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After a day of questions and concerns stemming from President Donald Trump's cryptic comment Thursday that "this is the calm before the storm," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday sought to deflect attention away from words Trump uses, saying the public, and America's enemies, should focus instead on his priorities.
Speaking at the White House daily press briefing, Sanders was asked how seriously the American public, and America's adversaries, should take his comments.
"I think you can take the president protecting the American people always extremely serious," she replied. "He's been very clear that that's his number one priority."
By urging people to focus on the president's priorities when she was asked about his statements, Sanders' message was clear. To understand the president's intentions, one occasionally may need to ignore what he says.
Yet this was difficult Friday, as Trump himself continued to sow confusion by refusing to clarify what he had actually meant by "the calm before the storm."
The first time he said it, Trump had been meeting with senior military leaders at the White House. All of a sudden the president looked around the room and said, "you guys know what this represents, maybe it's the calm before the storm." Asked what he meant, Trump replied "you'll find out," and then left for a dinner.
The meeting with military brass had included discussions of pressing national security threats, including North Korea's accelerated nuclear weapons testing, and the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Given the timing, Trump's comment sparked fears of impending U.S. military action.
The confusion and concern dragged on into Friday. Asked again what he meant by "the storm," Trump merely winked at reporters and said "you'll find out."
Sanders, likewise, did little to shed light on the situation. "We're never going to say in advance what the president's going to do, and as [Trump] said last night, you'll have to wait and see."
One reporter even asked the press secretary whether Trump was employing a "madman theory" of leadership, and making empty threats intended to rattle his adversaries.
"He certainly doesn't want to lay out his game plan for our enemies," Sanders replied. "So if you're asking, is the president trying to do that? Absolutely. I mean, I don't think that's a secret."