tv Presidential Transition and the Trump Administration CSPAN January 8, 2017 9:30pm-10:34pm EST
announcer: tomorrow, the president of teachers get a remark on the future of american education. now incoming white house press secretary and communications director chris spicer talked to david axelrod and former press secretary robert gibbs at the university chicago. this is about an hour. >> good evening, everyone. happy new year. my name is steve edwards, the executive director of the institute of politics at the university chicago.
it is my pleasure to welcome you to tonight's event featuring incoming white house press secretary sean spicer and obama press secretary, robert gibbs in conversation with our very own david axelrod. we know that many of you on this campus, like much of america, feel strongly about the outcome of our november presidential election. but whether you're supportive of president-elect trump or opposed to him, it's vitally important for all of to us understand how his administration will approach the presidency and the many policy areas and key issues in our nation over the next four years. that's why tonight at the iop here on campus, we're beginning the first in a series of conversations that aim to examine america in the trump era we. we will look at players and policy shaping the conversation. then next week we'll have the
author of the best-selling book, "hillbilly, for a derailed look at white voter americans." and next week at noon, thomas freedman will survey the global landscape in a trump presidency and beyond. that night, next thursday night, a week from tomorrow we'll preview the many cabinet nominees and other appoints made over the last few weeks since the end of winter quarter, fall quarter and the beginning of winter quarter here on campus with a panel of top washington journalists. you can find out more about those three events and many others by going to our one at politics.chicago.edu, this is the first event for the iop with a new presidential administration on the horizon. and as we have done, we want to remind everyone we don't endorse points of view. so, in the spirit of that and open discourse and rigorous
inquiry here at the university we invite you to bring your best questions to tonight's conversation. we'll also open up the floor to questions tonight from students. we'll put a microphone in the middle of the aisle and invite you to come forward with your questions. would we do, we ask that you make your question a question and keep it short to and to the point. without further do, please join me in welcoming josh markets to the podium to formally introduce our guest. josh is a second year economics major here at the university of chicago, hails from mason, michigan, he is a member of the baseball team and the college republicans. please put your hands together for josh. [applause] >> thank you. it is my honor tonight to introduce a couple of remarkable public servants who devoted their lives to promoting a better future for you and me. sean spicer is a native of rhode island. during his time as a
communications director at the republican national committee, shawn played an essential role in securing land mark majorities the house and senate during the 2014 mid-term elections. after becoming chief strategizing for the rnc in the following year, sean's strategy came to fruition on november 8th with republicans maintaining majorities in house and senate and capturing the presidency for the first time in eight years. in addition to his time at the rnc, sean served as a commander in at the u.s. navy reserves and we're all deeply grateful for his service to our nation. on january 20th, he will assume his role as press secretary. robert gibbs, nature of alabama, -- a native of auburn, alabama served as the 27th white house press secretary during president barack obama's first term in office. robert served as press secretary john kerry's 2004 presidential
campaign and played a key role in both the barack obama 's successful runs for the white house. he currently is the executive and chief of communications of mcdonald's and sits on the iop's board of advisers. the conversation will be led by david axelrod and enthusiasm that we welcome tonight's guests. [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you. >> sean -- [shouting] >> the president -- and -- he denies facts. and he denies science and -- >> sir, with all due respect there's an opportunity for you to pose questions later on. i'll ask the you give our guest an opportunity to engage in a conversation. >> this is not normal. no. >> sir, sir. >> [shouting] stand up and speak.
stand up -- >> sir, sir, please do not interrupt or shout down or our guests. we ask you respectfully to let this conversation continue. it has not even started yet, sir. >> shouting -- a president to celebrate -- there's another -- [shouting] organize. go out in streets and stop this. trump has -- >> all right. [laughter] >> all right. i will let me just say, we know there are very, very strong feelings. what we are hoping to engender tonight is an opportunity for people to ask tough questions. but also to come and listen, to understand and be in dialogue about the many critical issues, including the ones he raised. so i'll ask that all of us operate in that tone of respect, respecting each other and the
multiple points of view. david? >> i think he follows me on twitter. sean, first of all, thank you for being here. you were scheduled to be here in november on a panel with joel benison on the clinton campaign and you had a serious illness in your family. lost your dad for which we offer our condolences and you have earned some titles since then. we will talk about that. i want to ask you to reflect back on the campaign. you were chief strategist and spokesman for the republican party in 2016 and you were the communications director in 2012. i noticed josh didn't mention it when he said you let the party through 2014, but we'll leave that -- >> thank you. david: but i guess my question
to you is, beginning of that process, how much was donald trump on your radar screen as a likely candidate for your party? sean: it is a great question. honestly, what we look at 2016 cycle after the 2012 cycle and we wrote a report and what of the recommendations nobody wanted to talk about was the party needed to get out of the way of the voters. and to be honest with you, we woke up every day knowing our job was to have the capabilities when we had a nominee and to worry about who one of those 17 or 87 or however many ran, was going to be in the nominee. it was a waste of time and a mental exercise because regardless of who you wanted our job was going to be to be ready for the nominee. you know -- i -- clearly there was a lot of doubts about in the media and pundits about how serious he was going to be, going to file his paperwork, his financial disclosure form.
