WH on Reaching Across the Aisle: 'I Think That Should Go Both Ways'

By Melanie Arter | June 15, 2017 | 3:34 PM EDT

White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (CNSNews.com/Melanie Arter)

(CNSNews.com) - The White House said Thursday that President Donald Trump's remarks following the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) Wednesday are just "the first step" in the process of urging people to dial down the rhetoric and foster unity.

During an off-camera press gaggle, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether the president and the White House in general have any responsibility to adapt a different tone the way that members on both sides of the aisle in Congress are calling for.

As CNSNews.com previously reported, Trump said, ""We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified, and when we work together for the common good."

"I think the president was extremely clear yesterday where he thought the rhetoric should lie," Sanders said, adding that she's "not sure how you would say" Trump should own responsibility for that.

A reporter pointed to the president's tweets Thursday addressing a Washington Post story that claimed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating the president for "possible obstruction of justice."

The president tweeted: "They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice."

Later, he tweeted: "You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA"

"I guess when it comes to a tweet and not on the substance of the Russian investigation, but when you call people bad people and witch hunt and sort of attacking, impugning motives of your adversary," the reporter said.

Sanders said there had been "quite a bit of attacking against the president" and that Trump was "responding to those specific accusations" in the Washington Post article. As a whole, she said, the president wants the country "needs to bring the temperature down a little bit."

"I think that was the goal that the president laid out yesterday, and hopefully, we can all see moving forward," Sanders added.

When asked how the president plans to get the country to tone down the rhetoric and move forward and whether he plans to use Scalise's shooting "as a teachable moment," Sanders said, "Certainly I think yesterday was the first step in that process, and I also think by focusing on an agenda that helps empower all Americans. That's something he has been very out front and vocal about making a priority - whether it's on education, creating jobs,  national security - it's about protecting and empowering Americans, and so I think you can see the point of unity proved in his agenda," she said.

When asked what the president plans to do specifically to reach out to Democrats, Sanders said, " Look, I think the president has done quite a lot to reach out to Democrats. He had several members of Congress from the Democrat Party here earlier this week for dinner. I think we'll continue to do things, but I certainly think that as much as we can that we have the opportunity to reach across the aisle, we certainly should. I think that should go both ways."