Trump 'didn't care' about media storm after Tsai call: Sanders

10/09/2019 01:55 PM
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Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders
Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders

Taipei, Oct. 9 (CNA) Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders provided on Tuesday a glimpse into the mindset of U.S. President Donald Trump when he made headlines in 2016 by taking a phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

The U.S. media could not believe that Trump became president, and it was not excited to see him win, Sanders said in Taipei during a luncheon speech at the two-day Yushan Forum.

"And they were very unhappy when one of the very first things he did as president-elect was to take a phone call from the president of Taiwan," Sanders said, adding that the phone call sent the media into a frenzy.

"The president, of course, knew that we had a relationship with Taiwan, and he didn't see what all the fuss was about, and he didn't care," said the controversial Sanders, who served as White House press secretary from July 2017 to July 2019 and was known for her often contentious relationship with the media.

Sanders was commenting on a phone conversation between Trump and Tsai on Dec. 2, 2016 when Trump took a congratulatory call from Tsai, the first publicly reported call between a Taiwanese leader and a U.S. president or president-elect since 1979, when Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

The call infuriated Beijing but was celebrated as a diplomatic achievement by the Tsai administration.

In her speech on Tuesday, Sanders also said that while Trump has taken a hardline stance against China, he has worked very hard to strengthen relationships with allies in Asia since taking office.

Trump takes great pride in his relationships with leaders around the world, she said.

Sanders also shared some lessons she learned when she was younger that may have been directed at China.

She recalled an incident during her high school years in which she violated the rules while enjoying the freedom and trust given her by her parents. As a result, she was grounded for several weeks.

"In the world order, if a country does the wrong thing and violates the rules by stealing, cheating, or further hurting others, there must be a response," she said, without mentioning any specific country.

She also recalled a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum with her parents when she was only 11 years old.

The experience taught her that "we can never allow evil to prevail, that we can never sit silent...that we have to always stand up and do what's right."

Later, when answering reporters' questions about Taiwan's presidential and legislative elections in 2020, Sanders said she believes Trump would hope to have a great relationship with whoever the Taiwanese people elect to be their leader in 2020.

She reiterated several times, however, that she was speaking in a personal capacity because she is no longer with the White House.

The Yushan Forum is organized by the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation with the support of the Tsai government to facilitate Asian regional dialogue.

(By Emerson Lim)


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