Full Text Political Transcripts March 22, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the People of Cuba

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama to the People of Cuba

Source: WH, 3-22-16

Gran Teatro de la Habana
Havana, Cuba

10:10 A.M. CST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Muchas gracias.  Thank you so much.  Thank you very much.

President Castro, the people of Cuba, thank you so much for the warm welcome that I have received, that my family have received, and that our delegation has received.  It is an extraordinary honor to be here today.

Before I begin, please indulge me.  I want to comment on the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Brussels.  The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium.  We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people.  We will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally, Belgium, in bringing to justice those who are responsible.  And this is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together, regardless of nationality, or race, or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.  We can — and will — defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.

To the government and the people of Cuba, I want to thank you for the kindness that you’ve shown to me and Michelle, Malia, Sasha, my mother-in-law, Marian.

“Cultivo una rosa blanca.”  (Applause.)  In his most famous poem, Jose Marti made this offering of friendship and peace to both his friend and his enemy.  Today, as the President of the United States of America, I offer the Cuban people el saludo de paz.  (Applause.)

Havana is only 90 miles from Florida, but to get here we had to travel a great distance — over barriers of history and ideology; barriers of pain and separation.  The blue waters beneath Air Force One once carried American battleships to this island — to liberate, but also to exert control over Cuba.  Those waters also carried generations of Cuban revolutionaries to the United States, where they built support for their cause.  And that short distance has been crossed by hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles — on planes and makeshift rafts — who came to America in pursuit of freedom and opportunity, sometimes leaving behind everything they owned and every person that they loved.

Like so many people in both of our countries, my lifetime has spanned a time of isolation between us.  The Cuban Revolution took place the same year that my father came to the United States from Kenya.  The Bay of Pigs took place the year that I was born. The next year, the entire world held its breath, watching our two countries, as humanity came as close as we ever have to the horror of nuclear war.  As the decades rolled by, our governments settled into a seemingly endless confrontation, fighting battles through proxies.  In a world that remade itself time and again, one constant was the conflict between the United States and Cuba.

I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.  (Applause.)  I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.  (Applause.)

I want to be clear:  The differences between our governments over these many years are real and they are important.  I’m sure President Castro would say the same thing — I know, because I’ve heard him address those differences at length.  But before I discuss those issues, we also need to recognize how much we share.  Because in many ways, the United States and Cuba are like two brothers who’ve been estranged for many years, even as we share the same blood.

We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans.  Cuba, like the United States, was built in part by slaves brought here from Africa.  Like the United States, the Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave-owners.  We’ve welcomed both immigrants who came a great distance to start new lives in the Americas.

Over the years, our cultures have blended together.       Dr. Carlos Finlay’s work in Cuba paved the way for generations of doctors, including Walter Reed, who drew on Dr. Finlay’s work to help combat Yellow Fever.  Just as Marti wrote some of his most famous words in New York, Ernest Hemingway made a home in Cuba, and found inspiration in the waters of these shores.  We share a national past-time — La Pelota — and later today our players will compete on the same Havana field that Jackie Robinson played on before he made his Major League debut.  (Applause.)  And it’s said that our greatest boxer, Muhammad Ali, once paid tribute to a Cuban that he could never fight — saying that he would only be able to reach a draw with the great Cuban, Teofilo Stevenson.  (Applause.)

So even as our governments became adversaries, our people continued to share these common passions, particularly as so many Cubans came to America.  In Miami or Havana, you can find places to dance the Cha-Cha-Cha or the Salsa, and eat ropa vieja.  People in both of our countries have sung along with Celia Cruz or Gloria Estefan, and now listen to reggaeton or Pitbull.  (Laughter.)  Millions of our people share a common religion — a faith that I paid tribute to at the Shrine of our Lady of Charity in Miami, a peace that Cubans find in La Cachita.

For all of our differences, the Cuban and American people share common values in their own lives.  A sense of patriotism and a sense of pride — a lot of pride.  A profound love of family.  A passion for our children, a commitment to their education.  And that’s why I believe our grandchildren will look back on this period of isolation as an aberration, as just one chapter in a longer story of family and of friendship.

But we cannot, and should not, ignore the very real differences that we have — about how we organize our governments, our economies, and our societies.  Cuba has a one-party system; the United States is a multi-party democracy.  Cuba has a socialist economic model; the United States is an open market.  Cuba has emphasized the role and rights of the state; the United States is founded upon the rights of the individual.

Despite these differences, on December 17th 2014, President Castro and I announced that the United States and Cuba would begin a process to normalize relations between our countries.  (Applause.)  Since then, we have established diplomatic relations and opened embassies.  We’ve begun initiatives to cooperate on health and agriculture, education and law enforcement.  We’ve reached agreements to restore direct flights and mail service.  We’ve expanded commercial ties, and increased the capacity of Americans to travel and do business in Cuba.

And these changes have been welcomed, even though there are still opponents to these policies.  But still, many people on both sides of this debate have asked:  Why now?  Why now?

There is one simple answer:  What the United States was doing was not working.  We have to have the courage to acknowledge that truth.  A policy of isolation designed for the Cold War made little sense in the 21st century.  The embargo was only hurting the Cuban people instead of helping them.  And I’ve always believed in what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now” — we should not fear change, we should embrace it.  (Applause.)

That leads me to a bigger and more important reason for these changes:  Creo en el pueblo Cubano.  I believe in the Cuban people.  (Applause.)  This is not just a policy of normalizing relations with the Cuban government.  The United States of America is normalizing relations with the Cuban people.  (Applause.)

And today, I want to share with you my vision of what our future can be.  I want the Cuban people — especially the young people — to understand why I believe that you should look to the future with hope; not the false promise which insists that things are better than they really are, or the blind optimism that says all your problems can go away tomorrow.  Hope that is rooted in the future that you can choose and that you can shape, and that you can build for your country.

I’m hopeful because I believe that the Cuban people are as innovative as any people in the world.

In a global economy, powered by ideas and information, a country’s greatest asset is its people.  In the United States, we have a clear monument to what the Cuban people can build: it’s called Miami.  Here in Havana, we see that same talent in cuentapropistas, cooperatives and old cars that still run.  El Cubano inventa del aire.  (Applause.)

Cuba has an extraordinary resource — a system of education which values every boy and every girl.  (Applause.)  And in recent years, the Cuban government has begun to open up to the world, and to open up more space for that talent to thrive.  In just a few years, we’ve seen how cuentapropistas can succeed while sustaining a distinctly Cuban spirit.  Being self-employed is not about becoming more like America, it’s about being yourself.

Look at Sandra Lidice Aldama, who chose to start a small business.  Cubans, she said, can “innovate and adapt without losing our identity…our secret is in not copying or imitating but simply being ourselves.”

Look at Papito Valladeres, a barber, whose success allowed him to improve conditions in his neighborhood.  “I realize I’m not going to solve all of the world’s problems,” he said.  “But if I can solve problems in the little piece of the world where I live, it can ripple across Havana.”

That’s where hope begins — with the ability to earn your own living, and to build something you can be proud of.  That’s why our policies focus on supporting Cubans, instead of hurting them.  That’s why we got rid of limits on remittances — so ordinary Cubans have more resources.  That’s why we’re encouraging travel — which will build bridges between our people, and bring more revenue to those Cuban small businesses. That’s why we’ve opened up space for commerce and exchanges — so that Americans and Cubans can work together to find cures for diseases, and create jobs, and open the door to more opportunity for the Cuban people.

As President of the United States, I’ve called on our Congress to lift the embargo.  (Applause.)  It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people.  It’s a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba.  It’s time to lift the embargo.  But even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba.  (Applause.)  It should be easier to open a business here in Cuba.  A worker should be able to get a job directly with companies who invest here in Cuba.  Two currencies shouldn’t separate the type of salaries that Cubans can earn.  The Internet should be available across the island, so that Cubans can connect to the wider world — (applause) — and to one of the greatest engines of growth in human history.

There’s no limitation from the United States on the ability of Cuba to take these steps.  It’s up to you.  And I can tell you as a friend that sustainable prosperity in the 21st century depends upon education, health care, and environmental protection.  But it also depends on the free and open exchange of ideas.  If you can’t access information online, if you cannot be exposed to different points of view, you will not reach your full potential.  And over time, the youth will lose hope.

I know these issues are sensitive, especially coming from an American President.  Before 1959, some Americans saw Cuba as something to exploit, ignored poverty, enabled corruption.  And since 1959, we’ve been shadow-boxers in this battle of geopolitics and personalities.  I know the history, but I refuse to be trapped by it.  (Applause.)

I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity, nor the intention to impose change on Cuba.  What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people.  We will not impose our political or economic system on you.  We recognize that every country, every people, must chart its own course and shape its own model.  But having removed the shadow of history from our relationship, I must speak honestly about the things that I believe — the things that we, as Americans, believe.  As Marti said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy.”

So let me tell you what I believe.  I can’t force you to agree, but you should know what I think.  I believe that every person should be equal under the law. (Applause.)  Every child deserves the dignity that comes with education, and health care and food on the table and a roof over their heads.  (Applause.)  I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear — (applause) — to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights.  (Applause.)  I believe that every person should have the freedom to practice their faith peacefully and publicly. (Applause.)  And, yes, I believe voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections.  (Applause.)

Not everybody agrees with me on this.  Not everybody agrees with the American people on this.  But I believe those human rights are universal.  (Applause.)  I believe they are the rights of the American people, the Cuban people, and people around the world.

Now, there’s no secret that our governments disagree on many of these issues.  I’ve had frank conversations with President Castro.  For many years, he has pointed out the flaws in the American system — economic inequality; the death penalty; racial discrimination; wars abroad.  That’s just a sample.  He has a much longer list.  (Laughter.)  But here’s what the Cuban people need to understand:  I welcome this open debate and dialogue. It’s good.  It’s healthy.  I’m not afraid of it.

We do have too much money in American politics.  But, in America, it’s still possible for somebody like me — a child who was raised by a single mom, a child of mixed race who did not have a lot of money — to pursue and achieve the highest office in the land.  That’s what’s possible in America.  (Applause.)

We do have challenges with racial bias — in our communities, in our criminal justice system, in our society — the legacy of slavery and segregation.  But the fact that we have open debates within America’s own democracy is what allows us to get better.  In 1959, the year that my father moved to America, it was illegal for him to marry my mother, who was white, in many American states.  When I first started school, we were still struggling to desegregate schools across the American South.  But people organized; they protested; they debated these issues; they challenged government officials.  And because of those protests, and because of those debates, and because of popular mobilization, I’m able to stand here today as an African-American and as President of the United States.  That was because of the freedoms that were afforded in the United States that we were able to bring about change.

I’m not saying this is easy.  There’s still enormous problems in our society.  But democracy is the way that we solve them.  That’s how we got health care for more of our people.  That’s how we made enormous gains in women’s rights and gay rights.  That’s how we address the inequality that concentrates so much wealth at the top of our society.  Because workers can organize and ordinary people have a voice, American democracy has given our people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and enjoy a high standard of living.  (Applause.)

Now, there are still some tough fights.  It isn’t always pretty, the process of democracy.   It’s often frustrating.  You can see that in the election going on back home.  But just stop and consider this fact about the American campaign that’s taking place right now.  You had two Cuban Americans in the Republican Party, running against the legacy of a black man who is President, while arguing that they’re the best person to beat the Democratic nominee who will either be a woman or a Democratic Socialist.  (Laughter and applause.)  Who would have believed that back in 1959?  That’s a measure of our progress as a democracy.  (Applause.)

So here’s my message to the Cuban government and the Cuban people:  The ideals that are the starting point for every revolution — America’s revolution, Cuba’s revolution, the liberation movements around the world — those ideals find their truest expression, I believe, in democracy.  Not because American democracy is perfect, but precisely because we’re not.  And we — like every country — need the space that democracy gives us to change.  It gives individuals the capacity to be catalysts to think in new ways, and to reimagine how our society should be, and to make them better.

There’s already an evolution taking place inside of Cuba, a generational change.  Many suggested that I come here and ask the people of Cuba to tear something down — but I’m appealing to the young people of Cuba who will lift something up, build something new.  (Applause.)  El futuro  de Cuba tiene que estar en las manos del pueblo Cubano.  (Applause.)

And to President Castro — who I appreciate being here today — I want you to know, I believe my visit here demonstrates you do not need to fear a threat from the United States.  And given your commitment to Cuba’s sovereignty and self-determination, I am also confident that you need not fear the different voices of the Cuban people — and their capacity to speak, and assemble, and vote for their leaders.  In fact, I’m hopeful for the future because I trust that the Cuban people will make the right decisions.

And as you do, I’m also confident that Cuba can continue to play an important role in the hemisphere and around the globe — and my hope is, is that you can do so as a partner with the United States.

We’ve played very different roles in the world.  But no one should deny the service that thousands of Cuban doctors have delivered for the poor and suffering.  (Applause.)  Last year, American health care workers — and the U.S. military — worked side-by-side with Cubans to save lives and stamp out Ebola in West Africa.  I believe that we should continue that kind of cooperation in other countries.

We’ve been on the different side of so many conflicts in the Americas.  But today, Americans and Cubans are sitting together at the negotiating table, and we are helping the Colombian people resolve a civil war that’s dragged on for decades.  (Applause.)  That kind of cooperation is good for everybody.  It gives everyone in this hemisphere hope.

We took different journeys to our support for the people of South Africa in ending apartheid.  But President Castro and I could both be there in Johannesburg to pay tribute to the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela.  (Applause.)  And in examining his life and his words, I’m sure we both realize we have more work to do to promote equality in our own countries — to reduce discrimination based on race in our own countries.  And in Cuba, we want our engagement to help lift up the Cubans who are of African descent — (applause) — who’ve proven that there’s nothing they cannot achieve when given the chance.

We’ve been a part of different blocs of nations in the hemisphere, and we will continue to have profound differences about how to promote peace, security, opportunity, and human rights.  But as we normalize our relations, I believe it can help foster a greater sense of unity in the Americas — todos somos Americanos.  (Applause.)

From the beginning of my time in office, I’ve urged the people of the Americas to leave behind the ideological battles of the past.  We are in a new era.  I know that many of the issues that I’ve talked about lack the drama of the past.  And I know that part of Cuba’s identity is its pride in being a small island nation that could stand up for its rights, and shake the world. But I also know that Cuba will always stand out because of the talent, hard work, and pride of the Cuban people.  That’s your strength.  (Applause.)  Cuba doesn’t have to be defined by being against the United States, any more than the United States should be defined by being against Cuba.  I’m hopeful for the future because of the reconciliation that’s taking place among the Cuban people.

I know that for some Cubans on the island, there may be a sense that those who left somehow supported the old order in Cuba.  I’m sure there’s a narrative that lingers here which suggests that Cuban exiles ignored the problems of pre-Revolutionary Cuba, and rejected the struggle to build a new future.  But I can tell you today that so many Cuban exiles carry a memory of painful — and sometimes violent — separation.  They love Cuba.  A part of them still considers this their true home. That’s why their passion is so strong.  That’s why their heartache is so great.  And for the Cuban American community that I’ve come to know and respect, this is not just about politics. This is about family — the memory of a home that was lost; the desire to rebuild a broken bond; the hope for a better future the hope for return and reconciliation.

For all of the politics, people are people, and Cubans are Cubans.  And I’ve come here — I’ve traveled this distance — on a bridge that was built by Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits.  I first got to know the talent and passion of the Cuban people in America.  And I know how they have suffered more than the pain of exile — they also know what it’s like to be an outsider, and to struggle, and to work harder to make sure their children can reach higher in America.

So the reconciliation of the Cuban people — the children and grandchildren of revolution, and the children and grandchildren of exile — that is fundamental to Cuba’s future.  (Applause.)

You see it in Gloria Gonzalez, who traveled here in 2013 for the first time after 61 years of separation, and was met by her sister, Llorca.  “You recognized me, but I didn’t recognize you,” Gloria said after she embraced her sibling.  Imagine that, after 61 years.

You see it in Melinda Lopez, who came to her family’s old home.  And as she was walking the streets, an elderly woman recognized her as her mother’s daughter, and began to cry.  She took her into her home and showed her a pile of photos that included Melinda’s baby picture, which her mother had sent 50 years ago.  Melinda later said, “So many of us are now getting so much back.”

You see it in Cristian Miguel Soler, a young man who became the first of his family to travel here after 50 years.  And meeting relatives for the first time, he said, “I realized that family is family no matter the distance between us.”

Sometimes the most important changes start in small places. The tides of history can leave people in conflict and exile and poverty.  It takes time for those circumstances to change.  But the recognition of a common humanity, the reconciliation of people bound by blood and a belief in one another — that’s where progress begins.  Understanding, and listening, and forgiveness. And if the Cuban people face the future together, it will be more likely that the young people of today will be able to live with dignity and achieve their dreams right here in Cuba.

The history of the United States and Cuba encompass revolution and conflict; struggle and sacrifice; retribution and, now, reconciliation.  It is time, now, for us to leave the past behind.  It is time for us to look forward to the future together — un future de esperanza.  And it won’t be easy, and there will be setbacks.  It will take time.  But my time here in Cuba renews my hope and my confidence in what the Cuban people will do.  We can make this journey as friends, and as neighbors, and as family — together.  Si se puede.  Muchas gracias.  (Applause.)

END
10:48 A.M. CST

Full Text Political Transcripts March 21, 2016: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump’s Speech to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Donald Trump’s Speech to AIPAC

Source: Time, 3-21-16

 

 

TRUMP: Good evening. Thank you very much.

I speak to you today as a lifelong supporter and true friend of Israel. (CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

I am a newcomer to politics, but not to backing the Jewish state.

(APPLAUSE)

In 2001, weeks after the attacks on New York City and on Washington and, frankly, the attacks on all of us, attacks that perpetrated and they were perpetrated by the Islamic fundamentalists, Mayor Rudy Giuliani visited Israel to show solidarity with terror victims.

I sent my plane because I backed the mission for Israel 100 percent.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

In spring of 2004 at the height of the violence in the Gaza Strip, I was the grand marshal of the 40th Salute to Israel Parade, the largest-single gathering in support of the Jewish state.

(APPLAUSE)

It was a very dangerous time for Israel and frankly for anyone supporting Israel. Many people turned down this honor. I did not. I took the risk and I’m glad I did.

(APPLAUSE)

But I didn’t come here tonight to pander to you about Israel. That’s what politicians do: all talk, no action. Believe me.

(APPLAUSE)

I came here to speak to you about where I stand on the future of American relations with our strategic ally, our unbreakable friendship and our cultural brother, the only democracy in the Middle East, the state of Israel.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

My number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you.

I have been in business a long time. I know deal-making. And let me tell you, this deal is catastrophic for America, for Israel and for the whole of the Middle East.

(APPLAUSE) The problem here is fundamental. We’ve rewarded the world’s leading state sponsor of terror with $150 billion, and we received absolutely nothing in return.

(APPLAUSE)

I’ve studied this issue in great detail, I would say actually greater by far than anybody else.

(LAUGHTER)

Believe me. Oh, believe me. And it’s a bad deal.

The biggest concern with the deal is not necessarily that Iran is going to violate it because already, you know, as you know, it has, the bigger problem is that they can keep the terms and still get the bomb by simply running out the clock. And of course, they’ll keep the billions and billions of dollars that we so stupidly and foolishly gave them.

(APPLAUSE)

The deal doesn’t even require Iran to dismantle its military nuclear capability. Yes, it places limits on its military nuclear program for only a certain number of years, but when those restrictions expire, Iran will have an industrial-sized, military nuclear capability ready to go and with zero provision for delay, no matter how bad Iran’s behavior is. Terrible, terrible situation that we are all placed in and especially Israel.

(APPLAUSE)

When I’m president, I will adopt a strategy that focuses on three things when it comes to Iran. First, we will stand up to Iran’s aggressive push to destabilize and dominate the region.

(APPLAUSE)

Iran is a very big problem and will continue to be. But if I’m not elected president, I know how to deal with trouble. And believe me, that’s why I’m going to be elected president, folks.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

And we are leading in every poll. Remember that, please.

(CHEERS)

Iran is a problem in Iraq, a problem in Syria, a problem in Lebanon, a problem in Yemen and will be a very, very major problem for Saudi Arabia. Literally every day, Iran provides more and better weapons to support their puppet states. Hezbollah, Lebanon received — and I’ll tell you what, it has received sophisticated anti-ship weapons, anti-aircraft weapons and GPS systems and rockets like very few people anywhere in the world and certainly very few countries have. Now they’re in Syria trying to establish another front against Israel from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

In Gaza, Iran is supporting Hamas and Islamic jihad.

And in the West Bank, they’re openly offering Palestinians $7,000 per terror attack and $30,000 for every Palestinian terrorist’s home that’s been destroyed. A deplorable, deplorable situation.

(APPLAUSE)

Iran is financing military forces throughout the Middle East and it’s absolutely incredible that we handed them over $150 billion to do even more toward the many horrible acts of terror.

(APPLAUSE)

Secondly, we will totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network which is big and powerful, but not powerful like us.

(APPLAUSE)

Iran has seeded terror groups all over the world. During the last five years, Iran has perpetuated terror attacks in 25 different countries on five continents. They’ve got terror cells everywhere, including in the Western Hemisphere, very close to home.

Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world. And we will work to dismantle that reach, believe me, believe me.

(APPLAUSE)

Third, at the very least, we must enforce the terms of the previous deal to hold Iran totally accountable. And we will enforce it like you’ve never seen a contract enforced before, folks, believe me.

(APPLAUSE)

Iran has already, since the deal is in place, test-fired ballistic missiles three times. Those ballistic missiles, with a range of 1,250 miles, were designed to intimidate not only Israel, which is only 600 miles away, but also intended to frighten Europe and someday maybe hit even the United States. And we’re not going to let that happen. We’re not letting it happen. And we’re not letting it happen to Israel, believe me.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you.

Do you want to hear something really shocking? As many of the great people in this room know, painted on those missiles in both Hebrew and Farsi were the words “Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth.” You can forget that.

(APPLAUSE)

What kind of demented minds write that in Hebrew?

And here’s another. You talk about twisted. Here’s another twisted part. Testing these missiles does not even violate the horrible deal that we’ve made. The deal is silent on test missiles. But those tests do violate the United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The problem is no one has done anything about it. We will, we will. I promise, we will.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

Which brings me to my next point, the utter weakness and incompetence of the United Nations.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

The United Nations is not a friend of democracy, it’s not a friend to freedom, it’s not a friend even to the United States of America where, as you know, it has its home. And it surely is not a friend to Israel.

(APPLAUSE)

With President Obama in his final year — yea!

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

He may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel, believe me, believe me. And you know it and you know it better than anybody.

So with the president in his final year, discussions have been swirling about an attempt to bring a Security Council resolution on terms of an eventual agreement between Israel and Palestine.

Let me be clear: An agreement imposed by the United Nations would be a total and complete disaster.

(APPLAUSE)

The United States must oppose this resolution and use the power of our veto, which I will use as president 100 percent.

(APPLAUSE)

When people ask why, it’s because that’s not how you make a deal. Deals are made when parties come together, they come to a table and they negotiate. Each side must give up something. It’s values. I mean, we have to do something where there’s value in exchange for something that it requires. That’s what a deal is. A deal is really something that when we impose it on Israel and Palestine, we bring together a group of people that come up with something.

That’s not going to happen with the United Nations. It will only further, very importantly, it will only further delegitimize Israel. It will be a catastrophe and a disaster for Israel. It’s not going to happen, folks.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

And further, it would reward Palestinian terrorism because every day they’re stabbing Israelis and even Americans. Just last week, American Taylor Allen Force, a West Point grad, phenomenal young person who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was murdered in the street by a knife-wielding Palestinian. You don’t reward behavior like that. You cannot do it.

(APPLAUSE)

There’s only one way you treat that kind of behavior. You have to confront it.

(APPLAUSE)

So it’s not up to the United Nations to really go with a solution. It’s really the parties that must negotiate a resolution themselves. They have no choice. They have to do it themselves or it will never hold up anyway. The United States can be useful as a facilitator of negotiations, but no one should be telling Israel that it must be and really that it must abide by some agreement made by others thousands of miles away that don’t even really know what’s happening to Israel, to anything in the area. It’s so preposterous, we’re not going to let that happen.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

When I’m president, believe me, I will veto any attempt by the U.N. to impose its will on the Jewish state. It will be vetoed 100 percent.

(APPLAUSE)

You see, I know about deal-making. That’s what I do. I wrote “The Art of the Deal.”

(LAUGHTER)

One of the best-selling, all-time — and I mean, seriously, I’m saying one of because I’ll be criticized when I say “the” so I’m going to be very diplomatic — one of…

(LAUGHTER)

I’ll be criticized. I think it is number one, but why take a chance? (LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

One of the all-time best-selling books about deals and deal- making. To make a great deal, you need two willing participants. We know Israel is willing to deal. Israel has been trying.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s right. Israel has been trying to sit down at the negotiating table without preconditions for years. You had Camp David in 2000 where Prime Minister Barak made an incredible offer, maybe even too generous; Arafat rejected it.

In 2008, Prime Minister Olmert made an equally generous offer. The Palestinian Authority rejected it also.

Then John Kerry tried to come up with a framework and Abbas didn’t even respond, not even to the secretary of state of the United States of America. They didn’t even respond.

When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

And when I say something, I mean it, I mean it.

I will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately. I have known him for many years and we’ll be able to work closely together to help bring stability and peace to Israel and to the entire region.

Meanwhile, every single day you have rampant incitement and children being taught to hate Israel and to hate the Jews. It has to stop.

(APPLAUSE)

When you live in a society where the firefighters are the heroes, little kids want to be firefighters. When you live in a society where athletes and movie stars are the heroes, little kids want to be athletes and movie stars.

In Palestinian society, the heroes are those who murder Jews. We can’t let this continue. We can’t let this happen any longer.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

You cannot achieve peace if terrorists are treated as martyrs. Glorifying terrorists is a tremendous barrier to peace. It is a horrible, horrible way to think. It’s a barrier that can’t be broken. That will end and it’ll end soon, believe me.

(APPLAUSE)

In Palestinian textbooks and mosques, you’ve got a culture of hatred that has been fomenting there for years. And if we want to achieve peace, they’ve got to go out and they’ve got to start this educational process. They have to end education of hatred. They have to end it and now.

(APPLAUSE)

There is no moral equivalency. Israel does not name public squares after terrorists. Israel does not pay its children to stab random Palestinians.

You see, what President Obama gets wrong about deal-making is that he constantly applies pressure to our friends and rewards our enemies.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

And you see that happening all the time, that pattern practiced by the president and his administration, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is a total disaster, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

She and President Obama have treated Israel very, very badly.

(APPLAUSE)

But it’s repeated itself over and over again and has done nothing (to) embolden those who hate America. We saw that with releasing the $150 billion to Iran in the hope that they would magically join the world community. It didn’t happen.

(APPLAUSE)

President Obama thinks that applying pressure to Israel will force the issue. But it’s precisely the opposite that happens. Already half of the population of Palestine has been taken over by the Palestinian ISIS and Hamas, and the other half refuses to confront the first half, so it’s a very difficult situation that’s never going to get solved unless you have great leadership right here in the United States.

We’ll get it solved. One way or the other, we will get it solved.

(APPLAUSE)

But when the United States stands with Israel, the chances of peace really rise and rises exponentially. That’s what will happen when Donald Trump is president of the United States.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE) We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

And we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is absolutely, totally unbreakable.

(APPLAUSE)

They must come to the table willing and able to stop the terror being committed on a daily basis against Israel. They must do that.

And they must come to the table willing to accept that Israel is a Jewish state and it will forever exist as a Jewish state.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

I love the people in this room. I love Israel. I love Israel. I’ve been with Israel so long in terms of I’ve received some of my greatest honors from Israel, my father before me, incredible. My daughter, Ivanka, is about to have a beautiful Jewish baby.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

In fact, it could be happening right now, which would be very nice as far as I’m concerned.

(LAUGHTER)

So I want to thank you very much. This has been a truly great honor. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

Thank you very much.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

Full Text Political Transcripts March 21, 2016: Republican Presidential Candidate John Kasich’s Speech to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Gov. John Kasich’s Speech to AIPAC

Source: Time, 3-21-16

 

Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Well, I’m delighted to be back at AIPAC, an organization I’ve known and worked with since the early 1980s.

You know, back then your audience numbered in the hundreds. A testament to AIPAC is that those crowds are now in the thousands, as we can see today.

You know, I first visited Israel in 1983 with my late dear friend Gordon Zacks. As you all know, Gordon was a founding member of AIPAC, and it was on that trip that I actually visited Bethlehem and I called my mother on Christmas night from Jerusalem. As you can imagine, it was a very, very special moment. And Gordon always reminded me of it.

Gordon helped me as much as anyone has over the years to know and to appreciate the importance of our relationship with Israel and Israel’s unique security challenges. And I can’t think of a better guy who could have taken me to Israel.

It was on my trip in 1983 that Gordon introduced me to Avital Sharansky, when her husband Natan was still in a Soviet prison. She told me her husband’s story over lunch at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and said she was going to Washington to plead for his release. I asked her, would you mind if I organized a rally in support of your husband on the steps of the Capitol. And so we came together in a bipartisan way to call for Natan Sharansky’s release.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, Gordy had taken Sharansky into the Oval Office to meet with the President Reagan. And when the meeting ended, Mrs. Sharansky was told by the president I will not rest until your husband is free. Sharansky’s story has always inspired me from the day that Gordy first introduced me to Avital. But I don’t know how many of you here have ever read his book, “Fear No Evil.”

(APPLAUSE)

Natan wrote in that book, as I related to him, and he said, I’m glad that you saw it, that when they went to him in the prison, they wanted him to confess something. And they said to Natan, well, you understand that Galileo even confessed. And think about Sharansky sitting in that prison in that solitary confinement. And he thought to himself and told them you’re using Galileo against me? No one will ever use me any against any other prisoner of conscience. For that he deserves to always be remembered.

(APPLAUSE)

I had a phone conversation with Natan for years, but I never had the chance to meet him. And ironically, I met him at the cemetery when we laid Gordy Zacks to rest, where Natan gave a eulogy on behalf of our great friend. Look, I want it to be clear to all of you that I remain unwavering in my support for the Jewish state and the unique partnership between the United States and Israel.

(APPLAUSE)

When I was first introduced to Israel and some of its leaders, of course the core of our partnership with Israel was already very well- defined. And we give thanks to Harry Truman for the courageous steps he took when Israel was first established.

(APPLAUSE)

And I applaud our continuing legacy of support for the Jewish state and the struggles, inventiveness and vitality of the Jewish people. This legacy is one that will not only honor in my administration, but will take active steps to strengthen and expand.

(APPLAUSE)

I want you all to know something very special to me, because it was at a ceremony recognizing the Holocaust that as governor I proposed that we build a permanent memorial so that people, and particularly our young people, could understand the history and the lesson of man’s inhumanity to man and the incredible suffering visited upon the Jews across the globe.

I worked with some prominent Ohioans as the Ratners, the Schottensteins, the Wexners, and many other members of the Jewish community over three years to make it happen.

(APPLAUSE)

They told me it could not be done, and I said you watch me, we will build a memorial. The memorial finally was designed by Daniel Libeskind and it was the first of its kind in the nation.

And you all please come to Columbus and look at it, it is just beautiful.

(APPLAUSE)

But I want to tell you that a very good friend of mine Victor Goodman, a prominent member of the Jewish community in Ohio, asked me to take him over to look at that memorial before it was unveiled. We walked over behind the tarp. I had my arm around his shoulder. And we read the inscription and the memorial together.

And I will never forget, when he finished reading it he buried his head in my chest and wept. And we wept together. And he looked at me and said, John, thank you for what you have done here. This will exist as long as the state of Ohio exists.

As you may know, I served on the House Armed Services Committee for 18 years. And I worked to implement Ronald Reagan’s strategy to revitalize our military and to defeat the Soviet Union. Together, my colleagues in Congress and I gave our alliance with Israel meaning. We assured Israel’s continuing qualitative military edge by authoring the initial $10 million for the Arrow/Iron Dome anti-missile program that we know is so critical to the security of Israel.

(APPLAUSE)

We supported the Phantom 2000 program guaranteeing Israeli air superiority with the latest fighters and the transfer of reactive armor technology that has made Israel tanks so effective. I think it can be fairly said that my support and friendship for our strategic partner Israel has been firm and unwavering for more than 35 years of my professional life.

(APPLAUSE)

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, has in turn been a faithful and dependable friends. The American friends of Israel are not fair-weather friends. They recognize the strategic hinge with Israel and that America’s and Israel’s interests are tightly intertwined despite our inevitable disagreements from time to time.

We share a critically important common interest in the Middle East, the unrelenting opposition to Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

(APPLAUSE)

In March of 2015, when the prime minister spoke out against the Iran nuclear deal before a joint session of Congress, I flew to Washington and stood on the floor of the House of Representatives that was in session, the first time I had visited since we had been in session in 15 years. And I did it to show my respect, my personal respect, to the people of Israel.

(APPLAUSE)

And I want you all to know that I have called for the suspension of the U.S.’s participation in the Iran nuclear deal in reaction to Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests.

(APPLAUSE)

These tests were both a violation of the spirit of the nuclear deal and provocations that could no longer be ignored. One of the missiles tested had printed on it in Hebrew, can you believe this, “Israel must be exterminated.”

And I will instantly gather the world and lead us to reapply sanctions if Iran violates one crossed T or one dot of that nuclear deal.

We must put the sanctions back on them as the world community together.

(APPLAUSE) Let me also tell you, no amount of money that’s being made by any business will stand in the way of the need to make sure that the security of Israel is secured and that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon. No amount of money can push us in the wrong direction.

(APPLAUSE)

And I want you to be assured that in a Kasich administration there will be no more delusional agreements with self-declared enemies. No more.

(APPLAUSE)

And as the candidate in this race with the deepest and most far- reaching foreign policy and national security experience, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t need on-the-job training. I will not have to learn about the dangers facing this country and our allies. I have lived these matters for decades.

One day and on day one in the Oval Office I will have in place a solid team of experienced and dedicated people who will implement a long-term, strategic program to assure the security and safety of this country and that of its allies, such as Israel.

I will lead and make decisions and my national security appointees will work tirelessly with Israel to counter Iran’s regional aggression and sponsorship of terror. We will help to interdict weapons supplies to Hezbollah. We will defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq. And we will assist Israel to interdict Iranian arms supplies and financial flows to Hamas.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me stress, I will also work to build and expand on Israel’s newfound regional relations as a result of the flawed Iran nuclear deal, amazing, Israel and the Arab Gulf States are now closer than ever. The bad news here is that the U.S. is not part of this new web of relations. I will work to participate in, expand and strengthen those ties.

(APPLAUSE)

Israelis live in one of the world’s roughest neighborhoods. And Iran is not the only threat that the U.S. and Israel both face there. ISIS, headquartered in Syria and Iraq, is a mortal peril and of course, ladies and gentlemen, its spread must be stopped.

Since it is dedicated to destruction in Israel, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States, it is a threat to all civilization. Unless we recognize and unite around this central truth, we will remain committed to ineffective and piecemeal approach to dealing with ISIS.

Because the world recognizes the existential threat posed by ISIS, I believe I can lead a regional and NATO coalition to defeat ISIS both from the air and on the ground, in Syria and in Iraq. We’re all in this together.

(APPLAUSE)

I will also provide support and relief to our common ally, Jordan, that has shared the brunt of refugee flows. And I will bring our troops home as soon as we, together with our allies, have created a realistic prospect that regional powers can conclude a settlement guaranteeing long-term security there.

I will then support allied coalitions as they destroy ISIS’s various regional affiliates. My administration will cooperate with our allies to deny Libya’s oil as a resource, deny Libya as a platform to amount attacks against Europe, and disband what has become a hub for act of terror throughout Africa.

I will support our common, vital ally, Egypt, in its efforts to destroy the insurgency in Sinai and terrorists infiltrating from Libya.

(APPLAUSE)

And I will provide the Afghan National Security Forces with the key aircraft and support need to defeat the Taliban, al-Qaida and ISIS, and then I will bring our troops in Afghanistan back home.

(APPLAUSE)

Insurgent states such as Iran and network transnational terrorist actors such as ISIS are not the only threats that Israel, the Jewish- American community in America together face. Believe me, a Kasich administration will work from the beginning to block and eliminate any form of intolerance, bigotry, racism, or anti-Semitism, whether domestic or international, particularly in international bodies.

(APPLAUSE)

I condemn all attempts to isolate, pressure and delegitimize the state of Israel, and I will support Congress’s efforts to allow this activity both here and in the E.U. And I am also very concerned about rising attacks on Israel and Jewish students on our college campuses.

(APPLAUSE)

I pledge to use the full force of the White House to fight this scourge, and I will make sure we have the tools needed to protect students from hate speech, harassment and intimidation, while supporting free speech on our college campuses.

(APPLAUSE)

I’ve been horrified by the recent spate of Palestinian attacks on Israeli citizens. These are not spontaneous actions of lone wolves, they are part of an unprecedented wave of terror that has involved over 200 attacks on Israelis since October 2015. And they are the outcome of a culture of death that the Palestinian Authority and its forbears have promoted for over 50 years. (APPLAUSE)

Indoctrination of hate has long been part of a planned and well- thought-out strategy. Palestinian children are raised in a culture that glorifies martyrdom and the willingness to die in the pursuit of killing or maiming Israelis. Children’s textbooks have been filled with vial anti-Semitism. Families of suicide killers receive an annuity after they kill and maim. Imprisoned terrorists receive stipends and are guaranteed jobs in the Palestinian civil service at a salary determined by the length of their sentence. Public squares, streets and even soccer tournaments are named after terrorists.

If they truly want peace with Israel, then Palestinians cannot continue to promote a culture of hatred and death. We must make it clear that we will not tolerate such behavior.

(APPLAUSE)

And I do not believe there is any prospect for a permanent peace until the Palestinian Authority and their friends in Hamas and Hezbollah are prepared to take real steps to live in peace with Israel and recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and this violence is unacceptable.

(APPLAUSE)

In the meantime, we can best advance stability in the region by providing Israel our 100 percent support. We can make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself with weapons, information, technology, political solidarity and working quietly to facilitate Palestinian and Israeli efforts at reconciliation. This is what would be expected of a dependable ally.

Folks, let me conclude by talking about the greatest alliances are those with countries such as Israel where we share a community of values. The post-war international system that we and our allies built upon these common values of course is under challenge or attack. And that’s why we have to recommit ourselves to those values.

We must not shy away from proclaiming and celebrating them, and why we must revitalize our alliances to defend and expand the international system, build upon those values, a system that has prevented global conflict and lifted over 2 billion people out of poverty in the last 70 years.

In doing this, we cannot go it alone. We must hang together and be realistic about what we can achieve. We cannot be neutral in defending our allies either.

We must be counted on to stand by and invest in our friends instead of abusing them and currying favor with our enemies.

(APPLAUSE)

For effective governance in our democracy and for the sake of the future, we have to work together at home, as well across party and ideological lines whenever and wherever possible. This is exactly what I’ve done in the course of my career in public service.

I reached out to the other side countless times to see how we can sit together and achieve the progress that America wants and deserves.

And we all look back to the time of Ronald Reagan and his meetings with Tip O’Neill, where they came together to put America first, politics and partisanship second. And Reagan, as he reached across the aisle to Tip O’Neill, very partisan, legendary, they managed to hammer out deals that gave Reagan victories in revitalizing our economy and implementing the military buildup that ended the Cold War.

But it took a conscious effort and an attitude of wanting to cooperate. So, this is what I want to do, Republicans and Democrats who are here today. We need to work together with Congress on an agenda that serves the interests of the nation as a whole. We are Americans before we are Republicans or Democrats. We are Americans!

(APPLAUSE)

And let me tell you, in regard to that, I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land. I will not do it!

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, we will rededicate ourselves to reaching the bipartisan national security policy that President Reagan and the Democrats achieved. And you can be assured that my strategic program will include and incorporate Israel as the bedrock partner for our mutual security in the Middle East. Together we will combat violence incited in Israel itself and, of course, its eternal capital, Jerusalem.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here today in front of so many of you who have contributed so much. I’m humbled by the chance to stand here at this incredible gathering of people who so much love America and so much love our great ally, Israel.

You see, we’re connected together. It’s about civilization. It’s about peace. It’s about love. It’s about togetherness. It’s about healing the world.

The great Jewish tradition is everyone lives a life a little bigger than themselves, and that tradition has worked its way deep into my soul where I tell people all across America dig down deep, the Lord has made you special. Live a life bigger than yourself, lift others, heal, provide hope, provide progress.

And with that, the rest of the century and the relationship between the United States and Israel will grow stronger and stronger for the benefit and mutual security of the world.

Thank you all very much, and God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

Full Text Political Transcripts March 21, 2016: Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz’s Speech to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Sen. Ted Cruz’s Speech to AIPAC

Full Text Political Transcripts March 21, 2016: President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro’s Remarks in a Joint Press Conference

Remarks by President Obama and President Raul Castro of Cuba in a Joint Press Conference

Source: WH, 3-21-16

Palace of the Revolution
Havana, Cuba

2:18 P.M. CST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Buenas tardes.  President Castro, to you, the Cuban government and the Cuban people, thank you for the welcome that you have extended to me, to my family, and to my delegation.  For more than half a century, the sight of a U.S. President here in Havana would have been unimaginable.  But this is a new day — es un nuevo día — between our two countries.

With your indulgence, Mr. President, I want to go just briefly off topic because during this weekend, I received news that one of our outstanding United States Armed Service members, Marine Staff Sergeant Louis F. Cardin of Temecula, California, was killed in northern Iraq as we assisted the Iraqi government in dealing with ISIL, the terrorist organization there.  And I just wanted to give my thoughts and prayers to the family there and those who have been injured.  It’s a reminder that even as we embark on this historic visit, there are U.S. Armed Service members who are sacrificing each and every day on behalf of our freedom and our safety.  So I’m grateful to them.

My wife, Michelle, and I brought our daughters — and by the way, they don’t always want to go with us; they’re teenagers now.  They have friends at home and they have things to do — but they wanted to come to Cuba because they understood, and we wanted to show them, the beauty of Cuba and its people.  We were moved by the Cubans who received us yesterday, smiling and waving, as we drove in from the airport.  We were grateful for the opportunity to experience Old Havana — had some excellent Cuban food.  Our visit to the Cathedral was a reminder of the values that we share, of the deep faith that sustains so many Cubans and Americans.  And it also gave me an opportunity to express my gratitude to Cardinal Ortega, who, along with His Holiness Pope Francis, did so much to support the improved relations between our governments.  This morning, I was honored to pay tribute to José Martí — not only his role in Cuban independence, but the profound words that he wrote and spoke in support of liberty and freedom everywhere.

I bring with me the greetings and the friendship of the American people.  In fact, I’m joined on this trip by nearly 40 members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans.  This is the largest such delegation of my presidency, and it indicates the excitement and interest in America about the process that we’ve undertaken.  These members of Congress recognize that our new relationship with the Cuban people is in the interest of both nations.  I’m also joined by some of America’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs because we’re ready to pursue more commercial ties, which create jobs and opportunity for Cubans and Americans alike.

And I’m especially pleased that I’m joined on this trip by so many Cuban Americans.  For them, and for the more than two million proud Cuban Americans across the United States, this is a moment filled with great emotion.  Ever since we made it easier to travel between our countries, more Cuban Americans are coming home.  For many, this is a time of new hope for the future.

So, President Castro, I want to thank you for the courtesy and the spirit of openness that you’ve shown during our talks.  At our meeting in Panama last year, you said that we’re willing to discuss every issue, and everything is on the table.  So with your understanding, my statement will be a little longer than usual.

President Castro always jokes with me about how long Castro brothers’ speeches can be.  But I’m going to actually go a little longer than you probably today, with your indulgence.  We have a half a century of work to catch up on.

Our growing engagement with Cuba is guided by one overarching goal — advancing the mutual interests of our two countries, including improving the lives of our people, both Cubans and Americans.  That’s why I’m here.  I’ve said consistently, after more than five very difficult decades, the relationship between our governments will not be transformed overnight.  We continue, as President Castro indicated, to have some very serious differences, including on democracy and human rights.  And President Castro and I have had very frank and candid conversations on these subjects.

The United States recognizes progress that Cuba has made as a nation, its enormous achievements in education and in health care.  And perhaps most importantly, I affirmed that Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation.  Cuba is sovereign and, rightly, has great pride.  And the future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans, not by anybody else.

At the same time, as we do wherever we go around the world, I made it clear that the United States will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy, including the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future.  We’ll speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech, and assembly, and religion.  Indeed, I look forward to meeting with and hearing from Cuban civil society leaders tomorrow.

But as you heard, President Castro has also addressed what he views as shortcomings in the United States around basic needs for people, and poverty and inequality and race relations.  And we welcome that constructive dialogue as well — because we believe that when we share our deepest beliefs and ideas with an attitude of mutual respect, that we can both learn and make the lives of our people better.

Part of normalizing relations means that we discuss our differences directly.  So I’m very pleased that we’ve agreed to hold our next U.S.-Cuba human rights dialogue here in Havana later this year.  And both of our countries will welcome visits by independent United Nations experts as we combat human trafficking, which we agree is a profound violation of human rights.

Even as we discuss these differences, we share a belief that we can continue to make progress in those areas that we have in common.  President Castro, you said in Panama that “we might disagree on something today on which we would agree tomorrow.”  And that’s certainly been the case over the past 15 months and the days leading up to this visit.  And today, I can report that we continue to move forward on many fronts when it comes to normalizing relations.

We’re moving ahead with more opportunities for Americans to travel to Cuba and interact with the Cuban people.  Over the past year, the number of Americans coming here has surged.  Last week, we gave approval for individual Americans to come here for educational travel.  U.S. airlines will begin direct commercial flights this year.  With last week’s port security announcement, we’ve removed the last major hurdle to resuming cruises and ferry service.  All of which will mean even more Americans visiting Cuba in the years ahead and appreciating the incredible history and culture of the Cuban people.

We’re moving ahead with more trade.  With only 90 miles between us, we’re natural trading partners.  Other steps we took last week — allowing the U.S. dollar to be used more widely with Cuba, giving Cubans more access to the dollar in international transactions, and allowing Cubans in the U.S. to earn salaries –- these things will do more to create opportunities for trade and joint ventures.  We welcome Cuba’s important announcement that it plans to end the 10 percent penalty on dollar conversions here, which will open the door to more travel and more commerce.  And these steps show that we’re opening up to one another.

With this visit, we’ve agreed to deepen our cooperation on agriculture to support our farmers and our ranchers.  This afternoon, I’ll highlight some of the new commercial deals being announced by major U.S. companies.  And just as I continue to call on Congress to lift the trade embargo, I discussed with President Castro the steps we urge Cuba to take to show that it’s ready to do more business, which includes allowing more joint ventures and allowing foreign companies to hire Cubans directly.

We’re moving ahead with our efforts to help connect more Cubans to the Internet and the global economy.  Under President Castro, Cuba has set a goal of bringing Cubans online.  And we want to help.  At this afternoon’s entrepreneurship event, I’ll discuss additional steps we’re taking to help more Cubans learn, innovate, and do business online — because in the 21st century, countries cannot be successful unless their citizens have access to the Internet.

We’re moving ahead with more educational exchanges.  Thanks to the generous support of the Cuban-American community, I can announce that my 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative will offer new opportunities for university students to study abroad — more Americans at Cuban schools and more Cubans at U.S. schools.  And going forward, educational grants and scholarships will be available to Cuban students.  And in partnership with the Cuban government, we’ll offer more English language training for Cuban teachers, both in Cuba and online.

Even as Cubans prepare for the arrival of the Rolling Stones, we’re moving ahead with more events and exchanges that bring Cubans and Americans together as well.  We all look forward to tomorrow’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team.

More broadly, we’re moving ahead with partnerships in health, science, and the environment.  Just as Cubans and American medical teams have worked together in Haiti against cholera, and in West Africa against Ebola — and I want to give a special commendation to Cuban doctors who volunteered and took on some very tough assignments to save lives in West Africa in partnership with us and other nations.  We very much appreciate the work that they did.  Our medical professionals will now collaborate in new areas, preventing the spread of viruses like Zika and leading new research into cancer vaccines.  Our governments will also work to protect the beautiful waters of this region that we share.

And as two countries threatened by climate change, I believe we can work together to protect communities and our low-lying coasts.  And we’re inviting Cuba to join us and our Caribbean and Central American partners at this spring’s regional energy summit in Washington.

And finally, we’re moving ahead with our closer cooperation on regional security.  We’re working to deepen our law enforcement coordination, especially against narco-traffickers that threaten both of our peoples.  I want to thank President Castro and the Cuban government for hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC.  And we remain optimistic that Colombians can achieve a lasting and just peace.  And although we did not have an extensive discussion of Venezuela, we did touch on the subject.  And I believe that the whole region has an interest in a country that is addressing its economic challenges, is responsive to the aspirations of its people, and is a source of stability in the region.  That is, I believe, an interest that we should all share.

So again, President Castro, I want to thank you for welcoming me.  I think it’s fair to say that the United States and Cuba are now engaged across more areas than any time during my lifetime.  With every passing day, more Americans are coming to Cuba, more U.S. businesses and schools and faith groups are working to forge new partnerships with the Cuban people.  More Cubans are benefitting from the opportunities that this travel and trade bring.

As you indicated, the road ahead will not be easy.  Fortunately, we don’t have to swim with sharks in order to achieve the goals that you and I have set forth.  As you say here in Cuba, “echar para adelante.”  Despite the difficulties, we will continue to move forward.  We’re focused on the future.

And I’m absolutely confident that if we stay on this course, we can deliver a better and brighter future for both the Cuban people and the American people.

Muchas gracias.  Thank you very much.

First question, Jim Acosta.

Q    (As interpreted.)  Thank you, President Castro, for your hospitality in Havana.  And thank you, Mr. President.

(In English.)  In your meeting with President Castro, what words did you use to urge him to pursue democratic reforms and expand human rights here in Cuba?  Will you invite President Castro to the White House?  We know he’s been to New York.  And why did you not meet with Fidel Castro?

And, President Castro, my father is Cuban.  He left for the United States when he was young.  Do you see a new and democratic direction for your country?  And why you have Cuban political prisoners?  And why don’t you release them?  And one more question, who do you prefer — Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, as I think we both indicated, we had a very fruitful conversation around issues of democracy and human rights.  Our starting point is that we have two different systems — two different systems of government, two different economies.  And we have decades of profound differences, both bilaterally and internationally.

What I have said to President Castro is that we are moving forward and not looking backwards; that we don’t view Cuba as a threat to the United States.  I hope that my visit here indicates the degree to which we’re setting a new chapter in Cuban-American relations.

But as is true with countries around the world where we have normalized relations, we will continue to stand up for basic principles that we believe in.  America believes in democracy.  We believe that freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and freedom of religion are not just American values, but are universal values.  They may not express themselves exactly in the same way in every country, they may not be enshrined in the founding documents or constitutions of every country the same way, or protected legally in exactly the same ways, but the impulse — the human impulse towards freedom, the freedom that José Martí talked about, we think is a universal longing.

President Castro I think has pointed out that, in his view, making sure that everybody is getting a decent education or health care, has basic security in old age — that those things are human rights, as well.  I personally would not disagree with him.

But it doesn’t detract from some of these other concerns.  And the goal of the human rights dialogue is not for the United States to dictate to Cuba how they should govern themselves, but to make sure that we are having a frank and candid conversation around this issue and hopefully that we can learn from each other.

It does not mean that it has to be the only issue we talk about.  Economics, health, scientific exchanges, international cooperation on issues of regional as well as global import are also important.  But this is something that we are going to stay on.  And I actually welcome President Castro commenting on some of the areas where he feels that we’re falling short because I think we should not be immune or afraid of criticism or discussion, as well.

Here’s the one thing I do know is that when I talk to Cuban Americans — and, Jim, you’re second generation, and so I think I speak not for you directly, but for many that I talk to around the United States — I think there is enormous hope that there can be reconciliation.  And the bridge that President Castro discussed can be built between the Cuban American community and Cubans here.  There are family ties and cultural ties that are so strong.  And I think everyone would benefit from those ties being reestablished.

One of the impediments to strengthening those ties is these disagreements around human rights and democracy.  And to the extent that we can have a good conversation about that and to actually make progress, that, I think, will allow us to see the full flowering of a relationship that is possible.  In the absence of that, I think it will continue to be a very powerful irritant.  And this is not unique to U.S.-Cuban relations.  It’s one that, as you know, I have conversations with when we go to bilateral meetings with some of our very close allies, as well as countries that we don’t have as close of a relationship to.  But I think it is something that matters.  And I’ve met with people who have been subject to arbitrary detention, and that’s something that I generally have to speak out on because I hear from them directly and I know what it means for them.

Excuse me.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  I was asking if his question was directed to me or to President Obama.  You talked about political prisoners.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think the second one was addressed to you.  Trump and Hillary.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  For him or for me?

Q    (As interpreted.)  For you, Mr. President.

 

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  What did you say about the political prisoners?  Can you repeat that question about political prisoners?  Did you ask if we had political prisoners?

Q    I wanted to know if you have Cuban political prisoners and why you don’t release them.

 

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  Give me the list of political prisoners and I will release them immediately.  Just mention a list.  What political prisoners?  Give me a name or names.  After this meeting is over, you can give me a list of political prisoners.  And if we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.

Q    And Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, President Castro?

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  Well, I cannot vote in the United States.

Q    (As interpreted.)  My question is for President Raul Castro.  I’m from Cuban TV.  President Raul Castro, you have repeatedly stated, and today once again, that we must learn to coexist in a civilized manner with our differences.  Could you broaden this concept?  This is a historical moment that we are living.

And then I have a brief question for President Obama.  President Obama, could U.S. government give more space to eliminate U.S. blockade during your mandate so that another generation of Cubans would not have to suffer this economic and commercial blockade against Cuba?