but i think by month two in, you realize this had some steam. there was a lot of people attracted to him. there was a -- the infancy of a real movement going on. but i don't -- i really don't think whether it was him or jeb bush or marco rubio or kasich, reince priebus, the chairman, thought about it because there's very little you can do. at the end of the day, when the primaries are over and someone had 1276 delegates they would be the nominee. so to try to think about who you wanted was almost a waste of time. dave: one of the things you did after 2012 was you commissioned a report, called the growth and opportunity project, and it was really -- known as the autopsy of the 2012 election, kind of
grim. but in it, a matter point was the part had to do better to reaching out to hispanics, young people, minorities generally, women. when trump came down those -- the escalator and started making the comments about immigrants and so on, were you concerned that this wasn't exactly the playbook? sean: sure. it wasn't the playbook. there were 218 recommendations in the report. on every single one -- some of them were the party specifically. the rnc needed to do x, y and z. advance in data and digital operations. expanded staff and put more of a presence in minority communities where we had not campaigned in the past. we hadn't been there. and so i think what we were looking for in the candidates was to see whether or not there were a philosophic buy-in and --
oak road the party and when you lose the white house in the way we had, it in the bush years we had won but it was barely. i think we saw the emergence of key communities, especially the hispanic communities, growing at a pace in a lot of states that were traditional republican strongholds. sure, there was concern, but i think there's no question -- you can argue about the tactics and the -- but donald trump's philosophically believes in growing the party and reaching out to people. i think there's a difference between whether or not he may do it in the way myself or another candidate preferred to be done or thought was the smart but he did it his way and won. david: he certainly won. sean: frankly, you can look at the minority community in particular, whether -- especially the black vote -- he increased over romney. do i think we have more work to do? absolutely. good enough? absolutely not. but i think when you look -- we
went to places -- if you look at where he went, philadelphia, detroit, baton rouge, philadelphia, he went to a lot of cities that frankly if you look at the totality of where he went, is probably more than the last two nominees combined. david: but reaching out to those communities, would you think it is a fair characterization? it seems like he maximized his votes in other places. sean: there's commitment to it. he went to places. he went to churches and businesses and places that republican nominees haven't gone in the past. like i said i don't think that -- i'm not by any means saying we have done enough. we have a lot more to do. when you get 8% of the black vote, that is not good. you need to do better. not just politically to win elections. that's not where the party is
philosophically and we have a message that should be much more appealing to the minority communities. we need to do a better job of getting the message out. david: in terms of the campaign itself, i know you were pretty strong in saying you did not feel that the whole wikileaks thing was determinative in any way. >> right. david: you were pretty -- you -- as professional, political folks do -- the three of us on the stage -- you were outspoken on some of the contents of the wikileaks during the campaign. you thought it had some effect or you would waste your time talking about it. sean: there's a difference between whether or not i think it's appropriate for hillary clinton to get debate questions or not, and the proposed answers. well, whether or not that swayed the election not pray at the end of the day, one thing that is
overlooked it the actions in the e-mails. we talked about it, but podesta said some pretty nasty thing's hillary clinton. and i think to some degree we have overlooked what was in the emails and the action they took. david: you guys didn't over look them you tried talked about them. sean: we tried to, as with democrats, got copies of memos -- no one has a problem with "the new york times" publishing donald trump's tax returns. i did not hear anybody come to his defense and say the idea they're publishing personal information that is not legally supposed to be published, we should stop them from doing that. donna brazil did not do politically and we have a job to do and that is to win an election. we did everything to maximize the information we had. >> how surprised were you on november 8th? sean: very. you saw 200 counties that obama carried, flip.
