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Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds first White House press briefing of 2018

White House on Iran protests

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held the first White House press briefing of 2018. President Trump returned to Washington Monday after spending a week at his golf club in Mar-a-Lago.

Here are some of the topics she discussed:

Iran demonstrations: Tehran is seeing the largest protests on its streets since 2009. Though the Iranian nuclear deal has boosted the economy, unemployment in Iran is still high, and inflation has hit 10 percent. President Trump has tweeted his support of the protesters. But Sanders stopped short of saying the president supports regime change in Iran, asked if he does.

Sanders emphasized the "ultimate end game" is for the citizens of Iran to be given "basic human rights" and stop being a state sponsor of terror.

"If they want to do that through current leadership, if that's possible, OK," she said.

Sanders also said Pakistan needs to do more to confront terrorism.

"We know that Pakistan can do more to fight terrorism and we want them to step up and do that," she said.

Government spending: Lawmakers are negotiating with the White House over a bill to fund the government. There are also a couple of other pressing issues wrapped up in those talks, including the fate of undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers," whether the funding will include the president's long-promised wall at the southern border, and disaster aid for states hit hard by hurricanes and wildfires in 2017. The current deadline is Jan. 19, and if Congress and the White House can't reach an agreement, the government will shut down.

Amid all the things Congress and the White House need to accomplish in the days ahead, Sanders said the budget is the first priority. Other issues can come soon, but after, she said.

Justice Department: On Tuesday morning, the president took to Twitter to note that Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton, "has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols" and that she "put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents." The president said the "Deep State Justice Dept must finally act?"

Sanders said the president certainly doesn't believe every single DOJ employee is a part of any such "deep state" operation.

The president does find some of those actions "very disturbing," Sanders said.

"Obviously he doesn't believe the entire Justice Department is part of that," she said. 

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