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  The first question was for me.  Please repeat your question, because I couldn’t hear well.

Q    (As interpreted.)  You have said repeatedly that we must learn to coexist in a civilized manner with our differences.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  Well, President Obama himself has referred to that.  We have given the first steps –- many for being the first steps.  And we must continue giving these steps.  And I’m sure that we will be able to coexist peacefully in an environment of mutual cooperation as we are doing already in many fields for the benefit of both countries and with the benefit of other countries as we have already done — in Haiti, with the cholera and in Africa with the Ebola.  That is the future of mankind if we want to save the humans species.  The level of water grows and the island may become smaller.

You are asking too many questions to me.  I think questions should be directed to President Obama.

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  So we have administratively already made a number of modifications on the embargo.  I referred to a number of them in my opening statement.  And we’ve actually been fairly aggressive in exercising as much flexibility as we can, given that the law putting the embargo in place has not been repealed by Congress.  There may be some technical aspects of the embargo that we can still make adjustments on, depending on problems as they arise.

So, for example, the issue around the dollar and the need to make modifications in terms of how the embargo was implemented to encourage, rather than discourage reforms that the Cuban government itself is willing to engage in and to facilitate greater trade and commerce, that is something that grew out of the dialogue between our governments, and we have made appropriate adjustments to it.  It will take some time for commercial banks to understand the new rules, but we actually think that this is an area where we can improve current circumstances.

But I’ll be honest with you that the list of things that we can do administratively is growing shorter, and the bulk of changes that have to be made with respect to the embargo are now going to rely on Congress making changes.

I’ve been very clear about the interests in getting that done before I leave.  Frankly, Congress is not as productive as I would like during a presidential election year.  But the fact that we have such a large congressional delegation with Democrats and Republicans with us is an indication that there is growing interest inside of Congress for lifting the embargo.

As I just indicated in my earlier answer, how quickly that happens will, in part, depend on whether we can bridge some of our differences around human rights issues.  And that’s why the dialogue I think is so important.  It sends a signal that at least there’s engagement between the two countries on these matters.

Now, I promised the President I would take one more question.  Andrea Mitchell of NBC.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Do you feel, after your meeting today, that you have made enough progress to even accelerate the pace and that the Cuban government is able to move quickly enough so that the changes that you have made through these technical adjustments to the embargo will be permanent, cannot be reversed by the next President?  And what advice have you given to President Castro about the ability of having the blockade, the embargo lifted?  Because he has said again today this is a continuous issue which is blocking progress, from their standpoint.

And you said the conversations about human rights were frank and candid and that you want to move forward.  But even as you were arriving, there were dramatic arrests of peaceful protests — the Ladies in White.  What signal does that send?  Can you have civilized coexistence at the same time you have such profound disagreements about the very definitions of what human rights means, as President Castro expressed today?

And for President Castro, for many of us, it’s remarkable to hear you speak about all these subjects.  Can you tell us what you see in the future?  President Obama has nine months remaining.  You have said you would be stepping down in 2018.  What is the future of our two countries, given the different definitions and the different interpretations of profound issues like democracy and human rights?

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, Andrea, the embargo is going to end.  When, I can’t be entirely sure, but I believe it will end.  And the path that we’re on will continue beyond my administration.  The reason is logic.  The reason is that what we did for 50 years did not serve our interests or the interests of the Cuban people. And as I said when we made the announcement about normalization of relations, if you keep on doing something over and over again for 50 years and it doesn’t work, it might make sense to try something new.

And that’s what we’ve done.  And the fact that there has been strong support not just inside of Congress, not just among the American people, but also among the Cuban people indicates that this is a process that should and will continue.

Having said that, lifting the embargo requires the votes of a majority in Congress, and maybe even more than a majority in the Senate.  And as I indicated to President Castro, two things I think will help accelerate the pace of bringing the embargo to an end.  The first is to the degree that we can take advantage of the existing changes that we’ve already made and we see progress, that will help to validate this change in policy.

So, for example, we have said that it is no longer a restriction on U.S. companies to invest in helping to build Internet and broadband infrastructure inside of Cuba.  It is not against U.S. law, as it’s been interpreted by the administration.  If we start seeing those kinds of commercial deals taking place and Cubans are benefitting from greater access to the Internet — and when I go to the entrepreneurship meeting later this afternoon, I understand that we’re going to meet some young Cubans who are already getting trained and are facile in using the Internet, they’re interested in startups — that builds a constituency for ending the embargo.  If we build on the work that we’re doing in agriculture, and you start seeing more U.S. farmers interacting with Cuban farmers, and there’s more exports and imports — that builds a constituency and the possibility of ending the embargo increases.  So hopefully taking advantage of what we’ve already done will help.

And the second area, which we’ve already discussed extensively, is the issue of human rights.  People are still concerned about that inside of Cuba.

Now, keep in mind I’ve got fierce disagreements with the Chinese around human rights.  I’ll be going to Vietnam later this year — I have deep disagreements with them as well.  When we first visited Burma, people questioned whether we should be traveling there because of longstanding human rights violations in our view.  And the approach that I’ve taken has been that if I engage frankly, clearly, stating what our beliefs are but also being clear that we can’t force change on any particular country — ultimately it has to come from within — then that is going to be a more useful strategy than the same kinds of rigid disengagement that for 50 years did nothing.

I guess ultimately what this comes down to, Andrea, is I have faith in people.  I think that if you meet Cubans here and Cubans meet Americans, and they’re meeting and talking and interacting and doing business together, and going to school together and learning from each other, then they’ll recognize people are people.  And in that context, I believe that change will occur.

Okay, now I’m done, but Señor Presidente, I think Andrea had a question for you just about your vision.  It’s up to you.  He did say he was only going to take one question and I was going to take two.  But I leave it up to you if you want to address that question.

Q    Por favor.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Andrea, she’s one of our most esteemed journalists in America, and I’m sure she’d appreciate just a short, brief answer.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  Andrea —

Q    Mr. President.

PRESIDENT CASTRO:  (As interpreted.)  There is a program here to be fulfilled.  I know that if I stay here, you will ask 500 questions.  I said that I was going to answer one.  Well, I answered one and a half.  President Obama has already helped me out with the answer here, Andrea.

I was reading something about human rights, but I’m going to make the question to you now.  There are 61 international instruments recognized.  How many countries in the world comply with all the human rights and civil rights that have been included in these 61 instruments?  What country complies with them all?  Do you know how many?  I do.  None.

None, whatsoever.  Some countries comply some rights; others comply others.  And we are among these countries.  Out of these 61 instruments, Cuba has complied with 47 of these human rights instruments.  There are countries that may comply with more, there’s those that comply with less.

I think the human rights issue should not be politicized.  That is not correct.  That is a purpose that will stay the same way.  For example, for Cuba, the desire for all the rights.  Do you think there’s any more sacred right than the right to health, so that billions of children don’t die just for the lack of a vaccine or a drug or a medicament?  Do you agree with the right to free education for all those born anywhere in the world or in any country?  I think many countries don’t think this is a human right.  In Cuba, all children are born in a hospital and they are registered that same day, because when mothers are in advance pregnancy they go to hospitals days before, many days before delivery, so that all children are born in hospitals.  It doesn’t matter if they live in faraway places or in mountains or hills.  We have many other rights — a right to health, the right to education.

And this is my last example that I will mention.  Do you think that for equal work, men get better paid than women just for the fact of being women?  Well, in Cuba, women get the same pay for same work.  I can give you many, many examples.  I don’t think we can use the argument of human rights for political confrontation.  That is not fair.  It’s not correct.

I’m not saying that it’s not honest.  It’s part of confrontations, of course.  But let us work so that we can all comply with all human rights.  It’s like talking about pride — I’m going to end here because it’s a commitment that we should end in time.  It’s not correct to ask me about political prisoners in general.  Please give me the name of a political prisoner.

And I think this is enough.  We have concluded.  Thank you for your participation.

END               2:58 P.M. CST

—–

Full Text Political Transcripts March 21, 2016: Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton’s Speech to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Hillary Clinton Remarks at AIPAC’s 2016 Policy Conference

Source: Time, 3-21-16

CLINTON: Thank you so much.

(APPLAUSE)

It is wonderful to be here and see so many friends. I’ve spoken at a lot of AIPAC conferences in the past, but this has to be one of the biggest yet, and there are so many young people here, thousands of college students…

(APPLAUSE) … from hundreds of campuses around the country. I think we should all give them a hand for being here and beginning their commitment to this important cause.

(APPLAUSE)

You will keep the U.S.-Israel relationship going strong. You know, as a senator from New York and secretary of State…

(APPLAUSE)

I’ve had the privilege of working closely with AIPAC members to strengthen and deepen America’s ties with Israel. Now, we may not have always agreed on every detail, but we’ve always shared an unwavering, unshakable commitment to our alliance and to Israel’s future as a secure and democratic homeland for the Jewish people.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: And your support helped us expand security and intelligence cooperation, developed the Iron Dome missile defense system, build a global coalition to impose the toughest sanctions in history on Iran and so much more.

Since my first visit to Israel 35 years ago, I have returned many times and made many friends. I have worked with and learned from some of Israel’s great leaders — although I don’t think Yitzhak Rabin ever forgave me for banishing him to the White House balcony when he wanted to smoke.

(LAUGHTER)

Now I am here as a candidate for president, and…

(APPLAUSE)

I know that all of you understand what’s at stake in this election. Our next president will walk into the Oval Office next January and immediately face a world of both perils we must meet with strength and skill, and opportunities we must seize and build on.

The next president will sit down at that desk and start making decisions that will affect both the lives and livelihoods of every American, and the security of our friends around the world. So we have to get this right.

As AIPAC members, you understand that while the turmoil of the Middle East presents enormous challenge and complexity, walking away is not an option.

(APPLAUSE)

Candidates for president who think the United States can outsource Middle East security to dictators, or that America no longer has vital national interests at stake in this region are dangerously wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

It would be a serious mistake for the United States to abandon our responsibilities, or cede the mantle of leadership for global peace and security to anyone else.

(APPLAUSE)

As we gather here, three evolving threats — Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism across a wide arc of instability, and the growing effort to de-legitimize Israel on the world stage — are converging to make the U.S.-Israel alliance more indispensable than ever.

(APPLAUSE)

We have to combat all these trends with even more intense security and diplomatic cooperation. The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and to advance our shared values.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: This is especially true at a time when Israel faces brutal terrorist stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks at home. Parents worry about letting their children walk down the street. Families live in fear. Just a few weeks ago, a young American veteran and West Point graduate named Taylor Force was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist near the Jaffa Port. These attacks must end immediately…

(APPLAUSE)

And Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families.

(APPLAUSE)

Because we understand the threat Israel faces we know we can never take for granted the strength of our alliance or the success of our efforts. Today, Americans and Israelis face momentous choices that will shape the future of our relationship and of both our nations. The first choice is this: are we prepared to take the U.S./Israel alliance to the next level?

This relationship has always been stronger and deeper than the headlines might lead you to believe. Our work together to develop the Iron Dome saved many Israeli lives when Hamas rockets began to fly.

(APPLAUSE)

I saw its effectiveness firsthand in 2012 when I worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu to negotiate a cease fire in Gaza. And if I’m fortunate enough to be elected president, the United States will reaffirm we have a strong and enduring national interest in Israel’s security.

(APPLAUSE)

And we will never allow Israel’s adversaries to think a wedge can be driven between us.

(APPLAUSE)

As we have differences, as any friends do, we will work to resolve them quickly and respectfully. We will also be clear that the United States has an enduring interest in and commitment to a more peaceful, more stable, more secure Middle East. And we will step up our efforts to achieve that outcome.

(APPLAUSE)

Indeed, at a time of unprecedented chaos and conflict in the region, America needs an Israel strong enough to deter and defend against its enemies, strong enough to work with us to tackle shared challenges and strong enough to take bold steps in the pursuit of peace.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s why I believe we must take our alliance to the next level. I hope a new 10-year defense memorandum of understanding is concluded as soon as possible to meet Israel’s security needs far into the future.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: That will also send a clear message to Israel’s enemies that the United States and Israel stand together united.

It’s also why, as president, I will make a firm commitment to ensure Israel maintains its qualitative military edge.

(APPLAUSE)

The United States should provide Israel with the most sophisticated defense technology so it can deter and stop any threats. That includes bolstering Israeli missile defenses with new systems like the Arrow Three and David’s Sling. And we should work together to develop better tunnel detection, technology to prevent armed smuggling, kidnapping and terrorist attacks.

(APPLAUSE)

One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House.

(APPLAUSE)

And I will send a delegation from the Pentagon and the joint chiefs to Israel for early consultations. Let’s also expand our collaboration beyond security. Together, we can build an even more vibrant culture of innovation that tightens the links between Silicon Valley and Israeli tech companies and entrepreneurs.

(APPLAUSE)

There is much Americans can learn from Israel, from cybersecurity to energy security to water security and just on an everyday people- to-people level. And it’s especially important to continue fostering relationships between American and Israeli young people who may not always remember our shared past. They are the future of our relationship and we have to do more to promote that.

Many of the young people here today are on the front lines of the battle to oppose the alarming boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS.

(APPLAUSE)

Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world, especially in Europe, we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.

(APPLAUSE)

I’ve been sounding the alarm for a while now. As I wrote last year in a letter to the heads of major American Jewish organizations, we have to be united in fighting back against BDS. Many of its proponents have demonized Israeli scientists and intellectuals, even students.

CLINTON: To all the college students who may have encountered this on campus, I hope you stay strong. Keep speaking out. Don’t let anyone silence you, bully you or try to shut down debate, especially in places of learning like colleges and universities.

(APPLAUSE)

Anti-Semitism has no place in any civilized society, not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, all of this work defending Israel’s legitimacy, expanding security and economic ties, taking our alliance to the next level depends on electing a president with a deep, personal commitment to Israel’s future as a secure, Democratic Jewish state, and to America’s responsibilities as a global leader.

Tonight, you’ll hear from candidates with very different visions of American leadership in the region and around the world. You’ll get a glimpse of a potential U.S. foreign policy that would insult our allies, not engage them, and embolden our adversaries, not defeat them.

For the security of Israel and the world, we need America to remain a respected global leader, committed to defending and advancing the international order.

(APPLAUSE)

An America able to block efforts to isolate or attack Israel. The alternative is unthinkable.

(APPLAUSE)

Yes, we need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything’s negotiable.

(APPLAUSE)

Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.

(APPLAUSE)

I have sat in Israeli hospital rooms holding the hands of men and women whose bodies and lives were torn apart by terrorist bombs. I’ve listened to doctors describe the shrapnel left in a leg, an arm or even a head.

That’s why I feel so strongly that America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival. We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some things aren’t negotiable.

(APPLAUSE)

And anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: The second choice we face is whether we will have the strength and commitment to confront the adversaries that threaten us, especially Iran. For many years, we’ve all been rightly focused on the existential danger of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. After all, this remains an extremist regime that threatens to annihilate Israel. That’s why I led the diplomacy to impose crippling sanctions and force Iran to the negotiating table, and why I ultimately supported the agreement that has put a lid on its nuclear program.

(APPLAUSE)

Today Iran’s enriched uranium is all but gone, thousands of centrifuges have stopped spinning, Iran’s potential breakout time has increased and new verification measures are in place to help us deter and detect any cheating. I really believe the United States, Israel and the world are safer as a result.

But still, as I laid out at a speech at the Brookings Institution last year, it’s not good enough to trust and verify. Our approach must be distrust and verify.

(APPLAUSE)

This deal must come with vigorous enforcement, strong monitoring, clear consequences for any violations and a broader strategy to confront Iran’s aggression across the region. We cannot forget that Tehran’s fingerprints are on nearly every conflict across the Middle East, from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies are attempting to establish a position on the Golan from which to threaten Israel, and they continue to fund Palestinian terrorists. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is amassing an arsenal of increasingly sophisticated rockets and artillery that well may be able to hit every city in Israel.

Tonight, you will hear a lot of rhetoric from the other candidates about Iran, but there’s a big difference between talking about holding Tehran accountable and actually doing it. Our next president has to be able to hold together our global coalition and impose real consequences for even the smallest violations of this agreement.

(APPLAUSE) We must maintain the legal and diplomatic architecture to turn all the sanctions back on if need. If I’m elected the leaders of Iran will have no doubt that if we see any indication that they are violating their commitment not to seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons, the United States will act to stop it, and that we will do so with force if necessary.

(APPLAUSE)

Iranian provocations, like the recent ballistic missile tests, are also unacceptable and should be answered firmly and quickly including with more sanctions.

(APPLAUSE)

Those missiles were stamped with words declaring, and I quote, “Israel should be wiped from the pages of history.” We know they could reach Israel or hit the tens of thousands of American troops stationed in the Middle East. This is a serious danger and it demands a serious response.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: The United States must also continue to enforce existing sanctions and impose additional sanctions as needed on Iran and the Revolutionary Guard for their sponsorship of terrorism, illegal arms transfers, human rights violations and other illicit behaviors like cyber attacks. We should continue to demand the safe return of Robert Levinson and all American citizens unjustly held in Iranian prisons.

(APPLAUSE)

And we must work closely with Israel and other partners to cut off the flow of money and arms from Iran to Hezbollah. If the Arab League can designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, surely it is time for our friends in Europe and the rest of the international community to do so as well and to do that now.

(APPLAUSE)

At the same time, America should always stand with those voices inside Iran calling for more openness. Now look, we know the supreme leader still calls the shots and that the hard-liners are intent on keeping their grip on power. But the Iranian people themselves deserve a better future, and they are trying to make their voices heard. They should know that America is not their enemy, they should know we will support their efforts to bring positive change to Iran.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, of course, Iran is not the only threat we and Israel face. The United States and Israel also have to stand together against the threat from ISIS and other radical jihadists. An ISIS affiliate in the Sinai is reportedly stepping up attempts to make inroads in Gaza and partner with Hamas. On Saturday, a number of Israelis and other foreigners were injured or killed in a bombing in Istanbul that may well be linked to ISIS. Two of the dead are U.S.-Israeli dual nationals.

This is a threat that knows no borders. That’s why I’ve laid out a plan to take the fight to ISIS from the air, on the ground with local forces and online where they recruit and inspire. Our goal cannot be to contain ISIS, we must defeat ISIS.

(APPLAUSE) And here is a third choice. Will we keep working toward a negotiated peace or lose forever the goal of two states for two peoples? Despite many setbacks, I remain convinced that peace with security is possible and that it is the only way to guarantee Israel’s long-term survival as a strong Jewish and democratic state.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: It may be difficult to imagine progress in this current climate when many Israelis doubt that a willing and capable partner for peace even exists. But inaction cannot be an option. Israelis deserve a secure homeland for the Jewish people. Palestinians should be able to govern themselves in their own state, in peace and dignity. And only a negotiated two-state agreement can survive those outcomes.

(APPLAUSE)

If we look at the broader regional context, converging interests between Israel and key Arab states could make it possible to promote progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Israelis and Palestinians could contribute toward greater cooperation between Israel and Arabs.

I know how hard all of this is. I remember what it took just to convene Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas for the three sessions of direct face-to-face talks in 2010 that I presided over. But Israelis and Palestinians cannot give up on the hope of peace. That will only make it harder later.

All of us need to look for opportunities to create the conditions for progress, including by taking positive actions that can rebuild trust — like the recent constructive meetings between the Israeli and Palestinian finance ministers aiming to help bolster the Palestinian economy, or the daily on-the-ground security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

But at the same time, all of us must condemn actions that set back the cause of peace. Terrorism should never be encouraged or celebrated, and children should not be taught to hate in schools. That poisons the future.

(APPLAUSE)

Everyone has to do their part by avoiding damaging actions, including with respect to settlements. Now, America has an important role to play in supporting peace efforts. And as president, I would continue the pursuit of direct negotiations. And let me be clear — I would vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution, including by the U.N. Security Council.

(APPLAUSE)

There is one more choice that we face together, and in some ways, it may be the most important of all. Will we, as Americans and as Israelis, stay true to the shared democratic values that have always been at the heart of our relationship? We are both nations built by immigrants and exiles seeking to live and worship in freedom, nations built on principles of equality, tolerance and pluralism.

(APPLAUSE)

At our best, both Israel and America are seen as a light unto the nations because of those values.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: This is the real foundation of our alliance, and I think it’s why so many Americans feel such a deep emotional connection with Israel. I know that I do. And it’s why we cannot be neutral about Israel and Israel’s future, because in Israel’s story, we see our own, and the story of all people who struggle for freedom and self-determination. There’s so many examples. You know, we look at the pride parade in Tel Aviv, one of the biggest and most prominent in the world.

(APPLAUSE)

And we marvel that such a bastion of liberty exists in a region so plagued by intolerance. We see the vigorous, even raucous debate in Israeli politics and feel right at home.

(LAUGHTER)

And, of course, some of us remember a woman, Golda Meir, leading Israel’s government decades ago and wonder what’s taking us so long here in America?

(APPLAUSE)

But we cannot rest on what previous generations have accomplished. Every generation has to renew our values. And, yes, even fight for them. Today, Americans and Israelis face currents of intolerance and extremism that threaten the moral foundations of our societies.

Now in a democracy, we’re going to have differences. But what Americans are hearing on the campaign trail this year is something else entirely: encouraging violence, playing coy with white supremacists, calling for 12 million immigrants to be rounded up and deported, demanding we turn away refugees because of their religion, and proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.

Now, we’ve had dark chapters in our history before. We remember the nearly 1,000 Jews aboard the St. Louis who were refused entry in 1939 and sent back to Europe. But America should be better than this. And I believe it’s our responsibility as citizens to say so.

(APPLAUSE)

If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. If you see a bully, stand up to him.

(APPLAUSE)

On Wednesday evening, Jews around the world will celebrate the Festival of Purim, and children will learn the story of Esther, who refused to stay silent in the face of evil. It wasn’t easy. She had a good life. And by speaking out, she risked everything.

But as Mordecai reminded her, we all have an obligation to do our part when danger gathers. And those of us with power or influence have a special responsibility to do what’s right. As Elie Wiesel said when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

So, my friends, let us never be neutral or silent in the face of bigotry. Together let’s defend the shared values that already make America and Israel great.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: Let us do the hard work necessary to keep building our friendship and reach out to the next generation of Americans and Israelis so the bonds between our nations grow even deeper and stronger. We are stronger together, and if we face the future side by side, I know for both Israel and America, our best days are still ahead.

Thank you so much.

(APPLAUSE)

 

 

 

Full Text Political Transcripts March 20, 2016: Vice President Joe Biden’s Speech to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Vice President Joe Biden’s Speech to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference

Political Headlines March 20, 2016: President Barack Obama’s schedule for trip to Havana, Cuba

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

PRESIDENCY, CONGRESS & CAMPAIGNS:

Obama’s schedule for trip to Havana, Cuba

Source: USA Today

SUNDAY

• Arrival at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, 4:50 p.m.
• Meet-and-greet at U.S. Embassy, 5:50 p.m.
• Family sight-seeing in Old Havana, including the Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana, 6:40 p.m.

MONDAY

• Wreath-laying at the José Marti Memorial, morning
• Official welcoming ceremony, Palace of the Revolution, morning
• Meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, morning
• Entrepreneurship summit, afternoon
• State Dinner at the Palace of the Revolution, evening

TUESDAY

• Address to the Cuban people at El Gran Teatro de Havana, morning
• Meeting with dissidents and civil society leaders, morning
• Baseball have between the Tampa Bay Rays at Cuban National Team at Estadio Latinoamericano, 2 p.m.
• Departure from Jose Marti International Airport en route to Buenos Aires, Argentina, afternoon

Full Text Political Transcripts March 10, 2016: President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Toasts at the State Dinner

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada at State Dinner

Source: WH, 3-10-16

 

East Room

8:32 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good evening, everybody.  Bonsoir.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House as we host Prime Minister Trudeau, Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau and the Canadian delegation for the first official visit and state dinner with Canada in nearly 20 years.  We intend to have fun tonight.  But not too much.  (Laughter.)  If things get out of hand, remember that the Prime Minister used to work as a bouncer.  (Laughter.)  Truly.  (Laughter.)

So tonight, history comes full circle.  Forty-four years ago, President Nixon made a visit to Ottawa.  And he was hosted by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  (Applause.)  At a private dinner, there was a toast. “Tonight, we’ll dispense with the formalities,” President Nixon said, “I’d like to propose a toast to the future Prime Minister of Canada — Justin Pierre Trudeau.”  (Laughter.)  He was four months at the time.  (Laughter.)

All these years later, the prediction has come to pass.  Mr. Prime Minister, after today, I think it’s fair to say that, here in America, you may well be the most popular Canadian named Justin.  (Laughter and applause.)

I said this morning that Americans and Canadians are family. And tonight, I want to recognize two people who mean so much to me and Michelle and our family.  First of all, my wonderful brother-in-law, originally from Burlington, Ontario — Konrad Ng.  (Applause.)  This is actually an interesting story, though, that I was not aware of — Konrad indicated to me when we saw each other this afternoon that part of the reason his family was able to immigrate to Canada was because of policies adopted by Justin’s father.  And so had that not happened, he might not have met my sister, in which case, my lovely nieces might not have been born.  (Laughter.)  So this is yet one more debt that we owe the people of Canada (Laughter.)  In addition, a true friend and a member of my team who has been with me every step of the way — he is from Toronto and Victoria, and also a frequent golf partner, Marvin Nicholson.  (Applause.) So as you can see, they’ve infiltrated all of our ranks.  (Laughter.)

Before I ever became President, when we celebrated my sister and Konrad’s marriage, Michelle and I took our daughters to Canada.  And we went to Burlington and — this is always tough — Mississauga.  (Laughter.)  And then we went to Toronto and Niagara Falls.  (Laughter.)  Mississauga.  I can do that.  (Laughter.)  And everywhere we went, the Canadian people made us feel right at home.

And tonight, we want our Canadians friends to feel at home.  So this is not a dinner, it’s supper.  (Laughter.)  We thought of serving up some poutine.  (Laughter.)  I was going to bring a two-four.  (Laughter.)  And then we’d finish off the night with a double-double.  (Laughter.)  But I had to draw the line at getting milk out of a bag — (laughter) — this, we Americans do not understand.  (Laughter.)  We do, however, have a little Canadian whiskey.  That, we do understand.  (Laughter.)

This visit has been a celebration of the values that we share.  We, as a peoples, are committed to the principles of equality and opportunity — the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it if you try, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, in both of our countries.

And we see this in our current presidential campaign.  After all, where else could a boy born in Calgary grow up to run for President of the United States?  (Laughter and applause.)  Where else would we see a community like Cape Breton, Nova Scotia welcoming Americans if the election does not go their way?  (Laughter.)  And to the great credit of their people, Canadians from British Columbia to New Brunswick have, so far, rejected the idea of building a wall to keep out your southern neighbors.  (Laughter.) We appreciate that.  (Laughter.)  We can be unruly, I know.

On a serious note, this visit reminds us of what we love about Canada.  It’s the solidarity shown by so many Canadians after 9/11 when they welcomed stranded American travelers into their homes.  It’s the courage of your servicemembers, standing with us in Afghanistan and now in Iraq.  It’s the compassion of the Canadian people welcoming refugees — and the Prime Minister himself, who told those refugees, “You’re safe at home now.”

Justin, we also see Canada’s spirit in your mother’s brave advocacy for mental health care — and I want to give a special welcome to Margaret Trudeau tonight.  (Applause.)  And we see Canada’s spirit in Sophie — a champion of women and girls, because our daughters deserve the same opportunities that anybody’s sons do.

And this spirit reminds us of why we’re all here — why we serve.  Justin, Sophie, your children are still young.  They are adorable and they still let you hug them.  (Laughter.)  When we first spoke on the phone after your election, we talked not only as President and Prime Minister, but also as fathers.  When I was first elected to this office, Malia was 10 and Sasha was just seven.  And they grow up too fast.  This fall, Malia heads off to college.  And I’m starting to choke up.  (Laughter.)  So I’m going to wind this — it was in my remarks — (laughter) — and I didn’t — I can’t do it.  It’s hard.  (Laughter.)

But there is a point to this, though, and that is that we’re not here for power.  We’re not here for fame or fortune.  We’re here for our kids.  We’re here for everybody’s kids — to give our sons and our daughters a better world.  To pass to them a world that’s a little safer, and a little more equal, and a little more just, a little more prosperous so that a young person growing up in Chicago or Montreal or on the other side of the world has every opportunity to make of their life what they will, no matter who they are or what they look like, or how they pray or who they love.

Justin, I believe there are no better words to guide us in this work than those you once used to describe what your father taught you and your siblings — to believe in yourself. To stand up for ourselves.  To know ourselves, and to accept responsibility for ourselves.  To show a genuine and deep respect for each other and for every human being.

And so I would like to propose a toast — to the great alliance between the United States and Canada; to our friends, Justin and Sophie; to the friendship between Americans and Canadians and the spirit that binds us together — a genuine and deep and abiding respect for each and every human being.  Cheers.

(A toast is offered.)

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Dear friends, Mr. President, Barack, Michelle, all of you gathered here, it is an extraordinary honor for me to be here with you tonight.  Thank you so much for the warm welcome you’ve extended to Canada and to the Canadian delegation, and to Sophie and me, personally.

It’s incredibly touching to be able to be here not just as a couple, Sophie and I, but to have been able to bring our families down as well.  Sophie’s mom and dad, Estelle and Jean — get a load of Estelle, I’m looking forward to the future with Sophie.  (Laughter.)  And, of course, my own mother, Margaret, whose last State Dinner here was in 1977.  So it’s wonderful to have you here.

It’s also touching to meet Malia and Sasha, who are here at their first State Dinner.  And quite frankly, the memories for me of being a kid and not being old enough to attend these kinds of events with my father almost makes me wish I had gone through my teenage years as a child of a world leader — but not quite.  (Laughter.)  I admire you very much, both of you, for your extraordinary strength and your grace, through what is a remarkable childhood and young adulthood that will give you extraordinary strength and wisdom beyond your years for the rest of your life.  The one thing that you have received from your extraordinary parents is the tools to be able to handle the challenges and the opportunities in front of you.  So thank you very much for joining us tonight.  (Applause.)

In thinking about what I wanted to say this evening, I came across a quote from President Truman, who shared these words with the Canadian Parliament nearly 70 years ago.  He said that Canada’s relationship with the United States did not develop spontaneously.  It did not come about merely through the happy circumstance of geography, but was “compounded of one part proximity, and nine parts good will and commonsense.”

It is that enduring good will and commonsense that I believe defines our relationship to this day.  It’s what makes our constructive partnership possible.  It’s what allows us to respectfully disagree and remain friends and allies on the few occasions we do.  For example I would argue that it’s better to be the leader of a country that consistently wins Olympic gold medals in hockey.  (Laughter and applause.)  President Obama would likely disagree.  And yet, you still invited us over for dinner.  (Laughter.)  Because that’s what friends do.  (Laughter.)

Because, now that I think of it, we’re actually closer than friends.  We’re more like siblings, really.  We have shared parentage, but we took different paths in our later years.  We became the stay-at-home type — (laughter) — and you grew to be a little more rebellious.  (Laughter.)  I think the reason that good will and commonsense comes so easily is because we are Canadians and Americans alike, guided by the same core values.  Values like cooperation and respect.  Cooperation because it keeps us safe and prosperous.  And respect because it’s the surest path to both safeguarding the world we share and honoring the diverse people with whom we share it.

When it comes to security, for example, we agree that our countries are stronger and the world is safer when we work together.  For more than half a century, we’ve joined forces to protect our continent.  And we’ve been the closest of allies overseas for even longer, fighting together on the beaches of France, standing shoulder to shoulder with our European partners in NATO, and now confronting violent extremism in the Middle East.

In every instance, we realize that our concerns were better addressed together than alone, and together, we have realized the longest, most peaceful, and most mutually beneficial relationship of any two countries since the birth of the nation state.  It’s a relationship that doesn’t just serve its own interests — it serves the entire world.  Canadians and Americans also value economic interdependence, because we know that it brings greater prosperity for all of us.

Over $2.4 billion worth of goods and services cross the border every day — evidence of one of the largest and most mutually beneficial trading relationships in the world.  And one of our most popular exports to the United States, and I need you to stop teasing him, has been another Justin.  (Laughter.)  Now, no, no, that kid has had a great year.  (Laughter.)  And of course, leave it to a Canadian to reach international fame with a song called “Sorry.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Together, Canada and the U.S. negotiated trade agreements that have expanded opportunities for our businesses, created millions of good, well-paying jobs for our workers, and made products more affordable for more Canadian and American families.  We must never take that partnership for granted, and I can promise you that my government never will.

But nor should we forget that our responsibilities extend beyond our ruling borders and across generations, which means getting rid of that outdated notion that a health environment and a strong economy stand in opposition to one another.  And it means that when we come to issues like climate change, we need to acknowledge that we are all in this together.  Our children and grandchildren will judge us not by the words we said, but by the actions we took — or failed to take.

If we truly wish to leave them a better world than the one we inherited from our own parents — and I know, Mr. President, that you and the First Lady want this as strongly as Sophie and I do — we cannot deny the science.  We cannot pretend that climate change is still up for debate.  (Speaks French.)

Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership — your global leadership on the pressing issue of the environment and climate change.  (Applause.)

And finally, we believe — Canadians and Americans — in the fundamental truth that diversity can be a source of strength.  That we are thriving and prosperous countries not in spite of our differences but because of them.  Canadians know this.  It’s why communities across the country welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees over the past four months.  (Applause.)  And not as visitors or temporary citizens, but as Canadians.  But of course, Americans understand this, too.  It’s why each generation has welcomed newcomers seeking liberty and the promise of a better life.  It’s what has made America great over the past decades.

We know that if we seek to be even greater, we must do greater things — be more compassionate, be more accepting, be more open to those who dress differently or eat different foods, or speak different languages.  Our identities as Canadians and Americans are enriched by these differences, not threatened by them.

On our own, we make progress.  But together, our two countries make history.  Duty-bound, loyal, and forever linked, whatever the future holds, we will face it together.  Neighbors, partners, allies, and friends.  This is our experience and our example to the world.

Barack, thank you for all that you have done these past seven years to preserve this most important relationship.  May the special connection between our two countries continue to flourish in the years to come, and may my grey hair come in at a much slower rate than yours has.  (Laughter.)

And with that, on behalf of 36 million Americans, I propose a toast to the President, to the First Lady, and to the people of the United States of America.  Cheers.

(A toast is offered.)

END
8:54 P.M. EST

Political Headlines March 10, 2016: White House State Dinner in Honor of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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PRESIDENCY, CONGRESS & CAMPAIGNS:

Guest list for state dinner in honour of Justin Trudeau

 Source: Toronto Star, 3-10-16
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ms. Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau

Ms. Naomi Aberly, Philanthropist

  • Mr. Larry Lebowitz

Mr. David Abney, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, United Parcel Service

  • Ms. Sherry Abney

The Honorable Adewale Adeyemo, Deputy Assistant to the President & Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, National Security Council, The White House

  • Ms. Heather Wong

Mr. Michael Alter, President, The Alter Group

  • Ms. Ellen Alter

Mr. Robert Anderson, Author

  • Mr. Eric Harland

The Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science & Economic Development of Canada

Ms. Sara Bareilles, Singer

  • Ms. Jennifer Bareilles

Mr. Bruce Bastian, Co-Founder, WordPerfect Corporation

  • Mr. Clinton Ford

Mr. Gary Bettman, Commissioner, National Hockey League

  • Mr. William Daly III

The Honorable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development & La Francophonie of Canada

The Honorable Tony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

  • The Honorable Evan Ryan

Ms. Angela Bogdan, Chief of Protocol of Canada

Mr. Jeremy Broadhurst, Deputy to the Chief of Staff & Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada

Mr. Stephen Bronfman, Canadian Business Representative & Philanthropist

Ms. Ursula Burns, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Xerox Corporation

  • Mr. Lloyd Bean

Mr. Gerald Butts, Principal Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

The Honorable Kristie Canegallo, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation, The White House

  • Ms. Simi Shah

The Honorable Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

  • Ms. Cynthia DeFelice

The Honorable Susan Collins, U.S. Senator (Maine)

  • Mr. Peter Vigue

Ms. Audie Cornish-Emery, National Public Radio

  • Mr. Theodore Emery

The Honorable Susan Davis, U.S. Representative (California)

  • Dr. Steven J. Davis

The Honorable Mark Dayton, Governor of Minnesota

The Honorable Anita Decker Breckenridge, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, The White House

  • Mr. Russell Breckenridge

The Honorable Brian Deese, Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor, The White House

  • Ms. Kara Deese

The Honorable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada

Ms. Karen Dixon, Attorney & Executive Committee Member, Lambda Legal

  • Dr. Nan Schaffer

Ms. Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

  • Mr. Andrew Light

Mr. Adam Entous, The Wall Street Journal

  • Ms. Sandra Medina

Mr. Mark Feierstein, Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, National Security Council, The White House

  • Ms. Tiffany Stone

Mr. Michael J. Fox, Actor

  • Ms. Tracy Pollan

The Honorable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade of Canada

The Honorable Michael Froman, Ambassador, United States Trade Representative

  • Ms. Nancy Goodman

Ms. Anna Gainey, President of the Liberal Party of Canada & Philanthropist

Mr. Mark Gallogly, Co-founder & Managing Principal, Centerbridge Partners

  • Ms. Elizabeth Strickler

The Honorable Suzy George, Deputy Assistant to the President & Executive Secretary & Chief of Staff of the National Security Council, The White House

  • Ms. Devon George-Eghdami

The Honorable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness of Canada

Mr. Jean Grégoire, Father of Mrs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau

  • Mrs. Estelle Blais, Mother of Mrs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau

The Honorable Avril Haines, Assistant to the President & Deputy National Security Advisor, National Security Council, The White House

  • Mr. David Davighi

Mr. John Hannaford, Foreign & Defense Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister & Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet Privy Council Office of Canada

The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch, President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate (Utah)

  • Ms. Wendy Hatch

Ms. Marillyn Hewson, Chairman, President, & Chief Executive Officer, Lockheed Martin

  • Mr. James Hewson

The Honorable Bruce Heyman, U.S. Ambassador to Canada

  • Ms. Vicki Heyman

Mr. Grant Hill, Former Basketball Player, Member of The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

  • Ms. Tamia Hill

Dr. Irwin Jacobs, Co-founder, Qualcomm & Chair of the Board of Trustees, Salk Institute

  • Ms. Joan Jacobs

The Honorable Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U .S. Department of State

  • Mr. Jonathan Jacobson

The Honorable Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor & Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs & Public Engagement, The White House

  • Mr. Anthony Balkissoon

The Honorable Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

  • Ms. Susan DiMarco

The Honorable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Wayne Jordan, Executive, Founder & Principal, Jordan Real Estate Investments

  • Ms. Quinn Delaney

Mr. Jonathan Kaplan, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, The Melt

  • Ms. Marci Glazer

The Honorable Derek Kilmer, U.S. Representative (Washington)

  • Ms. Jennifer Kilmer

The Honorable Angus King, U.S. Senator (Maine)

  • Ms. Kathryn Rand

Mr. Robert Klein II, President, Klein Financial Corporation & Chairman Emeritus, California Institute of Regenerative Medicine

  • Mr. Robert Klein III

The Honorable Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator (Minnesota)

  • Mr. John Bessler

The Honorable Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator (Vermont)

  • Ms. Marcelle Leahy

Ms. Twila Legare, Letter Writer

  • Mr. Marc Legare

The Honorable Jacob Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury

Mr. Charles Lewis, Chairman, Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation

  • Ms. Penny Sebring

Mr. Andrew Liveris, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, The Dow Chemical Company

  • Ms. Paula Liveris

Mr. Alexander Macgillivray, Deputy Chief Technology Officer, The White House

  • Ms. Shona Crabtree

His Excellency David MacNaughton, Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America

  • Mrs. Leslie Noble

The Honorable Denis McDonough, Assistant to the President & Chief of Staff, The White House

  • Ms. Karin McDonough

The Honorable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment & Climate Change of Canada

Mr. Lorne Michaels, Executive Producer, Saturday Night Live

  • Ms. Alice Michaels

The Honorable Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security & Counterterrorism, National Security Council, The White House

  • Mr. Mark Monaco

The Honorable Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

  • Ms. Katya Frois-Moniz

Mr. Dennis Muilenburg, Chairman, President, & Chief Executive Officer, The Boeing Company

  • Mr. Gregory Smith

The Honorable Shailagh Murray, Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor, The White House

  • Mr. Neil King

Mr. Mike Myers, Actor

  • Ms. Kelly Myers

The Honorable Marvin Nicholson, Special Assistant to the President, Trip Director & Personal Aide to the President, The White House

  • Ms. Helen Pajcic

Dr. Konrad Ng, Executive Director, Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art

  • Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng

Ms. Sandra Oh, Actress

  • Mr. Lev Rukhin

Mr. John Owens, Chairman of the Board, MediGuide International

  • Ms. Missy Owens

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives (California)

  • Mr. Paul Pelosi

The Honorable Amy Pope, Deputy Assistant to the President & Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, National Security Council, The White House

  • Mr. Neil Allison

The Honorable Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations,

  • Mr. Cass Sunstein

The Honorable Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce

  • Mr. John Poorman

Mr. Thomas Pritzker, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, The Pritzker Organization

  • Ms. Margot Pritzker

Ms. Kate Purchase, Director of Communications, Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

Ms. Roberta Rampton, Reuters

  • Mr. Peter Rampton

Mr. Ryan Reynolds, Actor

  • Ms. Blake Lively

The Honorable Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President & Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications & Speechwriting, National Security Council, The White House

  • Ms. Ann Norris

The Honorable Steven Ricchetti, Assistant to the President & Chief of Staff to the Vice President, The White House

  • Ms. Amy Ricchetti

The Honorable Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, National Security Council, The White House

  • Mr. Ian Cameron

Dr. Martine Rothblatt, Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer, United Therapeutics Corporation

  • Mrs. Bina Rothblatt

The Honorable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defense of Canada

The Honorable Peter Selfridge, Chief of Protocol, U.S. Department of State

  • Ms. Parita Shah Selfridge

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen, U.S. Senator (New Hampshire)

  • Mr. William Shaheen

Ms. Beth Shaw, Personal Finance Commentator & Member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans

  • Mr. Adam Shaw

Mr. Adam Silver, Commissioner, National Basketball Association

  • Ms. Maggie Grise

Mr. Ian Simmons, Co-Founder & Principal, Blue Haven Initiative

  • Ms. Liesel Simmons

The Honorable Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change, U.S. Department of State

  • Ms. Jennifer Klein

Mrs. Michéle Taylor, Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council

  • Dr. Kenneth Taylor

The Honorable Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President & Chief of Staff to the First Lady, The White House

Ms. Katie Telford, Chief of Staff, Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

The Honorable Jon Tester, U.S. Senator (Montana)

  • Ms. Sharla Tester

The Honorable Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans & the Canadian Coast Guard of Canada

Mrs. Margaret Trudeau, Mother of Prime Minister Trudeau

Mr. Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council & Secretary to the Cabinet Privy Council Office of Canada

The Honorable Melissa Winter, Deputy Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor to the First Lady, The White House

Mr. David Zaslav, President & Chief Executive Officer, Discovery Communications

  • Ms. Pam Zaslav

Full Text Political Transcripts March 10, 2016: President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Remarks at Joint Press Conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada in Joint Press Conference

Source: WH, 3-10-16

 

 

Rose Garden

11:11 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat. Well, once again, I want to welcome Prime Minister Trudeau to the White House.  We just completed a very productive meeting.  Although I regret to inform you that we still have not reached agreement on hockey.  But it is not interfering with the rest of our bilateral relationship.  (Laughter.)

As I said earlier, this visit reflects something we Americans don’t always say enough, and that is how much we value our great alliance and partnership with our friends up north.  We’re woven together so deeply — as societies, as economies — that it’s sometimes easy to forget how truly remarkable our relationship is.  A shared border — more than 5,000 miles — that is the longest between any two nations in the world.  Every day, we do some $2 billion in trade and investment — and that’s the largest bilateral economic relationship in the world.  Every day, more than 400,000 Americans and Canadians cross the border  — workers, businesspeople, students, tourists, neighbors.  And, of course, every time we have a presidential election, our friends to the north have to brace for an exodus of Americans who swear they’ll move to Canada if the guy from the other party wins.  (Laughter.)  But, typically, it turns out fine.  (Laughter.)

This is now my second meeting with Justin.  I’m grateful that I have him as a partner.  We’ve got a common outlook on what our nations can achieve together.  He campaigned on a message of hope and of change.  His positive and optimistic vision is inspiring young people.  At home, he’s governing with a commitment to inclusivity and equality.  On the world stage, his country is leading on climate change and he cares deeply about development.  So, from my perspective, what’s not to like?

Of course, no two nations agree on everything.  Our countries are no different.  But in terms of our interests, our values, how we approach the world, few countries match up the way the United States and Canada do.  And given our work together today, I can say — and I believe the Prime Minister would agree — that when it comes to the central challenges that we face, our two nations are more closely aligned than ever.

We want to make it easier to trade and invest with one another.  America is already the top destination for Canadian exports, and Canada is the top market for U.S. exports, which support about 1.7 million good-paying American jobs.  When so many of our products, like autos, are built on both sides of the border in an integrated supply chain, this co-production makes us more competitive in the global economy as a whole.  And we want to keep it that way.

So we’ve instructed our teams to stay focused on making it even easier for goods and people to move back and forth across the borders — including reducing bottlenecks and streamlining regulations.  We discussed how to move forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and today we also reaffirmed our determination to move ahead with an agreement to pre-clear travelers through immigration and customs, making it even easier for Canadians and Americans to travel and visit and do business together.

As NATO allies, we’re united against the threat of terrorism.  Canada is an extraordinarily valued member of the global coalition fighting ISIL — tripling its personnel to help train and advise forces in Iraq, stepping up its intelligence efforts in the region, and providing critical humanitarian support.  We’re working closely together to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, and today, we agreed to share more information — including with respect to our no-fly lists and full implementation of our entry/exit system — even as we uphold the privacy and civil liberties of our respective citizens.

In Syria, the cessation of hostilities has led to a measurable drop in violence in the civil war, and the United States and Canada continue to be leaders in getting humanitarian aid to Syrians who are in desperate need.  Meanwhile, our two countries continue to safely welcome refugees from that conflict. And I want to commend Justin and the Canadian people once again for their compassionate leadership on this front.

I’m especially pleased to say the United States and Canada are fully united in combating climate change.  As the first U.S. President to visit the Arctic, I saw how both of our nations are threatened by rising seas, melting permafrost, disappearing glaciers and sea ice.  And so we are focusing on making sure the Paris agreement is fully implemented, and we’re working to double our investments in clean energy research and development.

Today, we’re also announcing some new steps.  Canada is joining us in our aggressive goal to bring down methane emissions in the oil and gas sectors in both of our countries, and together we’re going to move swiftly to establish comprehensive standards to meet that goal.  We’re also going to work together to phase down HFCs and to limit carbon emissions from international aviation.  We’re announcing a new climate and science partnership to protect the Arctic and its people.  And later this year, I’ll welcome our partners, including Canada, to our White House Science Ministerial on the Arctic to deepen our cooperation in this vital region.

We’re also grateful for Canada’s partnership as we renew America’s leadership across the hemisphere.  Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for Canada’s continuing support for our new chapter of engagement with the Cuban people, which I will continue with my upcoming visit to Cuba next week.  We’re going to work to help Colombia achieve peace and remove the deadly legacy of landmines there.  And our scientists and public health professionals will work with partners across the hemisphere to prevent the spread of the Zika virus and work together actively for diagnostic and vaccines that can make a real difference.

And finally, our shared values — our commitment to human development and the dignity of all people — continue to guide our work as global partners.  Through the Global Health Security Agenda, we’re stepping up our efforts to prevent outbreaks of diseases from becoming epidemics.  We are urgently working to help Ethiopia deal with the worst drought in half a century.  Today, our spouses, Michelle and Sophie, are reaffirming our commitment to the health and education of young women and girls around the world.  And Canada will be joining our Power Africa initiative to bring electricity — including renewable energy — to homes and businesses across the continent and help lift people out of poverty.  And those are our values at work.

So, again, Justin, I want to thank you for your partnership. I believe we’ve laid a foundation for even greater cooperation for our countries for years to come.  And I’d like to think that it is only the beginning.  I look forward to welcoming you back for the Nuclear Security Summit in a few weeks.  I’m pleased that we were able to announce that the next North American Leaders Summit that will be in Canada this summer.  The Prime Minister has invited me to address the Canadian parliament, and that’s a great honor.  I look forward to the opportunity to speak directly to the Canadian people about the extraordinary future that we can build together.

Prime Minister Trudeau.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Thank you, Mr. President.

Good morning, everyone.  It’s an honor to be here.  As I’ve reflected on the storied relationship between our two great countries, I constantly return to President Kennedy’s wise words on our friendship that, “what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”  And as President Obama mentioned earlier, if geography made us neighbors, then shared values made us kindred spirits, and it is our choices, individually and collectively, that make us friends.

That friendship, matched by much hard work, has allowed us to do great things throughout our history — from the beaches of Normandy to the free trade agreement, and now, today, on climate change.  The President and I share a common goal:  We want a clean-growth economy that continues to provide good jobs and great opportunities for all of our citizens.  And I’m confident that, by working together, we’ll get there sooner than we think.

Let’s take the Paris agreement, for example.  That agreement is both a symbolic declaration of global cooperation on climate change, as well as a practical guide for growing our economies in a responsible and sustainable way.  Canada and the U.S. have committed to signing the agreement as soon as possible.  We know that our international partners expect and, indeed, need leadership from us on this issue.

The President and I have announced today that we’ll take ambitious action to reduce methane emissions nearly by half from the oil and gas sector, reduce use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, and implement aligned greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles, amongst other plans to fight climate change.

(As interpreted from French.)  We also announced a new partnership aiming to develop a sustainable economy in the Arctic.  This partnership foresees new standards based on scientific data, from fishing in the high seas of the Arctic, as well as set new standards to ensure maritime transport with less emissions.  The partnership will also promote sustainable development in the region, in addition to putting the bar higher in terms of preserving the biodiversity in the Arctic.

We have also decided to make our borders both more open and more safe by agreeing of pre-clearing at the Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto and the Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec, as well as the railroad stations in Montreal and Vancouver.  Moreover, we’re creating a U.S.-Canada working group in the next 60 days on the recourses to assess how we will resolve errors of identity on the no-fly list.

(Speaks English.)  The President and I acknowledge the fundamental and wholly unique economic relationship between Canada and the United States.  We have, historically, been each other’s largest trading partners.  Each and every day, over $2.4 billion worth of goods and services cross the border.  Today, we reaffirmed our commitment to streamlining trade between our countries.

Overall, the President and I agree on many things, including, of paramount importance, the direction we want to take our countries in to ensure a clean and prosperous future.  We’ve made tremendous progress on many issues.  Unfortunately, I will leave town with my beloved Expos still here in Washington.  You can’t have everything.  (Laughter.)

I’d like to conclude by extending my deepest thanks to Barack for his leadership on the climate change file to date.  I want to assure the American people that they have a real partner in Canada.  Canada and the U.S. will stand side by side to confront the pressing needs that face not only our two countries, but the entire planet.

I’m very much looking forward to the remainder of my time here in Washington.  So thank you again for your leadership and your friendship.  I know that our two countries can achieve great things by working together as allies and as friends, as we have done so many times before.

Merci beaucoup, Barack.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  All right, we’re going to take a few questions.  We’ll start with Julie Davis.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I want to ask you about the Supreme Court.  You’ve already said you’re looking for a highly qualified nominee with impeccable credentials.  Can you give us a sense of what other factors you’re considering in making your final choice?  How much of this comes down to a gut feeling for you?  And does it affect your decision to know that your nominee is very likely to hang out in the public eye without hearings or a vote for a long time, or maybe ever?  And, frankly, shouldn’t that be driving your decision if you’re asking someone to put themselves forward for this position as this point?

For Prime Minister Trudeau, I wanted to ask you — we know you’ve been following our presidential campaign here in the U.S. As the President alluded to, you’ve even made a joke about welcoming Americans who might be frightened of a Donald Trump presidency to your country.  What do you think the stakes are for you and for the relationship between Canada and the United States if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz were to win the presidency and to succeed President Obama?  You obviously see eye-to-eye with him on a lot of issues.  What do you think — how would it affect the relationship if one of them were to succeed President Obama?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Even though it wasn’t directed to me, let me just — (laughter) — I do want to point out I am absolutely certain that, in 2012, when there was the possibility that I might be reelected there were folks who were threatening to go to Canada, as well.  And one of the great things about a relationship like Canada’s and the United States’ is it transcends party and it’s bipartisan in terms of the interest that we share.

With respect to the Supreme Court, I’ve told you, Julie, what I’m looking for.  I want somebody who is an outstanding jurist, who has impeccable legal credentials, who, by historical standards, would not even be questioned as qualified for the Court.

Obviously, it’s somebody who I want to make sure follows the Constitution; cares about things like stare decisis and precedent; understands the necessary humility of a judge at any level in looking at statute, looking at what the elected branches are doing; is not viewing themselves as making law or, in some ways, standing above elected representatives, but also recognizes the critical role that that branch plays in protecting minorities to ensuring that the political system doesn’t skew in ways that systematically leave people out, that are mindful of the traditions that are embedded in our cherished documents like the Bill of Rights.

So in terms of who I select, I’m going to do my job.  And then my expectation is going to be that the Senate do its job as outlined in the Constitution.  I’ve said this before — I find it ironic that people who are constantly citing the Constitution would suddenly read into the Constitution requirements, norms, procedures that are nowhere to be found there.  That’s precisely the kinds of interpretive approach that they have vehemently rejected and that they accused liberals of engaging in all the time.  Well, you can’t abandon your principles — if, in fact, these are your principles — simply for the sake of political expedience.

