Full Text Political Transcripts February 9, 2017: 9th Circuit of Appeal Denies Reinstatement of President Donald Trump’s Travel Ban Washington v Trump Opinion

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

State of Washington & State of Minnesota v. Trump

02/09/2017

Published Order Denying Stay PD

FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
STATE OF WASHINGTON; STATE OF    No. 17-35105
MINNESOTA,    D.C. No.
Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.    2:17-cv-00141

DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the    ORDER
United States; U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
HOMELAND SECURITY; REX W.
TILLERSON, Secretary of State; JOHN
F. KELLY, Secretary of the
Department of Homeland Security;
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Defendants-Appellants.

Motion for Stay of an Order of the
United States District Court for the
Western District of Washington
James L. Robart, District Judge, Presiding
Argued and Submitted February 7, 2017

Filed February 9, 2017
Before: William C. Canby, Richard R. Clifton, and
Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges
Per Curiam Order

COUNSEL
August E. Flentje (argued), Special Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General; Douglas N. Letter, Sharon Swingle, H. Thomas Byron, Lowell V. Sturgill Jr., and Catherine Dorsey, Attorneys, Appellate Staff; Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General; Noel J. Francisco, Acting Solicitor General; Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Defendants-Appellants.
Noah G. Purcell (argued), Solicitor General; Marsha Chien and Patricio A. Marquez, Assistant Attorneys General; Colleen M. Melody, Civil Rights Unit Chief; Anne E. Egeler, Deputy Solicitor General; Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General; Attorney General’s Office, Seattle, Washington; for Plaintiff-Appellee State of Washington.
Jacob Campion, Assistant Attorney General; Alan I. Gilbert, Solicitor General; Lori Swanson, Attorney General; Office of the Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; for Plaintiff-Appellee State of Minnesota.

ORDER
PER CURIAM:
At issue in this emergency proceeding is Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which, among other changes to immigration policies and procedures, bans for 90 days the entry into the United States of individuals from seven countries. Two States challenged the Executive Order as unconstitutional and violative of federal law, and a federal district court preliminarily ruled in their favor and
temporarily enjoined enforcement of the Executive Order. The Government now moves for an emergency stay of the district court’s temporary restraining order while its appeal of that order proceeds.
To rule on the Government’s motion, we must consider several factors, including whether the Government has shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its appeal, the degree of hardship caused by a stay or its denial, and the public interest in granting or denying a stay. We assess those factors in light of the limited evidence put forward by both parties at this very preliminary stage and are mindful that our analysis of the hardships and public interest in this case involves particularly sensitive and weighty concerns on both sides. Nevertheless, we hold that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.
Background
On January 27, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” (the “Executive Order”). 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977. Citing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and stating that “numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes” since then, the Executive Order declares that “the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.” Id. It asserts, “Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.” Id.
The Executive Order makes several changes to the policies and procedures by which non-citizens may enter the United States. Three are at issue here. First, section 3(c) of the Executive Order suspends for 90 days the entry of aliens from seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977- 78 (citing the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) § 217(a)(12), codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1187(a)(12)). Second, section 5(a) of the Executive Order suspends for 120 days the United States Refugee Admissions Program. 82 Fed. Reg. 8,979. Upon resumption of the refugee program, section 5(b) of the Executive Order directs the Secretary of State to prioritize refugee claims based on religious persecution where a refugee’s religion is the minority religion in the country of his or her nationality. Id. Third, section 5(c) of the Executive Order suspends indefinitely the entry of all Syrian refugees. Id. Sections 3(g) and 5(e) of the Executive Order allow the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to make case-by-case exceptions to these provisions “when in the national interest.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8,978- 80. Section 5(e) states that situations that would be in the national interest include “when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8,979. The Executive Order requires the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence to evaluate the United States’ visa, admission, and refugee programs during the periods in which entry is suspended. 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977-80.

The impact of the Executive Order was immediate and widespread. It was reported that thousands of visas were immediately canceled, hundreds of travelers with such visas were prevented from boarding airplanes bound for the United States or denied entry on arrival, and some travelers were detained. Three days later, on January 30, 2017, the State of Washington filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, challenging sections 3(c), 5(a)-(c), and 5(e) of the Executive Order, naming as defendants the President, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, and the United States (collectively, “the Government”). Washington alleged that the Executive Order unconstitutionally and illegally stranded its residents abroad, split their families, restricted their travel, and damaged the State’s economy and public universities in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments, the INA, the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. Washington also alleged that the Executive Order was not truly meant to protect against terror attacks by foreign nationals but rather was intended to enact a “Muslim ban” as the President had stated during his presidential campaign that he would do.
Washington asked the district court to declare that the challenged sections of the Executive Order are illegal and unconstitutional and to enjoin their enforcement nationwide. On the same day, Washington filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) seeking to enjoin the enforcement of sections 3(c), 5(a)-(c), and 5(e) of the Executive Order. Two days later, Washington’s Complaint was amended to add the State of Minnesota as a plaintiff and to add a claim under the Tenth Amendment. Washington and Minnesota (collectively, “the States”) jointly filed an amended motion for a TRO. The Government opposed the motion the next day, and the district court held a hearing the day after that.
That evening, the court entered a written order granting the TRO. Washington v. Trump, No. C17-0141-JLR, 2017 WL 462040 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 3, 2017) . The district court preliminarily concluded that significant and ongoing harm was being inflicted on substantial numbers of people, to the detriment of the States, by means of an Executive Order that the States were likely to be able to prove was unlawful. Id. at *2. The district court enjoined and restrained the nationwide enforcement of sections 3(c) and 5(a) -(c) in their entirety. Id. It enjoined section 5(e) to the extent that section “purports to prioritize refugee claims of certain religious minorities,” and prohibited the government from “proceeding with any action that prioritizes the refugee claims of certain religious minorities.” The court also directed the parties to propose a briefing schedule for the States’ request for a preliminary injunction and denied the Government’s motion to stay the TRO pending an emergency appeal. Id. at *3.
The Government filed a notice of appeal the next day and sought an emergency stay in this court, including an immediate stay while its emergency stay motion was under consideration. We denied the request for an immediate stay and set deadlines for the filing of responsive and reply briefs on the emergency stay motion over the next two days.1 Washington v. Trump, No. 17-35105, 2017 WL 469608 (9th Cir. Feb. 4, 2017). The motion was submitted after oral argument was conducted by telephone.
1 We have also received many amicus curiae briefs in support of both the Government and the States.

Appellate Jurisdiction
The States argue that we lack jurisdiction over the Government’s stay motion because the Government’s appeal is premature. A TRO is not ordinarily appealable.
See Bennett v. Medtronic, Inc., 285 F.3d 801, 804 (9th Cir. 2002). We may nonetheless review an order styled as a TRO if it “possesses the qualities of a preliminary injunction.”
Serv. Emps. Int’l Union v. Nat’l Union of Healthcare Workers, 598 F.3d 1061, 1067 (9th Cir. 2010). This rule has ordinarily required the would-be appellant to show that the TRO was strongly challenged in adversarial proceedings before the district court and that it has or will remain in force for longer than the fourteen-day period identified in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(b). See, e.g., id.
We are satisfied that in the extraordinary circumstances of this case, the district court’s order possesses the qualities of an appealable preliminary injunction. The parties vigorously contested the legal basis for the TRO in written briefs and oral arguments before the district court. The district court’s order has no expiration date, and no hearing has been scheduled. Although the district court has recently scheduled briefing on the States’ motion for a preliminary injunction, it is apparent from the district court’s scheduling order that the TRO will remain in effect for longer than fourteen days. In light of the unusual circumstances of this case, in which the Government has argued that emergency relief is necessary to support its efforts to prevent terrorism, we believe that this period is long enough that the TRO should be considered to have the qualities of a reviewable preliminary injunction.
Standing
The Government argues that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the States have no standing to sue. We have an independent obligation to ascertain our jurisdiction, Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006), and we consider the Government’s argument de novo, see, e.g., Hajro v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., 811 F.3d 1086, 1098 (9th Cir. 2016). We conclude that the States have made a sufficient showing to support standing, at least at this preliminary stage of the proceedings.
Article III, section 2 of the Constitution allows federal courts to consider only “Cases” and “Controversies.” Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 516 (2007). “Those two words confine ‘the business of federal courts to questions presented in an adversary context and in a form historically viewed as capable of resolution through the judicial process.’” Id. (quoting Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 95 (1968)). ”Standing is an essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy requirement” and is therefore a prerequisite to our jurisdiction. See Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). The “gist of the question of standing” is whether the plaintiff has a sufficiently “personal stake in the outcome of the controversy” to ensure that the parties will be truly adverse and their legal presentations sharpened. Massachusetts, 549 U.S. at 517 (quoting Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204 (1962)).
To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate “that it has suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is either actual or imminent, that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant, and that it is likely that a favorable decision will redress that injury.” Id. (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61).
Because standing is “an indispensable part of the plaintiff’s case,” it “must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561. At this very preliminary stage of the litigation, the States may rely on the allegations in their Complaint and whatever other evidence they submitted in support of their TRO motion to meet their burden. See id. With these allegations and evidence, the States must make a “clear showing of each element of standing.” Townley v. Miller, 722 F.3d 1128, 1133 (9th Cir. 2013).3
The States argue that the Executive Order causes a concrete and particularized injury to their public universities, which the parties do not dispute are branches of the States under state law. See, e.g., Hontz v. State, 714 P.2d 1176, 1180 (Wash. 1986) (en banc); Univ. of Minn. v. Raygor, 620 N.W.2d 680, 683 (Minn. 2001).
Specifically, the States allege that the teaching and research missions of their universities are harmed by the Executive Order’s effect on their faculty and students who are nationals of the seven affected countries. These students and faculty cannot travel for research, academic collaboration, or for personal reasons, and their families abroad cannot visit. Some have been stranded outside the country, unable to return to the universities at all. The schools cannot consider attractive student candidates and cannot hire faculty from the seven affected countries, which they have done in the past.
According to declarations filed by the States, for example, two visiting scholars who had planned to spend time at Washington State University were not permitted to enter the United States; one was informed he would be unable to obtain a visa. Similarly, the University of Washington was in the process of sponsoring three prospective employees from countries covered by the Executive Order for visas; it had made plans for their arrival beginning in February 2017, but they have been unable to enter the United States. The University of Washington also sponsored two medicine and science interns who have been prevented by the Executive Order from coming to the University of Washington. The University of Washington has already incurred the costs of visa applications for those interns and will lose its investment if they are not admitted. Both schools have a mission of “global engagement” and rely on such visiting students, scholars, and faculty to advance their educational goals. Students and faculty at Minnesota’s public universities were similarly restricted from traveling for academic and personal reasons.
Under the “third party standing” doctrine, these injuries to the state universities give the States standing to assert the rights of the students, scholars, and faculty affected by the Executive Order. See Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106, 114-16 (1976) (explaining that third-party standing is allowed when the third party’s interests are “inextricably bound up with the activity the litigant wishes to pursue”; when the litigant is “fully, or very nearly, as effective a proponent of the right” as the third party; or when the third party is less able to assert her own rights). Vendors, for example, “have been uniformly permitted to resist efforts at restricting their operations by acting as advocates of the rights of third parties who seek access to their market or function.” Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 195 (1976). Likewise, doctors have been permitted to assert the rights of their patients. See, e.g., Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965). And advocacy organizations such as the NAACP have been permitted to assert the constitutional rights of their members.
Most relevant for our purposes, schools have been permitted to assert the rights of their students. See, e.g., Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 175 & n.13 (1976) (“It is clear that the schools have standing to assert these arguments [asserting free-association rights, privacy rights, and ‘a parent’s right to direct the education of his children’] on behalf of their patrons.”); Pierce v. Soc’y of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 536 (1925) (allowing a school to assert the “right of parents to choose schools where their children will receive appropriate mental and religious training [and] the right of the child to influence the parents’ choice of a school”); Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1487-88 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Pierce and rejecting the argument that the plaintiff school had no standing to assert claims of discrimination against its minority students); see also Ohio Ass’n of Indep. Sch. v. Goff, 92 F.3d 419, 422 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing similar authorities). As in those cases, the interests of the States’ universities here are aligned with their students. The students’ educational success is “inextricably bound up” in the universities’ capacity to teach them. Singleton, 428 U.S. at 115. And the universities’ reputations depend on the success of their professors’ research. Thus, as the operators of state universities, the States may assert not only their own rights to the extent affected by the Executive Order but may also assert the rights of their students and faculty members.
We therefore conclude that the States have alleged harms to their proprietary interests traceable to the Executive Order. The necessary connection can be drawn in at most two logical steps: (1) the Executive Order prevents nationals of seven countries from entering Washington and Minnesota; (2) as a result, some of these people will not enter state universities, some will not join those universities as faculty, some will be prevented from performing research, and some will not be permitted to return if they leave. And we have no difficulty concluding that the States’ injuries would be redressed if they could obtain the relief they ask for: a declaration that the Executive Order violates the Constitution and an injunction barring its enforcement. The Government does not argue otherwise.
We therefore hold that the States have standing.
Reviewability of the Executive Order
The Government contends that the district court lacked authority to enjoin enforcement of the Executive Order because the President has “unreviewable authority to suspend the admission of any class of aliens.” The Government does not merely argue that courts owe substantial deference to the immigration and national security policy determinations of the political branches—an uncontroversial principle that is well-grounded in our jurisprudence. See, e.g., Cardenas v. United States, 826 F.3d 1164, 1169 (9th Cir. 2016) (recognizing that “the power to expel or exclude aliens [is] a fundamental sovereign attribute exercised by the Government’s political departments largely immune from judicial control” (quoting Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787, 792 (1977))); see also Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 33-34 (2010) (explaining that courts should defer to the political branches with respect to national security and foreign relations). Instead, the Government has taken the position that the President’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections. The Government indeed asserts that it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one.
There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy. See Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 765 (2008) (rejecting the idea that, even by congressional statute, Congress and the Executive could eliminate federal court habeas jurisdiction over enemy combatants, because the “political branches” lack “the power to switch the Constitution on or off at will”). Within our system, it is the role of the judiciary to interpret the law, a duty that will sometimes require the “[r]esolution of litigation challenging the constitutional authority of one of the three branches.” Zivotofsky ex rel. Zivotofsky v. Clinton, 566 U.S. 189, 196 (2012) (quoting INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 943 (1983)). We are called upon to perform that duty in this case.
Although our jurisprudence has long counseled deference to the political branches on matters of immigration and national security, neither the Supreme Court nor our court has ever held that courts lack the authority to review executive action in those arenas for compliance with the Constitution. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that the political branches have unreviewable authority over immigration or are not subject to the Constitution when policymaking in that context. See Zadvydas v. Davis , 533 U.S. 678, 695 (2001) (emphasizing that the power of the political branches over immigration “is subject to important constitutional limitations”); Chadha, 462 U.S. at 940-41 (rejecting the argument that Congress has “unreviewable authority over the regulation of aliens,” and affirming that courts can review “whether Congress has chosen a constitutionally permissible means of implementing that power”).6 Our court has likewise made clear that “[a]lthough alienage classifications are closely connected to matters of foreign policy and national security,” courts “can and do review foreign policy arguments that are offered to justify legislative or executive action when constitutional rights are at stake.” American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. v. Reno, 70 F.3d 1045, 1056 (9th Cir. 1995).
Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972), does not compel a different conclusion. The Government cites Mandel for the proposition that “‘when the Executive exercises’ immigration authority ‘on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will [not] look behind the exercise of that discretion.’” The Government omits portions of the quoted language to imply that this standard governs judicial review of all executive exercises of immigration authority. In fact, the Mandel standard applies to lawsuits challenging an executive branch official’s decision to issue or deny an individual visa based on the application of a congressionally enumerated standard to the particular facts presented by that visa application. The present case, by contrast, is not about the application of a specifically enumerated congressional policy to the particular facts presented in an individual visa application. Rather, the States are challenging the President’s promulgation of sweeping immigration policy. Such exercises of policymaking authority at the highest levels of the political branches are plainly not subject to the Mandel standard; as cases like Zadvydas and Chadha make clear, courts can and do review constitutional challenges to the substance and implementation of immigration policy. See Zadvydas, 533 U.S. at 695; Chadha, 462 U.S. at 940-41.
This is no less true when the challenged immigration action implicates national security concerns. See Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1, 19 (1942) (stating that courts have a duty, “in time of war as well as in time of peace, to preserve unimpaired the constitutional safeguards of civil liberty”); Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2, 120-21 (1866) (“The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace . . . under all circumstances.”). We are mindful that deference to the political branches is particularly appropriate with respect to national security and foreign affairs, given the relative institutional capacity, informational access, and expertise of the courts. See Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. at 33-34.
Nonetheless, “courts are not powerless to review the political branches’ actions” with respect to matters of national security. Alperin v. Vatican Bank, 410 F.3d 532, 559 n.17 (9th Cir. 2005). To the contrary, while counseling deference to the national security determinations of the political branches, the Supreme Court has made clear that the Government’s “authority and expertise in [such] matters do not automatically trump the Court’s own obligation to secure the protection that the Constitution grants to individuals,” even in times of war. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. at 34 (quoting id. at 61 (Breyer, J., dissenting)); see also United States v. Robel , 389 U.S. 258, 264 (1967) (“‘[N]ational defense’ cannot be deemed an end in itself, justifying any exercise of legislative power designed to promote such a goal. . . . It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties . . . which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”); Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1, 17 (1965) (“[S]imply because a statute deals with foreign relations [does not mean that] it can grant the Executive totally unrestricted freedom of choice.”).
Indeed, federal courts routinely review the constitutionality of—and even invalidate—actions taken by the executive to promote national security, and have done so even in times of conflict. See, e.g., Boumediene, 553 U.S. 723 (striking down a federal statute purporting to deprive federal courts of jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by non-citizens being held as “enemy combatants” after being captured in Afghanistan or elsewhere and accused of authorizing, planning, committing, or aiding the terrorist attacks perpetrated on September 11, 2001); Aptheker v. Sec’y of State, 378 U.S. 500 (1964) (holding unconstitutional a statute denying passports to American members of the Communist Party despite national security concerns); Ex parte Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944) (holding unconstitutional the detention of a law-abiding and loyal American of Japanese ancestry during World War II and affirming federal court jurisdiction over habeas petitions by such individuals). As a plurality of the Supreme Court cautioned in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), “Whatever power the United States Constitution envisions for the Executive in its exchanges with other nations or with enemy organizations in times of conflict, it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake.” Id. at 536 (plurality opinion).
In short, although courts owe considerable deference to the President’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.
Legal Standard
The Government moves to stay the district court’s order pending this appeal. “A stay is not a matter of right, even if irreparable injury might otherwise result.” Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 433 (2009) (quoting Virginian Ry. Co. v. United States, 272 U.S. 658, 672 (1926)). “It is instead ‘an exercise of judicial discretion,’ and ‘the propriety of its issue is dependent upon the circumstances of the particular case.’” Id. (quoting Virginian, 272 U.S. at 672-73) (alterations omitted) . “The party requesting a stay bears the burden of showing that the circumstances justify an exercise of that discretion.” Id. at 433-34.
Our decision is guided by four questions: “(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.” Lair v. Bullock , 697 F.3d 1200, 1203 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Nken, 556 U.S. at 434). “The first two factors . . . are the most critical,” Nken, 556 U.S. at 434, and the last two steps are reached “[o]nce an applicant satisfies the first two factors,” id. at 435. We conclude that the Government has failed to clear each of the first two critical steps. We also conclude that the final two factors do not militate in favor of a stay. We emphasize, however, that our analysis is a preliminary one. We are tasked here with deciding only whether the Government has made a strong showing of its likely success in this appeal and whether the district court’s TRO should be stayed in light of the relative hardships and the public interest.
The Government has not shown that it is likely to succeed on appeal on its arguments about, at least, the States’ Due Process Clause claim, and we also note the serious nature of the allegations the States have raised with respect to their religious discrimination claims. We express no view as to any of the States’ other claims.
Likelihood of Success—Due Process
The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the Government from depriving individuals of their “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. V. The Government may not deprive a person of one of these protected interests without providing “notice and an opportunity to respond,” or, in other words, the opportunity to present reasons not to proceed with the deprivation and have them considered. United States v. Raya-Vaca, 771 F.3d 1195, 1204 (9th Cir. 2014); accord Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 542 (1985); ASSE Int’l, Inc. v. Kerry, 803 F.3d 1059, 1073 (9th Cir. 2015).
The Government has not shown that the Executive Order provides what due process requires, such as notice and a hearing prior to restricting an individual’s ability to travel. Indeed, the Government does not contend that the Executive Order provides for such process. Rather, in addition to the arguments addressed in other parts of this opinion, the Government argues that most or all of the individuals affected by the Executive Order have no rights under the Due Process Clause.
In the district court, the States argued that the Executive Order violates the procedural due process rights of various aliens in at least three independent ways. First, section 3(c) denies re-entry to certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders without constitutionally sufficient notice and an opportunity to respond. Second, section 3(c) prohibits certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders from exercising their separate and independent constitutionally protected liberty interests in travelling abroad and thereafter re- entering the United States. Third, section 5 contravenes the procedures provided by federal statute for refugees seeking asylum and related relief in the United States. The district court held generally in the TRO that the States were likely to prevail on the merits of their due process claims, without discussing or offering analysis as to any specific alleged violation.
At this stage of the proceedings, it is the Government’s burden to make “a strong showing that [it] is likely to” prevail against the States’ procedural due process claims. Lair v. Bullock , 697 F.3d 1200, 1203 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 426 (2009)). We are not persuaded that the Government has carried its burden for a stay pending appeal.
The procedural protections provided by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause are not limited to citizens. Rather, they “appl[y] to all ‘persons’ within the United States, including aliens,” regardless of “whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.” Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 693 (2001). These rights also apply to certain aliens attempting to reenter the United States after travelling abroad. Landon v. Plasencia, 459 U.S. 21, 33-34 (1982). The Government has provided no affirmative argument showing that the States’ procedural due process claims fail as to these categories of aliens. For example, the Government has failed to establish that lawful permanent residents have no due process rights when seeking to re-enter the United States. See id. (“[T]he returning resident alien is entitled as a matter of due process to a hearing on the charges underlying any attempt to exclude him.” (quoting Rosenberg v. Fleuti, 374 U.S. 449, 460 (1963))). Nor has the Government established that the Executive Order provides lawful permanent residents with constitutionally sufficient process to challenge their denial of re-entry. See id. at 35 (“[T]he courts must evaluate the particular circumstances and determine what procedures would satisfy the minimum requirements of due process on the re-entry of a permanent resident alien.”).
The Government has argued that, even if lawful permanent residents have due process rights, the States’ challenge to section 3(c) based on its application to lawful permanent residents is moot because several days after the Executive Order was issued, White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II issued “[a]uthoritative [g]uidance” stating that sections 3(c) and 3(e) of the Executive Order do not apply to lawful permanent residents. At this point, however, we cannot rely upon the Government’s contention that the Executive Order no longer applies to lawful permanent residents. The Government has offered no authority establishing that the White House counsel is empowered to issue an amended order superseding the Executive Order signed by the President and now challenged by the States, and that proposition seems unlikely.
Nor has the Government established that the White House counsel’s interpretation of the Executive Order is binding on all executive branch officials responsible for enforcing the Executive Order. The White House counsel is not the President, and he is not known to be in the chain of command for any of the Executive Departments. Moreover, in light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings. On this record, therefore, we cannot conclude that the Government has shown that it is “absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur.” Friends of the Earth, Inc., v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs., Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 189 (2000) (emphasis added).
Even if the claims based on the due process rights of lawful permanent residents were no longer part of this case, the States would continue to have potential claims regarding possible due process rights of other persons who are in the United States, even if unlawfully, see Zadvydas, 533 U.S. 693; non-immigrant visaholders who have been in the United States but temporarily departed or wish to temporarily depart, see Landon, 459 U.S. 33- 34; refugees, see 8 U.S.C. § 1231 note 8; and applicants who have a relationship with a U.S. resident or an institution that might have rights of its own to assert, see Kerry v. Din, 135 S. Ct. 2128, 2139 (2015) (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment); id. at 2142 (Breyer, J., dissenting); Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753, 762-65 (1972). Accordingly, the Government has not demonstrated that the States lack viable claims based on the due process rights of persons who will suffer injuries to protected interests due to the Executive Order. Indeed, the existence of such persons is obvious.
The Government argues that, even if the States have shown that they will likely succeed on some of their procedural due process claims, the district court nevertheless erred by issuing an “overbroad” TRO. Specifically, the Government argues that the TRO is overbroad in two independent respects: (1) the TRO extends beyond lawful permanent residents, and covers aliens who cannot assert cognizable liberty interests in connection with travelling into and out of the United States, and (2) the TRO applies nationwide, and enjoins application of the Executive Order outside Washington and Minnesota. We decline to modify the scope of the TRO in either respect.
First, we decline to limit the scope of the TRO to lawful permanent residents and the additional category more recently suggested by the Government, in its reply memorandum, “previously admitted aliens who are temporarily abroad now or who wish to travel and return to the United States in the future.” That limitation on its face omits aliens who are in the United States unlawfully, and those individuals have due process rights as well. Zadvydas, 533 U.S. at 693. That would also omit claims by citizens who have an interest in specific non-citizens’ ability to travel to the United States. See Din, 135 S. Ct. at 2139 (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment); id. at 2142 (Breyer, J., dissenting) (six Justices declining to adopt a rule that would categorically bar U.S. citizens from asserting cognizable liberty interests in the receipt of visas by alien spouses). There might be persons covered by the TRO who do not have viable due process claims, but the Government’s proposed revision leaves out at least some who do.

Second, we decline to limit the geographic scope of the TRO. The Fifth Circuit has held that such a fragmented immigration policy would run afoul of the constitutional and statutory requirement for uniform immigration law and policy. Texas v. United States, 809 F.3d 134, 187-88 (5th Cir. 2015), aff’d by an equally divided Court, 136 S. Ct. 2271 (2016) . At this stage of the litigation, we do not need to and do not reach such a legal conclusion for ourselves, but we cannot say that the Government has established that a contrary view is likely to prevail. Moreover, even if limiting the geographic scope of the injunction would be desirable, the Government has not proposed a workable alternative form of the TRO that accounts for the nation’s multiple ports of entry and interconnected transit system and that would protect the proprietary interests of the States at issue here while nevertheless applying only within the States’ borders.
More generally, even if the TRO might be overbroad in some respects, it is not our role to try, in effect, to rewrite the Executive Order. See United States v. Nat’l Treasury Emps. Union, 513 U.S. 454, 479 (1995) (declining to rewrite a statute to eliminate constitutional defects); cf. Aptheker v. Sec’y of State, 378 U.S. 500, 516 (1964) (invalidating a restriction on freedom of travel despite the existence of constitutional applications). The political branches are far better equipped to make appropriate distinctions. For now, it is enough for us to conclude that the Government has failed to establish that it will likely succeed on its due process argument in this appeal.
Likelihood of Success—Religious Discrimination
The First Amendment prohibits any “law respecting an establishment of religion.” U.S. Const. amend. I. A law that has a religious, not secular, purpose violates that clause, Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13 (1971), as does one that “officially prefer[s] [one religious denomination] over another,” Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244 (1982). The Supreme Court has explained that this is because endorsement of a religion “sends the ancillary message to . . . nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.’” Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe , 530 U.S. 290, 310 (2000) (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984) (O’Connor, J., concurring)). The Equal Protection Clause likewise prohibits the Government from impermissibly discriminating among persons based on religion. De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F.2d 45, 50 (9th Cir. 1978).
The States argue that the Executive Order violates the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses because it was intended to disfavor Muslims. In support of this argument, the States have offered evidence of numerous statements by the President about his intent to implement a “Muslim ban” as well as evidence they claim suggests that the Executive Order was intended to be that ban, including sections 5(b) and 5(e) of the Order. It is well established that evidence of purpose beyond the face of the challenged law may be considered in evaluating Establishment and Equal Protection Clause claims. See, e.g., Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 534 (1993) (“The Free Exercise Clause, like the Establishment Clause, extends beyond facial discrimination. . . . Official action that targets religious conduct for distinctive treatment cannot be shielded by mere compliance with the requirement of facial neutrality.”); Larson, 456 U.S. at 254-55 (holding that a facially neutral statute violated the Establishment Clause in light of legislative history demonstrating an intent to apply regulations only to minority religions); Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266-68 (1977) (explaining that circumstantial evidence of intent, including the historical background of the decision and statements by decisionmakers, may be considered in evaluating whether a governmental action was motivated by a discriminatory purpose).
The States’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions. In light of the sensitive interests involved, the pace of the current emergency proceedings, and our conclusion that the Government has not met its burden of showing likelihood of success on appeal on its arguments with respect to the due process claim, we reserve consideration of these claims until the merits of this appeal have been fully briefed.
The Balance of Hardships and the Public Interest
The Government has not shown that a stay is necessary to avoid irreparable injury. Nken, 556 U.S. at 434. Although we agree that “the Government’s interest in combating terrorism is an urgent objective of the highest order,” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 28 (2010), the Government has done little more than reiterate that fact. Despite the district court’s and our own repeated invitations to explain the urgent need for the Executive Order to be placed immediately into effect, the Government submitted no evidence to rebut the States’ argument that the district court’s order merely returned the nation temporarily to the position it has occupied for many previous years.
The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.7 Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.8 We disagree, as explained above.
To the extent that the Government claims that it has suffered an institutional injury by erosion of the separation of powers, that injury is not “irreparable.” It may yet pursue and vindicate its interests in the full course of this litigation.
See, e.g., Texas v. United States, 787 F.3d 733, 767- 68 (5th Cir. 2015) (“[I]t is the resolution of the case on the merits, not whether the injunction is stayed pending appeal, that will affect those principles.”).
By contrast, the States have offered ample evidence that if the Executive Order were reinstated even temporarily, it would substantially injure the States and multiple “other parties interested in the proceeding.” Nken, 556 U.S. at 434 (quoting Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987)). When the Executive Order was in effect, the States contend that the travel prohibitions harmed the States’ university employees and students, separated families, and stranded the States’ residents abroad. These are substantial injuries and even irreparable harms. See Melendres v. Arpaio, 695 F.3d 990, 1002 (9th Cir. 2012) (“It is well established that the deprivation of constitutional rights ‘unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’” (quoting Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976))).
The Government suggests that the Executive Order’s discretionary waiver provisions are a sufficient safety valve for those who would suffer unnecessarily, but it has offered no explanation for how these provisions would function in practice: how would the “national interest” be determined, who would make that determination, and when? Moreover, as we have explained above, the Government has not otherwise explained how the Executive Order could realistically be administered only in parts such that the injuries listed above would be avoided.
Finally, in evaluating the need for a stay, we must consider the public interest generally. See Nken, 556 U.S. at 434. Aspects of the public interest favor both sides, as evidenced by the massive attention this case has garnered at even the most preliminary stages. On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies. And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from
discrimination. We need not characterize the public interest more definitely than this; when considered alongside the hardships discussed above, these competing public interests do not justify a stay.
Conclusion
For the foregoing reasons, the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal is DENIED.