306 electoral votes. wisconsin has not been carried since 1984. michigan since 1988. pennsylvania, again when you, look at all of them -- we we are hoping for one. i wrote -- rhode island, trump did the best of any republican candidate since reagan in rhode island. when you saw the breadth and depth of that, it's like if your sports team and you're playing the undefeated team, and you beat them, that win is so much greater than the win where it's like you beat the team that was either a fair fight or you were supposed to win. so winning is always good. but there's no question that i think the clinton team thought they were going to win. the pundits thought they were going to win. a good chunk of republicans thought they would win. >> you sound like you thought they would win. sean: i -- i -- no.
no, a difference between did i think we would win or to the magnitude that we did. we had us winning michigan by two-tenths of a point but that's nothing that your putting in the bank. so i thought that the momentum was there. but also we had -- i had been through 2012 and i remember an election day, the romney people just convinced that we were going to pull this out and i think there is -- >> you should have called me. [laughter] >> would you have taken the call? >> we had to tell the president the night before that everything was ok. sean: when you had been through that, it's a lot harder -- i lost an election in 1994 by two votes on election night. so until i see that raw data, i don't put a win into a win. your saw eric cantor, randy forbes, other incumbents who are were told by their posters, you got this, and now they're a former member of congress. so you can feel good, the data
feels good and the investment we made an data was unequivocally worth it because one thing that we knew is we knew exactly where the undecideds were and what was going to move them. and we knew how to go after them whether a door not or phone call, volunteer phone called and then followed up. how to chase that a absentee. but there is no question that the magnitude of the when n,ked magnitude of the wi considering the conventional wisdom was enormous. sean: you mentioned twitter. can we talk about twitter? >> sure. david: do you know what the president-elect is going to tweet before he tweets it or do you get it on your phone like everybody else does? allowing that some of them are at 3:00 in morning, which is pretty weird. >> i do not. >> you don't get them ahead of time. >> no. no once in a while he'll say i'm going to tweet something or, hey what do you think about this?
he drives the train on this. david: how does do that -- on his phone? sean: yes. sometimes -- he's got an ipad. everyone is like who is doing this. this one ios. he has multiple devices. david: when you wake up -- when you wake up in the morning, if you sleep -- >> one eye open. david: do you look with a certain sense of dread? [laughter] sean: no. but i do look there first. because that what is going drive the news. whatever he tweets is going to drive the news. you saw the house vote the other day. he sends a single tweet out saying the idea that the house is not focused on tax reform and health care, instead focused on the office of government ethics, and immediately it's withdrawn.
there's isn't a power -- david: they were getting a bunch of calls before that. >> i don't -- chris i think whatever happened, it was a big zeppelin he shot down. >> you went to the white house yesterday and saw the apparatus and you have worked in there before. how much different do you think your job will be because of the president-elect and the soon to be president on twitter? how -- sean: well, i will give you an example when we left out in 2008. i walked out the last day when you were walking in. except i went out a different gate. we didn't have -- there was no handle -- with a single stand alone computer that you could check -- if you dare had a facebook page if you were under 25. but aside from that, you could
go on amazon and a lot of -- but you guys came in and you really brought social media in. if you think about the tools that josh ernest has now compared to tools you started with, he has snapchat and there's an evolution of social media that has occurred in the last eight years and i look at now going, ok, what the next thing around the corner? but twitter is a major piece of that. not to just that but also our instagram page and facebook page as well. david: i don't think there's any doubt dish remember signing up and i think i was the first @pressec and there's no doubt it makes your job a bit easier in some of those ways. but how do you think it -- building off of what david said, if something comes at 3:00 in the morning, when you talk about 3:00 in morning phone calls, now -- how do you think that's going to change the way you have to approach your job each and every day?
if you don't know -- i wouldn't think you would, but if you don't know what you think he's going to set the day with -- sean: i think -- part of it is that he does -- we will suggest to him, this is something we want to tweet about or get ahead of. and on a lot of it he does --he says, i'm going to tweet about this. after the end of the day, he is the president of the united states and he's going to set the tone and your job is to march forward and implement the agent -- implement the agenda. and i'd know for a lot of folks, it is -- i do not know if it is frustrating for the folks in the mainstream media. i look at as an exciting piece of the job. david -- no doubt, it's exciting. sean: it as an element where you know he can drive something and influence people in a way that hasn't done before and i think obama did very unique things with social media and his
ability to speak directly to the american people, and i think each president finds their voice. reagan did it with local media. and so i think that this is going to be an exciting time. >> sean, let me just follow up on that. i always say the one thing you learn when you're in the white house, whether you're the president or someone who speaks for the president, is that the things you say can send armies marching and markets tumbling. the notion that he would sort of on impulse tweet something, has exponentially more impact now than it did three months ago. as mentioned, you were commander in the naval reserve, went to the naval war college.