So we’ll see how they operate once a nomination has been made.  I’m confident that whoever I select, among fair-minded people will be viewed as an eminently qualified person.  And it will then be up to Senate Republicans to decide whether they want to follow the Constitution and abide by the rules of fair play that ultimately undergird our democracy and that ensure that the Supreme Court does not just become one more extension of our polarized politics.

If and when that happens, our system is not going to work.  It’s not that the Supreme Court or any of our courts can be hermetically sealed from the rest of our society.  These are human beings.  They read the newspapers; they’ve got opinions; they’ve got values.  But our goal is to have them be objective and be able to execute their duties in a way that gives everybody — both the winning party and the losing party in any given case — a sense that they were treated fairly.  That depends on a process of selecting and confirming judges that is perceived as fair.  And my hope is, is that cooler heads will prevail and people will reflect on what’s at stake here once a nomination is made.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  One of the things that is abundantly clear whenever a President and Prime Minister sit down to engage on important issues of relevance to our peoples is that the relationship, the friendship between our two countries goes far beyond any two individuals or any ideologies.

I have tremendous confidence in the American people, and look forward to working with whomever they choose to send to this White House later this year.

Alex.

Q    Good morning.  This meeting is happening at a unique point in the Canada-U.S. relationship.  President Obama, you have very little time left here.  Prime Minister Trudeau, you have several years to think about and work on Canada’s most important relationship.  So I’d like to ask you a longer-term question, maybe to lay down some markers about big ideas, big things that you think the two countries could achieve in the coming years, beyond the next few months, and whether those things might include something like a common market that would allow goods and services and workers to flow more freely across our border.

And on a more personal note, you’ve had a chance to observe each other’s election campaigns and now you’ve had a chance to work together a little bit.  I’d like to ask you for your impressions — to ask about your impression of President Obama and his potential legacy, and about Prime Minister Trudeau’s potential.  And if you could answer that in French, bonus points to either of you — (laughter) — but we’d be especially keen to hear Prime Minister Trudeau do so.  Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Thank you, Alex.  First of all, we very much did engage on big issues throughout our conversations and throughout our hard work this morning, and over the months leading up to this meeting today — issues that are of import not just to all of our citizens but to the entire world.

Whether it’s how we ensure that there is no contradiction between a strong economy and a protected environment; understand how we need to work together as individual countries but, indeed, as a planet to address the challenges of climate change; how we continue to seek to ensure security for our citizens here at home, but also create stability and opportunity and health security for people around the world facing pandemics and violence and issues — these are big issues that Canada and the U.S. have always been engaged on in various ways over the past decades and centuries, and, indeed, will continue to.

One of the things that we highlight is the fact that we have different scales, different perspectives on similar issues and on shared values is actually a benefit in that we can complement each other in our engagement with the world and our approach to important issues.

So I look forward to many, many, many more years — it will certainly outlive the both of us — of a tremendous and responsible and effective friendship and collaboration between our two countries.

(As interpreted from French.)  The topic of our discussions this morning has been what is at stake — climate change, security in the world, our commitments towards the most vulnerable populations.  Canada and the United States are the lucky countries in many ways — they will always have a lot to do in order to be together in the world.  And this is what we are going to keep on doing in the years and the decades to come, and we hope in the centuries to come.

About President Obama, I’ve learned a lot from him.  He is somebody who is a deep thinker.  He is somebody with a big heart but also a big brain.  And for me to be able to count on him as a friend who has lived through many of the things that I’m about to encounter on a political stage, on the international stage, it’s a great comfort to me.  And it is always great to have people that you can trust, people that you can count on personally, especially when you are facing very big challenges such as what we are doing right now in the United States and Canada.

(Speaks English.)  — always pleased to hear from President Obama how he has engaged with difficult issues of the past, because he is a man of both tremendous heart and tremendous intellect.  And being able to draw on his experience and his wisdom as I face the very real challenges that our countries and, indeed, our world will be facing in the coming years is something I appreciate deeply about my friend, Barack.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, Alex, was it?

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Alex.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Let me just note, first of all, that the tenor of your question seems to imply that I’m old and creaky.  (Laughter.)

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Not the tenor of my answer, I hope. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  No, you managed it well.  (Laughter.)  But don’t think I didn’t catch that.  It is true — I think I’ve said before that in my congratulatory call, I indicated to him that if, in fact, you plan to keep your dark hair, then you have to start dyeing it early.  (Laughter.)  You hit a certain point and it’s too late — you’ll be caught.

But look, I think Justin and his delegation — because one of the things we learn very rapidly in these jobs is, is that this is a team effort and not a solo act — they’re bringing the right values, enormous energy, enormous passion and commitment to their work, and perhaps most importantly, it’s clear that they are keenly interested in engaging Canadian citizens in the process of solving problems.

And I think that’s how democracies are supposed to work.  And their instincts are sound.  And that’s reflected in the positive response to the work that they’ve done so far, and I think that will carry them very far.  And Justin’s talent and concern for the Canadian people and his appreciation of the vital role that Canada can play in the larger world is self-apparent.  He is, I think, going to do a great job.  And we’re looking forward to partnering with him and we’re glad to have him and his team as a partner.

And with respect to big ideas, look, to some degree, you don’t fix what’s not broken.  And the relationship is extraordinary and doesn’t, I don’t think, need some set of revolutionary concepts.  What it does require is not taking the relationship for granted.  It does require steady effort.  And perhaps most importantly, it requires, because we have so much in common, that we recognize on the big, looming issues on the horizon, it is vital for us to work together because the more aligned we are, the more we can shape the international agenda to meet these challenges.

Climate change is such an example.  This is going to be a big problem for everybody.  There are countries that are going to be hit worse by it; in some ways, Canada and the United States, as wealthier countries, can probably adapt and manage better.  On the other hand, we’re also those responsible for a lot of the carbon pollution that is causing climate change.  If we don’t agree, if we’re not aggressive, if we’re not far-sighted, if we don’t pool our resources around the research and development and clean energy agenda that’s required to solve this problem, then other countries won’t step up and it won’t get solved.  That’s a big idea.  That’s a really important effort.

With respect to the economy, one of the things that Canada and the United States share is a commitment to a free market.  I believe, and I know Justin does as well, that a market-based economy not only has proven to be the greatest engine for prosperity the world has ever known, but also underwrites our individual freedoms in many ways.  And we value our business sector, and we value entrepreneurship.  But what we’re seeing across the developed world — and this will have manifestations in the developing world — is the need for more inclusion in growth, making sure that it’s broad-based, making sure that people are not left behind in a globalized economy.  And that’s a big idea for the United States and Canada to work together on, along with our other partners.

If we don’t get this right, if we do not make sure that the average Canadian or the average American has confidence that the fruits of their labor, the opportunities for their children are going to continue to expand over time, if they see societies in which a very few are doing better and better and the middle class and working people are falling further and further behind, that destabilizes the economy; it makes it less efficient; it makes it less rapid in its growth.  But it also starts destabilizing our politics and our democracies.

And so, working together to find effective ways — not to close off borders, not to pretend that somehow we can shut off trade, not to forget that we are, ourselves, nations of immigrants and that diversity is our strength — but rather to say, yes, the world is big and we are going to help shape it, and we’re going to value our openness and our diversity, and the fact that we are leaders in a global supply chain but we’re going to do so in ways that make sure everybody benefits — that’s important work that we’re going to have to do together.  And I know Justin shares that commitment just as I do.

Margaret Brennan.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Some of your critics have pointed to the incredibly polarized political climate under your administration as contributing to the rise of someone as provocative as Donald Trump.  Do you feel responsibility for that, or even some of the protectionist rhetoric from some Democratic candidates?  Do you have a timeline for when you might make a presidential endorsement?  And to follow on my colleague’s question here, do you feel political heat is constraining your pool of viable Supreme Court nominees?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  It’s a three-fer.  I think it’s important for me to nominate a Supreme Court nominee quickly because I think it’s important for the Supreme Court to have its full complement of justices.  I don’t feel constrained in terms of the pool to draw from or that I’m having to take shortcuts in terms of the selection and vetting process.

With respect to your first question, I’ve actually heard this argument a number of times.  I have been blamed by Republicans for a lot of things, but being blamed for their primaries and who they’re selecting for their party is novel.  (Laughter.)

Look, I’ve said — I said it at the State of the Union that one of my regrets is the degree to which polarization and the nasty tone of our politics has accelerated rather than waned over the course of the last seven and a half years.  And I do all kinds of soul-searching in terms of are there things I can do better to make sure that we’re unifying the country.  But I also have to say, Margaret, that, objectively, it’s fair to say that the Republican political elites and many of the information outlets — social media, news outlets, talk radio, television stations — have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years a notion that everything I do is to be opposed; that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal; that maximalist, absolutist positions on issues are politically advantageous; that there is a “them” out there and an “us,” and “them” are the folks who are causing whatever problems you’re experiencing.

And the tone of that politics — which I certainly have not contributed to — I don’t think that I was the one to prompt questions about my birth certificate, for example.  I don’t remember saying, hey, why don’t you ask me about that.  (Laughter.)  Or why don’t you question whether I’m American, or whether I’m loyal, or whether I have America’s best interests at heart — those aren’t things that were prompted by any actions of mine.

And so what you’re seeing within the Republican Party is, to some degree, all those efforts over a course of time creating an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive.  He’s just doing more of what has been done for the last seven and a half years.

And, in fact, in terms of his positions on a whole range of issues, they’re not very different from any of the other candidates.  It’s not as if there’s a massive difference between Mr. Trump’s position on immigration and Mr. Cruz’s position on immigration.  Mr. Trump might just be more provocative in terms of how he says it, but the actual positions aren’t that different.  For that matter, they’re not that different from Mr. Rubio’s positions on immigration — despite the fact that both Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio, their own families are the products of immigration and the openness of our society.

So I am more than happy to own the responsibility as President, as the only office holder who was elected by all the American people, to continue to make efforts to bridge divides and help us find common ground.  As I’ve said before, I think that common ground exists all across the country.  You see it every day in how people work together and live together and play together and raise their kids together.  But what I’m not going to do is to validate some notion that the Republican crack-up that’s been taking place is a consequence of actions that I’ve taken.

And what’s interesting — I’ll just say one last thing about this — there are thoughtful conservatives who are troubled by this, who are troubled by the direction of their party.  I think it is very important for them to reflect on what it is about the politics they’ve engaged in that allows the circus we’ve been seeing to transpire, and to do some introspection.

Because, ultimately, I want an effective Republican Party.  I think this country has to have responsible parties that can govern, and that are prepared to lead and govern whether they’re in the minority or in the majority, whether they occupy the White House or they do not.  And I’ve often said I want a serious, effective Republican Party — in part to challenge some of the blind spots and dogmas in the Democratic Party.  I think that’s useful.

You mentioned trade, for example.  I believe that there have been bad trade deals on occasion in the past that oftentimes they have served the interests of global corporations but not necessarily served the interests of workers.  But I’m absolutely persuaded that we cannot put up walls around a global economy, and that to sell a bill of goods to the American people and workers that if you just shut down trade somehow your problems will go away prevents us from actually solving some of these big problems about inequality and the decline of our manufacturing base and so on.

And that’s an area where some traditional conservatives and economists have had some important insights.  But they can’t be presented effectively if it’s combined with no interest in helping workers, and busting up unions, and providing tax breaks to the wealthy rather than providing help to folks who are working hard and trying to pay the bills.  And it certainly is not going to be heard if it’s coupled with vehement, anti-immigrant sentiment that betrays our values.

Okay?

Q    And an endorsement, sir?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think that the Democratic voters are doing just fine working this out.  I think it’s useful that we’ve had a vigorous debate among two good people who care deeply about our country and who have fought hard on behalf of working people in this country for a long time.  I think it’s been a good conversation.  And my most important role will be to make sure that after primaries is done I’m bringing everybody together so that we focus on winning the general election.

Q    Mr. President, I’ll be asking the Prime Minister my question in French, but I will repeat for you in English afterwards.

(As interpreted.)  Mr. Trudeau, you have not talked about softwood lumber, and it’s a major problem for the bilateral relations.  Have you thought about solutions to avoid — the conflict reopens in October.  And you signed several agreements  — trade, environment — but what can you do so that the implementations survive the November election and that all of this has to be restarted a year from now?

(Asks in English.) — softwood lumber, which is looming over the bilateral relation?  And has any avenue been explored into avoiding a new conflict in October?  And to what extent is the fear of losing seats for the Democrats due to this issue kind of hampering progress on this?  And that being said, you and Prime Minister Trudeau have signed a number of agreements on a number of issues.  What can be done for this progress not to be lost with the arrival of a new administration and have everything have to be started all over again?

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  (As interpreted.)  For months and months, we have been preparing the meeting.  And this morning, we worked very hard and we made a lot of progress, and we have showed what is at stake.  A lot is at stake.  And we hope that this is going to be solved shortly to help enormously not only Canadian workers and Canadian economy, but also the economy of both our countries.

And among these discussions, of course, we raised the question of softwood lumber.  We keep on working on that.  And I’m totally confident that we are on the right track towards a solution in the next weeks and months to come.

Now, in terms of the decisions that we have taken and the work we have done today, I’m extremely confident that what we have managed to achieve, the agreements that we have taken and the solutions that we have found for the problems that we face together, I’m confident that all this is going to become a reality.  Because at every stage, not only are we talking about what is good for one side or the other side, but we’re talking about what is good for both countries.  Our economies are so interwoven, our populations are so interconnected, that we are going to have agreement, for instance, that will facilitate crossing of borders while increasing security of our citizens.  This is good for both sides.  And it is where we worked so hard together.  There was a lot of progress and a lot of success today.

(Speaks in English.)  — on many different issues over the course of an extremely productive meeting this morning — issues that have been worked on intensely by our respective friends, colleagues and delegations over the past weeks and months.  And certainly softwood lumber came up.  And I’m confident that we are on a track towards resolving this irritant in the coming weeks and months.

But in general, the issues that we made tremendous progress on I’m extremely confident will move forward in a rapid and appropriate fashion because we found such broad agreement on issues that aren’t just good for one of our two countries, but indeed both of our countries.  Canadians and Americans, for their jobs, for our kids and their futures, for workers, businesses, as we tackle challenges on the economy, challenges on the environment, and understand that working together in constructive, productive ways is exactly what this relationship and, indeed, this friendship is all about.

So I’m feeling extremely good about the hard work that was done this morning, and indeed, about the work remaining to do over the coming weeks and months on the issues we brought forward today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  This issue of softwood lumber will get resolved in some fashion.  Our teams are already making progress on it.  It’s been a longstanding bilateral irritant, but hardly defines the nature of the U.S.-Canadian relationship.  And we have some very smart people, and they’ll find a way to resolve it — undoubtedly, to the dissatisfaction of all parties concerned, because that’s the nature of these kinds of things, right?  Each side will want 100 percent, and we’ll find a way for each side to get 60 percent or so of what they need, and people will complain and grumble, but it will be fine.  (Laughter.)

And in terms of continuity — one thing I will say — this is an area where I’ll play the elder statesman, as Alex described me.  (Laughter.)  And as somebody who came in after an administration that, politically, obviously saw things very differently than I did, what you discover is that for all the differences you may have in your political parties, when you’re actually in charge, then you have to be practical, and you do what is needed to be done and what’s in front of you.  And one of the things that is important for the United States, or for Canada, or for any leading power in the world, is to live up to its commitments and to provide continuing momentum on efforts, even if they didn’t start under your administration.

So there were a whole host of initiatives that began under the Bush administration — some that I was very enthusiastic about, like PEPFAR, that has saved millions of lives and prevented HIV/AIDS, or provided vital drugs to those already infected with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world — something that President Bush deserves enormous credit for.  We continued that.

But there are also some areas where, when I was outside the government, I questioned how they were approaching it.  I might have tweaked it.  To the extent that it involved foreign policy, I might say to my foreign policy partners, look, we have a problem of doing it this way, but here is a suggestion for how we can do the same thing, or meet your interests in a slightly different way.

But you’re always concerned about making sure that the credibility of the United States is sustained, or the credibility of Canada is sustained — which is why when there’s turnover in governments, the work that’s been done continues.  And particularly when you have a close friendship and relationship with a partner like Canada, it’s not as if the work we’re doing on the Arctic or on entry and exit visas vanishes when the next President comes in.  Of course, I intend to make sure that the next President who comes in agrees with me on everything.  (Laughter.) But just in case that doesn’t happen, the U.S.-Canadian relationship will be fine.

All right?  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
12:03 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts March 10, 2016: President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Remarks at Arrival Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada at Arrival Ceremony

Source: WH, 3-10-16

South Grounds

9:22 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good morning, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Bonjour.  On behalf of the American people, on behalf of Michelle and myself, it is my honor to welcome to the United States Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — (applause) — Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau, their beautiful children, and the quite good-looking Canadian delegation.  (Applause.)

It’s long been said that you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your neighbors.  (Laughter.)  Well, by virtue of geography, the United States and Canada are blessed to be neighbors.  And by choice, we are steadfast allies and the closest of friends.  (Applause.)  The truth is, though, we don’t express this enough, in part because of our national characters. Our Canadian friends can be more reserved, more easygoing.  We Americans can be a little louder, more boisterous.  And as a result, we haven’t always conveyed how much we treasure our alliance and our ties with our Canadian friends.   And that’s why, today, we are very proud to welcome the first official visit by a Canadian Prime Minister in nearly 20 years.  (Applause.)  It’s about time, eh?  (Laughter.)

And what a beautiful day it is.  Which is a little unfair.  As President, my very first foreign trip was to Canada — to Ottawa in February.  (Laughter.)  In the snow.  Still, our friends from the Great White North gave me a very warm welcome.  Mr. Prime Minister, we hope to reciprocate some of that warmth today, with your first official visit south of the border.

We’re joined today by proud Canadian-Americans.  (Applause.) We are family.  And this is also a special day for the many Canadians who live and work here in America and who enrich our lives every day.  We don’t always realize it, but so often, that neighbor, that coworker, that member of the White House staff, some of our favorite artists and performers — they’re Canadian! (Laughter.)  They sneak up on you.  (Laughter.)

Even as we remember what makes us unique, Americans and Canadians, we see ourselves in each other.  We’re guided by the same values, including our conviction that the blessings we cherish as free people are not gifts to be taken for granted but are precious freedoms that have to be defended anew by every generation.  Americans and Canadians — our brave men and women in uniform — have paid the price together across a century of sacrifice, from the poppy fields of Flanders to the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.  As NATO allies, we stand united against terrorism and for the rights of nations like Ukraine to determine their own destiny.  As leaders at the United Nations, we stand up for peace and security and the human rights of all people.

Our shared values also guide us at home.  I’m proud to be the first American President to stand with a Canadian Prime Minister and be able to say that — in both our nations — health care is not a privilege for a few but is now a right for all.  (Applause.)  And as two vast and vibrant societies, we reaffirm that our diversity is our strength — whether your family was among the first native peoples to live on these lands or refugees we welcomed just yesterday.  Whether you pray in a church or a synagogue, or a temple, or a mosque.  Where, no matter what province or state you live in, you have the freedom to marry the person that you love.  (Applause.)

Now, I don’t want to gloss over the very real differences between Americans and Canadians.  There are some things we will probably never agree on:  Whose beer is better.  (Laughter.)  Who’s better at hockey.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Royals!  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We are.  We are.  (Laughter.)

PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU:  Don’t get me started.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Where’s the Stanley Cup right now?

AUDIENCE:  Ooooh —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I’m sorry.  Is it in my hometown with the Chicago Blackhawks?  (Applause.)  In case you were wondering.  In case you Canadians were wondering, where is it?  (Laughter.)

And this visit is special for another reason.  Nearly 40 years ago, on another March morning, another American President welcomed another Canadian Prime Minister here to the White House. That day, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said that the United States is “Canada’s best friend and ally.”  And one of the reasons, he said, is that we have “a common outlook on the world.”  Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau carries on this work.

Mr. Prime Minister, your election and the first few months in office have brought a new energy and dynamism not only to Canada but to the relationship between our nations.  We have a common outlook on the world.  And I have to say, I have never seen so many Americans so excited about the visit of a Canadian Prime Minister.  (Applause.)

So with this visit, I believe that the United States and Canada can do even more together — even more to promote the trade and economic partnerships that provide good jobs and opportunities for our people.  Even more to ensure the security that so many Americans and Canadians count on so that they can live in safety and freedom.  Even more to protect our countries and our communities — especially in the Arctic — from climate change, just as we acted together at Paris to reach the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change.  (Applause.)  And guided by our values, we can do even more together to advance human development around the world — from saving a child from a preventable disease to giving a student in Africa electricity to study by — because, as Americans and Canadians, we believe in the inherent dignity of every human being.  (Applause.)

As always, our work as nations remains rooted in the friendship between our peoples.  And we see that every day in communities along our shared border.  Up in Hyder, Alaska, folks head across the border to celebrate Canada Day, and folks in Stewart, British Columbia come over for the Fourth of July.  At the baseball diamond in Coutts, Alberta, if you hit a home run, there’s a good chance the ball will land in Sweetgrass, Montana. (Laughter.)  And up where Derby Line, Vermont meets Stanstead, Quebec, Americans and Canadians come together at the local library where the border line literally runs right across the floor.  A resident of one of these border towns once said, we’re two different countries, but we’re like one big town and “people are always there for you.”

So, Prime Minister Trudeau — Justin, Sophie — to all our Canadian friends — we are two different countries, but days like this remind us that we’re like one big town.  And we reaffirm that Americans and Canadians will always be there for each other. Welcome to the United States.  Bienvenue, mes amis.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINSTER TRUDEAU:  Mr. President, First Lady, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen — thank you for this extraordinary welcome.  Thank you so much for inviting Sophie and me and, through us, all of Canada to join with you on this spectacular morning.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)    Sophie and I, along with our entire delegation, are honored and touched by your magnificent hospitality, and by the reinforcement of just how powerful you are, Mr. President, to organize such a perfect day for us.  (Laughter.)

(Speaks in French, then continues in English.)

You may recall that our government was elected on a plan to strengthen the middle class.  We have an ambitious innovation agenda as we realize that revitalizing our economy will require investing in new ideas and new technologies.  Our plan will foster emerging industries, create good jobs, and increase our global competitiveness.  That was the Canadian plan, and of course, it very much resembles the challenges and the solutions that you’ve been putting forward here south of the border — a plan to invest in our country and invest in our people.  And it’s wonderful to see that our American friends and partners share and are working on the exact same objectives.

See, as our leading trading partner and closest ally, the relationship between our two countries has always been vital.  As an exporting nation, Canada is always eager to work closely to reduce trade barriers between our countries.  And speaking of exports, we know with certainty that there’s a high demand for Canadian goods down here.  A few that come to mind that President Obama just rightly recognized as being extraordinary contributors to the American success story is Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks.  (Applause.)

We’ve faced many challenges over the course of our shared history.  And while we have agreed on many things and disagreed on a few others, we remain united in a common purpose — allies, partners, and friends as we tackle the world’s great challenges. Whether we’re charting a course for environmental protection, making key investments to grow our middle class, or defending the rights of oppressed peoples abroad, Canada and the United States will always collaborate in partnership and good faith.  The history may be complex, but the bottom line is clear.  There is no relationship in the entire world like the Canada-U.S. relationship.  (Applause.)

Our great countries have been friends a long time.  We grew up together.  And like all great enduring friendships, at our best, we bring out the best in one another.  And through it all, our enormous shared accomplishments speak for themselves — prosperous, free, diverse societies that have shaped history together.

We could not be prouder of that past.  And on behalf of 36 million Canadians, I thank you all for your warm welcome.  Now let’s get to work on shaping our shared future.

Merci beaucoup.  (Applause.)

END
9:37 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts February 23, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Plan to Close the Prison at Guantanamo Bay

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Plan to Close the Prison at Guantanamo Bay

Source: WH, 2-23-16

 

Roosevelt Room

10:30 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  In our fight against terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL, we are using every element of our national power — our military; intelligence; diplomacy; homeland security; law enforcement, federal, state and local; as well as the example of our ideals as a country that’s committed to universal values, including rule of law and human rights.  In this fight, we learn and we work to constantly improve.  When we find something that works, we keep on doing it.  When it becomes clear that something is not working as intended — when it does not advance our security — we have to change course.

For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security — it undermines it.  This is not just my opinion.  This is the opinion of experts, this is the opinion of many in our military.  It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit.  It drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running, and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward for less than 100 detainees.  Guantanamo harms our partnerships with allies and other countries whose cooperation we need against terrorism.  When I talk to other world leaders, they bring up the fact that Guantanamo is not resolved.

Moreover, keeping this facility open is contrary to our values.  It undermines our standing in the world.  It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law.  As Americans, we pride ourselves on being a beacon to other nations, a model of the rule of law.  But 15 years after 9/11 — 15 years after the worst terrorist attack in American history — we’re still having to defend the existence of a facility and a process where not a single verdict has been reached in those attacks — not a single one.

When I first ran for President, it was widely recognized that this facility needed to close.  This was not just my opinion.  This was not some radical, far-left view.  There was bipartisan support to close it.  My predecessor, President Bush, to his credit, said he wanted to close it.  It was one of the few things that I and my Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, agreed on.

And so, in one of my first acts as President, I took action to begin closing it.  And because we had bipartisan support, I wanted to make sure that we did it right.  I indicated that we would need to take our time to do it in a systematic way, and that we had examined all the options.

And unfortunately, during that period where we were putting the pieces in place to close it, what had previously been bipartisan support suddenly became a partisan issue.  Suddenly, many you previously had said it should be closed backed off because they were worried about the politics.  The public was scared into thinking that, well, if we close it, somehow we’ll be less safe.  And since that time, Congress has repeatedly imposed restrictions aimed at preventing us from closing this facility.

Now, despite the politics, we’ve made progress.  Of the nearly 800 detainees once held at Guantanamo, more than 85 percent have already been transferred to other countries.  More than 500 of these transfers, by the way, occurred under President Bush.  Since I took office, we’ve so far transferred 147 more, each under new, significant restrictions to keep them from returning to the battlefield.  And as a result of these actions, today, just 91 detainees remain — less than 100.

Today, the Defense Department, thanks to very hard work by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, as well as his team, working in concert with the Office of Management and Budget, today, the Department is submitting to Congress our plan for finally closing the facility at Guantanamo once and for all.  It’s a plan that reflects the hard work of my entire national security team, so I especially want to thank Ash and his team at DOD.  This plan has my full support.  It reflects our best thinking on how to best go after terrorists and deal with those who we may capture, and it is a strategy with four main elements.

First, we’ll continue to securely and responsibly transfer to other countries the 35 detainees — out of the 91 — that have already been approved for transfer.  Keep in mind, this process involves extensive and careful coordination across our federal government to ensure that our national security interests are met when an individual is transferred to another country.  So, for example, we insist that foreign countries institute strong security measures.  And as we move forward, that means that we will have around 60 — and potentially even fewer — detainees remaining.

Second, we’ll accelerate the periodic reviews of remaining detainees to determine whether their continued detention is necessary.  Our review board, which includes representatives from across government, will continue to look at all relevant information, including current intelligence.  And if certain detainees no longer pose a continuing significant threat, they may be eligible for transfer to another country as well.

Number three, we’ll continue to use all legal tools to deal with the remaining detainees still held under law of war detention.  Currently, 10 detainees are in some stage of the military commissions process — a process that we worked hard to reform in my first year in office with bipartisan support from Congress.  But I have to say, with respect to these commissions, they are very costly, they have resulted in years of litigation without a resolution.  We’re therefore outlining additional changes to improve these commissions, which would require congressional action, and we will be consulting with them in the near future on that issue.

I also want to point out that, in contrast to the commission process, our Article 3 federal courts have proven to have an outstanding record of convicting some of the most hardened terrorists.  These prosecutions allow for the gathering of intelligence against terrorist groups.  It proves that we can both prosecute terrorists and protect the American people.  So think about it — terrorists like Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit; Faisal Shahzad, who put a car bomb in Times Square; and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who bombed the Boston Marathon — they were all convicted in our Article III courts and are now behind bars, here in the United States.

So we can capture terrorists, protect the American people, and when done right, we can try them and put them in our maximum security prisons, and it works just fine.  And in this sense, the plan we’re putting forward today isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo.  It’s not just about dealing with the current group of detainees, which is a complex piece of business because of the manner in which they were originally apprehended and what happened.  This is about closing a chapter in our history.  It reflects the lessons that we’ve learned since 9/11 –lessons that need to guide our nation going forward.

So even as we use military commissions to close out the cases of some current detainees — which, given the unique circumstances of their cases make it difficult for them to be tried in Article 3 courts — this type of use of military commissions should not set a precedent for the future.  As they have been in past wars, military commissions will continue to be an option when individuals are detained during battle.  But our preferred option, the most effective option for dealing with individuals detained outside military theaters, must be our strong, proven federal courts.

Fourth, and finally, we’re going to work with Congress to find a secure location in the United States to hold remaining detainees.  These are detainees who are subject to military commissions, but it also includes those who cannot yet be transferred to other countries or who we’ve determined must continue to be detained because they pose a continuing significant threat to the United States.

We are not identifying a specific facility today in this plan.  We are outlining what options look like.  As Congress has imposed restrictions that currently prevent the transfer of detainees to the United States, we recognize that this is going to be a challenge.  And we’re going to keep making the case to Congress that we can do this is a responsible and secure way, taking into account the lessons and great record of our maximum-security prisons.

And let me point out, the plan we’re submitting today is not only the right thing to do for our security, it will also save money.  The Defense Department estimates that this plan, compared to keeping Guantanamo open, would lower costs by up to $85 million a year.  Over 10 years, it would generate savings of more than $300 million.  Over 20 years, the savings would be up to $1.7 billion.  In other words, we can ensure our security, uphold our highest values around the world, and save American taxpayers a lot of money in the process.

So in closing, I want to say I am very clear-eyed about the hurdles to finally closing Guantanamo.  The politics of this are tough.  I think a lot of the American public are worried about terrorism, and in their mind the notion of having terrorists held in the United States rather than in some distant place can be scary.  But part of my message to the American people here is we’re already holding a bunch of really dangerous terrorists here in the United States because we threw the book at them.  And there have been no incidents.  We’ve managed it just fine.

And in Congress, I recognize, in part because of some of the fears of the public that have been fanned oftentimes by misinformation, there continues to be a fair amount of opposition to doing closing Guantanamo.  If it were easy, it would have happened years ago — as I wanted, as I have been working to try to get done.  But there remains bipartisan support for closing it.  And given the stakes involved for our security, this plan deserves a fair hearing.  Even in an election year, we should be able to have an open, honest, good-faith dialogue about how to best ensure our national security.  And the fact that I’m no longer running, Joe is no longer running, we’re not on the ballot — it gives us the capacity to not have to worry about the politics.

Let us do what is right for America.  Let us go ahead and close this chapter, and do it right, do it carefully, do it in a way that makes sure we’re safe, but gives the next President and, more importantly, future generations, the ability to apply the lessons we’ve learned in the fight against terrorism and doing it in a way that doesn’t raise some of the problems that Guantanamo has raised.

I really think there’s an opportunity here for progress.  I believe we’ve got an obligation to try.  President Bush said he wanted to close Guantanamo despite everything that he had invested in it.  I give him credit for that.  There was an honest assessment on his part about what needed to happen.  But he didn’t get it done and it was passed to me.  I’ve been working for seven years now to get this thing closed.  As President, I have spent countless hours dealing with this — I do not exaggerate about that.  Our closest allies have raised it with me continually.  They often raise specific cases of detainees repeatedly.

I don’t want to pass this problem on to the next President, whoever it is.  And if, as a nation, we don’t deal with this now, when will we deal with it?  Are we going to let this linger on for another 15 years, another 20 years, another 30 years?  If we don’t do what’s required now, I think future generations are going to look back and ask why we failed to act when the right course, the right side of history, and of justice, and our best American traditions was clear.

So, again, I want to thank Secretary Carter.  You and your team did an outstanding job, and you’ve shown great leadership on this issue.  With this plan, we have the opportunity, finally, to eliminate a terrorist propaganda tool, strengthen relationships with allies and partners, enhance our national security, and, most importantly, uphold the values that define us as Americans.  I’m absolutely committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo.  I’m going to continue to make the case for doing so for as long as I hold this office.  But this is a good moment for everybody to step back, take a look at the facts, take a look at the views of those who have been most committed to fighting terrorism and understand this stuff — our operatives, our intelligence officials, our military.  Let’s go ahead and get this thing done.

Thanks very much, everybody.

END
10:45 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts January 12, 2016: Nikki Haley’s Republican response to State of the Union address Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Republican response to State of the Union address Transcript

Source: CNN, 1-12-16

Transcript of Nikki Haley’s Republican response to the 2016 State of the Union address. As prepared for delivery.

“Good evening.

“I’m Nikki Haley, Governor of the great state of South Carolina.

“I’m speaking tonight from Columbia, our state’s capital city. Much like America as a whole, ours is a state with a rich and complicated history, one that proves the idea that each day can be better than the last.

“In just a minute, I’m going to talk about a vision of a brighter American future. But first I want to say a few words about President Obama, who just gave his final State of the Union address.

“Barack Obama’s election as president seven years ago broke historic barriers and inspired millions of Americans. As he did when he first ran for office, tonight President Obama spoke eloquently about grand things. He is at his best when he does that.

“Unfortunately, the President’s record has often fallen far short of his soaring words.

“As he enters his final year in office, many Americans are still feeling the squeeze of an economy too weak to raise income levels. We’re feeling a crushing national debt, a health care plan that has made insurance less affordable and doctors less available, and chaotic unrest in many of our cities.

“Even worse, we are facing the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th, and this president appears either unwilling or unable to deal with it.

“Soon, the Obama presidency will end, and America will have the chance to turn in a new direction. That direction is what I want to talk about tonight.

“At the outset, I’ll say this: you’ve paid attention to what has been happening in Washington, and you’re not naive.

“Neither am I. I see what you see. And many of your frustrations are my frustrations.

“A frustration with a government that has grown day after day, year after year, yet doesn’t serve us any better. A frustration with the same, endless conversations we hear over and over again. A frustration with promises made and never kept.

“We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around.

“We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken.

“And then we need to fix it.

“The foundation that has made America that last, best hope on earth hasn’t gone anywhere. It still exists. It is up to us to return to it.

“For me, that starts right where it always has: I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country.

“Growing up in the rural south, my family didn’t look like our neighbors, and we didn’t have much. There were times that were tough, but we had each other, and we had the opportunity to do anything, to be anything, as long as we were willing to work for it.

“My story is really not much different from millions of other Americans. Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America. They wanted better for their children than for themselves. That remains the dream of all of us, and in this country we have seen time and again that that dream is achievable.

“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

“No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

“At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally. And in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.

“We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.

“I have no doubt that if we act with proper focus, we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and our citizens, all while remaining true to America’s noblest legacies.

“This past summer, South Carolina was dealt a tragic blow. On an otherwise ordinary Wednesdayevening in June, at the historic Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, twelve faithful men and women, young and old, went to Bible study.

“That night, someone new joined them. He didn’t look like them, didn’t act like them, didn’t sound like them. They didn’t throw him out. They didn’t call the police. Instead, they pulled up a chair and prayed with him. For an hour.

“We lost nine incredible souls that night.

“What happened after the tragedy is worth pausing to think about.

“Our state was struck with shock, pain, and fear. But our people would not allow hate to win. We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs.

“We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world.

“We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us, and we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him.

“There’s an important lesson in this. In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results.

“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.

“Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t have strong disagreements. We will. And as we usher in this new era, Republicans will stand up for our beliefs.

“If we held the White House, taxes would be lower for working families, and we’d put the brakes on runaway spending and debt.

“We would encourage American innovation and success instead of demonizing them, so our economy would truly soar and good jobs would be available across our country.

“We would reform education so it worked best for students, parents, and teachers, not Washington bureaucrats and union bosses.

“We would end a disastrous health care program, and replace it with reforms that lowered costs and actually let you keep your doctor.

“We would respect differences in modern families, but we would also insist on respect for religious liberty as a cornerstone of our democracy.

“We would recognize the importance of the separation of powers and honor the Constitution in its entirety. And yes, that includes the Second and Tenth Amendments.

“We would make international agreements that were celebrated in Israel and protested in Iran, not the other way around.

“And rather than just thanking our brave men and women in uniform, we would actually strengthen our military, so both our friends and our enemies would know that America seeks peace, but when we fight wars we win them.

“We have big decisions to make. Our country is being tested.

“But we’ve been tested in the past, and our people have always risen to the challenge. We have all the guidance we need to be safe and successful.

“Our forefathers paved the way for us.

“Let’s take their values, and their strengths, and rededicate ourselves to doing whatever it takes to keep America the greatest country in the history of man. And woman.

“Thank you, good night, and God bless.”

Full Text Political Transcripts January 12, 2016: President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery State of the Union Address

Source: WH, 1-12-16

The White House is once again making the full text of the State of the Union widely available online. The text, as prepared for delivery, is also available on Medium and Facebook notes, continuing efforts to meet people where they are and make the speech as accessible as possible. Through these digital platforms, people can follow along with the speech as they watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, share their favorite lines, and provide feedback.

WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Tonight marks the eighth year I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union.  And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it shorter.  I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.

I also understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we’ll achieve this year are low.  Still, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families.  So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse. We just might surprise the cynics again.

But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead.  Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients.  And I’ll keep pushing for progress on the work that still needs doing.  Fixing a broken immigration system.  Protecting our kids from gun violence.  Equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage.  All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.

But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year.  I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond.

I want to focus on our future.

We live in a time of extraordinary change – change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world.  It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families.  It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away.  It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality.  And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before – wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights.  Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control.  And each time, we overcame those fears.  We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.”  Instead we thought anew, and acted anew.  We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people.  And because we did – because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril – we emerged stronger and better than before.

What was true then can be true now.  Our unique strengths as a nation – our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law – these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible.  It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.  It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.

But such progress is not inevitable.  It is the result of choices we make together.  And we face such choices right now.  Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people?  Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?

So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer – regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.

First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?

Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us – especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?

Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.  We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history.  More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s; an unemployment rate cut in half.  Our auto industry just had its best year ever.  Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.  And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.

Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.  What is true – and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious – is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit and haven’t let up.  Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated.  Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition.  As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise.  Companies have less loyalty to their communities.  And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing.  It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to.  And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody.  We’ve made progress.  But we need to make more.  And despite all the political arguments we’ve had these past few years, there are some areas where Americans broadly agree.

We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job.  The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering.  In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.

And we have to make college affordable for every American.  Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red.  We’ve already reduced student loan payments to ten percent of a borrower’s income.  Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college.  Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.

Of course, a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy.  We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security.  After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber.  For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.  Americans understand that at some point in their careers, they may have to retool and retrain.  But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build.

That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.  And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today.  That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about.  It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we’ll still have coverage.  Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far.  Health care inflation has slowed.  And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon.  But there should be other ways both parties can improve economic security.  Say a hardworking American loses his job – we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him.  If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills.  And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him.  That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everyone.

I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty.  America is about giving everybody willing to work a hand up, and I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without kids.

But there are other areas where it’s been more difficult to find agreement over the last seven years – namely what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations.  And here, the American people have a choice to make.

I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy.  I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut.  But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.  Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.  Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.  It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts.  In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.  The rules should work for them.  And this year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America.

In fact, many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative.  This brings me to the second big question we have to answer as a country:  how do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.  We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget.  We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.

That spirit of discovery is in our DNA.  We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver.  We’re Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride.  We’re every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world.  And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.

We’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online.  We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.

But we can do so much more.  Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer.  Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade.  Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done.  And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.  For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.

Medical research is critical.  We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.

But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record – until 2015 turned out even hotter – why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?

Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history.  Here are the results.  In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.  On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal – in jobs that pay better than average.  We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy – something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support.  Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.

Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy.  Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future – especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels.  That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.  That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.

None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.  But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve – that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.

Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world.  And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air.  Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker.  The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth.  Period.  It’s not even close.  We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.  Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world.  No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin.  Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead – they call us.

As someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time. But that’s not because of diminished American strength or some looming superpower.  In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states.  The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.  Economic headwinds blow from a Chinese economy in transition.  Even as their economy contracts, Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria – states they see slipping away from their orbit.  And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

It’s up to us to help remake that system.  And that means we have to set priorities.

Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.  Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage.  They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.

But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.  Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped.  But they do not threaten our national existence.  That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.  We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions.  We just need to call them what they are – killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.

That’s exactly what we are doing.  For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology.  With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons.  We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.

If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL.  Take a vote.  But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them.  If you doubt America’s commitment – or mine – to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden.  Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell.  When you come after Americans, we go after you.  It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.

Our foreign policy must be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world – in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia.  Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees.  The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians.  That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis.  That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us.  It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq – and we should have learned it by now.

Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power.  It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.

That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.  As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.

That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa.  Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic.

That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia.  It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs.  With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do.  You want to show our strength in this century?  Approve this agreement.  Give us the tools to enforce it.

Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, setting us back in Latin America.  That’s why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere?  Recognize that the Cold War is over.  Lift the embargo.

American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world – except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling.  Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right.  It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity.  When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change – that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children.  When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend upon.  When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores.  Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria – something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.

That’s strength.  That’s leadership.  And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example.  That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo:  it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.

That’s why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion.  This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong.  The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.  His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.”  When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer.  That’s not telling it like it is.  It’s just wrong.  It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.  It makes it harder to achieve our goals.  And it betrays who we are as a country.

“We the People.”  Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together.  That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.

The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach.  But it will only happen if we work together.  It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.  This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests.  That’s one of our strengths, too.  Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens.  It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic.  Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us.  Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention.  Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now.  It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.  There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task – or any President’s – alone.  There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected.  I know; you’ve told me.  And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.

We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.  We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections – and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution.  We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now.  And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.

But I can’t do these things on my own.  Changes in our political process – in not just who gets elected but how they get elected – that will only happen when the American people demand it.  It will depend on you.  That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

What I’m asking for is hard.  It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter.  But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.  Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure.  As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path.  It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen.  To vote.  To speak out.  To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us.  To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.

It won’t be easy.  Our brand of democracy is hard.  But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen – inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far.  Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed.  Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word – voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.

They’re out there, those voices.  They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.

I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours.  I see you.  I know you’re there.  You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future.  Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over – and the business owner who gives him that second chance.  The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ‘til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.

It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know.  That’s the country we love.   Clear-eyed.  Big-hearted.  Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.  That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.  Because of you.  I believe in you.  That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

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Full Text Political Transcripts January 8, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Lifting Sanctions on Iran

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Iran

Source: WH, 1-17-16

The Cabinet Room

10:48 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  This is a good day, because, once again, we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy.

As I said in my State of the Union address, ensuring the security of the United States and the safety of our people demands a smart, patient and disciplined approach to the world.  That includes our diplomacy with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost never spoke to each other.  Ultimately, that did not advance America’s interests.  Over the years, Iran moved closer and closer to having the ability to build a nuclear weapon.  But from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, the United States has never been afraid to pursue diplomacy with our adversaries.  And as President, I decided that a strong, confident America could advance our national security by engaging directly with the Iranian government.

We’ve seen the results.  Under the nuclear deal that we, our allies and partners reached with Iran last year, Iran will not get its hands on a nuclear bomb.  The region, the United States, and the world will be more secure.  As I’ve said many times, the nuclear deal was never intended to resolve all of our differences with Iran.  But still, engaging directly with the Iranian government on a sustained basis, for the first time in decades, has created a unique opportunity — a window — to try to resolve important issues.  And today, I can report progress on a number of fronts.

First, yesterday marked a milestone in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  Iran has now fulfilled key commitments under the nuclear deal.  And I want to take a moment to explain why this is so important.

Over more than a decade, Iran had moved ahead with its nuclear program, and, before the deal, it had installed nearly 20,000 centrifuges that can enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb.  Today, Iran has removed two-thirds of those machines.  Before the deal, Iran was steadily increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium — enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs.  Today, more than 98 percent of that stockpile has been shipped out of Iran — meaning Iran now doesn’t have enough material for even one bomb. Before, Iran was nearing completion of a new reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb.  Today, the core of that reactor has been pulled out and filled with concrete so it cannot be used again.

Before the deal, the world had relatively little visibility into Iran’s nuclear program.  Today, international inspectors are on the ground, and Iran is being subjected to the most comprehensive, intrusive inspection regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.  Inspectors will monitor Iran’s key nuclear facilities 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  For decades to come, inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain.  In other words, if Iran tries to cheat — if they try to build a bomb covertly — we will catch them.

So the bottom line is this.  Whereas Iran was steadily expanding its nuclear program, we have now cut off every single path that Iran could have used to build a bomb.  Whereas it would have taken Iran two to three months to break out with enough material to rush to a bomb, we’ve now extended that breakout time to a year — and with the world’s unprecedented inspections and access to Iran’s program, we’ll know if Iran ever tries to break out.

Now that Iran’s actions have been verified, it can begin to receive relief from certain nuclear sanctions and gain access to its own money that had been frozen.  And perhaps most important of all, we’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East.

I want to also point out that by working with Iran on this nuclear deal, we were better able to address other issues.  When our sailors in the Persian Gulf accidentally strayed into Iranian waters that could have sparked a major international incident.  Some folks here in Washington rushed to declare that it was the start of another hostage crisis.  Instead, we worked directly with the Iranian government and secured the release of our sailors in less than 24 hours.

This brings me to a second major development — several Americans unjustly detained by Iran are finally coming home.  In some cases, these Americans faced years of continued detention.  And I’ve met with some of their families.  I’ve seen their anguish, how they ache for their sons and husbands.  I gave these families my word — I made a vow — that we would do everything in our power to win the release of their loved ones.  And we have been tireless.  On the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations, our diplomats at the highest level, including Secretary Kerry, used every meeting to push Iran to release our Americans.  I did so myself, in my conversation with President Rouhani.  After the nuclear deal was completed, the discussions between our governments accelerated.  Yesterday, these families finally got the news that they have been waiting for.

Jason Rezaian is coming home.  A courageous journalist for The Washington Post, who wrote about the daily lives and hopes of the Iranian people, he’s been held for a year and a half.  He embodies the brave spirit that gives life to the freedom of the press.  Jason has already been reunited with his wife and mom.

Pastor Saeed Abedini is coming home.  Held for three and half years, his unyielding faith has inspired people around the world in the global fight to uphold freedom of religion.  Now, Pastor Abedini will return to his church and community in Idaho.

Amir Hekmati is coming home.  A former sergeant in the Marine Corps, he’s been held for four and a half years.  Today, his parents and sisters are giving thanks in Michigan.

Two other Americans unjustly detained by Iran have also been released — Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari and Matthew Trevithick, an Iranian — who was in Iran as a student.  Their cases were largely unknown to the world.  But when Americans are freed and reunited with their families, that’s something that we can all celebrate.

So I want to thank my national security team — especially Secretary Kerry; Susan Rice, my National Security Advisor; Brett McGurk; Avril Haines; Ben Rhodes — our whole team worked tirelessly to bring our Americans home, to get this work done.  And I want to thank the Swiss government, which represents our interests in Iran, for their critical assistance.

And meanwhile, Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to locate Robert Levinson — missing from Iran for more than eight years.  Even as we rejoice in the safe return of others, we will never forget about Bob.  Each and every day, but especially today, our hearts are with the Levinson family, and we will not rest until their family is whole again.

In a reciprocal humanitarian gesture, six Iranian–Americans and one Iranian serving sentences or awaiting trial in the United States are being granted clemency.  These individuals were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses.  They’re civilians, and their release is a one-time gesture to Iran given the unique opportunity offered by this moment and the larger circumstances at play.  And it reflects our willingness to engage with Iran to advance our mutual interests, even as we ensure the national security of the United States.

So, nuclear deal implemented.  American families reunited.  The third piece of this work that we got done this weekend involved the United States and Iran resolving a financial dispute that dated back more than three decades.  Since 1981, after our nations severed diplomatic relations, we’ve worked through a international tribunal to resolve various claims between our countries.  The United States and Iran are now settling a longstanding Iranian government claim against the United States government.  Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought.

For the United States, this settlement could save us billions of dollars that could have been pursued by Iran.  So there was no benefit to the United States in dragging this out.  With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.

Of course, even as we implement the nuclear deal and welcome our Americans home, we recognize that there remain profound differences between the United States and Iran.  We remain steadfast in opposing Iran’s destabilizing behavior elsewhere, including its threats against Israel and our Gulf partners, and its support for violent proxies in places like Syria and Yemen.  We still have sanctions on Iran for its violations of human rights, for its support of terrorism, and for its ballistic missile program.  And we will continue to enforce these sanctions, vigorously.  Iran’s recent missile test, for example, was a violation of its international obligations.  And as a result, the United States is imposing sanctions on individuals and companies working to advance Iran’s ballistic missile program.  And we are going to remain vigilant about it.  We’re not going to waver in the defense of our security or that of our allies and partners.

But I do want to once again speak directly to the Iranian people.  Yours is a great civilization, with a vibrant culture that has so much to contribute to the world — in commerce, and in science and the arts.  For decades, your government’s threats and actions to destabilize your region have isolated Iran from much of the world.  And now our governments are talking with one another.  Following the nuclear deal, you — especially young Iranians — have the opportunity to begin building new ties with the world.  We have a rare chance to pursue a new path — a different, better future that delivers progress for both our peoples and the wider world.  That’s the opportunity before the Iranian people.  We need to take advantage of that.

And to my fellow Americans, today, we’re united in welcoming home sons and husbands and brothers who, in lonely prison cells, have endured an absolute nightmare.  But they never gave in and they never gave up.  At long last, they can stand tall and breathe deep the fresh air of freedom.

As a nation, we face real challenges, around the world and here at home.  Many of them will not be resolved quickly or easily.  But today’s progress — Americans coming home, an Iran that has rolled back its nuclear program and accepted unprecedented monitoring of that program — these things are a reminder of what we can achieve when we lead with strength and with wisdom; with courage and resolve and patience.  America can do — and has done — big things when we work together.  We can leave this world and make it safer and more secure for our children and our grandchildren for generations to come.

I want to thank once again Secretary Kerry; our entire national security team, led by Susan Rice.  I’m grateful for all the assistance that we received from our allies and partners.  And I am hopeful that this signals the opportunity at least for Iran to work more cooperatively with nations around the world to advance their interests and the interests of people who are looking for peace and security for their families.

Thank you so much.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

                          END             11:03 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 23, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

Source: WH, 12-23-15

During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing.  Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.

In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL.

We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations.  As the old Christmas carol reminds us:

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s end-of-year news conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Transcript: President Obama’s end-of-year news conference

Source: WaPo, 12-18-15

President Obama held his final news conference of the year before leaving for two weeks of vacation in his home state of Hawaii on Friday, fielding questions on terrorism and national security as he sought to highlight some of his domestic and foreign policy achievements over the past year.

Here is the full text of his remarks.

OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody. Clearly, this is not the most important event that’s taking place in the White House today. There is a screening of Star Wars for Gold Star families and children coming up. So I’ll try to be relatively succinct. Let me say a few words about the year behind us and the year ahead and then I’ll take a few questions. As I look back on this year, the one thing I see is that so much of our steady persistent work over the years is paying off for the American people in big, tangible ways. Our early actions to rescue the economy set the stage for the longest streak of private sector job growth on record, with 13.7 million new jobs in that time. The unemployment rate has been cut in half, down to 5 percent. And most importantly, wages grew faster than at any time since the recovery began.

OBAMA: So over the course of this year, a lot of the decisions that we made early on have paid off. Years of steady implementation of the Affordable Care Act helped to drive the rate of the uninsured in America below 10 percent for 10 percent for the first time since records were kept on that. Health care prices have grown at their lowest level in five decades. Seventeen million more Americans have gained coverage, and we now know that 6 million people have signed up through healthcare.gov for coverage beginning on January, 1st — 600,000 on Tuesday alone.

New customers are up one-third over last year, and the more who sign up, the stronger the system becomes. And that’s good news for every American who no longer has to worry about being just one illness or accident away from financial hardship.

On climate, our early investment in clean energy ignited a clean energy industry boom. Our actions to help reduce our carbon emissions brought China to the table and last week in Paris nearly 200 nations forged a historic agreement that was only possible because of American leadership. Around the world, from reaching the deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, to re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, to concluding a landmark trade agreement that will make sure that American workers and American businesses are operating on a level playing field and that we, rather than China or other countries, are setting the rules for global trade. We have shone what is possible when America leads.

And after decades of dedicated advocacy, marriage equality became a reality in all 50 states.

So I just want to point out I said at the beginning of this year that interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter, and we are only halfway through.

I do want to thank Congress for ending the year on a high note. I got to sign an education bill that is going to fix some of the challenges that we had with No Child Left Behind, and promises to invest more in high-quality early childhood education.

OBAMA: We signed a transportation bill that, although not as robust as I think we need, still allows states and local governments to plan and actually get moving putting people back to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges. We got Ex-Im Bank back to work supporting American exports.

And today they passed a bipartisan budget deal. I’m not wild about everything in it. I’m sure that’s true for everybody. But it is a budget that, as I insisted, invests in our military and our middle class without ideological provisions that would have weakened Wall Street reform or rules on big polluters. It’s part of an agreement that will permanently extend tax credits to 24 million working families. It includes some long-sought wins like strengthening America’s leadership at the IMF.
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And because it eliminates the possibility of a shutdown for the first nine months of next year, Congress and I have a long way to get important things done on behalf of the American people.

Now there’s still a lot of work to do. For example, there’s still a lot more that Congress can do to promote job growth and increase wages in this country. I still want to work with Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to reform our criminal justice system.

And earlier today I commuted the sentences of 95 men and women who had served their debt to society, and another step forward in upholding our ideals of justice and fairness.

