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White House press secretary Sean Spicer: ‘Our intention is never to lie to you’

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NBC News -

In his first official briefing as White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer told the press that "our intention is never to lie to you", but refused to walk back his widely-disputed claim that the inauguration was the most-watched ever "both in-person and around the globe."

"I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts. There are certain things that we may... we may not fully understand when we come out but our intention is never to lie to you," he said.

Spicer's comments come two days after he issued multiple falsehoods in his first public appearance before the press on Saturday in a widely-criticized statement re-litigating reporting noting the relatively smaller size of Trump's inauguration crowd on Friday in comparison to President Obama's.

Again and again, Spicer was repeatedly pressed about his comments on inauguration crowd size and whether the media could expect veracity from a Trump White House.

And Spicer hit back accusing the media of trying to undermine Trump's credibility and achievements.

"When you wake up and that's what you see every day...yeah, it is disappointing. Some days we do the right thing. Same days we are successful...but it's not always wrong and negative," Spicer said during the briefing.

Spicer's first White House press briefing comes on a busy day for President Trump, during which he signed three executive orders and met with business executives at the White House.

Monday's press briefing went on for nearly 80 minutes, during which Spicer parried questions on everything from domestic policy to Trump's meetings with foreign leaders. The wide ranging press briefing spanned such topics as trade deals, working with Russia to defeat ISIS, and cabinet positions among other substantive topics.

A Change in Tradition

Spicer upended the traditional order in which reporters were called, opening the briefing with a question to the New York Post. Typically the legacy news networks and wires are given questions first.

But the biggest change to the briefings is still to come.

Spicer announced Monday the Trump administration would add four "Skype seats" that would open up the briefing to journalists who live beyond 50 miles of the Washington D.C. area and to organizations that don't currently have credentials for the White House.

Eliminating NAFTA, Thoughts on DACA

Trump has spoken to the leaders of Canada and Mexico about renegotiating NAFTA, Spicer said adding that the president was open to renegotiating the trade agreement within its current structure.

And though Trump pledged during the campaign to "immediately terminate" President Obama's executive order protecting DREAMers from deportation, Spicer told reporters Trump would first look at those in the country illegally who have committed violent crimes.

"I think the president has been clear that he is going to prioritize the areas of dealing with the immigration system, both building the wall and making sure that we address people who are in this county illegally," Spicer said. "First and foremost, the president's been very, very clear that we need to direct agencies to focus on those who are in this country illegally and have a record, a criminal record or pose a threat to the American people. That's where the priority is going to be."

On the Unemployment Rate

But Spicer's pledge to "tell you the facts as I know them" was complicated just minutes later during the press briefing when he was asked directly: "What is the national unemployment rate?" and didn't provide figures.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said this month that the unemployment rate for December was 4.7 percent, up slightly from 4.6 percent the month before.

Spicer first said there are "several versions" of those figures.

Trump "sees people that are hurting" and "it's not just a number to him," Spicer said. He said the president's "not focused on statistics" but rather "if people are doing better off."

"I think that's where his head is at," he said, charging that questions over unemployment have previously "been about what number we're looking at instead of what face we're looking at."

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly dismissed the declining unemployment rate, charging it was "fiction" and that the economic reality faced by many Americans was much worse.

U.S. Open to Working With Russia on Fighting ISIS

Spicer said the U.S was open to working with Russia to combat ISIS.

"I think if there's a way that we can combat ISIS with any country, whether its Russia or anyone else, and we have a shared national interest in that, sure, we'll take it," he said.

However, while the U.S. has an open channel of communication with the Russian military on such matters as ensuring aircrew safety and de-confliction operations in Syria "the Department of Defense is not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria," U.S. Marine Corps Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, told NBC News in a statement.

Spicer also weighed in on reports concerning the intelligence investigation into the Trump administration's ties to Russia, telling reporters he didn't believe the president had spoken with any officials about the investigation and hadn't indicated he would move to end it.

And he reacted to a Wall Street Journal report that the investigation was looking into phone calls National Security Adviser Mike Flynn made to the Russian Ambassador in late December.

Spicer repeated his previous statement that there was only one call between the two, but expanded upon its contents, saying they discussed a plane crash over the holiday, Christmas greetings, a potential conference in Syria on ISIS and setting up a conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump.

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