Full Text Political Transcripts February 9, 2017: Documents President Donald Trump Travel Ban Case State of Washington & State of Minnesota v. Trump

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

State of Washington & State of Minnesota v. Trump

 

17-35105


Due to the level of interest in this case, this site has been created to provide access to case information.

Date Document Title
02/09/2017 Published Order Denying Stay
02/09/2017 Unpublished Procedural Order
02/09/2017 Appellees’ Notice of filing additional evidence in district court
02/09/2017 Daniel Escamilla Amicus Motion
02/09/2017 Daniel Escamilla Amicus Brief
02/09/2017 Redfin Corporation Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/08/2017 MongoDB, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/08/2017 DiCentral Corporation Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Listen to audio recording of Oral Arguments
02/07/2017 GoDaddy, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 OneLogin, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Technology Start-Ups Joinder to Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Medidata Solutions, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Participating Law Firms of the Employment Law Alliance Amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Order re CNN live stream and recording of oral argument
02/07/2017 David Golden Motion to Intervene
02/07/2017 SpotHero, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and District of Columbia, Amended Amicus Motion and Brief
02/07/2017 SoundCloud, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Molecule Software, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Fitbit, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Postmates Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 District court scheduling order on preliminary injunction
02/07/2017 Day sheet: Party and Counsel Listing for Telephonic Hearing
02/07/2017 Akamai Technologies, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 CREDO Mobile, Inc. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/07/2017 Quantcast Corp. Letter Joining Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/06/2016 American Immigration Council Exhibits
02/06/2016 American Immigration Council Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2016 Jewish Federation Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 Link to oral argument live stream
02/06/2017 Order clarifying live streaming oral argument
02/06/2016 Freedom Watch Amicus Motion
02/06/2017 Order re live streaming argument
02/06/2017 Freedom Watch Amicus Brief
02/06/2017 Muslim Advocates Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 Anti-Defamation League Motion for Extension of Time
02/06/2017 Anti-Defamation League Amicus Motion
02/06/2017 Groupon Letter Joining Technology Companies Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 Reply In Support of Emergency Motion for Stay
02/06/2017 Washington State Labor Council Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 U.S. Justice Foundation, Citizens United, Citizens United Foundation, English First Foundation, English First, Public Advocate of the United States, Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of America, Conservative Legal Defense and Education Fund, U.S. Border Control Foundation, and Policy Analysis Center Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 Additional Law Professors Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 National Immigrant Justice Center and ASISTA Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 Letter by Additional Technology Companies Joining Technology Companies Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 American Center for Law and Justice Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Vermont Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 Pivotal Software Letter Joining Technology Companies Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 SEIU Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 HIAS, Inc. Amicus Motion
02/06/2017 Law Professors Motion to Substitute Corrected Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 Anti-Defamation League Amicus Brief
02/06/2017 Constitutional Scholars Amicus Motion and Brief
02/06/2017 Order denying motion to intervene and setting oral argument
02/06/2017 Reply in support of emergency motion for stay
02/06/2017 Exhibits to response
02/06/2017 Exhibit A to response
02/06/2017 Response to emergency motion for stay
02/06/2017 HIAS amicus brief
02/06/2017 Americans United for Separation of Church and State amicus motion and brief
02/06/2017 ACLU amicus motion and brief
02/05/2017 Law Professors amicus motion and brief
02/05/2017 State of Hawaii Emergency motion to intervene and Exhibits
02/05/2017 Korematsu Center amicus motion and brief
02/05/2017 Technology Companies amicus motion and brief
02/05/2017  Revised scheduling order
02/04/2017 Order denying immediate administrative stay pending full consideration of the emergency motion for stay and setting schedule
02/04/2017 Emergency motion for stay
02/04/2017 Video Video recording of hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington
02/03/2017 Order Temporary Restraining Order

Full Text Political Transcripts February 8, 2017: President Donald Trump Announces His Cabinet

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald J. Trump Announces His Cabinet

President Donald J. Trump today formally announced the 24 people who will be serving with him on his Cabinet.

Vice President Michael R. Pence

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson

Secretary of the Treasury-designate Steven T. Mnuchin

Secretary of Defense James Mattis

Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions

Secretary of the Interior-designate Ryan Zinke

Secretary of Agriculture-designate Sonny Perdue (announced)

Secretary of Commerce-designate Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.

Secretary of Labor-designate Andrew F. Puzder

Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate Thomas Price

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development-designate Benjamin S. Carson, Sr.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao

Secretary of Energy-designate James Richard Perry

Secretary of Education Elisabeth Prince DeVos

Secretary of Veterans Affairs-designate David J. Shulkin

Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

U.S. Trade Representative-designate Robert Lighthizer

Director of National Intelligence-designate Daniel Coats

Representative of the United States to the United Nations Nikki R. Haley

Director of the Office of Management and Budget-designate Mick Mulvaney

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Mike Pompeo

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency-designate Scott Pruitt

Administrator of the Small Business Administration-designate Linda E. McMahon

Full Text Political Transcripts February 8, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at Major Cities Chiefs Police Association Winter Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at MCCA Winter Conference

Source: WH, 2-8-17

J.W. Marriott
Washington, D.C.

9:18 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  This is — great to be with people I truly feel comfortable with.  Please sit down.  They’ll say I didn’t get a standing ovation because they never sat down.  (Laughter.)  And I say, I got one standing ovation because they never sat down.

But I want to thank you.  I have great, great love for what you do and the way you do it.  And when I’m with the police chiefs and I’m with the sheriffs of our country — and these are the big ones.  These are the really big ones.  I just want to thank you very much.  And I thought before I spoke about what we’re really here to speak about, I would read something to you.  Because you can be a lawyer, or you don’t have to be a lawyer; if you were a good student in high school or a bad student in high school, you can understand this.

And it’s really incredible to me that we have a court case that’s going on so long.  As you know, in Boston, we won it with a highly respected judge and a very strong opinion, but now we’re in an era that, let’s just say, they are interpreting things differently than probably 100 percent of the people in this room.  I’d like to almost know, does anybody disagree when I read this.

But I’m going to read what’s in dispute, what’s in question.  And you will see this — it’s INA 212(f) 8 U.S.C. 1182(f):  “Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by the President” — okay, now, this isn’t just me, this is for Obama, for Ronald Reagan, for the President.  And this was done, very importantly, for security — something you people know more about than all of us.  It was done for the security of our nation, the security of our citizens, so that people come in who aren’t going to do us harm.

And that’s why it was done.  And it couldn’t have been written any more precisely.  It’s not like, oh, gee, we wish it were written better.  It was written beautifully.  So just listen, here’s what it says.  This is what they’re arguing:

“Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens” — okay, the entry, the entry of any aliens — “or of any class of aliens” — so any aliens, any class of aliens — “into the United States” — so the entry of people into the United States.  Let’s say, just to be precise, of aliens into the United States.

So any time — “whenever the President finds that the entry of any alien or any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States” — right?  So if I find, as President, that a person or group of people will be detrimental to the interests of the United States — and certainly there’s lots of examples that we have, but you shouldn’t even have them, necessarily — he may be — and “he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary…”  Now, the only mistake is they should have said “he or she.”  But hopefully, it won’t be a she for at least another seven years.  After that, I’m all — (laughter and applause.)  See?  I just noticed that, actually.  I just noticed it.  I’m saying, whoa, this is not politically correct.  It’s correct, but it’s not politically correct, you know, this is the old days.

He may by proclamation and for such period as he shall deem necessary — so here it is, people coming in — suspend the entry of all aliens.  Right?  That’s what it says.  It’s not like — again, a bad high school student would understand this.  Anybody would understand this.  Suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens.  Okay, so you can suspend the aliens, right?  You can suspend the aliens from coming in — very strong — or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

Okay.  So you can suspend, you can put restrictions, you can do whatever you want.  And this is for the security of the country — which, again, you’re the chiefs, you’re the sheriffs.  You understand this.

And I listened to lawyers on both sides last night, and they were talking about things that had just nothing to do with it.  I listened to a panel of judges, and I’ll comment on that — I will not comment on the statements made by certainly one judge.  But I have to be honest that if these judges wanted to, in my opinion, help the court in terms of respect for the court, they’d what they should be doing.  I mean, it’s so sad.

They should be — when you read something so simple and so beautifully written, and so perfectly written — other than the one statement, of course, having to do with he or she — but when you read something so perfectly written and so clear to anybody, and then you have lawyers and you watched — I watched last night in amazement, and I heard things that I couldn’t believe, things that really had nothing to do with what I just read.

And I don’t ever want to call a court biased, so I won’t call it biased.  And we haven’t had a decision yet.  But courts seem to be so political, and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right.  And that has to do with the security of our country, which is so important.

Right now, we are at risk because of what happened.  General Kelly is an extremely talented man and a very good man — now Secretary Kelly, Homeland Security.  We are doing our job.  He’s a great man.  (Applause.)  We’re doing our job.  And one of the reasons you probably heard that we did it so quickly — in fact, I said, let’s give a one-month notice, and then law enforcement — and General Kelly was so great because he said, we totally knew about it.  We knew about everything.  We do things well.  We did things right.

But the law enforcement people said to me, oh, you can’t give a notice, because if you give a notice that you’re going to be really tough in one month from now, or in one week from now — I suggested a month and I said, well, what about a week?  They said, no, you can’t do that, because then people are going to pour in before the toughness goes on.  Do you people agree?  I mean, you know more about law than anybody, law enforcement.  (Applause.)

So I wanted to give, like, a month.  Then I said, well, what about a week?  They said, well, then you’re going to have a whole pile of people perhaps — perhaps — with very evil intentions coming in before the restrictions.

So there it is, folks.  It’s as plain as you can have it.  I didn’t — and I was a good student.  I understand things.  I comprehend very well, okay?  Better than I think almost anybody.  And I want to tell you, I listened to a bunch of stuff last night on television that was disgraceful.  It was disgraceful.  Because what I just read to you is what we have, and it just can’t be written any plainer or better.  And for us to be going through this — and, by the way, a highly, highly respected judge in Boston ruled very strongly in our favor.  You heard that.

In fact, I said to my people, why don’t you use the Boston case?  And there were reasons why they couldn’t use the Boston case.  This one came later for various reasons.  But use the Boston case.  And I won’t read that, but there were statements made by that judge — who, again, highly respected — that were right on.  They were perfect.  They were perfect.

So I think it’s sad.  I think it’s a sad day.  I think our security is at risk today.  And it will be at risk until such time as we are entitled and get what we are entitled to as citizens of this country.  As chiefs, as sheriffs of this country, we want security.

One of the reasons I was elected was because of law and order and security.  It’s one of the reasons I was elected.  Also jobs and lots of other things.  But I think one of the strongest reasons is security.  And they’re taking away our weapons one by one, that’s what they’re doing.  And you know it and I know it, and you people have been very unhappy for a long period of time.  And I can read the polls maybe better than anybody because it seems that I understood the polls a lot better than many of the pollsters understood the polls — assuming they were honest polls, which I think probably many of them weren’t.  I really believe that.  (Applause.)

But we need security in our country.  We have to allow you folks to do your job.  You’re great people, great people.  Great men and women.  And we have to allow you to do your job.  And we have to give you the weapons that you need.  And this is a weapon that you need.  And they’re trying to take it away from you, maybe because of politics or maybe because of political views.  We can’t let that happen.

So with that, let’s get on to business, right?  It’s really something.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

I want to thank Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and Chief Tom Manger for your leadership and, frankly, for the service.  You have had great service.  Everyone has told me about you two legendary people.  All of us here today are united by one shared mission:  to serve and protect the public of the United States.

During my campaign for President, I had the chance to spend time with law enforcement officials all across our country.  They are the most incredible people you will ever meet.  And I just wanted to say to all of them right now, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Applause.)

There are many actions we in the federal government can take to help improve safety in your communities.  But I believe that community safety begins with moral leadership.  Our police officers, sheriffs and deputies risk their lives every day.  And they’re entitled to an administration that has their back.  (Applause.)

The first step in restoring public safety is affirming our confidence in the men and women charged with upholding our laws.  And I’m going to add justices, judges in that category.  And I’m very proud to have picked Judge Gorsuch, who I think is going to be an outstanding member of the Supreme Court — outstanding.  (Applause.)

So I’d like to begin my remarks with a declaration issued to all of you, and delivered to every member of the law enforcement community all across the United States.  My message today is that you have a true, true friend in the White House.  You have.  (Applause.)  I stand with you.  I support our police.  I support our sheriffs.  And we support the men and women of law enforcement.  (Applause.)

Right now, many communities in America are facing a public safety crisis.  Murders in 2015 experienced their largest single-year increase in nearly half a century.  In 2016, murders in large cities continued to climb by double digits.  In many of our biggest cities, 2016 brought an increase in the number of homicides, rapes, assaults and shootings.  In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone, and the rate so far this year has been even higher.  What is going on in Chicago?

We cannot allow this to continue.  We’ve allowed too many young lives to be claimed — and you see that, you see that all over — claimed by gangs, and too many neighborhoods to be crippled by violence and fear.  Sixty percent of murder victims under the age of 22 are African American.  This is a national tragedy, and it requires national action.  This violence must end, and we must all work together to end it.

Whether a child lives in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, or anywhere in our country, he or she has the right to grow up in safety and in peace.  No one in America should be punished because of the city where he or she is born.  Every child in America should be able to play outside without fear, walk home without danger, and attend a school without being worried about drugs or gangs or violence.

So many lives and so many people have been cut short.  Their potential, their life has been cut short.  So much potential has been sidelined.  And so many dreams have been shattered and broken, totally broken.  It’s time to stop the drugs from pouring into our country.  And, by the way, we will do that.  And I will say this:  General, now Secretary, Kelly will be the man to do it, and we will give him a wall.  And it will be a real wall.  (Applause.)  And a lot of things will happen very positively for your cities, your states, believe me.  The wall is getting designed right now.  A lot of people say, oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall.  I wasn’t kidding.  I don’t kid.  I don’t kid.  I watch this, and they say I was kidding.  No, I don’t kid.  I don’t kid about things like that, I can tell you.  No, we will have a wall.  It will be a great wall, and it will do a lot of — will be a big help.  Just ask Israel about walls.  Do walls work?  Just ask Israel.  They work — if it’s properly done.

It’s time to dismantle the gangs terrorizing our citizens, and it’s time to ensure that every young American can be raised in an environment of decency, dignity, love and support.  You have asked for the resources, tools and support you need to get the job done.  We will do whatever we can to help you meet those demands.  That includes a zero tolerance policy for acts of violence against law enforcement.  (Applause.)  We all see what happens.  We all see what happens and what’s been happening to you.  It’s not fair.

We must protect those who protect us.  The number of officers shot and killed in the line of duty last year increased by 56 percent from the year before.  Last year, in Dallas, police officers were targeted for execution –- think of this.  Who ever heard of this?  They were targeted for execution.  Twelve were shot and five were killed.  These heroic officers died as they lived -– protecting the innocent, rushing into danger, risking their lives for people they did not even know, but for people that they were determined to save.  Hats off to you people.

These slain officers are an eternal monument to all of the men and women who protect our streets and serve our public.  We will not forget them, and we will not forget all of the others who made that final sacrifice in the line of duty.

God has blessed our nation to put these heroes among us.  Those who serve in law enforcement work long hours.  You work long hours.  I know so many sheriffs, so many chiefs, so many police who work long hours and dangerous hours, oftentimes in difficult conditions and for not that much pay relative to what you’re doing.  They do it because they care.

We must work with them, not against them.  They’re working against you.  For many years they’ve been working against you.  We must support them, not undermine them.  And instead of division and disunity — and which is so much disunity — we must build bridges of partnership and of trust.  Those who demonize law enforcement or who use the actions of a few to discredit the service of many are hurting the very people they say that they want to help.  When policing is reduced, crime is increased, and our poorest citizens suffer the most.  And I see it all the time.  When the number of police goes down, crime goes up.

To build needed trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, it is not enough for us to merely talk to each other.  We must listen to each other.  All of us share the view that those in uniform must be held to the highest possible standard of conduct — so important.

You’re the role models to young Americans all across this country, many of whom want to go into law enforcement, many of whom want to be a sheriff or a police chief, many of whom — they have great respect for you.  Tremendous respect.  You don’t even realize it, but I will tell you, they have great respect and admiration for the people in this room and the people that you represent.  And don’t let anyone ever tell you different.  Don’t let the dishonest media try and convince you that it’s different than that, because it’s not.  (Applause.)

That is why our commitment to law and law enforcement also includes ensuring that we are giving departments the resources they need to train, recruit and retain talent.  As part of our commitment to safe communities, we will also work to address the mental health crisis.  Prisons should not be a substitute for treatment.  We will fight to increase access to life-saving treatment to battle the addiction to drugs, which is afflicting our nation like never ever before — ever.  (Applause.)

I’ve been here two weeks.  I’ve met a lot of law enforcement officials.  Yesterday, I brought them into the Oval Office.  I asked a group, what impact do drugs have in terms of a percentage on crime?  They said, 75 to 80 percent.  That’s pretty sad.  We’re going to stop the drugs from pouring in.  We’re going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people.  We’re going to be ruthless in that fight.  We have no choice.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence.  You have the power and knowledge to tell General Kelly — now Secretary Kelly — who the illegal immigrant gang members are.  Now, you have that power because you know them, you’re there, you’re local.  You know the illegals, you know them by their first name, you know them by their nicknames.  You have that power.  The federal government can never be that precise.  But you’re in the neighborhoods — you know the bad ones, you know the good ones.

I want you to turn in the bad ones.  Call Secretary Kelly’s representatives and we’ll get them out of our country and bring them back where they came from, and we’ll do it fast.  You have to call up the federal government, Homeland Security, because so much of the problems — you look at Chicago and you look at other places.  So many of the problems are caused by gang members, many of whom are not even legally in our country.

And we will work with you on the frontlines to keep America safe from terrorism, which is what I began this with.  Terrorism — a tremendous threat, far greater than people in our country understand.  Believe me.  I’ve learned a lot in the last two weeks.  And terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand.  But we’re going to take care of it.  We’re going to win.  We’re going to take care of it, folks.

Let today be the beginning of a great national partnership.  Let today serve as a great call to action.  And let this moment represent a new beginning in relations between law enforcement and our communities.  I want you to know the American public totally stands with you.  I want you to know the American people support you.  I want you to know how proud we are, truly proud, to know you.

We applaud your efforts.  We thank you for your service.  And we promise that you will always find an open door at the White House — an open invitation to our great cops and sheriffs nationwide.  They’re great people.  You are great people.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
9:44 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts February 7, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Remarks in Roundtable with County Sheriffs

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump in Roundtable with County Sheriffs

Source: WH, 2-7-17

Roosevelt Room

9:49 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, the sheriffs are great people.  Well, thank you very much.  Law enforcement was a big subject in the campaign and a subject that was very well received.  You have no idea how respected you are, sheriffs and, generally speaking, the leaders of law enforcement.  Anybody involved in law enforcement, you have no idea how respected you are — you don’t get the honest facts from the press — if you don’t know how respected you are.  So I just want to say that upfront.

I’m honored to welcome the National Sheriffs’ Association.  Your leadership is here, and I know the great job you do.  I’ve known you and followed you for a long period of time.  Your efforts and your officers are outstanding.  I know so many sheriffs from my area — some in particular — and they’re great friends and great people.

I just want to let you know that our job is to help you in law enforcement, and we’re going to help you do your job.  We’re going to expand access to abuse-deterring drugs, which a lot of you have been talking about.  They’re out, and they’re very hard to get.  Stop the opioid epidemic.  We’ve got to do it.  It’s a new thing.  And, honestly, people aren’t talking about it enough.  It’s a new thing, and it’s a new problem for you folks.  It’s probably a vast majority of your crimes — or at least a very big portion of your crimes are caused by drugs.

We’re going to stop the border.  We’re going to stop — we’re not going to have the drugs pouring from the border like they have been.  We will work with you on supporting your longstanding efforts to strengthen the bonds between the communities and the police, which is very important.  And it’s sort a new phenomenon to a certain extent, and it’s happening more and more.  And some great results out when you can strengthen the bonds.

We’re committed to securing our borders to reduce crime, illegal drugs, human trafficking, especially in border counties.  We have a lot of the border counties represented.

We’re also committed to working with law enforcement to stop terrorist attacks.  You’ve been reading about that, been seeing about that — they want to take a lot of our powers away.  There are some people with a lot of the wrong intentions, and it’s — we’ve got a lot of bad people out there.

And, Dana, I just want to thank you on behalf of the government, on behalf of our country for leading a strong, strong effort in the courts.  We really appreciate it, believe me.  Because as you know, we don’t have an attorney general.  We have somebody who’s phenomenal — Jeff Sessions.  He’s going to be there hopefully soon.  But I believe it’s about a record for the length of time that they’ve delayed the Cabinet.  These are Cabinet members that are phenomenal people.  And we haven’t had representation, and now we have excellent representation, fortunately, in Dana.  And Jeff will be with you very shortly, hopefully.  But we’re having a hard time getting approvals.  And it’s only a delay tactic — it’s all politics.

One person came up to me, a senator, a Democratic senator who came up to me the other day and said, Jeff Sessions is a fantastic man.  He’s fabulous.  He’s a friend of mine.  He’s a great, great man and a great talent.  And we’re lucky to have him.  I said, oh, great, I guess that means you’re voting for him?  No, I won’t be voting that.  (Laughter.)  He said, politics doesn’t allow me to do that.

I thought it was a disgrace.  If the press talks loud and hard enough, I’ll have to tell you who said that to me.  You don’t want to hear it.  You don’t want to hear who said that?  (Laughter.)  I didn’t think you’d care.  I didn’t think you’d care.  I’ll probably tell you, actually.  Anyway.

So we’re going to be very tough on crime.  So we’re going to be very tough on the drugs pouring in, and that’s a big part of the crime.  We’re going to be very strong at the border.  We have no choice.  And we’re going to be building a wall.   We’re starting very soon.  General Kelly will be working with a lot of you.  And he’s fantastic.  He was the one who got approved very quickly along with General Mattis.  He’s very, very outstanding.  And I very much appreciate that you’re here today.

And, Sheriff, I really thank you for leading the effort.  Your reputation is fantastic, and it’s a great honor to know you.  Maybe we can go around — we’ll let the press stay for a little while, unless you’d rather leave.  Would the press rather stay?  Just so you understand.  This is a new phenomenon.  You’re on live television all over the world right now, so don’t get nervous when you speak, okay?  (Laughter.)

But I don’t think these things have ever taken place before.  But you are on live television, so if you don’t want to say anything, you don’t have to.  But if you do, I think it’s a good thing to say.  So maybe we’ll just go around the room.

SHERIFF WELSH:  Well, Mr. President, thank you so much for having us here.  I’m Sheriff Carolyn Welsh from Chester County, Pennsylvania, and proud to say Pennsylvania, the commonwealth, that put you over the top November 8th.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s true.  (Laughter.)

SHERIFF WELSH:  We’re very proud of that.  We don’t stop bragging about that.

THE PRESIDENT:  You were a great support.

SHERIFF WELSH:  Thank you.  And I just want to thank you for, during the campaign and since the campaign, being such a strong, courageous supporter of law enforcement on the national — on the federal level with the Border Patrol, on the state level, and the counties, municipalities, boroughs, and particularly with the elected sheriffs of the counties — because we are the sheriff, we are the people’s representative, and we are elected by the people, and we greatly appreciate your strong and continued support.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Carolyn.  There’s a new sheriff in town.

SHERIFF WELSH:  That’s right.

THE PRESIDENT:  I hear this so much.  (Laughter.)  I hear this so much, Dana.  They always use, “there’s a new sheriff in town.”  So anyway.

SHERIFF EAVANSON:  Sheriff Harold Eavanson from Rockwall County, Texas.  We appreciate your support very much.  Our county is probably about 85 percent Republican.  So it was pretty easy for you —

THE PRESIDENT:  They were very nice.  I agree.  They were very nice.

SHERIFF EAVANSON:  And being in a border state, I have been to the border in Texas any number of times, been to the border in Arizona.  I clearly understand the problem we have.  And previously when we’d go to the border and hear what the ranchers and sheriffs have to say — those border sheriffs and border ranchers, it was a 180 degrees from what we heard from the previous administration.

THE PRESIDENT:  So you’re seeing a big difference?

SHERIFF EAVANSON:  We’re very proud to have you as President.

THE PRESIDENT:  And that’s only two weeks.  Okay?  It’s a very short period of time.  I’m hearing it from a lot of people.  People are calling in and they’re — and people I know that are in the area, they’re saying it’s like day and night.  Because we’re not playing games.  We’re not playing games.  We’re stopping the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth.  So thank you very much.  I appreciate it.

SHERIFF EAVANSON:  You’re welcome.

MR. THOMPSON:  Mr. President, I’m Jonathan Thompson, the executive director and CEO of the National Sheriffs’ Association.  Let me tell you the difference of six months.  I sat in this room, in this chair, and I was pleading — I was begging for help.  Today, you’ve invited us here to your home.  You’re offering help.  You’re delivering on that offer.  And on behalf of our members across the country, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  It’s so nice.  I appreciate that.

SHERIFF STANEK:  Mr. President, Rich Stanek from Hennepin County, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

First off, thank you very much.  As Ms. Conway said, next time, up by three points in my state — over the top.

THE PRESIDENT:  Boy, we almost won your state.  You know we weren’t supposed to do very well in your state, and we won — lost by one point.  I say, if I went there one more visit we would have won.  (Laughter.)  We would have won Minnesota.  But it was very close.

SHERIFF STANEK:  Many of us have your back, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, I know.

SHERIFF STANEK:  And I just want to say that you hit on two topics that are near and dear to my heart.  The first is opioids — 144 people that died last year as a result of opioid overdose; 31 percent increase over the year before.  We need help.  Eighty-plus percent of the drugs come from south of the border.  Everybody knows it.  I know you will do something about it.

THE PRESIDENT:  I will.  It’s already being done, believe me.  It’s a big, big difference.  And we will do that, and you do have a big problem, and you have a big problem with the refugees pouring in, don’t you?

SHERIFF STANEK:  Yes, we do, sir.  And we all asking if what you’re doing, which is let the courts decide, do what we’ve been doing.  Rule of law is strong and the proper vetting of individuals is really important to us.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, the vetting is much, much tougher now.  And we need this court case.  It will be very helpful to keeping the wrong people out of our country.  You understand that better than anybody.  So I think we’re going to have some good results.

SHERIFF STANEK:  I do, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  It may take a little while.  And you know, this is a very dangerous period of time because while everybody is talking and dealing, a lot of bad people are thinking about, hey, let’s go in right now.  But we’re being very, very tough with the vetting — tougher than ever before.

SHERIFF STANEK:  Sir, I chaired the Homeland Security Committee for the National Sheriffs’ Association.  We heard from General Kelly yesterday, his message was right on the mark about carrying out your directives, and we appreciate that.

THE PRESIDENT:  That used to be a political position, you know, what General Kelly is doing here right now.  Homeland Security, if you remember — it’s like a political position.  Not anymore.  Now it’s, in my opinion, one of truly most important positions.  So he’s doing a great job.  Thank you very much.

SHERIFF STANEK:  Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, sir.

SHERIFF GLICK:  Mr. President, thank you.  It’s such an honor to be here.  I’m Danny Glick, sheriff of Laramie County, Wyoming.  You know, there are so many issues that you’ll hear going around this table.  One of the ones that probably isn’t — that people don’t realize is EPA decisions that have affected our coal industry, our oil industry in the West.  But beyond that, it increases the number of people that are jobless and thus increases our crime statistics.  And it’s starting to overwhelm us.  We’re very small out there for the most part, and we don’t have the numbers of deputies, officers and law enforcement that can sometimes keep up with this.  I appreciate what you’ve done and what you’re planning in the future.  I think it was very well publicized, and I just appreciate being here today.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Sheriff.  And I will tell you that the EPA — you’re right.  I call it — it’s clogged the bloodstream of our country.  People can’t do anything.  People are looking to get approvals for factories for 15 years, and then after the 15th year they get voted down after having spent a fortune.  So that’s going to end.  We have one of our really great people — as you know, Scott is looking to be approved by the Senate.  We’re still waiting for that one, too.  It’s a disgrace what’s going on.  But as soon as he gets involved, we’re going to unclog the system.

And, by the way, people are going to get rejected, but they’re going to get rejected quickly.  But for the most part, they’re going to be accepted when they want to do.  We’re going to bring the jobs back.  And your state was very, very good to me, as you know.  I mean, they were very, very good to me and I appreciate that.  And just tell the people we’re going to get the system unclogged and we’re going to get it up.

As you know, I approved two pipelines that were stuck in limbo forever.  I don’t even think it was controversial.  You know, I approved them — I haven’t even heard — I haven’t had one call from anybody saying, oh, that was a terrible thing you did.  I haven’t had one call.  You know, usually, if I do something it’s like bedlam, right?  I haven’t had one call from anybody.  And a lot of jobs — in the Keystone case, we have potentially 32,000 jobs almost immediately.  And then, as you know, I did the Dakota pipeline and nobody called up to complain.  Because it was unfair.  Years of getting approvals, nobody showed up to fight it.  This company spends a tremendous — hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, and then all of a sudden, people show up to fight it.  It’s not fair to our companies.  And I think everyone is going to be happy in the end, okay?

So I appreciate it very much, Sheriff.  It’s a great honor to have you here.  Thank you.  And say hello to your people.

Yes, sir.

SHERIFF LAYTON:  Good morning, Mr. President.  I’m John Layton.  I’m the sheriff of Marion County, Indiana, which is — (laughter) —

THE PRESIDENT:  You never met our great Vice President.  (Laughter.)

SHERIFF LAYTON:  I’m very proud of this man.  And we as sheriffs — this is, to me, it seems like it’s unprecedented.  I look back into the history of the NSA, long before myself, and I never have — I could never find where — not only did the President and now the Vice President, as well, has invited us into your house to share some concerns of ours —

THE PRESIDENT:  And in about 10 minutes, you’re going to see the Oval Office, too, which is — that’s the other thing, you know, people have had meetings here.  I had the car companies, the biggest companies — Ford, General Motors, Fiat — and they were in this room often.  And I said, oh, so you’ve seen the Oval Office?  “No, we’ve never been invited to see the Oval Office.”  You know where the Oval Office is?  Ten feet in that direction — 10 feet.

SHERIFF LAYTON:  Looking forward to it.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, these are the biggest people that were going there — these are the biggest people.  So they were never invited to the Oval Office and they were only 10 feet away.  You would think they would be invited.  But you’re going to see the Oval Office, okay?

SHERIFF LAYTON:  Thank you, Mr. President.  One of the main concerns was not just my office as sheriff, but across the nation — the mentally ill in the jails, and the people that they’re being really, for lack of a better term, warehoused in our jails across America because we don’t have the facilities necessary to take care of them on the outside.  And it ends up a lot of these people go to jail because the public or the police officer happens to be mad at them at the time, instead of they need to be in the jail for a very good reason.  So we just appreciate you having the back of law enforcement.  We do all feel that, as everyone with a badge knows, that you do have our backs and that we’re looking forward to years of harmony and taking care of business with the people we serve.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I appreciate it.  And I will say that, in the recent election, law enforcement is with me.  I mean, the numbers were staggering — staggering.  It wasn’t like, gee, it’s 51-49.  Believe me, it was through the roof.  Law enforcement and military also.