And of course, our most important job is to keep Americans safe. I’ve had a lot to say about that this week, but let me reiterate. The United States continues to lead a global coalition in our mission to destroy ISIL. ISIL’s already lost about 40 percent of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq, and it’s losing territory in Syria.

As we keep up the pressure, our air campaign will continue to hit ISIL harder than ever, taking out their leaders, their commanders and their forces. We’re stepping up our support for partners on the ground as they push ISIL back. Our men and women in uniform are carrying out their mission with a trademark professionalism and courage. And this holiday season all of us are united in our gratitude for their service, and we are thankful to their families as well because they serve alongside those who are actually deployed.

Squeezing ISIL’s heart at its core in Syria and Iraq will make it harder for them to pump their terror and propaganda to the rest of the world. At the same time, as we know from San Bernardino, where I’ll visit with families later today, we have to remain vigilant here at home. Our counter-terrorism, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement communities are working 24/7 to protect our homeland. And all of us can do our part by staying vigilant, by saying something if we see something that is suspicious, by refusing to be terrorized, and staying united as one American family.

In short for all the very real progress America’s made over the past seven years, we still have some unfinished business. And I plan on doing everything I can with every minute of every day that I have left as president to deliver on behalf of the American people.

Since taking this office, I have never been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now. And in 2016 I’m going to leave it out all on the field.

So with that, let me take some questions.

I’ll start with Roberta Ranton (ph) on Reuters.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you’re going to California today. And as you said earlier this week, you told the nation that there’s no specific or credible threat of a similar attack, but how is it really possible to know? I mean, aren’t similar plots going to be just as hard to detect beforehand? And some lawmakers are saying that your government should review the social media of all people applying for visas to come to this country. What do you think of that idea? Should that be mandatory?

OBAMA: Well, Roberta, you’re absolutely right that it is very difficult for us to detect lone wolf plots or plots involving a husband and wife, in this case, because despite the incredible vigilance of all of our law enforcement, homeland security, et cetera, it’s not that different from us trying to detect the next mass shooter. You don’t always see it. They’re not always communicating publicly, and if you’re not catching what they say publicly, then it becomes a challenge.

We are continuing to work at every level, to make sure that there’s no slip between information-sharing among agencies.

OBAMA: We’re continuing to strengthen our information sharing with foreign countries, and because in part of the tragedy in Paris, I think you’re seeing much greater cooperation from our European partners on these issues.

But this is a different kind of challenge than the sort that we had with an organization like Al Qaida, that involved highly trained operatives who were working as cells or as a network.

Here, essentially, you have ISIL trying to encourage or induce somebody who may be prey to this kind of propaganda, and it becomes more difficult to — to see.

It does mean that they are less likely to be able to carry out large, complex attacks, but as we saw in San Bernardino, obviously, you can still do enormous damage.

The issue of reviewing social media for those who are obtaining visas, I think, may have gotten garbled a little bit, because there may be — it’s important to distinguish between posts that are public — social media on a Facebook page — versus private communications through various social media or apps.

And our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are constantly monitoring public posts, and that is part of the visa review process, that — that people are investigating what individuals have said publicly, and questioned about any statements that they maybe made.

But if you have a private communication between two individuals, that’s harder to discern, by definition. And one of the things we’ll be doing is engaging with the high-tech community to find out how we can, in an appropriate way, do a better job, if we have a lead, to be able to track a suspected terrorist.

But we’re gonna have to recognize that no government is gonna have the capacity to read every single person’s texts or e-mails or social media. If — if it’s not posted publicly, then there are gonna be feasibility issues that are — that are probably insurmountable at some level.

And, you know, it raises questions about our values. I mean, keep in mind it was only a couple years ago where we were having a major debate about whether the government was becoming too much like Big Brother. And, overall, I think we have struck the right balance in protecting civil liberties and making sure that U.S. citizens’ privacy is preserved, that we are making sure that there’s oversight to what our intelligence agencies do.

But, you know, we’re going to have to continue to balance our needs for security with people’s legitimate concerns about privacy. And because the Internet is global and communications systems are global, you know, the values that we apply here often times are ones that folks who are trying to come into the country are also benefiting from, because they’re using the same technologies.

But this is precisely why we’re working very hard to bring law enforcement, intelligence and high-tech companies together, because we’re gonna have to really review what we can do, both technically as well as consistent with our laws and values, in order to try to discern more rapidly some of the potential threats that may be out there.

OK. David Jackson.

QUESTION: Mr. President, a Gitmo question. Congress has made it pretty clear that they are just (ph) not gonna let you transfer prisoners to the United States for trial. But some people think you already have the executive authority to transfer those prisoners and — and close Gitmo itself next year.

My question is, do you believe you have that authority, and are you willing to exercise it to close that (inaudible)?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, we have been working systematically, another example of persistence, in reducing the population. We have a review process for those who are eligible for transfer. We locate (ph), in countries that have accepted some of these detainees, they monitor them, and it’s been determined that they can be transferred.

And my expectation is, by the early (ph) — by early next year, we should have reduced that population below 100. And we will continue — continue to steadily chip away at the numbers in Guantanamo.

There’s gonna come to a point where we have an irreducible population — people who pose a significant threat, but for various reasons, it’s difficult for us to try them in an Article III court.

Some of those folks are going through the military commission process. But there’s going to be a challenge there. Now, at that stage, I’m presenting a plan to Congress about how we can close Guantanamo.

I’m not going to automatically assume that Congress says no. I’m not being coy, David. I think it’s fair to say that there’s gonna be significant resistance from some quarters, to that.

But I think we can make a very strong argument that it doesn’t make sense for us to be spending an extra $100 million, $200 million, $300 million, $500 million, $1 billion, to have a — a secure setting for 50, 60, 70 people.

And we will wait until Congress has said definitively no to a well thought out plan with numbers attached to it, before we say anything definitive about my executive authority here. I think it’s far preferable if I can get stuff done with Congress.

QUESTION: It’s an election year. You know they’re not gonna do it (ph). (inaudible) on your own?

OBAMA: David, as — as I said — you know, and I think you’ve seen me, on a whole bunch of issues, like immigration, I’m not gonna — I’m not gonna be forward-leaning on what I can do without Congress before I’ve tested what I can do with Congress.

And every once in a while, they’ll surprise you, and — and this may be one of those places, because we can make a really strong argument Guantanamo continues to be one of the key magnets for Jihadi recruitment. You know, to Roberta’s (ph) question earlier about how do they propagandize and convince somebody here in the United States, who may not have a criminal record or a history of terrorist activity, to start shooting, this is part of what they feed. This notion of a gross injustice, that America’s not living up to its professed ideals.

We know that. We see the — the Internet traffic. We see how Guantanamo has been used to create this mythology that America is at war with Islam. And — you know, for us to close it is part of our counterterrorism strategy that is supported by our military, our diplomatic and our intelligence teams.

So when you combine that with the fact that it’s really expensive, and that we are — you know, essentially, at this point, detaining a handful of people, and each person is costing several million dollars to detain, when there are more efficient ways of doing it, you know, I think we can make a strong argument.

I — I — I’m — but I’ll take — you know, I’ll take your point, that it’ll be an uphill battle. Every battle I’ve had with Congress over the last five years have been — has been uphill, and — but we keep on surprising you by actually getting some stuff done.

QUESTION: (inaudible) on an immigration bill (ph)?

OBAMA: Sometimes — sometimes that may prove necessary, but — you know, we try not to get out ahead of ourselves on that.

Julie Pace.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Wanted to ask you about the broader challenges in the Middle East.

OBAMA: Yeah.

QUESTION: Who (ph) of the Republicans who are running for president have argued that the Mid-East and the United States would be safer if you hadn’t (ph) had regime changes, places (ph) like Iraq, Libya, and Egypt.

And having gone through the experience of the Arab Spring and the aftermath, I wonder what you now see of (ph) the U.S. role in the Middle East in terms of trying to push dictators out of power.

Would you advise future presidents to call for authoritarian leaders to step down, as you did? And just specifically on Syria, at this point, is it your expectation that Bashar Assad’s presidency will outlast yours?

OBAMA: You know, there’s been a lot of revisionist history, sometimes by the same people, making different arguments depending on the situation. So maybe it’s useful just for us to go back over some of these issues.

We did not depose Hosni Mubarak. Millions of Egyptians did because of their dissatisfaction with the corruption and authoritarianism of the regime. We had a working relationship with Mubarak. We didn’t trigger the Arab Spring, and the notion that somehow the U.S. was in a position to pull the strings on a country that is the largest in the Arab world, I think is — is mistaken.

What is true is that at the point at which the choice becomes mowing down millions of people or trying to find some transition, we believed and I would still argue that it was more sensible for us to find a peaceful transition to the Egyptian situation.

With respect to Libya, Libya is sort of an alternative version of Syria in some ways, because by the time the international coalition interceded in Syria, chaos had already broken out. You already had the makings of a civil war. You had a dictator who was threatening and was in a position to carry out the wholesale slaughter of large numbers of people. And we worked under U.N. mandate with a coalition of folks in order to try to avert a big humanitarian catastrophe that would not have good for us.

Those who now argue in retrospect, we should have left Gadhafi in there, seem to forget that he had already lost legitimacy and control of his country and we could have — instead of what we have in Libya now, we could have had another Syria in Libya now. The — the problem with Libya was the fact that there was a failure on the part of the entire international community, and I think that the United States has some accountability for not moving swiftly enough and underestimating the need to rebuild government there quickly, and as a consequence, you now have a very bad situation.

As far as Syria goes, I think it is entirely right and proper for the United States of America to speak out on behalf of its (ph) values. And when you have an authoritarian leader that is killing hundreds of thousands of his own people, the notion that we would just stand by and say nothing is contrary to who we are, and that does not serve our interests, because at that point, us being in collusion with that kind of governance would make us even more of a target for terrorist activity, would…

QUESTION: Do you think that government (ph) can help try to stop (inaudible)?

OBAMA: But — but the reason that Assad has been a problem in Syria is because that is a majority Sunni country and he had lost the space that he had early on to execute an inclusive transition — peaceful transition. He chose instead to slaughter people and once that happened, the idea that a minority population there could somehow crush tens of millions of people who oppose him is not feasible. It’s not plausible. Even if you were being cold-eyed and hard-heartened about the human toll there, it just wouldn’t happen.

OBAMA: And as a consequence, our view has been that you cannot bring peace to Syria, you cannot get an end to the civil war unless you have a government that has — it is recognized as legitimate by a majority of that country. It will not happen, and this is the argument that I have had repeatedly with Mr. Putin. Dating five years ago, at which time his suggestion, as I gather some Republicans are now suggesting, was, “You know, Assad’s not so bad, let him just be as brutal and repressive as he can, but at least he’ll keep order.” I said, “Look. The problem is that the history of trying to keep order when a large majority of the country has turned against you is not good.”

And five years later, I was right. So we now have an opportunity — and John Kerry is meeting as we speak with Syria and Turkey and Iran and the Gulf countries and other parties who are interested, we now have an opportunity not to turn back the clock, it’s going to be difficult to completely overcome the devastation that’s happened in Syria already, but to find a political transition that maintains the Syrian state, that recognizes a bunch of stakeholders inside of Syria and hopefully to initiate a cease-fire that won’t be perfect, but allows all the parties to turn on what should be our number one focus, and that is destroying Daesh and its allies in the region.

And that is going to be a difficult process, it’s going to be a pain staking process, but there is no shortcut to that. And that’s not based on some idealism on my part, that’s our hard-headed calculation about what’s going to be required to get the job done.

QUESTION: Do you think that Assad, though, could remain in power a year from now?

OBAMA: I think that Assad is going to have to leave in order for the country to stop the bloodletting and for all the parties involved to be able to move forward in a nonsectarian way. He has lost legitimacy in the eyes of a large majority of the country.

Now, is there a way of us constructing a bridge creating a political transition that allows those who are aligned with Assad right now, allows the Russians, allows the Iranians to ensure that their equities are respected and minorities, that minorities like the Alawites (ph) are not crushed or retribution is not the order of the day, I think that’s going to be very important as well.

And that’s what make this so difficult. You know, sadly, had Assad made a decision earlier that he was not more important personally than his entire country, that kind of political transition would have been much easier. It’s a lot harder now.

But John Kerry has been doing excellent work in moving that process forward and I do think that you’ve seen from the Russians a recognition that after a couple months, they’re not really moving the needle that much in this fight of sizable deployment inside of Syria. And of course, that’s what I suggested would happen, because there’s only so much bombing you can do when an entire country is outraged and believes that its ruler doesn’t represent them.

Sheryl (ph) Bowl (ph)?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to ask about the surprise (ph) in Congress. Specifically, what are your top legislative priorities for next year? And how has the new speaker, Paul Ryan, changed the dynamic with you and Capitol Hill? And can you be more ambitious next year doing things like maybe completing the Transatlantic Trade Partnership or even getting tax reform?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, it’s important to give some credit where credit is due. John Boehner did a favor to all of us, including now Speaker Ryan, by working with us to agree on a top line budget framework. That was the basis for subsequent negotiations. He was able to do that because he was going out the door, and was then given, I think, a little more room to maneuver than he previously had.

Having said that, I also want to give Speaker Ryan credit. I called both him and Mitch McConnell, as well as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for the orderly way in which they actually negotiated a budget, the way Congress is historically and typically supposed to work. I think (ph) we’ve gotten kind of used to last-minute crises and shutdown threats and so forth. And this — this is a messy process that doesn’t satisfy everybody completely, but it’s more typical of American democracy, and I think that Speaker Ryan deserves a role in that.

I will say that, in his interactions with me, he has been professional, he has reached out to tell me what he can do and what he cannot do. I think it’s a good working relationship.

We recognize that we disagree on a whole bunch of other stuff, and have fundamentally different visions for where we want to move the country, but, perhaps because even before he was elected he had worked on Capitol Hill, I think he is respectful of the process and respectful of how legislation works.

So kudos to him, as well as all the leaders and appropriators who were involved in this process. Now, just want to repeat, because sometimes we take for granted what’s happened.

I said early on in this process that I wasn’t going to sign a budget that — that did not relieve sequester, this artificial austerity that was making it difficult to invest in things like education and our military. And I said I would not accept a lot of ideological riders that were attached to a big budget deal.

And we met our goals. And because of some terrific negotiations by the Democrats up on Capitol Hill, and I think some pretty good work by our legislative staffs here, we’re gonna be able to fund environmental protection, we’re gonna be able to make sure that we’re investing in things like early childhood education and making college more affordable.

We’re going to be able to implement the clean power plant rule. We’re going to be able to continue to invest in clean energy that spurs on innovation. We’re going to be able to make sure that our military gets the equipment and the training that it needs to be effective in fighting ISIL and other threats around the world.

So it was a — it was a good win. And there are some things in there that I don’t like, but that’s the nature of legislation and — and compromise. And I think the system worked. That gives me some optimism that, next year, on a narrow set of issues, we can get some more work done.

As David said, it’s an election year, and obviously, a lot of the legislative process is going to be skewed by people looking over their shoulders, worrying about primaries, trying to position themselves relative to the presidential candidates. So that makes it harder.

But I think there are going to be a handful of areas where we can make real progress. One of them, you already mentioned, Trans-Pacific Partnership, which now has been out, Congress has had a chance to review, and it meets the bar that I set.

It is consistent with what I promised, which is the most pro- labor, pro-environment, progressive trade deal in history, that eliminates just about every tariff on American manufacturing goods in countries that up until this point have charged a tax, essentially, on anything that American workers and American businesses sell in these areas.

It brings those taxes down to zero on basically all of American manufactured products. A huge win for agriculture, because now — you know, the people of Japan are going to be in a better position to enjoy American beef and American pork, which, up until this point, even though we’re much more efficient producers, has have been tagged with a tax that makes — you know, our products uncompetitive in Japanese markets.

So this is a big deal, and I think Speaker Ryan would like to try to get it done. And there are both proponents and opponents of this in both Democratic and Republican parties, and so it’s gonna be an interesting situation where we’re going to have to stitch together the same kind of bipartisan effort, in order for us to get it done.

A second area that I think is possible is criminal justice reform. There has been sincere, serious negotiations and efforts by Democrats and Republicans to create a criminal justice system that is more fair, more even handed, more proportionate and is smarter about how we reduce crime. And I have really been impressed by the dedication of a core group of Democrats and Republicans. Some of them the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans coming together saying this is the right thing to do. We’ve got a good bill in the Senate that passed with bipartisan support out of committee. My hope is that that gets to the floor. And that we can pair it up with a good bill out of the House. And then this is an area where potentially can see us save money, reduce recidivism, you know, make sure people who make a mistake on nonviolent crimes have to pay the price. Have to serve time, but are released in a — in a reasonable fashion. That they have more support so they’re less likely to go back into the criminal system, subsequently.

And that’s an area where we may be able to make a big difference. So those are just two examples. We’ll keep on looking for a number of examples like that. And — and wherever there’s an opportunity, I’m going to take it.

Phillip Grub (ph). Phillip Grub (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned climate change already. And at the time of the signing of the deal in Paris you said it was potentially a turning point for the the world. But this was a deal that was — that is not a legally binding document and you bypassed Congress pretty much completely.

Are you worried at this point that a Republican president who might take over for you in the White House could stop the deal in its tracks entirely, and considering that possibility, are you more interested in campaigning for a Democrat nominee considering that danger?

OBAMA: I think it’s fair I was going to be campaigning for a Democratic nominee even without that danger. And I am very confident that we’re going to have a terrific Democratic nominee and — whose phone is that, guys? Come on, now. Somebody. You recognize your ring, don’t be embarrassed. Just turn it off. There you go. OK. Can I still here it?

All right, I think it’s off now.

I think we will have a strong Democratic nominee. I think that nominee will win. I think I will have a Democratic successor and I will campaign very hard to make that happy for a whole variety of reasons because they’re far more likely to share my fundamental vision about where America should go.

But having said that, what I think people should also feel good about is that the agreement struck in Paris, although not legally binding when it comes to the targets that had been set does create this architecture in which all around the world countries are saying this is where we’re going.

We’re going to be chasing after this clean energy future. This is how we’re going to meet our goals. We’re going to double down on solar power. We’re going to double down on wind power. We’re going to invest more heavily in biofuels. We’re going to figure out battery technologies.

And what you saw in this budget, which I think was really significant, was an extension of the solar tax credits and wind tax credits that we had helped to really boost early on in my administration and that it resulted in wind power increasing threefold, solar power increasing by twentyfold. Those tax credits are now going to be extended for five to seven years and as a consequence, that combination of market signals means that the private sector is going to start investing much more heavily. They know this is coming. And it’s not just coming here. It’s coming around the world.

You now have a global marketplace for clean energy that is stable and accelerating over the course of the next decade. That then creates a different dynamic that is independent of what Congress does, but also helps to shape what Congress does. Because the more people that are now getting jobs in solar installation and production, the more that you have companies who are seeing how American innovation can sell products in clean energy all across the Asia Pacific and in Europe and in Africa. Suddenly, there’s a big monetary incentive to getting this right.

And that’s been the history of environmental progress in this country and now we’ve exported it around the world. Every time we have made a decision, you know what, we’re going to have clean air. The predictions were, everything would fall apart. And low and behold, turns out that American innovation makes getting clean air a lot less expensive than people expected and it happens a lot faster than expected.

When we made a decision that we were going to double fuel efficiency standards on cars, everybody said, I’m just going to ruin the American auto industry. The American auto industry has been booming over the last couple years.

Acid rain. When George H.W. Bush instituted a system to charge for the emissions that were causing acid rain, everybody said, well you can’t do that, that’s going to ruin business and it turned out that it was smoother, faster, quicker, better.

And acid rain — folks who were born, I don’t know — some of you reporters are getting younger or I’m getting older, you may not remember it but that was a big deal and now most folks don’t even remember it anymore because it got solved. And there’s no reason why the same won’t happen here.

Now, do I think there’s going to be a lot of noise and campaigning next year about how we’re going to stop Paris in its tracks? There will probably be a lot of noise about that. Do I actually think two years from now, three years from now, even Republican members of Congress are going to look at it and say that’s a smart thing to do? I don’t think they will.

Keep in mind that right now the American Republican party is the only major party that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies climate change. I mean, it’s an outlier. Many of the key signatories to this deal, the architects of this deal, come from center-right governments. Even the far right parties in many of these countries. They may not like immigrants for example, but they admit, yes, the science tells us that we have to do something about climate change. So my sense is that this is something that may be an advantage in terms of short-term politics in the Republican primary. It’s not something that is going to be a winner for Republicans long- term.

QUESTION: You mentioned American leadership. But is it embarrassing to you that the other party denies climate change?

OBAMA: No, because first of all, I’m not a member of that party. Second of all, it didn’t stop us from being the key leader in getting this done. I mean, this is something that I have been working on now for five, six years. When I went to Copenhagen, I essentially engaged in 24 hours of diplomacy to salvage from a pretty chaotic process, the basic principle that all countries had to participate.

We couldn’t have a rigid division between developed countries and developing countries when it came to solving this problem. That was the initial foundation for us. Then working with other countries, culminating in the joint announcement with China, bringing in India, bringing in Brazil and the other big, emerging countries, working with the Europeans in getting this done.

This would not have happened without American leadership. And by the way, the same is true for the Iran nuclear deal. The same is true for the Trans-Pacific partnership. The same is true for stamping out Ebola, something you guys may recall from last year, which was the potential end of the world.

You know, at each juncture, what we have said is that American strength and American exceptionalism is not just a matter of us bombing somebody. More often, it’s a matter of us convening, setting the agenda, pointing other nations in a direction that’s good for everybody and good for U.S. interests.

Engaging in painstaking diplomacy, leading by example and sometimes, the results don’t come overnight, they don’t come the following day, but they come. And this year, what you really saw was that steady, persistent leadership on many initiatives that I began when I first came into office.

Alright.

QUESTION: Mr. President?

OBAMA: I’ve got April Ryan (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to ask you something about criminal justice — on that subject and also something on Secretary Kerry (ph). Your administration contends (ph) the United States is five percent of the world population, but 25 percent of the global jail population. What legislation are you supporting that significantly cuts mass incarceration in this country? And going back to the Assad (ph) issue, does Assad have to go to defeat ISIS? OBAMA: Well, we’re going to defeat ISIS, and we’re going to do so by systemically squeezing them, cutting off their supply lines, cutting off their financing, taking out their leadership, taking out their forces, taking out their infrastructure. We’re going to do so in partnership with forces on the ground that sometimes are spotty, sometimes need capacity building, need our assistance, need our training, but we’re seeing steadily progress in many of these areas. And so they’re going to be on the run.

Now, they are going to continue to be dangerous, so — so let me just be very clear, because whenever I say that we have made progress in squeezing the territory that they control or made real end roads against them, what people will say is, well, if something happens around the world, then obviously that must not be true.

But in any battle, in any fight, even as you make progress, there’s still dangers involved. And ISIL’s capacity both to infiltrate Western countries with people who have travel to Syria or travel to Iraq and the savviness of their social media, their ability to recruit disaffected individuals who may be French or British or even U.S. citizens, will continue to make them dangerous for some time. But — but — but we will systemically go after them.

Now, in order for us to stamp them out thoroughly, we have to eliminate lawless areas in which they cannot still roam. So we can — we can disable them, we can dismantle much of their infrastructure, greatly reduce the threat that they pose to the United States, our allies and our neighbors, but in the same way that Al Qaida is pinned down and has much more difficulty carrying out any significant attacks because of how we have systemically dismantled them, they still pose a threat.

There are still operatives who are interested in carrying out terrorist attacks because they still operate in areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan or more prominently right now in Yemen that are hard to reach. Our — our long-term goal has to be able to stabilize these areas so that they don’t have any safe haven, and in order for us to do that in Syria, there has to be an end to the civil war. There has to be an actual government that has a police capacity and a structure in these areas that currently aren’t governed.

And it is my firm belief and the belief of the experts in this administration that so long as Assad is there, we cannot achieve that kind of stability inside of Syria, and, you know, I — I think the history over the last several years indicates as much. So that’s going to continue to be a top priority for us, moving aggressively on the military track and not letting ISIL take a breath and pounding away at them with our special forces and our airstrikes and the training and advising of partners that can go after them. But we also have to keep very aggressive on this diplomatic track in order for us to bring countries together. All right?

Everybody? On criminal justice reform? I — I answered the question. I’m hopeful.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) OBAMA: Right. In April (ph), what I said was is that I strongly support the Senate legislation that’s already been put forward. I’m hopeful that the House can come up with legislation that follows the same principles, which is to make sure that we’re doing sentencing reform, but we’re also doing a better job in terms of reducing recidivism and providing support for ex-offenders. And if we can get those two bills together in a conference, then I’m somewhat optimistic that we’re gonna be able to make a difference.

Now keep in mind, April (ph), when you use the term mass incarceration, statistically the overwhelming majority of people who are incarcerated are in state prisons and state facilities for state crimes. We can only focus on federal law and federal crimes. And so there’s still going to be a large population of individuals who are incarcerated even for nonviolent drug crimes because this is a trend that started in the late ’80s and ’90s and accelerated at the state levels.

But if we can show at the federal level that we can be smart on crime, more cost effective, more just, more proportionate, then we can set a trend for other states to follow as well. And that’s our hope.

This is not going to be something that’s reversed overnight. So just to go back to my general principle, April (ph), it took 20 years for us to get to the point we are now. And only 20 years probably before we reverse — we reverse some of these major trends.

OK, everybody, I gotta get to Star Wars. Thank you. Thank you, guys.

Appreciate you. Thank you. Merry Christmas, everybody.

Full Text Political Transcripts November 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by President Obama — Antalya, Turkey

 

Source: WH, 11-16-15 

Kaya Palazzo Resort

Antalya, Turkey

4:42 P.M. EET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking President Erdogan and the people of Antalya and Turkey for their outstanding work in hosting this G20 Summit. Antalya is beautiful. The hospitality of the Turkish people is legendary. To our Turkish friends — çok teşekkürler. (Laughter.) I’ve been practicing that.

At the G20, our focus was on how to get the global economy growing faster and creating more jobs for our people. And I’m pleased that we agreed that growth has to be inclusive to address the rising inequality around the world.

Given growing cyber threats, we committed to a set of norms — drafted by the United States — for how governments should conduct themselves in cyberspace, including a commitment not to engage in the cyber theft of intellectual property for commercial gain. And as we head into global climate talks, all G20 countries have submitted our targets, and we’ve pledged to work together for a successful outcome in Paris.

Of course, much of our attention has focused on the heinous attacks that took place in Paris. Across the world, in the United States, American flags are at half-staff in solidarity with our French allies. We’re working closely with our French partners as they pursue their investigations and track down suspects.

France is already a strong counterterrorism partner, and today we’re announcing a new agreement. We’re streamlining the process by which we share intelligence and operational military information with France. This will allow our personnel to pass threat information, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often — because we need to be doing everything we can to protect against more attacks and protect our citizens.

Tragically, Paris is not alone. We’ve seen outrageous attacks by ISIL in Beirut, last month in Ankara, routinely in Iraq. Here at the G20, our nations have sent an unmistakable message that we are united against this threat. ISIL is the face of evil. Our goal, as I’ve said many times, is to degrade and ultimately destroy this barbaric terrorist organization.

As I outlined this fall at the United Nations, we have a comprehensive strategy using all elements of our power — military, intelligence, economic, development, and the strength of our communities. With have always understood that this would be a long-term campaign. There will be setbacks and there will be successes. The terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback. Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can’t lose sight that there has been progress being made.

On the military front, our coalition is intensifying our airstrikes — more than 8,000 to date. We’re taking out ISIL leaders, commanders, their killers. We’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can and is pushed back. So local forces in Iraq, backed by coalition airpower, recently liberated Sinjar. Iraqi forces are fighting to take back Ramadi. In Syria, ISIL has been pushed back from much of the border region with Turkey. We’ve stepped up our support of opposition forces who are working to cut off supply lines to ISIL’s strongholds in and around Raqqa. So, in short, both in Iraq and Syria, ISIL controls less territory than it did before.

I made the point to my fellow leaders that if we want this progress to be sustained, more nations need to step up with the resources that this fight demands.

Of course, the attacks in Paris remind us that it will not be enough to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq alone. Here in Antalya, our nations, therefore, committed to strengthening border controls, sharing more information, and stepping up our efforts to prevent the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. As the United States just showed in Libya, ISIL leaders will have no safe haven anywhere. And we’ll continue to stand with leaders in Muslim communities, including faith leaders, who are the best voices to discredit ISIL’s warped ideology.

On the humanitarian front, our nations agreed that we have to do even more, individually and collectively, to address the agony of the Syrian people. The United States is already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people — some $4.5 billion in aid so far. As winter approaches, we’re donating additional supplies, including clothing and generators, through the United Nations. But the U.N. appeal for Syria still has less than half the funds needed. Today, I’m again calling on more nations to contribute the resources that this crisis demands.

In terms of refugees, it’s clear that countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — which are already bearing an extraordinary burden — cannot be expected to do so alone. At the same time, all of our countries have to ensure our security. And as President, my first priority is the safety of the American people. And that’s why, even as we accept more refugees — including Syrians — we do so only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks.

We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves — that’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.

Finally, we’ve begun to see some modest progress on the diplomatic front, which is critical because a political solution is the only way to end the war in Syria and unite the Syrian people and the world against ISIL. The Vienna talks mark the first time that all the key countries have come together — as a result, I would add, of American leadership — and reached a common understanding. With this weekend’s talks, there’s a path forward — negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime under the auspices of the United Nations; a transition toward a more inclusive, representative government; a new constitution, followed by free elections; and, alongside this political process, a ceasefire in the civil war, even as we continue to fight against ISIL.

These are obviously ambitious goals. Hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before. There are any number of ways that this latest diplomatic push could falter. And there are still disagreements between the parties, including, most critically, over the fate of Bashar Assad, who we do not believe has a role in Syria’s future because of his brutal rule. His war against the Syrian people is the primary root cause of this crisis.

What is different this time, and what gives us some degree of hope, is that, as I said, for the first time, all the major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on a process that is needed to end this war. And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still head, the United States, in partnership with our coalition, is going to remain relentless on all fronts — military, humanitarian and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions. And I will begin with Jerome Cartillier of AFP.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, sending the message that they could now target civilians all over the world. The equation has clearly changed. Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what we have been doing. We have a military strategy that is putting enormous pressure on ISIL through airstrikes; that has put assistance and training on the ground with Iraqi forces; we’re now working with Syrian forces as well to squeeze ISIL, cut off their supply lines. We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities, the oil that they’re trying to ship outside. We are taking strikes against high-value targets — including, most recently, against the individual who was on the video executing civilians who had already been captured, as well as the head of ISIL in Libya. So it’s not just in Iraq and Syria.

And so, on the military front, we are continuing to accelerate what we do. As we find additional partners on the ground that are effective, we work with them more closely. I’ve already authorized additional Special Forces on the ground who are going to be able to improve that coordination.

On the counterterrorism front, keep in mind that since I came into office, we have been worried about these kinds of attacks. The vigilance that the United States government maintains and the cooperation that we’re consistently expanding with our European and other partners in going after every single terrorist network is robust and constant. And every few weeks, I meet with my entire national security team and we go over every single threat stream that is presented, and where we have relevant information, we share it immediately with our counterparts around the world, including our European partners.

On aviation security, we have, over the last several years, been working so that at various airports sites — not just in the United States, but overseas — we are strengthening our mechanisms to screen and discover passengers who should not be boarding flights, and improving the matters in which we are screening luggage that is going onboard.

And on the diplomatic front, we’ve been consistently working to try to get all the parties together to recognize that there is a moderate opposition inside of Syria that can form the basis for a transition government, and to reach out not only to our friends but also to the Russians and the Iranians who are on the other side of this equation to explain to them that ultimately an organization like ISIL is the greatest danger to them, as well as to us.

So there will be an intensification of the strategy that we put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work. But as I said from the start, it’s going to take time.

And what’s been interesting is, in the aftermath of Paris, as I listen to those who suggest something else needs to be done, typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing. The one exception is that there have been a few who suggested that we should put large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground.

And keep in mind that we have the finest military in the world and we have the finest military minds in the world, and I’ve been meeting with them intensively for years now, discussing these various options, and it is not just my view but the view of my closest military and civilian advisors that that would be a mistake — not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we’ve seen before, which is, if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface — unless we’re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.

And let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria. What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send more troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps? Or if there’s a terrorist network that’s operating anywhere else — in North Africa, or in Southeast Asia?

So a strategy has to be one that can be sustained. And the strategy that we’re pursuing, which focuses on going after targets, limiting wherever possible the capabilities of ISIL on the ground — systematically going after their leadership, their infrastructure, strengthening Shia — or strengthening Syrian and Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces that are prepared to fight them, cutting off their borders and squeezing the space in which they can operate until ultimately we’re able to defeat them — that’s the strategy we’re going to have to pursue.

And we will continue to generate more partners for that strategy. And there are going to be some things that we try that don’t work; there will be some strategies we try that do work. And when we find strategies that work, we will double down on those.

Margaret Brennan, CBS.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the West. Have you underestimated their abilities? And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, we haven’t underestimated our abilities. This is precisely why we’re in Iraq as we speak, and why we’re operating in Syria as we speak. And it’s precisely why we have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL, and why I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters, and why we’ve been putting pressure on those countries that have not been as robust as they need to in tracking the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq.

And so there has been an acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that it is possible for an organization like ISIL that has such a twisted ideology, and has shown such extraordinary brutality and complete disregard for innocent lives, that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West. And because thousands of fighters have flowed from the West and are European citizens — a few hundred from the United States, but far more from Europe — that when those foreign fighters returned, it posed a significant danger. And we have consistently worked with our European partners, disrupting plots in some cases. Sadly, this one was not disrupted in time.

But understand that one of the challenges we have in this situation is, is that if you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people. That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weapon that they possess, but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die. And in those circumstances, tracking each individual, making sure that we are disrupting and preventing these attacks is a constant effort at vigilance, and requires extraordinary coordination.

Now, part of the reason that it is important what we do in Iraq and Syria is that the narrative that ISIL developed of creating this caliphate makes it more attractive to potential recruits. So when I said that we are containing their spread in Iraq and Syria, in fact, they control less territory than they did last year. And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state, and the more it becomes apparent that they are simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations. That allows us to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, which then, over time, will lessen the numbers of terrorists who can potentially carry out terrible acts like they did in Paris.

And that’s what we did with al Qaeda. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that al Qaeda no longer possess the capabilities of potentially striking the West. Al Qaeda in the Peninsula that operates primarily in Yemen we know has consistently tried to target the West. And we are consistently working to disrupt those acts. But despite the fact that they have not gotten as much attention as ISIL, they still pose a danger, as well.

And so our goals here consistently have to be to be aggressive, and to leave no stone unturned, but also recognize this is not conventional warfare. We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they’re a state, and we use routine military tactics that are designed to fight a state that is attacking another state. That’s not what’s going on here.

These are killers with fantasies of glory who are very savvy when it comes to social media, and are able to infiltrate the minds of not just Iraqis or Syrians, but disaffected individuals around the world. And when they activate those individuals, those individuals can do a lot of damage. And so we have to take the approach of being rigorous on our counterterrorism efforts, and consistently improve and figure out how we can get more information, how we can infiltrate these networks, how we can reduce their operational space, even as we also try to shrink the amount of territory they control to defeat their narrative.

Ultimately, to reclaim territory from them is going to require, however, an ending of the Syrian civil war, which is why the diplomatic efforts are so important. And it’s going to require an effective Iraqi effort that bridges Shia and Sunni differences, which is why our diplomatic efforts inside of Iraq are so important, as well.

Jim Avila.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the days and weeks before the Paris attacks, did you receive warning in your daily intelligence briefing that an attack was imminent? If not, does that not call into question the current assessment that there is no immediate, specific, credible threat to the United States today?

And secondly, if I could ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, every day we have threat streams coming through the intelligence transit. And as I said, every several weeks we sit down with all my national security, intelligence, and military teams to discuss various threat streams that may be generated. And the concerns about potential ISIL attacks in the West have been there for over a year now, and they come through periodically. There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we need — that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.

But typically the way the intelligence works is there will be a threat stream that is from one source, how reliable is that source; perhaps some signal intelligence gets picked up, it’s evaluated. Some of it is extraordinarily vague and unspecific, and there’s no clear timetable. Some of it may be more specific, and then folks chase down that threat to see what happens.

I am not aware of anything that was specific in the sense — that would have given a premonition about a particular action in Paris that would allow for law enforcement or military actions to disrupt it.

With respect to the broader issue of my critics, to some degree I answered the question earlier. I think that when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference — because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

Now, there are a few exceptions. And as I said, the primary exception is those who would deploy U.S. troops on a large scale to retake territory either in Iraq or now in Syria. And at least they have the honesty to go ahead and say that’s what they would do. I just addressed why I think they’re wrong. There have been some who are well-meaning, and I don’t doubt their sincerity when it comes to the issue of the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, who, for example, call for a no-fly zone or a safe zone of some sort.

And this is an example of the kind of issue where I will sit down with our top military and intelligence advisors, and we will painstakingly go through what does something like that look like. And typically, after we’ve gone through a lot of planning and a lot of discussion, and really working it through, it is determined that it would be counterproductive to take those steps — in part because ISIL does not have planes, so the attacks are on the ground. A true safe zone requires us to set up ground operations. And the bulk of the deaths that have occurred in Syria, for example, have come about not because of regime bombing, but because of on-the-ground casualties. Who would come in, who could come out of that safe zone; how would it work; would it become a magnet for further terrorist attacks; and how many personnel would be required, and how would it end — there’s a whole set of questions that have to be answered there.

I guess my point is this, Jim: My only interest is to end suffering and to keep the American people safe. And if there’s a good idea out there, then we’re going to do it. I don’t think I’ve shown hesitation to act — whether it’s with respect to bin Laden or with respect to sending additional troops in Afghanistan, or keeping them there — if it is determined that it’s actually going to work.

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.

Jim Acosta.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you have not underestimated ISIS’s abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities? And how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is — and if you’ll forgive the language — is why can’t we take out these bastards?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question, so I don’t know what more you want me to add. I think I’ve described very specifically what our strategy is, and I’ve described very specifically why we do not pursue some of the other strategies that have been suggested.

This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

And so we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution. And part of the reason, as I said, Jim, is because there are costs to the other side. I just want to remind people, this is not an abstraction. When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed; they’re away from their families; our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t shoot first and aim later. It’s important for us to get the strategy right. And the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.

Ron Allen.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you’re pursuing — and it’s been more than a year now — ISIS’s capabilities seem to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned? And do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States?

And do you think that given all you’ve learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, so this is another variation on the same question. And I guess — let me try it one last time.

We have been fully aware of the potential capabilities of them carrying out a terrorist attack. That’s precisely why we have been mounting a very aggressive strategy to go after them. As I said before, when you’re talking about the ability of a handful of people with not wildly sophisticated military equipment, weapons, who are willing to die, they can kill a lot of people. And preventing them from doing so is challenging for every country. And if there was a swift and quick solution to this, I assure you that not just the United States, but France and Turkey, and others who have been subject to these terrorist attacks would have implemented those strategies.

There are certain advantages that the United States has in preventing these kinds of attacks. Obviously, after 9/11, we hardened the homeland, set up a whole series of additional steps to protect aviation, to apply lessons learned. We’ve seen much better cooperation between the FBI, state governments, local governments. There is some advantages to geography with respect to the United States.

But, having said that, we’ve seen the possibility of terrorist attacks on our soil. There was the Boston Marathon bombers. Obviously, it did not result in the scale of death that we saw in Paris, but that was a serious attempt at killing a lot of people by two brothers and a crockpot. And it gives you some sense of, I think, the kinds of challenges that are going to be involved in this going forward.

So again, ISIL has serious capabilities. Its capabilities are not unique. They are capabilities that other terrorist organizations that we track and are paying attention to possess, as well. We are going after all of them.

What is unique about ISIL is the degree to which it has been able to control territory that then allows them to attract additional recruits, and the greater effectiveness that they have on social media and their ability to use that to not only attract recruits to fight in Syria, but also potentially to carry out attacks in the homeland and in Europe and in other parts of the world.

And so our ability to shrink the space in which they can operate, combined with a resolution to the Syria situation — which will reduce the freedom with which they feel that they can operate, and getting local forces who are able to hold and keep them out over the long term, that ultimately is going to be what’s going to make a difference. And it’s going to take some time, but it’s not something that at any stage in this process have we not been aware needs to be done.

Q (Off-mic) — Mr. President?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay, go ahead.

Q Should I wait for the microphone?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I can hear you.

Q Okay, thank you so much. (Inaudible.) I want to ask a question (inaudible). These terrorist attacks we’ve seen allegedly have been attacks under the name of Islam. But this really takes — or upsets the peaceful people like countries like Turkey. So how can we give off that (inaudible) this is not really representative of Muslims?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is something that we spoke a lot about at the G20. The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL, are themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims. This is something that’s been emphasized by Muslim leaders — whether it’s President Erdogan or the President of Indonesia or the President of Malaysia — countries that are majority Muslim, but have shown themselves to be tolerant and to work to be inclusive in their political process.

And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.

Now, what is also true is, is that the most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims. And I do think that Muslims around the world — religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people — have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root, even if it’s only affecting a very small fraction of the population. It is real and it is dangerous. And it has built up over time, and with social media it has now accelerated.

And so I think, on the one hand, non-Muslims cannot stereotype, but I also think the Muslim community has to think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism. There’s been pushback — there are some who say, well, we don’t believe in violence, but are not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed. And I think those ideas have to be challenged.

Let me make one last point about this, and then unfortunately I have to take a flight to Manila. I’m looking forward to seeing Manila, but I hope I can come back to Turkey when I’m not so busy.

One of the places that you’re seeing this debate play itself out is on the refugee issue both in Europe, and I gather it started popping up while I was gone back in the United States. The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important — and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 — that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.

In Europe, I think people like Chancellor Merkel have taken a very courageous stance in saying it is our moral obligation, as fellow human beings, to help people who are in such vulnerable situations. And I know that it is putting enormous strains on the resources of the people of Europe. Nobody has been carrying a bigger burden than the people here in Turkey, with 2.5 million refugees, and the people of Jordan and Lebanon, who are also admitting refugees. The fact that they’ve kept their borders open to these refugees is a signal of their belief in a common humanity.

And so we have to, each of us, do our part. And the United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable.

And so I think it is very important for us right now — particularly those who are in leadership, particularly those who have a platform and can be heard — not to fall into that trap, not to feed that dark impulse inside of us.

I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse. And whether you are European or American, the values that we are defending — the values that we’re fighting against ISIL for are precisely that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith. We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them. And we don’t feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war.

And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END 5:43 P.M. EET

Full Text Political Transcripts November 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey about Paris Terror Attacks Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by President Obama — Antalya, Turkey

Source: WH, 11-16-15

Kaya Palazzo Resort
Antalya, Turkey

4:42 P.M. EET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking President Erdogan and the people of Antalya and Turkey for their outstanding work in hosting this G20 Summit. Antalya is beautiful. The hospitality of the Turkish people is legendary. To our Turkish friends — çok teşekkürler. (Laughter.) I’ve been practicing that.

At the G20, our focus was on how to get the global economy growing faster and creating more jobs for our people. And I’m pleased that we agreed that growth has to be inclusive to address the rising inequality around the world.

Given growing cyber threats, we committed to a set of norms — drafted by the United States — for how governments should conduct themselves in cyberspace, including a commitment not to engage in the cyber theft of intellectual property for commercial gain. And as we head into global climate talks, all G20 countries have submitted our targets, and we’ve pledged to work together for a successful outcome in Paris.

Of course, much of our attention has focused on the heinous attacks that took place in Paris. Across the world, in the United States, American flags are at half-staff in solidarity with our French allies. We’re working closely with our French partners as they pursue their investigations and track down suspects.

France is already a strong counterterrorism partner, and today we’re announcing a new agreement. We’re streamlining the process by which we share intelligence and operational military information with France. This will allow our personnel to pass threat information, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often — because we need to be doing everything we can to protect against more attacks and protect our citizens.

Tragically, Paris is not alone. We’ve seen outrageous attacks by ISIL in Beirut, last month in Ankara, routinely in Iraq. Here at the G20, our nations have sent an unmistakable message that we are united against this threat. ISIL is the face of evil. Our goal, as I’ve said many times, is to degrade and ultimately destroy this barbaric terrorist organization.

As I outlined this fall at the United Nations, we have a comprehensive strategy using all elements of our power — military, intelligence, economic, development, and the strength of our communities. With have always understood that this would be a long-term campaign. There will be setbacks and there will be successes. The terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback. Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can’t lose sight that there has been progress being made.

On the military front, our coalition is intensifying our airstrikes — more than 8,000 to date. We’re taking out ISIL leaders, commanders, their killers. We’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can and is pushed back. So local forces in Iraq, backed by coalition airpower, recently liberated Sinjar. Iraqi forces are fighting to take back Ramadi. In Syria, ISIL has been pushed back from much of the border region with Turkey. We’ve stepped up our support of opposition forces who are working to cut off supply lines to ISIL’s strongholds in and around Raqqa. So, in short, both in Iraq and Syria, ISIL controls less territory than it did before.

I made the point to my fellow leaders that if we want this progress to be sustained, more nations need to step up with the resources that this fight demands.

Of course, the attacks in Paris remind us that it will not be enough to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq alone. Here in Antalya, our nations, therefore, committed to strengthening border controls, sharing more information, and stepping up our efforts to prevent the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. As the United States just showed in Libya, ISIL leaders will have no safe haven anywhere. And we’ll continue to stand with leaders in Muslim communities, including faith leaders, who are the best voices to discredit ISIL’s warped ideology.

On the humanitarian front, our nations agreed that we have to do even more, individually and collectively, to address the agony of the Syrian people. The United States is already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people — some $4.5 billion in aid so far. As winter approaches, we’re donating additional supplies, including clothing and generators, through the United Nations. But the U.N. appeal for Syria still has less than half the funds needed. Today, I’m again calling on more nations to contribute the resources that this crisis demands.

In terms of refugees, it’s clear that countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — which are already bearing an extraordinary burden — cannot be expected to do so alone. At the same time, all of our countries have to ensure our security. And as President, my first priority is the safety of the American people. And that’s why, even as we accept more refugees — including Syrians — we do so only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks.

We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves — that’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.

Finally, we’ve begun to see some modest progress on the diplomatic front, which is critical because a political solution is the only way to end the war in Syria and unite the Syrian people and the world against ISIL. The Vienna talks mark the first time that all the key countries have come together — as a result, I would add, of American leadership — and reached a common understanding. With this weekend’s talks, there’s a path forward — negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime under the auspices of the United Nations; a transition toward a more inclusive, representative government; a new constitution, followed by free elections; and, alongside this political process, a ceasefire in the civil war, even as we continue to fight against ISIL.

These are obviously ambitious goals. Hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before. There are any number of ways that this latest diplomatic push could falter. And there are still disagreements between the parties, including, most critically, over the fate of Bashar Assad, who we do not believe has a role in Syria’s future because of his brutal rule. His war against the Syrian people is the primary root cause of this crisis.

What is different this time, and what gives us some degree of hope, is that, as I said, for the first time, all the major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on a process that is needed to end this war. And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still head, the United States, in partnership with our coalition, is going to remain relentless on all fronts — military, humanitarian and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions. And I will begin with Jerome Cartillier of AFP.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, sending the message that they could now target civilians all over the world. The equation has clearly changed. Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what we have been doing. We have a military strategy that is putting enormous pressure on ISIL through airstrikes; that has put assistance and training on the ground with Iraqi forces; we’re now working with Syrian forces as well to squeeze ISIL, cut off their supply lines. We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities, the oil that they’re trying to ship outside. We are taking strikes against high-value targets — including, most recently, against the individual who was on the video executing civilians who had already been captured, as well as the head of ISIL in Libya. So it’s not just in Iraq and Syria.

And so, on the military front, we are continuing to accelerate what we do. As we find additional partners on the ground that are effective, we work with them more closely. I’ve already authorized additional Special Forces on the ground who are going to be able to improve that coordination.

On the counterterrorism front, keep in mind that since I came into office, we have been worried about these kinds of attacks. The vigilance that the United States government maintains and the cooperation that we’re consistently expanding with our European and other partners in going after every single terrorist network is robust and constant. And every few weeks, I meet with my entire national security team and we go over every single threat stream that is presented, and where we have relevant information, we share it immediately with our counterparts around the world, including our European partners.

On aviation security, we have, over the last several years, been working so that at various airports sites — not just in the United States, but overseas — we are strengthening our mechanisms to screen and discover passengers who should not be boarding flights, and improving the matters in which we are screening luggage that is going onboard.

And on the diplomatic front, we’ve been consistently working to try to get all the parties together to recognize that there is a moderate opposition inside of Syria that can form the basis for a transition government, and to reach out not only to our friends but also to the Russians and the Iranians who are on the other side of this equation to explain to them that ultimately an organization like ISIL is the greatest danger to them, as well as to us.

So there will be an intensification of the strategy that we put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work. But as I said from the start, it’s going to take time.

And what’s been interesting is, in the aftermath of Paris, as I listen to those who suggest something else needs to be done, typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing. The one exception is that there have been a few who suggested that we should put large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground.

And keep in mind that we have the finest military in the world and we have the finest military minds in the world, and I’ve been meeting with them intensively for years now, discussing these various options, and it is not just my view but the view of my closest military and civilian advisors that that would be a mistake — not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we’ve seen before, which is, if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface — unless we’re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.

And let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria. What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send more troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps? Or if there’s a terrorist network that’s operating anywhere else — in North Africa, or in Southeast Asia?

So a strategy has to be one that can be sustained. And the strategy that we’re pursuing, which focuses on going after targets, limiting wherever possible the capabilities of ISIL on the ground — systematically going after their leadership, their infrastructure, strengthening Shia — or strengthening Syrian and Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces that are prepared to fight them, cutting off their borders and squeezing the space in which they can operate until ultimately we’re able to defeat them — that’s the strategy we’re going to have to pursue.

And we will continue to generate more partners for that strategy. And there are going to be some things that we try that don’t work; there will be some strategies we try that do work. And when we find strategies that work, we will double down on those.

Margaret Brennan, CBS.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the West. Have you underestimated their abilities? And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, we haven’t underestimated our abilities. This is precisely why we’re in Iraq as we speak, and why we’re operating in Syria as we speak. And it’s precisely why we have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL, and why I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters, and why we’ve been putting pressure on those countries that have not been as robust as they need to in tracking the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq.

And so there has been an acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that it is possible for an organization like ISIL that has such a twisted ideology, and has shown such extraordinary brutality and complete disregard for innocent lives, that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West. And because thousands of fighters have flowed from the West and are European citizens — a few hundred from the United States, but far more from Europe — that when those foreign fighters returned, it posed a significant danger. And we have consistently worked with our European partners, disrupting plots in some cases. Sadly, this one was not disrupted in time.

But understand that one of the challenges we have in this situation is, is that if you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people. That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weapon that they possess, but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die. And in those circumstances, tracking each individual, making sure that we are disrupting and preventing these attacks is a constant effort at vigilance, and requires extraordinary coordination.

Now, part of the reason that it is important what we do in Iraq and Syria is that the narrative that ISIL developed of creating this caliphate makes it more attractive to potential recruits. So when I said that we are containing their spread in Iraq and Syria, in fact, they control less territory than they did last year. And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state, and the more it becomes apparent that they are simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations. That allows us to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, which then, over time, will lessen the numbers of terrorists who can potentially carry out terrible acts like they did in Paris.

And that’s what we did with al Qaeda. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that al Qaeda no longer possess the capabilities of potentially striking the West. Al Qaeda in the Peninsula that operates primarily in Yemen we know has consistently tried to target the West. And we are consistently working to disrupt those acts. But despite the fact that they have not gotten as much attention as ISIL, they still pose a danger, as well.

And so our goals here consistently have to be to be aggressive, and to leave no stone unturned, but also recognize this is not conventional warfare. We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they’re a state, and we use routine military tactics that are designed to fight a state that is attacking another state. That’s not what’s going on here.

These are killers with fantasies of glory who are very savvy when it comes to social media, and are able to infiltrate the minds of not just Iraqis or Syrians, but disaffected individuals around the world. And when they activate those individuals, those individuals can do a lot of damage. And so we have to take the approach of being rigorous on our counterterrorism efforts, and consistently improve and figure out how we can get more information, how we can infiltrate these networks, how we can reduce their operational space, even as we also try to shrink the amount of territory they control to defeat their narrative.

Ultimately, to reclaim territory from them is going to require, however, an ending of the Syrian civil war, which is why the diplomatic efforts are so important. And it’s going to require an effective Iraqi effort that bridges Shia and Sunni differences, which is why our diplomatic efforts inside of Iraq are so important, as well.

Jim Avila.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the days and weeks before the Paris attacks, did you receive warning in your daily intelligence briefing that an attack was imminent? If not, does that not call into question the current assessment that there is no immediate, specific, credible threat to the United States today?

And secondly, if I could ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, every day we have threat streams coming through the intelligence transit. And as I said, every several weeks we sit down with all my national security, intelligence, and military teams to discuss various threat streams that may be generated. And the concerns about potential ISIL attacks in the West have been there for over a year now, and they come through periodically. There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we need — that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.

But typically the way the intelligence works is there will be a threat stream that is from one source, how reliable is that source; perhaps some signal intelligence gets picked up, it’s evaluated. Some of it is extraordinarily vague and unspecific, and there’s no clear timetable. Some of it may be more specific, and then folks chase down that threat to see what happens.

I am not aware of anything that was specific in the sense — that would have given a premonition about a particular action in Paris that would allow for law enforcement or military actions to disrupt it.

