President-elect Trump’s transition team is holding daily media calls to update the press on how the transition is progressing. We will be posting the transcripts from these calls after they happen. Here is the transcript from Tuesday’s call.
On the call was Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s communications director.
OPERATOR: Good day and welcome to the transition daily briefing call. Today’s conference is being recorded. At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Sean Spicer. Please go ahead.
SPICER: Hey. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us. We are — I hope you had a — a great New Years and are ready to get back to work.
We are now a full 17 days away from Inauguration Day. The president-elect’s transition team continues to work at a vigorous pace to ensure a smooth transition process for matters (ph) of the inauguration and staffing the new administration.
The Office of Legislative Affairs is still locating (ph) 17 — excuse me, my apologies — 11 (inaudible) today and has over 50 meetings scheduled for Cabinet designees with both Democrat and Republican senators the remainder of this week alone.
Since the election, the Office of National Engagement has spoken to nearly 700 individuals from a variety of organizations, corporations and associations to help ensure the message of all Americans is present in President-elect Trump’s administration.
The president-elect support team has been very — has been working very closely with the first lady-elect, the first family and the second family-elect (ph) to ensure a smooth transition. Many of the preparations for the inauguration and preparation for their move into the White House are being handled currently. The items include the decorating of the east and west wings, meetings with various people, the ushers and curators (ph), to ensure a smooth transition on January 20th.
The president-elect support team has also been working with First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff to organize correspondents (ph) and to begin a training — training staff on the official White House software and correspondence (ph).
As released this morning, the president-elect announced that he intends to nominate Robert Lighthizer as the next United States trade representative. Ambassador Lighthizer served under President Ronald Reagan as deputy United States trade representative with the — with the rank of ambassador, playing a major role in developing trade policies for the Reagan administration and negotiating roughly two dozen bilateral international agreements on a variety of topics, from steel to grain.
In his new role, Ambassador Lighthizer will work more closely in coordination with Secretary of Commerce-Designate Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, the head of the newly created White House National Trade Council, to develop and implement policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand economic growth, strengthen our manufacturing base and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores.
Ambassador Lighthizer has extensive experience striking (ph) agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans. Ambassador Lighthizer has been a long time leader at (ph) U.S. trade policy and has extensive experience in the legislative branch, the executive branch and the private sector.
Today, the 115th Congress convenes. The president-elect just recently tweeted, quote, “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it is may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, health care and so many other things of far great importance! #DTS,” which stands for drain the swamp, for those of you who didn’t think he was gonna use that anymore.
The vice president-elect equally shares that — that concern.
Today, the president-elect and the vice president-elect began their day by receiving the presidential daily briefing and will also receive a national security briefing in New York. Later this week, they will — once the final report on the current situation in Russia is made final by the intelligence community, they will ask for — they have asked for a briefing from senior members of the intelligence community. We expect that later this week after the final report has been completed and presented to the current president of the United States.
SPICER: The president and vice president-elect — the vice president-elect then is chairing a transition executive committee meeting in New York. The president-elect and the vice president-elect will then meet with Mr. Leo MacKay, that’s M-A-C capital K-A-Y, a senior vice president at Lockheed Martin. Mr. MacKay is the former United States deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs under President George W. Bush.
The next meeting that they’re having today is with Dr. Joseph Guzman — G-U-Z-M-A-N — who is a professor from Michigan State University. Mr. Guzman is a board member of the Armed Forces Foundation; first deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Navy; and deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Air Force. He has ample executive experience in the military and a variety of public sector experience.
With that, I’ll take a few questions.
OPERATOR: And if you’d like to ask a question, please signal by pressing star-one on your telephone keypad. If you’re using a speakerphone, please make sure your mute function is turned off to allow your signal to reach our equipment.
Once again, press star-one to ask a question.
And we’ll take our first question from Katherine Skiba with Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau.
QUESTION: Good morning and happy new year. It’s Chicago Tribune, by the way.
I’m wondering please if Todd Ricketts who has been designated for deputy commerce secretary is part of the Hill visits? And is there any expectation when his confirmation hearing may be before the Senate Commerce Committee?
And then finally, please, Jovita Carranza was — of Illinois — was being looked at for possible USTR. Now that that position has been designated, is she still in the running for any Cabinet or administration post?
SPICER: Thanks. Let me just — so, just to be clear, the first question was on — I’m sorry, was on Deputy Secretary-designate Ricketts or Commerce Secretary Ross, with respect to that schedule? I guess in either case, my answer would be the same, which is I think you should contact the majority leader’s office. They will have a better idea of the schedule that is put out. But needless to say, we are in constant contact with the majority leader’s office to ensure that all of the nominees have hearings scheduled in the next couple of weeks.
And then — I’m sorry — the next part was Carranza? She — look, I think she is — the president-elect was very impressed with her. There’s — we’ve never commented publicly on some of the positions that people are for. There may be additional announcements coming in the next couple of days, but there’s a lot of places that the president-elect needs people to serve and we will make those announcements when he has — when he has made his mind up.
OPERATOR: We’ll take our next question from Brian Schwartz with Fox Business.
QUESTION: Hey, guys. I’m hearing from sources close to the FBI that they are actually willing to assist in curbing some of the violence in Chicago and that they’re waiting to be asked to help by the incoming administration. Does the Trump administration plan on reaching out to the FBI for help with the violence in Chicago? And has the team reached out to any FBI officials so far?