SHERIFF LAYTON:  Absolutely.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think, generally, people in uniform tend to like me.  (Laughter.)  Explain that to me.  Dana, explain that to me.  (Laughter.)  So, Sheriff, thank you very much.  And do you miss your former governor?

SHERIFF LAYTON:  We do, we do.

THE PRESIDENT:  You have a good new governor.

SHERIFF LAYTON:  Holcomb is holding down the fort for us, though, but big shoes for him to fill.

THE PRESIDENT:  Mike Pence has been fantastic.

SHERIFF LAYTON:  Yes, he has.

THE PRESIDENT:  Dana, I want to thank you for your service.  Amazing the way you just stepped into the breach and have done such a good job.  And let’s see what happens with the court case.

MR. BOENTE:  Well, Mr. President, thank you for the privilege to serve you and the Department of Justice and the American people.  I’m very honored by it.  And I want to thank all the sheriffs here, but I guess our local and state partners — it’s very important to federal law enforcement and all the agencies.  And I know that Senator Sessions — we’re looking forward to him getting to the Department — will make that an important priority.  And he wants to strengthen that bond that we have with them because it’s very, very important to law enforcement.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, well, thank you very much.  And, you know, one of the things that you know better than anybody is that we had a very good victory in Boston.  So I said to everybody, why don’t we use the Boston case?  Why aren’t we using the Boston case?  Because the Boston victory was great, but it’s statutorily —

MR. BOENTE:  Judge Gordon, who wrote that decision, had a very good analysis where he referred to immigration law, and I thought it was a terrific opinion.  And I think it’s the right opinion.

THE PRESIDENT:  And a highly respected judge, too.  So I appreciate it.  Thank you, Dana, very much.  Appreciate it.

SHERIFF PAGE:  Mr. President, I’m Sheriff Page from Rockingham County, North Carolina.  And you did very well in North Carolina.  (Laughter.)  And I just want to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Go North Carolina.

SHERIFF PAGE:  Hey!  (Laughter.)  And I just want to say that we appreciate you being where you’re at.  The first responsibility of government is protecting its people.  As we as elected by the people and you’re elected by the people, we got that.  When you say there’s a new sheriff in town, we relate to that.  You’re about the rule of law.  We haven’t seen that in many years, and we appreciate that.

And I want to tell you something — when General Kelly was speaking yesterday for the sheriffs, he made — he was telling us about — he went — I saw something that I haven’t seen before. He went to the border, he looked at the assets, and he asked the law enforcement down there, what’s going on and what can we do to help fix the situation down here.

So you’ve got a good team.  You’re putting together a good team.  You’ve got the support of sheriffs from across the country, and we appreciate what you’re doing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you.  And a funny story — so when General Kelly was just sworn in, now Secretary Kelly, and I said, you want to have dinner tonight and we’ll talk?  “Sir, I’m heading to the border.”  I said, I like that better.  (Laughter.)  We don’t need to eat.  I said, I like that better.  So he’s right on the ball, he’s going to be fantastic.  Because everybody has said the same thing.

Thank you.  That’s very nice.

SHERIFF PAGE:  Thank you, sir.

SHERIFF MAHONEY:  Good morning, Mr. President.  Dave Mahoney, I’m the sheriff in Dane County, which is Madison, Wisconsin.  I want to thank you for inviting our nation’s sheriffs into the White House.  You know, as the only elected law enforcement leaders in our community, we are the most engaged in our community’s issues and concerns.  And I think it’s important.  I think there’s a strong message when the President of the United States invites our nation’s sheriffs in to talk about those issues that are of importance in our community.

THE PRESIDENT:  Has this ever happened before with the sheriffs?

PARTICIPANT:  No, sir.

PARTICIPANT:  No, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  It never happened?

PARTICIPANT:  Never.

THE PRESIDENT:  And yet the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years, right?  Did you know that?  Forty-seven years.  I used to use that — I’d say that in a speech and everybody was surprised, because the press doesn’t tell it like it is.  It wasn’t to their advantage to say that.  But the murder rate is the highest it’s been in, I guess, from 45 to 47 years.  And you would think that you would be invited here, and you would think that you people would be able to solve — had you — if you ran Chicago, you would solve that nightmare, I tell you.  I’ll bet everybody in that room, especially Carolyn, right, would raise their hand.  Because to allow — I mean, literally — hundreds of shootings a month, it’s worse than some of the places that we read about in the Middle East, where you have wars going on.  It’s so sad.  Chicago has become so sad a situation.

SHERIFF MAHONEY:  I’m only three hours from downtown Chicago, and as Sheriff Stanek mentioned, the issues of heroin and opiate addiction — I’m averaging 12, 15 overdoses a week in my community.  And we need help from DEA, FBI, and our task forces.  We need them to be adequately funded and led by leaders who want to work collectively with our nation’s sheriffs.

THE PRESIDENT:  How much of your crime is caused, do you think, by drugs generally?

SHERIFF MAHONEY:  Eighty percent?

THE PRESIDENT:  Eighty percent.  So without drugs, you would have a whole different ballgame.

SHERIFF MAHONEY:  I have a jail, over 1,000 beds.  Eighty percent suffer from chronic drug and alcohol addiction.

THE PRESIDENT:  And when did it start, big league?  Or has it been going on for many years?

SHERIFF MAHONEY:  Well, I think heroin and opiates have overshadowed cocaine, which of course has been, since the eighties, our number-one drug of choice.  Now it’s prescription painkillers and —

THE PRESIDENT:  And at a much higher level?

SHERIFF MAHONEY:  At a higher level.

THE PRESIDENT:  Much higher.

SHERIFF MAHONEY:  The overdoses are at a much higher level.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right, right.

PARTICIPANT:  Mr. President, I hate to interrupt — it used to take 90 days to take a load of heroin from the border to get it into the (inaudible) mainstream.  Now it’s taking 14 days.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, well, we’ll have it take infinity, okay?  (Laughter.)

SHERIFF MAHONEY:  I want to thank you too for seeking the input and guidance of our nation’s sheriffs on issues like immigration.  My community is looking for immigration reform, an expedited way for a good immigrant to obtain citizenship in this great country.  And I appreciate the invitation today to join you, and look forward to working with you on many of these issues.  Some we’ll disagree on, but far more we’re going to agree on.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely, you’re right.  I actually can’t believe that we’re having to fight to protect the security — in a court system to protect the security of our nation.  I can’t even believe it.  And a lot of people agree with us, believe me.  There’s a group of people out there — and I mean much more than half of our country — much, much more.  You’re not allowed to use the term “silent majority” anymore.  You’re not allowed, because they make that into a whole big deal.

But there’s a group of people out there — massive, massive numbers, far bigger than what you see protesting.  And if those people ever protested, you would see a real protest.  But they want to see our borders secure and our country secure, and they want to see people that can love our country come in, not people that are looking to destroy our country.

So anyway, thank you, Sheriff.

SHERIFF AUBREY:  Sheriff John Aubrey, fifth-term sheriff, Jefferson County, Kentucky.  Past president of National Sheriffs’ Association.  And my fellow sheriffs have brought up a number of points, and I’d like to add two to it that I know are on your plate and the administration’s plate.  The 1033 program, where we were sharing Department of Defense surplus material that helps us in our war.  They were used in the war, and they helped us in our war.  That got severely curtailed.

And the other thing is asset forfeiture.  People want to say we’re taking money and without due process.  That’s not true.  We take money from dope dealers —

THE PRESIDENT:  So you’re saying — okay, so you’re saying the asset-taking you used to do, and it had an impact, right?  And you’re not allowed to do it now?

SHERIFF AUBREY:  No, they have curtailed it a little bit.  And I’m sure the folks are —

THE PRESIDENT:  And that’s for legal reasons?  Or just political reasons?

SHERIFF AUBREY:  They make it political and they make it — they make up stories.  All you’ve got to do —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’d like to look into that, okay?  There’s no reason for that.  Dana, do you think there’s any reason for that?  Are you aware of this?

MR. BOENTE:  I am aware of that, Mr. President.  And we have gotten a great deal of criticism for the asset forfeiture, which, as the sheriff said, frequently was taking narcotics proceeds and other proceeds of crime.  But there has been a lot of pressure on the department to curtail some of that.

THE PRESIDENT:  So what do you do?  So in other words, they have a huge stash of drugs.  So in the old days, you take it.  Now we’re criticized if we take it.  So who gets it?  What happens to it?  Tell them to keep it?

MR. BOENTE:  Well, we have what is called equitable sharing, where we usually share it with the local police departments for whatever portion that they worked on the case.  And it was a very successful program, very popular with the law enforcement community.

THE PRESIDENT:  And now what happens?

MR. BOENTE:  Well, now we’ve just been given — there’s been a lot of pressure not to forfeit, in some cases.

THE PRESIDENT:  Who would want that pressure, other than, like, bad people, right?  But who would want that pressure?  You would think they’d want this stuff taken away.

SHERIFF AUBREY:  You have to be careful how you speak, I guess.  But a lot of pressure is coming out of — was coming out of Congress.  I don’t know that that will continue now or not.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think less so.  I think Congress is going to get beat up really badly by the voters because they’ve let this happen.  And I think badly.  I think you’ll be back in shape.  So, asset forfeiture, we’re going to go back on, okay?

SHERIFF AUBREY:  Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, how simple can anything be?  You all agree with that, I assume, right?

PARTICIPANT:  Absolutely, yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Do you even understand the other side of it?

PARTICIPANT:  No.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s like some things —

PARTICIPANT:  No sense.

THE PRESIDENT:  Sort of like the Iran deal.  Nobody even understands how a thing like that could have happened.  It does nothing.

PARTICIPANT:  You shouldn’t be allowed to profit from the illegal proceeds.  So if you’re going to sell narcotics and sell illegal drugs in our country, you also cannot profit from that.  And so we seize those profits.

THE PRESIDENT:  So do we need any legislation or any executive orders for that, would you say, Dana — to put that back in business?

MR. BOENTE:  I don’t think we need any executive orders.  We just need kind of some encouragement to move in that direction.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Good.  You’re in charge.  (Laughter.)  I love that answer, because it’s better than signing executive orders and then these people take it and they make it look so terrible — “oh, it’s so terrible.”  I love it.  You’re encouraged.

PARTICIPANT:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Asset forfeiture.  You’re encouraged.  Okay.  Yes, sir.

MR. BITTICK:  Mr. President, we appreciate you having us here today at the White House.  My name is John Cary Bittick, and I’m a sheriff in Monroe County, Georgia.  And I’m a past president of the National Sheriffs Association, as well.  And I currently chair our governmental affairs committee.  And I just want to thank you for the administration working actually on pieces of legislation and on political ideas with us.  It’s refreshing, and we are thoroughly enjoying it.  We are currently working with Senator Grassley on some criminal justice reform issues.  And the administration has been supporting us.  And asset forfeiture is a big thing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, go for it.  Just go for it.  Dana will tell me if I can’t or if — (laughter) —

MR. BITTICK:  Yes, sir.  I think they got that message.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, that’s great.

MR. BITTICK:  But we appreciate it, and we appreciate your ear.  And we appreciate you taking the time to sit down and at least talk to us.

THE PRESIDENT:  I appreciate it too.  Thank you, John.

MR. BITTICK:  Thanks for your support.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

SHERIFF CHAMPAGNE:  Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President.  Greg Champagne, I am sheriff in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, basically a suburban community outside of New Orleans.  I have the honor of representing 3,088 sheriffs around the country.  And you see the leadership of our organization.  These are the leadership of past presidents and the future presidents of our agency.  But more importantly than that, we all represent and oversee literally a few hundred thousand deputy sheriffs who are truly the backbone of law enforcement in this country.  We have a bumper sticker the NSA puts out that says, “Sheriffs and deputies:  The original homeland security.”  And so that is a force-multiplier.

Those men and women out there are the tip of the spear, and we stand ready to help and keep this community safe, because that’s what we’re all elected to do.  So we thank you so much for having us.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  You’re a great group of people.

We’re going to go into the Oval Office.  Does anybody have anything to — not even a question, a statement, as to how we can bring about law enforcement in a very good, civil, lovely way, but we have to stop crime — right?  Would anybody like to make a statement?

PARTICIPANT:  Mr. President, on asset forfeiture, we got a state senator in Texas who was talking about introducing legislation to require conviction before we can receive their forfeiture.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can you believe that?

PARTICIPANT:  And I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation.

THE PRESIDENT:  Who is the state senator?  Want to give his name?  We’ll destroy his career.  (Laughter.)  Okay, thank you.

PARTICIPANT:  Mr. President, we have been invited to the White House before.  We’ve sat at this table with the former administration.  This is totally different.  Not once did the President go around the room and ask the sheriffs what were issues that were important to us, he or she, in our parts of the country, but rather it was an outgoing message about gun control, about other things.  You asked us what is important to us, whether it’s mental health in the jails, opioid addiction.  You hit it right off the bat.  The border, immigration, vetting.  We appreciate that.  That has not happened before.  We’ve been here before, but we’ve never had a President sit down and listen to what it is that we’re facing representing our constituents and public safety across this country.  And that’s why we appreciate it.  That’s why we’re here today.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, Bill Belichick, is a great guy, a friend of mine.  And he was telling me — somebody told me that he’ll oftentimes, wanting to get a player, he’ll go to the other players on the team — he’ll say, what do you think of this guy?  You know, they all the different people.  And he’ll listen to them.  And he’s done very well, right?  He’s done very well.  And essentially what they’re — we’re talking to the people that know — I’m not telling you, you’re telling me.  That came up this morning.  I mean, that was a big statement.  And I didn’t realize it was all clogged.  The system is all clogged.  So we’re going to unclog the system, and we’re going to go right now into the Oval Office.

Would you like the press to come in with you, Mr. Vice President?  Should we let them come in?  Otherwise they’re going turn around, waiting for the next meeting for six hours.  They don’t have such an easy job, I’ll tell you.  They don’t have such an easy job.

Q    Mr. President, how far are you willing to take your travel ban fight?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, we’re going to take it through the system.  It’s very important.  It’s very important for the country, regardless of me or whoever succeeds at a later date.  I mean, we have to have security in our country.  We have to have the ability.  When you take some place like Syria, when you take all of the different people pouring — and if you remember, ISIS said, we are going to infiltrate the United States and other countries through the migration.  And then we’re not allowed to be tough on the people coming in?  Explain that one.

So we’ll see what happens.  We have big court case.  We’re well-represented.  And we’re going to see what happens.

Q    Is it going to go to the Supreme Court, you think?

THE PRESIDENT:  It could.  We will see.  Hopefully it doesn’t have to.  It’s common sense.  You know, some things are law, and I’m all in favor of that.  And some things are common sense.  This is common sense.

Q    Mr. President, if it’s unreported or under-reported — “unreported” is the phrase you used yesterday — but if it’s under-reported, why do you think the media is not reporting, or America is not caring about this type of —

THE PRESIDENT:  I have to know, because I’m reported on possibly more than anybody in the world — I don’t think you have anything to say about that.  I happen to know how dishonest the media is.  I happen to know stories about me that should be good — or bad — you know, I don’t mind a bad story if it’s true.  But I don’t like bad stories that — stories that should be a positive story when they make them totally negative.  I understand the total dishonesty of the media better than anybody.  And I let people know it.  I mean, the media is a very, very dishonest arm, and we’ll see what happens.  Not everybody.  And I have to say that.  I always preface it by saying, not everybody.  But there’s tremendous dishonest — pure, outright dishonesty from the media.

Let’s go into the Oval Office.

(Meeting moves to Oval Office.)

THE PRESIDENT:  So they said this is the first President they’ve ever seen with all the papers on their desk.  (Inaudible) cutting the price of the F-35 fighters.  We have a lot of papers.

Okay, go ahead, folks.

PARTICIPANT:  Mr. President, on behalf of 3,088 sheriffs in America, there is a new sheriff in town, and it’s only fitting that we provide you with our sculpture.  The first time the NSA has provided a sculpture to a non-law enforcement person.  And there is a new sheriff in town — for you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  It’s beautiful.

END
10:21 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts February 4, 2017: President Trump’s Second Week of Action

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s Second Week of Action

Source: WH, 2-4-17

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S SECOND WEEK OF ACTION

  • 7: Presidential Actions to Make America Great Again
  • 4: Diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders to promote an America First foreign policy.
  • 4: Meetings to get input from workers and business leaders on jumpstarting job creation.
  • 2: Events for the nomination of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court
  • 2: Events to commemorate African American History Month
  • 2: Members of President Trump’s Cabinet sworn in.
  • 1: Bill signed into law
  • 1: Meeting with cyber security experts
  • 1: Commemoration of American Heart Month
  • 1: Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast
  • 1: Letter of Recognition for National Catholic Schools Week

Following Through On His Promise To The American People, President Trump Nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch To The Supreme Court

  • On Tuesday, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to become Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, filling the seat left behind by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
  • The next day, President Trump met with various stakeholders to thank them for their input in making such an important decision.

President Trump Continued To Drain The Washington Swamp And Further Protect All Americans

PROTECTING AMERICANS: President Trump signed two executive memoranda to protect Americans and sanctioned the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism in Iran.

  • On Friday, the Trump administration sanctioned twenty-five individuals and entities that provide support to Iran’s ballistic missile program and to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force.
  • Last Saturday, President Trump ordered a 30-day review and development of a new plan to defeat ISIS.
  • Last Saturday, to better get advice and information needed to ensure the safety and security of the American people, President Trump signed an executive order that modernized the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council.

DRAINING THE SWAMP: President Trump used the power of his office to promote government transparency, preventing lobbying influence, and limiting regulatory overreach.

  • Last Saturday, President Trump signed an executive order establishing new ethics commitments for all Executive branch appointees to limit the influence of lobbyists and Washington insiders.
  • On Monday, President Trump signed an executive order to reduce government regulations by requiring two existing regulations to be ended if a new one is approved.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump signed into law the “GAO Access And Oversight Act Of 2017” (H.R.72) allowing the Government Accountability Office to gather records from all federal agencies so it can be more responsive to civil action.

President Trump Continued To Put Jobs Front And Center Through Two Executive Actions And Holding Four Stakeholder Meetings With Labor And Business Leaders

FREEING UP THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM: President Trump made two Presidential actions to better enable the financial system to promote job creation and serve all Americans

  • On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order to regulate the financial system in a way that protects consumers while promoting economic growth and job creation.
  • On Friday, President Trump issued a memorandum to prevent the unintended consequences of financial fiduciary rules from limiting economic opportunity and American’s investments.

HEARING FROM STAKEHOLDERS: Throughout the week, President Trump met with labor and business leaders to get input on how best to jumpstart job creation for all Americans.

  • On Monday, President Trump met with small business owners to get input on how to spur job creation and help businesses like theirs succeed.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump met with leaders in the pharmaceutical industry to discuss how jobs can be brought back to America and reduce prices so all Americans can afford quality healthcare.
  • On Thursday, President Trump met with the executives of Harley-Davidson and union representatives to encourage American manufacturing.
  • On Friday, President Trump met with his economic advisory council to discuss ways to deliver jobs to all Americans.

To Start African American History Month, President Trump Honored The History Of The African American Community And Their Vast Contribution To American Society

  • On Wednesday, President Trump met with African American community leaders to honor their contribution and listen to their input on what can be done to improve the lives of all Americans.
  • The same day, President Trump signed a proclamation honoring February 2017 as Black History Month.

Despite Historic Democratic Obstructionism, President Trump Continued To Get His Cabinet Nominees Confirmed By Congress

  • On Tuesday, Elaine Chao was sworn in as President Trump’s Secretary of Transportation.
  • On Wednesday, Rex Tillerson was sworn in as President Trump’s Secretary of State.

President Trump Held Three Conversations With Foreign Leaders To Promote American Interests Around The Globe

  • On Sunday, President Trump spoke with King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on creating safe zones in Syria and Yemen to help refugees and strict enforcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran.
  • On Sunday, President Trump spoke with the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan of the United Arab Emirates to reaffirm the strong partnership between both countries and combating radical Islamic terrorism.
  • On Sunday, President Trump spoke with Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn of the Republic of Korea on the important of the their mutual alliance and defending against North Korea.
  • On Thursday, President Trump met with King Abdullah II of Jordan where he conveyed the U.S.’s commitment to Jordan’s stability and defeating ISIS.

To Further Protect America’s Cyber Security, President Trump Met With Experts

  • On Tuesday, President Trump held a listening session with cyber security experts to help fulfill his campaign promise of securing America against cyber threats.

President Trump Spoke At The National Prayer Breakfast

  • On Thursday, President Trump continued to champion repealing the Johnson Amendment to allow representatives of faith to speak freely and without retribution.

President Trump Commemorated American Heart Month

  • On Friday, President Trump proclaimed February 2017 as American Heart Month.

President Trump Recognized National Catholic Schools Week

  • On Friday, President Trump issued a letter recognizing National Catholic Schools week.

In Two Weeks Of Action, The President Has Been Relentless In This Effort To Make America Great Again

  • 21 Presidential Actions
  • 16 Meetings With Foreign Leaders
  • 10 Stakeholder Meetings
  • 6 Cabinet Members Sworn-In
  • 4 National Proclamations
  • 3 Agency Visits
  • 2 Speeches
  • 1 Legislation signed into law
  • 1 Supreme Court Nomination
  • 1 Manufacturing Initiative Launch
  • 1 Thank-You Reception
  • 1 Letter Of Recognition

Full Text Political Transcripts February 2, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at National Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-2-17

Washington Hilton

9:11 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mark.  So nice.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  It’s a great honor to be here this morning.  And so many faith leaders — very, very important people to me — from across our magnificent nation, and so many leaders from all across the globe.

Today we continue a tradition begun by President Eisenhower some 64 years ago.  This gathering is a testament to the power of faith, and is one of the great customs of our nation, and I hope to be here seven more times with you.  (Laughter and applause.)

I want very much to thank our co-chairs, Senator Bowzman and Senator Coons, and all of the congressional leadership — they’re all over the place.  We have a lot of very distinguished guests.

And we have one guest who was just sworn in last night — Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State.  (Applause.)  Going to do a great job.  Some people didn’t like Rex because he actually got along with leaders of the world.  I said, no, you have to understand, that’s a good thing.  (Laughter.)  That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.  He’s respected all over the world, and I think he’s going to go down as one of our great, great secretaries.  We appreciate it.  Thank you, thank you, Rex.  (Applause.)

Thank you as well to Senate Chaplain Barry Black for his moving words.  And I don’t know, Chaplain, whether or not that’s an appointed position.  Is that an appointed position?  I don’t even know if you’re a Democrat or if you’re a Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year — the hell with it.  (Laughter and applause.)  And I think it’s not even my appointment, it’s the Senate’s appointment, but we’ll talk to them.  Your son is here.  Your job is very, very secure, okay?  (Laughter.)  Thank you, Barry.  Appreciate it very much.

I also want to thank my great friends, though, Roma.  Where’s Roma?  Beautiful Roma Downey.  The voice of an angel.  She’s got the voice — every time I hear it, that voice is so beautiful.  Everything is so beautiful about Roma, including her husband because he’s a special, special friend, Mark Burnett — for the wonderful introduction.  So true.  So true.  I said to the agent, I’m sorry.  The only thing more — I actually got on the phone and fired him myself because he said, you don’t want to do it, it’ll never work, it’ll never, ever work.  You don’t want to do it.  I said, listen — but I really fired him after it became the number-one show.  It became so successful, and he wanted a commission, and he didn’t want to do it.  That’s what I really said.  (Laughter.)

But we had tremendous success on “The Apprentice.”  And when I ran for President, I had to leave the show.  That’s when I knew for sure I was doing it.  And they hired a big, big movie star — Arnold Schwarzenegger -– to take my place.  And we know how that turned out.  (Laughter.)  The ratings went right down the tubes.  It’s been a total disaster.  And Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again.  And I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings, okay?  (Laughter.)

But we’ve had an amazing life together, the last 14, 15 years.  And an outstanding man, and thank you very much for introducing me.  Appreciate it.  It’s a great honor.  (Applause.)

I also want to thank my dear friend, Vice President Mike Pence, who has been incredible.  (Applause.)  And incredible wife, Karen.  And every time I was in a little trouble with something, where they were questioning me, they’d say, but he picked Mike Pence — (laughter) — so he has to know what he’s doing.  And it’s true, he’s been — you know, on the scale of 0 to 10, I rate him a 12, okay?  So I want to thank you.  Thank you very much.  Apprentice it.  (Applause.)

But most importantly today, I want to thank the American people.  Your faith and prayers have sustained me and inspired me through some very, very tough times.  All around America, I have met amazing people whose words of worship and encouragement have been a constant source of strength.  What I hear most often as I travel the country are five words that never, ever fail to touch my heart.  That’s:  “I am praying for you.”  I hear it so often — “I am praying for you, Mr. President.”  (Applause.)

No one has inspired me more in my travels than the families of the United States military, men and women who have put their lives on the line every day for their country and their countrymen.  I just came back yesterday from Dover Air Force Base to join the family of Chief William “Ryan” Owens, as America’s fallen hero was returned home.  Very, very sad, but very, very beautiful.  Very, very beautiful.  His family was there.  Incredible family, loved him so much.  So devastated — he was so devastated.  But the ceremony was amazing.  He died in defense of our nation.  He gave his life in defense of our people.  Our debt to him and our debt to his family is eternal and everlasting.

“Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  We will never forget the men and women who wear the uniform, believe me.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  From generation to generation, their vigilance has kept our liberty alive.  Our freedom is won by their sacrifice, and our security has been earned with their sweat and blood and tears.  God has blessed this land to give us such incredible heroes and patriots.  They are very, very special, and we are going to take care of them.  (Applause.)

Our soldiers understand that what matters is not party or ideology or creed, but the bonds of loyalty that link us all together as one.  America is a nation of believers.  In towns all across our land, it’s plain to see what we easily forget — so easily we forget this — that the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.  I will tell you that.  And I tell you that from somebody that has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success — the most material success.  Many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people.  And I know a lot of people without that, but they have great families, they have great faith.  They don’t have money — at least not nearly to the extent — and they’re happy.  Those to me are the successful people, I have to tell you.  (Applause.)

I was blessed to be raised in a churched home.  My mother and father taught me that to whom much is given much is expected.  I was sworn in on the very bible from which my mother would teach us as young children.  And that faith lives on in my heart every single day.

The people in this room come from many, many backgrounds.  You represent so many religions and so many views.  But we are all united by our faith in our Creator and our firm knowledge that we are all equal in His eyes.  We are not just flesh and bone and blood.  We are human beings, with souls.  Our Republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from God.  (Applause.)

It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty.”  Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs.  That is why I will get rid of, and totally destroy, the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.  I will do that — remember.  (Applause.)

Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways.  And I’ve never seen it so much and so openly as since I took the position of President.  The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out.  Okay?  That’s what I do.  I fix things.  We’re going to straighten it out.  (Applause.)  Believe me.  When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it.  Just don’t worry about it.  (Laughter.)  They’re tough.  We have to be tough.  It’s time we’re going to be a little tough, folks.  We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually.  It’s not going to happen anymore.  It’s not going to happen anymore.

We have seen unimaginable violence carried out in the name of religion.  Acts of wanton slaughter against religious minorities.  Horrors on a scale that defy description.  Terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom.  It must be stopped, and it will be stopped.  It may not be pretty for a little while.  It will be stopped.  (Applause.)

We have seen — and, by the way, General, as you know, James “Mad Dog” — I shouldn’t say it in this room — Mattis.  Now, there’s a reason they call him “Mad Dog Mattis” — he never lost a battle.  Always wins them and always wins them fast.  He’s our new Secretary of Defense who will be working with Rex.  He’s right now in South Korea, going to Japan, going to some other spots.  And I’ll tell you what, I’ve gotten to know him really well.  He’s the real deal.  We have somebody who’s the real deal working for us, and that’s what we need.  So, you watch.  You just watch.  (Applause.)  Things will be different.

We have seen peace-loving Muslims brutalized, victimized, murdered and oppressed by ISIS killers.  We have seen threats of extermination against the Jewish people.  We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut off heads.  Not since the Middle Ages have we seen that.  We haven’t seen that, the cutting off of heads.  Now they cut off their heads, they drown people in steel cages.  Haven’t seen this — I haven’t seen this.  Nobody has seen this for many, many years.

All nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence.  All nations have a duty to work together to confront it and to confront it viciously, if we have to.  So I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land.  America must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected, and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure.  We have to feel safe and secure.

In recent days, we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal.  Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world.  But these are those and there are those that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear.  We need security.  There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle.  Not right.  We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation.  You look all over the world and you see what’s happening.

So in the coming days, we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination.  We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us and to love our values — not to hate us and to hate our values.  We will be a safe country.  We will be a free country.  And we will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence.  America will flourish as long as our liberty and, in particular, our religious liberty is allowed to flourish.  (Applause.)

America will succeed as long as our most vulnerable citizens — and we have some that are so vulnerable — have a path to success.  And America will thrive as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in God.  (Applause.)

That faith in God has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas, and to lock arms at home, to ensure equal rights for every man, woman and child in our land.  It’s that faith that sent the pilgrims across the oceans, the pioneers across the plains, and the young people all across America to chase their dreams.  They are chasing their dreams.  We are going to bring those dreams back.  As long as we have God, we are never, ever alone.  Whether it’s the soldier on the night watch or the single parent on the night shift, God will always give us solace and strength and comfort.

We need to carry on and to keep carrying on.  For us here in Washington, we must never, ever stop asking God for the wisdom to serve the public according to his will.  That’s why — (applause) — thank you.  That’s why President Eisenhower and Senator Carlson had the wisdom to gather together 64 years ago to begin this truly great tradition.  But that’s not all they did together.  Let me tell you the rest of the story.  Just one year later, Senator Carlson was among the members of Congress to send to the President’s desk a joint resolution that added “under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance.  That’s a great thing.  (Applause.)  Because that’s what we are and that is what we will always be, and that is what our people want:  one beautiful nation, under God.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
9:30 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts February 2, 2017: President Donald Trump Proclaims February As National African American History Month

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims February As National African American History Month

Source: WH, 2-2-17

Yesterday, the President signed a Proclamation honoring February 2017 as National African American History Month.

NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH, 2017

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

As we celebrate National African American History Month, we recognize the heritage and achievements of African Americans.  The contributions African Americans have made and continue to make are an integral part of our society, and the history of African Americans exemplifies the resilience and innovative spirit that continue to make our Nation great.

