but, dow do you– how do you think through this? Because the country doesn't seem to know these people well.

SPICER: Well, and again, at the end of the day they’re all serving the President of the United States. That’s the person they should know. That’s the person they should trust is going to put this country's interest first. The people that are around the President, as you mentioned, are all here to serve him, to give him advice so that he can make the best possible decision in our country and our peoples interests.

ROBERT COSTA: Was there any particular – trait. Is one of them kind of a hard liner or--

SPICER: You could – those are positions that have occured in every White House. So it's just a question of who the President is choosing, and each one of them is a highly qualified individual.

ROBERT COSTA: I was just curious, how do you see it working for people who don't understand– ON NATIONAL SECURITY–

SPICER: I think it's working phenomenally. The President has appointed, both in terms of the cabinet and at the staff level, some amazingly qualified people who are giving him advice and some of these people– that even go beyond who you mentioned. You’ve got Gary Cohn, of the National Economic Council, brilliant, brilliant people who’ve sacrificed a lot to come work for this country and this President to advance an agenda that going to make the country better.

 BRZEZINSKI: So–

DAVID IGNATIOIUS: Just to get back to Joe's question about lessons learned. We’re at the end of a weekend where we had mass demonstrations around the country, legal orders by four judges around the country-- John McCain described this as a self-inflicted wound and--

SPICER: Well, just remember that one judge, especially the –  that’s getting the most attention in the Eastern district of New York and Brooklyn, that order talked about deportation. That was never -- that -- the order dealt with a -- action that was never going to be taken. This was never about deportation. And so, this is about making sure that we process --

IGNATIOUS: But people in the airports didn't know that.

SPICER: I understand that people may not have known, but we’re talking about a very --

SCARBOROUGH: But that’s the very point is that it was not well vetted!

SPICER: But hold on, David, there was a very short period of time in which we had something to execute that ensured that the people of the United States were safe. No--Everybody has been protected. The safety of individuals -- what happened if we didn't act and somebody was killed?

PETERS: Was there an imminent threat?

SPICER: I’m not gonna– but what I’m saying though is–

PETERS: But there was no eminent threat, was there?

SPICER: But what I am going to tell you is– So, if something has happened and your answer was, well, if you guys had acted quicker we could’ve save that person. Too many of these cases that have happened, whether you are talking about San Bernardino, Atlanta– that they’ve happened–

PETERS: Did you have information that something like that was going take happen?

SPICER: Jeremy, would you wait until you do? The answer is, we act now to protect the future!

BRZEZINSKI: So, Sean, Pompeo, Mattis, Tillerson, Kelly– They all were–

SPICER: Amazing people, aren't they?

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, they are. Very strong.

SPICER: Right.

BRZEZINSKI:  They know what they’re doing. So they were all in on this and thought it was a great idea?

SPICER: Everybody that–

BRZEZINSKI:  Yes or no?

SPICER: Everybody that needed to be consulted was consulted.I’m not gonna go–  

BRZEZINSKI: So they all were consulted, and behind this, and they are completely on board

SPICER: I am not gonna–

BRZEZINSKI: They sit down for interviews today and they would support this completely? Because they understand--

SPICER: Everybody understands what the President was doing, and why he was doing it, and everybody that needed to be consulted was.

BRZEZINSKI: Including the gentleman that I mentioned?

SPICER: Everyone that was consulted -- everyone that needed to be part of the process was consulted.

BRZEZINSKI: Do they need to be a part of the process?

SPICER: Absolutely.

BRZEZINSKI: Ok. So they were consulted?

SPICER: I'm just gonna-- I think I've asked and answered it!

SCARBOROUGH: Mark Halperin in New York has a question. Mark–

HALPERIN: Sean, on the supreme court nomination the President previously said it would be Thursday. It's being reported now that it might be today or tomorrow. Has the timing on that changed? And will you defer to the Senate, as Mitch Mcconnell suggested, if Democrats filibuster? Would you like to see the Senate rules change to allow a Supreme Court nominee to be confirmed with just 50 votes?

SPICER: Well I'm always -- and with respect to the Senate, I’m going to leave it up to leader Mcconnell. He knows how to get people through. These are all qualified images whether it’s the cabinet or Supreme Court. I'm not gonna make any announcements regarding timing. But I can tell you that the President has consulted with both Republicans and Democrats throughout this process to make sure that he hears what they need to hear – or–  they want in a Supreme Court justice. And that, the list of 21 that he put out earlier on his campaign, are really highly qualified individuals who will put this country's constitution first and foremost when making laws and interpreting the constitution.

HALPERIN: Is it still on Thursday, though?

SPICER: I will update you if we have a change on the time, Mark.

SCARBOROUGH: What about Tuesday? All right--

BRZEZINSKI: White House press secretary Sean spicer, thank you for being on.

NB Daily Immigration MSNBC Morning Joe Robert Costa Joe Scarborough Mika Brzezinski Mark Halperin Jeremy Peters David Ignatius Sean Spicer

Sponsored Links