when you see a tweet at at the north koreans on their nuclear program, knowing that kim jong-un is not the most most stable leaders, does that give you little heartburn? sean: when people talk about twitter and the president-elect -- david: he's going to keep doing it. sean: of course, he is. he is a very, very strategic thinker about, this is where i want to end up. if you look at what he is done, whether it is carrier gm, he had actually, if you objectively look at it, he has been extremely successful as is used of twitter in getting his results achieved. david: but as much as he has had success in realms he has had success in, what his background on nuclear proliferation? >> there's this misconception that he is just randomly tweeting. david: you are talking to
people? sean: of course he is. he gets briefings -- we make suggestions, but he knows exactly where the wants to end up on a particular subject. sometimes it's a phone cautious sometimes it's a tweet, sometimes it's a meeting. he understands the strategic value in certain actions to achieve a goal. >> you mentioned in an interview a week or so ago that business as usual for the washington press corps was over -- >> business as usual in general is over. david: you will be in charge or at least the head of the washington press corps, and in fairness i know that it's --with the press secretary elect. i guess. give us a sense how you see businesses as usual for the washington press corps changing? is it just seating assignments or -- sean: i think it's a great question.
i think the answer in washington -- you heard this during your time in the white house, with -- you ask a question and they say, we have always done it this way. not just the press corps but you ask someone in an agency, there is a reason we do this? we've always done it this way. one of the things that the president-elect is challenging us with is, can you do a better? is there a better value for a better outcome? i talked to jay carney and dana perino. is there something you would change? president obama in 2012, said in an interview, the one thing i wish i had changed more is the relationship of the logistics with the press. now, i think the point that he was making then, and obviously you know better than i -- i think we have to look at certain things and say, can we do them better? can we involve the american
people more? it's not pro or con the press. reporters have reached out to me and said what would give us more access or allow certain reporters more -- a greater voice in the press room is x, y or z. and my point is instead of just saying josh earnest had a briefing every day at 12:30. i'll have a briefing every day at 12:30. josh is allowed this procedure or -- in whatever to work in a certain way. and i asked him yesterday privately, what are his suggestions of what we do better? part of is it bringing in the american people more. we used facebook live effectively during the campaign to bring people into a conversation. papers in chicago don't get a seat right now. or certain papers do and certain don't. is there a way to bring in more regional broadcast networks to more blogs more -- david: are you going to do -- your old boss, and new boss, reince
priebus suggested that maybe the daily briefings is outmoded. are you -- sean: again -- something i've talked on the previous press secretaries about it -- are there tweets we can make? >> tweets or tweaks. >> both. mike mccarthy is a big proponent of taking get off tv. was it is televised, it is more -- once we televised it, it is become more of a show than a substantive discourse. the pentagon has a gaggle every day and an on camera briefing once a week. that is something to ask press secretaries and journalists, you think it is more substantial than if we do this. maybe we embargo the release of
the soviet a susskind discussion -- me room -- subsequent ofe we embargo the release it so there is not a twitter fest. i asked journalist, do you think it is more substantive? maybe a couple times a week we do it on camera. david: this is being treated thing or the important thing. -- intriguing thing or the important thing. the president-elect or soon to be president, tweets quite a bit. one of them obamacare and seems to be ambiguous where the congress should move forward on the track they're on or not. isn't it necessary, since there isn't a whole lot of nuance to have somebody stand up and -- >> sure -- just to be clear, there will be a daily something with the press corps every day. the point i'm trying to make just to put a pin in is it saying i'm going to ask robert gibbs or jay carney and dana perino. and i will ask bloggers and tv executives and the white house correspondents association and seek input and say there is i
will something that could be more valuable? i'm also going to seek folks not in the room and say you want a -- you run a small blog of out in springfield, illinois, is at their away for your voice to be included? maybe send in questions and we have a briefing by saying these questions came in from daily newspapers that can't be present. think that at every new iteration of -- and administration there's an opportunity to say, can we do things better? and again, i think one of the things the president-elect would really like to see is how can be involve more people in this process and the is in this democracy? >> he has been pretty critical of the press corps that followed them and has called them disgusted people which i think as a pejorative. and has been pretty tough at times on many of the major news outlets. what is your view of the major news outlets in the country?