For generations, African Americans have embodied the shared progress of our Nation.  Through toil and struggle and with courageous actions that have broken barriers, they have made America a better place to live and work for everybody.  Women like Katherine Johnson, a pioneer in space history whose work helped America win the Space Race, and Madam C.J. Walker, who became one of the most successful female entrepreneurs of her time, paved the way for both women and African Americans in their respective fields.  Robert Smalls, a man born into slavery, founded our Nation’s first free and compulsory public school system.  Later in life, he served as a lawmaker in South Carolina’s State legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.  The strength and determination of men and women like these remind us that our Nation brims with people whose contributions continue to make it stronger and better.

This year, African American History Month calls upon us to reflect on the crucial role of education in the history of African Americans.  It reminds us of the importance of teaching and reflecting upon the many roles African Americans have played in building this Nation and driving it forward.  This year’s theme also calls upon us to rededicate ourselves to the work of ensuring that all children in this Nation have access to quality educational opportunities that give them the skills, experiences, relationships, and credentials that can empower them to follow in the footsteps of people like Katherine Johnson, Madam C.J. Walker, and Robert Smalls.

As we journey toward a stronger, more united Nation, let us use this commemoration of African American History Month to serve as a reminder of the need for meaningful dialogue and shared commitment to collective action that uplifts and empowers, as well as of the strength, ingenuity, and perseverance required of us in the years to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2017 as National African American History Month.  I call upon public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

 

DONALD J. TRUMP

Full Text Political Transcripts January 31, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech Nominatng Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald J. Trump Nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court

Source: WH, 1-31-17

Today, President Donald J. Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. The nomination of Judge Gorsuch comes after a selection process marked by an unprecedented level of transparency and involvement by the American voters.

“I am proud to announce the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for Justice of the Supreme Court,” President Trump said. “This has been the most transparent and most important Supreme Court selection process in the history of our country and I wanted the American people to have a voice in this nomination. Judge Gorsuch has a superb intellect, an unparalleled legal education, and a commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its text. He will make an incredible Justice as soon as the Senate confirms him.”

Judge Gorsuch was born and raised in Colorado. He attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School. After graduating with honors, he received his doctorate from Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar. Judge Gorsuch clerked for Judge David Sentelle of the D.C. Circuit and both Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Following a successful career in private practice, Judge Gorsuch joined the Department of Justice as the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General. In 2006, President George W. Bush nominated him for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and he was confirmed by voice vote without objection. He has served with distinction, earning a reputation as a brilliant jurist with an outstanding intellect and a clear, incisive writing style, and he is universally respected for his integrity and fairness to all parties.

“I am honored and humbled to receive this nomination,” said Judge Gorsuch. “I look forward to meeting with Senators over the coming weeks as we begin this process.”

Background

Simple Bio

Full Text Political Transcripts January 31, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Statement on the Appointment of Dana Boente as Acting Attorney General

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Statement on the Appointment of Dana Boente as Acting Attorney General

Source: WH, 1-30-17

The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.

Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.

It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.

Tonight, President Trump relieved Ms. Yates of her duties and subsequently named Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, to serve as Acting Attorney General until Senator Jeff Sessions is finally confirmed by the Senate, where he is being wrongly held up by Democrat senators for strictly political reasons.

“I am honored to serve President Trump in this role until Senator Sessions is confirmed. I will defend and enforce the laws of our country to ensure that our people and our nation are protected,” said Dana Boente, Acting Attorney General.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 30, 2017: Former President Barack Obama’s Statement on President Donald Trump’s Immigration Order

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Former President Barack Obama’s Statement on President Donald Trump’s Immigration Order Supporting Protests

President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy — not just during an election but every day.

Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.

With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 28, 2017: President Donald Trump’s First Week of Action

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s First Week of Action

Source: WH, 1-28-17

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FIRST WEEK OF ACTION

  • 15: Presidential Actions to begin fulfilling his promises to Make America Great Again.
  • 11: Diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders to promote an America First foreign policy.
  • 4: Members of President Trump’s cabinet sworn into office.
  • 3: Stakeholder meetings to get input from both workers and business leaders on jumpstarting job creation.
  • 3: Engagements with members of Congress to discuss his agenda.
  • 3: Visits to federal agencies committed to protecting our homeland and ensuring our national security.
  • 1: Official White House visit by a foreign head of state.
  • 1: Reception to honor law enforcement and first responders.
  • 1: Proclamation supporting National School Choice week.
  • The President’s team followed through on his commitment to action, by:
    • collaborating with 28 federal agencies and departments on a near daily basis.
    • discussing legislative items with at least 75 House members or their staffs and 35 Senators or their staffs.
    • making initial contact with governors in each state and territory, and having in-depth discussions with 32 governors or their staff.
    • discussing issues with 22 state attorneys general.
    • beginning outreach to our nation’s largest municipalities and tribes.

President Trump Used The Power Of His Office To Follow Through On His Promises To The American People

WITHIN HOURS OF HIS INAUGURATION: President Trump moved to protect Americans from ObamaCare, government regulations, and future bailouts.

  • On the evening of his Inauguration, President Trump sought relief for Americans from the cost burdens of ObamaCare.
  • Through a memorandum issued by the Chief of Staff, all new regulations were frozen to protect job creators from the crush of new government rules on their businesses.
  • President Trump put a stop to a reckless action that would have reduced funding for the Federal Housing Authority after it was bailed out by the taxpayers as recently as 2013.

MONDAY: President Trump fulfilled his promise to immediately address trade and jobs by withdrawing from the harmful Trans-Pacific Partnership, put in place a hiring freeze, and protected taxpayer money from funding abortions overseas.

  • President Trump protected American workers by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • To stem the tide of an ever growing government, President Trump put in place a hiring freeze on federal civilian employees.
  • After years of taxpayer money being spent to promote abortions abroad, President Trump reinstated the “Mexico City Policy” to ban such usage.

TUESDAY: President Trump promoted job creation by jumpstarting the construction of two new energy pipelines, requiring the use of American-made materials and equipment in building those pipelines, and reduced the regulatory burden on America’s manufacturing and construction industry.

  • President Trump began the process to finish construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline after a series of delays.
  • After years of delays, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum to revive the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • To make sure Americans benefit from infrastructure projects, the President signed an executive memorandum requiring all new construction and repair of pipelines to use American materials and equipment.
  • President Trump ordered the Commerce Department to streamline and reduce regulations affecting U.S. manufacturing to help bring factories back to America.
  • To jumpstart much needed infrastructure projects, President Trump signed an executive order to speed up the environmental impact review of projects.

WEDNESDAY: President Trump followed through on his pledge to protect America’s borders and end the lack of compliance with immigration laws.

  • Following through on his commitment to protecting the American people, President Trump signed an executive order to improve border security, particularly through the construction of a physical barrier on the southern border.
  • President Trump signed an executive order to ensure that immigration laws are enforced throughout the United States, including halting federal funding for sanctuary cities.

FRIDAY: President Trump followed through on his top priority to keep America safe.

  • President Trump signed an executive order protecting the United States from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism, and ensuring a more rigorous vetting process.
  • President Trump issued a presidential memorandum to direct the Secretary of Defense to review our readiness and create plans to rebuild the U.S. military.

President Trump Has Held or Scheduled 11 Conversations With Foreign Leaders To Promote American Interests Around The Globe

  • On Saturday, President Trump spoke with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and discussed respect for the sovereignty of both nations.
  • On Saturday, President Trump also spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the importance of strong U.S.-Canada ties.
  • On Sunday, President Trump spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss opportunities to strengthen relations.
  • On Monday, President Trump spoke with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi of Egypt, expressing his commitment for a new push in bilateral relations.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to strengthen relations and cooperation.
  • Today, President Trump spoke again with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico to discuss bilateral relations, border security and trade.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of with Japan
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with President François Hollande of France.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia.

Four Of President Trump’s Nominees Were Confirmed By The Senate And Sworn Into Office

  • Last Friday, retired General John Kelly was sworn in as Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • Also last Friday, retired General James Mattis was sworn in as Secretary of Defense.
  • On Monday, former Congressman Mike Pompeo was sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
  • On Wednesday, former Governor Nikki Haley was sworn in as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Following Through On His Commitment To Job Creation, President Trump Held Stakeholder Meetings With Business And Labor Leaders

  • On Monday, President Trump met with labor leaders to discuss his plans to renegotiate trade deals and put Americans back to work.
  • Later on Monday, President Trump met with manufacturing leaders to discuss how to bring factories and manufacturing jobs back to America.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump met with key industry leaders to discuss how the auto industry can bring back American jobs.

President Trump Held Meetings Or Spoke With Congressional Leaders To Discuss His Agenda

  • On Monday, President Trump hosted Republican and Democrat congressional leaders and chiefs of staff at the White House to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump met with key Senate leaders to discuss his upcoming choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
  • On Thursday, President Trump spoke at the Republican congressional retreat in Philadelphia.

President Trump Spoke At The Headquarters Of The CIA, The Department Of Homeland Security, And The Department Of Defense

  • On Saturday, President Trump spoke at CIA headquarters and told a raucous crowd that he’d have their back as he thanked them for their service to the country.
  • On Wednesday, President Trump visited the Department of Homeland Security to reinforce his strong belief in protecting America’s borders.
  • On Wednesday, President Trump visited the Department of Defense to highlight his commitment to rebuild our military.

President Trump Hosted U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May

  • In hosting his first foreign head of state at the White House, President Trump welcomed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May.

As One Of His First Actions After Inauguration Day, President Trump Thanked American Law Enforcement And First Responders

  • On Sunday, President Trump held a White House Reception to honor and thank law enforcement and first responders who helped make his Inauguration safe and successful.

President Trump Proclaimed National School Choice Week

  • On Thursday, President Trump renewed his commitment to expand school choice for Americans by proclaiming January 22 through January 28, 2017, as National School Choice Week.

The President’s Team Is Following Through On His Commitment To Action

President Trump’s team has worked to ensure his team is in place at various departments and agencies and working to implement his agenda:

  • The White House Office of Cabinet Affairs made 140 calls to 28 separate federal departments and agencies to collaborate on various issues.
  • Cabinet Affairs personally met with 10 Cabinet nominees.
  • Cabinet Affairs coordinated the swearing in of four cabinet members this week by the Vice President.

President Trump’s team has worked to ensure his legislative agenda is well-received in Congress:

  • The White House Office of Legislative Affairs met or spoke with 110 congressional offices or elected representatives in 75 House and 35 Senate offices.
  • Vice President Pence had several in-person meetings this week on Capitol Hill.

President Trump’s team began outreach to our nation’s states, municipalities, and tribes:

  • The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs made initial contact with the governor’s offices in all of the states and territories.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs held detailed discussions with the governors or their staff in 32 separate states.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs made initial contact with 22 of the 50 state attorneys general.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs has begun outreach to America’s largest municipalities, such as Los Angeles County and met with the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs made contact with the largest tribes in the country and has begun outreach with many leaders.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 28, 2017: President Donald Trump’s First Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s First Weekly Address

Source: WH, 1-28-17

TRANSCRIPT:

My fellow Americans,

One week ago, our administration assumed the enormous responsibilities that you, the American People, have placed in us.

There is much work to do in the days ahead, but I wanted to give you an update on what we have accomplished already.

In my first few days as your President, I’ve met with the leaders of some of our nation’s top manufacturing companies and labor unions.

My message was clear: we want to make things in America, and we want to use American workers.

Since my election, many companies have announced they are no longer moving jobs out of our country but are instead keeping and creating jobs right here in America.

Every day, we are fulfilling the promise we made to the American People.  Here are just a few of the executive actions that I have taken in the last few days –

–An order to prepare for repealing and replacing Obamacare, it’s about time.

–The withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership so that we can negotiate one-on-one deals that protect American workers. That would have been a disastrous deal for our workers.

–An order to begin construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, following a renegotiation of terms, with a requirement that pipelines installed in America be built with American steel and manufactured here.

–A directive to expedite permits for new infrastructure and new manufacturing plants.

–An order to immediately begin the border wall and to crack down on sanctuary cities. They are not safe, we have to take care of that horrible situation.

This administration has hit the ground running at a record pace, everybody is talking about it. We are doing it with speed and we are doing it with intelligence and we will never, ever stop fighting on behalf of the American People.

God bless you, and God Bless America.

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 27, 2017: President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Joint Press Conference

President Trump and Prime Minister May’s Opening Remarks

Source: WH, 1-27-17

President Donald J. Trump: “Thank you very much.  I am honored to have Prime Minister Theresa May here for our first official visit from a foreign leader.  This is our first visit, so — great honor.

The special relationship between our two countries has been one of the great forces in history for justice and for peace.  And, by the way, my mother was born in Scotland — Stornoway — which is serious Scotland.

Today, the United States renews our deep bond with Britain — military, financial, cultural, and political.  We have one of the great bonds.  We pledge our lasting support to this most special relationship.  Together, America and the United Kingdom are a beacon for prosperity and the rule of law.  That is why the United States respects the sovereignty of the British people and their right of self-determination.  A free and independent Britain is a blessing to the world, and our relationship has never been stronger.

Both America and Britain understand that governments must be responsive to everyday working people, that governments must represent their own citizens.

Madam Prime Minister, we look forward to working closely with you as we strengthen our mutual ties in commerce, business and foreign affairs.  Great days lie ahead for our two peoples and our two countries.

On behalf of our nation, I thank you for joining us here today.  It’s a really great honor.  Thank you very much.”

Prime Minister Theresa May: “Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.  And can I start by saying that I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to be here today.  And thank you for inviting me so soon after your inauguration.  And I’m delighted to be able to congratulate you on what was a stunning election victory.

And, as you say, the invitation is an indication of the strength and importance of the special relationship that exists between our two countries — a relationship based on the bonds of history, of family, kinship and common interest.  And in a further sign of the importance of that relationship, I have today been able to convey Her Majesty The Queen’s hope that President Trump and the First Lady would pay a state visit to the United Kingdom later this year.  And I’m delighted that the President has accepted that invitation.

Now, today, we’re discussing a number of topics, and there’s much on which we agree.  The President has mentioned foreign policy.  We’re discussing how we can work even more closely together in order to take on and defeat Daesh and the ideology of Islamist extremism wherever it’s found.

Our two nations are already leading efforts to face up to this challenge, and we’re making progress with Daesh losing territory and fighters, but we need to redouble our efforts.  And today, we are discussing how we can do this by deepening intelligence and security cooperation and, critically, by stepping up our efforts to counter Daesh in cyberspace.  Because we know we will not eradicate this threat until we defeat the idea — the ideology that lies behind it.

Our talks will be continuing later.  I’m sure we’ll discuss other topics — Syria and Russia.

On defense and security cooperation, we are united in our recognition of NATO as the bulwark of our collective defense.  And today, we’ve reaffirmed our unshakeable commitment to this alliance.  Mr. President, I think you said — you confirmed that you’re 100 percent behind NATO.  But we’re also discussing the importance of NATO continuing to ensure it is as equipped to fight terrorism and cyber warfare as it is to fight more conventional forms of war.

And I’ve agreed to continue my efforts to encourage my fellow European leaders to deliver on their commitments to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense so that the burden is more fairly shared.  It’s only by investing properly in our defense that we can ensure we’re properly equipped to face our shared challenges together.

And finally, the President and I have mentioned future economic cooperation and trade.  Trade between our two countries is already worth over $150 billion pounds a year.  The U.S. is the single-biggest source of inward investment to the UK, and together we’ve around $1 trillion invested in each other’s economies.  And the UK-U.S. defense relationship is the broadest, deepest, and most advanced of any two countries sharing military hardware and expertise.  And I think the President and I are ambitious to build on this relationship in order to grow our respective economies, provide the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future for working people across America and across the UK.

And so we are discussing how we can establish a trade negotiation agreement, take forward immediate, high-level talks, lay the groundwork for a UK-U.S. trade agreement, and identify the practical steps we can take now in order to enable companies in both countries to trade and do business with one another more easily.

And I’m convinced that a trade deal between the U.S. and the UK is in the national interest of both countries and will cement the crucial relationship that exists between us, particularly as the UK leaves the European Union and reaches out to the world.

Today’s talks I think are a significant moment for President Trump and I to build our relationship.  And I look forward to continuing to work with you as we deliver on the promises of freedom and prosperity for all the people of our respective countries.”

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 27, 2017: Vice President Mike Pence’s Speech at the March for Life

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

March for Life Remarks of Vice President Pence – As Prepared for Delivery

Source: WH, 1-27-17

MARCH FOR LIFE

FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.

As Prepared for Delivery –

On behalf of President Donald Trump, my wife Karen, and our daughter Charlotte, I’d like to welcome you all to Washington, D.C. for the 44th annual March for Life.

And I am deeply humbled to be the first Vice President of the United States to ever have the privilege to attend this historic gathering.

More than two-hundred and forty years ago, our Founders wrote words that have echoed through the ages.

They declared “these truths to be self-evident.” That we are, all of us, “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and “that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Forty-four years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of these timeless ideals.

But today, three generations hence, because of all of you, and the many more who stand with us in marches just like this across this nation, life is winning in America again.

That is evident in the election of pro-life majorities in the Congress of the United States.

But it is no more evident than in the historic election of a president who stands for a stronger America, a more prosperous America, and a president who I proudly say stands for the right to life – President Donald Trump.

President Trump actually asked me to be here today to thank all of you for your support and for your stand for life and for your compassion for the women and children of this nation.

One week ago today, on the steps of the Capitol, we saw the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. Our President is a man with broad shoulders and a big heart. His vision, his energy, and his optimism are boundless, and I know he will Make America Great Again.

From his first day in office, he has been keeping his promises to the American people.

And at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we’re in the promise-keeping business.

That’s why, on Monday President Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy to prevent foreign aid from funding organizations that promote or perform abortions.

That’s why this administration will work with Congress to end taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion providers, and we will devote those resources to health-care services for women across America.

And that’s why, next week, President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.

Life is winning in America. And today is a celebration of the progress that we have made in the cause.

You know, I have long believed that a society can be judged by how we care for our most vulnerable – the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn.

We’ve come to a historic moment in the cause of life, and we must meet this moment with respect and compassion for every American.

Life is winning in America for many reasons.

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life begins.

Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families, who open their hearts and homes to children in need.

Life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations who minister to women, in cities and towns across this country.

And life is winning through the quiet counsels between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, between friends across kitchen tables, and over coffee on college campuses the truth is being told and compassion is overcoming convenience, hope is defeating despair.

In a word, life is winning in America because of all of you.

So I urge you to press on.

But as it is written, “let your gentleness be evident to all.” Let this movement be known for love, not anger – for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there’s nothing stronger than gentleness.

I believe we will continue to win the hearts and the minds of the rising generation if our hearts first break for young mothers and their unborn children and we do all we can to meet them where they are, with generosity, not judgment.

To heal our land and restore a culture of life we must continue to be a movement that embraces all and cares for all out of respect for the dignity and worth of every person.

Enshrined on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial are the words of our third president, who admonished us to remember that “God who gave us life gave us liberty.”

On behalf of the President of the United States, and my little family, we thank you for your stand for life, for your compassion, for your love for the women and children of this nation.

Be assured, we will not grow weary. We will not rest until we restore a culture of life for ourselves and our posterity.

God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 26, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at GOP Retreat Philadelphia, PA

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Donald Trump’s Speech at GOP Retreat Philadelphia, PA

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 25, 2017: President Trump’s Remarks at Department of Homeland Security

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s Remarks at Department of Homeland Security

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 21, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Remarks at CIA Headquarters

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s Remarks at CIA Headquarters

(as delivered)

Thank you.

Well. I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true: this is my first stop. Officially. We’re not talking about the balls, and we’re not talking about even the speeches. Although, they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday [laughter].

I always call them “the dishonest media”, but they treated me nicely.

But, I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the Intelligence Community and the CIA than Donald Trump. [applause]. There’s Nobody. Nobody.

And the wall behind me is very very special. We’ve been touring for quite a while. And I’ll tell you what: twenty … nine? I can’t believe it.. No. Twenty eight. We’ve got to reduce it. That’s amazing. And we really appreciate it what you ‘ve done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group. These are really special, amazing people. Very. very few people could do the job you people do.

And I want to just let you know: I am so behind you. And I know, maybe sometimes, you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted. And you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say “please don’t give us so much backing”. [laughter] “Mr President, please, we don’t need that much backing”.

But you’re going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.

You know, the military, and the law-enforcement generally speaking, — but, all of it — but the military, gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military and probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. [laughter]

But I would guarantee a big portion. Because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks. We’re all on the same wavelength. [applause] Alight? [pointing to the crowd] He knows. Took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right? Because we know. We’re on the same wavelength.

We’re going to do great things. We’re going to do great things. We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained.

We have to get rid of ISIS. We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice [applause]

Radical Islamic terrorism – and I said it yesterday – has to be eradicated. Just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil.

And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between countries. There can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody could even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen.

You’re going to go to it, and you’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.

You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary. You know for the different positions, of secretary of this and secretary of that and all of these great positions, I’d see five, six, seven, eight people.

And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent.

And by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand, Mike. What a good guy [applause]

And Reince, and my whole group. Reince. You know Reince? They don’t care about Reince. He’s like, this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince.

But, we did. We had just such a tremendous, tremendous success.

So when I’m interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and in this case went so quickly. Because I would see six or seven or eight for secretary of agriculture, who we just named the other day. Sunny Perdue. Former Governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I’d see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.

But I met Mike Pompeo, and he was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said “cancel everybody else”. Cancel. Now he was approved, essentially. But they’re doing a little political games with me. You know, he was one of the three.

Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis – fantastic guy – and General Kelly got approved [applause]

And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group; it was going to be the three of them. Can you imagine? All of these guys. People respect … they respect that military sense. All my political people? They’re not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well… but you … We’re going to get them all through. But some will take a little bit longer than others.

But Mike was literally — I had a group of, what, we had nine different people? — Now. I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

But I met him, and I said “he is so good”. Number one in his class at West Point. Now, I know a lot about West Point. I’m a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say, I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many different ways academically. He was an academic genius.

And then they say: “is Donald Trump an intellectual?” Trust me. I’m like a smart person. [laughter] [pointing at Mike Pompeo] And I recognized immediately,

So he was Number 1 at West Point. And he was also essentially number 1 at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he’s done has been a home run.

People like him. But much more importantly to me, everybody respects him.

When I told Paul Ryan that I want to do this, I would say, he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled, right, Mike? Because he said “I don’t want to lose this guy”.

You will be getting a total star. You going to be getting a total gem. He is a gem. And I just …. [applause] You’ll see. You’ll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you’re going to see.

And again: we have some great people going, but this one is something, going to be very special, because this is one of — if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be, perhaps, you know, in certain ways, you could even say my most important.

You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing.

And the generals are wonderful and the fighting is wonderful. But if you give them the right direction? Boy does the fighting become easier. And boy do we lose so fewer lives, and win so … quickly.

And that’s what we have to do. We have to start winning again.

You know what? When I was young, And when I was … of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30. 35. 39. [laughter]. Somebody said “are you young?” I said “I think I’m young”.

You know, I was stopping when we were in the final month of that campaign. Four stops, five stops. Seven stops. Speeches — speeches — in front of twenty five, thirty thousand people. Fifteen thousand, nineteen thousand, from stop to stop.

I feel young.

But when I was young — and I think we’re all sort of young — when I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars.

At a certain age I remember hearing from one of my instructors “The United States has never lost a war”.

And then, after that, it’s like, we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore.,

The old expression: “to the victor belong the spoils” – you remember? You always used to say “keep the oil”. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you. When we were in, we got out wrong.

And I always said: “In addition to that, keep the oil”.

Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about, Mike, if we kept the oil we would probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil.

But okay. [laughter] Maybe we’ll have another chance.

But the fact is: we should’ve kept the oil. I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country towards making us safe, towards making us winners again. Towards ending all of the problems — we have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated — to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused.

So I can only say that I am with you 1000%. And the reason you’re my first stop is that as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. [laughter, applause]

And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the Intelligence Community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number 1 stop is exactly the opposite. Exactly. And they understand that too.

And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday, the speech, and everybody really liked the speech, you had to right? [applause]

We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed.

I get up this morning. I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I say: “wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was…. It looked like a million, a million and a half people.” They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there. And they said “Donald Trump did not draw well”. And I said “well it was almost raining”. The rain should have scared them away. But God looked down and he said “we’re not going to let it rain on your speech”.

In fact, when I first started I said “oh no”. First line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And i said “oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it”. But the truth is: that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sudden, and then I walked off and it poured right after I left – it poured.

But you know, we have something that’s amazing because, we had, it looked honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.

And I turn on by mistake and I get this network shows an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people.

Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around, you know, the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20 block area all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed.

So we caught them. And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.

They had another one yesterday which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill. Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country. But he had lot to do with it. He helped us. A real ally.

And as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out. The bust. And as you probably also have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly, and they wanted to know whether or not I’d like it back. And I said “absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill”.

So a reporter for Time magazine. And I have been on their cover like 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all time record in the history of Time magazine. Like it Tom Brady is on the cover of Time magazine, it’s one time, because he won the Superbowl or something, right? [laughter]. I’ve been on for 15 times this year.

I don’t think that’s a record, Mike, that they can ever be broken, do you agree with that? What do you think?

But I will say that, he said something that was very interesting: that “Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr Martin Luther King”. It was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it.

So Zeke – Zeke – from Time magazine writes a story about how I took it down. But I would never do that, because I have great respect for Dr Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is: a big story. And the retraction was like — was it a line? Or did they even bother putting it in?
So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting. I will tell you the final time: although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that had been trying to come in, because I am coming back.

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 21, 2017: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer First Press Briefing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer First Press Briefing

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 20, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

The Inaugural Address

Source: WH, 1-20-17

REMARKS OF PRESIDENT DONALD J.  TRUMP – AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

INAUGURAL ADDRESS

FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.

As Prepared for Delivery –

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.

Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.

We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.

Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another – but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.

Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth.

Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.

Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s Capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.

It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.

This is your day. This is your celebration.

And this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now.

You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before.

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.

Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves.

These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation – and their pain is our pain.  Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success.  We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry;

Subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military;

We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own;

And spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.

We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.

The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.

From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.

From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.  Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down.

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders.  We will bring back our wealth.  And we will bring back our dreams.

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.

When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The Bible tells us, “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.

When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.

There should be no fear – we are protected, and we will always be protected.

We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger.

In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.

We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action – constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.

The time for empty talk is over.

Now arrives the hour of action.

Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done.  No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.

We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.

A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.

It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:

You will never be ignored again.

Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams, will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together, We Will Make America Strong Again.

We Will Make America Wealthy Again.

We Will Make America Proud Again.

We Will Make America Safe Again.

And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again. Thank you, God Bless You, And God Bless America.

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 19, 2017: Final West Wing Week 01/19/17 or, “Obama, Farewell”

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

The Obama Administration’s Final — and 388th — episode of West Wing Week

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 19, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Departing Letter to the American People

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Departing Letter to the American People

Thank You

Source: WH, 1-19-17

Summary:
I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th President.

Editor’s note: President Obama sent this final message to the White House email list this morning. 


My fellow Americans,

It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.

But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers — and found grace in a Charleston church.

I’ve taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.

I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.

All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.

I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.

And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’

Yes, we can.

And if you’d like to stay connected, you can sign up here to keeping getting updates from me.

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 18, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at his Final Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Final Press Conference

Source: WH, 1-18-17

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:24 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Let me start out by saying that I was sorely tempted to wear a tan suit today — (laughter) — for my last press conference.  But Michelle, whose fashion sense is a little better than mine, tells me that’s not appropriate in January.

I covered a lot of the ground that I would want to cover in my farewell address last week.  So I’m just going to say a couple of quick things before I start taking questions.

First, we have been in touch with the Bush family today, after hearing about President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush being admitted to the hospital this morning.  They have not only dedicated their lives to this country, they have been a constant source of friendship and support and good counsel for Michelle and me over the years.  They are as fine a couple as we know.  And so we want to send our prayers and our love to them.  Really good people.

Second thing I want to do is to thank all of you.  Some of you have been covering me for a long time — folks like Christi and Win.  Some of you I’ve just gotten to know.  We have traveled the world together.  We’ve hit a few singles, a few doubles together.  I’ve offered advice that I thought was pretty sound, like “don’t do stupid…stuff.”  (Laughter.)  And even when you complained about my long answers, I just want you to know that the only reason they were long was because you asked six-part questions.  (Laughter.)

But I have enjoyed working with all of you.  That does not, of course, mean that I’ve enjoyed every story that you have filed.  But that’s the point of this relationship.  You’re not supposed to be sycophants, you’re supposed to be skeptics.  You’re supposed to ask me tough questions.  You’re not supposed to be complimentary, but you’re supposed to cast a critical eye on folks who hold enormous power and make sure that we are accountable to the people who sent us here.

And you have done that.  And you’ve done it, for the most part, in ways that I could appreciate for fairness even if I didn’t always agree with your conclusions.  And having you in this building has made this place work better.  It keeps us honest.  It makes us work harder.  It made us think about how we are doing what we do and whether or not we’re able to deliver on what’s been requested by our constituents.

And for example, every time you’ve asked “why haven’t you cured Ebola yet,” or “why is that still that hole in the Gulf,” it has given me the ability to go back to my team and say, “will you get this solved before the next press conference?”  (Laughter.)

I spent a lot of time in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy.  It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press.  That is part of how this place, this country, this grand experiment in self-government has to work.  It doesn’t work if we don’t have a well-informed citizenry.  And you are the conduit through which they receive the information about what’s taking place in the halls of power.

So America needs you, and our democracy needs you.  We need you to establish a baseline of facts and evidence that we can use as a starting point for the kind of reasoned and informed debates that ultimately lead to progress.  And so my hope is, is that you will continue with the same tenacity that you showed us to do the hard work of getting to the bottom of stories and getting them right, and to push those of us in power to be the best version of ourselves.  And to push this country to be the best version of itself.

I have no doubt that you will do so.  I’m looking forward to being an active consumer of your work rather than always the subject of it.  I want to thank you all for your extraordinary service to our democracy.

And with that, I will take some questions.  And I will start with Jeff Mason — whose term apparently is not up.  I thought we’d be going out together, brother, but you got to hang around for a while.  (Laughter.)

Q    I’m staying put.

THE PRESIDENT:  Jeff Mason, Reuters.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Are you concerned, Mr. President, that commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence will send a message that leaking classified material will not generate a tough sentence to groups like WikiLeaks?  How do you reconcile that in light of WikiLeaks’ connection to Russia’s hacking in last year’s election?  And related to that, Julian Assange has now offered to come to the United States.  Are you seeking that?  And would he be charged or arrested if he came here?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, let’s be clear, Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence.  So the notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital, classified information would think that it goes unpunished I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served.

It has been my view that given she went to trial, that due process was carried out, that she took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportional — disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received, and that she had served a significant amount of time, that it made it sense to commute — and not pardon — her sentence.

And I feel very comfortable that justice has been served and that a message has still been sent that when it comes to our national security, that wherever possible, we need folks who may have legitimate concerns about the actions of government or their superiors or the agencies in which they work — that they try to work through the established channels and avail themselves of the whistleblower protections that had been put in place.

