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tv   Sean Spicer Off- Camera Briefing on Syria  CSPAN  April 8, 2017 12:10am-12:28am EDT

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10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span's "book tv." announcer: white house press secretary sean spicer who is , traveling with the president in florida this weekend, held an off-camera briefing with reporters to discuss the u.s. missile strikes in syria. this is about 15 minutes. i have michael anton with me of the national security committee. we intend to have a readout later. hopefully we can gather with the pool at least. we will see what the rest of the day looks like while trying to get back over here, as well. i want to provide a little bit on the president's action. i know there's been a lot of interest in this. we can take a few questions. with respect to the actions the president took in syria, and the questions regarding the timeline, we will walk you through it. on tuesday at about 10:30 the morning, the president was informed through the course of
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his daily briefing about the actions in syria. at that time, he asked the team for additional information and updates. he and his team developed a response. about 8:00 tuesday night, there was a restricted committee meeting on the situation. preliminary options were presented and refined. on tuesday night, there was a deputies meeting at the white house where options were presented and refined. wednesday morning, a restricted principals meeting was conducted, and there was further guidance to refine. around 3:00 on wednesday, a national security meeting was convened where the president was briefed on options. he reviewed those options and details and asked a series of questions of the team and requested further information.
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the decision to reconvene on thursday was made. at about 1:30 on thursday in route to florida, the president convened the security team aboard air force one and others by secure videoconference. later that day at approximately 4:00, the president, the secretary of state, and others members of the national security team met in a secure room down here where they were piped in , with the rest of the team by secure video teleconference. the president gave the ok to move ahead. at approximately 7:40, 59 tomahawk missiles were launched. from maybe three years in the eastern mediterranean. 19:40 eastern. -- from navy destroyers in the eastern mediterranean. 19:40 eastern. all 59 hit their target.
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at 8:30, a notification of foreign leaders and congressional leadership again. the vice president called several congressional leaders and began calling some foreign leaders. secretary of state, secretary of defense, national security adviser and others were also involved in making some of those phone calls to heads of government, defense ministers and congressional leaders. around 8:30, first impact began on the ground. the president informed the president of china the attacks were occurring as the dinner concluded. the security team continue to monitor the event. after dinner, the president went back down to the secure room or -- room where he was briefed by the secretary of state, secretary of defense, joint chiefs, and others via secure videoconference. the secretary of defense was on a secure room as well as the chairman of joint chiefs. several members were convened in the situation room in
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washington, d.c.. the president was updated on the effectiveness and was told that the battle damage assessment would take several hours but initial results were positive. he asked about reaction from the world community and congressional leaders and was informed that it was fairly unanimous praise for the decisions and actions the president took. that is pretty much the tick-tock. the security team has continued to provide the president with updates this morning. as soon as his president with president xi, we expect further update. reporter: [indiscernible] -- sec. spicer: i'm not going to get into it. he's not going to telegraph his next move. but i think this action was very decisive, justified and proportional to the actions he felt were taken.
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i think it sends a very strong signal not just to syria, but around the world. reporter: how does this fit with the america first foreign policy? is that still his position? sec. spicer: absolutely. i think his actions were very clear under article two. there was a very important national security interest in the region. there is a huge humanitarian component to this. reporter: [indiscernible] the president had been presented three options. could you be more clear on the three options? sec. spicer: no. reporter: can you talk about the process with the three options and what the recommendations were? sec. spicer: i'm not going to get into specifics. both in terms of what could have been done -- obviously that would telegraph potential future action and i don't want to get into. a lot of it remains classified.
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i will say, as i mentioned both , secretary of defense matiss, director mcmaster and the rest of the national security team, the vice president and others, were consulted, and the president continued to ask questions and ask for options. this was a very evil process in which the president was given updates, asks additional questions, given additional options, we find those options until an ultimate decision was made yesterday. margaret? reporter: i think you said that the president informed president xi after. is that accurate? sec. spicer: the exact timeline -- the present was having dinner. i think after the dinner concluded, i believe the impact had been made. i'll have to check the exact timeline. the impact occurred at around
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8:30 last night eastern time. the president informed president xi as he was on his way back to his temporary quarters. where the exact timeline is, i don't know, but my understanding is everything had made impact by the time he was informed, he informed president xi. reporter: [indiscernible] north korea is a concern. sec. spicer: that is right. reporter: [indiscernible] put in that context, is there a broader message that if you don't help us crackdown on north korea, we will have a similar action? sec. spicer: there will be a readout earlier today about all of the areas that were discussed and we will try to get some , further, some individual staff to talk about specifics.