With respect to the broader issue of my critics, to some degree I answered the question earlier. I think that when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference — because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

Now, there are a few exceptions. And as I said, the primary exception is those who would deploy U.S. troops on a large scale to retake territory either in Iraq or now in Syria. And at least they have the honesty to go ahead and say that’s what they would do. I just addressed why I think they’re wrong. There have been some who are well-meaning, and I don’t doubt their sincerity when it comes to the issue of the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, who, for example, call for a no-fly zone or a safe zone of some sort.

And this is an example of the kind of issue where I will sit down with our top military and intelligence advisors, and we will painstakingly go through what does something like that look like. And typically, after we’ve gone through a lot of planning and a lot of discussion, and really working it through, it is determined that it would be counterproductive to take those steps — in part because ISIL does not have planes, so the attacks are on the ground. A true safe zone requires us to set up ground operations. And the bulk of the deaths that have occurred in Syria, for example, have come about not because of regime bombing, but because of on-the-ground casualties. Who would come in, who could come out of that safe zone; how would it work; would it become a magnet for further terrorist attacks; and how many personnel would be required, and how would it end — there’s a whole set of questions that have to be answered there.

I guess my point is this, Jim: My only interest is to end suffering and to keep the American people safe. And if there’s a good idea out there, then we’re going to do it. I don’t think I’ve shown hesitation to act — whether it’s with respect to bin Laden or with respect to sending additional troops in Afghanistan, or keeping them there — if it is determined that it’s actually going to work.

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.

Jim Acosta.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you have not underestimated ISIS’s abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities? And how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is — and if you’ll forgive the language — is why can’t we take out these bastards?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question, so I don’t know what more you want me to add. I think I’ve described very specifically what our strategy is, and I’ve described very specifically why we do not pursue some of the other strategies that have been suggested.

This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

And so we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution. And part of the reason, as I said, Jim, is because there are costs to the other side. I just want to remind people, this is not an abstraction. When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed; they’re away from their families; our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t shoot first and aim later. It’s important for us to get the strategy right. And the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.

Ron Allen.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you’re pursuing — and it’s been more than a year now — ISIS’s capabilities seem to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned? And do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States?

And do you think that given all you’ve learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, so this is another variation on the same question. And I guess — let me try it one last time.

We have been fully aware of the potential capabilities of them carrying out a terrorist attack. That’s precisely why we have been mounting a very aggressive strategy to go after them. As I said before, when you’re talking about the ability of a handful of people with not wildly sophisticated military equipment, weapons, who are willing to die, they can kill a lot of people. And preventing them from doing so is challenging for every country. And if there was a swift and quick solution to this, I assure you that not just the United States, but France and Turkey, and others who have been subject to these terrorist attacks would have implemented those strategies.

There are certain advantages that the United States has in preventing these kinds of attacks. Obviously, after 9/11, we hardened the homeland, set up a whole series of additional steps to protect aviation, to apply lessons learned. We’ve seen much better cooperation between the FBI, state governments, local governments. There is some advantages to geography with respect to the United States.

But, having said that, we’ve seen the possibility of terrorist attacks on our soil. There was the Boston Marathon bombers. Obviously, it did not result in the scale of death that we saw in Paris, but that was a serious attempt at killing a lot of people by two brothers and a crockpot. And it gives you some sense of, I think, the kinds of challenges that are going to be involved in this going forward.

So again, ISIL has serious capabilities. Its capabilities are not unique. They are capabilities that other terrorist organizations that we track and are paying attention to possess, as well. We are going after all of them.

What is unique about ISIL is the degree to which it has been able to control territory that then allows them to attract additional recruits, and the greater effectiveness that they have on social media and their ability to use that to not only attract recruits to fight in Syria, but also potentially to carry out attacks in the homeland and in Europe and in other parts of the world.

And so our ability to shrink the space in which they can operate, combined with a resolution to the Syria situation — which will reduce the freedom with which they feel that they can operate, and getting local forces who are able to hold and keep them out over the long term, that ultimately is going to be what’s going to make a difference. And it’s going to take some time, but it’s not something that at any stage in this process have we not been aware needs to be done.

Q (Off-mic) — Mr. President?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay, go ahead.

Q Should I wait for the microphone?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I can hear you.

Q Okay, thank you so much. (Inaudible.) I want to ask a question (inaudible). These terrorist attacks we’ve seen allegedly have been attacks under the name of Islam. But this really takes — or upsets the peaceful people like countries like Turkey. So how can we give off that (inaudible) this is not really representative of Muslims?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is something that we spoke a lot about at the G20. The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL, are themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims. This is something that’s been emphasized by Muslim leaders — whether it’s President Erdogan or the President of Indonesia or the President of Malaysia — countries that are majority Muslim, but have shown themselves to be tolerant and to work to be inclusive in their political process.

And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.

Now, what is also true is, is that the most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims. And I do think that Muslims around the world — religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people — have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root, even if it’s only affecting a very small fraction of the population. It is real and it is dangerous. And it has built up over time, and with social media it has now accelerated.

And so I think, on the one hand, non-Muslims cannot stereotype, but I also think the Muslim community has to think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism. There’s been pushback — there are some who say, well, we don’t believe in violence, but are not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed. And I think those ideas have to be challenged.

Let me make one last point about this, and then unfortunately I have to take a flight to Manila. I’m looking forward to seeing Manila, but I hope I can come back to Turkey when I’m not so busy.

One of the places that you’re seeing this debate play itself out is on the refugee issue both in Europe, and I gather it started popping up while I was gone back in the United States. The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important — and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 — that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.

In Europe, I think people like Chancellor Merkel have taken a very courageous stance in saying it is our moral obligation, as fellow human beings, to help people who are in such vulnerable situations. And I know that it is putting enormous strains on the resources of the people of Europe. Nobody has been carrying a bigger burden than the people here in Turkey, with 2.5 million refugees, and the people of Jordan and Lebanon, who are also admitting refugees. The fact that they’ve kept their borders open to these refugees is a signal of their belief in a common humanity.

And so we have to, each of us, do our part. And the United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable.

And so I think it is very important for us right now — particularly those who are in leadership, particularly those who have a platform and can be heard — not to fall into that trap, not to feed that dark impulse inside of us.

I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse. And whether you are European or American, the values that we are defending — the values that we’re fighting against ISIL for are precisely that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith. We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them. And we don’t feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war.

And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END 5:43 P.M. EET

Full Text Political Transcripts November 13, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Paris Terror Attacks Statement Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Situation in Paris

Source: WH, 11-13-15

5:45 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  I just want to make a few brief comments about the attacks across Paris tonight.  Once again, we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.  This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.

We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond.  France is our oldest ally.  The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again.  And we want to be very clear that we stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress.  Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong.  The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share.  And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.

We’re going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.

We don’t yet know all the details of what has happened.  We have been in contact with French officials to communicate our deepest condolences to the families of those who have been killed, to offer our prayers and thoughts to those who have been wounded.  We have offered our full support to them.  The situation is still unfolding.  I’ve chosen not to call President Hollande at this time, because my expectation is that he’s very busy at the moment.  I actually, by coincidence, was talking to him earlier today in preparation for the G20 meeting.  But I am confident that I’ll be in direct communications with him in the next few days, and we’ll be coordinating in any ways that they think are helpful in the investigation of what’s happened.

This is a heartbreaking situation.  And obviously those of us here in the United States know what it’s like.  We’ve gone through these kinds of episodes ourselves.  And whenever these kinds of attacks happened, we’ve always been able to count on the French people to stand with us.  They have been an extraordinary counterterrorism partner, and we intend to be there with them in that same fashion.

I’m sure that in the days ahead we’ll learn more about exactly what happened, and my teams will make sure that we are in communication with the press to provide you accurate information.  I don’t want to speculate at this point in terms of who was responsible for this.  It appears that there may still be live activity and dangers that are taking place as we speak.  And so until we know from French officials that the situation is under control, and we have for more information about it, I don’t want to speculate.

Thank you very much.

                                  END            5:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts November 9, 2015: President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Statement before their White House Meeting Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel Before Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 11-9-15

Oval Office

10:34 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it is very good to welcome once again Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to the Oval Office.  There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently, and I think that’s a testimony to the extraordinary bond between the United States and Israel.

Before I get started, I just want to say a brief word about the Jordanian attack that we discovered earlier — the fact that someone dressed in military uniform carried out an attack at a training facility in which it appears that there may have been two or three U.S. citizens killed, and a number of other individuals injured.  Obviously, a full investigation is taking place.  We take this very seriously, and we’ll be working closely with the Jordanians to determine exactly what happened.  But at this stage, I want to just let everyone know that this is something we’re paying close attention to.  And at the point where the families have been notified, obviously our deepest condolences will be going out to them.

I also want to extend my condolences to the Israeli people on the passing of former President Navon.  Obviously, he was an important figure in Israeli politics.  And we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.

This is going to be an opportunity for the Prime Minister and myself to engage in a wide-ranging discussion on some of the most pressing security issues that both our countries face.  It’s no secret that the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas.  And as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities.  And that has expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds.

We have closer military and intelligence cooperation than any two administrations in history.  The military assistance that we provide we consider not only an important part of our obligation to the security of the state of Israel, but also an important part of U.S. security infrastructure in the region, as we make sure that one of our closest allies cannot only protect itself but can also work with us in deterring terrorism and other security threats.

In light of what continues to be a chaotic situation in Syria, this will give us an opportunity to discuss what’s happening there.  We’ll have an opportunity to discuss how we can blunt the activities of ISIL, Hezbollah and other organizations in the region that carry out terrorist attacks.  A lot of our time will be spent on a memorandum of understanding that we can potentially negotiate.  It will be expiring in a couple of years, but we want to get a head start on that to make sure that both the United States and Israel can plan effectively for our defense needs going forward.

We’ll also have a chance to talk about how implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement is going.  It’s no secret that the Prime Minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue, but we don’t have a disagreement on the need to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don’t have a disagreement about the importance of us blunting and destabilizing activities that Iran may be taking place.  And so we’re going to be looking to make sure that we find common ground there.

And we will also have an opportunity to discuss some of the concerns that both of us have around violence in the Palestinian Territories.  I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against its and Israeli citizens.  And I want to repeat once again, it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself.

I also will discuss with the Prime Minister his thoughts on how we can lower the temperature between Israelis and Palestinians, how we can get back on a path towards peace, and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met through a political process, even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself.

And so this is going to be a lot of work to do, with too little time, which is why I will stop here and just once again say, welcome.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you.  Mr. President, first let me express the condolences of the people of Israel for the loss of American lives.  We are with you.  We’re with each other in more ways than one.  And I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which is strong; strengthen our alliance, which is strong.  I think it’s rooted in shared values.  It’s buttressed by shared interests.  It’s driven forward by a sense of a shared destiny.

We are obviously tested today in the instability and insecurity in the Middle East, as you described it.  I think everybody can see it — with the savagery of ISIS, with the aggression and terror by Iran’s proxies and by Iran itself.  And the combination of turbulence has now displaced millions of people, has butchered hundreds of thousands.  And we don’t know what will transpire.

And I think this is a tremendously important opportunity for us to work together to see how we can defend ourselves against this aggression and this terror; how we can roll back.  It’s a daunting task.

Equally, I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace.  We’ll never give up the hope for peace.  And I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.

I don’t think that anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to defend itself against terror and destruction, and neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors that genuinely want to achieve peace with us.  And I look forward to discussing with you practical ways in which we can lower the tension, increase stability, and move towards peace.

And finally, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your commitment to further bolstering Israel’s security in the memorandum of understanding that we’re discussing.  Israel has shouldered a tremendous defense burden over the years, and we’ve done it with the generous assistance of the United States of America.  And I want to express my appreciation to you and express the appreciation of the people of Israel to you for your efforts in this regard during our years of common service and what you’re engaging in right now — how to bolster Israel’s security, how to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can, as you’ve often said, defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

So for all these reasons, I want to thank you again for your hospitality, but even more so for sustaining and strengthening the tremendous friendship and alliance between Israel and the United States of America.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

END
10:43 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts October 22, 2015: Hillary Clinton’s Clinton testimony before House committee on Benghazi Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Transcript: Clinton testifies before House committee on Benghazi

Source: Washington Post October 22 at 4:19 PM

 

GOWDY: Good morning. The committee will come to order.

The chair notes the presence of a quorum.

Good morning. Welcome, Madam Secretary. Welcome to each of you. This is a public hearing of the Benghazi Select Committee.

Just a couple of quick administrative matters before we start.

Madam Secretary, there are predetermined breaks, but I want to make it absolutely clear we can take a break for any reason or for no reason. If you or anyone, just simply alert me, then we will take a break and it can be for any reason or for no reason.

To our guests, we are happy to have you here. The witness deserves to hear the questions and the members deserve to hear the answers. So proper decorum must be observed at all times — no reaction to questions or answers, no disruptions. Some committees take an incremental approach to decorum. I do not. This is your one and only notice.

Madam Secretary, the ranking member and I will give opening statements and then you will be recognized for your opening statement. And then after that, the members will alternate from one side to the other. And because you have already been sworn, we will go straight to your opening. So I will now recognize myself and then recognize Mr. Cummings, and then you, Madam Secretary.

Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods served this country with courage and with honor. And they were killed under circumstances that most of us could never imagine. Terrorists poured through the front gate of an American facility, attacking people and property with machine guns, mortars, and fire. It is important that we remember how these four men died. It is equally important that we remember how these four men lived and why.

They were more than four images on a television screen. They were husbands and fathers and sons and brothers and family and friends. They were Americans who believed in service and sacrifice. Many people speak wistfully of a better world, but do little about it. These four went out and actually tried to make it better and it cost them their lives.

So we know what they gave us. What do we owe them?

GOWDY: Justice for those that killed them. We owe their families our everlasting gratitude, respect. We owe them and each other the truth — the truth about why we were in Libya, the truth about what we were doing in Libya, the truth about the escalating violence in Libya before we were attacked and these four men were killed, the truth about requests for additional security, the truth about requests for additional personnel, the truth about requests for additional equipment, the truth about where and why our military was positioned as it was on the anniversary of 9/11, the truth about what was happening and being discussed in Washington while our people were under attack, the truth about what led to the attacks, and the truth about what our government told the American people after the attacks.

Why were there so many requests for more security personnel and equipment, and why were those requests denied in Washington? Why did the State Department compound and facility not even come close to meeting proper security specifications? What policies were we pursuing in Libya that required a physical presence in spite of the escalating violence?

Who in Washington was aware of the escalating violence? What precautions, if any, were taken on the anniversary of 9/11? What happened in Washington after the first attack? And what was our response to that attack?

What did the military do or not do? What did our leaders in Washington do or not do, and when? Why was the American public given such divergent accounts of what caused these attacks, and why is it so hard to get information from the very government these four men represented, served and sacrificed for?

Even after an Accountability Review Board and a half dozen congressional investigations, these and other questions still lingered. These questions linger, because previous investigations were thorough. These questions lingered because those previous investigations were narrow in scope, and either incapable or unwilling to access the facts and evidence necessary to answer all relevant questions.

So the House of Representatives, including some Democrats I hasten to add, asked this committee to write the final accounting of what happened in Benghazi. This committee is the first committee to review more than 50,000 pages of documents, because we insisted that they be produced. This committee is the first committee to demand access to more eyewitnesses, because serious investigations talk to as many eyewitnesses as possible. This committee is the first committee to thoroughly and individually interview scores of other witnesses, many of them for the first time. This committee is the first committee to review thousands of pages of documents from top State Department personnel. This committee is the first committee to demand access to relevant documents from the CIA, the FBI, the Department Of Defense and even the White House.

This committee is the first committee to demand access to the e- mails to and from Ambassador Chris Stevens. How could an investigation possibly be considered serious without reviewing the e- mails of the person most knowledgeable about Libya?

This committee is the first committee, the only committee, to uncover the fact that Secretary Clinton exclusively used personnel e- mail on her own personal server for official business and kept the public record, including e-mails about Benghazi and Libya, in her own custody and control for almost two years after she left office.

You will hear a lot today about the Accountability Review Board. Secretary Clinton has mentioned it more than 70 times in her previous testimony before Congress. But when you hear about the ARB, you should know the State Department leadership hand picked the members of the ARB.

The ARB never interviewed secretary Clinton. The ARB never reviewed her e-mails. And Secretary Clinton’s top adviser was allowed to review and suggest changes to the ARB before the public ever saw it. There’s no transcript of ARB interviews. So, it’s impossible to mow whether all relevant questions were asked and answered. Because there’s no transcript, it is also impossible to cite the ARB interviews with any particularity at all.

That is not independent. That is not accountability. That is not a serious investigation. You will hear there were previous congressional investigations into Benghazi. And that is true. It should make you wonder why those investigations failed to interview so many witnesses and access so many documents.

If those previous congressional investigations were really serious and thorough, how did they miss Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails? If those previous investigations were serious and thorough, how did they miss Secretary Clinton’s e-mails? If those congressional investigations really were serious and thorough, why did they fail to interview dozens of key State Department witnesses, including agents on the ground who experienced the attacks firsthand?

GOWDY: Just last month, three years after Benghazi, top aides finally returned documents to the State Department. A month ago, this committee received 1,500 new pages of Secretary Clinton’s e-mails related to Libya and Benghazi, three years after the attacks.

A little over two weeks ago, this committee received nearly 1,400 pages of Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails, three years after the attacks. It is impossible to conduct a serious fact-centric investigation without access to the documents from the former Secretary of State, the ambassador who knew more about Libya than anybody else and testimony from witnesses who survived the attacks.

Madam Secretary, I understand there are people frankly in both parties who have suggested that this investigation is about you. Let me assure you it is not. And let me assure you why it is not. This investigation is about four people who were killed representing our country on foreign soil.

It is about what happened before, during and after the attacks that killed them. It is about what this country owes to those who risk their lives to serve it. And it is about the fundamental obligation of government to tell the truth always to the people that it purports to represent.

Madam Secretary, not a single member of this committee signed up to investigate you or your e-mail. We signed up to investigate and therefore honor the lives of four people that we sent into a dangerous country to represent us. And to do everything we can to prevent it from happening to others. Our committee has interviewed half a 100 witnesses. Not a single one of them has been named Clinton until today.

You were the secretary of state for this country at all relevant times. So, of course, the committee is going to want to talk to you. You are an important witness. You are one important witness among half a hundred important witnesses. And I do understand you wanted to come sooner than today. So let me be clear why that did not happen.

You had an unusual e-mail arrangement which meant the State Department could not produce your e-mails to us. You made exclusive use of personal e-mail and a personal server. And when you left the State Department, you kept the public record to yourself for almost two years. And it was you and your attorneys who decided what to return and what to delete. Those decisions were your decisions, not our decisions. It was only in March of this year we learned of this e-mail arrangement. And since we learned of this e-mail arrangement, we have interviewed dozens of witnesses, only one of whom was solely related to your e-mail arrangement. And that was the shortest interview of all, because that witness invoked his fifth amendment privilege against incrimination.

Making sure the public record is complete is what we serious investigations do. It’s important and remains important that this committee have access to all of Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails, the e- mails of senior leaders and witnesses and it is important to gain access to all of your e-mails, Madam Secretary.

Your e-mails are no less or no more important than the e-mails of anyone else. It just took us a little bit longer to get them and it garnered a little more attention in the process. I want you to take note during this hearing how many times congressional Democrats call on this administration to make long awaited documents available to us. They won’t.

Take note of how many witnesses congressional Democrats ask us to schedule for interview. They won’t. We would be closer to finding out what happened and writing the final definitive report if Democrats on this committee had helped us just a little bit pursue the facts. But if the Democrats on this committee had their way, dozens of witnesses never would have been interviewed, your public record would still be private.

Thousands of documents would never be accessed and we wouldn’t have the e-mails of our own ambassador. That may be smart politics, but it is a lousy way to run a serious investigation.

There are certain characteristics that make our country unique in the annals of history. We are the greatest experiment in self- governance the world has ever known, and part of that self-governance comes self-scrutiny, even of the highest officials.

GOWDY: Our country is strong enough to handle the truth and our fellow citizens expect us to pursue the truth wherever the facts take us.

So this committee is going to do what we pledged to do and what should have been done, frankly, a long time ago, which is interview all relevant witnesses, examine all relevant evidence, and access all relevant documents. And we’re going to pursue the truth in a manner worthy of the memory of the four people who lost their lives and worthy of the respect of our fellow citizens.

And we are going to write that final definitive accounting of what happened in Benghazi. We would like to do it with your help and the help of our Democrat colleagues, but make no mistake, we are going to do it nonetheless. Because understanding what happened in Benghazi goes to the heart of who we are as a country and the promises we make to those that we send into harm’s way. They deserve the truth. They deserve the whole truth. They deserve nothing but the truth. The people we work for deserve the truth. The friends and family of the four who lost their lives deserve the truth.

We’re going to find the truth because there is no statute of limitations on the truth.

With that, I would recognize my friend my Maryland.

CUMMINGS: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Madam Secretary, I want to thank you very much for being here today to testify before Congress on this very important issue. This is your third time. This week, our chairman, Mr. Gowdy, was interviewed in a lengthy media profile. During his interview, he complained that he was, and I quote, he “has an impossible job.” That’s what the chairman said — “impossible job.” He said it’s impossible to conduct a serious, fact-centric investigation in such a, quote, “political environment.”

I have great respect for the chairman, but on this score he is absolutely wrong. In fact, it has been done by his own Republican colleagues in the House on this very issue, Benghazi. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee conducted an extensive, bipartisan, two-year investigation and issued a detailed report.

The Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee also conducted a bipartisan investigation. Those bipartisan efforts respected and honored the memories of the four brave Americans who gave their lives in Benghazi: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

The problem is that the Republican caucus did not like the answers they got from those investigations, so they set up this select committee with no rules, no deadline, and an unlimited budget. And they set them loose, Madam Secretary, because you’re running for president.

Clearly, it is possible to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation. What is impossible is for any reasonable person to continue denying that Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

In the chairman’s interview, he tried to defend against this criticism by attempting to cast himself as the victim. And he complained about attacks on the credibility of the select committee.

CUMMINGS: His argument would be more compelling if Republicans weren’t leading the charge. As we all know, Representative Kevin McCarthy, Speaker Boehner’s second in command and the chairman’s close friend admitted that they established the select committee to drive down Secretary Clinton’s poll numbers. Democrats didn’t say that. The second in command in the House said that, a Republican.

Republican Congressman Richard Hanna said the Select Committee was, quote, “designed — designed to go after Secretary Clinton.” And one of the chairman’s own, hand-picked investigators, a self- proclaimed conservative Republican, charged that he was fired in part for not going along with these plans to, quote, “hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton,” end of quote.

These stark admissions reflect exactly what we have seen inside the Select Committee for the past year. Let’s just look at the facts. Since January, Republicans have canceled every single hearing on our schedule for the entire year except for this one, Secretary Clinton. They also canceled numerous interviews that they had planned with the Defense Department and the CIA officials.

Instead of doing that, they said they were going — what they were going to do, Republicans zeroed in on Secretary Clinton, her speech writers, her I.T. staffers and her campaign officials.

This is what the Republicans did, not the Democrats. When Speaker Boehner established this Select Committee, he justified it by arguing that it would, quote, “cross jurisdictional lines.” I assume he meant we would focus on more than just secretary of State.

But, Madam Secretary, you are sitting there by yourself. The Secretary Of Defense is not on your left. The director of the CIA is not on your right. That’s because Republicans abandoned their own plans to question those top officials.

So, instead of being cross jurisdictional, Republicans just crossed them off the list. Last weekend, the chairman told the Republican colleagues to shut up and stop talking about the Select Committee.

What I want to know is this. And this is a key question. Why tell the Republicans to shut up when they are telling the truth, but not when they are attacking Secretary Clinton with reckless accusations that are demonstrably false? Why not tell them to shut up then? Carly Fiorina has said that Secretary Clinton has blood on her hands. Mike Huckabee accused her of ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi. Senator Ryan Paul said Benghazi was a 3 a.m. phone call that she never picked up. And Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted, where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?

Everyone on this panel knows these accusations are baseless, from our own investigation and all those before it. Yet Republican members of this Select Committee remain silent.

On Monday, the Democrats issued a report showing that none of the 54 witnesses the committee interviewed substantiated these wild Republican claims. Secretary Clinton did not order the military to stand down, and she neither approved nor denied requests for additional security.

I ask our report be included in the official report for the hearing. Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Without objection.

CUMMINGS: What is so telling is that we issued virtually the same report a year ago. Same report. When we first joined the Select Committee, I asked my staff to put together a complete report and database setting forth the questions that have been asked about the attacks and all of the answers that were provided in the eight previous investigations.

I asked that this report also be included in the record, Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Without objection.

CUMMINGS: The problem is that rather than accepting these facts, Republicans continue to spin new conspiracy theories that are just as outlandish and inaccurate.

For example, the chairman recently tried to argue that Sidney Blumenthal was Secretary Clinton’s adviser on Libya. And this past Sunday, Representative Pompeo claimed on national television that Secretary Clinton relied on Sidney Blumenthal for most of her intelligence on Libya. Earlier this week, the Washington Post fact checker awarded this claim four Pinocchios, its worst rating.

Here is the bottom line. The Select Committee has spent 17 months and $4.7 million of taxpayer money. We have held four hearings and conducted 54 interviews and depositions. Yes, we have received some new e-mails from Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Stevens and others. And yes, we have conducted some new interviews.

But these documents and interviews do not show any nefarious activity. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The new information we obtained confirms and corroborates the core facts we already knew from eight previous investigations. They provide more detail, but they do not change the basic conclusions. It is time — it is time, and it is time now, for the Republicans to end this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition. We need to come together and shift from politics to policy. That’s what the American people want, shifting from politics to policy.

We need to finally make good on our promises to the families. And the families only asked us to do three things. One, do not make this a political football. Two, find the facts. Three, do everything in your power to make sure that this does not happen again.

And so we need to start focusing on what we here in Congress can do to improve the safety and security of our diplomatic corps in the future.

And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

GOWDY: The chair thanks the gentleman from Maryland.

Madam Secretary, you are recognized for your opening statement.

CLINTON: Thank you Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Cummings, members of this committee.

The terrorist attacks at our diplomatic compound and later, at the CIA post in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, took the lives of four brave Americans, Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty And Tyrone Woods.

I’m here to honor the service of those four men. The courage of the Diplomatic Security Agency and the CIA officers who risked their lives that night. And the work their colleagues do every single day all over the world.

I knew and admired Chris Stevens. He was one of our nation’s most accomplished diplomats. Chris’ mother liked to say he had “sand in his shoes,” because he was always moving, always working, especially in the Middle East that he came to know so well.

When the revolution broke out in Libya, we named Chris as our envoy to the opposition. There was no easy way to get him into Benghazi to begin gathering information and meeting those Libyans who were rising up against the murderous dictator Gadhafi. But he found a way to get himself there on a Greek cargo ship, just like a 19th- century American envoy.

But his work was very much 21st-century, hard-nosed diplomacy.

CLINTON: It is a testament to the relationships that he built in Libya that on the day following the awareness of his death, tens of thousands of Libyans poured into the streets in Benghazi. They held signs reading, “Thugs don’t represent Benghazi or Islam,” “Sorry, people of America, this is not the behavior of our Islam or our prophet,” “Chris Stevens, a friend to all Libyans.”

Although I didn’t have the privilege of meeting Sean Smith personally, he was a valued member of our State Department family. An Air Force veteran, he was an information management officer who had served in Pretoria, Baghdad, Montreal and the Hague.

Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty worked for the CIA. They were killed by mortar fire at the CIA’s outpost in Benghazi, a short distance from the diplomatic compound. They were both former Navy SEALs and trained paramedics with distinguished records of service including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As secretary of State, I had the honor to lead and the responsibility to support nearly 70,000 diplomats and development experts across the globe. Losing any one of them, as we did in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico, Haiti and Libya, during my tenure was deeply painful for our entire State Department and USAID family and for me personally. I was the one who asked Chris to go to Libya as our envoy. I was the one who recommended him to be our ambassador to the president.

After the attacks, I stood next to President Obama as Marines carried his casket and those of the other three Americans off the plane at Andrews Air Force Base. I took responsibility, and as part of that, before I left office, I launched reforms to better protect our people in the field and help reduce the chance of another tragedy happening in the future.

What happened in Benghazi has been scrutinized by a non-partisan hard-hitting Accountability Review Board, seven prior congressional investigations, multiple news organizations and, of course, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. So today, I would like to share three observations about how we can learn from this tragedy and move forward as a nation.

First, America must lead in a dangerous world, and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places. The State Department sends people to more than 270 posts in 170 countries around the world. Chris Stevens understood that diplomats must operate in many places where our soldiers do not, where there are no other boots on the ground and safety is far from guaranteed. In fact, he volunteered for just those assignments.

He also understood we will never prevent every act of terrorism or achieve perfect security and that we inevitably must accept a level of risk to protect our country and advance our interests and values. And make no mistake, the risks are real. Terrorists have killed more than 65 American diplomatic personnel since the 1970s and more than 100 contractors and locally employed staff.

Since 2001, there have been more than 100 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. But if you ask our most experienced ambassadors, they’ll tell you they can’t do their jobs for us from bunkers. It would compound the tragedy of Benghazi if Chris Stevens’ death and the death of the other three Americans ended up undermining the work to which he and they devoted their lives.

We have learned the hard way when America is absent, especially from unstable places, there are consequences. Extremism take root, aggressors seek to fill the vacuum and security everywhere is threatened, including here at home. That’s why Chris was in Benghazi. It’s why he had served previously in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem during the second intifada.

Nobody knew the dangers of Libya better. A weak government, extremist groups, rampant instability. But Chris chose to go to Benghazi because he understood America had to be represented there at that pivotal time. He knew that eastern Libya was where the revolution had begun and that unrest there could derail the country’s fragile transition to democracy. And if extremists gained a foothold, they would have the chance to destabilize the entire region, including Egypt and Tunisia. He also knew how urgent it was to ensure that the weapons Gadhafi had left strewn across the country, including shoulder-fired missiles that could knock an airplane out of the sky, did not fall into the wrong hands. The nearest Israeli airport is just a day’s drive from the Libyan border.

Above all, Chris understood that most people in Libya or anywhere reject the extremists’ argument that violence can ever be a path to dignity or justice. That’s what those thousands of Libyans were saying after they learned of his death. And he understood there was no substitute for going beyond the embassy walls and doing the hard work of building relationships.

Retreat from the world is not an option. America cannot shrink from our responsibility to lead. That doesn’t mean we should ever return to the go-it-alone foreign policy of the past, a foreign policy that puts boots on the ground as a first choice rather than a last resort. Quite the opposite. We need creative, confident leadership that harnesses all of America’s strengths and values, leadership that integrates and balances the tools of diplomacy, development and defense.

And at the heart of that effort must be dedicated professionals like Chris Stevens and his colleagues who put their lives on the line for a country, our country, because they believed, as I do, that America is the greatest force for peace and progress the world has ever known. My second observation is this. We have a responsibility to provide our diplomats with the resources and support they need to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible. After previous deadly attacks, leaders from both parties and both branches of government came together to determine what went wrong and how to fix it for the future.

That’s what happened during the Reagan administration, when Hezbollah attacked our embassy and killed 63 people, including 17 Americans, and then in a later attack attacked our Marine barracks and killed so many more. Those two attacks in Beirut resulted in the deaths of 258 Americans.

It’s what happened during the Clinton administration, when Al Qaida bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing more than 200 people, wounding more than 2,000 people and killing 12 Americans.

And it’s what happened during the Bush administration after 9/11.

Part of America’s strength is we learn, we adapt and we get stronger.

CLINTON: After the Benghazi attacks, I asked Ambassador Thomas Pickering, one of our most distinguished and longest serving diplomats, along with Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — appointed by President George W. Bush — to lead an accountability review board.

This is an institution that the Congress set up after the terrible attacks in Beirut. There have been 18 previous accountability review boards. Only two have ever made any of their findings public — the one following the attacks on our embassies in East Africa, and the one following the attack on Benghazi.

The accountability review board did not pull a single punch. They sound systemic problems and management deficiencies in two State Department bureaus. And the review board recommended 29 specific improvements. I pledged that by the time I left office, every one would be on the way to implementation and they were.

More Marines were slated for deployment to high-threat embassies. Additional diplomatic security agents were being hired and trained. And Secretary Kerry has continued this work.

But there is more to do and no administration can do it alone. Congress has to be our partner, as it has been after previous tragedies. For example, the accountability review board and subsequent investigations have recommended improved training for our officers before they deploy to the field. But efforts to establish a modern joint training center are being held up by Congress. The men and women who serve our country deserve better.

Finally, there is one more observation I’d like to share. I traveled to 112 countries as secretary of state. Every time I did, I felt great pride and honor representing the country that I love. We need leadership at home to match our leadership abroad, leadership that puts national security ahead of politics and ideology. Our nation has a long history of bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy and national security. Not that we always agree, far from it, but we do come together when it counts.

As secretary of state, I worked with the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to pass a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. I worked with the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, to open up Burma, now Myanmar, to democratic change. I know it’s possible to find common ground because I have done it. We should debate on the basis of fact, not fear. We should resist denigrating the patriotism or loyalty of those with whom we disagree. So I’m here. Despite all the previous investigations and all the talk about partisan agendas, I’m here to honor those we lost and to do what I can to aid those who serve us still.

My challenge to you, members of this committee, is the same challenge I put to myself. Let’s be worthy of the trust the American people have bestowed upon us. They expect us to lead, to learn the right lessons, to rise above partisanship and to reach for statesmanship. That’s what I tried to do every day as secretary of state and it’s what I hope we will all strive for here today and into the future.

Thank you.
Meet the members of the Benghazi panel
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The group investigating the Benghazi incident is made up of seven Republicans and five Democrats.

GOWDY: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

I did not cut off your opening at all, nor would I think about doing so because the subject matter is critically important and you deserve to be heard. I would just simply note that, and I don’t plan on cutting off any of your answers — our members have questions that we believe are worthy of being answered, so I would just simply note that we do plan to ask all of the questions, and whatever precision and concision that you can give to the answers, without giving short shrift to any of the answers, would be much appreciated.

And with that, I would recognize the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Roskam.

ROSKAM: Good morning, Secretary Clinton.

Jake Sullivan, your chief foreign policy adviser, wrote a tick- tock on Libya memo on August 21, 2011. And this was the day before the rebels took Tripoli. He titles it, quote, “Secretary Clinton’s Leadership on Libya,” in which he describes you as, quote, “a critical voice” and, quote, “the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya and instrumental in tightening the noose around Gadhafi and his regime.”

But that didn’t come easy, did it? Because you faced considerable opposition, and I can pause while you’re reading your notes from your staff.

CLINTON: One thing at a time, Congressman.

ROSKAM: OK. That didn’t come easy, did it, that leadership role and that public face and so forth that I just mentioned?

CLINTON: (OFF-MIKE) this is an issue that the committee has raised. And it really boils down to why were we in Libya; why did the United States join with our NATO and European allies, join with our Arab partners to protect the people of Libya against the murderous planning of Gadhafi. Why did we take a role alongside our partners in doing so.

There were a number of reasons for that. And I think it is important to remind the American people where we were at the time when the people of Libya, like people across the region, rose up demanding freedom and democracy, a chance to chart their own futures. And Gadhafi…

ROSKAM: I take your point.

CLINTON: … Gadhafi threatened them with genocide, with hunting them down like cockroaches. And we were then approached by, with great intensity, our closest allies in Europe, people who felt very strongly — the French and the British, but others as well — that they could not stand idly by and permit that to happen so close to their shores, with the unintended consequences that they worried about.

And they asked for the United States to help. We did not immediately say yes. We did an enormous amount of due diligence in meeting with not only our European and Arab partners, but also with those were heading up what was called the Transitional National Council. And we had experienced diplomats who were digging deep into what was happening in Libya and what the possibilities were, before we agreed to provide very specific, limited help to the European and Arab efforts.

We did not put one American soldier on the ground. We did not have one casualty. And in fact, I think by many measures, the cooperation between NATO and Arab forces was quite remarkable and something that we want to learn more lessons from.

ROSKAM: Secretary Clinton, you were meeting with opposition within the State Department from very senior career diplomats in fact. And they were saying that it was going to produce a net negative for U.S. military intervention.

For example, in a March 9th, 2011 e-mail discussing what has become known as the Libya options memo, Ambassador Stephen Mull, then the executive secretary of the State Department and one of the top career diplomats, said this, “In the case of our diplomatic history, when we’ve provided material or tactical military support to people seeking to drive their leaders from power, no matter how just their cause, it’s tended to produce net negatives for our interests over the long term in those countries.”

Now, we’ll come back to that in a minute. But you overruled those career diplomats. I mean, they report to you and you’re the chief diplomat of the United States. Go ahead and read the note if you need to.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: I have to — I have to…

ROSKAM: I’m not done with my question. I’m just giving you the courtesy of reading your notes.

CLINTON: That’s all right.

ROSKAM: All right.

They were — they were pushing back, but you overcame those objections. But then you had another big obstacle, didn’t you, and that was — that was the White House itself. There were senior voices within the White House that were opposed to military action — Vice President Biden, Department of Defense, Secretary Gates, the National Security Council and so forth.

But you persuaded President Obama to intervene militarily. Isn’t that right?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, I think it’s important to point out there were many in the State Department who believed it was very much in America’s interests and in furtherance of our values to protect the Libyan people, to join with our European allies and our Arab partners. The ambassador, who had had to be withdrawn from Libya because of direct attacks — or direct threats to his physical safety, but who knew Libya very well, Ambassador Cretz, was a strong advocate for doing what we could to assist the Europeans and the Arabs.

CLINTON: I think it’s fair to say there were concerns and there were varying opinions about what to do, how to do it, and the like. At the end of the day, this was the president’s decision. And all of us fed in our views. I did not favor it until I had done, as I said, the due diligence speaking with not just people within our government and within the governments of all of the other nations who were urging us to assist them, but also meeting in-person with the gentleman who had assumed a lead role in the Transitional National Council.

So it is of course fair to say this is a difficult decision. I wouldn’t sit here and say otherwise. And there were varying points of view about it. But at the end of the day, in large measure, because of the strong appeals from our European allies, the Arab League passing resolution urging that the United States and NATO join with them, those were unprecedented requests.

And we did decide in recommending to the president there was a way to do it. The president I think, very clearly had a limited instruction about how to proceed. And the first planes that flew were French planes. And I think what the United States provided was some of our unique capacity. But the bulk of the work militarily was done by Europeans and Arabs.

ROSKAM: Well I think you are underselling yourself. You got the State Department on board. You convinced the president, you overcame the objections of Vice President Biden and Secretary of Defense Gates, the National Security Council. And you had another obstacle then, and that was the United Nations.

And you were able to persuade the Russians, of all things, to abstain, and had you not been successful in arguing that abstention, the Security Council Resolution 1973 wouldn’t have passed because the Russians had a veto. So you overcame that obstacle as well, right? Isn’t that right?

CLINTON: Well congressman, it is right that doing my due diligence and reviewing the various options and the potential consequences of pursuing each of them, I was in favor of the United States joining with our European allies and our air partners and I also was in favor of obtaining U.N. Security Council support because I thought that would provide greater legitimacy. And that of course, our ambassador to the U.N. was very influential and successful in making the case to her colleagues. But this was at the behest of the president once he was presented with the varying argument.

ROSKAM: And you presented the argument… CLINTON: Congressman, I have been in a number of situation room discussions. I remember very well, the very intense conversation over whether or not to launch the Navy SEALS against the compound we thought in (inaudible) that might house bin Laden.

There was a split in the advisers around the president. Eventually the president makes the decision. I supported doing what we could to support our European and Arab partners in their effort on a humanitarian basis, a strategic basis, to prevent Gadhafi from launching and carrying massacres.

ROSKAM: There was another obstacle that you overcame and that was the Arabs themselves. Jake Sullivan sent you an e-mail, and he said this, “I think you should call. It will be a painful 10 minutes. But you will be the one who delivered Arab support.” And that’s a Jake Sullivan e-mail of March 17th to you asking you to call the secretary general of the Arab League.

So to put this in totality, you were able to overcome opposition within the State Department. You were able to persuade the president. You were able to persuade the United Nations and the international community. You made the call to the Arabs and brought them home. You saw it. You drove it. You articulated it. And you persuaded people. Did I get that wrong?

CLINTON: Well, congressman, I was the secretary of state. My job was to conduct the diplomacy. And the diplomacy consisted of a long series of meetings and phone calls both here in our country and abroad to take the measure of what people were saying and whether they meant it.

We had heard sometimes before from countries saying, well, the United States should go do this. And when we would say, well, what would you do in support of us, there was not much coming forth. This time, if they wanted us to support them in what they saw as an action vital respective to their respective national security interests, I wanted to be sure they were going to bear the bulk of the load. And in fact, they did. What the United States did, as I said, was use our unique capacities. As I recall, if you want if you monetary terms, slightly over a billion dollars or less than we spend in Iraq in one day, is what the United States committed in support of our allies. We asked our allies to do a lot for us Congressman, they had asked is for us to help them.

ROSKAM: My time is expiring. Let me reclaim my time. Let me reclaim my time because it’s expiring. Actually, you summed it up best when you e-mailed your senior staff and you said of this interchange, you said, “It’s good to remind ourselves and the rest of the world that this couldn’t have happened without us.” And you were right, Secretary Clinton.

Our Libya policy be couldn’t have happened without you because you were its chief architect. And I said we were going to go back to Ambassador Mulls’ warning about using military for regime change, and he said, “Long-term things weren’t going to turn out very well. And he was right. After your plan, things in Libya today are a disaster. I yield back.

CLINTON: Well, we’ll have more time I’m sure to talk about this because that’s not a view that I will ascribe to.

GOWDY: Thank the gentleman from Illinois and I recognize the gentleman from Maryland.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much Madam secretary, and again I want to thank you for being here. I want to start with the No. 1 question that Republicans claim has not been answered in eight previous investigations. Yesterday the chairman wrote an op-ed and he said, this is his top unanswered question about Benghazi. And it is, and I quote, “Why our people in Libya and Benghazi made so many requests for additional security personnel and equipment and why those requests were denied?”

I’ll give you a chance to answer in a minute. Secretary Clinton, as you know, this exact question has been asked many times and answered many times. Let’s start with the accountability review board. Now you, a moment ago you talked about Admiral Mullen. But you also appointed another very distinguished gentlemen, Ambassador Pickering.

And of course Admiral Mullen served under Republican administrations. And Ambassador Pickering, who I have a phenomenal amount of respect for, served 40 years, as you know, as part of our diplomatic core. He served under George H.W. Bush and also served as U.N. Ambassador under — he also served under Reagan.

Now, I’m just wondering — let me go back to that question. Why our people in Libya and Benghazi made so many requests, and then, I want you to comment. There seems to be an implication that the ARB, Accountability Review Board, was not independent. And I think the chairman said they were hand-picked by you, of course, that’s done by law. But I’m just — would you comment on those two things, please?

CLINTON: Yes. I’d be happy to.

Now, as I said in my opening statement, I take responsibility for what happened in Benghazi. I felt a responsibility for all 70,000 people working at the State Department in USAID. I take that very seriously. As I said with respect to security requests in Benghazi back when I testified in January 2013, those requests and issues related to security were rightly handled by the security professionals in the department.

I did not see them. I did not approve them. I did not deny them. Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen make this case very clearly in their testimony before your committee and in their public comments. These issues would not ordinarily come before the secretary of state. And they did not in this case.

As secretary, I was committed to taking aggressive measures to ensure our personnel’s and facilities were as safe as possible. And certainly when the nonpartisan critical report from the accountability review board came forward, I took it very seriously. And that’s why I embraced all of their recommendations and created a new position within the Diplomatic Security Bureau specifically to evaluate high- risk posts.

CLINTON: I think it’s important also to mention, Congressman, that the Diplomatic Security professionals who were reviewing these requests, along with those who are serving in war zones and hot spots around the world, have great expertise and experience in keeping people safe. If you go on CODELs, they are the ones who plan your trip to keep you safe.

They certainly did that for me. But most importantly, that’s what they do every day for everybody who serves our country as a diplomat or development professional.

And I was not going to second-guess them. I was not going to substitute my judgment, which is not based on experience that they have in keeping people safe, for theirs. And the changes that were recommended by the accountability review board are ones that we thought made sense and began quickly to implement.

CUMMINGS: Now, the ARB., after conducting, Madam Secretary, more than 100 interviews, identifies a specific employee at the State Department who denied these requests. It was Deputy Assistant Secretary Of The Bureau Of Diplomatic Security Charlene Lamb. And again, she did come before the Oversight Committee.

The ARB report was very critical of her. It was also critical of her two supervisors. Principal deputy assistant secretary and the assistant secretary for Diplomatic Security. The Oversight Committee found the same answer as the ARB. It found that this official denied these requests. It found no evidence that you approved or denied them.

The problem is Republicans just keep asking the same question over and over again, and pretend they don’t know the answer. In 2013, the Republican chairman of five House committees issued a report falsely accusing you personally of denying these requests cable (ph) over your signature.

The next day, the next day, the chairman of the Oversight Committee Darrell Issa, went on national television and accused you of the same thing.

Can we play that clip, please?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF.: Secretary of State was just wrong. She said she did not participate in this. And yet only a few months before the attack, she outright denied security in her signature in April 2014.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUMMINGS: Do you remember that, Madam Secretary?

CLINTON: I do.

CUMMINGS: Well, when the Washington Post fact checker examined this claim, they gave it four Pinocchios. They called it a whopper. It turns out, that the Republicans had a copy of that cable, but didn’t tell the American people that your so-called signature was just a stamp that appeared on millions of cables from the State Department every single year.

Is that right?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

CUMMINGS: Now, Madam Secretary, my goal has always been to gather facts and to defend the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Last year, I asked our staff to compile an asked and answered database.

And this particular issue was answered thoroughly. On Monday, we put out another report and this issue was addressed yet again. But the Republicans want to keep this attack going, so they are now trying to argue that we have new e-mails that raise new questions.

The truth is that we have reviewed these e-mails, and they don’t contradict previous conclusions. They confirm them. They corroborate them. We have reviewed e-mails from Ambassador Stevens. And they show that he asked Charleston Lamb for more security.

Nothing we have obtained, not the new interviews or the new e- mails changes the basic fact we have known for three years.

Secretary Clinton, let me ask one final question, and please take as much time as you want to answer this. There is no evidence to support the Republican claims that you personally rejected security requests. So, some have a argued that since you knew the danger was increasing in Libya, you should have been in there making detailed decisions about whether this would be 5, 7, or even 9 security officers at any given post.

Madam Secretary, I know you have answered it over again. You might just want to elaborate and just I’ll give you — I have a minute and seven seconds.

CLINTON: Well, thank you, Congressman. I think there has been some confusion, and I welcome the opportunity to try to clarify it to the best of my ability. With respect, as you rightly point out, the claims that were made about the cables, I think you have explained the fact, which is that it is the long-standing tradition of the State Department for cables from around the world to be sent to and sent from the State Department under the signature, over the signature of the secretary of State. It’s a — it’s a stamp. It’s just part of the tradition. There are millions of them, as you point out. They are sorted through and directed to the appropriate personnel. Very few of them ever come to my attention.

None of them with respect to security regarding Benghazi did. Then the other point, which I thank you for raising so that perhaps I can speak to this one as well. There is, of course, information that we were obtaining about the increasingly dangerous environment in Libya.

Across the country, but in particular in Eastern Libya. And we were aware of that. And we were certainly taking that into account. There was no actionable intelligence on September 11th, or even before that date, about any kind of planned attack on our compound in Benghazi. And there were a lot of debates, apparently, that went on within the security professionals about what to provide.

Because they did have to prioritize. The Accountability Review Board pointed that out. The State Department has historically, and certainly before this terrible accident, not had the amount of money we thought necessary to do what was required to protect everyone.

So, of course, there had to be priorities. And that was something that the security professionals dealt with. I think that both Admiral Mullen And Ambassador Pickering made it very clear that they thought that the high threat post should move to a higher level of scrutiny. And we had immediately moved to do that.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

GOWDY: Thank the gentleman. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from Indiana, Ms. Brooks.

BROOKS: Good morning, Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: Good morning.

BROOKS: Thank you for being here today. In drawing on what you just said, that very few, but no requests for Benghazi came to your attention, I’d like to show you something. This pile represents the e-mails that you sent or received about Libya in 2011, from February through December of 2011.

This pile represents the e-mails you sent or received from early 2012 until the day of the attack. There are 795 e-mails in this pile. We’ve counted them.

There’s 67 e-mails in this pile in 2012. And I’m troubled by what I see here. And so, my questions relate to these piles. In this pile in 2011 I see daily updates, sometimes is hourly updates from your staff about Benghazi and Chris Stevens.

When I look at this pile in 2012, I only see a handful of e-mails to you from your senior staff about Benghazi. And I have several questions for you about this disparity, because we know from talking to your senior advisers, that they knew, and many of them are here today seated behind you, they knew to send you important information, issues that were of importance to you.

And I can only conclude by your own records that there was a lack of interest in Libya in 2012.

So, let’s first focus, though, on this pile and what was happening in Libya in 2011. We had an ambassador to Libya, Ambassador Cretz. But you have told us — and you told us in your opening, you hand-picked Chris Stevens to be your special representative in Benghazi, and you sent him there.

And by your own e-mails, most provided last February, a few provided just a few weeks ago, they show that in March of ’11 — so, we’re in March of ’11, you had Chris Stevens join you in Paris, where you were meeting with the leader of the Libyan revolution.

And after Paris, that is when, as you talked about Chris Stevens went into Benghazi I believe in April 5th of 2011 on that Greek cargo ship. How long was he expected to stay?

What were Chris Stevens’s orders from you about Libya and about Benghazi specifically?

CLINTON: Chris Stevens was asked to go to Benghazi to do reconnaissance, to try to figure out who were the leaders of the insurgency who were based in Benghazi, what their goals were, what they understood would happen if they were successful. It was, as I had, the hard-nosed 21st century diplomacy that is rooted in the old- fashioned necessary work of building relationships and gathering information.

BROOKS: How long was he anticipated to stay in Benghazi, do you recall?

CLINTON: There — it was open-ended. We were, in discussing it with him, unsure as to how productive it would be, whether it would be appropriate for him to stay for a long time or a short time. That was very much going to depend upon Chris’ own assessment.

We knew we were sending someone who understood the area, who understood the language, who understood a lot of the personalities because of the historical study that he used to love to do. And we were going to be guided by what he decided.

BROOKS: I’d like to draw your attention to an e-mail. It’s an e-mail found at Tab 1. It’s an Op Center e-mail that was forwarded to you from Huma Abedin on Sunday, March 27th that says at the bottom of the e-mail — so the current game plan is for Mr. Stevens to move no later than Wednesday from Malta to Benghazi. But the bottom of the e- mail says the goal of this one-day trip is for him to lay the groundwork for a stay of up to 30 days.

So just to refresh that recollection, I believe initially the goal was to go in for 30 days. Were you personally briefed on his security plan prior to him going into Libya?

CLINTON: Yes.

BROOKS: Because at that time, if I’m not mistaken — I’m sorry to interrupt — Gadhafi’s forces were still battling the rebels, correct?

CLINTON: That’s right.

BROOK: And so what were — were you personally briefed before you sent Mr. Stevens into Benghazi?

CLINTON: I was personally told by the officials who were in the State Department who were immediately above Chris, who were making the plans for him to go in, that it was going to be expeditionary diplomacy. It was going to require him to make a lot of judgments on the ground about what he could accomplish and including where it would be safe for him to be and how long for him to stay. And I think the initial decision was, you know, up to 30 days and reassess. But it could have been 10 days, it could have been 60 days depending upon what he found and what he reported back to us.

BROOKS: And possibly what was determined about the danger of Benghazi. Who were those officials?

CLINTON: Well, there were a number of officials who were…

BROOKS: That were advising you on the security specifically?

CLINTON: Well, with respect to the security, this was a particular concern of the assistant secretary for the bureau in which Chris worked.

BROOKS: I’m sorry. What was that person’s name?

CLINTON: Assistant secretary Jeff Feldman.

BROOKS: Thank you.

CLINTON: And it was also a concern of the assistant secretary for diplomatic security, as well as other officials within the State Department. And I think it’s fair to say, Congresswoman, this was, we all knew, a risky undertaking and it was something that was, as I said in my opening statement, more reminiscent of the way diplomacy was practiced back in the 19th century.

Because we didn’t have is the Internet. We didn’t have instantaneous communication. You would send diplomats and envoys into places and not hear from them for maybe months. This was obviously not of that kind, but it was not that different in degree from what we had done before. And it was a risky undertaking and one which Chris volunteered for and was anxious to undertake.

BROOKS: And it was so risky — I’d like to pull up another e- mail from the Op Center that forwarded to you from Ms. Abedin Sunday, April 10th. So he had been there about five days. And it indicates that the situation in Ajdabiya had worsened to the point where Stevens is considering departing from Benghazi. This is within five days of him going in.

Were you aware of that concern in the first five days that he had gone in?

CLINTON: Yes.

BROOKS: And did anyone share that with you and — did share that with you?

CLINTON: Yes. We were aware because we were — we were really counting on Chris to guide us and give us the information from the ground. We had no other sources. You know, there was no American outpost. There was no, you know, American military presence. Eventually, other Americans representing different agencies were able to get into Benghazi and begin to do the same work, but they, of course, couldn’t do that work overtly, which is why we wanted a diplomat who could be publicly meeting with people to try to get the best assessment.

But it was always going to be a constant risk, and we knew that.

BROOKS: And so let me go back to the risk in 2011 because there was a lot of communication, again, once again from your senior staff, from the State Department to you or from you in 2011. And in fact, that is when Gadhafi fell. He fell in 2011. But then when we go to 2012, Libya, Benghazi, Chris Stevens, the staff there, they seem to fall off your radar in 2012, and the situation is getting much worse in 2012. It was getting much worse.

And let me just share for you in your records that we have reviewed, there is not one e-mail to you or from you in 2012 when an explosive device went off at our compound in April. There’s not a single e-mail in your records about that explosive device.