I recognize that there’s some folks who think they’re not enough, and I think all of us, when we’re working in big institutions, may find ourselves at times at odds with policies that are set.  But when it comes to national security, we’re often dealing with people in the field whose lives may be put at risk, or the safety and security and the ability of our military or our intelligence teams or embassies to function effectively.  And that has to be kept in mind.

So with respect to WikiLeaks, I don’t see a contradiction.  First of all, I haven’t commented on WikiLeaks, generally.  The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked.

I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mr. Assange’s tweets, so that wasn’t a consideration in this instance.  And I’d refer you to the Justice Department for any criminal investigations, indictments, extradition issues that may come up with him.

What I can say broadly is that, in this new cyber age, we’re going to have to make sure that we continually work to find the right balance of accountability and openness and transparency that is the hallmark of our democracy, but also recognize that there are adversaries and bad actors out there who want to use that same openness in ways that hurt us — whether that’s in trying to commit financial crimes, or trying to commit acts of terrorism, or folks who want to interfere with our elections.

And we’re going to have to continually build the kind of architecture that makes sure the best of our democracy is preserved; that our national security and intelligence agencies have the ability to carry out policy without advertising to our adversaries what it is that we’re doing, but do so in a way that still keeps citizens up to speed on what their government is doing on their behalf.

But with respect to Chelsea Manning, I looked at the particulars of this case the same way I have for the other commutations and pardons that I’ve done, and I felt that in light of all the circumstances that commuting her sentence was entirely appropriate.

Margaret Brennan.

Q    Mr. President, thank you.  The President-elect has said that he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia if they substantially reduced their nuclear stockpile.  Given your own efforts at arms control, do you think that’s an effective strategy?  Knowing this office and Mr. Trump, how would you advise his advisors to help him be effective when he deals with Vladimir Putin?  And given your actions recently on Russia, do you think those sanctions should be viewed as leverage?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, a couple of things.  Number one, I think it is in America’s interest and the world’s interest that we have a constructive relationship with Russia.  That’s been my approach throughout my presidency.  Where our interests have overlapped, we’ve worked together.  At the beginning of my term, I did what I could to encourage Russia to be a constructive member of the international community, and tried to work with the President and the government of Russia in helping them diversify their economy, improve their economy, use the incredible talents of the Russian people in more constructive ways.

I think it’s fair to say that after President Putin came back into the presidency that an escalating anti-American rhetoric and an approach to global affairs that seemed to be premised on the idea that whatever America is trying to do must be bad for Russia and so we want to try and counteract whatever they do — that return to an adversarial spirit that I think existed during the Cold War has made the relationship more difficult.  And it was hammered home when Russia went into Crimea and portions of Ukraine.

The reason we imposed the sanctions, recall, was not because of nuclear weapons issues.  It was because the independence and sovereignty of a country, Ukraine, had been encroached upon, by force, by Russia.  That wasn’t our judgment; that was the judgment of the entire international community.  And Russia continues to occupy Ukrainian territory and meddle in Ukrainian affairs and support military surrogates who have violated basic international law and international norms.

What I’ve said to the Russians is, as soon as you’ve stop doing that the sanctions will be removed.  And I think it would probably best serve not only American interest but also the interest of preserving international norms if we made sure that we don’t confuse why these sanctions have been imposed with a whole set of other issues.

On nuclear issues, in my first term we negotiated the START II treaty. and that has substantially reduced our nuclear stockpiles, both Russia and the United States.  I was prepared to go further.  I told President Putin I was prepared to go further.  They have been unwilling to negotiate.  If President-elect Trump is able to restart those talks in a serious way, I think there remains a lot of room for our two countries to reduce our stockpiles.  And part of the reason we’ve been successful on our nonproliferation agenda and on our nuclear security agenda is because we were leading by example.

I hope that continues.  But I think it’s important just to remember that the reason sanctions have been put in place against Russia has to do with their actions in Ukraine.  And it is important for the United States to stand up for the basic principle that big countries don’t go around and invade and bully smaller countries.  I’ve said before, I expect Russia and Ukraine to have a strong relationship.  They are, historically, bound together in all sorts of cultural and social ways.  But Ukraine is an independent country.

And this is a good example of the vital role that America has to continue to play around the world in preserving basic norms and values, whether it’s advocating on behalf of human rights, advocating on behalf of women’s rights, advocating on behalf of freedom of the press.

The United States has not always been perfect in this regard.  There are times where we, by necessity, are dealing with allies or friends or partners who, themselves, are not meeting the standards that we would like to see met when it comes to international rules and norms.  But I can tell you that in every multilateral setting — in the United Nations, in the G20, in the G7 — the United States typically has been on the right side of these issues.  And it is important for us to continue to be on the right side of these issues, because if we, the largest, strongest country and democracy in the world, are not willing to stand up on behalf of these values, then certainly China, Russia, and others will not.

Kevin Corke.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You have been a strong supporter of the idea of a peaceful transfer of power, demonstrated not terribly far from the Rose Garden.  And yet, even as you and I speak, there are more than five dozen Democrats that are going to boycott the inauguration of the incoming President.  Do you support that?  And what message would you send to Democrats to better demonstrate the peaceful transfer of power?

And if I could follow, I wanted to ask you about your conversations with the President-elect previously.  And without getting into too much of the personal side of it, I’m just curious, were you able to use that opportunity to convince him to take a fresh look at some of the important ideas that you will leave this office with — maintaining some semblance of the Affordable Care Act, some idea of keeping DREAMers here in the country without fear of deportation.  Were you able to use personal stories to try to convince him?  And how successful were you?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I won’t go into details of my conversations with President-elect Trump.  As I’ve said before, they are cordial.  At times they’ve been fairly lengthy and they’ve been substantive.  I can’t tell you how convincing I’ve been.  I think you’d had to ask him whether I’ve been convincing or not.

I have offered my best advice, counsel about certain issues both foreign and domestic.  And my working assumption is, is that having won an election opposed to a number of my initiatives and certain aspects of my vision for where the country needs to go, it is appropriate for him to go forward with his vision and his values.  And I don’t expect that there’s going to be enormous overlap.

It may be that on certain issues, once he comes into office and he looks at the complexities of how to, in fact, provide health care for everybody — something he says he wants to do — or wants to make sure that he is encouraging job creation and wage growth in this country, that that may lead him to some of the same conclusions that I arrived at once I got here.

But I don’t think we’ll know until he has an actual chance to get sworn in and sit behind that desk.  And I think a lot of his views are going to be shaped by his advisors, the people around him — which is why it’s important to pay attention to these confirmation hearings.

I can tell you that — and this is something I have told him — that this is a job of such magnitude that you can’t do it by yourself.  You are enormously reliant on a team.  Your Cabinet, your senior White House staff, all the way to fairly junior folks in their 20s and 30s, but who are executing on significant responsibilities.

And so how you put a team together to make sure that they’re getting you the best information and they are teeing up the options from which you will ultimately make decisions, that’s probably the most useful advice, the most constructive advice that I’ve been able to give him.  That if you find yourself isolated because the process breaks down, or if you’re only hearing from people who agree with you on everything, or if you haven’t created a process that is fact-checking and probing and asking hard questions about policies or promises that you’ve made, that’s when you start making mistakes.  And as I indicated in some of my previous remarks, reality has a way of biting back if you’re not paying attention to it.

With respect to the inauguration, I’m not going to comment on those issues.  All I know is I’m going to be there.  So is Michelle.  And I have been checking the weather, and I’m heartened by the fact that it won’t be as cold as my first inauguration — (laughter) — because that was cold.

Jen Rodriguez.

Q    Right here, Mr. President.  Thank you very much.  You have said that you would come back to fight for the DREAMers.  You said that a couple of weeks ago.  Are you fearful for the status of those DREAMers, the future of the young immigrants and all immigrants in this country with the new administration?  And what did you mean when you said you would come back?  Would you lobby Congress?  Maybe explore the political arena again?  And if I may ask you a second question — why did you take action on “dry foot, wet foot” a week ago?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me be absolutely clear.  I did not mean that I was going to be running for anything anytime soon.  (Laughter.)  What I meant is that it’s important for me to take some time to process this amazing experience that we’ve gone through; to make sure that my wife, with whom I will be celebrating a 25th anniversary this year, is willing to re-up and put up with me for a little bit longer.  I want to do some writing.  I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much.  I want to spend precious time with my girls.

So those are my priorities this year.  But as I said before, I’m still a citizen.  And I think it is important for Democrats or progressives who feel that they came out on the wrong side of this election to be able to distinguish between the normal back-and-forth, ebb and flow of policy — are we going to raise taxes or are we going to lower taxes; are we going to expand this program or eliminate this program; how concerned are we about air pollution or climate change.  Those are all normal parts of the debate.  And as I’ve said before, in a democracy, sometimes you’re going to win on those issues and sometimes you’re going to lose.

I’m confident about the rightness of my positions on a lot of these points, but we got a new President and a Congress that are going to make their same determinations.  And there will be a back-and-forth in Congress around those issues, and you guys will report on all that.

But there’s difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake.  I put in that category, if I saw systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion.  I’d put in that category, explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise.  I’d put in that category, institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press.

And for me, at least, I would put in that category, efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them someplace else when they love this country; they are our kids’ friends and their classmates, and are now entering into community colleges or, in some cases, serving in our military.  The notion that we would just arbitrarily, or because of politics, punish those kids when they didn’t do anything wrong themselves I think would be something that would merit me speaking out.  It doesn’t mean that I would get on the ballot anywhere.

With respect to “wet foot, dry foot,” we underwent a monumental shift in our policy towards Cuba.  My view was, after 50 years of a policy not working, it made sense for us to try to reopen diplomatic relations, to engage a Cuban government, to be honest with them about the strong disagreements we have around political repression and treatment of dissenters and freedom of press and freedom of religion, but that to make progress for the Cuban people, our best shot was to suddenly have the Cuban people interacting with Americans, and seeing the incredible success of the Cuban American community, and engaging in commerce and business and trade, and that it was through that process of opening up these bilateral relations that you would see over time serious and significant improvement.

Given that shift in the relationship, the policy that we had in place was “wet foot, dry foot,” which treated Cuban emigres completely different from folks from El Salvador, or Guatemala, or Nicaragua, or any other part of the world, one that made a distinction between whether you got here by land or by foot — that was a carryover of a old way of thinking that didn’t make sense in this day and age, particularly as we’re opening up travel between the two countries.

And so we had very lengthy consultations with the Department of Homeland Security.  We had some tough negotiations with the Cuban government.  But we arrived at a policy which we think is both fair and appropriate to the changing nature of the relationship between the two countries.

Nadia Bilbassy.

Q    Thank you, sir.  I appreciate the opportunity, and I want you and your family best of luck in the future.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President, you have been criticized and even personally attacked for the U.N. Security Council resolution that considered the Israeli settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace.  Mr. Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem.  He appointed an ambassador that doesn’t believe in the two-state solution.  How worried are you about the U.S. leadership in the Arab world and beyond as an honest broker?  Will this ignite a third intifada?  Will this even protect Israel?  And in retrospect, do you think that you should have held Israel more accountable, like President Bush, Senior, did with the loan guarantees?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I continue to be significantly worried about the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  And I’m worried about it both because I think the status quo is unsustainable, that it is dangerous for Israel, that it is bad for Palestinians, it is bad for the region, and it is bad for America’s national security.

And I came into this office wanting to do everything I could to encourage serious peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.  And we invested a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of effort, first year, second year, all the way until last year.  Ultimately, what has always been clear is that we cannot force the parties to arrive at peace.  What we can do is facilitate, provide a platform, encourage.  But we can’t force them to do it.

But in light of shifts in Israeli politics and Palestinian politics; a rightward drift in Israeli politics; a weakening of President Abbas’s ability to move and take risks on behalf of peace in the Palestinian Territories; in light of all the dangers that have emerged in the region and the understandable fears that Israelis may have about the chaos and rise of groups like ISIL and the deterioration of Syria — in light of all those things, what we at least wanted to do, understanding that the two parties wouldn’t actually arrive at a final status agreement, is to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution.  Because we do not see an alternative to it.

And I’ve said this directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I’ve said it inside of Israel.  I’ve said it to Palestinians, as well.  I don’t see how this issues gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy, because if you do not have two states, then in some form or fashion you are extending an occupation, functionally you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class occupant — residents.  You can’t even call them citizens, necessarily.

And so the goal of the resolution was to simply say that the settlements — the growth of the settlements are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible.  And we believed, consistent with the position that had been taken with previous U.S. administrations for decades now, that it was important for us to send a signal, a wake-up call, that this moment may be passing, and Israeli voters and Palestinians need to understand that this moment may be passing.  And hopefully that, then, creates a debate inside both Israeli and Palestinian communities that won’t result immediately in peace, but at least will lead to a more sober assessment of what the alternatives are.

So the President-elect will have his own policy.  The ambassador — or the candidate for the ambassadorship obviously has very different views than I do.  That is their prerogative. That’s part of what happens after elections.  And I think my views are clear.  We’ll see how their approach plays itself out.

I don’t want to project today what could end up happening, but obviously it’s a volatile environment.  What we’ve seen in the past is, when sudden, unilateral moves are made that speak to some of the core issues and sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive.  And what we’ve tried to do in the transition is just to provide the context in which the President-elect may want to make some of these decisions.

Q    Are you worried that this (inaudible) —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s part of what we’ve tried to indicate to the incoming team in our transition process, is pay attention to this, because this is volatile stuff.  People feel deeply and passionately about this.  And as I’ve said I think many times, the actions that we take have enormous consequences and ramifications.

We’re the biggest kid on the block.  And I think it is right and appropriate for a new President to test old assumptions and reexamine the old ways of doing things.  But if you’re going to make big shifts in policy, just make sure you’ve thought it through, and understand that there are going to be consequences, and actions typically create reactions, and so you want to be intentional about it.  You don’t want to do things off the cuff when it comes to an issue this volatile.

Chris Johnson.

Q    On LGBT rights —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, where is Chris?

Q    I’m right here in the back.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, didn’t see you.

Q    On LGBT rights, we’ve seen a lot of achievements over the past eight years, including signing hate crimes protection legislation, “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, marriage equality nationwide, and ensuring transgender people feel visible and accepted.  How do you think LGBT rights will rank in terms of your accomplishments and your legacy?  And how confident are you that progress will endure or continue under the President-elect?

THE PRESIDENT:  I could not be prouder of the transformation that’s taken place in our society just in the last decade.  And I’ve said before, I think we made some useful contributions to it, but the primary heroes in this stage of our growth as a democracy and a society are all the individual activists, and sons and daughters and couples who courageously said, this is who I am and I’m proud of it.

And that opened people’s minds and opened their hearts.  And, eventually, laws caught up.  But I don’t think any of that would have happened without the activism — in some cases, loud and noisy, but in some cases, just quiet and very personal.

And I think that what we did as an administration was to help the society to move in a better direction, but to do so in a way that didn’t create an enormous backlash, and was systematic and respectful of the fact that, in some cases, these issues were controversial.

I think the way we handled, for example, “don’t ask, don’t tell” — being methodical about it, working with the Joint Chiefs, making sure that we showed this would not have an impact on the effectiveness of the greatest military on Earth — and then to have Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Chairman Mike Mullen and a Joint Chiefs who were open to evidence and ultimately worked with me to do the right thing — I am proud of that.  But, again, none of that would have happened without this incredible transformation that was happening in society out there.

You know, when I gave Ellen the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I meant what I said.  I think somebody that kind and likeable projecting into living rooms around the country — that changed attitudes.  And that wasn’t easy to do for her.  And that’s just one small example of what was happening in countless communities all across the country.

So I’m proud that in certain places we maybe provided a good block downfield to help the movement advance.

I don’t think it is something that will be reversible because American society has changed; the attitudes of young people, in particular, have changed.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be some fights that are important — legal issues, issues surrounding transgender persons — there are still going to be some battles that need to take place.

But if you talk to young people of Malia, Sasha’s generation, even if they’re Republicans, even if they’re conservative, many of them would tell you, I don’t understand how you would discriminate against somebody because of sexual orientation.  That’s just sort of burned into them in pretty powerful ways.

April Ryan.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Long before today you’ve been considered a rights President.  Under your watch, people have said that you have expanded the rubber band of inclusion.  And with the election and the incoming administration, people are saying that rubber band has recoiled and maybe is even broken.  And I’m taking you back to a time on Air Force One going to Selma, Alabama, when you said your job was to close the gaps that remain.  And with that, what gaps still remain when it comes to rights issues on the table?  And also what part will you play in fixing those gaps after — in your new life?

And lastly, you are the first black President.  Do you expect this country to see this again?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ll answer the last question first.  I think we’re going to see people of merit rise up from every race, faith, corner of this country, because that’s America’s strength.  When we have everybody getting a chance and everybody is on the field, we end up being better.

I think I’ve used this analogy before.  We killed it in the Olympics in Brazil.  And Michelle and I, we always have our — the Olympic team here.  And it’s a lot of fun, first of all, just because anytime you’re meeting somebody who is the best at anything, it’s impressive.  And these mostly very young people are all just so healthy-looking, and they just beam and exude fitness and health.  And so we have a great time talking to them.

But they are of all shapes, sizes, colors — the genetic diversity that is on display is remarkable.  And if you look at a Simone Biles, and then you look at a Michael Phelps, they’re completely different.  And it’s precisely because of those differences that we’ve got people here who can excel at any sport.

And, by the way, more than half of our medals came from women.  And the reason is, is because we had the foresight several decades ago, with something called Title 9, to make sure that women got opportunities in sports, which is why our women compete better — because they have more opportunities than folks in other countries.

So I use that as a metaphor.  And if, in fact, we continue to keep opportunity open to everybody, then, yes, we’re going to have a woman President, we’re going to have a Latino President, and we’ll have a Jewish President, a Hindu President.  Who knows who we’re going to have?  I suspect we’ll have a whole bunch of mixed-up Presidents at some point that nobody really knows what to call them.  (Laughter.)  And that’s fine.

But what do I worry about?  I obviously spent a lot of time on this, April, at my farewell address on Tuesday, so I won’t go through the whole list.  I worry about inequality, because I think that if we are not investing in making sure everybody plays a role in this economy, the economy will not grow as fast, and I think it will also lead to further and further separation between us as Americans — not just along racial lines.  There are a whole bunch of folks who voted for the President-elect because they feel forgotten and disenfranchised.  They feel as if they’re being looked down on.  They feel as if their kids aren’t going to have the same opportunities as they did.

And you don’t want to have an America in which a very small sliver of people are doing really well and everybody else is fighting for scraps, as I said last week.  Because that’s oftentimes when racial divisions get magnified, because people think, well, the only way I’m going to get ahead is if I make sure somebody else gets less, somebody who doesn’t look like me or doesn’t worship at the same place I do.  That’s not a good recipe for our democracy.

I worry about, as I said in response to a previous question, making sure that the basic machinery of our democracy works better.  We are the only country in the advanced world that makes it harder to vote rather than easier.  And that dates back — there’s an ugly history to that that we should not be shy about talking about.

Q    Voting rights?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I’m talking about voting rights.  The reason that we are the only country among advanced democracies that makes it harder to vote is it traces directly back to Jim Crow and the legacy of slavery.  And it became sort of acceptable to restrict the franchise.  And that’s not who we are.  That shouldn’t be who we are.  That’s not when America works best.

So I hope that people pay a lot of attention to making sure that everybody has a chance to vote.  Make it easier, not harder.  This whole notion of election — of voting fraud, this is something that has constantly been disproved.  This is fake news — the notion that there are a whole bunch of people out there who are going out there and are not eligible to vote and want to vote.  We have the opposite problem.  We have a whole bunch of people who are eligible to vote who don’t vote.  And so the idea that we’d put in place a whole bunch of barriers to people voting doesn’t make sense.

And then, as I’ve said before, political gerrymandering that makes your vote matter less because politicians have decided you live in a district where everybody votes the same way you do so that these aren’t competitive races, and we get 90 percent Democratic districts, 90 percent Republican districts — that’s bad for our democracy, too.  I worry about that.

I think it is very important for us to make sure that our criminal justice system is fair and just.  But I also think it’s also very important to make sure that it is not politicized, that it maintains an integrity that is outside of partisan politics at every level.

I think at some point we’re going to have to spend — and this will require some action by the Supreme Court — we have to reexamine just the flood of endless money that goes into our politics, which I think is very unhealthy.

So there are a whole bunch of things I worry about there. And as I said in my speech on Tuesday, we got more work to do on race.  It is not — it is simply not true that things have gotten worse.  They haven’t.  Things are getting better.  And I have more confidence on racial issues in the next generation than I do in our generation or the previous generation.  I think kids are smarter about it.  They’re more tolerant.  They are more inclusive by instinct than we are.  And hopefully my presidency maybe helped that along a little bit.

But, you know, we — when we feel stress, when we feel pressure, when we’re just fed information that encourages some of our worst instincts, we tend to fall back into some of the old racial fears and racial divisions and racial stereotypes. And it’s very hard for us to break out of those, and to listen, and to think about people as people, and to imagine being in that person’s shoes.

And by the way, it’s no longer a black and white issue alone.  You got Hispanic folks, and you got Asian folks, and this is not just the same old battles.  We’ve got this stew that’s bubbling up of people from everywhere.  And we’re going to have to make sure that we, in our own lives, in our own families and workplaces, do a better job of treating everybody with basic respect.  And understanding that not everybody starts off in the same situation, and imagining what would it be like if you were born in an inner city and had no job prospects anywhere within a 20-mile radius, or how does it feel being born in some rural county where there’s no job opportunities in a 20-mile radius — and seeing those two things as connected as opposed to separate.

So we got work to do.  But, overall, I think on this front, the trend lines ultimately, I think, will be good.

Christi Parsons.  And Christi, you are going to get the last question.

Q    Oh, no.  (Laughter and groans.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Christi is — I’ve been knowing her since Springfield, Illinois.  When I was a state senator, she listened to what I had to say.  (Laughter.)  So the least I can do is give her the last question as President of the United States.

Go on.

Q    217 numbers still work.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you go.  Go ahead.

Q    Well, thank you, Mr. President.  It has been an honor.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    And I have a personal question for you, because I know how much you like this.  The First Lady puts the stakes of the 2016 election in very personal terms in a speech that resonated across the country, and she really spoke the concerns of a lot of women, LGBT folks, people of color, many others.  And so I wonder now how you and the First Lady are talking to your daughters about the meaning of this election and how you interpret it for yourself and for them.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, every parent brags on their daughters or their sons.  If your mom and dad don’t brag on you, you know you got problems.  (Laughter.)  But, man, my daughters are something, and they just surprise and enchant and impress me more and more every single day as they grow up.  And so these days, when we talk, we talk as parent to child, but also we learn from them.

And I think it was really interesting to see how Malia and Sasha reacted.  They were disappointed.  They paid attention to what their mom said during the campaign and believed it because it’s consistent with what we’ve tried to teach them in our household, and what I’ve tried to model as a father with their mom, and what we’ve asked them to expect from future boyfriends or spouses.

But what we’ve also tried to teach them is resilience, and we’ve tried to teach them hope, and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.  And so you get knocked down, you get up, brush yourself off, and you get back to work.  And that tended to be their attitude.

I think neither of them intend to pursue a future of politics — and, in that, too, I think their mother’s influence shows.  (Laughter.)  But both of them have grown up in an environment where I think they could not help but be patriotic, to love this country deeply, to see that it’s flawed but see that they have responsibilities to fix it.  And that they need to be active citizens, and they have to be in a position to talk to their friends and their teachers and their future coworkers in ways that try to shed some light as opposed to just generate a lot of sound and fury.

And I expect that’s what they’re going to do.  They do not — they don’t mope.  And what I really am proud of them — what makes me proudest about them is that they also don’t get cynical about it.  They have not assumed because their side didn’t win, or because some of the values that they care about don’t seem as if they were vindicated, that automatically America has somehow rejected them or rejected their values.  I don’t think they feel that way.

I think that they have, in part through osmosis, in part through dinnertime conversations, appreciated the fact that this is a big, complicated country, and democracy is messy and it doesn’t always work exactly the way you might want, it doesn’t guarantee certain outcomes.  But if you’re engaged and you’re involved, then there are a lot more good people than bad in this country, and there’s a core decency to this country, and that they got to be a part of lifting that up.

And I expect they will be.  And in that sense, they are representative of this generation that makes me really optimistic.

I’ve been asked — I’ve had some off-the-record conversations with some journalists where they said, okay, you seem like you’re okay, but really, really, what are you thinking?  (Laughter.)  And I’ve said, no, what I’m saying really is what I think.  I believe in this country.  I believe in the American people.  I believe that people are more good than bad.  I believe tragic things happen, I think there’s evil in the world, but I think that at the end of the day, if we work hard, and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.

That’s what this presidency has tried to be about.  And I see that in the young people I’ve worked with.  I couldn’t be prouder of them.  And so this is not just a matter of “No Drama Obama” — this is what I really believe.  It is true that behind closed doors I curse more than I do publicly.  (Laughter.)  And sometimes I get mad and frustrated, like everybody else does.   But at my core, I think we’re going to be okay.  We just have to fight for it.  We have to work for it, and not take it for granted.  And I know that you will help us do that.

Thank you very much, press corps.  Good luck.

END
3:23 P.M. EST

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 17, 2017: President Barack Obama & Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s Remarks at Final Press Briefing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 1/17/17

Source: WH, 1-17-17

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:15 P.M. EST

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I don’t actually have any announcements at the top, but —

Q    Thank you.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  But because today marks my last briefing, I hope you’ll indulge me a couple of personal thoughts before I go to your questions.

As I prepared to stand here at this podium for the last time, I thought a lot about the first time.  It was 16 years ago this week.  It was January, 2001.  I had just moved to Washington, D.C., and I got on a West Wing tour with a friend of a friend.  We walked through the halls of the West Wing on that tour.  We saw tired White House staffers lugging boxes of their personal belongings out of the building, much the way that people who are on West Wing tours today see.  And on the tour, I smiled for a photo that a friend took of me standing behind this very podium.

I had been in D.C. for a grand total of two weeks.  I had no contacts.  I had no job prospects.  I had no relevant Washington experience.  I was sleeping on the floor of a college buddy’s apartment that had a spare bedroom — and by spare, I don’t just mean it was an extra bedroom; it was an empty bedroom containing only the items that I had managed to load into my car when I moved here from Texas.

So it’s fair to say that there weren’t too many other people on the tour that night who thought I would stand here in front of you as something other than a tourist.  So it’s been an extraordinary journey, and this has been an extraordinary chapter.

This is the 354th White House daily briefing that I have led as the Press Secretary — Mark can check me on that number.  (Laughter.)  Not every briefing started exactly on time.  (Laughter.)  There might have been a briefing or two that went a little longer than you would have preferred.  But you had to admit there was a lot to discuss.  We had plenty of shameless plugs for the Kansas City Royals to squeeze in.  (Laughter.)  There was, of course, the Freedom Caucus’s infamous Tortilla Coast gambit.  There was Congressman Steve Scalise who reportedly compared himself favorably to David Duke.  There was the reintroduction of the word “snafu” into the political lexicon as we were working to pass TPA.

We discussed at length the various ways you can catch Zika, the various ways you can catch Ebola, and the various reasons scientists recommend you vaccinate your kids so that you don’t catch the measles.  Jon Stewart lit me up as I struggled to explain to Jon Karl why a couple of our political ambassadors for some reason had no idea what they were doing.  (Laughter.)  At least the Stewart segment made some of my friends laugh.

President-elect Trump, of course, took advantage of the opportunity to light me up as a “foolish guy” who makes even the good news sound bad.  (Laughter.)  And I have to admit that even that one made me laugh.  (Laughter.)

But it wasn’t always fun and games around here.  There was the time that I tangled with Senator Schumer about DHS funding for New York City, and the time that I tangled with Senator Schumer over the Iran deal — (laughter) — and the time that I tangled with Senator Schumer over the JASTA legislation,  and the time I tangled with Senator Schumer over the wisdom of passing Obamacare, and the time I tangled with Senator Schumer over Trade Promotion Authority legislation.  And to think, we actually spent most of the last two and a half years complaining about how unreasonable Republicans in Congress are.  (Laughter.)

The daily briefing, of course, is the most high-profile part of the press secretary’s job, but it’s not the only part that matters.  The more important part, in many ways, is working with all of you and ensuring the freedom of the press that keeps this democracy vital.

When I first entered this role, I worked closely with the White House Travel Office and the Department of Defense to reform the billing process for your flights on military aircraft, including Air Force One, making those bills more transparent and smaller.  In the last two and a half years, we’ve cajoled governments in China, Ethiopia, and Cuba to host news conferences on their soil, allowing the leaders of those countries and their citizens to see firsthand what it means for independent journalists to hold those in power accountable.

Of course, it was the end-of-the-year news conference that the President convened in this room in 2014 that got as much attention as any other because President Obama called on eight journalists, all women.

And finally, everything about this final week makes me think of all the incredible people whom I’ve been blessed to work with these past eight years.  I only have this opportunity because Robert Gibbs pulled me aside on Election Night 2008 in Chicago as the returns were coming in to tell me that he wanted me to come work with him at the White House.  I’m only here because Jay Carney, Jennifer Palmieri and Dan Pfeiffer supported and encouraged me when I was the deputy, and advocated for me when Jay stepped down.

I’ve also benefitted from a kitchen cabinet of senior White House officials, who’ve got a lot of other important responsibilities that are part of their formal job description, but stepped in to help me out every time I asked for it.  And that’s people like Denis McDonough and Susan Rice and Jennifer Psaki, Liz Allen, Jesse Lee, Cody Keenan, and, of course, Ben Rhodes.  And I’ve only been able to do this job because I have an incredible team around me.

My assistants over the years, Jeff Tiller, Antoinette Rangel, and now Desiree Barnes all patiently supported a guy who, let’s face it, sometimes isn’t so easy to assist.  The White House stenographers — Dominique Dansky Bari, Beck Dorey-Stein, Amy Sands, Mike McCormick, Caitlin Young, and their tireless leader, Peggy Suntum — they work as hard as anybody at the White House and complain about it less than anybody at the White House.  (Applause.)

Applause is appropriate at that point.  (Applause.)  I think the only team that may contend with them might be the research department here at the White House that’s led by Alex Platkin and Kristen Bartoloni.  But I hope you’ll get a chance over the course of the next week to thank the stenographers for their important work, because I know they make your lives a lot easier, too.

The same goes for Peter Velz, Brian Gabriel and Sarah Rutherford, who are stretched as thin, and who are at least as effective as any team of press wranglers we’ve ever had here at the White House.  My colleagues at the NSC, including Ned Price, Emily Horne, Mark Stroh, Carl Woog, and Dew Tiantawach patiently explained to me things that I didn’t know so that I could, in turn, explain them to you.

My team in lower press — Patrick Rodenbush, Katie Hill and Brandi Hoffine — is as talented and as dedicated as any press team in this town.  I begged Brandi to join this team when I first got this job, and her performance has far exceeded the sky-high recommendations I got from people all over town after I interviewed her.  They are all — Katie, Brandi and Patrick — as they say, going places.