SPICER: I’d have to look into that. Obviously, I think the president-elect would do anything — would be willing to listen to anything that can be done to make sure that Americans are kept safe around the country. I think the FBI has ideas about how to do that. He would definitely be all ears to hear that. I’ll follow up on that after the call.
OPERATOR: And we’ll take our next question from Doug Palmer with Politico Pro.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for taking my question.
Just kind of a — now that we know that Mr. Lighthizer is the nominee for USTR, I wondered when will we start seeing some other kind of blanks being filled in? I’m not talking so much about personnel, but about some of President-elect Trump’s policies. I mean, like, for example he talked about wanting to renegotiate NAFTA and kind of initiating that process on his first day in office.
When would you expect we would see sort of a detailed negotiating agenda in terms of how he would like to renegotiate NAFTA? You know, what his objectives are?
QUESTION: And — and similarly, just, you know, in terms of other personnel at USTR, would you expect those to be announced in — in coming days?
SPICER: Wow, Doug. You know, slow your roll, here.
I — I think we’re excited about Ambassador Lighthizer and the skills and talent that he brings to this job. You know, as I mentioned, he complements Commerce Secretary-designate Peter Navarro’s role. We’re really excited that we’ve got a team of top trade experts who are gonna work together to bring American jobs home. It’s what frankly the president-elect campaigned on, standing up to foreign cheating and standing up for American (ph) manufacturing.
And I think, you know, we will continue. He talked in the video around Thanksgiving about his desire to notify Congress on day one about pulling out of TPP and filing the appropriate paperwork to renegotiate NAFTA. So I think he’s already made clear what he’s (ph) intent to do, and when he becomes president, he will further lay out some of the exact ways in which that’s gonna occur.
OPERATOR: We’ll take our next question from Laura Stone with The Globe.
QUESTION: Hi, there. I’m a reporter at The Globe in Canada and I have a similar question about trade.
We haven’t heard very much from the president-elect about his relationship with Canada. So I’m wondering, with the new trade representative, how you’re planning on impacting NAFTA and specifically Canada? And does the president-elect have similar views toward the Canadian auto industry as he does with — with Mexico, as he tweeted today?
SPICER: Well, obviously, the news of Ambassador Lighthizer’s appointment is just hours old. I think we will continue to see further developments on — on how he’s going to implement his agenda in the coming weeks, and more importantly, after he becomes president.
The president (sic) — you know, as I just mentioned to Doug on the previous question, his commitment is to the American worker and to American jobs and to American industry and American manufacturing. He’s been very clear throughout the campaign that his goal is to put America first, to restore America’s manufacturing base. And so it’s not a question of a particular country vis-a-vis the United States, it’s a question of where America’s place is gonna be and where American workers are gonna be on his agenda, and that’s first and foremost.
So the exact policy formulation with respect to NAFTA will come in time, but just know that his commitment is to the American people and to restoring our manufacturing base and — and economic growth.
OPERATOR: One moment. Sorry about that.
And we’ll take Shannon Pettypiece from Bloomberg.
QUESTION: Hello. Can you hear me?
So, I just wanted to follow up — I know we’re asking a lot about trade — but on the tweet today, just to make sure I’m clear. Is the president-elect talking about broader trade policy affecting all industries and all countries? Or are we just really focusing on autos and Mexico right now when he’s talking about make in the USA or pay a big border tax?
SPICER: Well, I think the tweet on General Motors speaks for itself. But I think more broadly, I mean, I think I’d go back to the question that I’ve answered a couple of times now, that it’s not just one particular company, although in that case he’s calling out General Motors and the Chevy Cruze.
But I think he’s generally made it very clear, whether it’s Carrier or other companies, that he wants to bring American jobs home. He doesn’t want companies in the United States to be able to go — leave this country and then sell back to the U.S., leaving the American worker behind.
So this is — this is, in this case, the tweet was specific to General Motors. But I think you’ve seen an overall philosophy during the campaign and since he was elected to stand up for American workers and make sure that American companies don’t benefit from moving their companies overseas and leaving American workers behind.
OPERATOR: And we’ll take our next question from Steve Holland with Reuters.
QUESTION: Sean, thank you.
Just to follow up on the president-elect’s tweet this morning about the House GOP. Would he like them to bring — to strengthen this independent ethics office instead of what they’ve done? And also, if I could add, his tweet about North Korea, saying the ICBM won’t happen, could you elaborate on that a little bit?
Thank you. SPICER: First, on the latter, rather, to start with that, with respect to North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, I think, again, that speaks for itself. Under his watch, he’s going to make sure that that doesn’t happen.
With respect to the tweet on the OGE and Congress’s action today, I think it’s pretty simple. I mean, if you look at the second part of the tweet, he says that their focus should be on tax reform, health care and so many other things of greater and far more importance. It’s not a question of strengthening or weakening.
I think it’s a question of priorities and the president’s (sic) belief that with all that this country wants and wants — need to have happen, this really shouldn’t be the priority of them, and that the level of corruption and issues that face us, the focus should be on tax reform, health care, growing the economy and on job creation.
OPERATOR: And we’ll pause for just a moment.
SPICER: All right, guys. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us today. We look forward to talking to you tomorrow. And if we have any announcements, we’ll make them via the pool.
Until then, thank you. Have a great day.