Sarah Sanders frames Trump's "calm before the storm" comment in foreign affairs terms

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Friday said the White House does not reveal the president's decisions in advance, asked if Mr. Trump meant military action when he alluded to a "calm before the storm" after a meeting with military leaders Thursday night. 

"As we've said many times before, I know the president has, as I have from this podium on quite a few occasions, we're never going to say in advance what the president's going to do," Sanders said. "And as he said last night in addition to those comments, you'll have to wait and see."

Sanders, pressed on how seriously the American public and American adversaries should take his comments, said the president will take action as he sees fit. 

"I think you can take the president protecting the American people, always extremely serious," Sanders said. "He's been very clear that that's his number one priority. And if he feels that action is necessary, he'll take it."

Sanders wouldn't say whether the president was referring to military action. She did mention the administration's focus on North Korea and Iran, although she wouldn't say whether the president was referring to either of those regimes and only said the U.S. continues to put diplomatic pressure on regimes like those. 

"I think we've got a lot of bad actors in the world, North Korea, Iran, there are several examples there," Sanders said. 

Mr. Trump ignited a firestorm online Thursday night, after he floated the possibility of a "calm before the storm." Mr. Trump, accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump and flanked by military members and spouses for a photo op at the White House, said, "You guys know what this represents? Maybe it's the calm before the storm." Pressed on what he meant, Mr. Trump said "we have the world's great military people" in the room. Asked yet again for an answer, Mr. Trump said "you'll find out." The president reiterated those comments, almost word-for-word, on Friday. 

Sanders also responded to comments outgoing Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, said earlier this week, when he said White House chief of staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are separating the country from chaos. 

"I think that the president is the one keeping the world from chaos," Sanders said. 

Sanders said the president continues to have confidence in Tillerson, after Tillerson reportedly called Mr. Trump a "moron" and was forced to make a statement about the matter on live national television. CBS News' chief White House correspondent Major Garrett learned the president learned of the "moron" comment within days after it was made, and the insult traveled quickly inside and outside the White House. 

CBS News' White House and senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan asked if Mr. Trump, as of Friday, has confidence in Tillerson. 

"He does," Sanders said. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.