Eric Schultz is simply the best deputy that anyone in any field could ask for.  He shows up early, he stays late.  He’s deft — that’s an inside joke.  (Laughter.)  He’s always prepared.  He’s unfailingly loyal.  His judgment is sought after throughout the halls of the White House, not just by me, but by various members of the senior staff and I’m sure will be sought after in his bright post-White House future, too.  Including by me.

When you’re President of the United States and widely regarded as among the most thoughtful and eloquent speakers on the planet, it must be hard to watch someone go on TV and speak for you.  I suspect that’s why, when the President offered me this job, he said he wouldn’t watch my briefings.  (Laughter.) But I know that he saw parts of them on those very rare occasions that he watched cable TV.  And he never second-guessed me.  Not once.  He didn’t just give me the opportunity of a lifetime, he had my back every single day.  And I’m grateful for it.

But there is one person who contributed to my success more than anyone else, and she doesn’t even work at the White House.  My wife, Natalie, was six months pregnant with our first child when I got this job.  She was home with the air-conditioning repairman when the President of the United States called me into the Oval Office to offer me the job.  When I got back to my desk, I saw that I had several missed calls on my cellphone from her.  I quickly called her back.  I told her that I was sorry that I missed her calls, but that I had the best possible excuse for missing them.

Since then she has extended to me more support and understanding than I could ever ask for, even as she was becoming the best mom any two-year-old kid could hope for.  When I missed the mark up here, she didn’t hesitate to tell me about it.  And when I got it right the next day, it was usually because I followed her advice.

So, thank you, sweetheart, for your patience, your loyalty, your counsel, and your love.  Without it, I would not be standing here.  And I will never be able to make it up to you, but I look forward to spending some more time with you and Walker so I can give it a shot.

Serving as the White House Press Secretary under President Obama has been an incredible honor.  I’ve had the opportunity to advocate for his vision of the country, the same vision that deeply resonated with me when I signed up to work for him in Iowa in March 2007.

And while those of us who have been fortunate enough to serve him here will go on to make a difference in new ways, I take heart in knowing that all of you will still be here.  I draw confidence in knowing that you are driven by the same spirit that prompted those young kids that I mentioned at the top of my briefing a couple of weeks ago to move to an Iowa town that they’d never heard of to organize support for the Obama campaign.

You have the same determination as the young people who are moving to Washington, D.C. today, with no job, with no contacts and no prospects, who are hoping to work in the Trump administration.  You’re motivated in the same way as the career civil servants, like the one as the Department of Education, who’s trying to stretch her agency’s budget to ensure as many Hispanic kids as possible can get a decent education.  You have so much in common with these people because each of you and what you do every day is critical to the success of our democracy.

There will be days when you’ll show up to work tired.  I know the same was true of those Obama organizers in Iowa.  There will be days where you will feel disrespected.  And I know many of the young Republican staffers who move to Washington looking for a job will feel that way at times.  It’s hard to pound the pavement in this town when you don’t know anybody.  There will be days where you will wonder if what you’re doing even makes a difference.  And I know that our civil servants sometimes wonder the same thing.

But I assure you, if you — the most talented, experienced, effective press corps in the world — didn’t play your part in our democracy, we would all notice.  Your passion for your work and its centrality to the success of our democracy is a uniquely American feature of our government.  It’s made President Obama a better President and a better public servant.  And it’s because you persevere and you never go easy on us.

So even though it’s my last day, you better not let up now.  So in that spirit, let me say for the last time standing up here — Josh, you want to get us started with questions.

Q    Sure.  Thanks, Josh.  Oh!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not interrupting because he was saying nice things about you guys — (laughter) — because I largely concur.

When I first met Josh Earnest, he was in Iowa.  I think he was wearing jeans.  He looked even younger than he was.  And since my entire campaign depended on communications in Iowa, I gave him a pretty good once-over.  And there are a couple things I learned about him right away.  Number one, he’s just got that all-American, matinee, good-looking thing going.  (Laughter.)  That’s helpful.  Let’s face it — a face made for television.  Then the guy’s name is Josh Earnest — (laughter) — which if somebody is speaking on your behalf is a pretty good name to have.  (Laughter.)

But what struck me most, in addition to his smarts and his maturity and his actual interest in the issues, was his integrity.  There are people you meet who you have a pretty good inkling right off the bat are straight-shooters and were raised to be fundamentally honest and to treat people with respect.  And there are times when that first impression turns out to be wrong, and you’re a little disappointed.  And you see behind the curtain that there’s spin and some hype and posturing going on.  But then there’s others who, the longer you know them, the better you know them, the more time you spend with them, the more you’re tested under tough situations, the more that initial impression is confirmed.

And I have now known this guy for 10 years, almost, and I’ve watched him grow and I’ve watched him advance, and I’ve watched him marry, and I’ve watched him be a father, and I’ve watched him manage younger people coming up behind him.  And he’s never disappointed.  He has always been the guy you wanted him to be.

And I think that if you’re the President of the United States and you find out that this is the guy who has been voted the most popular Press Secretary ever by the White House Press Corps, that may make you a little nervous, thinking well, maybe the guy’s going — being too solicitous towards the press.  But the fact is, is that he was worthy of that admiration.

He was tough, and he didn’t always give you guys everything you wanted.  But he was always prepared.  He was always courteous.  He always tried to make sure he could share with you as much of our thinking and our policy and our vision as possible, and tried to be as responsive as possible.  And that’s how he trained the rest of his team to be.

So, of the folks that I’ve had the great joy and pleasure of working with over the last 10 years on this incredible journey, this guy ranks as high as just about anybody I’ve worked with.  He is not only a great Press Secretary, but more importantly, he is a really, really good man.  And I’m really, really proud of him.

So, Josh, congratulations.  (Applause.)

And, Natalie and Walker, thanks for putting up with all of this — because they’ve made sacrifices, too.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, sir.

Q    Before you go, respond to Vladimir Putin?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to be here (laughter) —

 

Q    Where are you going on Friday?  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that was awfully generous.  So the President will be back tomorrow.  He’ll be standing here and he’ll be answering your questions.  Today you’re going to settle for me.

So, Josh, you want to get us started?

Q    Sure.  Thanks, Josh, and I want to thank you and your team for your hard work and service in your roles.  We’ve all tussled aggressively with you over the last many years, but that was as it should be, and you all have continued to always engage with us and we appreciate that.

Following up on the question that was just asked, have the Obamas decided where they will be heading when they board the Presidential aircraft for the final time on Friday?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  Josh, I can tell you that the First Family is looking forward to flying to Palms Spring, California on Friday.  The President vowed to take his family to a destination that is warmer than Washington, D.C. on Friday, and Palm Springs fits the bill.  This is a community that the President has visited on a number of occasions as President of the United States.  He and his family have enjoyed the time they have spent there in the past and they’re looking forward to traveling there on Friday.

Q    And President Putin today was accusing the Obama administration of spreading false information about the President-elect in an attempt to delegitimize his presidency and said that those in this administration who did that were worse than prostitutes.  Does the Obama administration have any comment on that?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s an interesting metaphor that he chose there.  Listen, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, the men and women of the United States intelligence community are patriots.  They are experts in their field.  They do their work not because of the glory associated with it — because most of the time they have to keep their names secret.  They don’t do it for the big pay — because in many situations they could make a whole lot more money in the private sector.  They do their important work to keep our country safe because they love this country, and they have served us incredibly well in keeping us safe.

They have served President Obama enormously well.  And this is not the first time that the intelligence community has had some uncomfortable things to say about Russia.  These are the kinds of the things that I’m sure the Russians would rather not hear.  But ultimately — and this is something that the next administration is going to have to decide — there’s a pretty stark divide here.

On one side, you’ve got the men and women of the United States intelligence community.  You’ve got Democrats in Congress — you’ve got Republicans in Congress — who are concerned, deeply, about the way that the Russian apparatus sought to call into question the legitimacy and stability of our democracy.  On the other side, you’ve got Wikileaks and the Russians.  And the incoming administration is going to have to decide which side they’re going to come down on.  And it will be among the very interesting things that all of you will be closely watching in the next week.

Q    I was wondering as you were reflecting over the last eight years whether you can identify the greatest achievement that you felt you were able to accomplish, and also the biggest regret that you have as you’re leaving this part of your life.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think there are two things that come to mind.  The first is that, over the course of the eight years that I’ve worked here in the White House, the President’s communication team walked in this building at a time of dramatic change in the media environment, in the news business, thanks largely to advancements in technology, and updating and modernizing and capitalizing on those new opportunities was an important part of President Obama’s success in the White House.

I cite this example because I think it’s a good one as you all consider the relationship that you’re going to build with the incoming administration.  It’s a good example because some of the things that we’ve heard from the incoming administration has raised some concerns, at least based on what I’ve read publically.

Some of the things that we tried to do — capitalizing on new technology, breaking news on Twitter, having the President film videos that we released on Facebook, having the President engage in conversations that were released to the public with people who aren’t journalists but people who have a strong following nonetheless, whether that’s somebody like Marc Maron or any of the YouTube personalities that President Obama has an opportunity to visit with.  Bear Grylls would fit in this category — all of that was disconcerting to people in this room and was the source of some friction between our operations.  But those changes were beneficial to the American people, and to this President, and to this White House.  Because in a changing environment, we need to capitalize on every available opportunity to make sure that the President’s voice and his message is heard, and those were good opportunities to do that.

So my hope is that, as you all navigate this new relationship, that you’ll protect the things that are worth protecting — protecting this daily briefing, and the regular exchange that senior officials have at the White House with all of you to answer tough questions, to be held accountable, to respond for calls for greater transparency.

It’s uncomfortable to be in a position of authority, certainly a position of responsibility, and to be subjected to those kinds of questions.  That’s true even when you’re doing the right thing for the right reasons.  But it’s a necessary part of our democracy.  And so my hope is that the essence of this relationship between the White House Press Corps and the White House Press Office will be preserved and it will be maintained for future generations to benefit from.

But there also was a good reason not just to — there’s also a good reason to not just raise objections because proposed changes depart from the way we’ve been doing things for a long time.  The fact that we’ve been doing something the same way for a long time is not, in and of itself, a good reason to keep doing things the same way.

So this is going to require a lot of hard work, probably going to require building some trust.  But I’m optimistic that the White House Press Corps and the White House Press Office can continue to adapt to the modern environment even as some of the basics and this important principle continues to be protected.  And I feel like we’ve navigated that pretty well, and that certainly was an important part of my responsibilities here, both in my first five and half years as the Deputy White House Press Secretary and certainly in the last two-and-a-half as the Press Secretary.

And with regard to things that I could have done better, you can probably point to an exchange in every briefing transcript and find a place where I could have said it more cleanly or more effectively or more clearly, so I’m sure there are many of them.

The one example that always comes to mind when I’m asked about this is in early September, the first week in September of 2015, we were in the midst of negotiating — or working with Congress to protect the Iran deal.  You’ll recall that there was an opportunity for Congress to vote to pass a resolution of disapproval of the agreement, and we were working hard to build a veto-proof minority in Congress to protect the President’s veto of that resolution of disapproval.  And quickly, our attention turned to actually building a substantial support in the Senate to allow that agreement to survive a filibuster.

And I inadvertently announced Senator Warner’s support for the Iran deal before he has announced it.  So our leg staff wasn’t too happy with me.  Senator Warner wasn’t too happy with me.  But when I called Senator Warner shortly after the briefing to apologize, I explained to him that it was an honest mistake, and I avoided, with one exception, doing briefings after a red-eye flight, which I suspect contributed to that error back in September of 2015.

But the one thing that I do feel good about, and the thing that I’m proud of, and this is a lot — a lot of credit goes to some of the people that I mentioned at the beginning — I always felt well-prepared when I was standing up here, and I always felt prepared to tell the truth and to give you as clear a sense as possible the President’s thinking on a particular issue.  And in some ways, that’s the most important mandate of the person that’s standing up here.  And I’m proud of the way that we fulfilled that.

Q    Thanks, Josh.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Jeff.

Q    Josh, first of all, on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, we want to thank you for your commitment to regular briefings with us.  We haven’t always agreed on everything, and there has always been some tension, which is normal between a White House and the press corps that covers it, but we are grateful to you and your team for working with the Correspondents Association and for your commitment to dealing with us on a daily basis.  So, thank you.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    That hat off, I would ask you a question today about Iran.

MR. EARNEST:  Okay.

Q    The Iranian President said today that President-elect Trump cannot unilaterally cancel the nuclear deal and has said it was meaningless what the President-elect has said about that.  Has the Obama administration offered any assurances to the Iranian government about that?  And, logistically, is it true, or is it not true, that President-elect Trump could, in fact, nullify the deal?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are not any — you’ve heard the President say this on a number of occasions — there are not any assurances that this administration has made to foreign leaders about what the incoming administration would do.  The incoming President will determine what he believes is the best course for the country, and he’ll make that decision accordingly.

With regard to the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, this is not just an agreement between the United States and Iran.  This is an agreement between Iran and some of our closest allies, and some countries with whom we don’t regularly get along on every issue but serve on the United Nations Security Council, and all of those other countries are committed to this agreement because it does prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

You’ll recall that this was one of the foremost foreign policy challenges facing this President when he took office.  The world was deeply concerned about the rapid progress that Iran was making toward building a nuclear bomb.  And that progress was halted and rolled back because of the tough, principled diplomacy that we initiated and implemented over years to reach this point.

And, in fact, just yesterday, the General Director of the IAEA, Mr. Amano, issued a statement, and I’m just going to read a couple sentences.  “Iran has removed excess centrifuges and infrastructure from the Fordow fuel enrichment plant, in line with its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”  That’s the international agreement.

The JCPOA required Iran, within one year from implementation day, to complete the removal of all excess centrifuges and infrastructure from the Fordow fuel enrichment plant and to transfer them to storage at the Natanz fuel enrichment plant, under continuous Agency monitoring.  That’s a remarkable step.  You will recall the dramatic moment in September of 2009 when President Obama, with other world leaders, announced to the world this secret nuclear facility that Iran had constructed and was using to advance toward a nuclear weapon.

So this is an agreement that’s worked.  It’s an agreement that’s going to require conscientious implementation; it’s going to require continued diplomacy.  We’re going to need to work with the rest of the international community to make sure that Iran is adhering to the commitments that they’ve made.  But after doing that for a year, we’ve gotten proof of concept.  This has worked.

And as the incoming President considers the best path forward, we’re hopeful, and even optimistic, that he’ll consider the success of the last year as he designs a policy for the years ahead.

Q    The President has made a slew of appointments this week in his last few days in office to places like the Kennedy Center Honors — the Kennedy Center Board, and others.  Why is this happening now?  And do you have any ethical concerns about doing this sort of on the way out?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t.  I think the list of people that the President has put forward for these important positions speaks for themselves.  These are outstanding members of the community, some of whom have served this President and this White House, and have done so with extraordinary distinction.  And these are new and different ways for them to serve that appeal to their own personal interests.  So I think this is — I know this is entirely consistent with what previous Presidents have done.  This is entirely consistent with the executive authority that’s vested in the White House.  And President Obama is executing that authority consistent with the best interests of the American people.

Q    Lastly, do you have any reaction to British Prime Minister May’s announcement today that Britain will exit the single market when it leaves the European Union?

MR. EARNEST:  Jeff, what we’ve been saying from the beginning is that the United States was going to be encouraging both the leaders of the EU and the leaders in the UK to work effectively together to design a relationship among these critically important American allies.  And we’ve urged them to engage in that process in a way that is as transparent as possible to prevent any sort of economic disruptions from misunderstandings or from surprises.  And both sides have worked to do that.

But ultimately, it’s going to be up to them to design a relationship that is supported by their constituents.  That certainly is going to make these kinds of conversations more complicated.  But this reflects the will of the people as the British people voted in a referendum last summer.  And there’s a lot of hard work that their elected representatives need to do to design a relationship with the EU that serves them best.  And it’s firmly in the interest of the United States for them to do that effectively, and we certainly have supported them as they’ve done that over the last several months, and I anticipate the incoming administration will do the same.

Olivier.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Just two for you.  Piggybacking on Jeff’s question, one of the posts you guys announced is an ambassadorial nominee to the Republic of Congo.  I can’t imagine you think that is going to get confirmed.  What’s the rationale behind that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Olivier, I think it’s a couple of things.  The first is, you never know.  Second is — so you’re saying there’s a chance?  (Laughter.)  That’s a fun movie.  I probably should have spent more time quoting from “Dumb and Dumber.”  (Laughter.)  I guess that would have been a regret of my two-and-a-half-year tenure here.

I think the other thing, in some cases, this is also sending a clear signal to Congress about who are people who are qualified for these jobs.  And so this can send a clear signal both in terms of their career trajectory, even if they’re not confirmed for these positions, but that the President has got a lot of confidence in their ability to handle significant responsibilities.  And so even if they are not confirmed for the position that they’ve been nominated for, there may be future opportunities in a similar area where they could continue to serve the United States.

But we’ve obviously talked a lot about how there are many deserving, worthy, talented Americans who have been put forward by this administration and who have been treated in breathtakingly unfair ways by Republicans in Congress.  And that is a source of deep disappointment that we continue to feel even in our last days in office here.

Q    And the second one — on this President’s watch, North Korea has moved ahead with its missile program and its nuclear program.  Does that weigh on the President’s mind?  Has he discussed it with the President-elect?

MR. EARNEST:  I have refrained from getting into the content of the conversations between the two men.  What I can say is I know that the President’s National Security Council and his national security team has been engaged with the incoming President’s team on a range of issues, including on North Korea.  So I am confident that this challenge is on the radar screen of the incoming President and his team.

With regard to President Obama’s work in this area, we have not made as much progress as we would have liked in halting North Korea’s nuclear activities that are in violation of a range of international agreements.  What we have succeeded in doing, however, is building a rock-solid international consensus, including with countries like Russia and China, about the need to apply further pressure to North Korea to refrain from those kinds of destabilizing, provocative actions.  And that’s an important step and will serve the incoming administration well as they work on this challenge.

What President Obama has also done is work closely with the civilian and uniformed leadership at the Department of Defense to ensure that our defense posture in the Asia Pacific is able to protect the American people from this threat.  So that has involved the deployment of additional ships with anti-ballistic missile capabilities.  It has involved the construction of sensitive and sophisticated radar that can be used in conjunction with those systems to protect the American people.  And we’ve worked closely with allies like Japan and South Korea to construct those defenses.

So the American people, because of the decisions that have been made by the Commander-in-Chief, are safe from North Korea’s current capabilities.  But we continue to be concerned about their actions, and we’re going to need to work effectively with the international community to address that situation.

Paul.

Q    Josh, thanks for your efforts these last few years, first of all —

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    This is sort of a history question.  When historians look at Presidents, they often cite, well, they did X, Y and Z.  But it’s also fair to look at perhaps mistakes, quagmires that Presidents avoided getting into.  What did the President sort of avoid, in your judgment, that might have done a lot of harm?

MR. EARNEST:  Look, well, certainly, as you know, with regard to our efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, the President has been mindful of the recent lessons of U.S. military entanglements in the Middle East.  And the President does not believe that our interests were advanced by the strategy that was employed by the previous administration, and, in fact, he ran for this job in part on his opposition to some of the strategies that had been put in place before.

And the President does believe that the strategy that we’ve put in place against ISIL is working.  We’ve made important progress in rolling back more than half the territory that ISIL previously controlled in Iraq.  We’ve rolled back a substantial quantity of territory that they previously controlled in Syria.  And we did that without a large-scale offensive ground combat operation involving American troops on the ground.

What we have done is we have — the President has dispatched a much smaller number of U.S. forces, some of whom are in a very — working in a very dangerous situation, to offer advice and assistance to local forces and regional forces that are fighting for their own region, and fighting for their own country.

And that is a strategy that the President believes is much more likely to lead to long-term success.  It’s going to build the capacity of these local forces to police their own country and secure their own country.

Those forces are, of course, augmented by U.S. forces with a range of capabilities — whether that’s U.S. military pilots who can take strikes on ISIL targets or other extremist targets in that region of the world.  There are U.S. forces with remarkable capabilities that can carry out raids against high-value targets and can capitalize on troves of intelligence that they may be able to acquire.  And it also involves U.S. trainers who are building up the capacity of those forces — other forces, local forces — and then supporting them, advising them, and assisting them on the battlefield.

So that’s the strategy that President Obama has put in place.  He believes that has served the country well, both because of how it has been effective in taking the fight to ISIL, and because of the likely long-term success that the President believes that we are on track to enjoy.  And all that was done without the kind of large-scale ground combat operation that characterized previous entanglements in the Middle East.

Q    So the footnotes answer is you avoid a foreign quagmire, is what you’re saying.

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I think that’s true — even as we engage in a robust defense of the American people.  That’s what has to come first.  And, in fact, the President believes that our national security does benefit from a strategy that avoids quagmires, but does apply intense pressure to those extremist organizations that would do us harm.  That’s the crux of the strategy, and it’s worked.

Q    The second question is, if you look at, say, Gallup polling for every President from Truman up to your boss, he is leaving with actually the fourth highest approval of all of them.  John F. Kennedy is exempted.  Clinton, then Reagan, then Eisenhower with 59 — and then your boss.  And he’s ahead of everybody else.  How does that — does that strike you as about — how do you react to that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that obviously I think is — I know that President Obama is proud of that and I think it is an indication of — certainly of the success that we’ve had in just the last couple of years.

Q    I mean, his critics say, well, he doesn’t deserve that.  Others say — you know how it is.  People say it’s —

MR. EARNEST:  Look, there will be people on both sides who will do their own analysis of the polls.  Look, it’s not just the Gallup Poll that indicates the uniquely high standing that’s enjoyed by the President right now.  So we’re obviously proud of that.  I do think it’s a testament to a lot of work that we’ve done here over the last 12 to 18 months.  But it’s also a reflection of the kind of early investments that President Obama made in the first couple of years of his presidency that have taken root and are now flowering — at the risk of torturing that analogy.

There are remarkable benefits that — just one example. President Obama, in his first couple of months in office, made a politically unpopular decision to rescue the American auto industry.  That was a decision — a policy decision that did not poll well in the state of Michigan, a state that had more to benefit from that rescue than any other state in the country when it comes to their economy.  But since the President made that important decision, the manufacturing sector has created 800,000 jobs.  And the American auto industry is manufacturing and selling as many cars as they ever have.

So that’s I think a good example of how a tough decision that the President made early on was not one that was going to show immediate benefits, butb looking back, eight years later, it was clearly the right decision.  And the fact that it wasn’t politically popular at the time, I think only gives people more confidence that the President was making the right decisions for the right reasons.

Michelle.

Q    Josh, we’ve heard one member of Congress call Donald Trump not a legitimate President.  Now the number of Democrats who aren’t attending the inauguration is up over 40, and they’re sort of framing this as a boycott.  What do you think of those words and actions?  And is this just contributing to the division right now?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t think it’s contributing to the division, but I do think it’s a reflection of the division in the country right now.

To be clear about the President’s point of view, since the day after the election, some eight hours after the final results were called, President Obama spoke in the Rose Garden and he spoke forcefully, with conviction, about the determination that he and his team would show in trying to facilitate a smooth and effective transition with the incoming team.  And we’ve lived up to that promise that the President made on November 9th.  And in many ways, I think actions speak louder than words, particularly with regard to the way this administration has worked closely with the incoming administration to ensure — or at least give them the best opportunity at a running start.

But all of that was rooted in the institutional responsibilities that the President and his team have to serve the American people, is to make sure that the person that they’ve elected President of the United States has an opportunity to succeed and hit the ground running.  And we have been challenged to do that in spite of our in some cases profound concerns with some of the rhetoric and policy positions that are being articulated by the other side.

So I think most of this, Michelle, is just a function of the different roles.  Members of Congress have a different responsibility.  They are freer to express their opinion in a way that they chose.  They don’t have the same kind of institutional responsibility that the administration has.  And I’m proud of the fact that we’ve fulfilled it.

Q    You’re saying that the administration would say similar things and do similar things if they could?

MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t speculate on what people around here would say.  I think I’m just pointing to what we have done.  And that’s a reflection of keeping the President’s promise.

Q    You’ve spoken a lot about the efforts, like the strong efforts that the administration has put out for this smooth transition.  So do you think that these — do you think it’s important what these — some of these Democrats are saying and doing?  Do you think it’s important for that to be said at this point?  Or do you think that what they’re doing is just sort of harming the smooth transition?

MR. EARNEST:  Look, I don’t think that what they’re doing is harming the smooth transition, primarily because when we’re talking about a smooth transition, we’re talking about making sure that the incoming administration is aware of what we’ve been doing over the last eight years and of the looming decisions that they’ll have to make when they enter office.  We want to make sure that they can benefit from all of the lessons that we’ve learned over the last eight years about building and running an effective team that’s in charge of the federal government.

Those are the kinds of things that are critical to a smooth and effective transition, and I don’t think that there’s anything that members of Congress have said that’s going to derail that effort.

Q    Okay.  And there’s been plenty that has been said about certain posts that will possibly be open for a long time, certain structures just not seeming ready at all.  I mean, we hear things on our end about concerns within the administration as to the next administration’s readiness.  So you’ve had a unique look at that smooth transition that you mentioned.  Do you think that there’s readiness there?  I mean, do you feel confident that the next administration is ready to pick up the reins?

MR. EARNEST:  I certainly am not in a position to be able to assess across the board what the level of readiness is of the incoming team.  I’ll let them describe what efforts they have taken to ensure that they’re ready to assume this awesome responsibility.  And we certainly have tried to be there at every turn as they’re making those decisions to support them and to give them the best possible information so that they can make the best possible decision.  But when it comes to assessing where things stand, I’ll leave that to the incoming team.

Q    And do you feel like this is the last briefing of this kind that we might see for a very long time?

MR. EARNEST:  I hope not, but I don’t know.  I’ll let the incoming team speak to that.

Justin.

Q    The President-elect said on Friday that U.S. companies can’t compete because our currency was too strong and that that was “killing us.”  I’m wondering if that’s a concern that the White House shares.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we have, over the last eight years, abided by the longstanding tradition of allowing the United States Secretary of the Treasury to speak about the value of the dollar.  Of course, those policy decisions when it relates to currency are made by the Federal Reserve, so that’s not something I’ve spoken on at great length here.

I did happen to see the President-elect’s comments.  I believe there is one factual point that is worth referencing, which is that we have seen with regard to China’s currency that it is appreciating in value over the last 18 months.  That’s just a fact.  With regard to what sort of policy they’ve implemented to do that or what their aim may be, I’d refer you to the Chinese.  I wouldn’t speculate on that.  But just as a factual matter, the Chinese currency has appreciated over the last year to 18 months.

Q    Are you concerned that an aide to the President-elect reportedly was in discussions about joint investments — (inaudible)

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t seen those specific reports.  I think what I can say is that given the intelligence community’s conclusion about the efforts of the Russians to intervene in our democracy, questions about the ties between senior government officials and the Russian government are worthy of careful examination.

And that will obviously be the responsibility of Congress, and it may end up being the responsibility of some law enforcement officials if they choose to initiate those kinds of investigations.  If they choose to do that, that would be a decision that they would make entirely on their own based on their own discretion and not something that this administration would try to influence even in our last few days here.

But there are structures in place where people have the authority that they need to conduct those kinds of investigations.  And with regard to Congress, they’ll face a decision about whether or not they choose to exercise that authority.  And with regard to law enforcement officials, they’ll have to decide on their own if this is worthy of an inquiry.

Q    Last one.  Your friend, Senator Schumer — (laughter)  — suggested —

MR. EARNEST:  I’m really hoping that he accepted that opening in the spirit in which it was offered.  We’ll see, I guess.  (Laughter.)

Q    — suggested today that Representative Price might have broken the law on this stock transaction of a medical device — and he later introduced legislation that could have governed.  Acknowledging what you said before that the President-elect should have some flexibility to pick his own team, do you find this report to be disqualifying for the President-elect’s choice as head of HHS?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think this report is indicative of a couple of things.  The first is, given the incoming administration’s priority that is placed on draining the swamp, I think they have the unique obligation to explain exactly what happened.  Because the facts of the report don’t appear to be that complicated — you have a member of Congress buying a stock in a company, and within a week sponsoring legislation that would benefit that company and its stock price, only to see the introduction of that legislation followed shortly thereafter by a political donation from that company to the campaign account of the member of Congress in question.

So this doesn’t seem like a complicated scheme.  It seems like exactly the kind of financial entanglement that’s left a lot of people feeling alienated from Washington, D.C., that’s left a lot of people questioning the motives of members of Congress.  Was he sponsoring that legislation because of his own personal motive — personal financial interest?  Was he sponsoring that legislation because he knew it was likely to lead to a political contribution?  Or was he sponsoring that bill because he thought it was good policy?  It’s hard to know.  It’s an open question.

So this is why Congress has a responsibility to offer advice and consent for the President’s Cabinet nominations.  And I suspect this is going to be an issue that’s going to receive careful scrutiny — hopefully not just on the part of Democrats, but also on the part of Republicans who are interested in making sure that the incoming President’s Cabinet nominees are looking to do the job for the right reasons.

Jon.

Q    So are you suggesting he may have broken the law?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m saying that I don’t know whether or not

— I certainly can’t make a statement that definitive.  If law enforcement officials choose to investigate the situation, that’s something that they will do based on their own knowledge of the law and based on their own discretion.  I think I’m just commenting on the fact that reports do raise a lot of questions. And again, this isn’t some sort of complicated financial scheme. We don’t need to have Michael Lewis explain it to us in a 300-page book.  This one seems pretty concerning just based on a couple paragraphs of a news report from CNN.

Q    Okay.  I’ve got a couple questions.  First, I just want to say thank you, Josh, for being accessible during your time here as Press Secretary and Deputy Press Secretary, and thank you for working as hard as you have to answer our questions, including, but not exclusively, those questions that you didn’t like.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  There were more than a few of those.  (Laughter.)  Thank you for your kind words, Jon.  I appreciate it.

Q    Back to the question Josh asked about Vladimir Putin, putting aside the intelligence community.  Putin made a specific allegation, pretty explosive one, coming from another global leader.  He’s accusing the Obama administration of trying to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration.  What’s your response to Vladimir Putin?

MR. EARNEST:  First of all, it sounds like he got his copy of the talking points.  Second —

Q    From whom?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t know.  But it certainly sounds a lot like what the incoming administration’s team is saying.  But it is not the first time that the Russian President has called into question the veracity of the United States government.  Right?

This is a Russian government that recently said that they were focused entirely on ISIL inside of Syria, and raising questions about what the United States and our allies were doing to fight those extremists.  That wasn’t true.  In fact, what we know is that the one place that Russia can point to where they’ve made progress against ISIL is in Palmyra; ISIL has since taken it back and is now using some of the equipment that the Syrian regime, with the support of the Russians, moved to Palmyra.  And that’s going to put the United States and our coalition partners who are going after ISIL at even greater risk.

So it’s not the first time that the President of Russia has said things about the U.S. government that just don’t withstand any scrutiny.

Q    So it’s not true?