-- major networks and newspapers, are there not doing their jobs? >> i do not want to be stereo typical and say this outlet or that outlet but some good reporters and some bad reporters. i frankly think that, too often these days, it has become a bait fest, trying to put up a headline in competition with the national enquirer to get more readers and clicks and shares and i they lack substance. robert can weigh in, i get more calls address say i'm on deadline and i have four minutes, can you tell us what your position is going to be, veals ave iran and -- vis-a-vis iran -- i say it's going to take me 40 minutes to look up these terms. it will take me half that time to look it up. the other day, i got a call from a reporter who says i need a comment because russia has hacked a power station in vermont. it was wrong.
so they wanted me to comment on something -- i said to them, do you have anyone from the ic community on the record? they said, no. our sources are impeccable, though. top-notch reporting. a day later, when i pinged them back with the story that came out, they said, well, the sources were pretty clear at the time. they're like the weatherman half the time. if they say its sunny and it rains they will say let's talk about tomorrow. there is a degree of accountability that some of these folks need to be held at. they get to write stuff and impunity. you talk about twitter, there is a story came out that says spicer kicks jack dorsey out of tech meeting. well, first of all, the idea i'm going to tell donald trump who and you cannot have it a meeting -- >> jack dorsey. >> a couple outlets took and it ran with it.
and without ever asking. if you think but it, there were -- they were never invited, therefore can never kick them out. but these outlets to the story ran would. -- ran with it. you cannot put to the genie back in box, you don't get to call them up and say, they admit it and they're wrong. once the story is out there and either, you cannot undo it. what i've seen more and more is that it has become a race to become first rather than right. david: some would argue that you talk about it is all about clicks and mr. trump is the click-based king with this twitter and lived off of that. sean: hold on -- he is able to -- there is one job to make a statement. the journalist's job -- they can do what they want but if you're a resourceful job done journalist from your job is to get a right and understand the
facts. >> the job of the president over the united states, too? sean: it is -- he has a right to express himself on twitter and tell you what he thinks needs to be done and has been very effective at that. >> we both have had -- can i see -- one more housekeeping question. i always thought this was remarkable during the campaign that there really were no good pools in terms of having a protective pool. will the president-elect -- >> a protective pool, whenever the president is moving somewhere, they're taking a representative staple of the press corps, reporters. there is a producer. it is more than just a reporter
and a cameraman. basically, if barack obama goes out tonight for pizza, they would take an motorcade in which a van of that protective pool would follow. we had a protected pool during the residential campaigns. it never really got to a full protective pool for you guys. sean: she probably had more of one in a sense of flying on the plane, but not necessarily what i would have thought of or with the press corps would have thought of as a full protective pool. the you believe that you will have that when you get to the white house? when you leave the grounds, you will commit to taking reporters with you? sean: i'm not going to say 100% because i think that is always going to rest with the president-elect. >> do you think he should? sean: he has a right to decide if he is going to do a personal activity with his family or something like that.
it is one thing to notify the press, i'm going to be here, you can stand outside and watch. i think we have been pretty good at improving that relationship. we had one down it mar-a-lago, we had a pool, we have allowed it to be expanded. it is different when you become president because it does because -- become part of the motorcade and it is easier to move. the facilitation is a lot easier. >> you will have press on air force one when you travel? sean: that is our intent. >> you will use air force one? i know it is a lesser plane. sean: it is. he does have a nicer plane. >> air force one is not bad. what is your definition of fake news? sean: i think that which is intentionally false.
so, i don't think it is -- i think there are mainstream stories that i would put into that bucket, as well. i think stories that legitimately have no resemblance to actual facts or no intention of seeking out the truth. >> so, not just something somebody makes up on the internet about somebody died or some pizza parlor in washington is a child sex ring that elicits some guy with a gun. you think this happens also in the mainstream? sean: what i'm saying is you can't limit it -- there are instances where i think reporters have legitimately overlooked facts in an attempt to get a story out. the twitter story being an example. that is a fake news story. it is not real. it never happened. they never checked. the goal in that particular case, "politico" posted a story they did not do due diligence on, that was fake news.
>> i think there is a good distinction to draw here. look, any day you deal with the press, you are going to find things that they get wrong for whatever reason. sean: there is a difference between getting things wrong and not doing your job. >> sure, sure. do you think "political" thought to make something up? knowing the people that run "politico" they have a reputation -- sean: there is a difference between, that is intent. when you talk about the definition of committing a crime. there are certain things that say, did you intend to go out -- >> let's put a fine point on it. someone puts out on the internet a story that some pizza parlor is running a child sex ring and hillary clinton is involved with it. that is fake news. you are not equating that with a reporter who did not at all the facts in their story?