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i believe what the president said last night was something that action had been taken, what he was doing, what had happened and he will be brief. i don't think there was any immediate nexus. i was not present for the conversation. reporter: [indiscernible] there were two nsc meetings. i believe you described more meetings than that. how many were the president personally involved in throughout the process? sec. spicer: four. it started -- it depends. then five, if you account the initial on tuesday. guest: -- reporter: the president has said he's not going to outline the options, but members of the hill want to be brought into the process. how does that match the present -- the president keeping his desire of not announcing but folks on the hill wanting to know? sec. spicer: i would just say
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the key congressional leaders and ranking were all informed of members the decision. i think that now action has been taken they have started to have , those conversations, national security adviser, the vice president, chief of staff, they have been in constant contact with congressional leaders. i understand your desire to understand what is going on, but i think those are conversations that will be held fairly readily in terms of preserving any future action. jim? reporter: there are reports that there are concerns among individuals that the russians were involved in the chemical weapons attack in syria. what is the latest on that and what can you tell us about that? what are you looking at? sec. spicer: the actions that were taken were clearly against the assad regime. i will not say more than that. i know secretary tillerson noted last night with respect to russia, with respect to the area
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of operation, they let them know because we are both operating there, but beyond that there was no political contact made with moscow. reporter: you talk about the evolution of the last 72 hours. could you give a little bit of the president's thinking and how we saw publicly the statements became more taken about -- taken aback by the image recently -- [indiscernible] can you talk to us privately about what his action was at the beginning, how that evolved, how he got from point a to point b? sec. spicer: number one, i think the president's comments he made in the rose garden explained pretty well. with respect to the discussed he had with the imagery he was seeing and the assessments his team was providing with respect to the innocent lives, especially the children and babies killed.
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obviously chemicals have been used by assad in the past. in his first 70 days the , president was very taken by this. i think as you mentioned correctly, this was a 72 hour evolution of receiving updates and options and refinement through additional questions or president made the come to a final decision. but once he was presented with this on 10:30 on tuesday, he began asking a series of questions, getting additional updates and assessments, and options available to act. reporter: was there a sense of skepticism at the beginning where he said, are you sure? sec. spicer: no, i had the opportunity to see him right after that, and he was very moved and found the event extremely tragic. i think from the get-go, it was
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very disturbing and tragic and moving to him. reporter: do you have the sense that he was there in terms of military strength? sec. spicer: before we get too far, the answer is that he had a very deliberative process of asking the national security team to develop options, and you may know, those options usually start with zero and go all the way to 100. there was a level of assessment, further probing, questions the president had. ultimately, after days of refinement, a decision was made. i would not want to suggest that there was any sense of immediate decision. that is why it if all the time. -- that is why it evolved over time. it was a series of questions and further information.
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reporter: did he print out images? sec. spicer: i cannot go into what he sees in a briefing. beyond the information he gets in his pbd, there were very clear images that were available online, in newspapers and on television that everyone in the world could see. reporter: the public images. sec. spicer: absolutely. reporter: as part of his 72 hour evolution, does the president now believe that assad needs to leave power? sec. spicer: i think the president's actions were very clear about what he thinks needs to be done. first and foremost the president believes that the syrian government and the assad regime should at the minimum agree to abide by the agreements they made to not use chemical weapons. i think that should be a minimum standard throughout the world. i think that is where we start,
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and i think clear message was sent last night, one that was echoed not only by our own leaders in this country but throughout the world. reporter: the president warned during the campaign that actions against the assad regime could result in world war iii. he talked about the risks of drawing in russia and iran. if the president concerned about that happening, or the fact that as u.s. planes fly over syria skies, they could encounter russia? sec. spicer: i think if you have seen the response from the world community, including countries you mentioned they understand , that the u.s. acted appropriately, and in most cases, there is widespread praise from around the globe or the president's actions. reporter: is it not something he's concerned about anymore? sec. spicer: i think that's as i said, the secretary of defense, chief of staff, national
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security adviser was on the phone not just with congress but defense ministers, and everyone praised the decisive action. reporter: also on the campaign trail, he expressed a desire to work with russia to defeat isis, but this clearly puts a setback on that. sec. spicer: i don't know that i agree with that. i think there can be an agreement to defeat isis and also agree that you should not gas your own people. i don't think there is a mutual level of human decency we can expect out of everybody and i don't think that goes hand-in-hand with also augmenting our security interest. reporter: can you give us a sense of what foreign ministers and ministers were going into last night and [indiscernible] sec. spicer: the president continues in meeting with president xi, i will continue
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reporter: those -- the russian foreign ministry called is a clear act of aggression and suggested it was , planned before the chemical attack. can you response to simply to that? -- specifically to that? sec. spicer: i think i just gave you a very clear tick-tock of how the president arrived at the action he did. that pretty much speaks for itself. reporter: that this is a clear act of aggression? sec. spicer: i think this is a clear response for humanitarian purposes that has been widely praised. reporter: [indiscernible] sec. spicer: i mentioned at the outset, we will have a readout of that visit. we will have further information throughout the day. stay in just with us. i want to get back. our focus is continuing to have a -- sorry, politico. think we are in the midst of a
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terrific visit, and i want to make sure we conclude that. think you guys very much. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] secretary of state rex tillerson, treasury secretary steve mnuchin, and secretary wilbur ross met in mar-a-lago in palm beach, florida. they talked about relations and u.s. military strikes against syria. the leaders had positive, productive meetings. president trump and president xi agreed to work in concert to expand areas of conversation while managing differences eighth on bejeweled respect. the tube -- differences based on mutual respect. ofy noted the importance working together to benefit the citizens of both of our countries. president trump noted the challenges caused by chinese government intervention

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