MR. EARNEST:  Of course, it’s not true.  And the suggestion — the reason that I answered Josh’s question the way that I did was that the suggestion all along — and this is a suggestion that was repeated just yesterday by the President-elect — was raising doubts about the integrity and intentions of the men and women of the intelligence community.  And that is deeply misguided, as I’ve said before.

And particularly to call into question the integrity of somebody like John Brennan, somebody who has served at the CIA for three decades, somebody who served this country in dangerous locations around the world to try to keep us safe — I’m offended by it.

Q    Josh, on the question of the next administration and its communication strategy, looking back, was there ever any consideration by anybody in this White House of shutting this briefing room down, of taking reporters and moving them out of the West Wing?

MR. EARNEST:  No, there was not.

Q    What would it say, symbolically and practically — what message would it send to the country if this briefing room, if this workspace were shut down and reporters were banished to another part of the White House grounds?

MR. EARNEST:  I lead this in my long comments at the beginning about how the United States has a rather unique arrangement between our government and the independent media.  The fact that all of you represent independent news organizations and have regular access to the White House, have regular access to workspace where you can do your job, have a venue where you can enter the room — the Briefing Room — at almost any hour, and can hold people in power accountable is really important.

You also have access to senior White House officials right through that door.  Right up the ramp outside that door, you can come into my office at a moment’s notice to ask question and demand answers and demand transparency.  And as I mentioned earlier, sometimes that’s a little inconvenient; sometimes it’s uncomfortable; sometimes it’s frustrating because you’re dissatisfied with the answer that was given, but it’s necessary for the success of our democracy.

And I think there are some people who might say, Jon, that, well, this is — it’s just symbolic that you have the White House Press Corps in the White House.  And I would say it’s a really important symbol.  It’s more than just symbolism.  But even taking that argument at face value, there is something symbolically important about all of you gathering here every single day to hold people in power accountable, to demand answers, to demand transparency, to demand facts.  And your ability to do that is going to be affected if you don’t have regular access to the White House, if you’re not able to do your job from the White House, and if there’s not a natural, readily available venue for you to hold senior officials accountable.

So this is, again, a relationship that President Obama believed was important to invest in.  He made this a priority, and it doesn’t mean because he liked all your coverage.

Q    He could have had more press conferences —

MR. EARNEST:  He probably could have.  And again, I think this is exactly a good illustration — you should be asking for more, and you should say that we appreciate President Obama’s investment, but there is more that he could have done.  That’s the nature of this relationship.  And it means that you’re doing your job, but it also means the President of the United States is doing his job.  And I don’t know if the incoming administration is going to see it that way, but I hope they do.

April.

Q    Josh, one of your, I guess, mentees — mentors, Mike McCurry said the press had a friendly, adversarial relationship with the White House.  And with that, understanding your very interesting position between the press and the President, have you taken any kind of advocacy role positives about what you just said to Sean Spicer, the incoming press secretary, or has anyone in this administration talked to the incoming administration about exactly what you just said?

MR. EARNEST:  What I can tell you is, as you know, my colleague, Jen Psaki and I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Spicer in what will soon be his new office a couple of weeks ago.  And we had a nice conversation.  And we talked about everything from the rather peculiar logistics of getting things done around the White House, but also the work to prepare for the briefing and to ensure that government agencies are coordinated in their messaging efforts with the White House.  It was a good conversation.  But one of the pieces of advice that I had for him was to engage with the White House Correspondents Association.

I remember vividly when we started here.  I was the deputy press secretary during President Obama’s earliest days in office.  And we worked very closely at the time with Jennifer Loven, who was an AP correspondent and then was president of the White House’s Correspondents Association.  And she did an excellent job of helping to educate us about what your expectations were and she helped us avoid inadvertent conflicts.  There are certainly situations where we might be tempted to do something that we didn’t think was that big of a deal that you all would view with deep suspicion as an effort to make your job harder.

And so what I encouraged Sean to do is to engage with the gentlemen that all of you have elected to represent you as the President of the White House Correspondents Association.  So Jeff is somebody who knows this place well, and Jeff is somebody who can be an honest broker.  And so he’s got a — Jeff and I actually had this conversation before the election about how valuable our relationship with Jennifer Loven was in 2009, and how his relationship with the incoming administration — whether it was the Clinton administration or the Trump administration — was going to be critically important.

And, look, Jeff knows his stuff and he’s got exactly the right temperament for managing these kinds of things.  And I do think that if Jeff, as your elected representative, and Sean, as the person designated as the top spokesperson in the government by the President-elect, can work effectively together, that I think a lot of the concerns that have been expressed in the last couple of weeks can certainly be managed.

And it doesn’t mean that everything he does is going to be satisfying to you; it shouldn’t be that way.  But I am optimistic that because of Sean’s genuine desire to represent his boss well and Jeff’s leadership in representing all of your interests, that these difficult things can get worked out.

Q    Did you specifically say we should stay in this building, stay here?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not going to get into a detailed readout of our conversation.  So I’m going to defer to him and let him announce what they choose to do.

Q    I have a couple of other questions really fast.  Being here all these years and being with the President since Iowa, meeting him since Iowa, what is the biggest takeaway as people are trying to rewrite his history now and trying to look at his legacy when you’re supposed to look, like, 10 years out?  What’s the biggest takeaway that we should know about this administration, and particularly this President?

MR. EARNEST:  I alluded to this at the top, too.  In 2007, when I first heard President Obama speak as a candidate for President of the United States, I actually wasn’t working for him.  I moved to Iowa in December of 2006 to work on Tom Vilsack’s presidential campaign.  And so I joined President Obama’s team, then-Senator Obama’s team, only a month or so after Governor Vilsack dropped out of the race.

And the reason that I was drawn to Senator Obama’s campaign was simply that he was giving voice to a vision of the country that deeply resonated with me.  He was articulating a vision for America that was inclusive, where everybody got a fair shot and a fair shake, and where we tried to transcend a politics that seemed too small, that it was not well-equipped to take on the difficult challenges that our country faced.  And he was willing to articulate that vision and those set of values, and defend them forcefully.

There was a sense among many Democrats, particularly throughout much of the Bush administration, that Democrats were a little on the back foot in trying to make our argument.  And to see this young and young-looking man, a newcomer on the scene, step up to the stage and almost defiantly articulate a vision of the country where everybody has got a shot, regardless of what you look like or where you come from, that there’s a whole lot more that unites us than drives us apart in this country because of our commitment to some of the basic founding principles of our country — that resonated with me.

And so to answer your question, my takeaway is that for all that we’ve been through, for all that we’ve seen over the last decade, President Obama is as optimistic about the country and as committed to that vision as he has ever been.  And he is as resolute in advocating for and defending those values as he’s ever been.  And I find that genuinely inspiring, at the risk of laying it on a little thick.  I genuinely do.

On those days when I thought it was — when I was tired, knowing that I was going to have to get up early in the morning and prepare to come and speak to all of you, I drew a lot of inspiration from knowing what a unique opportunity it was for me to have the opportunity to stand up here and to give voice to those values that I deeply believe in, and to know that my boss would support me in making that argument forcefully, without reservation, with deep conviction.

It’s been an honor to do that.  But mostly I admire and respect the President’s fidelity to those values even through all the twists and turns of the last 10 years.

Q    And lastly, you talk about laying it on thick.  I guess I want to say thank you for making sure that issues that were not necessarily the mainstream issues — urban America, LGBT community, all sorts of communities out there that were not necessarily at the top of the fold or on the A block of the news — for making sure we have answers for that.  How important is that for this White House to make sure those issues were addressed as well as the overarching issues of the day from the first two rows?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, this is actually a principle that the incoming administration has given some voice to — that I know that Mr. Spicer has indicated a desire to be as inclusive as possible and to give as many different kinds of journalists and outlets and commentators the opportunity to participate in this session.  I think that’s a really good thing.  That’s exactly what we have done.  There’s never been a time that we’ve turned anybody away from participating in this briefing.  People who show up here on a regular basis with their hand in the air, regardless of which row they sit in — they get called on.  Not every day — (laughter.)  In part because it’s not unusual for me to get complaints about the length of the briefing.  But it’s fair to say that people who show up here regularly get called on regularly.

That’s a good thing.  And if that’s something that Mr. Spicer is committed to, and he wants to bring even more people into that process, people from the left and the right, we’ve certainly succeeded in doing that, and I hope he does, too.

Anita.

Q    Thank you.  A couple questions about Friday.  So I know a few of the — several — three former Presidents are going to be in town, and Secretary Clinton, obviously.  Is there any opportunity for the President to visit with the former Presidents there or at the Capitol or at the White House, or does that not happen?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any sort of formal get-together that the President will have with the former Presidents.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an opportunity when they’re at the Capitol for the President to see them, but it would just be pretty informal.  And we’ll do our best to keep you posted about how that shakes out.

Q    — in my colleague’s profile of you, which came out today, that your last day is actually Thursday.  Does that mean most staff — I know some people, it’s staggered that people are leaving, but does most of the staff leave on Thursday if they don’t — aren’t involved in the actual —

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  The vast majority of the White House staff will have their last day here at the White House on Thursday.  There is a small number of people that will continue to work through noon on Friday for the actual transition.

But it’s a pretty remarkable exercise that we’re undergoing here at the White House, and I give a lot of credit to my colleagues at the GSA and other people who are responsible for ensuring that I have an opportunity to work from my desk until 4 or 5 o’clock at night in the evening on Thursday, and they’re going to have that office up and running and prepared for Sean to sit down behind that desk at noon the next day.  So that’s no small undertaking, but it certainly requires that many of us get out of the way on Thursday afternoon so they can do their important work.

Q    You mentioned the President was going to California after the inauguration — or the family is going.  When they return — so they fly aboard the presidential aircraft, which we don’t call Air Force One then.  Does it wait for them, or are they on their own after that — they can take commercial back?

MR. EARNEST:  They’re on their own after that.  I don’t know what their travel plans are, but that will be the President’s final trip aboard the presidential aircraft, so it will be to —

Q    Do you know how long they’re going to be there?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any details about their time in Palm Springs and I don’t anticipate that that will be released.

Margaret.

Q    Josh, you said you didn’t think that boycotting the inauguration was really going to harm the peaceful transition, but is the President actively discouraging Democrats from boycotting, or would he discourage Democrats from boycotting the inauguration?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware that he has had a conversation discouraging people from participating in the inauguration.  And I’m not sure what he would say if he was asked if he would encourage people to do that.  Maybe you’ll get a chance to ask him that tomorrow.

Q    On two things actually, related to Russia.  Ambassador Power gave a speech today talking about U.S.-Russia.  She repeatedly used the phrase, “a willingness to lie” on behalf of Russia and that it’s actually a strategic deny-and-lie strategy they have.  Does President Obama feel that Vladimir Putin consistently lied to him?  I mean, is that how the President would characterize his relationship?

MR. EARNEST:  I think what Ambassador Power is making reference to are the public pronouncements that we’ve seen from the Russian government that routinely fly in the face of the facts on the ground.  I laid out the example to John with the situation in Syrian.  The example of Russian activity in Ukraine also applies.  Russia has steadfastly denied the presence of Russians in Ukraine who are actively working with separatists to try to undermine the central government in Ukraine.

So this is a tactic that we have seen form the Russians with regard to their public communications.  When the President has discussed his personal communications with Vladimir Putin, the President has indicated that President Putin is pretty blunt and businesslike.  And I think there’s only one time that I participated in one of those meetings and that was my observation as well.

Q    You agree he was blunt?

MR. EARNEST:  I would.  I would.

Q    But you would not say that he feels that in those conversations Putin has ever lied?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, I don’t think I can account for all of the conversations between President Obama and President Putin.  I would just say that President Obama has often said that public perception about his behind-the-scenes interactions with President Putin aren’t usually correct, that they do have pretty businesslike interactions and President Putin is pretty blunt in those conversations.

And what Ambassador Power was obviously referring were some of the public communications that we’ve seen from the Russians to say things about their activities that just aren’t true.

Q    There have been reports last week about the Israelis, this week about British intelligence, suggesting that their conversations with the CIA asking for reassurance that known assets in Russia would not be shared by the incoming administration with Moscow.  In other words, asking the U.S. to keep its secrets secret.  Is that something that the White House has been aware of?  Are those reports in any way accurate?  And is that kind of request appropriate?

MR. EARNEST:  I can’t speak to any of the conversations that our intelligence community has had with some of our closest allies.  I’ll let them describe those conversations.

The United States has worked hard to deepen our cooperation with the United Kingdom and the rest of our NATO allies for that matter, certainly as it relates to intelligence gathering.  Our ability to collect that intelligence and share it widely among our partners does make our alliance stronger.  And it makes our collective defense more effective.  But I can’t speak to any specific instructions or requests that the British intelligence services may have made to American intelligence services.

Q    And lastly, you said you wouldn’t characterize the readiness of the incoming administration. Secretary Kerry did publicly suggest that he was — the contact had been minimal with at least the incoming Secretary of State, should he be confirmed.  Would you say that the incoming administration has taken up the Obama administration in all of its offering to fully brief and fully read in the nominees?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Margaret, I think the thing that was evident to all of you in the earliest days of the transition is that the Trump administration had a pretty steep hill to climb with regard to their learning curve.  Is some of that related to the fact that they weren’t anticipating winning the election?  Probably.  But I think what we have seen over that time is conscientious, painstaking work on the part of the incoming administration to try to get up to speed.  And there has been substantial improvement in those efforts since the days immediately following the election.

I obviously can’t speak to all of the conversations across the federal government.  But it’s certainly fair for you to conclude that the capacity and capability of the incoming team has improved markedly since the first days after the election.

Jordan.

Q    Thanks, Josh, for the final time.  I wanted to ask you about a report in The Washington Post yesterday that said the President plans to make several hundred commutations before his final day.  Can you confirm that’s the plan?

MR. EARNEST:  I saw that report.  I don’t have any news to announce from here with regard to any commutations.  But if there are any clemency requests that are granted, we’ll make sure you’re among the first to hear about them.

Q    Yet last week you made an interesting argument about the differences between Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.  Can you at this point rule out that the President will give a pardon to Edward Snowden?

MR. EARNEST:  I can’t rule anything in or out.  I think the one thing that the Department of Justice has said — I’m looking at Brandi, and she’s giving me the poker face.  (Laughter.)  I believe what the Department of Justice has said is that — there you go.  What they have said and what Brandi has told me is that — (laughter) — Mr. Snowden has not filed paperwork to seek clemency from the administration.  But I don’t have any specific comments about whether or not that would impact any sort of presidential-level decision.

Sarah.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  On the note of pardons, the administration has been very proud of its ethical record.  And as we’ve seen in the past, some of these last-minute pardons can kind of trip some people up.  And so will — the clemency initiative, there’s sort of a structure for those.  But with the pardons, will the President issue all his pardons at a point where we’re still able to ask for an explanation about them?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I would say is simply that we’re aware of the history that you’ve alluded to.  The President has been judicious about using this authority in a way that he believes is consistent with American interests and the pursuit of justice.  And if we feel it is ever necessary for us to make that case, we’ll want to make sure that we have ample opportunity to make it.

I think I’ll leave it there.

Q    And can you just offer any more details about the President’s last day, his last hours in office?  Will he still get the presidential daily briefing?  Can you tell us who specifically is actually going to be showing up here on the 20th?

MR. EARNEST:  You mean in terms of staff?

Q    Yes.

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have that in front of me, but we will provide you with some contact information for the morning of the 20th should you need it.

Q    I’m just mean in terms of what he’s doing.  Like is Chief of Staff McDonough going to be here?  NSC Advisor?

MR. EARNEST:  We’ll work to see if we can compile some of those details.  I don’t have a lot of detailed information about that right now, but we’ll see if can get you something in advance of Friday.

Kevin.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  And despite our differences, thank you for being fair.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Kevin.  I appreciate that.

Q    And your staff is great, too, as well.

MR. EARNEST:  I appreciate it.

Q    Regardless of the clemency issue, is it fair to say that the process is still ongoing at this stage?  The review, is that still happening even today?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, this is a process that largely lives at the Department of Justice, and they’ve been very focused on this important work.  They’re working closely with the President’s attorneys here in the White House.  And, yes, it is fair to say that that work continues.

Q    I want to ask specifically about Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, in particular.  As it relates to Chelsea Manning, does the White House agree that Manning is being subjected to unfair treatment by the Army amid her daily fight to have her right to be identified as a woman?  Does the White House agree with that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not aware that the Commander-in-Chief has weighed in on this.  This is obviously complicated by the fact that Chelsea Manning is in the military criminal justice process and, of course, the Commander-in-Chief is at the top of the chain of command, which limits our ability to discuss her case in all that much detail.  But I’ll look and see if we have ever weighed on this specific question.  I know that it certainly is a question and a concern that’s been raised by some of Chelsea Manning’s advocates.

Q    And for the record, she was sentenced to 35 years.  Does the White House believe that that was a just sentence?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t heard the President weigh in on that either, again for the same kind of chain-of-command reasons that I just cited.

Q    But he may tomorrow?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, if he chooses to — you and Jordan will be among the first to know.  (Laughter.)

Q    Fair enough.  Jordan, I got first dibs.  (Laughter.)  Let me ask you about Edward Snowden.  Does his offer to turn himself in if Manning is, in fact, offered clemency weigh at all in the consideration for how the President might consider a pardon for Manning, or even for Snowden, do you think?

MR. EARNEST:  It does not, primarily because we believe that under any circumstances, Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the serious crimes with which he’s been charged.  He will, of course, be afforded the kind of due process that’s available to every American citizen who’s going through the criminal justice process.  But the crimes that he’s accused of committing are serious, and we believe that he should return to the United States and face them rather than seeking refuge in the arms of an adversary of the United States that has their own strategic interests in disseminating harmful — or disseminating information in a harmful way.

Q    So for clarity’s sake, it seems apparent that there’s little doubt that Edward Snowden will not be offered a pardon by this President.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s not something that — I can’t rule out any offer of clemency, or rule it in, frankly, from here.

Q    Based on what you just said, though — I mean, the President has been pretty clear, he hasn’t availed himself to even a conversation about prosecution or facing the charges that he may in fact be forced to face were he even here.  So based on that, it seems clear he’s not going to get a pardon, right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you’ve heard me note that that is one of the many differences between Mr. Snowden’s case and Chelsea Manning’s case.  But I can’t rule anything in or out at this point.

Q    Last one.  I want to ask you about Julian Assange.  Did the White House ask Britain or even Ecuador, perhaps, to take action against Julian Assange and/or shut down WikiLeaks at any point?  Did that come from this White House?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any specific request like that that was made.  You know that the U.S. intelligence community, and even the President, have expressed some deep concerns about the ties between Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks and other organizations like it that were created to disseminate either classified information or previously private information.  And we know that much of those efforts to disseminate that information was rooted in a Republican — Russian strategy to undermine confidence in American democracy.

So we have profound concerns about the way that that organization, WikiLeaks, has operated, and we have expressed profound concerns about the way that some of the things that they have done and some of the information that they have released has harmed our national security, has put our military and our intelligence officers in harm’s way and made their dangerous work even more dangerous.  But I can’t speak to any specific requests that may have been made of the Brits or the Ecuadoreans.

Ron.

Q    Just to follow up on this — the appointments of Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice and others to these boards.  Are these appointments that cannot be reversed by the President — the incoming President?  And were they made for that reason or with that in mind?

MR. EARNEST:  They weren’t made with that in mind.  I believe that these are the — that the appointments on these kinds of boards are part of the President’s executive authority and part of his responsibility.  And he chose to fill a couple of those positions with two of his most trusted aides.

Q    So they’re probably — are there terms?  Are there — I guess it would vary depending upon the —

MR. EARNEST:  There are terms, but we can get you the details.

Q    There’s also — there’s an education regulation that’s making its way — I believe it’s before the White House Budget Office.  You’re looking at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t think I do.

Q    It’s a regulation that would essentially change the funding mechanism within school districts and apportion more money to lower-income areas as compared to higher-income areas.  The question is where is that, is it going to make it, so on and so forth.

MR. EARNEST:  Let me have my colleagues at the Office of Management and Budget circle back with you to give you an update on where that stands.

Q    And just a last thing — can you give us any indication of what the President is really doing and focused on these last number of days?  I know you were asked about staffing and all that, but —

MR. EARNEST:  Other than saying really nice things about me — (laughter) — which I deeply appreciate, by the way?.

Q    It’s a — I mean, I know he’s concerned about national security, I know he’s concerned about the transition.  But just — I just wonder, what do you do when you have, like, a few days left after all this?

MR. EARNEST:  There’s a lot to be done.  Let me tell you at least one thing.  This morning, the President assembled senior members of his counterterrorism and homeland security team to review ongoing security planning for the 58th inauguration.  The President commended the comprehensive preparations across the law enforcement and intelligence community, and directed that all agencies maintain their high state of vigilance to ensure we are best postured to protect the homeland against individuals radicalized to violence.

The President was also briefed on counterterrorism operations in Iraq and Syria that are putting simultaneous pressure on ISIL inside Mosul and around Raqqa.  Over the weekend, as you may know, Iraqi security forces made significant gains in Mosul as ISIL defenses are collapsing in key parts of the city.  And in northern Syria, local partners continue to constrict ISIL’s movement in the vicinity of Raqqa.

The President noted the impact our strategy is having on the ground is the result of a deliberate effort to accelerate our campaign against ISIL, and that the coalition is well-postured to put ISIL on a path to lasting defeat.

I think the fact that the President held this meeting today is an indication that the President continues to be focused first and foremost on the safety and security of the United States and the American people.  And this is consistent with the kind of briefing that he has held with his national security team and with intelligence officials before major events.  The President typically does this before the holidays; he’ll often do this before the Fourth of July.  And obviously, with the upcoming inauguration, we want to make sure — the President wanted to make sure that our security posture was in place to protect the American people.

Q    That’s a Situation Room meeting?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know exactly where this meeting took place, but we can confirm that for you.

Q    Anything else?  Is he — we’ve talked about pardons and commutations, and talked about appointments.  Is there anything else that we can expect over the next number of hours that are work product, if you will, that the President is trying to get done before he leaves?  Even if you can identify some areas.  We know he’s concerned about immigration.  We know he’s concerned about social justice.  We know he’s concerned about a lot of things.

MR. EARNEST:  Right.

Q    Can you point us to anything that he is, in the final hours, really trying to focus on and get done?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t have any announcements to preview, but the President has still got a lot of work to do.  And even in just the last couple of days here, he’s focused on the task at hand, even as he also does some of the other things around the White House, like bidding a fond farewell to members of his staff and other people from across the administration, and also I think spending some time thinking about his own time and his own tenure here.  But stay tuned.  If there’s more, we’ll let you know.

Carol.

Q    Thank you.  I guess I’ll follow on that note.  Can you give us an update on the President’s efforts to close Guantanamo?  And are you prepared at this time to just — say it will remain open Friday afternoon?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I can confirm — and I think this is something that you’ve already reported — that there was a transfer of 10 detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the government of Oman.  With that transfer being completed, there are now 45 detainees at Gitmo.  When President Obama took office, the detainee population was at 242, so since that time, we’ve moved 193 detainees to 42 countries for repatriation, resettlement, or prosecution.

Obviously, that work was a result of the review that President Obama ordered almost exactly eight years ago today to ask the intelligence community and other national security agencies to engage in a case-by-case review of the files of the detainees, and determine if any of them could be transferred to other countries under a set of strict security requirements that would limit their ability to harm the United States.  And so that’s been an effort that has greatly reduced the prison population.

At this point, I don’t anticipate that we will succeed in that goal of closing the prison, but it’s not for a lack of trying — that, I assure you.  And the only reason it didn’t happen is because of the politics that members of Congress in both parties, frankly, played with this issue.  And it has put the United States in a position where, because of the obstacles erected by Congress, terrorist organizations have a powerful recruiting tool, and millions in taxpayer dollars are wasted to operate this large facility for 45 people, potentially less.

That’s not a good use of taxpayer dollars, and it certainly isn’t the most effective way to protect our country.  And that’s not just a conclusion that President Obama has reached, that’s a conclusion that’s been reached by people like President Bush and senior members of his national security team.  So this isn’t a partisan issue, and I think the disappointment at Congress’s action in this area is also bipartisan in nature.

Q    Two follow-ups on that.  At what point did the President make that determination, that he would not succeed? And do you expect any additional transfers this week?

MR. EARNEST:  The possibility of additional transfers remains a possibility.  Look, I think once there was a — once we’d reach the 30-day deadline for notifying Congress in advance of detainee transfers, the likelihood of succeeding in closing the prison was quite remote.

Q    One other quick question.  Chinese President Xi today delivered a speech in Davos where he gave a defense of globalization and warned against a trade war and protectionism, and this is obviously something the President has spoken a lot about, and I’m curious if you have any reaction to the Chinese President’s speech.

MR. EARNEST:  I didn’t read the text of President Xi’s remarks, but certainly based on the news coverage, I think this does surface a central question — for the American people, for policymakers, for economic leaders, and even national security leaders — about what role the United States is going to play in the global economy and what role the United States is going to play in Asia Pacific.  And President Obama put forward his own strategy, one that sought to deepen our alliances with Australia, South Korea, and Japan that has resulted in a beefed-up military presence in the Asia Pacific, to protect our allies, to deepen our coordination and cooperation with them, and to ensure they’re protected from threats that emanate in the region.

The President also felt strongly that that intensified security cooperation should be partnered with greater economic integration in that region of the world.  Southeast Asia in particular is home to some of the most dynamic economies in the world.  These are smaller countries, but they have rapidly growing middle-class populations, and many of the countries who signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement are home to those economies.  And the completion of that agreement and the ratification of that agreement by Congress would have given American businesses a better opportunity to compete in that part of the world.  That would have been good for our economy and good for our businesses and, most importantly, good for our workers.

The agreement would have required other countries to slash 18,000 taxes that they impose on American products.  It would have held those countries accountable for raising labor standards, raising human rights standards, raising environmental standards, the kinds of standards that we already observe here.  And to shut off the U.S. from those kinds of agreements isn’t just a missed opportunity, it actually puts the United States at a greater disadvantage because we’re hearing many of those countries indicate a desire to move forward with that agreement.

So that means that other countries who have signed on are going to be at an advantage over U.S. products, to say nothing of the role of the Chinese.  China would love to come and strike their own agreements with these other countries for the same reasons that we would like to — because these are some of the fastest-growing economies of the world and they have a rapidly growing middle class that could be available to buy Chinese products.  And we know that if the Chinese negotiate a deal, they’re not looking to raise human rights standards; they’re not looking to raise labor standards; they’re not looking to put in place strict, tough intellectual property protections.

So the President is deeply disappointed that Congress hasn’t moved to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership because of the obvious benefits for the American people.  And that’s going to have consequences not just for our economy and the success that our country has in confronting the forces of globalization and looking out for the interests of working people, it’s also going to have an impact on our national security.

So obviously the incoming administration has proposed a different strategy when it comes to countering the forces of globalization.  I believe the President’s economic record speaks for itself.  And all of you will have an opportunity to test just how — well, whether or not the strategy put forward by the incoming administration works and actually serves the interests of the American people, the American economy, and American workers.

Mark.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  Have there ever been days when you’ve dreaded coming out here?  (Laughter.)  Or let me put it another way — have there been days when you didn’t dread coming out here?  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Let me answer your question this way.  There was — I did the briefing here — well, I did a briefing like this 354 times as Press Secretary —

Q    My count is higher.

MR. EARNEST:  Is it higher?

Q    Yeah.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the stenographers separated out the times that I briefed as the Principal Deputy Press Secretary, so that may account for the difference, but we can look at the numbers.

Q    I also counted gaggles.

MR. EARNEST:  They did, too.  I did almost the same number as both the Press Secretary and as the Deputy.

Q    I trust Mark’s number.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  That’s understandable.  That’s understandable.  In the 354 or so times that I walked into this room, I never took for granted the blessing that was the opportunity to stand here.  And most people don’t have an opportunity to influence the debate in this way.  The arguments that you hear me make, these are President Obama’s arguments.  This is his vision for the country that I’m advocating for.  So I’m not trying to take credit for that.

But these are arguments, and this is a vision for the country, and these are values that I passionately believe in.  And having the opportunity to influence the way that those arguments are made, to look for ways to deliver them in the most persuasive way that I can think of is an extraordinary intellectual challenge, but it also really gives me an opportunity to shape the debate in a way that few other people in this town have.

So there were days when I knew I was going to come out here and get some tough questions, and there were days when I was going to walk back to my office frustrated about how it went, but I never took for granted what an extraordinary opportunity it is to be a part of this process with you and to advocate for a President and a vision that I deeply believe in.  And I’m going to miss it.  It’ll be — at the risk of oversharing, it’ll be hard to — well, let me say it this way — (laughter) — it’ll take some getting used to, to seeing somebody else stand up here doing it.

Q    Or not.

THE PRESIDENT:  Or not. (Laughter.)  And — but that’s —

Q    Are you going to watch?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ll probably watch.  I’m interested in what happens in here, and I think it’s important for the country.  And I’ll be paying attention.

Q    Marlin Fitzwater used to say that after he left that job, he used to love putting his feet up, pouring a glass of wine, and watching someone else face all the questions.  (Laughter.)  Is that how you think you’ll be watching your successor?

MR. EARNEST:  There may be a time or two when schadenfreude creeps in.  But look — again, I’ve got enormous respect for the work that all of you do and for the conventions that we have erected to engage in this discussion, and it’s been an honor to be a part of it.  And yeah, I’m interested in what happens here, and I’ll continue to follow it.  But I will be relieved to not have the burden to follow it as closely as this job has required over the last two-and-a-half years.

Go ahead, JC.

Q    It’s sort of a personal question and it follows up, I hope, on what Mark was saying.  The President alluded earlier that you could possibly have a career on the silver screen.  (Laughter.)  Many of us — I believe that.  Keep smiling — that’s it.  Perfect.  And we know that you’re not going to require your very patient wife, Natalie, and your son, Walker, to pepper you with tough questions every day between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon.  But to follow up, where is your passion going?  What would you like to do?  And where do you want to follow your dream?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll tell you that I’ve had this conversation with the President.  And one of the challenges of the job is it is all-consuming.  It’s difficult to remember a day in which the first thing that pops into my head when I open my eyes in the morning — usually in the dark — was to wonder what I needed to get done in order to prepare for this briefing, or to fulfill my responsibilities at the White House.

So I’m looking forward to having a little bit more time and space, both physically and intellectually, to reflect on this experience and to consider what the future might hold.  But I honestly don’t know.

Q    Will you keep us posted?

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah, I’ll keep you posted.

Mark.

Q    Yes, just to clarify two quick things.

MR. EARNEST:  Sure.

Q    The clemency petitions that have come in, you led us to believe last week that there would be a round, some size, of additional clemencies before the President leaves?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.

Q    That is still the case, correct?  Whatever size they are.

MR. EARNEST:  What I can tell you is that the work on this issue continues, and I certainly wouldn’t rule out additional announcements before noon on Friday.

Q    The President considers this still an important part of his legacy.