sean: no, there is -- >> there is bad news. there is bad news and bad reporting. sean: when a story is not at all accurate, that is fake. i think to limit it and say it is only stuff on the internet were someone intentionally did it, i would expand that to where someone did not do due diligence. it is one thing to be wrong or inaccurate. we misplaced a decimal point, we spelled your name wrong. but when you intentionally put out a piece of news for the sake of rushing it out, that is fake. >> when you went to the white house yesterday, you were telling us backstage -- you said you spent a while at the white house. what was, give us a sense, what did you learn, what was the surprise about -- i don't want
to divulge every conversation was there something that surprised you? was there something that you took away, learned, that you rethink how you are thinking about this president dealing with the press and you dealing with the press? sean: frankly, there was a whole host. logistically, briefing wise. i was talking to josh about what do you to get ready every day? there were things that frankly, dana had talked to me about briefing books, the stuff that she did to prep. one of josh's assistance was showing us some of the procedures as they do in terms of some of the information they have access to. and how they go about getting that information, synthesizing it. some of it is not for the public domain. i started to think, you think about the volume of stuff that you must consume to be ready to face some of these questions.
then there are things -- it was eight years ago that i walked out -- and you forget the size and scope. when you walk into lower press, there is the press briefing, the press can open the store. there is someone who interfaces with the press guy. you are squeezing like 12 people into a room the size that >> that is a door that will remain unlocked? sean: we will see. [laughter] sean: the door to the lower press. part of what i don't want to do now is say this is what's going to happen. the conversation i'm having, would you continue to do this? what are the pros and cons and why?
why do you brief at this time? do you think you could do it earlier or later? i want to challenge myself and my team to say, is there some way to be more informative, is there some way to do it better? >> we have a line of questioners here. identify yourself. the only thing we ask is that you end it with a? -- a question mark. >> i promise there is a question mark. my name is chase woods. thank you for being here. i like your socks. sean: you can buy them a gop.com. [laughter] >> my question could be classified as a hard question. the president-elect and his surrogates are committed to
misinformation and sometimes lies. whether it is the president-elect claiming he saw thousands cheering the collapse of the twin towers, tweeting false murder statistics, or pushing fake news that led to a gunmen entering a pizzeria in suburban d.c.. do you and the trump administration deserve the trust of the american people? if so, why do you deserve our trust? how do you see yourself as press secretary working to tell the truth to the american people? an an aspiring reporter, because there were three questions talked into one. [laughter] sean: look, i spent 17.5 years in the navy as a public affairs officer, three years in the bush office, served in different administrations as a spokesperson. whether you are republican, democrat, independent, you have your integrity.
i may tell a reporter i can't comment toward -- on something, but i've never lied. i don't intend -- i would argue that anybody is an aspiring communicator adhere to that. if you lose the respect and trust of the press corps, you've got nothing. one of the things that allows us to sometimes promote a story or kill a story is that reporters trust us, they know you are going to wave them off of bad things are tell them, lean into this, it is the right thing to do. all i can tell you is that i intend to have hopefully a very prosperous life after this. and so, i need to walk away with this -- >> would you quit if you were asked to -- sean: it is not a question of -- i don't think any communicator worth their salt can go out and tell a lie.
i think it is one thing for a surrogate to say something to read i'm not advocating that. you can spin the way you want. but to god and tell a lie is something that is not acceptable. beyond that, the personal piece of this, i think the american people deserve public servants that are up there -- what you may not agree with the agenda, i don't agree with a lot of the policies of barack obama, but he's the commander-in-chief, he's our president, he deserves the respect of the office. >> thank you. >> next question. >> i have only one question. [laughter] sean: you will never be a reporter. [laughter] >> president-elect trump continues to use social media platforms as a way of shaping his foreign policy message. for instance, his recent tweet on china's perceived passivity on north korea's nuclear program, but, unfortunately, not
only did beijing authority shrug it off and regard trumps tweets as idiosyncratic and irresponsible style, but many average citizens on china's internet did. my question is with this direct pipeline to the american people derail or debase debates about pressing foreign-policy issues? sean: the president-elect has spoken to 75 different foreign leaders. i think he understands the role of china and russia play on the globe right now and he is committed to making sure that we have a relationship with both of them, both in terms of protecting american jobs, but he understands the geopolitical nature and the threat that they potentially face. he will have a relationship with
president xi jinping and president clinton and it will be to the benefit of the american people. >> hello. my name is david abraham. i have no interest in being a reporter. my question is related to his, but i want to take a step back. the oxford dictionaries word of the year for 2016 was post-truth. >> that is two words, actually. [laughter] >> hyphenated. i want to know, as someone who serves at the pleasure of the president, what do you believe is his relationship to truth and what do you believe is your relationship, as his representative, to the press to truth? >> i believe -- he fundamentally believes what he says he believes, that it is in the best interest of the country. i think to question somebody's
desire to be truthfulness -- not that you are -- is insulting. i think there are a lot of people who come to conclusions, i wonder how they came to that, but i don't question that those people believe those beliefs or conclusions are true. my job is to represent his beliefs and articulate them to the press, plain and simple. >> thank you. >> when he says for example, millions of people voted illegally. you are telling me that he believed that when he said it. sean: absolutely. >> that does not make it true. [laughter] [applause] sean: no, but david's question was -- does he believe that what he is saying is truthful? the answer is yes. >> i'm a fourth year in the college. you talked earlier about trump being a strategic thinker with regard to nuclear proliferation.