So my question is, this was a very important mission in 2011, you sent Chris Stevens there. But yet when your compound is attacked in 2012, what kind of culture was created in the State Department that your folks couldn’t tell you in an e-mail about a bomb in April of 2012?

CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, I did not conduct most of the business that I did on behalf of our country on e-mail. I conducted it in meetings. I read massive amounts of memos, a great deal of classified information. I made a lot of secure phone calls. I was in and out of the White House all the time. There were a lot of things that happened that I was aware of and that I was reacting to.

If you were to be in my office in the State Department, I didn’t have a computer, I did not do the vast is majority of the work on my e-mail. And I bet there are a lot of Sid Blumenthal’s e-mails in there from 2011 too.

BROOKS: Well, we’ll get to…

CLINTON: And so I think that there were — I don’t want you to have a mistaken impression about what I did and how I did it. Most of my work was not done on e-mails with my closest aides, with officials in the State Department, officials in the rest of the government, as well as the White House and people around the world.

BROOKS: And thank you for sharing that because I’m sure that it’s not all done on e-mails, Madam Secretary, and there are meetings and there are discussions. And so then when your compound took a second attack on June 6th, when a bomb blew a wall through the compound then, no e-mails, no e-mails at all. But I am interested in knowing who were you meeting with, who were you huddling with, how were you informed about those things? Because there is nothing in the e-mails that talks about two significant attacks on our compounds in 2012. There was a lot of information in 2011 about issues and security posture and yet nothing in 2012.

CLINTON: Well, I’d be happy to explain. Every morning when I arrived at the State Department, usually between 8:00 and 8:30, I had a personal one-on-one briefing from the representative of the Central Intelligence Agency who shared with me the highest level of classified information that I was to be aware of on a daily basis.

I then had a meeting with the top officials of the State Department every day that I was in town. That’s where a lot of information, including threats and attacks on our facilities, was shared. I also had a weekly meeting every Monday with all of the officials, the assistant secretaries and others, so that I could be brought up to date on any issue they were concerned about.

During the day, I received hundreds of pages of memos, many of them classified, some of them so top secret they were brought into my office in a locked briefcase that I had to read and immediately return to the courier. And I was constantly at the White House in the situation room meeting with the national security adviser and others. I would also be meeting with officials in the State Department, foreign officials and others.

So there was a lot going on during every day. I did not e-mail during the day and — except on rare occasions when I was able to. But I didn’t conduct the business that I did primarily on e-mail. That is not how I gathered information, assessed information, asked the hard questions of the people that I worked with.

BROOKS: It appears that leaving Benghazi — with respect to all of that danger, leaving Benghazi was not an option in 2012.

And I yield back.

CLINTON: If I could just quickly respond, there was never a recommendation from any intelligence official in our government, from any official in the State Department, or from any other person with knowledge of our presence in Benghazi to shut down Benghazi, even after the two attacks that the compound suffered.

And perhaps, you know, you would wonder why, but I can tell you that it was thought that the mission in Benghazi, in conjunction with the CIA mission, was vital to our national interests.

GOWDY: The gentlelady from Indiana yields back.

The chair will now briefly recognize Mr. Cummings and then Ms. Duckworth.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to clarify, when I was asking Secretary Clinton a question a moment ago, I mentioned an e-mail that had gone from Ambassador Chris Stevens to Deputy Secretary Lamb. What I meant to say was a cable. And I just wanted to make sure the record was clear.

GOWDY: The record will reflect that.

Ms. Duckworth?

DUCKWORTH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Secretary Clinton, I’m pleased that you finally have the opportunity to be here. Before I start my line of questioning, I just want to clarify with regard to the April-June, 2012 incidents. I believe that the procedure that the State Department had for these types of incidents was to actually hold what are called emergency action committee hearings on the ground immediately. And in fact, there were at least five on the records for June alone, on the ground in both Tripoli and Benghazi.

And that is the correct procedure for handling such instances. Is that not correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

Secretary Clinton, my focus and my job on this committee is to make sure that we never put brave Americans like Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty ever on the ground again anywhere in the world without the protection that they so rightly deserve.

Having flown combat missions myself in some dangerous places, I understand the dedication of our men and women who choose to serve this country overseas. I have a special affinity for the diplomatic corps because these are folks who go in without the benefit of weapons, without the benefit of military might, armed only with America’s values and diplomatic words and a handshake, to forward our nation’s interests globally.

And so I am absolutely determined to make sure that we safeguard in the name of our heroic dead our men and women in the diplomatic corps wherever where they around the world.

So, the bottom line for me, I’m a very mission-driven person, the bottom line for me with respect to examining what went wrong in Benghazi is clear. Let’s learn from those mistakes and let’s figure out what we need to do to fix them.

I’ve only been in Congress not quite three years, almost three years. And in this time, I’ve actually served on two other committees in addition to this one that has looked at the Benghazi attacks, both Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform. So I’ve had a chance to really look at all of these documents.

One of the things that I saw, and I’d like you to — discuss this with you, is that the Department of State and the Department of Defense at the time seems to have not had the most ideal cooperation when it came to threat or security analysis. I do know, however, that over the past decade, they’ve established a tradition of working together on the ground in dangerous regions that has increased over time.

However, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, which also looked at the Benghazi attack, I’m concerned that the interagency cooperation between State and DOD was not sufficient in the weeks and months leading up to the September 11, 2012 attacks. For example, joint contingency planning and training exercises, if we had conducted any joint interagency planning and training exercises, this may have actually helped State and DOD to identify and fix existing vulnerabilities in the temporary mission facility in Benghazi.

Moreover, regular communications between AFRICOM, which is the DOD command, and the special mission Benghazi, could have facilitated the pre-positioning of military assets in a region where there were very real questions over the host country’s ability to protect our diplomatic personnel.

Secretary Clinton, within the weeks of the terrorist attack in Benghazi happening, following that, I understand you partnered with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to establish and deploy five interagency security assessment teams to assess our security posture and needs at at least the 19 high-threat posts in 13 different countries. In fact, Deputy Secretary Nize (ph) testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in December of 2012 that the State Department and DOD ISAT initiative created a road map for addressing emerging security challenges.

Why did you partner with the Department of Defense to conduct such a high-priority review? And was it effective in addressing the shortfalls inn Benghazi and applying it for other locations?

CLINTON: Congressman — Congresswoman, thank you very much, and thanks for your service, and particularly your knowledge about these issues rising from your own military service and the service on the committees here in the House.

It’s very challenging to get military assets into countries that don’t want them there. And in fact, that has been a constant issue that we have worked, between the State Department and the Department of Defense. The Libyans made it very clear from the very beginning they did not want any American military or any foreign military at all in their country.

And what I concluded is that we needed to have these assessments because even if we couldn’t post our own military in the country, we needed to have a faster reaction. I certainly agree 100 percent with the findings of the Armed Services Committee here in the House and other investigations. Our military did everything they could. They turned over every rock. They tried to deploy as best they could to try to get to Benghazi. It was beyond the geographic range. They didn’t have assets nearby because we don’t have a lot of installations and military personnel that are in that immediate region.

So following what happened in Benghazi, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey and I, agreed to send out mixed teams of our diplomatic security and their top security experts from the Defense Department to get a better idea of the 19 high-threat posts. And that’s exactly what we did. And it gave us some guidance to try to have better planning ahead of time.

I know Admiral Mullen testified that it would be beyond the scope of our military to be able to provide immediate reaction to 270 posts. But that’s why we tried to narrow down. And of course, we do get help from our military in war zones. The military has been incredibly supportive of our embassy in Kabul and our embassy in Baghdad. But we have a lot of hot spots now and very dangerous places that are not in military conflict areas where we have American military presence.

So we wanted to figure out how we could get more quickly a fast reaction team to try to help prevent what happened in Benghazi.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

So this ISAT process that the joint teams at DOD and State that goes out, and initially looked at the 19 posts, that’s great that they come back with a report. It’s kind of like, you know, the seven reports do this, and now we have another committee. We can keep having committees to look into Benghazi, but we never act on them. It doesn’t help our men and women on the ground. And that’s what I’m focused on.

So what I want to know is, with these ISATs, so they came back with their recommendations to you. Have they been resourced? Are they institutionalized? Is — what has been done with this process so that it’s not a snapshot in time in reaction to Benghazi attack? And I want to make sure that, you know, at the very least, we’re continuing that cooperation, or at least there’s some sort of institutionalization of the review process to make sure that if it’s not those 19 posts, if the shift now is there’s 20 posts or some other posts. What has been done to make sure it’s institutionalized?

CLINTON: Well, that was one of the changes that I instituted before I left. And I’m confident that Secretary Kerry and his counterpart, Secretary Carter, at the Defense Department are continuing that. Because I think it was very useful. Certainly, it was useful for our security professionals and our diplomats to be partnered in that way with the Defense Department.

You know, historically, the only presence at some of our facilities has been Marines. And as you know well, Marines were there not for the purpose of personnel protection. They were there to destroy classified material and equipment. And so part of the challenge that we have faced inn some of these hot-spot, dangerous areas is how we get more of a presence. And after Benghazi, we were able to get Marines deployed to Tripoli.

So this is a constant effort between the State Department and the Defense Department, but it’s my strong belief that the ISAT process has been and should be institutionalized and we should keep learning from it.

DUCKWORTH: I’d like to touch on the quadrennial reviews. Again, coming from Armed Services, even as a young platoon leader out in, you know, in a platoon, we got and read the defense quadrennial review, which is a review that happens on a periodic basis, that gives the individual soldier an idea of what the Defense Department is trying to do. And I understand you initiated something similar in the State Department.

CLINTON: Right.

DUCKWORTH: And this goes to — there’s been discussion already about the culture at the State Department, especially when it comes to security. I found that the Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review is really good at instilling culture throughout the department.

Can you talk a little bit how and why you decided to do the review for the State Department? Was it useful? Is it useful? Is it getting out there? Is it a waste of time, and we shouldn’t be wasting money on it and we should be doing something else?

CLINTON: Well, I hope it’s not the latter. I learned about the Quadrennial Defense Review serving on Armed Services Committee in the Senate during my time there.

I agree with you completely, Congresswoman. It is a very successful road map as to where we should be going. And I’m impressed as a platoon leader, it was something you too into account. So, when I came to the State Department, there had never been anything like this done, there was no road map.

And the State Department, USAID would come up and fight for the money they could get out of Congress, no matter who was in charge of the Congress, every single year. It is one percent of the entire budget. And it was very difficult to explain effectively what it is we were trying to achieve.

So it did institute the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Diplomacy And Development Review. And one of the key questions that we were addressing is, what is this balance between risk and reward when it comes to our diplomats and our development professionals?

Because the first thing I heard when I got to the State Department was a litany of complaints from a lot of our most experienced diplomats that they were being ham-strung. That the security requirements were so intense, that they were basically unable to do their jobs. And of course, then, from the security professionals, who were all part of this, what we call the QDDR, they were saying, we don’t want you to go beyond the fence.

We can’t protect you in all of these dangerous circumstances. How you balance that — and it is a constant balancing of risk and reward, in terms of what we hope our diplomats and development professionals can do. So, it has been twice now. Secretary Kerry, in his tenure, has done the second QDDR. And I hope it becomes as important and as much of a road map as the QDR has for our Defense Department and our military services.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you. I’m out of time, Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Thank you the gentle lady from Illinois. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from Alabama, Ms. Roby.

ROBY: Good morning.

CLINTON: Good morning.

ROBY: Secretary Clinton, some I colleagues have focused on your relationship with the Ambassador Chris Stevens, and why you sent him into Benghazi in 2011 as part of your broader Libya initiative.

But it’s not so clear from everything that we’ve reviewed that you had a vision in Benghazi going forward into 2012 and beyond. It appears that there was confusion and uncertainly within your own department about Libya. And quite frankly, Secretary Clinton, it appears that you were a large cause of that uncertainty.

And we have seen all the day-to-day updates and concern early in 2011. And I heard what you said to my colleague, Ms. Brooks. And I’ll get to that in a minute.

But showing that Libya, and for that matter Benghazi, belonged to you in 2011. It was yours, so to speak. And from your own records that we have, we saw a drop in your interest in Libya and Benghazi in 2012.

Not only do the records show your drop in interest in Benghazi, it was even noticed by your own staff. I want to point this out to you — I say this, because I want to point you to an e-mail in early February 2012, between two staffers at your Libya desk that says, you didn’t know whether we still even had a presence in Benghazi.

Let’s not use my words. Let’s use theirs. This can be found at tab 31. The e-mail says — and it is dated February 9, 2012. One writes to the other about an encounter that she had with you.

Quote, “Also, the secretary also asked last week if we still have a presence in Benghazi. I think she would be upset to hear, yes, we do. But because we don’t have enough security, they are on lockdown,” end quote.

And I say this is very troubling to me because it raises several issues that I would like to ask you about. I’m struck by the first part, quote, “The secretary asked last week if we still have a presence in Benghazi.” Now, you pointed out to Mrs. Brooks in her last line of questioning, based on the e-mail stacks here, that you engaged in a lot of conversations and briefings. So, I’m assuming that this conversation with this member of your staff took place in one of those briefings.

But then she sent this e-mail asking about this. So, how can this be that two of your staffers are e-mailing about whether or not you even knew if we had a presence in Benghazi in 2012, with all your interest in Libya in 2011, including your trip in October of 2011? And that months later, we come to find out you didn’t even know we had a presence there?

CLINTON: Well, I can’t comment on what has been reported. Of course, I knew we had a presence in Benghazi. I knew that we were evaluating what that presence should be, how long it should continue. And I knew exactly what we were doing in Libya.

And I think it’s important. Since you have very legitimate questions about what we were doing. You know, the United States played a role in the first election that the Libyan people had in 51 years. It was a successful election by every count. And they voted for moderates. They voted for the kind of people they wanted to govern them.

We had a very successful effort that the United States supported, getting rid of Gadhafi’s remaining chemical weapons, which we led and supported the United Nations and others in being able to do.

We were combating the proliferation of weapons. That’s one of the reasons why there was a CIA presence in Benghazi, because we were trying to figure out how to get those weapons out of the wrong hands, and get them collected in a way and destroyed. And in fact, we began reducing those heavy weapon stocks.

We were working on providing transition assistance to the Libyans. I met with the Libyans. I telephoned with the Libyans. I saw the Libyans all during this period. And it was hard. Because a lot of them knew what they wanted, but they didn’t know how to get from where they were to that goal.

And we did an enormous amount of work. My two deputies, Tom Nides and Bill Burns, went to Libya. Other officials in the State Department went to Libya. So there was a constant, continuing effort that I led to try to see what we could do to help.

Now, one of the problems we faced is that the Libyans did not really feel that welcome a peace-keeping mission. They couldn’t welcome foreign troops to their soil. That made it really difficult. And it didn’t have to be American troops, it could have been troops from anywhere in the world under a U.N. Mandate that might have helped them begin to secure their country.

ROBY: Secretary Clinton, if I may, I hear what you’re saying, but this e-mail says something very, very different.

CLINTON: Well, I — you know, I can’t speak to that. I can just tell you what I was doing, and I was doing a lot.

ROBY: Sure. But these — this was your staff. And I…

(CROSSTALK)

ROBY: If they had this conversation with you, why would they make it up?

But I want to move on. This e-mail, you know, makes me wonder about the vision for Benghazi, because they’re asking if you — they’re saying that you asked if we still had a presence. But if you — you know, we look at the second part of the e-mail, quote, “And I think she would be upset to say, yes, we do,” I…

CLINTON: Congresswoman, I’m sorry. I have no recollection of, or no knowledge of — of course…

ROBY: Well, please turn to tab 31, because it’s right there.

CLINTON: Well, I trust that you have read it. But I also tell you that we had a presence in Benghazi. We had members of the administration and Congress visiting Benghazi.

So, of course, I knew we had a presence in Benghazi. I can’t speak to what someone either heard or misheard. But I think what’s important, and I understand that the underlying point of your request question is, what were we doing about Libya? And after Gadhafi fell.

ROBY: Right. And I’ve heard that first part.

CLINTON: And that’s what I’m trying to explain to you about what we were doing.

ROBY: Yes, ma’am. I want to get to the second part of the e- mail that suggests that we were in lockdown, that you would have been upset to know yes — heard the first part of your answer — but that we were in lockdown. And you’ve said on numerous occasions, including in your opening statement, on point number one, you know, America must lead and we must represent in dangerous places, quote, “They can’t do their jobs for us in bunkers.”

And essentially what we know is that there weren’t the required number of security on the ground in order for the individual to even move about the country to provide you with what you have reiterated on numerous occasions as being very important at that time, which is political reporting.

CLINTON: Well, could — could you tell me who is — who are the names on this e-mail that you’re talking about?

ROBY: Sure. I can. Turn to tab 31. You have a book in front of you. It is Alice Abdallah and I’m going to pronounce it wrong, Enya Sodarais (ph)? Is that correct?

CLINTON: They were not on my staff. I’m not in any way contradicting what they think they heard or what they heard somebody say. But the people that I know…

ROBY: Can you tell me who they were if they were not on your staff?

CLINTON: They were not on my — they were in the State Department, along with thousands of other people. They were not part of the secretary staff. But I get what you’re saying, Congresswoman. And I want to focus on this. I think it’s a fair and important question.

The facility in Benghazi was a temporary facility. There had been no decision made as to whether or not it would be permanent. It was not even a consulate. Our embassy was in Tripoli. Obviously much of the work that we were doing was going through the embassy.

There was a very vigorous discussion on the part of people who were responsible for making a recommendation about Benghazi as to what form of consulate, what form of facility it should be. Chris Stevens believed that it should be a formal consulate.

But that was something that had to be worked out. And there had not yet been a decision at the time that the attack took place. So it was not a permanent facility. And, you know, there were a number of questions that people were asking about whether it could or should be.

ROBY: I want to drill down on the security issue. But I also want to say it’s frustrating for us here on this panel asking these questions to hear you in your opening statement talk about the responsibility you took for all 70 plus thousand employees, yet I read you an e-mail between two of those employees and it seems as though you’re just kind of brushing it off as not having any knowledge.

CLINTON: I’m just saying I have no recollection of it and it doesn’t correspond with the facts of what we were doing on a regular basis. ROBY: Well if we talk for just a minute about the security, I have a few seconds left. In 2011, during the revolution, then envoy Stevens had 10 agents with him on the ground in Benghazi. And then we know in 2012 where the security situation had deteriorated even further, there were only three agents assigned to Benghazi.

Again, can’t even move anybody off of the facility to do the necessary political reporting. And my question is, you know, why did you not acknowledge, because of your interest in 2011, the importance of having those security officers there to do what was so important to you, which was the political reporting? Then in 2011, 2010, and when an am bass doctor was there, three, and he brought two of his own the night of the attack, which would meet the requisite five, but there was really only three there at any given time. So if you could address that, again, I’m running a little short on time.

CLINTON: Well, he did have five with him on September 11th and…

ROBY: Well, he brought two, right? He brought two with him, there were three there, and there were…

CLINTON: Right. But the point was they were personal security. So they were there to secure him. So yes, he did bring two. When he got there, he had five.

ROBY: Can you address the discrepancy?

CLINTON: The day before September 10th he went in to Benghazi. He went to a luncheon with leading civic leaders, business leaders in Benghazi. So he felt very comfortable. It was his decision. Ambassadors do not have to seek permission from the State Department to travel around the country that they are assigned to.

He decided to go to Benghazi by taking two security officers with him and having three there, he had the requisite five that had been the subject of discussion between the embassy and the State Department security professionals.

I’m not going to in any way suggest that he or the embassy got everything they requested. We know that they didn’t from the Accountability Review Board, by investigations that were done by the Congress. We know that there were a lot of discussions about what was needed, particularly in Benghazi. And that the day that he died he had five security officers.

A lot of security professionals who have reviewed this matter, even those who are critical, that the State Department did not do enough, have said that the kind of attack that took place would have been very difficult to repel. That’s what we have to learn from, Congresswoman.

There are many lessons going back to Beirut, going back to Tehran and the take over of our embassy and going all the way through these years. And sometimes we learn lessons and we actually act and we do the best we can. And there’s a perfect, terrible example of that with respect to what happened in Benghazi.

Certainly. And my time has expired. We will certainly never know what the outcome would have been if there had been more agents that night. I yield back.

CLINTON: Well, that’s not what the professionals, that’s not what the experts in security have concluded, if you have read the Accountability Review Board…

ROBY: I have read it Secretary Clinton. And it says that security was grossly in adequate.

CLINTON: Well, it said that there were deficiencies within two bureaus in the State Department which we have moved to correct and it also pointed out that the diplomatic security officers that were there acted heroically. There was not one single question about what they did. And they were overrun. And it was unfortunate that the agreement we had with the CIA annex and when those brave men showed up that it was also not enough.

ROBY: Certainly. We’ll discuss this more. I have to yield back.

GOWDY: The gentle lady’s time has expired. The chair will now recognizes the gentleman from Washington.

SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you Madam Secretary for being here. Just to clarify, you knew we had a presence.

CLINTON: Of course I knew, I knew, Congressman, of course.

SMITH: Going back to your earlier question, you were also aware of those two attacks on your compounds even though you didn’t e-mail about it.

CLINTON: Yes, I was aware.

SMITH: And that I think sort of points out, I mean, after 17 months and $4.7 million, as the ranking member pointed out in his opening statements, and as we’ve seen today, you know, this committee is simply not doing its job. And I don’t really think it should have been formed in the first place.

But what we have heard here is well, first of all, an obsession with e-mail. The idea that two fairly junior level staffers might not have gotten something wrong in what they heard or the information in an e-mail might, in fact, not be accurate, are certainly not things that should be news to anybody. But it is the obsession with the e- mails that takes us off what should have been the task of this committee.

I also find it interesting that Mr. Obi’s (ph) final comments were to quote the ARB report. Yes, the ARB report I think was very good. I think we absolutely had to have it. I think it was appropriate for the committees and Congress to do the investigations they did. But all of that begs the question as to why we’ve spent the $4.7 million we have spent on this.

And even in the chairman’s opening remarks, it was primarily a defense of the committee’s existence. Not any new information. Not here’s what we, in those 17 months and $4.7 million have figured out that is new and different. Nothing. In fact, we have heard nothing. Even in today’s hearing. Not a single solitary thing that hasn’t already been discussed repeatedly. So we have learned absolutely nothing.

Yes, we have uncovered a trove of new information. In this age, I don’t think there’s ever an end to e-mails. We could probably go on for another two years and we’d find more. The question is what we found anything substantively that tells us something different about what happened in Benghazi? And the answer to that question is no.

Look, I didn’t think this committee should have been formed in the first place. But if it was going to be formed, the least we could do is to actually focus on the four brave Americans who were killed, why they were killed, and focus on Benghazi. And we have not. Mr. Roskam’s questions I found to be the most interesting. Basically — I don’t know, it was like he was running for president.

He wanted to debate you on overall Libya policy as to why we got in the first place. And that’s debatable. And I think you will argue that quite well. But that’s not about the attack on Benghazi. That’s not about what we could have done in Benghazi to better protect them.

So again, I think we have seen hat this committee is focused on you. And I’m the ranking member of the Armed Services committee. I don’t see the Department of Defense here. I don’t see the CIA here. There were many, many other agencies involved in this. And yet yours has been the one they have obsessively focused on. And I think that’s a shame for a whole lot of reasons.

SMITH: For one thing, this committee, as it has been in the news the last several weeks, has been yet one more step in denigrating this institution. And I happen to think this institution needs more support, not less. So I wish we would stop doing that.

And I — you know, you mentioned Beirut, and that was the first though that occurred to me when this happened, was a Democratic Congress at the time did a fair and quick investigation of what was an unspeakable tragedy — two separate suicide bombings four months apart. And there was clearly inadequate security. But the focus there was not on partisanship, not on embarrassing the Reagan administration, but in actually figuring out what happened and how we can better protect Americans.

Now, I wonder if I could just ask questions about what I think is the central issue, and that is how do we have that presence in the world that you described in what is an increasingly dangerous world? Because as I’ve traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Yemen and other places, I’m consistently amazed by the willingness of our diplomatic corps to put their lives at risk. And I wonder how do you balance that very difficult decision. Because frankly, what I’ve heard more often from that diplomatic corps is that they chafe at the restrictions.

I mean, I remember vividly being in Peshawar, which is, you know — I mean, I didn’t like the ride from the airport to the embassy, which was 10 minutes, and we were there for, I don’t know, a few hours and then out. You know, the State Department personnel, they live there and went out amongst the community. How do you try and strike that balance of, you know, being present and at the same time meeting the security obligations?

And then most importantly, who drives that decision? Because it seems to me in most instances it is driven by the diplomatic corps there. If they take risks, it’s because they’ve decided to do it. They’re there. They know the security situation certainly better than the secretary and better than most everybody else. What is the proper way to strike that balance going forward to protect our personnel and still fulfill their mission?

CLINTON: Congressman, I think that is the most important question, and I would certainly welcome Congressional discussion and debate about this because it’s what we tried to do — going back to Congresswoman Duckworth’s question, what we tried to begin to do in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the first one that was ever done, because that’s exactly what we were facing. You know, we have had diplomats and development professionals in war zones now for a number of years. We’ve had them in places that are incredibly unstable and dangerous because of ongoing conflicts. It is, I think, the bias of the diplomacy corps that they be there because that’s what they signed up for. And they know that if America is not represented, then we leave a vacuum and we lose our eyes and our ears about what people are thinking and doing.

It is certainly the hardest part of the job in many of our agencies and departments today. And it was for me in the State Department. That’s why I relied on the security professionals because by the time I got there in 2009, the diplomatic security professionals had been taking care of American diplomats in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan for years. And they had learned a lot of the lessons and they were forced to make tough decisions all the time.

You mentioned Peshawar, one of clearly the high threat posts that the United States maintains a presence in. But when you think that since 2001 we’ve had 100 of our facilities attacked, if we were to shut them all down, if we were to pull out from all of them, we would be blinding ourselves. So it’s a constant balancing act. What are the risks and what are the rewards for opening, maintaining and/or closing a site.

I don’t know that there’s any hard and fast rule that we can adopt. We just have to get better at making that assessment, Congressman, and your question really goes to the heart of it. When you were as a member of Congress in Peshawar, you were guarded by our diplomatic security professionals. They had to assess was it safe enough for a member of Congress to come, how do we get him from the airport to the embassy.

It won’t surprise you to hear we’ve had attacks there as so many other places around the world. And that is a heavy responsibility, and the diplomatic security professionals get it right 999 times out of a thousand. And it’s deeply distressing to them when anything goes wrong.

We have lost non-Americans with some of these attacks on facilities. We’ve lost our locally-employed staff. They never want to see any successful attack, so they have to be — they have to be right 100 percent of the time, the terrorists only have to be right once. And, you know, that’s why this is really at the core of what I tried to do before even I got the Accountability Review Board, going back to the QDDR, to come up with a better way of trying to make those assessments.

SMITH: Madam Secretary, if I may, just two final points. I mean, so the bottom line is Benghazi on 9/11/2012 was not the only dangerous place in the world where our security personnel were and where these difficult decisions had to be made.

CLINTON: Right.

SMITH: And the other point I want to make before my time expires, now this was in 2012, so we were only a couple of years into this, but Secretary of Defense Ash Carter just I think yesterday wrote an editorial in the Wall Street journal about the impact of five years of budget uncertainty on the DOD’s ability to function. I mean, for five years, we have gone through C.R.s, threatened government shutdowns, one actual government shutdown, and constant budget uncertainty.

Now, my area is the Department of Defense. I know how it’s impacted them. They basically from one week to the next barely know what they can spend money on. Now, one of the criticisms is that there should have been more security, but if you don’t have a budget, if you don’t have an appropriations bill, how does that complicate your job as secretary in trying to figure out what money you can spend?

CLINTON: Well, it makes it very difficult, Congressman. And this is a subject that we talked about all the time, how do you plan. How do you know — you know, you have so many diplomatic security officers in so many dangerous places, how do you know what you’re going to have to be able to deploy and where are you going to have to make the choices.

That’s why the prioritization, which shouldn’t have to be, in my view, the responsibility of the officials in the State Department or the Defense Department to try to guess what makes the most sense. We should have a much more orderly process for our budget.

And I will say again, as secretary of State, the kind of dysfunction and failure to make decisions that we have been living with in our government hurts us. It hurts us in the obvious ways, like where you’re going to deploy forces if you’re in DOD or where we’re going to send security if you’re in the Department of State.

But it hurts us as the great country that we are, being viewed from an abroad as unable to handle our own business. And so it has a lot of consequences. And it’s something that I wish that we could get over and have our arguments about policy, have our arguments about substance, but get back to regular order, where we have the greatest nation in the world with a budget that then they can plan against as opposed to the uncertainty that has stalked us now for so long.

SMITH: Thank you, Madam Secretary. So the bottom line is Congress needs to do its job.

CLINTON: Right. I agree with that.

GOWDY: The gentlemen yields back. And I’ll be happy to get a copy of my opening statement for the gentleman from Washington so he can refresh his recollection on all the things our committee found that your previous committee missed. And with that I’ll go to the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Westmoreland.

WESTMORELAND: Thank you. Madam Secretary, I talk a little slower than everybody else, so…

CLINTON: I lived in Arkansas a long time. I don’t need an interpreter, Congressman. WESTMORELAND: So some of the questions I’m asking you can just get a yes-or-no answer, that would be great. But I do want you to give us a full answer.

But Mr. Smith from Washington mentioned there was no new facts brought out in some of these interviews, and I want to just say that I think he was at one interview for one hour. I have been at a bunch of those and there has been a lot of new facts that’s come out.

One of the things he said, it doesn’t — that you knew about these two incidents that have been mentioned previously. It’s not a matter if you knew about them, it’s a matter of what you did about them. And to us, the answer to that is nothing. Now, you say you were briefed by the CIA every morning that you were in Washington; is that correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

WESTMORELAND: Did they ever mention to you Assistant Acting Director Morrell wrote in his book that there were scores of intelligence pieces describing in detail how the situation in Libya was becoming more and more dangerous. Did you ever read any of these pieces?

CLINTON: Yes. As I’ve previously stated, we were certainly aware that the situation across Libya was becoming more dangerous, and that there were particular concerns about eastern Libya.

WESTMORELAND: Did you read the piece that was Libya, Al Qaida establishing sanctuary?

CLINTON: I’m aware that was certainly among the information provided to me.

WESTMORELAND: There was another particular piece that was talked about after the IED attack that AFRICOM wrote. Al Qaida expands in Libya. Were you familiar with that?

CLINTON: I can’t speak to specific pieces, Congressman, but I was well aware of the concerns we all had about the setting up of jihadist training camps and other activities in Libya, particularly in eastern Libya.

WESTMORELAND: You — you were briefed, in I think the CIA, between January and September of 2012, at over 4500 pages of intelligence. Were you aware of how many pages of intelligence? And I know you had a specific division, I guess, of the State Department under you that was called Intelligence and Research.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

WESTMORELAND: Did they keep you up to speed on all these 400 cables or different things that they were getting? Did they keep you up to speed on that, that you were aware of them?

CLINTON: Congressman, I can’t speak to specific reports. But I can certainly agree with you that I was briefed and aware of the increasingly dangerous upsurge in militant activity in Libya.

WESTMORELAND: And so what did you do to make sure that our men and women over there were protected, knowing how much the threat had grown, especially in Benghazi, because a lot of people say that really, in the summer of 2012, the security in Benghazi was worse than it was during the revolution.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, with respect to not only the specific incidents that you referenced earlier, but the overall concerns about Benghazi, I think I stated previously, there was never any recommendation by anyone, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the State Department officials responsible for Libya, to leave Benghazi.

Even after the two incidents that you mentioned. Because, in part, as I responded to Congressman Smith, we had so many attacks on facilities that, as I said, went back to 2001, that certainly also happened in other parts of the world while I was there. Each was evaluated, and there was not a recommendation. Furthermore, there was not even, on the morning of September 11, while Chris Stevens and Sean Smith were at the compound, Chris had spoken with intelligence experts. There was no credible, actionable threat known to our intelligence community…

WESTMORELAND: Yes, ma’am.

CLINTON: … against our compound.

WESTMORELAND: Reclaiming my time, you said that the — Ambassador Chris was pulled out of Tripoli because of threats on his life.

CLINTON: There were threats from people associated with Gadhafi after the publication…

WESTMORELAND: OK.

CLINTON: … of cables he had written that were made public by WikiLeaks.

WESTMORELAND: You — and you say you were aware of the two attacks at the mission facility in Benghazi.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

WESTMORELAND: Mr. Morell in his book states that there was 20 attacks on that facility. Are you familiar with the other 18?

CLINTON: There were two that we thought rose to the level of being serious, and I…

WESTMORELAND: Were — but were you familiar with the other 18?

CLINTON: … I’m not aware of 18 others. And I would point out, and I am sure that former Deputy Director Morell made this point when he was testifying, the CIA stayed in Libya.

The CIA had a much bigger presence than the State Department, despite the overall decline in stability. Some might argue actually because of the overall decline in stability, it was thought to be even more important for the CIA to stay there. And they also did not believe that their facility would be the subject of a deadly attack either, because I think sometimes…

WESTMORELAND: Ma’am (inaudible).

CLINTON: … you know, sometimes the — the discussion gets pulled together, when really we had Chris and Sean dying at the State Department compound, which we are discussing, and we had our other two deaths of Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty at the CIA annex.

WESTMORELAND: Reclaiming my time for just a minute. And I — and I do appreciate that. But if you — if you talk to the CIA contractors that were at the annex, and you ask them how they were armed and equipped, and then if you would — or could — talk to the diplomatic security agents that were at the facility, I think you will see that there was a big, big difference in the equipment that they had to protect theirself (ph).

But you knew of the two — what you called major incidents, but you don’t recollect the other 18 that Mr. Morell says happened. How many instances would it have taken you to say, “hey, we need to look at the security over there?”

Would it have been three major instances, 30 instances, 40 instances, 50 instances? How many instances would you have been made aware of that would have made you say, “hey, I don’t care what anybody else says, we’re going to protect our people. Chris Stevens is a good friend of mine, we’re going to look after him.”

How many would it have taken?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, of course I made it abundantly clear that we had to do everything we could to protect our people. What I did not — and do not believe any secretary should — do was to substitute my judgment from thousands of miles away for the judgment of the security professionals who made the decisions about what kind of security would be provided.

WESTMORELAND: Ma’am.

CLINTON: And that — I know that — that sounds somewhat hard to understand. But, you know, we have a process, and the experts, who I have the greatest confidence in, and who had been through so many difficult positions, because practically all of them had rotated through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, other places — they were the ones making the assessment. No one ever came to me and said, “we should shut down our compound in Benghazi.”

WESTMORELAND: Ma’am, I’m not saying shut it down. I’m saying protect it.

CLINTON: Well…

WESTMORELAND: I’m not saying — I’m not saying shut it down. I’m just saying protect it.

CLINTON: Right.

WESTMORELAND: When you say security professionals — I’m not trying to be disparaging with anybody, but I — I don’t know who those folks were, but…

CLINTON: Well, they were people who risked their lives to try to save…

WESTMORELAND: … just my little — in my little opinion, they weren’t very professional when it came to protecting people.

But let me say this. You said that the mission that you gave Ambassador Stevens was to go in to — in to investigate the situation. Now, if you’re going to investigate a situation, it would seem to me like you would have to get out into the country to investigate that.

And I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but there were not even enough diplomatic security for him to leave the compound without asking the CIA operatives to assist them. Were you aware of that?

CLINTON: Well, we had an agreement with the CIA to help supplement security and to come to the aid — it was a — it was a mutual agreement.

WESTMORELAND: Was that a — was that a written agreement?

CLINTON: No, it was — it was not a written agreement. But we — we are posted with the CIA in many places in the country…

WESTMORELAND: OK.

CLINTON: … I mean, in the — in the world. And it’s important to have a good working relationship. And we did. And unfortunately, despite all the weapons and despite the fortification, two CIA contractors died at the CIA annex that night.

WESTMORELAND: Just to follow up on one thing about Ambassador Stevens. You got a lot of e-mails from Sidney Blumenthal. And you say that Mr. Blumenthal was a friend of yours. And he had your personal e-mail address.

You say Chris Stevens was a friend of yours. He asked numerous of times for extra protection. Now, if I had been Mr. Stevens — and I think anybody out there — anybody watching this would agree.

If I had been Mr. Stevens and I had had a relationship with you, and I had requested 20 or more times for additional security to protect not only my life but the people that were there with me, I would have gotten in touch with you some way.

I would have let you know that I was in danger, and that the situation had deteriorated to a point, I needed you to do something. Did he have your personal e-mail?

CLINTON: Congressman, I — I do not believe that he had my personal e-mail. He had the e-mail and he had the direct line to everybody that he’d worked with for years. He had been posted…

WESTMORELAND: But not your…

CLINTON: … with officials in the State Department. They had gone through difficult, challenging, dangerous assignments together. He was in constant contact with people.

Yes, he and the people working for him asked for more security. Some of those requests were approved. Others were not.

We’re obviously looking to learn what more we could do, because it was not only about Benghazi, it was also about the embassy in Tripoli. I think it’s fair to say that, you know, Chris asked for what he and his people requested, because he thought that it would be helpful. But he never said to anybody in the State Department you know what, we just can’t keep doing this, we just can’t — we can’t stay there. He was in constant contact with, you know, people on my staff, other officials in the State Department.

And, you know, I did have an opportunity to talk with him about the substance of the policy. But with respect to security, he took those requests where they belonged. He took them to the security professionals.

And I have to add, Congressman, the diplomatic security professionals are among the best in the world. I would put them up against anybody. And I just cannot allow any comment to be in the record in any way criticizing or disparaging them. They have kept Americans safe in two wars and in a lot of other really terrible situations over the last many years.

I trusted them with my life. You trust them with yours when you’re on CODELs. They deserve better. And they deserve all the support that the Congress can give them, because they’re doing a really hard job very well.

WESTMORELAND: Well, ma’am, all I can say is they missed something here. And we lost four Americans.

GOWDY: The gentleman’s time has expired. The chair will recognize the gentleman from Kansas, Mr. Pompeo.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary, you’ve referred to the QDDR a couple of times as being important to diplomatic security. Is that correct?

CLINTON: It provoked a discussion, Congressman, about balancing of risk. POMPEO: Madam Secretary, I had a chance to read that. I wanted to only read the executive summary that ran 25 pages. But it didn’t have a word about diplomatic security in those entire 25 pages of the executive summary. Not one word, Madam Secretary. And then I read the remaining pages from out of the 270-plus. Do you know how many pages of those 270 had to do with diplomatic security?

CLINTON: It was about the balancing of risk and reward.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary…

CLINTON: Which was not only about diplomatic security specifically about, but about the larger question of our mission around the world.

POMPEO: Madam secretary, there was no balance. There was no balance. There was two pages out of 270 pages. You talked about a lot of things in there. You talked about a lot of improvements.

It didn’t have anything to do with diplomatic security in any material way in that report. You talked about being disappointed, too, I’ve heard you use that several times. You were disappointed, you read the ARB.

Why didn’t you fire someone? In Kansas, Madam Secretary, I get asked constantly, why has no one been held accountable? How come not a single person lost a single paycheck, connected to the fact that we had the first ambassador killed since 1979?

How come no one has been held accountable to date?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, the Accountability Review Board pointed out several people working in the State Department, who they thought had not carried out their responsibilities adequately. But they said that they could not find a breach of duty. And…

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am.

CLINTON: The personnel rules and the laws that govern those decisions were followed very carefully.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. I’m not asking what the ARB did. I’m asking what you did.

CLINTON: I followed the law, Congressman. That was my responsibility.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary, you’re telling me you had no authority to take anyone’s paycheck, to cause anyone to be fired? You’re telling me you were legally prohibited from doing that, is that your position here this morning?

CLINTON: It is my position that in the absence of finding dereliction or breach of duty, there could not be immediate action taken. But there was a process that was immediately instituted, and which led to decisions being made. POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. The decision was to put these back in full back pay, keep them on as employees. That was the decision made as a result of the processes you put in place. I will tell you, the folks in Kansas don’t think that is accountability.

I want to do some math with you. Can I get the first chart, please? Do you know how many security requests there were in the first quarter of 2012?

CLINTON: For everyone, or for Benghazi?

POMPEO: I’m sorry, yes, ma’am, related to Benghazi in Libya. Do you know how many there were?

CLINTON: No, I do not know.

POMPEO: Ma’am, there were just over a 100-plus. Second quarter, do you know how many there were?

CLINTON: No, I do not.

POMPEO: Ma’am, there were 172-ish. Might have been 171 or 173. That’s — how many were there in July and August and then in that week and few days before the attacks, do you know?

CLINTON: There were a number of them, I know that.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am, 83 by our count.

That’s over 600 requests. You’ve testified here this morning that you had none of those reach your desk; is that correct also?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary, Mr. Blumenthal wrote you 150 e-mails. It appears from the materials we’ve read that all of those reached your desk.

Can you tell us why security requests from your professionals, the men that you just testified — and which I agree, are incredibly professional, incredibly capable people, trained in the art of keeping us all safe, none of those made it to you.

But a man who was a friend of yours, who had never been to Libya, didn’t know much about it, at least that was his testimony, didn’t know much about it, every one of those reports that he sent on to you that had to do with situations on the ground in Libya, those made it to your desk.

You asked for more of them. You read them. You corresponded with him. And yet the folks that worked for you didn’t have the same courtesy.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, as you’re aware, he’s a friend of mine. He sent me information he thought might be of interest. Some of it was, some of it wasn’t, some of it I forwarded to be followed up on. The professionals and experts who reviewed it found some of it useful, some of it not.

POMPEO: Madam secretary…

CLINTON: He had no official position in the government. And he was not at all my adviser on Libya. He was a friend who sent me information that he thought might be in some way helpful.

POMPEO: Madam secretary, I have lots of friends. They send me things. I have never had somebody send me pieces of intelligence with the level of detail Mr. Blumenthal sent me every week. That’s a special friend.

CLINTON: Well, it was information that had been shared with him that he forwarded on. And as someone who got the vast majority of the information that I acted on from official channels, I read a lot of articles that brought new ideas to my attention, and occasionally people including him and others would give me ideas. They all went into the same process to be evaluated.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. I will tell you that the record we have received to date does not reflect that. It simply doesn’t. We’ve read the e-mails. We’ve read everything we can get our hands on. It’s taken us a long time to get it, but you, you just described all this other information you relied upon. And it doesn’t comport with the record that this committee has been able to establish today.

I want you to take a look at this chart to the left. You’ll see the increasing number of requests, over 600. I think data matters. The pictures are worth a lot. You see the increase in the requests, and the bottom line is the increase in security. And you’ll note that the slope of those two lines is very different.

Can you account for why that is, why we have an increase in requests yet no increase in security?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, I can only tell you that I know a number of requests were fulfilled, and some were not. But from my perspective, again, these were handled by the people that were assigned the task of elevating them.

And, you know, I think it’s important to again reiterate that, although there were problems and deficiencies discovered by the Accountability Review Board, the general approach to have security professionals handle security requests, I think still stands.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. I wish you’d have listened to those security professionals.

You described Mr. Stevens as having the best knowledge of Libya of anyone. Your words this morning. And yet when he asked for increased security, he didn’t get it.

May I see the second chart, please? This chart says the same thing; I just talked to you about requests for assistance. This chart — I won’t go through the numbers in detail — we’ve talked about them a bit. But it shows the increasing number of security incidents at the facility, your facility, the State Department facility, in Benghazi, Libya.

And then again, it shows the increase in security being nonexistent. I assume your answer is the same with respect to the fact that we have increasing security incidents, but no corresponding increase in the amount of security?

CLINTON: Congressman, I just have to respectfully disagree. Many security requests were fulfilled.

POMPEO: Well, ma’am…

CLINTON: We would be happy to get that information for the record. So I can’t really tell what it is you’re putting on that poster, but I know that a number of the security requests were fulfilled for Benghazi.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. What it shows is that the number of diplomatic security agents at the beginning of 2012, and those that — they were there that day of the — the murder of four Americans is no different.

CLINTON: Congressman, the decision, as I recall, was that the post, namely embassy Tripoli on behalf of Benghazi, requested five diplomatic security personnel, and they did have that on the day that Chris Stevens was in Benghazi.

Unfortunately, that proved insufficient in the face of the kind of attack that they were facing.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. May — put the next poster up, please. Madam Secretary, you’re not likely to know who these two folks are, do you?

CLINTON: I do not.

POMPEO: The one on the left is Mohamed al-Zahawi. He was the head of Ansar al-Sharia, a jihadist group based in Benghazi. The man on your left is Wissam bin Hamid. Were you aware that your folks in Benghazi, Libya met with that man on the — within 48 hours before the attack?

CLINTON: I know nothing about any meeting with him.

POMPEO: On September 11th, on the day that he was killed, Ambassador Stevens sent a cable through the State Department talking about his meeting with Mr. Bin Hamid. Are you aware of that cable?

CLINTON: No, I’m not.

POMPEO: He said — in his cable, he said they — referring to Mr. Wissam Bin Hamid — they wanted an introductory meeting, they were here. They asked us what we needed to bring security to Benghazi. So your officials were meeting with this man on the ground in Benghazi, Libya, discussing security, two days before that. But in August of that same year, the United States government had said that this very man was, quote, “a young rebel leader who allegedly fought in Iraq under the flag of al-Qaida.”

Were you aware that our folks were either wittingly or unwittingly meeting with al-Qaida on the ground in Benghazi, Libya, just hours before the attack?

CLINTON: I know nothing about this, Congressman.

POMPEO: I think that’s deeply disturbing. I think the fact that your team was meeting…

CLINTON: I’m sorry. Which team is this, Mr….

POMPEO: Your team would have been — we don’t know exactly who…

CLINTON: Well, it would be helpful…

POMPEO: It would have been one of the — one of your State Department employees, Madam Secretary, I don’t know which one. Perhaps you could enlighten us or help us get the records we need to do so.

CLINTON: Well…

POMPEO: To date, we’ve been able to learn that.

CLINTON: Well since we didn’t have an ongoing significant presence of State Department personnel in Benghazi, I don’t know to whom you are referring.

POMPEO: Mr. Chairman, I’ll yield back the balance of my time.

GOWDY: The gentleman from Kansas yields. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from California, Ms. Sanchez.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Madam Secretary, for coming again to answer our questions. We know over the last 17 months there have been a number of allegations that have been made with respect to you, and when the facts and the testimony and the record don’t support that, we seem to move on to the next, you know, new allegation.

One of the more recent ones is that Republicans are claiming that because you received e-mails from Sidney Blumenthal that he was your primary source for intelligence. Now, Chairman Gowdy claimed that Mr. Blumenthal was, and I’m going to quote him here, quote, “Secretary Clinton’s primary adviser on Libya because nearly half of all the e- mails sent to and from Secretary Clinton regarding Benghazi and Libya prior to the Benghazi terrorist attacks involved Sidney Blumenthal,” end quote.

He also claimed that Mr. Blumenthal was, and I’m quoting again, “one of the folks providing her the largest volume of information about Libya.” Secretary Clinton, was Sidney Blumenthal your primary policy adviser or your primary intelligence officer?

CLINTON: No. Of course not.

SANCHEZ: Was he the primary source of information that you were receiving on Libya?

CLINTON: No, absolutely not.

SANCHEZ: Can you tell us, then, who were you receiving information from and in what form? Because there’s been a particular emphasis on e-mail communication and e-mail communication only.

CLINTON: Well, as I testified earlier, I did not primarily conduct business on e-mail with officials in our government. And I think the e-mails that have been produced thus far demonstrate that as well.

As I said, I got intelligence briefings from the intelligence community. I had a very experienced group of senior diplomats who knew quite a bit about Libya. Deputy Secretary Bill Burns had been our nation’s top diplomat, who actually had negotiated with Gadhafi.

Prior to the entering in by the United States to support our European allies and Arab partners, I sent a team to meet with representatives of Gadhafi to see if there were some way that he would back down and back off of his increasingly hysterical threats against his own people.

We had people like the ambassador that I referenced earlier who had served in Libya and had the occasion to observe and to meet with Gadhafi. So we had a very large group of American diplomats, intelligence officers, and some private citizens who were experts in Libya who were available to our government. And we took advantage of every person we could with expertise to guide our decision-making.

SANCHEZ: So would it be fair to say that you received information from Ambassador Stevens?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The director of policy planning, Jacob Sullivan?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The National Security Council?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The intelligence community?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The Defense Department?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: This weekend, one of our colleagues on this panel, Mr. Pompeo, went on Meet the Press and I wonder if we could queue up the video. He had this exchange.

Can we please play the video clip?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POMPEO: … Mr. Blumenthal. It goes directly to the security issue. We see now that former Secretary Clinton relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence. That is, she was relying…

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: That is factually not true.

POMPEO: No, it is absolutely factually correct.

MITCHELL: Relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence? You (inaudible).

POMPEO: Ms. Mitchell, take a look — take a look at the e-mail trail and you will see.

MITCHELL: That’s just — I cover the State Department. That is just factually not correct. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: That clip for me just defies all logic. And I think Andrea Mitchell correctly called him out on something that was a falsehood.

Secretary Clinton, what did you think when you heard that clip?

CLINTON: Well, that it was factually untrue. And I think your questioning and what I have stated today is a much clearer and more factual description of how we gathered information to make our decisions regarding Libya.

SANCHEZ: With your answer that you believe it to be factually incorrect, I just want to add that The Washington Post fact-checker immediately awarded that claim for Pinocchios, which is the worst rating possible. And I’m going to quote the Post on what they said about that quote, “Looking at her private e-mails is just part of the picture and it ignores the fast amount of information, much of it classified, that is available to the secretary of state.”

Secretary Clinton, would you agree with that statement from The Washington Post?

CLINTON: Yes, I would.

SANCHEZ: OK. So, it seems to me, you know, there have been allegations that the work that this committee has done has been political in nature. And that much of the facts have already been decided before all of the evidence is in, including your testimony here today.

When I see clips like that, it sort of supports the theory that this panel is not really interested in investigating what happened just prior to, the evening of, and immediately in the aftermath of September 11th, 2012, but that in fact there is another motive behind that.

We have you here, and so while you are here I want to make the most of your time and allow you to sort of debunk many of the myths that have been generated over the last 17 months, most of which have no factual basis for those being said.

One is that you seemingly were disengaged the evening of September 11th, 2012. For example, Mike Huckabee accused you, as Mr. Cummings said, of ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi. And Senator Rand Paul stated that Benghazi was a three a.m. phone call that you never picked up. And Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack.

Those appear to be based on the testimony of witnesses and the documentation that we have obtained in this committee and other previous committees. They seem to run counter to the truth because the testimony we’ve received states pretty much that you were deeply engaged the night of the attack. So, can you describe for us what the initial hours of that night were like for you and how you learned about the attacks? And what your initial thoughts and actions were?

CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, I learned about the attacks from a State Department official rushing into my office shortly after or around 4 o’clock, to tell me that our compound in Benghazi had been attacked. We immediately summoned all of the top officials in the State Department for them to begin reaching out. The most important, quick call was to try to reach Chris himself. That was not possible. Then to have the diplomatic security people try to reach their agents. That was not possible. They were obviously defending themselves, along with the ambassador and Sean Smith.

We reached the second in command in Tripoli. He had heard shortly before we reached him, from Chris Stevens, telling him that they were under attack. We began to reach out to everyone we could possibly think who could help with this terrible incident.

CLINTON: During the course of the, you know, following hours, obviously I spoke to the White House. I spoke to CIA Director Petraeus. I spoke to the Libyan officials because I hoped that there was some way that they could gather up and deploy those who had been part of the insurgency to defend our compound.

I had conference calls with our team in Tripoli. I was on a — what’s called a SVTS, a, you know, videoconference with officials who had operational responsibilities in the Defense Department, in the CIA, at the National Security Council.

It was just a swirl and whirl of constant effort to try to figure out what we could do. And it was deeply — it was deeply distressing when we heard that the efforts by our CIA colleagues were not successful, that they had had to evacuate the security officers, our diplomatic security officers, that they had recovered Sean Smith’s body and they could not find the ambassador.

We didn’t know whether he had escaped and was still alive or not.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: If I may, because my time is running short, I just want to point out that you spoke with folks on the ground, you spoke with folks in the White House, the CIA, the Libyan president of the general national congress.

Now, interestingly enough, former director of the CIA, David Petraeus, has not been before this committee and has not spoken with this committee. But he did testify before the House Intelligence Committee in 2012 and he said that you personally called him and asked him for help that night.

And I just want to end on this quote.

Quote, “When secretary Clinton called me later that afternoon to indicate that Ambassador Stevens was missing and asked for help, I directed our folks to ensure that we were doing everything possible and that is, of course, what they were doing that night.”

Is that correct?

CLINTON: That is. And also the Defense Department was doing everything it could possibly do. We had a plane bringing additional security from Tripoli to Benghazi. There was an enormous amount of activity, everyone. It was all hands on deck, everyone jumped in to try to figure out what they could do. The attack on the compound was very fast.

SANCHEZ: So would it be safe to say that you were fully engaged that evening?

CLINTON: That is certainly safe to say, Congresswoman.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

And I yield back.

GOWDY: The gentlelady from California yields back.

The chair would now recognize the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

You just gave a long answer, Madam Secretary, to Ms. Sanchez about what you heard that night, what you’re doing. But nowhere in there did you mention a video. You didn’t mention a video because there was never a video-inspired protest in Benghazi. There was in Cairo but not in Benghazi.

Victoria Nuland, your spokesperson at the State Department, hours after the attacks said this, “Benghazi has been attacked by militants. In Cairo, police have removed demonstrators.”

Benghazi, you got weapons and explosions. Cairo, you got spray paint and rocks.

