CBS’s Brennan Tangles with WH’s Sanders Over Gun Control on Sandy Hook Anniversary

Without CNN’s Jim Acosta in the room, Thursday’s White House press briefing featured a more civil tone and traditional sparring sessions such as CBS’s Margaret Brennan grilling Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about gun control on the fifth anniversary of the horrific Sandy Hook massacre.

Sanders’s answers didn’t sit well with some liberal journalists, so it briefly devolved into a shouting fest that might have included an off-screen cameo from the usual suspect in Brian Karem.

 

 

The nearly three-and-a-half minute long debate began when Brennan noted how the events in Sandy Hook were recently surpassed by the Las Vegas shooting for the infamous distinction for being “the most tragic and mass shooting on U.S. soil.”

“Since that time, what has President Trump done to try to protect the American people against a similar type of massacre? Does he think anything has been done? What is the administration trying to do? Is there anything at the executive level that he thinks needs to be undertaken,” Brennan wondered.

Sanders responded that “there are a number of different ways that we look to protect our citizens” with the President’s strong interest in “national security and protecting individuals certainly through border security” and “stronger vetting processes” to name a few. But Brennan interjected to note that the shooters in both cases were U.S. citizens.

The White House Press Secretary continued [emphasis mine]:

Right. I'm speaking more broadly in terms of national security as a whole and look, this is a President who knows that his number one responsibility is to look for ways to protect American citizens and we try to do that every single day and whether or not there's a regulation that could be put in place or not that could have prevented those things, frankly I'm not aware of what that would be, but we want to look for every opportunity, every way possible that we can to protect American lives and we're going to continue doing that. 

Brennan continued hitting back, hinting about the need to do something to stop violence, but Sanders persisted in giving answers that didn’t satisfy the press corps. Here’s a part of when it became a brief free-for-all:

BRENNAN: But no issue that the President has highlighted that says he wants to prioritize for sure?

SANDERS: There isn't one thing you could do that would have prevented those instances, those horrible, horrible tragedies. 

BRENNAN: But there were prescriptions given, very quickly, just the other day from the failed terrorist attack, which is why in these cases, I mean, this is the worst shooting in U.S. soil —

SANDERS: I understand that. 

BRENNAN:  — on President Trump's watch. So —

SANDERS: I also think you have to take these matters, obviously, very seriously, but if you can name a single thing that would have prevented both of these, I would love to hear it because I don't know what that would look like.

(....)

[REPORTERS SHOUTING]

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about an assault weapons ban?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, Sarah —

BRENNAN: Assault weapons ban, any kind of regulation, any kind of mental health concern — 

MARA LIASSON: Any kind of specific thing?

BRENNAN: — has the president specifically mentioned that as a possibility or factor? 

BRIAN KAREM: Bump stock?

Once reporters stopped shouting, Sanders concluded that she knew that the administration was “looking at some of the mental health issues” because “[i]t’s something the President has raised before, but in terms of a specific policy that we're moving forward with that would have prevented that, I'm not aware of what that would be.”

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Here’s the relevant transcript from December 14's White House press briefing:

White House press briefing
December 14, 2017
2:13 p.m. Eastern

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sarah, today is the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in which so many children were killed. That, of course, is a tragedy eclipsed by what happened in Las Vegas, which is now the most tragic and mass shooting on U.S. soil. Since that time, what has President Trump done to try to protect the American people against a similar type of massacre? Does he think anything has been done? What is the administration trying to do? Is there anything at the executive level that he thinks needs to be undertaken?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, I think that there are a number of different ways that we look to protect our citizens. Every single day, one of the areas that the President has been outspoken about, not necessarily to those two instances but just more broadly speaking in terms of national security and protecting individuals certainly through border security, stronger vetting processes, and looking at whether or not there are other regulations that we can put in place that would offer protection —

BRENNAN: These were [INAUDBILE] two shooters. These weren't people who entered the United States — 

SANDERS: Right. I'm speaking more broadly in terms of national security as a whole and look, this is a President who knows that his number one responsibility is to look for ways to protect American citizens and we try to do that every single day and whether or not there's a regulation that could be put in place or not that could have prevented those things, frankly I'm not aware of what that would be, but we want to look for every opportunity, every way possible that we can to protect American lives and we're going to continue doing that. 

BRENNAN: So is it correct to say that the administration is looking at how to prevent these kind of mass shootings by domestic shooters on U.S. soil? Or is it just when you’re referring to terrorists?

SANDERS: I know that — I know that's something that — absolutely. I know that's something that the Department of Homeland Security looks at and talks about and works on every single day. I don't think there's a person in this country that wouldn't like us to find ways to protect people and we're certainly very supportive of that and — 

BRENNAN: But no issue that the President has highlighted that says he wants to prioritize for sure?

SANDERS: There isn't one thing you could do that would have prevented those instances, those horrible, horrible tragedies. 

BRENNAN: But there were prescriptions given, very quickly, just the other day from the failed terrorist attack, which is why in these cases, I mean, this is the worst shooting in U.S. soil —

SANDERS: I understand that. 

BRENNAN:  — on President Trump's watch. So —
                
SANDERS: I also think you have to take these matters, obviously, very seriously, but if you can name a single thing that would have prevented both of these, I would love to hear it because I don't know what that would look like. But we’re look every day how to protect American lives, how we can best protect American citizens. In terms of New York, we know for a fact this individual came through chain migration system. This is something the President has been outspokenly against, and something that he wants to stop and that individual wouldn't have been here in order to commit that crime if that wasn't in place. So that's a fact that we do know. 

[REPORTERS SHOUTING]

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about an assault weapons ban?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sarah, Sarah —

BRENNAN: Assault weapons ban, any kind of regulation, any kind of mental health concern — 

MARA LIASSON: Any kind of specific thing?

BRENNAN: — has the president specifically mentioned that as a possibility or factor? 

BRIAN KAREM: Bump stock?

SANDERS: I know that they're looking at some of the mental health issues. It’s something the President has raised before, but in terms of a specific policy that we're moving forward with that would have prevented that, I'm not aware of what that would be. 


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