however, he was elected on the basis of his strategic thinking in the area of business, which is a very different area than nuclear proliferation and also worth bearing that his business went bankrupt several times. the u.s. can't afford to go bankrupt or make a comparable area in terms of nuclear proliferation. why should we trust trump blindly saying he is a strategic thinker in this area when he has no expertise and he is surrounding himself with individuals such as rex tillerson, who has similar experience, but not in the same sort of geopolitical realm? sean: a couple of things. trust is earned. i think, hopefully come over the next four years, potentially the next eight years, that he earns your trust and respect. like anybody else, there are actions that have to get taken place. that is frankly with any job. he walked into the last room the first day, why do you trust the
professor knows what they are talking about is going to teach you anything. at some point, you look up midsemester, and say, i learned a lot and they have earned your respect. i think that is a you perform any job, whether as president or professor or whatever. hopefully, through his actions, both to mystically and in foreign-policy, he earns your trust. with rex tillerson, i spent some time with him. he is an unbelievably impressive candidate for secretary of state. i think people need to understand -- you think about robert's job with mcdonald's, how many locations throughout the world? >> 36,000. sean: you are dealing with countries and employees and laws and something goes wrong in a country where they have a mcdonald's, they've got to be ready to evacuate them, dealing with those leaders. rex tillerson's experience over the last 30 years at exxon has led him to develop relationships and 50-plus countries.
-- in 50-plus countries. someone who is a minister of finance is now the prime minister or the president, he has a personal relationship with him, he understands some of the business that goes on in that. at the end of the day, his job is to make sure that exxon got the best deal. so he would work with countries to make sure -- this is a guy willing to put all that aside to do the same thing for the country. through his confirmation hearing, hopefully, you start to realize this is an unbelievably gifted individual cares deeply about this country and is willing to put a lot aside because he thinks he can serve this country in a better way. >> hi, i'm a second year in the college. thanks for being here to talk with us today. i think a lot of us are curious about the president's skeptical role about the intelligence community in our country. i was wondering what your role would be -- sorry -- what your
role would be when the president's take such a public and adversarial role with his intelligence agencies, what is the message you are trying to relay and how to get back to the message? sean: i'm glad you brought this up. there is an interesting dynamic with intelligence. there is raw intelligence that the agency gives to the president and our government. his national security team and other advisors analyze that data and make suggestions and recommendations on policies to the president of the president-elect should take, whether it is a stance or policy or action they should take. there is a difference between believing the data and the outcomes. i'm going to use an analogy and another someone is going to try to mock this. if you watch two weather stations at night, one says we don't believe it's going to rain and the other believes it does.
it means one meteorologist looked at it and i believe this outcome is going to occur and another looks at it and says, i believe there is a different outcome. that is the simplest analogy. any situation. you can look at a situation or set of facts and come to one conclusion and what i think the president elect's skepticism is whether or not some of this raw data is being interpreted in a way -- or he wonders why it is being interpreted it -- interpreted in the way it is. this friday, he is going to sit down with the director of the fbi, the director of the national intelligence, and director of the cia and ask them how they took the data that was presented and came to the conclusions that they did. i think that part of this is understanding do they all share the same conclusion? what are their concerns? a lot of the reports that you read talk about how there is a high degree of confidence.
we believe the following. i think what he wants to know -- and if you think about it -- we had the weapons of mass destruction, you had benghazi blamed on a video -- he wants an opportunity to talk to these heads and say the data suggests this, because this is what i hear in the different briefings i get -- how did you come to this conclusion and to what degree of certainty have you come to it? having a healthy degree of skepticism in the analysis is a good thing. the data is not being questioned per se. it is how did you take that data, which is classified, and come to this conclusion? >> can i follow up? i want to be a reporter. >> this must be a three-part question. >> john brennan.