MR. EARNEST:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

Q    And the President’s plans on Friday — I know you don’t want to go into detail about it — but we’re right in calling this a vacation, correct?  He’s not planning to go out and do speeches right away and meetings and stuff like that.

MR. EARNEST:  That is correct.  The President will not be working when he arrives in Palm Springs.

Q    Perhaps a fair amount of putting and other things?

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah, and I’m sure that many of you will be disappointed you won’t have the opportunity to tag along.  (Laughter.)

Scott.

Q    Is the First Family going to be staying in rental housing?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know where they’re going to be staying in Palm Springs, and I doubt we’ll announce it in advance.

Q    And you’re leaving your office on Thursday afternoon or evening, but will you and your team will have control of the emails and Twitter and WhiteHouse.gov up until noontime?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, there is a plan in place to effect that transition at noon on Friday.  I’m not sure exactly how they’re going to do that.  But it’s part of — it’s one of the reasons I have so much admiration for my colleagues who are more technologically inclined than I am.

John.

Q    Thanks, a lot, Josh.  Congratulations on your 354th briefing, or whatever that number is.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    Given all of your experience in this briefing room, can you talk a little bit from your perspective about the advantages of coming out to the James S. Brady Briefing Room to talk to us on a regular basis?

MR. EARNEST:  This is a place that’s recognized immediately around the world as the place where announcements at the White House are made.  And again, the symbolic value of this podium in this room in front of all of you is powerful.  And it sends a strong message not just to the American people, but to people around the world about what the White House is doing, what the President is focused on, what his priorities are, and how he’s seeking to advance our interests.

So again, I think that there are a lot of common-sense logistical reasons to preserve the kind of access that all of you have to the West Wing.  But I wouldn’t overlook the important, symbolic value that makes the arrangement that we have in the United States rather unique.

Q    As far as statements, which are regularly put out by your office, I didn’t notice a statement in regards to the death of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.  Was that an oversight?  Can you talk a little bit about his contribution to our country?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I obviously read some of the news coverage about Mr. Cernan’s death.  And he certainly falls in the category of American hero, somebody who risked his life in the earliest days of the American space program to do remarkable things and inspire the American people to reach for great heights — reach for great heights.  And obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with his family today and those how loved him.

I can’t speak to why there wasn’t a presidential statement.  But certainly the President and First Lady made note of his death and are remembering him along with some of the other Americans who were inspired by his courage.

Richard.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  On behalf of the foreign press, I also want to thank you.  You’ve been helpful but very welcoming.  And all of us, we benefited from your openness so much.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Richard.

Q    You have to know that all this has been very much appreciated.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    Knowing that there are also many auto plants in Canada, I would like your reaction to the President-elect’s comment or intention on imposing a 35 percent tax on German cars being built in Mexico and sold in the U.S.

MR. EARNEST:  Richard, I think this is a pertinent question.  The President, on his last trip to Canada over the summer, talked about this very issue.

The U.S. auto industry is part of an integrated global supply chain.  And the presence of a lot of those suppliers for U.S. automakers is actually in Canada, and it speaks to the important ties between our two countries.  And maintaining those robust ties is good for the economy in both our countries; that if you shut down the supply chain or you shut down the trade between the United States and Canada, you’re going to cut off the American auto industry from the global supply chain in a way that’s going to have direct and negative consequences for American businesses and American workers.

That’s a real problem.  And I think it is an illustration of why President Obama has chosen a different strategy that actually seeks to ensure that other countries, including Canada, are living up to the kinds of high standards that are set here in the United States and were codified in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Canada, of course, was part of those negotiations and signed onto the deal.

So the President has spoken out about this at some length.  He certainly does believe that the strategy that he has advocated is the right one, but the incoming President has some different ideas in mind.  And we’ll have an opportunity to assess whether or not his strategy is going to work.

Jean.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  You have worked hard as White House press secretary.  I deeply appreciate you.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Jean, I appreciate that.  That’s very kind.

Q    Can I follow — ask a question.  After you — whatever — you go out the White House, can I also ask on those issues?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m sorry, say one more time?

Q    Can I follow up on the North Korean issues — continue —

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there will be somebody else in the White House who will be setting policy with regard to the United States’ relationship with North Korea.  And I am hopeful there will be somebody else who is here answering your questions, but I certainly have enjoyed the opportunity that you and I have had to discuss this critically important national security priority of the United States.

Q    Thank you very much.  On THAAD missile issues.  Last week, incoming administration (inaudible) and South Korean national security agency director agreed to deploy THAAD missile in South Korea.  On this regard, China continues to threaten retaliation against South Korea for THAAD issues.  What can the United States do about Chinese actions?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the United States has made clear that the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea would be focused solely on countering the missile threat that emanates from North Korea.  South Korea is an ally of the United States of America.  We are duty-bound to defend them.  And President Obama has made clear, and I think the tens of thousands of U.S. troops that are on the ground in Korea right now make clear, that we’re going to live up to that promise.  And the deployment of a THAAD battery in South Korea would enhance our ability to do exactly that.

We’ve explained that to the Chinese at the highest levels, and we’ll continue to go to great lengths to help them understand exactly what we are trying to do.  And I know that that is something that is taking place not just at the presidential level, but I know that there have been some conversations through diplomatic channels, military channels to try to ease the concerns of the Chinese that this is an effort that’s focused on North Korea and not on having any impact on China’s capabilities.

Q    And one more thing.  Recently, high-level diplomat — North Korean defector, Thae Yong-ho, from UK — he has testimony, and he said that North Korean Kim Jong-un will (inaudible) nuclear weapons, and that he also said that it is a waste of time for Six-Party talks to (inaudible) the North Korean nuclear weapons.  Do you think we still need Six-Party talks?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t seen the specific comments of the defector that you cited, but I can tell you it’s the United States’ policy that the United States is prepared to engage with North Korea diplomatically when they make clear a commitment to a set of principles, including denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.  And we’ve made that clear, and that policy hasn’t changed.

Let’s do a couple more here.  John.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  And despite differences on things, thanks for your graciousness to me and always helping me on answers, and especially helping some friends of mine when they wanted some things in the White House.

MR. EARNEST:  You’re welcome, John.  I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with you, as well.

Q    Thank you.  Questions are twofold.  First, David Horowitz, the author, has come out with a book entitled “Big Agenda,” in which he says that Donald Trump has an agenda to repeal or roll back 90 percent of the executive orders and executive actions that President Obama took in his eight years in office.  Your reaction to that?  And do you think that’s possible to actually do?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t heard of the book that you’re referring to.  What I can tell you is that President Obama has often made the argument that there’s a difference between campaigning and governing.  And I know that the incoming President made a lot of promises about all of the executive actions that he was going to repeal, but when he’s responsible for governing the country, he will have to reconcile those promises with the impact — the negative impact that following through on those promises would have on the country.  That may end up altering his decision to follow through, but ultimately those will be decisions for him to make.

And it’s why you heard me on many occasions express a preference for working with Congress to try to institute policy that would be good for the country.  But we ran into a brick wall of opposition when it comes to Republicans when they took power in 2011, and so we didn’t pass as much legislatively as we would have liked to have done.  But the President did use his executive authority to advance our country’s interests and to advance the agenda that he was seeking to implement.  And the incoming President will have to determine how much of that he wants to roll back.

Q    And I’ve been dying to ask this all day — all week, actually.  Two former press secretaries to presidents have gone on to run for elective office after they left the podium up there, both unsuccessful.  Would you ever consider relocating to your home state, the “Show Me” state of Missouri, where they do need some fresh Democrats — I don’t think you’ll argue about it — (laughter) — and run for office yourself?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I can tell you is that I know that there are a lot of talented young Missourians who are Democrats who should not be overlooked.  And I’ve certainly been in touch with some of them, and I think there’s a bright future for Democrats in Missouri, but at this point I’m not planning to be one of them.

Jared.

Q    Josh, over the weekend the President-elect told the Washington Post that he is supporting insurance for everybody, health insurance for everybody.  Is this a plan that the President — said he’ll support something that’s better than Obamacare?  Is that enough to whet his appetite?  Or does he need more information?

MR. EARNEST:  Jared, the President — I can tell you that President Obama looks forward to somebody calling his bluff.  The President spoke on live, national television, in primetime, looked directly into the camera and said that he will advocate for policy, even if it’s put forward by Republicans, if it will cover more people and more effectively lower costs than even Obamacare has.

So the President stands by that promise.  And according to what the President-elect promised to The Washington Post, it sounds like we might get a chance to see whether or not he’s calling that bluff.  The best way to cover everybody, and I think the only way that anybody thinks you can cover everybody, is through a single-payer plan.

So it’s unclear, I think, exactly at this point exactly what the incoming administration’s plans are.  It does not appear that, according to some reporting that I saw, that even their nominee to be HHS secretary is clear exactly what their plans are.

But the President made that commitment, and he’ll stand by it.  And I assure you that there are few things that would make him happier in his post-presidency than to have the incoming administration call his bluff, because this is an issue that he feels strongly about.  And as he himself has said, there’s no pride of authorship here.  If there are improvements that can be made on Obamacare, he won’t hesitate to support them.

Q    And I know that you haven’t given us information about the frequency or duration or readouts of the calls between the President and the President-elect, but I want to ask, looking forward, once he’s on vacation after Inauguration Day, then-former President Obama, what’s the level of his unpluggedness, and will he be available if there’s a call from the Commander-in-Chief?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what is certainly true of former presidents is they have a unique perspective on the burden and challenges that are assumed by the incoming President.  And as President Obama said the day after the election, he’s rooting for the incoming President to succeed in uniting the country.  And if there’s an opportunity for former-President Obama to assist in that effort, I’m confident that wherever he is, he’ll take the call.

Lalit.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  I join in thanking you on behalf of the foreign press for working with us.

MR. EARNEST:  You’re welcome.

Q    And in fact, the first foreign pool was done when the President invited Indian Prime Minister in November of 2009, and since then we are having (inaudible).  In the first briefing that the President — the press secretary did in 2009, the main foreign policy topic was the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  (Inaudible) was not.  But my question is, there are still 10,000 troops left in Afghanistan.  Does the President regret that he hasn’t recalled all the troops from there?  And had the situation been different, had Pakistan been more helpful in eliminating terrorist safe havens from their territories?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, with regard to Pakistan, obviously, the United States has an extraordinarily complicated relationship, particularly when it comes to national security, with Pakistan.  There are some areas where the United States and Pakistan have been able to effectively cooperate to counter terrorism and to fight extremism, and that’s served the interests of both countries.  And obviously, tragically, Pakistan is a country where many victims of terrorism have been claimed.

And the President certainly is interested and is hopeful that the next administration will be able to deepen that cooperation with Pakistan, because it wouldn’t just enhance security in Pakistan; it actually would make the United States safer, too.

With regard to Afghanistan, I think this will be the kind of issue that historians spend a lot of time looking at when evaluating President Obama’s presidency.  What President Obama promised to do when taking office was to refocus our attention on the threat from al Qaeda that emanates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.  And President Obama put in place a strategy, working closely with his national security team, at the State Department and the intelligence community, and, of course, the Department of Defense.  And over the course of several years, in part relying on some new capabilities, succeeded in decimating core al Qaeda that previously menaced the United States from hideouts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

That is a major accomplishment, and it’s an accomplishment that has made the American people safer.  But the threat in that region of the world has not been eliminated, and there continue to be a smaller number of U.S. servicemembers keeping us safe, engaging in counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

They’re also working closely with thousands of troops from our NATO partners who are also there doing the same thing.  And I know there has been a question raised about how important a role NATO has played when it comes to counterterrorism.  You have to look no further than Afghanistan to assess just how valuable a contribution that they have made to that effort.

So the situation in Afghanistan continues to be one of concern, and I think the President would acknowledge that this is an area where we’ve made important progress that has made the American people safer, but there’s still important work to be done in this region of the world, and this is a responsibility that the incoming President will assume.

Q    And the President visited India twice; no other President had in the past.  And he has met with Prime Minister Modi both times.  What kind of relationship the President would like the new administration to have with the largest democratic country in the world?

MR. EARNEST:  President Obama did make strengthening our ties with India a genuine priority.  The President believed that that served our economic interest and our national security interest, and that would certainly explain the frequent visits of both Indian Prime Ministers during President Obama’s tenure in office to the White House, and it would explain President Obama’s visits to India as well.  And each of those visits was oriented around a discussion about how to deepen our economic ties in a way that has positive benefits for workers in both our countries, but also to look for ways that we can work more effectively together to fight extremism and to enhance the security of citizens in both our countries.

And President Obama certainly believes that we have made important progress in deepening and strengthening the relationship between two of the world’s largest democracies, and is hopeful that that progress will continue under the next administration.

Francesca, I’m going to give my Kansas City girl the last one.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thank you.  I truthfully was going to ask first, what the heck happened with the Chiefs the other night?  (Laughter.)  I’d like to know the answer to that.

MR. EARNEST:  Unfortunately, it’s just the latest in a long string of heartbreaking playoff defeats for the Kansas City Chiefs.  So there’s always next year.

Q    While endeavoring to keep it light here at the end, I apologize if you said some of this earlier, there was a little bit of a commotion at the beginning of the briefing —

MR. EARNEST:  There was.

Q    Did you say how long the President and First Lady will be staying in Palm Beach?  Is this like a quick trip or —

MR. EARNEST:  Palm Springs.

Q    Sorry, sorry, Palm Springs.  Gosh, not Palm Beach — that’s the other President.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  I did not say how long they’re going to stay.  They will arrive on Friday afternoon in Palm Springs, but I don’t anticipate having any updates on their travel schedule beyond then.

Q    And you said the First Family — so the daughters will also be going on that trip as well?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s my understanding.  And we’ll confirm that for you on Friday.

Q    Is there a possibility that perhaps, immediately after that, they’ll go back to Chicago?  When they were there the other day, they didn’t stay overnight — hadn’t visited the home.  Is that potential in the docket?  Trying to get one last week ahead here out of you.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah.  I guess this is one of the benefits of ending the presidency on a Friday, is I don’t anticipate that there will be any more weeks-ahead.  The President and the First Lady and their family are looking forward to getting out to Palm Springs and beginning to relax a little bit, but I don’t have any updates on their plans beyond that.

Q    And then one final question.  We always assumed that the book the President was writing was a memoir.  Is it possible that he’s writing the next great American novel?

MR. EARNEST:  If he is, he has not told me that, but I think for a variety of reasons we’re all eagerly anticipating how President Obama chooses to devote his time after leaving the White House.

So, thank you all.  It’s been a genuine pleasure.  (Applause.)

2:15 P.M. EST

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 16, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Honoring the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Honoring the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs

Source: WH, 1-16-17

East Room

1:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  They said this day would never come.  (Laughter and applause.)  Here is something none of my predecessors ever got a chance to say:  Welcome to the White House the World Series Champion, Chicago Cubs!  (Applause.)

Now, I know you guys would prefer to stand the whole time, but sit down.

I will say to the Cubs:  It took you long enough.  I mean, I’ve only got four days left.  You’re just making it under the wire.  (Laughter.)

Now, listen, I made a lot of promises in 2008.  We’ve managed to fulfill a large number of them.  But even I was not crazy enough to suggest that during these eight years we would see the Cubs win the World Series.  But I did say that there’s never been anything false about hope.  (Laughter and applause.)  Hope — the audacity of hope.

PARTICIPANT:  Yes, we can!

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we can.

Now, listen, for those of you from Chicago who have known me a long time, it is no secret that there’s a certain South Side team that has my loyalty.  For me, the drought hasn’t been as long.  We had the ’85 Bears; we had the the Bulls’ run in the ‘90s.  I’ve hosted the Blackhawks a number of times.  The White Sox did win just 11 years ago with Ozzie and Konerko and Buerhle.  So I can’t claim that I have the same visceral joy of some in this White House.  (Laughter.)

But FLOTUS is a lifelong Cubs fan.  (Applause.)  And I will tell you, she had to go to another event, but in eight years that I’ve been here — I told the team this — in the eight years that I’ve been here, we’ve hosted at least 50 teams — football, basketball, baseball, soccer, you name it — Michelle has never come to a single event celebrating a champion until today.  (Applause.)  And she came and shook hands, and met with every one of these members of the Cubs organization, and told a story about what it meant for her to be able to see them win, because she remembers coming home from school and her dad would be watching a Cubs game, and the bond and the family, the meaning that the Cubs had for her in terms of connecting with her father and why it meant so much for her.  And I almost choked up listening to it.  And it spoke, I think, to how people feel about this organization, and that it’s been passed on generation after generation, and it’s more than sports.

And that is not just true for FLOTUS.  My longest-serving aide, Anita, is a Cubs fan.  (Applause.)  “Fan” is not enough.  When they won, the next day she said, this is the best day of my life.  ((Laughter.)  And I said, what about me winning the presidency?  What about your wedding day?  She’s like, “No, this is the best.”  My chief speechwriter, Cody Keenan — (applause) — Cubs fan.  In fact, there were a lot of sick days during the playoffs.  (Laughter.)  One of my staff members was caught being interviewed at a bar outside of Wrigley — (laughter) — and we’re watching him being interviewed.  You remember?  And he’s looking kind of sheepish about it.  It’s like, why aren’t you in the office?  (Laughter.)

But, look, the truth is, there was a reason not just that people felt good about the Cubs winning.  There was something about this particular Cubs team winning that people felt good about.  For example, David Ross and I have something in common — we’ve both been on a “year-long retirement party.”  (Laughter and applause.)  But unlike Grandpa, my team has not yet bought me a scooter with a motorized golf caddy.  But there are four days left — maybe I’ll get that.

The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Teddy Roosevelt was President.  Albert Einstein — or was it Thomas Edison was still alive.  The first Cubs radio broadcast wouldn’t be for almost two decades.  We’ve been through World Wars, a Cold War, a Depression, space race, all manner of social and technological change.  But during that time, those decades were also marked by Phil Cavarretta and Ernie Banks; Billy Williams, who’s here today — (applause) — Ron Santo; Ferg, Ryne Sandberg, Dawson, Maddux, Grace.  Those decades were punctuated by Lee Elia’s rants and Harry Caray’s exuberance; “Hey Hey,” and “Holy Cow,” and capped off by “Go Cubs Go.”

So the first thing that made this championship so special for so many is, is that the Cubs know what it’s like to be loyal, and to persevere and to hope, and to suffer, and then keep on hoping.  And it’s a generational thing.  That’s what you heard Michelle describing.  People all across the city remember the first time a parent took them to Wrigley, where memories of climbing into dad’s lap to watch games on WGN — and that’s part of the reason, by the way, why Michelle had invited — made sure that José Cardenal was here, because that was her favorite player.  (Applause.)  And she was describing — back then he had a big afro, and she was describing how she used to wear her hat over her afro the same way José did.

You could see all that love this season in the fans who traveled to their dads’ gravesites to listen to games on the radio; who wore their moms’ old jerseys to games; who covered the brick walls of Wrigley with love notes in chalk to departed fans whose lifelong faith was finally fulfilled.

None of this, of course, would have happened without the extraordinary contributions of the Ricketts family.  Tom met his wife, Cece, in the bleachers of Wrigley about 30 years ago — which is about 30 years longer than most of relationships that begin there last.  (Laughter and applause.)  Our dear friend Laura Ricketts met her wife, Brooke, in the ballpark, as well.

Brothers and sisters — they turned this team around by hiring what has to be one of the greatest, if not — I mean, he’s still pretty young, so we’ll see how long he keeps on going — the greatest general managers of all time, Theo Epstein — (applause) — and along with Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod.  They did just an unbelievable job.  Theo, as you know — his job is to quench droughts.  86 years in Boston; 108 in Chicago.  He takes the reins of an organization that’s wandering in the wilderness, he delivers them to the Promised Land.  I’ve talked to him about being DNC chair.  (Laughter and applause.)  But he decided wisely to stick to baseball.

That brings me to the other thing that was so special about this championship — and that’s just the guys behind me, the team.  They steamrolled the majors this year with a 103-win record.  All you had to know about this team was encapsulated in that one moment in Game 5, down three games to one, do or die, in front of the home fans when David Ross and Jon Lester turned to each other and said, “I love you, man.”  And he said, “I love you, too.”  It was sort of like an Obama-Biden moment.  (Laughter.)

And then you’ve got the manager, Joe Maddon, who — (applause) — let’s face it, there are not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy.  Look how he looks right now.  (Applause.)  That’s cool.  That’s cool.  He used costume parties and his “Shaggin’ Wagon.”  (Laughter.)  So he’s got — just saying — he’s got a lot of tricks to motivate.  But he’s also a master of tactics, and makes the right move at the right time:  when to pinch hit, when to pinch run, when to make it rain — (laughter) — in Game 7 of the World Series.  It was masterful.  So he set the tone, but also some of the amazing players here set the tone.

My fellow “44” — Anthony Rizzo, the heart of this team.  (Applause.)  Five years ago, he was a part of the squad that lost 101 games.  He stuck at it, and led the National League in All-Star votes this year.

His business partner in the “Bryzzo Souvenir Company,” which delivers baseballs to fans in all parts of the bleachers — Kris Bryant.  (Applause.)  This guy had a good year.  (Laughter.)  You go from Rookie of the Year to being the MVP.  You win the World Series.  And then, like me, he marries up and comes to the White House.  And he did all this just in 10 days — (laughter) — when it took me a long time.  So, congratulations to the newlyweds, Jessica and Kris Bryant.  (Applause.)

And then you got these young guys like Baez and Russell.  (Applause.)   Baez turning tagging into an art form.  Russell becoming the youngest player to hit a World Series Grand Slam since Mickey Mantle.  (Applause.)  And you mix these amazing young talents with somebody like David Ross who, for example, helped Anthony out of his “glass case of emotions” in Game 7.  (Applause.)  But think about what Ross did in his final season:  Caught a no-hitter, surpassed 100 home runs for his career, including one in his last game ever.  If there was ever a way to go out, this was it.

And then you got Ben Zobrist, who didn’t get to come to the White House last year after winning it all with the Royals, but then hits .357 in the World Series, go-ahead RBI in the 10th inning of Game 7, World Series MVP.  I think he’s earned his way here.  (Applause.)  And is apparently a good guy, because I asked his wife — she was in line before he was — and I said, has he gotten a big head since he got the whole MVP thing?  “No, he’s so sweet, he’s so humble.”  You owe her dinner tonight.  (Laughter.)

Extraordinary pitching staff, including Kyle Hendricks, the first Cub to lead the majors in ERA since 1938.  (Applause.)  Kyle, in turn, was the only pitcher this year with a better ERA than Jon Lester, who racked up 19 wins.  (Applause.)  Good job. Jake Arrieta, 2015 Cy Young Award winner, stretched a 20-game win streak featuring two no-hitters across the past two seasons, then hit a home run in the NLDS, and won two games in the World Series.  So, apparently Pilates works.  Michelle says it does.  (Applause.)

And then, finally, the game itself and the Series itself.  To come back from a 3-1 deficit against a great Cleveland Indians team forced what is widely considered the Game 7 of all time.  Dexter Fowler becomes the first player to hit a leadoff home run in Game 7.  (Applause.)  Javy Baez hits another leadoff the fifth.  David Ross becomes the oldest player to knock one out in a Game 7, as well.  Kyle Schwarber, who’s been hurt and hobbled, then suddenly he comes in and gets seven hits in the Series — three in Game 7 alone.  (Applause.)

And then you’ve got the 10th inning, you’ve got the rain.  God finally feeling mercy on Cubs fans.  An entire game, an entire season, an entire century of hope and heartbreak all coming down to a one-inning sprint.  And then Zobrist knocked in one, Montero knocked in another.  Carl Edwards, Jr. and Mike Montgomery teamed up to shut the Indians down.

And then, at 12:47 a.m. Eastern Time, Bryant — it looks like he’s going to slip; everybody is getting a little stressed — tosses a grounder to Rizzo; Rizzo gets the ball, slips it in his back pocket — (laughter) — which shows excellent situational awareness.  (Laughter and applause.)  And suddenly everything is changed.  No more black cats, billy goats, ghosts, flubbed grounders.  The Chicago Cubs are the champs.  And on ESPN, you’ve got Van Pelt saying, “one of the all-time great nights.”  You’ve got Tim Kurkjian calling it “the greatest night of baseball in the history of the game.”  Two days later, millions of people — the largest gathering of Americans that I know of in Chicago.  And for a moment, our hometown becomes the very definition of joy.  So, in Chicago, I think it’s fair to say you guys will be popular for a while.  (Laughter.)

But, in addition, they’re also doing a lot of good work. Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester raised money to help others beat cancer like they did.  (Applause.)  Under the Ricketts Family’s leadership, last year alone, Cubs Charities supported charitable grants and donations of nearly $4 million that reached nearly 120,000 children and young adults across Chicagoland.  (Applause.)  Under their “Let’s Give” initiative, Cubs staff, coaches, players, and spouses donated more than 1,500 hours of service last year to the community.  And after their visit here today, they will head to Walter Reed to visit with some of our brave wounded warriors.  (Applause.)

So just to wrap up, today is, I think, our last official event — isn’t it? — at the White House, under my presidency.  And it also happens to be a day that we celebrate one of the great Americans of all time, Martin Luther King, Jr.  And later, as soon as we’re done here, Michelle and I are going to go over and do a service project, which is what we do every year to honor Dr. King.  And it is worth remembering — because sometimes people wonder, well why are you spending time on sports, there’s other stuff going on — that throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together, even when the country is divided.  Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we were.  It is a game and it is celebration, but there’s a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here.  There’s a direct line between people loving Ernie Banks, and then the city being able to come together and work together in one spirit.

I was in my hometown of Chicago on Tuesday, for my farewell address, and I said, sometimes it’s not enough just to change the laws, you got to change hearts.  And sports has a way, sometimes, of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t.  And sometimes it’s just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us.  And when you see this group of folks of different shades and different backgrounds, and coming from different communities and neighborhoods all across the country, and then playing as one team and playing the right way, and celebrating each other and being joyous in that, that tells us a little something about what America is and what America can be.

So it is entirely appropriate that we celebrate the Cubs today, here in this White House, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday because it helps direct us in terms of what this country has been and what it can be in the future.

With that, one more time, let’s congratulate the 2016 World Champion, Chicago Cubs!  (Applause.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  Talk about a tough act to follow.  Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for inviting us.  We’re all honored to be here today, and we appreciate you taking the time on such an important day, Martin Luther King Day, and during such a historic week, the last week of your distinguished presidency.

As told on my way in here, actually, by our club historian, it’s actually not the first time this franchise has visited the White House.  It was 1888.  (Laughter.)  And we were known as the “Chicago White Stockings,” and we stopped in here to visit President Grover Cleveland.  And apparently, the team demanded for a proclamation to be named the best baseball team in the country.  The President refused, and the team went on their way.  (Laughter.)  Here we are, we’re going to make no such demands today.  (Laughter.)  But we appreciate those kind words.

The President was so kind to recognize our three Hall-of-Famers here with us today who are so synonymous with what it means to be a Cub — Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg.  (Applause.)  And, of course, José Cardenal, who got the longest hug from the First Lady we’ve ever seen — her favorite player of all time, you’re the MVP today.  (Laughter.)

And I want to, one more time, recognize all of the Ricketts family who are here today.  Tom, who’s been such an ideal leader for our organization.  Laura, who’s been such a strong supporter of this President.  And, Todd, who will embark on his journey in public service with a significant role in the new administration next week.  And, Pete, who’s busy governing Nebraska, couldn’t be here, but sends his best.

Finally, we’d like to recognize all of our wives and significant others who do so much to support us behind the scenes, our great “Front Office,” who have worked so hard.  (Applause.)

So, Mr. President, as you alluded to in Cleveland on November 2nd, and into the early morning of November 3rd, this special group of players behind me, in one of the greatest World Series games in history, ended the longest championship drought in American sports.  And when Kris Bryant’s throw settled into Anthony Rizzo’s glove for the final out of Game 7, the victory brought pride, joy, relief and redemption to Cub fans everywhere, including many in the White House.  (Applause.)

So, many of you were there, but the city of Chicago erupted, unified into celebration that continues to this day.  It was a thrilling, emotional time, and we think we even saw some White Sox fans smiling — (laughter) — which, Mr. President, brings us to you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

MR. EPSTEIN:  We know you may have a certain allegiance to another team on the other side of town, but we know you’re a very proud Chicagoan, and we know your better, wiser half, the First Lady — (laughter) — has been a life-long and very loyal Cub fan, which we appreciate very much.  And, of course, we have great faith in your intelligence, your common sense, your pragmatism, your ability to recognize a good thing when you see one.  (Laughter.)

So, Mr. President, with only a few days remaining in your tremendous presidency, we have taken the liberty here today of offering you a midnight pardon — (laughter and applause) — for all your indiscretions as a baseball fan.  And so we welcome you with open arms today into the Cubs family.  (Applause.)

To recognize this terrific conversion and this great day, we have some gifts for you and your family.  First, Anthony Rizzo has graciously agreed to share his number 44 with “The 44.”  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  There we go!

MR. EPSTEIN:  And if you’re still not comfortable putting a Cubs jersey on, this one just says Chicago, so you’re good with that one.  (Applause.)

Second, we have — at historic Wrigley Field, we have a centerfield scoreboard that’s actually a historic landmark, and so we hope the National Park Service won’t mind, but we took down a tile for you, number 44.  (Applause.)  Very few people have one of those.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, that’s very cool.

MR. EPSTEIN:  We also wanted you to know that, as a new fan, you have some catching up to do.  (Laughter.)  And you’ve been busy the last eight years, and your family as well, so Laura Ricketts is here to present you with a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field for you and your family.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I love how it says, “Non-transferrable.”  (Laughter.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  It’s strictly — it’s just an emolument.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can you imagine if somebody walks up and is like — (laughter) —

MS. RICKETTS:  You don’t have to bring it with you.

MR. EPSTEIN:  And finally, every time we win a game in Chicago, we fly the “W” flag, as you know.  So we brought one for you, signed by the entire team, and we’d love for you to fly it at your new library, which we plan to do our very best to support.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  This is nice swag.  Thank you so much.  This is great.

MR. JENKINS:  You got to get him to put the uniform on.  (Laughter.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  It’s just day one.  It’s just day one.

THE PRESIDENT:  Fergie, we’re doing okay so far.  (Laughter.)

MR. EPSTEIN:  So, Mr. President, thank you for the dignity and integrity with which you’ve served this country for the last eight years, for your tremendous service to Chicago and Illinois before that, and for hosting us here today.  We wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you on Wrigley Field.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, everybody, thank you so much.  Let me say, first of all, best swag I’ve gotten as President represented right here.  (Laughter.)  And let me also say on behalf of a lot of folks here in the White House, you brought a lot of joy to a lot of people here, and we’re grateful.  I know my former Chief of Staff, now mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel; folks like Dick Durbin, and we got a whole congressional delegation here; I see Lisa Madigan, my dear friend — just a lot of people have been rooting for you for a long time.

So even though it will be hard for me, Fergie, to wear a jersey, do know that among Sox fans, I’m the Cubs number-one fan.  (Laughter and applause.)

END
2:12 P.M. EST

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