One hour before the attack in Benghazi, Chris Stevens walks a diplomat to the front gate. The ambassador didn’t report a demonstration. He didn’t report it because it never happened. An eyewitness in the command center that night on the ground said no protest, no demonstration; two intelligence reports that day, no protest, no demonstration.

The attack starts at 3:42 Eastern time, ends at approximately 11:40 pm that night.

At 4:06, an ops alert goes out across the State Department.

It says this, “Mission under attack, armed men, shots fired, explosions heard.”

No mention of video, no mention of a protest, no mention of a demonstration.

But the best evidence is Greg Hicks, the number two guy in Libya, the guy who worked side by side with Ambassador Stevens. He was asked, if there had been a protest, would the ambassador have reported it?

Mr. Hicks’s response, “Absolutely.”

For there to have been a demonstration on Chris Stevens’ front door and him not to have reported it is unbelievable, Mr. Hicks.

He said, secondly, if it had been reported, he would have been out the back door within minutes and there was a back gate.

Everything points to a terrorist attack. We just heard from Mr. Pompeo about the long history of terrorist incidents, terrorist violence in the country.

And yet five days later Susan Rice goes on five TV shows and she says this, “Benghazi was a spontaneous reaction as a consequence of a video,” a statement we all know is false. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what others have said.

“Rice was off the reservation,” off the reservation on five networks, White House worried about the politics. Republicans didn’t make those statements. They were made by the people who worked for you in the Near Eastern Affairs bureau, the actual experts on Libya in the State Department.

So if there’s no evidence for a video-inspired protest, then where did the false narrative start?

It started with you, Madam Secretary.

At 10:08, on the night of the attack, you released this statement, “Some have sought to justify the vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

At 10:08, with no evidence, at 10:08, before the attack is over, at 10:08, when Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty are still on the roof of the annex, fighting for their lives, the official statement of the State Department blames a video.

Why?

CLINTON: During the day on September 11th, as you did mention, Congressman, there was a very large protest against our embassy in Cairo. Protesters breached the walls. They tore down the American flag. And it was of grave concern to us because the inflammatory video had been shown on Egyptian television, which has a broader reach than just inside Egypt.

And if you look at what I said, I referred to the video that night in a very specific way. I said, some have sought to justify the attack because of the video.

I used those words deliberately, not to ascribe a motive to every attacker but as a warning to those across the region that there was no justification for further attacks.

And, in fact, during the course of that week, we had many attacks that were all about the video. We had people breaching the walls of our embassies in Tunis, in Khartoum; we had people, thankfully not Americans, dying at protests. But that’s what was going on, Congressman. JORDAN: Secretary Clinton, I appreciate most of those attacks were after the attack on the facility in Benghazi. You mentioned Cairo. It was interesting what else Ms. Nuland said that day.

She said, “If pressed by the press, if there’s a connection between Cairo and Benghazi,” she said this, “there’s no connection between the two.”

So here’s what troubles me. Your experts knew the truth. Your spokesperson knew the truth. Greg Hicks knew the truth.

But what troubles me more is I think you knew the truth.

I want to show you a few things here. You’re looking at an e- mail you sent to your family.

Here’s what you said at 11:00 that night, approximately one hour after you told the American people it was a video, you say to your family, “Two officers were killed today in Benghazi by an Al Qaeda- like group.”

You tell — you tell the American people one thing, you tell your family an entirely different story.

Also on the night of the attack, you had a call with the president of Libya. Here’s what you said to him.

“Ansar al-Sharia is claiming responsibility.”

It’s interesting; Mr. Khattala, one of the guys arrested in charge actually belonged to that group.

And finally, most significantly, the next day, within 24 hours, you had a conversation with the Egyptian prime minister.

You told him this, “We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”

Let me read that one more time.

“We know,” not we think, not it might be, “we know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”

State Department experts knew the truth. You knew the truth. But that’s not what the American people got. And again, the American people want to know why.

Why didn’t you tell the American people exactly what you told the Egyptian prime minister?

CLINTON: Well, I think if you look at the statement that I made, I clearly said that it was an attack. And I also said that there were some who tried to justify…

(CROSSTALK) JORDAN: Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: … on the basis — on the basis of the video, Congressman.

And I think…

JORDAN: Real, real quick, calling it an attack is like saying the sky is blue. Of course it was an attack.

(CROSSTALK)

JORDAN: We want to know the truth. The statement you sent out was a statement on Benghazi and you say vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material on the Internet. If that’s not pointing as the motive of being a video, I don’t know what is. And that’s certainly what — and that’s certainly how the American people saw it.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, there was a lot of conflicting information that we were trying to make sense of. The situation was very fluid. It was fast-moving. There was also a claim of responsibility by Ansar al-Sharia. And when I talked to the Egyptian prime minister, I said that this was a claim of responsibility by Ansar al-Sharia, by a group that was affiliated — or at least wanted to be affiliated — with Al Qaida.

Sometime after that, the next — next day, early the next morning after that, on the 12th or 13th, they retracted their claim of responsibility.

JORDAN: Madam Secretary…

CLINTON: And I think if — if you look at what all of us were trying to do, and we were in a position, Congressman, of trying to make sense of a lot of incoming information…

JORDAN: Madam…

CLINTON: … and watch the way the intelligence community tried to make sense of it.

JORDAN: Madam Secretary, there was not…

CLINTON: So all I can say is nobody…

JORDAN: … conflicting — there was not conflicting information the day of the attack, because your press secretary said, “if pressed, there is no connection between Cairo and Benghazi.” It was clear. You’re the ones who muddied it up, not the — not the information.

CLINTON: Well, there’s no connection…

JORDAN: Here’s what — here’s what I think that — here’s what I think is going on. Here’s what I think’s going on.

Let me show you one more slide. Again, this is from Victoria Nuland, your press person. She says to Jake Sullivan, Philippe Reines. Subject line reads this: Romney’s Statement on Libya.

E-mail says, “This is what Ben was talking about.” I assume Ben is the now-somewhat-famous Ben Rhodes, author of the talking points memo. This e-mail’s at 10:35, 27 minutes after your 10:08 — 27 minutes after you’ve told everyone it’s a video, while Americans are still fighting because the attack’s still going on, your top people are talking politics.

It seems to me that night you had three options, Secretary. You could tell the truth, like you did with your family, like you did with the Libyan president, like you did with the Egyptian prime minister — tell them it was a terrorist attack.

You could say, “you know what, we’re not quite sure. Don’t — don’t really know for sure.” I don’t — I don’t think the evidence — I think it’s all in the person (ph) — but you could have done that.

But you picked the third option. You picked the video narrative. You picked the one with no evidence. And you did it because Libya was supposed to be — and Mr. Roskam pointed out, this great success story for the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department.

And a key campaign theme that year was GM’s alive, bin Laden’s dead, Al Qaida’s on the run. And now you have a terrorist attack, and it’s a terrorist attack in Libya, and it’s just 56 days before an election.

You can live with a protest about a video. That won’t hurt you. But a terrorist attack will. So you can’t be square with the American people. You tell your family it’s a terrorist attack, but not the American people. You can tell the president of Libya it’s a terrorist attack, but not the American people. And you can tell the Egyptian prime minister it’s a terrorist attack, but you can’t tell your own people the truth.

Madam Secretary, Americans can live with the fact that good people sometimes give their lives for this country. They don’t like it. They mourn for those families. They pray for those families.

But they can live with it. But what they can’t take, what they can’t live with, is when their government’s not square with them.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

GOWDY: Madam Secretary, you’re welcome to answer the question, if you would like to.

CLINTON: Well, I wrote a whole chapter about this in my book, Hard Choices. I’d be glad to send it to you, Congressman, because I think the insinuations that you are making do a grave disservice to the hard work that people in the State Department, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the White House did during the course of some very confusing and difficult days.

There is no doubt in my mind that we did the best we could with the information that we had at the time. And if you’d actually go back and read what I said that night…

JORDAN: I have.

CLINTON: … I was very — I was very careful in saying that some have sought to justify. In fact, the man that has been arrested as one of the ringleaders of what happened in Benghazi, Ahmed Abu Khattala, is reported to have said it was the video that motivated him.

None of us can speak to the individual motivations of those terrorists who overran our compound and who attacked our CIA annex. There were probably a number of different motivations.

I think the intelligence community, which took the lead on trying to sort this out, as they should have, went through a series of interpretations and analysis. And we were all guided by that.

CLINTON: We were not making up the intelligence. We were trying to get it, make sense of it, and then to share it.

When I was speaking to the Egyptian prime minister or in the other two examples you showed, we had been told by Ansar al-Sharia that they took credit for it. It wasn’t until about 24 or more hours later, that they retracted taking credit for it.

JORDAN: Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: We also knew, Congressman, because my responsibility was what was happening throughout the region, I needed to be talking about the video, because I needed to put other governments and other people on notice that we were not going to let them get away with attacking us, as they did in Tunis, is they did in Khartoum.

And in Tunis there were thousands of protesters who were there only because of the video, breaching the calls of our embassy, burning down the American school. I was calling everybody in the Tunisian government I could get, and finally, President Marzouki sent his presidential guard to break it up. There were — is example after example. That’s what I was trying to do, during those very desperate and difficult hours.

JORDAN: Secretary Clinton — if I could, Mr. Chairman — Secretary Clinton, you said my insinuation. I’m not insinuating anything. I’m reading what you said. Plain language. We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. That’s as plain as it can get; that’s vastly different than vicious behavior justified by Internet material.

Why didn’t you just speak plain to the American people?

CLINTON: I did. If you look at my statement as opposed to what I was saying to the Egyptian prime minister, I did state clearly, and I said it again in more detail the next morning, as did the president.

I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, Congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were. And the facts, as the Democratic members have pointed out in their most recent collection of them, support this process that was going on, where the intelligence community was pulling together information.

And it’s very much harder to do it these days than it used to be, because you have to monitor social media, for goodness’s sakes. That’s where the Ansar al-Sharia claim was placed. The intelligence committee did the best job they could, and we all did our best job to try to figure out what was going on, and then to convey that to the American people.

GOWDY: The gentleman’s time has expired. The chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Schiff.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Madam secretary, We’re almost at the end of the first round of questions. I’ll have an opportunity, then the chairman will, before we have a break, just to let you know where we are in the scheme of things.

So, I want to take a moment to think about what we’ve covered in this round. In particular, a comment on where this began, with the chairman’s statement.

The chairman said at the outset of the hearing that the American people are entitled to the truth, the truth about what happened in Benghazi, the truth about the security there, the truth about what happened after the attack.

The implication of this, of course, is that the American premium don’t know the truth, that this is the first investigation we have ever had. The reality is, we’ve had eight investigations. We’ve gone through this endlessly.

And if we look at the documentary record, we have the ARB report. We have the report of the Armed Services Committee, led by Republican Buck McKeon, which debunked the stand down order allegation. We have the report of the committee on government reform.

We have the report of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. We have the report of the house Foreign Affairs Committee. We have the GOP conference’s own report. We have the report of the Intelligence Committee on which I serve.

Now, bear in mind, these aren’t with their accompanying exhibits or the classified stuff, because it would be up through the ceiling if I included them.

This is the report of our committee. This is what $4.7 million of taxpayer money buy you. This is what 17 months of investigation have shown.

Now, the chairman said, and he’s a very good lawyer and a good former prosecutor, we have a lot of former prosecutors here on the panel. He gave you a great recitation of the number of witnesses and the number of documents. There are too many good prosecutors on this panel not to know that when a lawyer describes the metrics of the success of an investigation by the sheer number of people they’ve talked to or the volume of documents, it says nothing about the substance of what they’ve learned, that there’s a problem.

And the reality is that after 17 months, we have nothing new to tell the families. We have nothing new to tell the American people. We have discovered nothing that alters the core conclusions of the eight investigations that went on before. Now, my colleagues have been saying quite often this week, with amazing regularity, that this is a fact-centric investigation. And I agree, so I would like to talk about president facts which are centric to this investigation, because while the American people are entitled to the truth about Benghazi they’re also entitled to the truth about our committee.

Fact: what gave rise to your appearance today was many months ago, a group called the Stop Hillary PAC which aired an offensive ad during the Democratic debate showing the tombstone of Ambassador Stevens, among other things, delivered 264,000 signatures demanding you appear before us.

Fact: it was the next day the majority approached us to have you come before this committee. Fact: after The New York times issued its story in March, this committee canceled all other hearing hearings except for a hearing with a witness named Clinton.

Fact: we abandoned our plans to bring in the secretary of Defense and the head of the CIA. Fact: we haven’t had a single hearing from the Department of Defense — with the Department of Defense in 17 months.

Fact: of the 70,000 pages of documents obtained by the Select Committee, the only documents that the chairman has chose on the release publicly are your e-mails with Sidney Blumenthal.

Fact: of the 32 press releases that have been issued since March of this year, 27 of them are about you, or the State Department and five are about everything else.

Fact: as recently as last week, the chairman issued a 13-page letter which is alleges you risked it had lives of people by sending an e-mail that contained the name of a classified CIA source. Fact: CIA told us there was nothing in that e-mail that was classified, nor was the name of that person, who is well known to many.

The chairman has said that this will be the final, definitive report. One thing that I think we can tell already — there will be nothing final about this report. Wherever we finish, if ever we finish, the problem we’ve had as a committee, is we don’t know what we’re looking for.

But there won’t be a final conclusion. There won’t be anything definitive about the work of this committee, because unlike the Accountability Review Board that operated in a non-partisan way, it’s unlikely the majority here will even consult with us on what their final report looks like.

Those who want to believe the worst will believe the worst. Those that want to believe that this is a partisan exercise will believe it. As I said from the beginning of the investigation, the only way this committee will add any value to what’s gone on before is if we can find a way to work together and reach a common conclusion.

But it’s plain that’s not their object. The chairman might say, ignore the words of our Republican leadership, ignore the words of our Republican members, ignore the words of our own GOP investigator. Judge us by our actions. But it is the actions of the committee that are the most damning of all, because they have been singly focused on you.

Let me ask you briefly, because I want to expand on just the — what I think is the core theory here. I want to give you a chance to respond to it.

You know, as a prosecutor, we’re taught every case should have a core theory, and the evidence and the witnesses go back to that core theory. And I’ve wrestled as I’ve listened to my colleagues today, as I have over 17 months. What is the core theory of their case? What are they trying to convey?

And I have to say I think it’s confusing. I think the core theory is this — that you deliberately interfered with security in Benghazi and that resulted in people dying. I think that is the case they want to make, and notwithstanding how many investigations we’ve had that have found absolutely no merit to that, that is the impression they wish to give.

Well, I have to say, I’m a little confused today because my colleague pointed to an e-mail suggesting that you weren’t aware we had a presence in Benghazi, so if you weren’t aware we had a presence I don’t know how you could have interfered with the security there.

But nonetheless, I do think that’s what they’re aiming at. I know the ambassador was someone you helped pick. I know the ambassador was a friend of yours, and I wonder if you would like to comment on what it’s like to be the subject of an allegation that you deliberately interfered with security that cost the life of a friend.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, it’s a very personally painful accusation. It has been rejected and disproven by non-partisan, dispassionate investigators. But nevertheless, having it continued to be bandied around is deeply distressing to me.

You know, I’ve — I would imagine I’ve thought more about what happened than all of you put together. I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been wracking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done.

And so, when I took responsibility, I took it as a challenge and an obligation to make sure, before I left the State Department, that what we could learn — as I’m sure my predecessors did after Beirut and after Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and after all the other attacks on our facilities, I’m sure all of them — Republican and Democrat alike — especially where there was loss of American life — said, “OK, what must we do better?

“How do we protect the men and women that we send without weapons, without support from the military, into some of the most dangerous places in the world?”

And so I will continue to speak out and do everything I can from whatever position I’m in to honor the memory of those we lost and to work as hard as I know to try to create more understanding and cooperation between the State Department, our diplomats, our development professionals from USAID and the Congress so that the Congress is a partner with us, as was the case in previous times.

I would like us to get back to those times, Congressman. Whereas I think one of you said, Beirut, we lost far more Americans, not once but twice within a year. There was no partisan effort. People rose above politics.

A Democratic Congress worked with a Republican administration to say, “what do we need to learn?” Out of that came the legislation for the Accountability Review Board.

Similarly, after we lost more Americans in the bombings in east Africa, again, Republicans and Democrats worked together, said, “what do we need to do better?”

So I’m — I’m an optimist, Congressman. I’m hoping that that will be the outcome of this and every other effort, so that we really do honor not only those we lost, but all those who, right as we speak, are serving in dangerous places, representing the values and the interests of the American people.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

GOWDY: The gentleman from California yields back. I’m going to address a couple things that he said and then recognize myself. Because he invoked the family members of the four (ph), Madam Secretary, and partially this will be for your benefit also. But I want to specifically address the family members that are here.

There is no theory of the prosecution, Mr. Schiff, because there is no prosecution. There’s a very big difference between a prosecution, where you already have reached a conclusion and you’re just trying to prove it to people.

This is an investigation, which is why it’s so sad that nowhere in that stack that you just put up there were the e-mails of Secretary Clinton, the e-mails of the ambassador, 50,000 — 50,000 pages worth of documents, eyewitnesses.

That’s the real tragedy. To the family and the friends. When you’re told that there have been seven previous investigations and an ARB, you should immediately ask, “why did you miss so many witnesses? Why did you miss so many documents?”

This is not a prosecution, Mr. Schiff. You and I are both familiar with them. I’ve reached no conclusions, and I would advise you to not reach any conclusions, either, until we reach the end.

There are 20 more witnesses, so I’ll agree not to reach any conclusions if you’ll do the same.

With that, Madam Secretary, regardless of where he ranked in the order of advisers, it is undisputed that a significant number of your e-mails were to or from a Sidney Blumenthal.

Now, he did not work for the State Department. He didn’t work for the U.S. government at all. He wanted to work for the State Department, but the White House said no to him.

Do you recall who specifically at the White House rejected Sidney Blumenthal?

CLINTON: No, I do not.

GOWDY: After he was turned down for a job at the State Department by the White House, he went to work where?

CLINTON: I think he had a number of consulting contracts with different entities.

GOWDY: Well, if he had a number of them, do you recall any of them?

CLINTON: I know that he did some work for my husband.

GOWDY: Well, he worked for the Clinton Foundation.

CLINTON: That’s — that’s correct.

GOWDY: OK. He worked for Media Matters.

CLINTON: I — I’m sure he did.

GOWDY: He worked for Correct the Record.

CLINTON: I’m sure he did.

GOWDY: When you were asked about Sidney Blumenthal you said he was an old friend who sent you unsolicited e-mails, which you passed in some instances because you wanted to hear from people outside what you called the bubble.

We will ignore for a second whether or not Sidney Blumenthal is outside the bubble, but I do want to ask you about a couple of those other comments, because what you left out was that he was an old friend who knew absolutely nothing about Libya, was critical of President Obama and others that you work with, loved to send you political and image advice, had business interests in Libya, which he not only alerted you to, but solicited your help for.

And you often forwarded his e-mails, but usually only after you redacted out any identifier, so nobody knew where the information was coming from.

What does the word unsolicited mean to you?

CLINTON: It means that I did not ask him to send me the information that he sent me, and as I have previously stated, some of it I found interesting, some of it I do not. Some of it I forwarded, some of it I do not.

I did not know anything about any business interest. I thought that, just as I said previously, newspaper articles, journalists, of which he is one — a former journalist — had some interesting insights. And so, you know, we took them on board and evaluated them, and some were helpful and others were not.

GOWDY: We’re going to get to all the points you just made, but I want to start with your — your public comment that these e-mails were unsolicited.

You wrote to him, Another keeper, thanks and please keep them coming. Greetings from Kabul and thanks for keeping this stuff coming. Any other info about it? What are you hearing now? Got it, we’ll follow up tomorrow. Anything else to convey?

Now, that one is interesting because that was the very e-mail where Mr. Blumenthal was asking you to intervene on behalf of a business deal that he was pursuing in Libya.

What did you mean by What are you hearing now?

CLINTON: I have no idea, Congressman.

They started out unsolicited and, as I said, some were of interest. I passed them on, and some were not. And so he continued to provide me information that was made available to him.

GOWDY: I — I don’t want to parse words and — and I don’t want to be hypertechnical, because it’s not a huge point, but it is an important point. You didn’t say they started off unsolicited. You said they were — you said they were unsolicited.

CLINTON: Well, they were unsolicited. But obviously, I did respond to some of them.

GOWDY: Well, anything else…

CLINTON: … And I’m sure that encouraged him.

GOWDY: … Anything else to convey? What are you hearing now? I’m going to Paris tomorrow night, will meet with TNC (ph) leaders, so this and additional info useful. Still don’t have electricity or BlackBerry coverage post-Iran, so I’ve had to resort to my new iPad. Let me know if you received this.

We’ll talk about the new iPad in a little bit. Here’s another one.

This report is in part a response to your questions. That’s an e-mail from him to you. This is — this report is, in part, a response to your questions. There will be further information in the next day.

If you’re the one asking him for information, how does that square with the definition of unsolicited? CLINTON: I said it began that way, Mr. Chairman, and I will add that both Chris Stevens and Gene Cretz (ph) found some of the information interesting — far more than I could, because they knew some of the characters who were being mentioned, and they were the ones — the kind of persons with the expertise — that I asked to evaluate to see whether there was any useful information.

GOWDY: We’re gonna get to that in a second, now. Before you give Mr. Blumenthal too much credit, you agree he didn’t write a single one of those cables or memos he sent you.

CLINTON: I’m sorry, what?

GOWDY: He didn’t write a single one of those cables or memos.

CLINTON: I — I don’t know who wrote them. He’s the one who sent them to me.

GOWDY: Would you be surprised to know not a single one of those was from him?

CLINTON: I don’t know where he got the information that he was sending to me.

GOWDY: Did you ask? Did you — did you ask?

You’re sending me very specific detailed intelligence, what is your source? That seems like a pretty good question.

CLINTON: Well, I — I did learn later that he was talking to or sharing information from former American Intelligence Official.

GOWDY: By the name of? Who wrote those cables?

CLINTON: I don’t recall — I don’t know, Mr. chairman.

GOWDY: You had this information passed on to others, but, at least on one occasion, you as a Ms. Abenine (ph) can you print without any identifiers?

Why would you want his name removed?

CLINTON: Because I thought that it would be more important to just look at the substance, and to make a determination as to whether or not there was anything to it.

GOWDY: Well, don’t people have a right to know the source of the information so they can determine credibility?

CLINTON: But he wasn’t, as you just said, the source of the information…

GOWDY: But you didn’t know that, Madam Secretary. And that’s what you just said.

CLINTON: No, no, Mr. chairman, I said that I knew — I knew that he didn’t have the sources to provide that information. I knew he was getting it from somewhere else, whether they — he knew a lot of journalists…

GOWDY: Did — did you ask where?

CLINTON: … He knew others in Washington. It could have been a variety of people.

GOWDY: If you’re gonna — if you’re going to determine credibility, don’t you want to know the source?

CLINTON: Well, it wasn’t credibility so much as trying to follow the threads that were mentioned about individuals. And, as I already stated, some of it was useful and some of it was not.

GOWDY: Well, did the president know that Mr. Blumenthal was advising you?

CLINTON: He wasn’t advising me. And, you know, Mr. chairman…

GOWDY: Did he know that he was your most prolific e-mailer that we have found on the subjects of Libya and Benghazi?

CLINTON: That’s because I didn’t do most of my work about Libya…

GOWDY: That’s fair.

CLINTON: … On e-mail.

GOWDY: I’m not challenging that, Madam Secretary. I am not challenging that.

All I’m telling you is that documents show he was your most prolific e-mailer on Libya and Benghazi. And my question to you is, did the president — the same White House that said you can’t handle him, and can’t hire him — did he know that he was advising you?

CLINTON: He was not advising me, and I have no reason to have ever mentioned that or know that the president knew that.

GOWDY: All right. I want to draw your attention to an e-mail about Libya from Mr. Blumenthal to you dated April 2011. It will be Exhibit 67.

And this is — this is informative. “Should we pass this on,” and in parentheticals, “unidentified to the White House?”

If you were gonna pass something on to the White House, why would you take off the identifiers?

CLINTON: Because it was important to evaluate the information, and from a lot of intelligence that I have certainly reviewed over the years, you often don’t have the source of the intelligence. You look at the intelligence, and you try to determine whether or not it is credible. Whether it can be followed up on. GOWDY: Well, I’m gonna accept the fact that you and I come from different backgrounds, because I can tell you that an unsourced comment could never be uttered in any courtroom. You have to have the…

CLINTON: But we’re not talking about courtrooms, Mr. chairman. We’re talking about intelligence.

GOWDY: No, we’re talking about credibility and the ability to assess who a source is, and whether or not that source has ever been to Libya, knows anything about Libya, or has business interests in Libya — all of which would be important if you were going to determine the credibility, which I think is why you probably took his information off of what you sent to the White House.

But here’s another possible explanation. It may give us a sense of why, maybe the White House didn’t want you to hire him in the first place.

In one e-mail he wrote this about the president’s Secretary of Defense: “I infer gate (ph) problem as losing an internal debate. Tyler…” And by the way, Tyler Drumheller (ph), that’s who actually authored the cables that you got from Mr. Blumenthal.

“… Tyler knows him well and says he’s a mean, vicious, little…” I’m not gonna say the word, but he did.

This is an e-mail from Blumenthal to you about the president’ Security of Defense.

And here’s another Blumenthal e-mail to you about the president’s national security adviser. “Frankly, Tom Donelan’s (ph) babbling rhetoric about narratives on a phone briefing of reporters on March the 10th has inspired derision among foreign — serious foreign policy analysts both here and abroad.”

And here’s another from, what you say is your old friend Sidney Blumenthal. This is a quote from him. “I would say Obama…” — and by the way, he left the president part out. “I would say Obama appears to be intent on seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. He and his political cronies in the White House and Chicago are, to say the least, unenthusiastic about regime change in Libya. Obama’s lukewarm and self-contradicting statements have produced what is, at least for the moment, operational paralysis.”

GOWDY: I think, that may give us a better understanding of why the White House may have told you, you cannot hire him.

Blumenthal could not get hired by our government, didn’t pass any background check at all, had no role with our government, had never been to Libya, had no expertise in Libya, was critical of the president and others that you worked with, shared polling data with you on the intervention in Libya, gave you political advice on how to take credit for Libya, all the while working for The Clinton Foundation and some pseudo news entities.

And Madam Secretary, he had unfettered access to you. And he used that access, at least on one occasion, to ask you to intervene on behalf of a business venture.

Do you recall that?

CLINTON: You know, Mr. Chairman, if you don’t have any friends who say unkind things privately I congratulate you. But from my perspective…

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: I’d like to think I’d correct them.

CLINTON: … I don’t know what this line of questioning does to help us get to the bottom of the deaths of four Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: I’ll be happy to help you understand that, madam secretary.

CLINTON: But I want to reiterate what I said to Congresswoman Sanchez. These were originally unsolicited. You’ve just said that perhaps the main, if not the exclusive author, was a former intelligence agent for our country, who rose to the highest levels of the CIA and who was given credit for being one of the very few who pointed out that the intelligence used by the Bush administration to go to war in Iraq was wrong.

So I think that, you know, the sharing of information from an old friend that I did not take at face value, that I sent on to those who were experts, is something that, you know, makes sense.

But it was certainly not in any way the primary source of or the predominant understanding that we had of what was going on in Libya and what we needed to be doing.

GOWDY: Well, Madam Secretary, I’m out of time and we’ll pick this back up the next round but I’ll go ahead and let you know ahead of time why it’s relevant.

It’s relevant because our ambassador was asked to read and respond to Sidney Blumenthal’s drivel. It was sent to him to read and react to, in some instances on the very same day he was asking for security. So I think it is eminently fair to ask why Sidney Blumenthal had unfettered access to you, Madam Secretary, with whatever he wanted to talk about.

And there’s not a single solitary e-mail to or from you to or from Ambassador Stevens. I think that that is fair and we’ll take that up.

CUMMINGS: Will the gentleman yield?

Will the gentleman yield?

GOWDY: Sure.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, you’ve made several inaccurate statements over the past month as you have tried to defend against multiple Republican admissions that the Select Committee has been wasting millions of tax dollars to damage Secretary Clinton’s bid for president.

On Sunday, you made another inaccurate statement during your appearance on “Face the Nation” and it’s being taken up here. And this is the relevance.

Here’s what you said, and I quote, “There are other folks who may have equities in her e-mails and there may be other entities who are evaluating her e-mails. But my interest — my interest in them is solely making sure that I get everything I’m entitled to so that I can do my job. The rest of it, classification, The Clinton Foundation, you name it, I have zero interest in it, which is why you haven’t seen me send a subpoena related to it or interview a single person, other than Brian Fabiano (ph), because I need to know that the record is complete. And I’m going back to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: I’m waiting…

CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, let me finish.

GOWDY: I’ve been very patient.

CUMMINGS: I’m coming, just wait.

GOWDY: I’m waiting on the inaccurate statement.

CUMMINGS: I’m getting there.

Mr. Chairman…

GOWDY: Well, we got to take a break.

CUMMINGS: Well, it’s not going to take a long. You took up four minutes over so let me have three.

GOWDY: I’ve let everybody go over, including you, Mr. Congressman.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much.

You issued a subpoena to Sidney Blumenthal on May 19th, 2015, compelling him to appear for a deposition on June 16, 2015. You issued this subpoena unilaterally without giving the Select Committee members the opportunity to debate or vote on it.

You sent two armed marshals to serve the subpoena on Mr. Blumenthal’s wife at their home without having ever sent him a request to participate voluntarily, which he would have done.

Then, Mr. Chairman, you personally attended Mr. Blumenthal’s deposition; you person personally asked him about The Clinton Foundation and you personally directed your staff to ask questions about The Clinton Foundation, which they did more than 50 times.

Now these facts directly contradict the statements you made on national television.

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: No, that’s — no, sir, with all due respect, they do not. We’re — we just heard e-mail after e-mail after e-mail about Libya and Benghazi that Sidney Blumenthal sent to the secretary of state. I don’t care if he sent it by Morse code, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, the fact that he happened to send it by e-mail is irrelevant.

What is relevant is that he was sending information to the secretary of state. That is what’s relevant. Now, with respect to the subpoena, if he’d bothered to answer the telephone calls of our committee, he wouldn’t have needed a subpoena.

CUMMINGS: Will the gentleman yield?

GOWDY: I’ll be happy to but you need to make sure the entire record is correct.

CUMMINGS: Yes. And that’s exactly what I want to do.

GOWDY: Well, then, go ahead.

CUMMINGS: I’m about to tell you.

I move that we put into the record the entire transcript of Sidney Blumenthal. We’re going to release the e-mails; let’s do the transcript. That way the world can see it.

(UNKNOWN): I second that motion.

GOWDY: Well, we didn’t — we didn’t…

CUMMINGS: That motion has been seconded.

GOWDY: Well, we’re not going to take that up at a hearing. We’ll take that up…

(CROSSTALK)

CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, I have consulted with the parliamentarian and they have informed us that we have a right to record a vote on that — on that motion. We want — you know, you can ask for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Well, that’s what we want to have. You can put that — let the world see it.

GOWDY: Why is it that you only want Mr. Blumenthal’s transcript released?

Why don’t you…

CUMMINGS: I’d like to have all of them released.

GOWDY: The survivors?

Even their names?

You want that?

CUMMINGS: No, you…

GOWDY: You want that released?

CUMMINGS: Well, let me tell you something, right now…

GOWDY: The only one you’ve asked for is Sidney Blumenthal.

That’s the only one you’ve asked for, that and Ms. Mills.

(UNKNOWN): Cheryl Mills, Cheryl Mills.

CUMMINGS: That’s not true.

GOWDY: That’s two out of 54.

(UNKNOWN): The chairman asked for a recorded vote?

GOWDY: You want to ask for some facts…

CUMMINGS: I ask for a recorded vote on the — on the Blumenthal — you said from the beginning we want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Why don’t we just put the entire transcript out there and let the world see it?

What do you have to hide?

SCHIFF (?): These are the only e-mails that you have released and in fairness to Mr. Blumenthal and to the American people, in the interest of a complete record, if you’re going to release his e-mails, release his transcript, where he has a chance to give the context of those e-mails.

GOWDY: Well, you keep referring to Blumenthal e-mails. I would hasten to remind both of you the only reason we have Blumenthal e- mails is because he e-mailed the secretary of state. Those are her e- mails. That’s why they were released. They’re not Blumenthal’s e- mails. And she wanted all of her e-mails released. She’s been saying since March I want the entire world to see my e-mails.

Well, Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mails are part of that.

So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll be happy to talk to the parliamentarian because the parliamentarian told me that your motion actually would not be in order for a hearing. But at the latest we’ll take a vote and the first we are back after this week we’ll have a business meeting, we can take up Mr. Blumenthal’s transcript. We can take up what ever other transcripts you want.

And while we’re there, we can also take up the 20-some odd outstanding discovery requests that we have to different executive branch entities.

Why don’t we just take all of it up then?

SCHIFF: Mr. Chairman, the allegations that have been made against him are refuted by his own testimony, in the interest of not having…

GOWDY: That’s your opinion, Adam.

SCHIFF: Well, if you disagree, then release the transcripts.

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: What allegation, Adam?

SCHIFF: Why conceal the transcripts?

Even if the motion were not in order, you have to power to release them.

GOWDY: I’ll tell you why, because I’m not going to release one transcript of someone who knows nothing about Libya by his own admission while people who risk their lives — you have no interest in their story getting out. You don’t want the — you don’t want the 18 D.S. agents, you don’t want the CIA agents.

The only transcripts you want released are Ms. Mills and Sidney Blumenthal’s. So we’ll take all of this up… SCHIFF: And the only person you are interested in asking about during her entire questioning was Sidney Blumenthal. If you’re so interested in him, release the transcript. You selectively released his e-mails, they’re the only witness you’ve done that for. So you’re asking why are we only ask asking for his transcript?

GOWDY: I’m going to ask the gentleman from California to please do a better job of characterizing. These are not Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mails. These are Secretary Clinton’s e-mails. And I’ll tell you what, if you think you’ve heard about Sidney Blumenthal so far, wait until the next round.

With that, we’re adjourned.

The second session:

GOWDY: The hearing will come back to order.

Madam Secretary, with your indulgence, we will take up one little house keeping matter.

The question is on the motion of the gentleman to include the document in the record. The Chair opposes the motion.

Those in favor of the motion may signify by — so by saying aye.

Those opposed by no.

CUMMINGS(?): Roll call, Mr. Chairman.

CLERK: Mr. Chairman, I ask for a recorded vote.

GOWDY: A recorded vote has been — has been requested.

Chairman’s says — the Chairman’s vote — what?

UNKNOWN: (OFF-MIKE).

GOWDY: Yeah, I’m sorry. Secretary, call the roll.

CLERK: Mr. Westmoreland?

WESTMORELAND: No.

CLERK: Mr. Westmoreland votes no.

Mr. Jordan?

JORDAN: No.

UNKNOWN: Mr. Who? I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear.

CLERK: Sorry, Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: No.

CLERK: Mr. Jordan votes no. Mr. Roskam?.

ROSKAM: No.

CLERK: Mr. Roskam votes no.

Mr. Pompeo?

POMPEO: No.

CLERK: My. Pompeo votes no.

Mrs. Roby?

ROBY: No.

CLERK: Mrs. Roby votes no.

Mrs. Brooks?

BROOKS: No.

CLERK: Mrs. Brooks votes no.

Mr. Cummings?

CUMMINGS: Yes.

CLERK: Mr. Cummings votes yes.

Mr. Smith?

SMITH: Aye.

CLERK: Mr. Smith votes aye.

Mr. Schiff?

SCHIFF: Aye.

CLERK: Mr. Schiff votes aye.

Ms. Sanchez?

SANCHEZ: Aye.

CLERK: Ms. Sanchez votes aye.

Ms. Duckworth?

DUCKWORTH: Aye.

CLERK: Ms. Duckworth votes aye.

GOWDY: The clerk will report.

CLERK: And Mr. Gowdy.

GOWDY: No.

CLERK: Mr. Gowdy votes no. Yeas five, no’s eight.

GOWDY: And the motion is not agreed to. Madame Secretary…

CLERK: My apologies, sir. It was seven.

GOWDY: Motion’s still not agreed to. Even South Carolina math can figure that out.

Madame Secretary, before we broke, there was a question asked that I thought was a fair question, which is why was I talking about Mr. Blumenthal’s e-mails.

I do think that’s a fair question. I think it’s an equally it fair question to ask why you were reading Mr. Blumenthal’s e-mails? I think both are fair. So, I want to go to June of 2012, which is an interesting time period to look at. It’s started. Charlene Lamb was an employee of the State Department and she sent an e-mail, which you may be familiar with, tab 56, I’m not going to read it, but it’s the tab 56, where she described Benghazi as a soft target, attacks on Americans not staffed adequately. It’s a very haunting e-mail to read.

It was actually three months to the day when our four fellow citizens were killed. And that is on June the 7th, 2012. Also on June the 7th 2012, your deputy chief of staff, Mr. Jake Sullivan is e- mailing Ambassador Stevens, asking the ambassador to look at a memo Sidney Blumenthal sent you. And in fact, Mr. Sullivan writes for Ambassador Chris, checking in with you on this report, “any reactions?”

All right, that is on exactly the same day that I believe our ambassador papers were accepted in Libya. It’s the day after an IED attack on our compound and Chris Stevens is being asked to read and react to an e-mail by Sidney Blumenthal from your deputy chief of staff.

Now, this is what he’s writing on the 7th, this is after he’s been turned down on a request for more security. This is our ambassador, “Appreciate you giving this proposal, even if the conclusion was not the favorable for us. We’d be interested in pursuing the other avenue you suggest, high threat trained agents. Best, Chris.”

So, I have this contrast in my mind. A ambassador newly in place. It’s a day after an attack on our facility. Your deputy chief of staff is sending him an e-mail from Sidney Blumenthal, asking him to take time to read and react to it. And then to the best of my recollection, that’s forwarded to you.

So help us understand how Sidney Blumenthal had that kind of access to you, Madame Secretary, but ambassador did not.

CLINTON: Mr. Chairman, because I think that your question does help to clarify matters.

Chris Stevens e-mailed regularly with Jake Sullivan one of my closest aides in the State Department. He could have e-mailed to Mr. Sullivan knowing that it would have been immediately responded to on any issue that was of concern to him, and he did not raise issues about security on that day or other days.

And I think it’s important to recognize that when an ambassador is at post overseas, especially as experienced a diplomat as Chris Stevens, he knows where to pull the levers, where to go for information, where to register concerns.

And I think he did exactly as one might have expected. He dealt with security issues through dealing with the security professionals who were the ones making the assessments. And I think that Ambassador Stevens understood completely that that is where the experts were, and that is where anything he requested or anything he was questioning should be directed.

GOWDY: Speaking of experts, who is Victoria Nuland?

CLINTON: A very experience diplomat. She served as our Ambassador to NATO, appointed by President George W. Bush. She served as one of the advisers as a Foreign Service Officer delegated to the White House for Vice President Cheney. She served as the spokesperson for the State Department during my tenure, and she is currently the Assistant Secretary for Europe under Secretary Kerry.

GOWDY: She wrote this to the Ambassador on June 13, 2012, that is a week after the facility was attacked. It is only a handful of days after he was turned down on a request — specific request for more security.

“Chris, I know you have your hands full, but we’d like your advice about public massaging on the state of violence in Libya over the past 10 days.”

So she’s asking him for help with public massaging. Jake Sullivan (ph), which is the other half of the question that I don’t think we got to. I — I understand that Chris Stevens was a rule follower. I understand that. I’ve got no qualms. My question was, actually, not why Chris Stevens didn’t contact you, but why did Jake Sullivan (ph) send Chris Stevens a Sidney Blumenthal e-mail to read and react to? On a day after the facility was attacked, the same day he was denied a request for more security. And instead of e-mail traffic back and forth about security, it’s read and react to a Blumenthal e-mail.

CLINTON: Well, I think any ambassador, if one were sitting before the committee, would say that they handled a lot of incoming information and requests.

Some of it was about what was happening in-country, some of about it was about what was happening back in the United States. And Chris felt strongly that the United States needed to remain in and committed to Libya.

So he was concerned that there might be a — a feeling on the part of some, either in the State Department or elsewhere in the Government, that we shouldn’t be in Libya. And he was adamantly in favor of us staying in Libya.

So part of what the discussion with him and — and Jake Sullivan (ph) and others was, you know, how do we best convey what the stakes the United States has in staying involved in Libya would be? And I thought that was, you know, very much in keeping with both his assessment and his experience.

GOWDY: Well, I appreciate your perspective, Madame Secretary.

Let me share with you my perspective. And if you need to take time to read a note, I’m happy to pause.

CLINTON: No, I’m just being reminded, which I think is important that remember, Chris spent the vast majority of his time in Tripoli, not in Benghazi. So a lot of what he was looking at is how you deal with not only those in authority positions in Libya, who were based in Tripoli at that time, but also representatives of other governments and the like.

And I think it is fair to say that anytime you’re trying to figure out what’s the best argument to make, especially if you’re someone like Chris Stevens trying to put together and make the best argument about why the United States should remain committed to Libya and others, as well, he’s going to engage in conversations about that.

GOWDY: Well, with respect, Madame Secretary, no matter what city he was in in Libya, having to stop and provide public massaging advice to your press shop, and having to read and respond to an e-mail sent by Sidney Blumenthal, it doesn’t matter what town you’re in. He needed security help.

He didn’t need help messaging the violence. He needed help actually with the violence. You…

CLINTON: No… GOWDY: … Have said several times this morning that you had people and processes in place. And I want to ask you about an e-mail that was sent to you by another one of your aids, Ms. Huma Abedin (ph). That would be Exhibit number 70 (ph) in your folder.

She e-mailed you that the Libyan people needed medicine, gasoline, diesel and milk. Do you know how long it took you to respond to that e-mail?

CLINTON: Well, I responded to it very quickly.

GOWDY: Yeah. 4 minutes.

My question, and I think it’s a fair one, is the Libyan people had their needs responded to directly by you in 4 minutes. And there is no record of our security folks ever even making it to your inbox.

So if you had people and processes in place for security, did you not also have people and processes in place for medicine, gasoline, diesel, milk?

CLINTON: You know, Mr. chairman, I’ve said it before, I will say it again, I’ll say it as many times as is necessary to respond.

Chris Stevens communicated regularly with the members of my staff. He did not raise security with the members of my staff. I communicated with him about certain issues. He did not raise security with me. He raised security with the security professionals.

Now, I know that’s not the answer you want to hear because it’s being asked in many different ways by committee members. But those are the facts, Mr. Chairman. Ambassadors in the field are engaged in many different tasks. They are basically our chief representative of the president of the United States, so they deal with everything from, you know, foreign aid to security to dealing with the personal requests for visas that come from people in the country they are assigned to.

And Chris Stevens had regular contact with members of my staff and he did not raise security issues. Now, some of it may have been because despite what was implied earlier, there was a good back and forth about security. And many of the requests that came from Embassy Tripoli, both for Tripoli and for Benghazi, were acted on affirmatively. Others were not.

That is what an ambassador, especially in a diplomat as experienced as Chris Stevens, would expect, that it would be unlikely to be able to get every one of your requests immediately answered positively.

So, yes, he had regular contact with my aides. He did not raise security with me. And the security questions and requests were handled by the security professionals.

GOWDY: Madam Secretary, with all due respect, those are two separate issues. Who Chris Stevens had access to is one issue. Who had access to you and for what is another issue, because you have said you had people and processes in place.

You also have people and processes in place for people who want to send you meaningless political advice. You also have people and processes in place for people who want to inquire about milk and diesel fuel and gasoline. You also have people and processes in place for people who want to provide insults towards folks you work with in the administration.

All of that made it directly into your in-box, Madam Secretary. That is my question. My question is: How did you decide when to invoke a people and process and who just got to come straight to you? Because it looked like certain things got straight to your in box, and the request for more security did not.

And while you’re answering that, I want to inform and instruct why I’m asking it. You have mentioned the ARB on a number of occasions again today. This was not the first ARB. We had one after Kenya and Tanzania. And that ARB could not have been more specific. The secretary of state should personally review the security situation of our embassy facilities.

That ARB put the responsibility squarely on you. So with respect to that previous ARB recommendation, and in contrast, what did make your in box versus what did not, did you personally review our security situation as the previous ARB required?

CLINTON: Well, let me see if I can answer the many parts of your — of your question, Mr. Chairman.

Yes, personal e-mail came to my personal account. Work-related e-mail did as well. And I also relied on a number of my aides and staff members, as well as experienced Foreign Service officers and civil servants who were similarly engaged in gathering information and sharing it.

And as I said and I will repeat, Chris Stevens communicated with a number of people that I worked with on a daily basis in the State Department. So far as I know, he did not raise any issue of security with any of those people. He raised it where he knew it would be properly addressed. If he had raised it with me, I would be here telling you he had. He did not.

And so I think it’s important to try to separate out the various elements of your question, Mr. Chairman, and I will do my best to continue to try to answer your questions. But I have said before and I will repeat again, Sid Blumenthal was not my adviser official or unofficial about Libya. He was not involved in any of the meetings, conversations, other efforts to obtain information in order to act on it.

On occasion, I did forward what he sent me to make sure that it was in the mix. So if it was useful, it could be put to use. And I believe in response to the e-mail you pointed our originally from Ambassador Stevens, he actually said it rang true and it was worth looking into.

So I think it’s important that we separate out the fact that Mr. Blumenthal was not my adviser. He was not an official of the United States government. He was not passing on official information. He, like a number of my friends who would hand me a newspaper article, would buttonhole me at a reception and say “what about this” or “what about that” — were trying to be helpful. Some of it was. A lot of it wasn’t.

GOWDY: The chair will not recognize the gentlelady from California, Ms. Sanchez. SANCHEZ: Thank you.

Secretary Clinton, I listened very carefully when Chairman Gowdy was questioning you in the first round of questioning. I have to say I was kind of surprised. We waited more than a year to finally get you up here to testify. We spent almost $5 million and we interviewed about 54 witnesses.

And when the chairman finally got his chance to question you, he asked you — he quibbled, actually — over the definition of the word “unsolicited.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, then he doubled-down on this idea that Sidney Blumenthal was your primary adviser on Libya, a claim that we heard The Washington Post awarded four Pinocchios.

He said on Sunday on national television that he had zero interest in the Clinton Foundation and other topics, but then he just spent his full time, the full questioning time in the first round asking you about the Clinton Foundation, media matters, and other topics that don’t really have anything to do with the attack that occurred in Benghazi. And my own sense of incredulity was really, really — is this why we’ve asked you to come to testify about that?

The overwhelming sense that I get from the Republican side of the aisle is they seem to be arguing somehow that Sidney Blumenthal had access to you, while Ambassador Stevens did not. Do you — do you think that that’s an accurate statement?

CLINTON: Of course not, Congresswoman. You know, you didn’t need my e-mail address to get my attention. In fact, most of the work I did, as I said this morning, had nothing to do with my e-mails. It had to do with the kind of meetings and materials that were provided to me through those who were responsible for making decisions on a whole range of issues.

And as I just told the chairman, if Ambassador Stevens had grave concerns that he wanted raised with me, he certainly knew how to do that.

SANCHEZ: He could speak to your office or your staff?

CLINTON: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Or you directly on the telephone?

CLINTON: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Did he ever ask you for your personal e-mail address and you turned him down (inaudible)?

CLINTON: No, he did not.

SANCHEZ: The other thing that I’m hearing from the other side of the aisle is they’re arguing that there was this, you know, security was, you know, it was sort of decomposing in eastern Libya. And that no security improvements were ever made to the Benghazi outpost. That’s not a true statement, is it? CLINTON: No, it is not.

SANCHEZ: In fact, there were many security enhancements that were asked for that were actually made, although there were others that were — other requests that were made that were not fulfilled. Is that correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

SANCHEZ: OK. The other line of questioning that sort of surprises me is that over the course of this investigation, Republicans have repeatedly asked why the U.S. was still in Benghazi on the night of the attacks. During the select committee’s first hearing, which was more than a year ago, the chairman posed the following question: “We know the risk of being in Benghazi. Can you tell us what our policy was in Libya that overcame those risks? In other words, why were we there?”

And the Accountability Review Board had already answered that question. It explained that Benghazi was the largest city and historical power center in eastern Libya. It further went on to say although the rebel-led Transitional National Council declared that Tripoli would continue to be the capital of post-Gadhafi Libya, many of the influential players in the TNC remained based in Benghazi.

And the ARB went on to explain that Ambassador Stevens advocated for a U.S. presence in Benghazi and his status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy and his expertise on Benghazi in particular caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments.

Secretary Clinton, do you agree? Was Ambassador Stevens a leading expert on Libya policy? And did you also give his opinions a lot of weight and respect?

CLINTON: Yes, I did, Congresswoman.

SANCHEZ: Do you recall Ambassador Stevens advocating from the ground up for continued U.S. presence specifically in Benghazi?

CLINTON: Yes, he did.

SANCHEZ: In fact, Ambassador Stevens’s e-mails, many of which this committee has had for more than a year, confirm what you’ve just stated.

Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent to enter this document into the record, and it’s being passed out to the members of the committee.

GOWDY: Without objection.

SANCHEZ: Secretary Clinton, I understand this e-mail is not one that you have seen before as it was not addressed or sent to you, is that correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

SANCHEZ: In the e-mail before you, then-Special Envoy Stevens wrote this proposal for continued presence in Benghazi at Embassy Tripoli — as Embassy Tripoli was reopened following the fall of Gadhafi. He suggested two potential models. Option A was a slimmed- down compound and Option B was a virtual presence with zero full-time State Department staff in Benghazi.

Special Envoy Stevens sent this e-mail to Gene Cretz, then the ambassador to Libya, his deputy chief of mission and the director of the Office of Mahgreb Affairs. At the time, these career diplomats had a combined 83 years of foreign service experience. Would the recommendation of this team be given a fair amount of weight within the Department?

CLINTON: Yes, it would.

SANCHEZ: And is that the way that it should work that the views of experienced diplomats should count in decision making?

CLINTON: They certainly did to me, and I think that should be the practice.

SANCHEZ: In the same e-mail, Special Envoy Stevens states, quote, “my personal recommendation would be Option A,” which was the option for a slimmed-down compound. He then notes a few of his key rationales for wanting to stay. In an earlier September 6th, 2011 e- mail advocating for a continued Benghazi presence, Special Envoy Stevens provided more reasons including the opportunity to, quote, “monitor political trends and public sentiment regarding the new Libya. The revolution began in eastern Libya and the view of these 2 million inhabitants will certainly influence events going forward.”

Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Ambassador Stevens’ view that there were important reasons to have a presence in Benghazi despite the risks?

CLINTON: Yes, I do.

SANCHEZ: Other documents show that Ambassador Stevens continued to advocate for a continued U.S. presence once he became ambassador to Libya. In fact, at the end of August, just two week before the attacks, he was working on a proposal for a permanent presence. As that proposal explained, quote, “a permanent branch office in Benghazi to provide a permanent platform to protect U.S. national security interests in the region and to promote a stronger healthier and more vibrant bilateral relationship with the new, free and democratic Libya.”

While Ambassador Stevens took seriously the significant security incidents in Benghazi that occurred in June, he never decided that the risk outweighed the benefit and he never recommended closing the post in Benghazi. He worked with his counterparts to try to manage that risk as best they could.

In its report, the Benghazi Accountability Review Board found, quote, “the total elimination of risk is a non starter for U.S. diplomacy given the need for the U.S. government to be present in places where stability and security are often most profoundly lacking and host government support is sometimes minimal to nonexistent.”

Secretary Clinton, this is such a difficult issue, the balancing of interests. From your perspective as a former senator and secretary of State, how do you best ensure that we are striking the right balance going forward?

CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, thank you for that question because I do think that’s what we should be talking about, and several of you have posed similar questions.

I think you do start with the best expert and experienced advice that you can get from across our government. And as you rightly point out, Chris Stevens never recommended that we close Benghazi, he advocated for keeping Benghazi open. And as you rightly referred to this e-mail for a particular configuration that would fulfill the needs of our country being represented there.

Obviously, you have to constantly do this balancing act that I referred to earlier today, and most times we get it right. In fact, the vast majority of times, we get it right. With Benghazi, the CIA did not have any plans to close their facility. The opinion of those with the greatest understanding of our mission, our diplomatic mission in Benghazi was exactly the same, that we should not close down, we should not leave Benghazi. And it’s, you know, obviously something that you have to be constantly evaluating in all of these difficult unstable spots around the world.

But I appreciate your bringing to the committee’s attention the — you know, the strong opinion of the man who knew the most and was on the ground and who understood what we were trying to achieve in Benghazi, Ambassador Stevens.

SANCHEZ: And was it your understanding that he certainly understood the risk of being there?

CLINTON: He definitely understood the risks, yes.

SANCHEZ: Thank you. I yield back.

GOWDY: The gentlelady yields back. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from Indiana, Ms. Brooks.

BROOKS: Secretary Clinton, I’d like to ask you a bit about your decision making and the discussions you had as it related to how long the Benghazi mission itself was going to last.

I’m putting up a map just because most of us really don’t know much about Libya, don’t know much about the geography of Libya. And as we’ve talked about these various communities, I don’t think most people really realized. So I want to share with you that — we know from my last round that Chris Stevens went into Benghazi in April of 2011, and I want to talk to you about what happened the rest of that year. And just because there was a lot going on, I thought it would be helpful to have this map.

So by mid-July, our government formally recognized the TNC as the official government of Libya, replacing the Gadhafi regime. And TNC was based in Benghazi at that time. And in August, after the Gadhafi government fell, Gadhafi went over into — he left Tripoli where Gadhafi been headquartered, and he went into hiding in Sirte.