brennan is here tomorrow. i have a high degree of confidence is going to be here tomorrow. [laughter] sean: how did you come to that conclusion? [laughter] >> do you think, much of the data you are talking about is unknown to most of the american people. do you think it is helpful to the country or the debating-elect to be before he's president would be intelligence community. >> look at the position he is put in. understand, the report we are talking about is not final. the president of the united states, barack obama, has not
been briefed on this. my understanding is he will be briefed later this week. the intelligence committee has not issued a final report. the idea that we are all being asked what our opinion is on something that is not final is irresponsible. -- is frankly irresponsible. >> the president-elect has offered his opinion pretty freely on it even though it is not final. sean: i understand that. he has offered his skepticism. i think that is different than his conclusion. he has asked for the intelligence has to come in and give them where they stand, why they came to the conclusions they did. frankly, i believe that is the logical way you come to the decision. ask people to come in to explain how they came to the conclusion and either agree or disagree, but you have the opportunity to question how they came to those conclusions, what the degree of certainty is that they have. i think the idea that the president-elect or anybody should be judging something before it is final is not a smart idea.
>> we're going to try to squeeze in two last student questions quickly. we will have you and the individual right behind. >> hello. thank you for coming to speak with us. you have been outspoken in talking about the liberal bias of the mainstream media and i'm wondering if you are also just as concerned about bias from notably right-wing sources such as fox news or breitbart or whether talking about the bias of mainstream media is more of a political point in worrying about bias itself? -- then worrying about bias itself? sean: i have. i think breitbart is unapologetic that they come from a conservative standpoint. the same way that huffington post or think progress comes from the liberal. that is fine. frankly, i don't have a problem with it in the sense that i believe it is healthy in a democracy, we have had this in our foundation of people putting out papers and flyers and pamphlets back in the day that
had a serious bent. i think that is healthy. what i have is a problem with people who believe that they are mainstream portending to be neutral when they are not. i think part of it is not just the way you cover stories, but it is also the stories that aren't covered. we have done a ton of campaigns. in every single campaign, when the league of conservation voters comes up with their scorecard, it is usually a front-page thing and notably, the republican always gets an f. when the chamber of commerce comes out with the scorecard, that is a business interest, that is something we don't care about. that is bias. that is choosing an issue to cover versus not an issue to cover. as someone who has been 25 years pitching reporters stories, there are stories that a reporter say we don't care about that. again, i'm not painting a broad brush with every reporter, but i do think that after 25 years, i
can tell you -- and studies that have been done -- most stories point to the fact that the majority of reporters have a liberal bent. it is important to make sure that when you are a reader or a consumer of a story or an outlet that you view it with a healthy skepticism as to where that news is coming from and the filtered is going through. >> we will take one last question. >> i'm a first year in the college. earlier, when you were talking about what constitutes fake news, you talked about how a reporter not doing their due diligence, even if they believe something is true might constitute fake news. you defended the president-elect and his relationship to the truth when you defended his diligence, even if they believe statement by saying that if he believes they are true then that is morally good. sean: there is a difference. you are allowed to have an opinion. i can believe something or care about something or i can believe in an outcome. but if you are a reporter, your job is to get it right and to
get the facts right. >> what about if you are the president? isn't that also the job if you're the president of the united states? sean: sure, and if he believes that true -- my point is you are asking what the definition of news or fake news is. every president is allowed to have conclusions based on the facts that they have. there is -- it is an apples and oranges. >> you would not extend that same thing to a reporter, if a reporter believes what they wrote was true? sean: then they are an opinion writer. i don't hold them to the same standard as a reporter. they are an opinion writer. they can write their opinion. that is why we have an opinion writer. if you want to express opinions, god bless you. put it up as much as you want, tweeted out, get a column somewhere. start your own blog. that is a very healthy part of our democracy. that is a big difference from saying this is news and we will put it in the news section of
"the new york times" or cnn. if you're going to express your opinion or your bias, you should move over to the other side of the house and call yourself an opinion writer. >> thank you. sean: thank you. >> i just want to say, thank you to all of you for being here today, for asking excellent questions, for giving sean a respect for disrespectful hearing. i do think anybody in this room would be surprised that we have many differences. [laughter] it says a lot that he kept his commitment to be here and
[applause] >> it is an honor to be asked. both david and robert are pros. i think one of the things that it is important to understand is i think youington, can be a fierce political person but a good person. david young trumpeter in that category. -- david the hand robert are in and robert are in that category. you can agree to disagree. i would like to thank you. >> i was hoping you would say that as we went out the door. please thank me for -- please spicer in thanking sean