Now once that happened, the TNC moved their Benghazi headquarters over to Tripoli, and then in September, we re-opened our embassy in Tripoli and Ambassador Cretz returned; he had been evacuated previously. And Chris Stevens stayed in Benghazi. Does that sound like an accurate summary of the summer of 2011?

CLINTON: It does sound accurate, except I’m not sure exactly the duration of Ambassador Stevens’ presence in Benghazi during those months.

BROOKS: Well, that leads to my next question. What was your plan for the mission in the fall of 2011 and going forward? What were the discussions you had and who did you have those discussions with about the mission of Benghazi going forward in 2011?

CLINTON: Well, as you may have heard, Congresswoman, the e-mail that Congresswoman Sanchez introduced into the record was from the fall of 2011. And there was quite a discussion going on between officials in the State Department, in the intelligence community, in both Washington and Libya about the path forward.

The Transitional National Council had been based in Benghazi, and there was a dispute even within the Libyans themselves as to whether they would split the government, whether the government would be located predominantly but not exclusively in Tripoli or as some were hoping predominantly but not exclusively in Benghazi. So this was all a very live subject that was being debated both in Libya and with respect to what our response would be in Washington.

So we, at Chris Stevens’ strong urging and that of other of our experienced diplomats, wanted to maintain a presence in Benghazi in some form. We re-opened our embassy in Tripoli which had been the historical capital certainly under Gadhafi. But this was a constant discussion about what we should do when and where, and I think that’s why this e-mail from Chris Stevens about his recommendations is so informative.

BROOKS: Well, thank you and I’ll get to that in just a moment. But I have to ask you, I assume that your chief of staff Cheryl Mills was intimately involved in these discussions with you and with your top staff. She’s one of your staff as you were referring to them, is that right?

CLINTON: Well, she covered a broad range of issues. I’m sure she was involved in some of the discussions, but she had many other responsibilities, so I can’t say all of them.

BROOKS: I’d like to refer to you an update on Tripoli operations provided to Cheryl Mills on September 14th. And at the top of that two-page memo, assumptions for Benghazi in September were gradual winding down of operations over the next six months, transition to Tripoli only — transition to Tripoli only by January 2012, no consulate. No consulate meant no consulate in Benghazi. This was in September.

Would that be fair and accurate? And would you — were you in that briefing with Ms. Mills, or did she brief you about the fact that in September the gameplan was to shut down Benghazi?

CLINTON: Well, I think you have to look at that in context, Congresswoman. There was not an active plan for a consulate in Benghazi at any point during this period. That is not what the compound in Benghazi was. It was a temporary facility placed there to help us make a determination as to what we would need going forward in Benghazi…

BROOKS: Excuse me, madam secretary.

CLINTON: There was a strong argument that Chris Stevens and others made that they hoped eventually there might be a consulate, but there was never an agreement to have a consulate.

BROOKS: And, in fact, it had been deemed a consulate, it would have had a different level of security, is that correct, than a temporary mission compound, is that accurate?

CLINTON: Well, we have…

BROOKS: Is that accurate, that consulates have certain levels of security. There are standards, there are protocols. When it is a consulate, it gets a certain level of security.

CLINTON: That is the hoped-for outcome. That is not what happens in the beginning in many places, especially the hot spots and the conflict areas where a consulate is stood up.

BROOKS: Can you talk with me about the decision, then — there is a briefing with respect to — after the closing, rather, of the consulate in Benghazi by January of 2012. We know it didn’t close. It did not close. You went to Tripoli in October of 2011. Ambassador Cretz was still there. How about Chris Stevens? Did Chris Stevens come over from Benghazi to see you when you went for the big trip in October ’11?

CLINTON: I don’t recall. I don’t recall if he did or not. This was — this — this was about Ambassador Cretz, and Ambassador Cretz was the person that we were meeting with at that time.

BROOKS: What was your purpose for meeting with Ambassador Cretz if Chris Stevens was your expert in Libya?

CLINTON: Ambassador Cretz was an expert as well. Ambassador Cretz was our ambassador. You remember, as I mentioned to you before, he had been our ambassador, and then because he reported very accurately about what he observed regarding Gadhafi and Gadhafi’s henchmen, when Wikileaks disclosed internal U.S. government cables and Gene Cretz’s cables were publicized talking very critically about Gadhafi he was then subjected to threats and then we took him out. We did not close the embassy at that time.

So, he had returned to finish out his time and we were in the process of moving him to another assignment and nominating Chris Stevens to replace him.

BROOKS: But you didn’t, during that one trip to Libya, you didn’t talk to Chris Stevens, best of your recollection at that time?

CLINTON: While I was in Libya, I don’t recall that. Of course we consulted with him in respect to planning the trip, as to who we would meet with, what we would ask for.

We were trying very hard to get people in positions of authority at that time in Libya to let us work with them on everything from border security to collecting weapons and trying to disarm the militias. We had a lot of business we were doing with them.

BROOKS: So going back to Miss Sanchez’s e-mail with respect from John Stevens to Miss Polysheck (ph), it talks about Option A, as you’ve pointed out, slimming down the compound, and so he weighed in on — in October he was weighing in on whether or not the compound should stay open.

But I’d like to direct your attention to an e-mail that’s at tab four, dated December 15th from Chris Stevens.

And I might add for the record, we do not, still to this day, have all of Chris Stevens e-mails. We received 1,300 more this week. We received most of them last week. We don’t have the universe yet of Ambassador Stevens e-mails.

But he e-mailed to a reporting officer who we know was in Benghazi still. He wrote, “Interesting. Has security improved in Benghazi in recent weeks? Also curious what you guys decided to do regarding future of the compound. He was in Washington, D.C., or back in the States during that time, and in December Ambassador Stevens, your soon-to-be ambassador, didn’t know what was going to happen with the compound in Benghazi, how is that possible?

Updates coming …

 

 

Full Text Obama Presidency October 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by the President

Source: WH, 10-2-15

State Dining Room

3:55 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to take a couple of questions from the press.  But first, a few additional pieces of business.

First of all, we learned today that our businesses created another 118,000 new jobs in September, which means that we now have had 67 straight months of job creation; 13.2 million new jobs in all — and an unemployment rate that has fallen from a high of 10 percent down to 5.1 percent.  These long-term trends are obviously good news, particularly for every American waking up each morning and heading off to a new job.

But we would be doing even better if we didn’t have to keep on dealing with unnecessary crises in Congress every few months. And this is especially important right now, because although the American economy has been chugging along at a steady pace, much of the global economy is softening.  We’ve seen an impact on our exports, which was a major driver of growth for us particularly at the beginning of the recovery.  And so our own growth could slow if Congress does not do away with some of the counterproductive austerity measures that they have put in place, and if Congress does not avoid the kind of manufactured crises that shatter consumer confidence and could disrupt an already skittish global economy.

On Wednesday, more than half of Republicans voted to shut down the government for the second time in two years.  The good news is that there were enough votes in both parties to pass a last-minute bill to keep the government open and operating for another 10 weeks before we can get a more long-term solution.  But keep in mind that gimmick only sets up another potential manufactured crisis just two weeks before Christmas.

And I’ve said this before, I want to repeat it — this is not the way the United States should be operating.

Oftentimes I hear from folks up on Capitol Hill, “the need for American leadership,” “the need for America to be number one.”  Well, you know what, around the globe, part of what makes us a leader is when we govern effectively and we keep our own house in order, and we pass budgets, and we can engage in long-term planning, and we can invest in the things that are important for the future.  That’s U.S. leadership.

When we fail to do that, we diminish U.S. leadership.  It’s not how we are supposed to operate.  And we can’t just keep on kicking down the road without solving any problems or doing any long-term planning for the future.  That’s true for our military; that’s true for our domestic programs.  The American people, American families deserve better.  And we can grow faster and the economy can improve if Congress acts with dispatch.  It will get worse if they don’t.

That’s why I want to be very clear:  I will not sign another shortsighted spending bill like the one Congress sent me this week.  We purchased ourselves 10 additional weeks; we need to use them effectively.

Keep in mind that a few years ago, both parties put in place harmful automatic cuts that make no distinction between spending we don’t need and spending we do.  We can revisit the history of how that happened — I have some rather grim memories of it.  But the notion was that even as we were bringing down the deficit, we would come up with a sustainable, smart, long-term approach to investing in the things that we need.  That didn’t happen.  And so now these cuts that have been maintained have been keeping our economy from growing faster.  It’s time to undo them.  If we don’t, then we will have to fund our economic and national security priorities in 2016 at the same levels that we did in 2006.

Now, understand, during that decade, between 2006 and 2016, our economy has grown by 12 percent.  Our population has grown by 8 percent.  New threats have emerged; new opportunities have appeared.  We can’t fund our country the way we did 10 years ago because we have greater demands — with an aging population, with kids who need schools, with roads that need to be fixed, with a military on which we are placing extraordinary demands.

And we can’t cut our way to prosperity.  Other countries have tried it and it has not worked.  We’ve grown faster than they have because we did not pursue these blind, unthinking cuts to necessary investments for our growth.  And by the way, because we’ve grown faster than them, we’ve brought our deficits down faster than they have.

I want to repeat this because the public apparently never believes it.  Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  The deficit has not been going up; it has been coming down — precipitously.  We’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  They’re below the average deficits over the past 40 years.

So the bottom line is, Congress has to do its job.  It can’t flirt with another shutdown.  It should pass a serious budget.  And if they do, and get rid of some of these mindless cuts, even as we’re still prudent about maintaining the spending that we need but not spending we don’t need and is not working, their own non-partisan budget office estimates we’re going to add an extra half-million jobs to our economy next year alone.  We can immediately put half a million more people back to work if we just have a more sensible budget.

And in these negotiations, nobody is going to get everything they want.  We have to work together, though, even if we disagree, in order to do the people’s business.  At some point we have to want to govern, and not just play politics or play to various political bases.  At some point, we need to pass bills so that we can rebuild our roads, and keep our kids learning, and our military strong, and help people prepare for and recover from disasters.  That is Congress’s most basic job.  That’s what our government is supposed to do — serve the American people.

So with that, let me take some questions.  And I’ll start with Julie Pace of AP.

Hang in there, kids.  (Laughter.)

Q    It will be over soon.  Thank you, Mr. President.  There have been several developments in Syria that I wanted to ask you about, starting with Russia’s involvement.  You met with President Putin earlier this week, and I wonder if you think he was honest with you about his intentions in Syria.  If Russia is targeting groups beyond the Islamic State, including U.S.-aligned groups, does the U.S. military have an obligation to protect them?  And on the situation in Syria more broadly, there have obviously been failures in the U.S. train-and-equip program.  Do you believe that that program can be fixed or do you have to look at other options?  Would you, in particular, be willing to reconsider a no-fly zone, which several presidential candidates, including your former Secretary of State, are now calling for?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first and foremost, let’s understand what’s happening in Syria and how we got here.  What started off as peaceful protests against Assad, the president, evolved into a civil war because Assad met those protests with unimaginable brutality.  And so this is not a conflict between the United States and any party in Syria; this is a conflict between the Syrian people and a brutal, ruthless dictator.

Point number two is that the reason Assad is still in power is because Russia and Iran have supported him throughout this process.  And in that sense, what Russia is doing now is not particularly different from what they had been doing in the past — they’re just more overt about it.  They’ve been propping up a regime that is rejected by an overwhelming majority of the Syrian population because they’ve seen that he has been willing to drop barrel bombs on children and on villages indiscriminately, and has been more concerned about clinging to power than the state of his country.

So in my discussions with President Putin, I was very clear that the only way to solve the problem in Syria is to have a political transition that is inclusive — that keeps the state intact, that keeps the military intact, that maintains cohesion, but that is inclusive — and the only way to accomplish that is for Mr. Assad to transition, because you cannot rehabilitate him in the eyes of Syrians.  This is not a judgment I’m making; it is a judgment that the overwhelming majority of Syrians make.

And I said to Mr. Putin that I’d be prepared to work with him if he is willing to broker with his partners, Mr. Assad and Iran, a political transition — we can bring the rest of the world community to a brokered solution — but that a military solution alone, an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire.  And it won’t work.  And they will be there for a while if they don’t take a different course.

I also said to him that it is true that the United States and Russia and the entire world have a common interest in destroying ISIL.  But what was very clear — and regardless of what Mr. Putin said — was that he doesn’t distinguish between ISIL and a moderate Sunni opposition that wants to see Mr. Assad go.  From their perspective, they’re all terrorists.  And that’s a recipe for disaster, and it’s one that I reject.

So where we are now is that we are having technical conversations about de-confliction so that we’re not seeing U.S. and American firefights in the air.  But beyond that, we’re very clear in sticking to our belief and our policy that the problem here is Assad and the brutality that he has inflicted on the Syrian people, and that it has to stop.  And in order for it to stop, we’re prepared to work with all the parties concerned.  But we are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior.

Keep in mind also, from a practical perspective, the moderate opposition in Syria is one that if we’re ever going to have to have a political transition, we need.  And the Russian policy is driving those folks underground or creating a situation in which they are de-capacitated, and it’s only strengthening ISIL.  And that’s not good for anybody.

In terms of our support of opposition groups inside of Syria, I made very clear early on that the United States couldn’t impose a military solution on Syria either, but that it was in our interest to make sure that we were engaged with moderate opposition inside of Syria because eventually Syria will fall, the Assad regime will fall, and we have to have somebody who we’re working with that we can help pick up the pieces and stitch back together a cohesive, coherent country.  And so we will continue to support them.

The training-and-equip program was a specific initiative by the Defense Department to see if we could get some of that moderate opposition to focus attention on ISIL in the eastern portion of the country.  And I’m the first one to acknowledge it has not worked the way it was supposed to, Julie.  And I think that the Department of Defense would say the same thing.  And part of the reason, frankly, is because when we tried to get them to just focus on ISIL, the response we’d get back is, how can we focus on ISIL when every single day we’re having barrel bombs and attacks from the regime?  And so it’s been hard to get them to reprioritize, looking east, when they’ve got bombs coming at them from the west.

So what we’re doing with the train-and-equip is looking at where we have had success — for example, working with some of the Kurdish community in the east that pushed ISIL out — seeing if we can build on that.  But what we’re also going to continue to do is to have contacts with and work with opposition that, rightly, believes that in the absence of some change of government inside of Syria we’re going to continue to see civil war, and that is going to turbocharge ISIL recruitment and jihadist recruitment, and we’re going to continue to have problems.

Now, last point I just want to make about this — because sometimes the conversation here in the Beltway differs from the conversation internationally.  Mr. Putin had to go into Syria not out of strength but out of weakness, because his client, Mr. Assad, was crumbling.  And it was insufficient for him simply to send them arms and money; now he’s got to put in his own planes and his own pilots.  And the notion that he put forward a plan and that somehow the international community sees that as viable because there is a vacuum there — I didn’t see, after he made that speech in the United Nations, suddenly the 60-nation coalition that we have start lining up behind him.

Iran and Assad make up Mr. Putin’s coalition at the moment. The rest of the world makes up ours.  So I don’t think people are fooled by the current strategy.  It does not mean that we could not see Mr. Putin begin to recognize that it is in their interest to broker a political settlement.  And as I said in New York, we’re prepared to work with the Russians and the Iranians, as well as our partners who are part of the anti-ISIL coalition to come up with that political transition.  And nobody pretends that it’s going to be easy, but I think it is still possible.  And so we will maintain lines of communication.

But we are not going to be able to get those negotiations going if there is not a recognition that there’s got to be a change in government.  We’re not going to go back to the status quo ante.  And the kinds of airstrikes against moderate opposition that Russia is engaging in is going to be counterproductive.  It’s going to move us farther away rather than towards the ultimate solution that we’re all — that we all should be looking for.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Julie, throughout this process, I think people have constantly looked for an easy, low-cost answer — whether it’s we should have sent more rifles in early and somehow then everything would have been okay; or if I had taken that shot even after Assad offered to give up his chemical weapons, then immediately things would have folded, or the Assad regime would have folded, and we would have suddenly seen a peaceful Syria.

This is a hugely, difficult, complex problem.  And I would have hoped that we would have learned that from Afghanistan and Iraq, where we have devoted enormous time and effort and resources with the very best people and have given the Afghan people and the Iraqi people an opportunity for democracy.  But it’s still hard, as we saw this week in Afghanistan.  That’s not by virtue of a lack of effort on our part, or a lack of commitment.  We’ve still got 10,000 folks in Afghanistan.  We’re still spending billions of dollar supporting that government, and it’s still tough.

So when I make a decision about the level of military involvement that we’re prepared to engage in, in Syria, I have to make a judgment based on, once we start something we’ve got to finish it, and we’ve got to do it well.  And do we, in fact, have the resources and the capacity to make a serious impact — understanding that we’ve still got to go after ISIL in Iraq; we still have to support the training of an Iraqi military that is weaker than any of us perceived; that we still have business to do in Afghanistan.  And so I push — and have consistently over the last four, five years sought out a wide range of opinions about steps that we can take potentially to move Syria in a better direction.

I am under no illusions about what an incredible humanitarian catastrophe this is, and the hardships that we’re seeing, and the refugees that are traveling in very dangerous circumstances and now creating real political problems among our allies in Europe, and the heartbreaking images of children drowned trying to escape war, and the potential impact of such a destabilized country on our allies in the region.  But what we have learned over the last 10, 12, 13 years is that unless we can get the parties on the ground to agree to live together in some fashion, then no amount of U.S. military engagement will solve the problem.  And we will find ourselves either doing just a little bit and not making a difference, and losing credibility that way, or finding ourselves drawn in deeper and deeper into a situation that we can’t sustain.

And when I hear people offering up half-baked ideas as if they are solutions, or trying to downplay the challenges involved in this situation — what I’d like to see people ask is, specifically, precisely, what exactly would you do, and how would you fund it, and how would you sustain it?  And typically, what you get is a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

So these are hard challenges.  They are ones that we are going to continue to pursue.  The topline message that I want everybody to understand is we are going to continue to go after ISIL.  We are going to continue to reach out to a moderate opposition.  We reject Russia’s theory that everybody opposed to Assad is a terrorist.  We think that is self-defeating.  It will get them into a quagmire.  It will be used as a further recruitment tool for foreign fighters.

We will work with the international community and our coalition to relieve the humanitarian pressure.  On refugees, we are working with the Turks and others to see what we can do along the border to make things safer for people.  But ultimately, we’re going to have to find a way for a political transition if we’re going to solve Syria.

Jon Karl.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    Back in July you said that the gun issue has been the most frustrating of your presidency, and we certainly heard that frustration from you last night.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    So in the last 15 months of your presidency, do you intend to do anything differently to get Congress to act or to do something about this gun violence problem?

And I have to get you to respond to something that Jeb Bush just said, and to be fair to Governor Bush I want to read it directly.  Asked about the drive to take action in light of what happened in Oregon, he said, “Look, stuff happens.  There’s always a crisis.  And the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not always the right thing to do.”  How would you react to Governor Bush?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t even think I have to react to that one.  (Laughter.)  I think the American people should hear that and make their own judgments, based on the fact that every couple of months, we have a mass shooting, and in terms of — and they can decide whether they consider that “stuff happening”.

In terms of what I can do, I’ve asked my team — as I have in the past — to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  Are there additional actions that we can take that might prevent even a handful of these tragic deaths from taking place?  But as I said last night, this will not change until the politics change and the behavior of elected officials changes.

And so the main thing I’m going to do is I’m going to talk about this on a regular basis, and I will politicize it because our inaction is a political decision that we are making.

The reason that Congress does not support even the modest gun safety laws that we proposed after Sandy Hook is not because the majority of the American people don’t support it.  I mean, normally, politicians are responsive to the views of the electorate.  Here you’ve got the majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do.  Background checks, other common-sense steps that would maybe save some lives couldn’t even get a full vote.  And why is that?  It’s because of politics.  It’s because interest groups fund campaigns, feed people fear. And in fairness, it’s not just in the Republican Party — although the Republican Party is just uniformly opposed to all gun safety laws.  And unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem.

For example, you’ll hear people talk about the problem is not guns, it’s mental illness.  Well, if you talk to people who study this problem, it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men, but there are hundreds of millions of angry young men around the world — tens of millions of angry young men.  Most of them don’t shoot.  It doesn’t help us just to identify — and the majority of people who have mental illnesses are not shooters.  So we can’t sort through and identify ahead of time who might take actions like this.  The only thing we can do is make sure that they can’t have an entire arsenal when something snaps in them.

And if we’re going to do something about that, the politics has to change.  The politics has to change.  And the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side who are absolutists and think that any gun safety measures are somehow an assault on freedom, or communistic — or a plot by me to takeover and stay in power forever or something.  (Laughter.)  I mean, there are all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theories that float around there — some of which, by the way, are ratified by elected officials in the other party on occasion.

So we’ve got to change the politics of this.  And that requires people to feel — not just feel deeply — because I get a lot of letters after this happens — “do something!”  Well, okay, here’s what you need to do.  You have to make sure that anybody who you are voting for is on the right side of this issue.  And if they’re not, even if they’re great on other stuff, for a couple of election cycles you’ve got to vote against them, and let them know precisely why you’re voting against them.  And you just have to, for a while, be a single-issue voter because that’s what is happening on the other side.

And that’s going to take some time.  I mean, the NRA has had a good start.  They’ve been at this a long time, they’ve perfected what they do.  You’ve got to give them credit — they’re very effective, because they don’t represent the majority of the American people but they know how to stir up fear; they know how to stir up their base; they know how to raise money; they know how to scare politicians; they know how to organize campaigns.  And the American people are going to have to match them in their sense of urgency if we’re actually going to stop this.

Which isn’t to say stopping all violence.  We’re not going to stop all violence.  Violence exists around the world, sadly.  Part of original sin.  But our homicide rates are just a lot higher than other places — that, by the way, have the same levels of violence.  It’s just you can’t kill as many people when you don’t have easy access to these kinds of weapons.

And I’m deeply saddened about what happened yesterday.  But Arne is going back to Chicago — let’s not forget, this is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country.  Every single day.  Kids are just running for their lives, trying to get to school.  Broderick, when we were down in New Orleans, sitting down with a group of young men, when we were talking about Katrina, and I’ve got two young men next to me, both of them had been shot multiple times.  They were barely 20.

So we got to make a decision.  If we think that’s normal, then we have to own it.  I don’t think it’s normal.  I think it’s abnormal.  I think we should change it.  But I can’t do it by myself.

So the main thing I’m going to do, Jon, is talk about it.  And hope that over time I’m changing enough minds — along with other leaders around the country — that we start finally seeing some action.  I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight.

Cheryl Bolen.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  To go back to your opening remarks, you said that you won’t sign another short-term CR.  But as you know, yesterday Secretary Lew announced that the government’s borrowing authority would run out around November 5th.  Would you recommend negotiating an increase in the debt ceiling as part of these budget negotiations on spending caps?  And also does the Speaker’s race complicate these negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sure the Speaker’s race complicates these negotiations.  (Laughter.)  That was a rhetorical question. (Laughter.)  It will complicate the negotiations.  But when it comes to the debt ceiling, we’re not going back there.

Maybe it’s been a while, so let me just refresh everybody’s memory.  Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more, it simply authorizes us to pay the bills that we have already incurred.  It is the way for the United States to maintain its good credit rating — the full faith and credit of the United States.

Historically, we do not mess with it.  If it gets messed with, it would have profound implications for the global economy and could put our financial system in the kind of tailspin that we saw back in 2007-2008.  It’s just a bad thing to do.  So we’re not going to negotiate on that.  It has to get done in the next five weeks.  So even though the continuing resolution to keep the government open lasts for 10 weeks, we have to get the debt ceiling raised in five.  You’ve got a shorter timetable to get that done.

But here’s the bottom line:  Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, myself, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid — we’ve all spoken and talked about trying to negotiate a budget agreement.  And, yes, Speaker Boehner’s decision to step down complicates it.  But I do think that there is still a path for us to come up with a reasonable agreement that raises the spending caps above sequester to make sure that we can properly finance both our defense and nondefense needs, that maintains a prudent control of our deficits, and that we can do that in short order.  It’s not that complicated.  The math is the math.

And what I’ve encouraged is that we get started on that work immediately, and we push through over the next several weeks — and try to leave out extraneous issues that may prevent us from getting a budget agreement.

I know, for example, that there are many Republicans who are exercised about Planned Parenthood.  And I deeply disagree with them on that issue, and I think that it’s mischaracterized what Planned Parenthood does.  But I understand that they feel strongly about it, and I respect that.  But you can’t have an issue like that potentially wreck the entire U.S. economy — any more than I should hold the entire budget hostage to my desire to do something about gun violence.  I feel just as strongly about that and I think I’ve got better evidence for it.  But the notion that I would threaten the Republicans that unless they passed gun safety measures that would stop mass shootings I’m going to shut down the government and not sign an increase in the debt ceiling would be irresponsible of me.  And the American people, rightly, would reject that.

Well, same is true for them.  There are some fights that we fight individually.  They want to defund Planned Parenthood, there’s a way to do it.  Pass a law, override my veto.  That’s true across a whole bunch of issues that they disagree with me on, and that’s how democracy works.  I got no problem with that.

But you have to govern.  And I’m hoping that the next Speaker understands that the problem Speaker Boehner had or Mitch McConnell had in not dismantling Obamacare, or not eliminating the Department of Education, or not deporting every immigrant in this country was not because Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell didn’t care about conservative principles.  It had to do with the fact that they can’t do it in our system of government, which requires compromise.  Just like I can’t do everything I want in passing an immigration bill, or passing a gun safety bill.  And that doesn’t mean, then, I throw a tantrum and try to wreck the economy, and put hardworking Americans who are just now able to dig themselves out of a massive recession, put them in harm’s way.  Wrong thing to do.

Peter Alexander.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You addressed — I want to follow up on Jon’s questions about the issue that’s obviously deeply personal and moving to you — that is the gun issue.  Apart from Congress’s inaction, apart from the desire for new laws and, beyond that, apart from the gun lobby, as you noted, the pattern is that these perpetrators are angry, aggrieved, oftentimes mentally ill young men.  Is there something that you can do with the bully pulpit, with your moral authority, with your remaining time in office to help reach these individuals who believe that gun violence is the way out?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  I think I can continue to speak to the American people as a whole and hopefully model for them basic social norms about rejecting violence, and cooperation and caring for other people.  But there are a lot of young men out there.  And having been one myself once, I can tell you that us being able to identify or pinpoint who might have problems is extraordinarily difficult.

So I think we, as a culture, should continuously think about how we can nurture our kids, protect our kids, talk to them about conflict resolution, discourage violence.  And I think there are poor communities where, rather than mass shootings, you’re seeing just normal interactions that used to be settled by a fistfight settled with guns where maybe intervention programs and mentorship and things like that can work.  That’s the kind of thing that we’re trying to encourage through My Brother’s Keeper.

But when it comes to reaching every disaffected young man, 99 percent of — or 99.9 percent of whom will hopefully grow out of it — I don’t think that there’s a silver bullet there.  The way we are going to solve this problem is that when they act out, when they are disturbed, when that particular individual has a problem, that they can’t easily access weapons that can perpetrate mass violence on a lot of people.

Because that’s what other countries do.  Again, I want to emphasize this.  There’s no showing that somehow we are inherently more violent than any other advanced nation, or that young men are inherently more violent in our nation than they are in other nations.  I will say young men inherently are more violent than the rest of the population, but there’s no sense that somehow this is — it’s something in the American character that is creating this.  Levels of violence are on par between the United States and other advanced countries.  What is different is homicide rates and gun violence rates and mass shooting rates.  So it’s not that the behavior or the impulses are necessarily different as much as it is that they have access to more powerful weapons.

Julia Edwards.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You just said that you reject President Putin’s approach to Syria and his attacks on moderate opposition forces.  You said it was a recipe for disaster.  But what are you willing to do to stop President Putin and protect moderate opposition fighters?  Would you consider imposing sanctions against Russia?  Would you go so far as to equip moderate rebels with anti-aircraft weapons to protect them from Russian air attacks?  And how do you respond to critics who say Putin is outsmarting you, that he took a measure of you in Ukraine and he felt he could get away with it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I’ve heard it all before.  (Laughter.) I’ve got to say I’m always struck by the degree to which not just critics but I think people buy this narrative.

Let’s think about this.  So when I came into office seven and a half years ago, America had precipitated the worst financial crisis in history, dragged the entire world into a massive recession.  We were involved in two wars with almost no coalition support.  U.S. — world opinion about the United States was at a nadir — we were just barely above Russia at that time, and I think potentially slightly below China’s.  And we were shedding 800,000 jobs a month, and so on and so forth.

And today, we’re the strongest large advanced economy in the world — probably one of the few bright spots in the world economy.  Our approval ratings have gone up.  We are more active on more international issues and forge international responses to everything from Ebola to countering ISIL.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin comes into office at a time when the economy had been growing and they were trying to pivot to a more diversified economy, and as a consequence of these brilliant moves, their economy is contracting 4 percent this year.  They are isolated in the world community, subject to sanctions that are not just applied by us but by what used to be some of their closest trading partners.  Their main allies in the Middle East were Libya and Syria — Mr. Gaddafi and Mr. Assad — and those countries are falling apart.  And he’s now just had to send in troops and aircraft in order to prop up this regime, at the risk of alienating the entire Sunni world.

So what was the question again?  (Laughter.)

No, but I think it’s really interesting to understand.  Russia is not stronger as a consequence of what they’ve been doing.  They get attention.  The sanctions against Ukraine are still in place.  And what I’ve consistently offered — from a position of strength, because the United States is not subject to sanctions and we’re not contracting 4 percent a year — what I’ve offered is a pathway whereby they can get back onto a path of growth and do right by their people.

So Mr. Putin’s actions have been successful only insofar as it’s boosted his poll ratings inside of Russia — which may be why the beltway is so impressed, because that tends to be the measure of success.  Of course, it’s easier to do when you’ve got a state-controlled media.

But this is not a smart, strategic move on Russia’s part.  And what Russia has now done is not only committed its own troops into a situation in which the overwhelming majority of the Syrian population sees it now as an enemy, but the Sunni population throughout the Middle East is going to see it as a supporter, an endorser, of those barrel bombs landing on kids — at a time when Russia has a significant Muslim population inside of its own borders that it needs to worry about.

So I want Russia to be successful.  This is not a contest between the United States and Russia.  It is in our interest for Russia to be a responsible, effective actor on the international stage that can share burdens with us, along with China, along with Europe, along with Japan, along with other countries — because the problems we have are big.  So I’m hopeful that Mr. Putin, having made this doubling-down of the support he has provided to Mr. Assad, recognizes that this is not going to be a good long-term strategy and that he works instead to bring about a political settlement.

Just as I hope that they can resolve the issues with Ukraine in a way that recognizes Russian equities but upholds the basic principle of sovereignty and independence that the Ukrainian people should enjoy like everybody else.  But until that time, we’re going to continue to have tensions and we’re going to continue to have differences.

But we’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia.  That would be bad strategy on our part.  This is a battle between Russia, Iran, and Assad against the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people.  Our battle is with ISIL, and our battle is with the entire international community to resolve the conflict in a way that can end the bloodshed and end the refugee crisis, and allow people to be at home, work, grow food, shelter their children, send those kids to school.  That’s the side we’re on.

This is not some superpower chessboard contest.  And anybody who frames it in that way isn’t paying very close attention to what’s been happening on the chessboard.

All right, last question.  Major Garrett.

Q    Mr. President, good to see you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good to see you.

Q    And for the children there, I promise I won’t take too long.  So you’ve been very patient.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve been boring them to death, I guarantee it.  (Laughter.)  But there have been times where I’ve snagged rebounds for Ryan when he is shooting three-pointers so he has got to put up with this.  (Laughter.)

Q    Understood.  Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell the country to what degree you were changed or moved by what you discussed in private with Pope Francis?  What do you think his visit might have meant for the country long term?  And for Democrats who might already be wondering, is it too late for Joe Biden to decide whether or not to run for President?  And lastly, just to clarify, to what degree did Hillary Clinton’s endorsement just yesterday of a no-fly zone put her in a category of embracing a half-baked answer on Syria that borders on mumbo jumbo?

THE PRESIDENT:  On the latter issue, on the last question that you asked, Hillary Clinton is not half-baked in terms of her approach to these problems.  She was obviously my Secretary of State.  But I also think that there’s a difference between running for President and being President, and the decisions that are being made and the discussions that I’m having with the Joint Chiefs become much more specific and require, I think, a different kind of judgment.  And that’s what I’ll continue to apply as long as I’m here.  And if and when she’s President, then she’ll make those judgments.  And she’s been there enough that she knows that these are tough calls but that —

Q    — that she should know better?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, that’s not what I said.  That’s perhaps what you said.  What I’m saying is, is that we all want to try to relieve the suffering in Syria, but my job is to make sure that whatever we do we are doing in a way that serves the national security interests of the American people; that doesn’t lead to us getting into things that we can’t get out of or that we cannot do effectively; and as much as possible, that we’re working with international partners.

And we’re going to continue to explore things that we can do to protect people and to deal with the humanitarian situation there, and to provide a space in which we can bring about the kind of political transition that’s going to be required to solve the problem.  And I think Hillary Clinton would be the first to say that when you’re sitting in the seat that I’m sitting in, in the Situation Room, things look a little bit different — because she’s been right there next to me.

I love Joe Biden, and he’s got his own decisions to make, and I’ll leave it at that.  And in the meantime, he’s doing a great job as Vice President and has been really helpful on a whole bunch of issues.

Pope Francis I love.  He is a good man with a warm heart and a big moral imagination.  And I think he had such an impact in his visit here — as he has had around the world — because he cares so deeply about the least of these, and in that sensea expresses what I consider to be, as a Christian, the essence of Christianity.  And he’s got a good sense of humor.  (Laughter.)  Well, I can’t share all his jokes.  They were all clean.  (Laughter.)

And as I said in the introduction in the South Lawn when he appeared here at the White House, I think it’s really useful that he makes us uncomfortable in his gentle way; that he’s constantly prodding people’s consciences and asking everybody all across the political spectrum what more you can do to be kind, and to be helpful, and to love, and to sacrifice, and to serve.  And in that sense, I don’t think he’s somebody where we should be applying the typical American political measures — liberal and conservative, and left and right — I think he is speaking to all of our consciences, and we all have to then search ourselves to see if there are ways that we can do better.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It did.  I think that when I spend time with somebody like the Pontiff — and there are other individuals, some of whom are famous, some of whom are not, but who are good people and deeply moral — then it makes me want to be better, makes me want to do better.  And those people are great gifts to the world.  And sometimes they’re just a teacher in a classroom. And sometimes they’re your neighbor.  And sometimes they’re your mom, or your wife.  Sometimes they’re your kids.  But they can encourage you to be better.  That’s what we’re all trying to do.

And that’s part of the wonderful thing about Pope Francis, is the humility that he brings to do this.  His rejection of the absolutism that says I’m 100 percent right and you’re 100 percent wrong; but rather, we are all sinners and we are all children of God.  That’s a pretty good starting point for being better.

All right.  Thank you, guys, for your patience.  You can now go home.  (Laughter.)

Thanks.

END

4:53 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 28, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the United Nations General Assembly Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama to the United Nations General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-28-15

United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York

10:18 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:  Seventy years after the founding of the United Nations, it is worth reflecting on what, together, the members of this body have helped to achieve.

Out of the ashes of the Second World War, having witnessed the unthinkable power of the atomic age, the United States has worked with many nations in this Assembly to prevent a third world war — by forging alliances with old adversaries; by supporting the steady emergence of strong democracies accountable to their people instead of any foreign power; and by building an international system that imposes a cost on those who choose conflict over cooperation, an order that recognizes the dignity and equal worth of all people.

That is the work of seven decades.  That is the ideal that this body, at its best, has pursued.  Of course, there have been too many times when, collectively, we have fallen short of these ideals.  Over seven decades, terrible conflicts have claimed untold victims.  But we have pressed forward, slowly, steadily, to make a system of international rules and norms that are better and stronger and more consistent.

It is this international order that has underwritten unparalleled advances in human liberty and prosperity.  It is this collective endeavor that’s brought about diplomatic cooperation between the world’s major powers, and buttressed a global economy that has lifted more than a billion people from poverty.  It is these international principles that helped constrain bigger countries from imposing our will on smaller ones, and advanced the emergence of democracy and development and individual liberty on every continent.

This progress is real.  It can be documented in lives saved, and agreements forged, and diseases conquered, and in mouths fed. And yet, we come together today knowing that the march of human progress never travels in a straight line, that our work is far from complete; that dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world.

Today, we see the collapse of strongmen and fragile states breeding conflict, and driving innocent men, women and children across borders on an *epoch epic scale.  Brutal networks of terror have stepped into the vacuum.  Technologies that empower individuals are now also exploited by those who spread disinformation, or suppress dissent, or radicalize our youth.  Global capital flows have powered growth and investment, but also increased risk of contagion, weakened the bargaining power of workers, and accelerated inequality.

How should we respond to these trends?  There are those who argue that the ideals enshrined in the U.N. charter are unachievable or out of date — a legacy of a postwar era not suited to our own.  Effectively, they argue for a return to the rules that applied for most of human history and that pre-date this institution: the belief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must impose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order must be imposed by force.

On this basis, we see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law.  We see an erosion of the democratic principles and human rights that are fundamental to this institution’s mission; information is strictly controlled, the space for civil society restricted.  We’re told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder; that it’s the only way to stamp out terrorism, or prevent foreign meddling.  In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse.

The increasing skepticism of our international order can also be found in the most advanced democracies.  We see greater polarization, more frequent gridlock; movements on the far right, and sometimes the left, that insist on stopping the trade that binds our fates to other nations, calling for the building of walls to keep out immigrants.  Most ominously, we see the fears of ordinary people being exploited through appeals to sectarianism, or tribalism, or racism, or anti-Semitism; appeals to a glorious past before the body politic was infected by those who look different, or worship God differently; a politics of us versus them.

The United States is not immune from this.  Even as our economy is growing and our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we see in our debates about America’s role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace.  We see an argument made that the only strength that matters for the United States is bellicose words and shows of military force; that cooperation and diplomacy will not work.

As President of the United States, I am mindful of the dangers that we face; they cross my desk every morning.  I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.

But I stand before you today believing in my core that we, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion.  We cannot look backwards.  We live in an integrated world — one in which we all have a stake in each other’s success.  We cannot turn those forces of integration.  No nation in this Assembly can insulate itself from the threat of terrorism, or the risk of financial contagion; the flow of migrants, or the danger of a warming planet.  The disorder we see is not driven solely by competition between nations or any single ideology.  And if we cannot work together more effectively, we will all suffer the consequences.  That is true for the United States, as well.

No matter how powerful our military, how strong our economy, we understand the United States cannot solve the world’s problems alone.  In Iraq, the United States learned the hard lesson that even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury, cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land.  Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed.  And unless we work together to defeat the ideas that drive different communities in a country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our militaries can impose will be temporary.

Just as force alone cannot impose order internationally, I believe in my core that repression cannot forge the social cohesion for nations to succeed.  The history of the last two decades proves that in today’s world, dictatorships are unstable. The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow.  You can jail your opponents, but you can’t imprison ideas.  You can try to control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.  It is not a conspiracy of U.S.-backed NGOs that expose corruption and raise the expectations of people around the globe; it’s technology, social media, and the irreducible desire of people everywhere to make their own choices about how they are governed.

Indeed, I believe that in today’s world, the measure of strength is no longer defined by the control of territory.   Lasting prosperity does not come solely from the ability to access and extract raw materials.  The strength of nations depends on the success of their people — their knowledge, their innovation, their imagination, their creativity, their drive, their opportunity — and that, in turn, depends upon individual rights and good governance and personal security.  Internal repression and foreign aggression are both symptoms of the failure to provide this foundation.

A politics and solidarity that depend on demonizing others, that draws on religious sectarianism or narrow tribalism or jingoism may at times look like strength in the moment, but over time its weakness will be exposed.  And history tells us that the dark forces unleashed by this type of politics surely makes all of us less secure.  Our world has been there before.  We gain nothing from going back.

Instead, I believe that we must go forward in pursuit of our ideals, not abandon them at this critical time.  We must give expression to our best hopes, not our deepest fears.  This institution was founded because men and women who came before us had the foresight to know that our nations are more secure when we uphold basic laws and basic norms, and pursue a path of cooperation over conflict.  And strong nations, above all, have a responsibility to uphold this international order.

Let me give you a concrete example.  After I took office, I made clear that one of the principal achievements of this body — the nuclear non-proliferation regime — was endangered by Iran’s violation of the NPT.  On that basis, the Security Council tightened sanctions on the Iranian government, and many nations joined us to enforce them.  Together, we showed that laws and agreements mean something.

But we also understood that the goal of sanctions was not simply to punish Iran.  Our objective was to test whether Iran could change course, accept constraints, and allow the world to verify that its nuclear program will be peaceful.  For two years, the United States and our partners — including Russia, including China — stuck together in complex negotiations.  The result is a lasting, comprehensive deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, while allowing it to access peaceful energy.  And if this deal is fully implemented, the prohibition on nuclear weapons is strengthened, a potential war is averted, our world is safer.  That is the strength of the international system when it works the way it should.

That same fidelity to international order guides our responses to other challenges around the world.  Consider Russia’s annexation of Crimea and further aggression in eastern Ukraine.  America has few economic interests in Ukraine.  We recognize the deep and complex history between Russia and Ukraine.  But we cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated.  If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today.  That’s the basis of the sanctions that the United States and our partners impose on Russia.  It’s not a desire to return to a Cold War.

Now, within Russia, state-controlled media may describe these events as an example of a resurgent Russia — a view shared, by the way, by a number of U.S. politicians and commentators who have always been deeply skeptical of Russia, and seem to be convinced a new Cold War is, in fact, upon us.  And yet, look at the results.  The Ukrainian people are more interested than ever in aligning with Europe instead of Russia. Sanctions have led to capital flight, a contracting economy, a fallen ruble, and the emigration of more educated Russians.

Imagine if, instead, Russia had engaged in true diplomacy, and worked with Ukraine and the international community to ensure its interests were protected.  That would be better for Ukraine, but also better for Russia, and better for the world — which is why we continue to press for this crisis to be resolved in a way that allows a sovereign and democratic Ukraine to determine its future and control its territory.  Not because we want to isolate Russia — we don’t — but because we want a strong Russia that’s invested in working with us to strengthen the international system as a whole.

Similarly, in the South China Sea, the United States makes no claim on territory there.  We don’t adjudicate claims.  But like every nation gathered here, we have an interest in upholding the basic principles of freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce, and in resolving disputes through international law, not the law of force.  So we will defend these principles, while encouraging China and other claimants to resolve their differences peacefully.

I say this, recognizing that diplomacy is hard; that the outcomes are sometimes unsatisfying; that it’s rarely politically popular.  But I believe that leaders of large nations, in particular, have an obligation to take these risks — precisely because we are strong enough to protect our interests if, and when, diplomacy fails.

I also believe that to move forward in this new era, we have to be strong enough to acknowledge when what you’re doing is not working.  For 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuba policy that failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  We changed that.  We continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We will continue to stand up for human rights.  But we address these issues through diplomatic relations, and increased commerce, and people-to-people ties.  As these contacts yield progress, I’m confident that our Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore.  (Applause.)  Change won’t come overnight to Cuba, but I’m confident that openness, not coercion, will support the reforms and better the life the Cuban people deserve, just as I believe that Cuba will find its success if it pursues cooperation with other nations.

Now, if it’s in the interest of major powers to uphold international standards, it is even more true for the rest of the community of nations.  Look around the world.  From Singapore to Colombia to Senegal, the facts shows that nations succeed when they pursue an inclusive peace and prosperity within their borders, and work cooperatively with countries beyond their borders.

That path is now available to a nation like Iran, which, as of this moment, continues to deploy violent proxies to advance its interests.  These efforts may appear to give Iran leverage in disputes with neighbors, but they fuel sectarian conflict that endangers the entire region, and isolates Iran from the promise of trade and commerce.  The Iranian people have a proud history, and are filled with extraordinary potential.  But chanting “Death to America” does not create jobs, or make Iran more secure.  If Iran chose a different path, that would be good for the security of the region, good for the Iranian people, and good for the world.

Of course, around the globe, we will continue to be confronted with nations who reject these lessons of history, places where civil strife, border disputes, and sectarian wars bring about terrorist enclaves and humanitarian disasters.  Where order has completely broken down, we must act, but we will be stronger when we act together.

In such efforts, the United States will always do our part. We will do so mindful of the lessons of the past — not just the lessons of Iraq, but also the example of Libya, where we joined an international coalition under a U.N. mandate to prevent a slaughter.  Even as we helped the Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a tyrant, our coalition could have and should have done more to fill a vacuum left behind.  We’re grateful to the United Nations for its efforts to forge a unity government.  We will help any legitimate Libyan government as it works to bring the country together.  But we also have to recognize that we must work more effectively in the future, as an international community, to build capacity for states that are in distress, before they collapse.

And that’s why we should celebrate the fact that later today the United States will join with more than 50 countries to enlist new capabilities — infantry, intelligence, helicopters, hospitals, and tens of thousands of troops — to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping.  (Applause.)  These new capabilities can prevent mass killing, and ensure that peace agreements are more than words on paper.  But we have to do it together.  Together, we must strengthen our collective capacity to establish security where order has broken down, and to support those who seek a just and lasting peace.

Nowhere is our commitment to international order more tested than in Syria.  When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation’s internal affairs — it breeds human suffering on an order of magnitude that affects us all.  Likewise, when a terrorist group beheads captives, slaughters the innocent and enslaves women, that’s not a single nation’s national security problem — that is an assault on all humanity.

I’ve said before and I will repeat:  There is no room for accommodating an apocalyptic cult like ISIL, and the United States makes no apologies for using our military, as part of a broad coalition, to go after them.  We do so with a determination to ensure that there will never be a safe haven for terrorists who carry out these crimes.  And we have demonstrated over more than a decade of relentless pursuit of al Qaeda, we will not be outlasted by extremists.

But while military power is necessary, it is not sufficient to resolve the situation in Syria.  Lasting stability can only take hold when the people of Syria forge an agreement to live together peacefully.  The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict. But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.

Let’s remember how this started.  Assad reacted to peaceful protests by escalating repression and killing that, in turn, created the environment for the current strife.  And so Assad and his allies cannot simply pacify the broad majority of a population who have been brutalized by chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing.  Yes, realism dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out ISIL.  But realism also requires a managed transition away from Assad and to a new leader, and an inclusive government that recognizes there must be an end to this chaos so that the Syrian people can begin to rebuild.

We know that ISIL — which emerged out of the chaos of Iraq and Syria — depends on perpetual war to survive.  But we also know that they gain adherents because of a poisonous ideology.  So part of our job, together, is to work to reject such extremism that infects too many of our young people.  Part of that effort must be a continued rejection by Muslims of those who distort Islam to preach intolerance and promote violence, and it must also a rejection by non-Muslims of the ignorance that equates Islam with terror.  (Applause.)

This work will take time.  There are no easy answers to Syria.  And there are no simple answers to the changes that are taking place in much of the Middle East and North Africa.  But so many families need help right now; they don’t have time.  And that’s why the United States is increasing the number of refugees who we welcome within our borders.  That’s why we will continue to be the largest donor of assistance to support those refugees. And today we are launching new efforts to ensure that our people and our businesses, our universities and our NGOs can help as well — because in the faces of suffering families, our nation of immigrants sees ourselves.

Of course, in the old ways of thinking, the plight of the powerless, the plight of refugees, the plight of the marginalized did not matter.  They were on the periphery of the world’s concerns.  Today, our concern for them is driven not just by conscience, but should also be drive by self-interest.  For helping people who have been pushed to the margins of our world is not mere charity, it is a matter of collective security.  And the purpose of this institution is not merely to avoid conflict, it is to galvanize the collective action that makes life better on this planet.

The commitments we’ve made to the Sustainable Development Goals speak to this truth.  I believe that capitalism has been the greatest creator of wealth and opportunity that the world has ever known.  But from big cities to rural villages around the world, we also know that prosperity is still cruelly out of reach for too many.  As His Holiness Pope Francis reminds us, we are stronger when we value the least among these, and see them as equal in dignity to ourselves and our sons and our daughters.

We can roll back preventable disease and end the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  We can stamp out pandemics that recognize no borders. That work may not be on television right now, but as we demonstrated in reversing the spread of Ebola, it can save more lives than anything else we can do.

Together, we can eradicate extreme poverty and erase barriers to opportunity.  But this requires a sustained commitment to our people — so farmers can feed more people; so entrepreneurs can start a business without paying a bribe; so young people have the skills they need to succeed in this modern, knowledge-based economy.

We can promote growth through trade that meets a higher standard.  And that’s what we’re doing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade agreement that encompasses nearly 40 percent of the global economy; an agreement that will open markets, while protecting the rights of workers and protecting the environment that enables development to be sustained.

We can roll back the pollution that we put in our skies, and help economies lift people out of poverty without condemning our children to the ravages of an ever-warming climate.  The same ingenuity that produced the Industrial Age and the Computer Age allows us to harness the potential of clean energy.  No country can escape the ravages of climate change.  And there is no stronger sign of leadership than putting future generations first.  The United States will work with every nation that is willing to do its part so that we can come together in Paris to decisively confront this challenge.

And finally, our vision for the future of this Assembly, my belief in moving forward rather than backwards, requires us to defend the democratic principles that allow societies to succeed. Let me start from a simple premise:  Catastrophes, like what we are seeing in Syria, do not take place in countries where there is genuine democracy and respect for the universal values this institution is supposed to defend.  (Applause.)

I recognize that democracy is going to take different forms in different parts of the world.  The very idea of a people governing themselves depends upon government giving expression to their unique culture, their unique history, their unique experiences.  But some universal truths are self-evident.  No person wants to be imprisoned for peaceful worship.  No woman should ever be abused with impunity, or a girl barred from going to school.  The freedom to peacefully petition those in power without fear of arbitrary laws — these are not ideas of one country or one culture.  They are fundamental to human progress. They are a cornerstone of this institution.

I realize that in many parts of the world there is a different view — a belief that strong leadership must tolerate no dissent.  I hear it not only from America’s adversaries, but privately at least I also hear it from some of our friends.  I disagree.  I believe a government that suppresses peaceful dissent is not showing strength; it is showing weakness and it is showing fear.  (Applause.)  History shows that regimes who fear their own people will eventually crumble, but strong institutions built on the consent of the governed endure long after any one individual is gone.

That’s why our strongest leaders — from George Washington to Nelson Mandela — have elevated the importance of building strong, democratic institutions over a thirst for perpetual power.  Leaders who amend constitutions to stay in office only acknowledge that they failed to build a successful country for their people — because none of us last forever.  It tells us that power is something they cling to for its own sake, rather than for the betterment of those they purport to serve.

I understand democracy is frustrating.  Democracy in the United States is certainly imperfect.  At times, it can even be dysfunctional.  But democracy — the constant struggle to extend rights to more of our people, to give more people a voice — is what allowed us to become the most powerful nation in the world. (Applause.)

It’s not simply a matter of principle; it’s not an abstraction.  Democracy — inclusive democracy — makes countries stronger.  When opposition parties can seek power peacefully through the ballot, a country draws upon new ideas.  When a free media can inform the public, corruption and abuse are exposed and can be rooted out.  When civil society thrives, communities can solve problems that governments cannot necessarily solve alone.  When immigrants are welcomed, countries are more productive and more vibrant.  When girls can go to school, and get a job, and pursue unlimited opportunity, that’s when a country realizes its full potential.  (Applause.)

That is what I believe is America’s greatest strength.  Not everybody in America agrees with me.  That’s part of democracy.  I believe that the fact that you can walk the streets of this city right now and pass churches and synagogues and temples and mosques, where people worship freely; the fact that our nation of immigrants mirrors the diversity of the world — you can find everybody from everywhere here in New York City — (applause) — the fact that, in this country, everybody can contribute, everybody can participate no matter who they are, or what they look like, or who they love — that’s what makes us strong.

And I believe that what is true for America is true for virtually all mature democracies.  And that is no accident.  We can be proud of our nations without defining ourselves in opposition to some other group.  We can be patriotic without demonizing someone else.  We can cherish our own identities — our religion, our ethnicity, our traditions — without putting others down.  Our systems are premised on the notion that absolute power will corrupt, but that people — ordinary people  — are fundamentally good; that they value family and friendship, faith and the dignity of hard work; and that with appropriate checks and balances, governments can reflect this goodness.

I believe that’s the future we must seek together.  To believe in the dignity of every individual, to believe we can bridge our differences, and choose cooperation over conflict — that is not weakness, that is strength.  (Applause.)  It is a practical necessity in this interconnected world.

And our people understand this.  Think of the Liberian doctor who went door-to-door to search for Ebola cases, and to tell families what to do if they show symptoms.  Think of the Iranian shopkeeper who said, after the nuclear deal, “God willing, now we’ll be able to offer many more goods at better prices.”  Think of the Americans who lowered the flag over our embassy in Havana in 1961 — the year I was born — and returned this summer to raise that flag back up.  (Applause.)  One of these men said of the Cuban people, “We could do things for them, and they could do things for us.  We loved them.”  For 50 years, we ignored that fact.

Think of the families leaving everything they’ve known behind, risking barren deserts and stormy waters just to find shelter; just to save their children.  One Syrian refugee who was greeted in Hamburg with warm greetings and shelter, said, “We feel there are still some people who love other people.”

The people of our United Nations are not as different as they are told.  They can be made to fear; they can be taught to hate — but they can also respond to hope.  History is littered with the failure of false prophets and fallen empires who believed that might always makes right, and that will continue to be the case.  You can count on that.  But we are called upon to offer a different type of leadership — leadership strong enough to recognize that nations share common interests and people share a common humanity, and, yes, there are certain ideas and principles that are universal.

That’s what those who shaped the United Nations 70 years ago understood.  Let us carry forward that faith into the future — for it is the only way we can assure that future will be brighter for my children, and for yours.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

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