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



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



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



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.

10:43 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts October 22, 2015: Hillary Clinton’s Clinton testimony before House committee on Benghazi Transcript



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
View Photos
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.


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?


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.


CUMMINGS: Do you remember that, Madam Secretary?


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?


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?


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.


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…


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.


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…


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…


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.


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.


WESTMORELAND: I’m not saying — I’m not saying shut it down. I’m just saying protect it.


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…


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.


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?


SANCHEZ: The assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs?


SANCHEZ: The director of policy planning, Jacob Sullivan?


SANCHEZ: The National Security Council?


SANCHEZ: The intelligence community?


SANCHEZ: The Defense Department?


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?


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.


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.


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.


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…


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.


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.”


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.


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…


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.


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?


GOWDY: Yeah, I’m sorry. Secretary, call the roll.

CLERK: Mr. Westmoreland?


CLERK: Mr. Westmoreland votes no.

Mr. Jordan?


UNKNOWN: Mr. Who? I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear.

CLERK: Sorry, Mr. Jordan.


CLERK: Mr. Jordan votes no. Mr. Roskam?.


CLERK: Mr. Roskam votes no.

Mr. Pompeo?


CLERK: My. Pompeo votes no.

Mrs. Roby?


CLERK: Mrs. Roby votes no.

Mrs. Brooks?


CLERK: Mrs. Brooks votes no.

Mr. Cummings?


CLERK: Mr. Cummings votes yes.

Mr. Smith?


CLERK: Mr. Smith votes aye.

Mr. Schiff?


CLERK: Mr. Schiff votes aye.

Ms. Sanchez?


CLERK: Ms. Sanchez votes aye.

Ms. Duckworth?


CLERK: Ms. Duckworth votes aye.

GOWDY: The clerk will report.

CLERK: And Mr. Gowdy.


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



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.


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.


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.)



4:53 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 28, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the United Nations General Assembly Transcript



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.)

11:00 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Pope Francis’s Speech to the UN General Assembly Transcript



Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly

Source: WaPo, 9-25-15

The following is the prepared text of Pope Francis’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, delivered Friday in New York. 

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind words. Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude. I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting. Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall. I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.

This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008. All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power. An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities. I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.

The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour. All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefitted humanity as a whole in these past seventy years. In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.

Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.

The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.

First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.

The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.

The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.

For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.

The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.). Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).

Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.

To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement. When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favourable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.

The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.

The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.

As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.

Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.

I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors. I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely. “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965). Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion. As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).

El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.

The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).

The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223). We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future. The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.

The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.

Upon all of you, and the peoples you represent, I invoke the blessing of the Most High, and all peace and prosperity. Thank you.

Full Text Obama Presidency August 5, 2015: President Barack Obama’s speech about the Iran nuclear deal at American University Transcript



Remarks by the President on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Source: WH, 8-5-15

American University
Washington, D.C.

11:58 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Thank you very much.  I apologize for the slight delay.  Even Presidents have problems with toner.  (Laughter.)

It is a great honor to be back at American University, which has prepared generations of young people for service in public life.  I want to thank President Kerwin and the American University family for hosting us here today.

Fifty-two years ago, President Kennedy, at the height of the Cold War, addressed this same university on the subject of peace.  The Berlin Wall had just been built.  The Soviet Union had tested the most powerful weapons ever developed.  China was on the verge of acquiring a nuclear bomb.  Less than 20 years after the end of World War II, the prospect of nuclear war was all too real.  With all of the threats that we face today, it’s hard to appreciate how much more dangerous the world was at that time.

In light of these mounting threats, a number of strategists here in the United States argued that we had to take military action against the Soviets, to hasten what they saw as inevitable confrontation.  But the young President offered a different vision.  Strength, in his view, included powerful armed forces and a willingness to stand up for our values around the world.  But he rejected the prevailing attitude among some foreign policy circles that equated security with a perpetual war footing.  Instead, he promised strong, principled American leadership on behalf of what he called a “practical” and “attainable peace” — a peace “based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions — on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements.”

Such wisdom would help guide our ship of state through some of the most perilous moments in human history.  With Kennedy at the helm, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved peacefully.  Under Democratic and Republican Presidents, new agreements were forged — a Non-Proliferation Treaty that prohibited nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, while allowing them to access peaceful nuclear energy; the SALT and START Treaties which bound the United States and Soviet Union to cooperation on arms control.  Not every conflict was averted, but the world avoided nuclear catastrophe, and we created the time and the space to win the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.

The agreement now reached between the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran builds on this tradition of strong, principled diplomacy.  After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb.  It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.  As was true in previous treaties, it does not resolve all problems; it certainly doesn’t resolve all our problems with Iran.  It does not ensure a warming between our two countries.  But it achieves one of our most critical security objectives.  As such, it is a very good deal.

Today, I want to speak to you about this deal, and the most consequential foreign policy debate that our country has had since the invasion of Iraq, as Congress decides whether to support this historic diplomatic breakthrough, or instead blocks it over the objection of the vast majority of the world.  Between now and the congressional vote in September, you’re going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising.  And if the rhetoric in these ads, and the accompanying commentary, sounds familiar, it should — for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.

Now, when I ran for President eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war — we had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place.  It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy; a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus; a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.  Leaders did not level with the American people about the costs of war, insisting that we could easily impose our will on a part of the world with a profoundly different culture and history.  And, of course, those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive, while dismissing those who disagreed as weak — even appeasers of a malevolent adversary.

More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq.  Our troops achieved every mission they were given.  But thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands wounded.  That doesn’t count the lives lost among Iraqis.  Nearly a trillion dollars was spent. Today, Iraq remains gripped by sectarian conflict, and the emergence of al Qaeda in Iraq has now evolved into ISIL.  And ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein.

I raise this recent history because now more than ever we need clear thinking in our foreign policy.  And I raise this history because it bears directly on how we respond to the Iranian nuclear program.

That program has been around for decades, dating back to the Shah’s efforts — with U.S. support — in the 1960s and ‘70s to develop nuclear power.  The theocracy that overthrew the Shah accelerated the program after the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, a war in which Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to brutal effect, and Iran’s nuclear program advanced steadily through the 1990s, despite unilateral U.S. sanctions.  When the Bush administration took office, Iran had no centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce material for a bomb — that were spinning to enrich uranium.  But despite repeated warnings from the United States government, by the time I took office, Iran had installed several thousand centrifuges, and showed no inclination to slow — much less halt — its program.

Among U.S. policymakers, there’s never been disagreement on the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear bomb.  Democrats and Republicans alike have recognized that it would spark an arms race in the world’s most unstable region, and turn every crisis into a potential nuclear showdown.  It would embolden terrorist groups, like Hezbollah, and pose an unacceptable risk to Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to destroy.  More broadly, it could unravel the global commitment to non-proliferation that the world has done so much to defend.

The question, then, is not whether to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but how.  Even before taking office, I made clear that Iran would not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon on my watch, and it’s been my policy throughout my presidency to keep all options — including possible military options — on the table to achieve that objective.  But I have also made clear my preference for a peaceful, diplomatic resolution of the issue — not just because of the costs of war, but also because a negotiated agreement offered a more effective, verifiable and durable resolution.

And so, in 2009, we let the Iranians know that a diplomatic path was available.  Iran failed to take that path, and our intelligence community exposed the existence of a covert nuclear facility at Fordow.

Now, some have argued that Iran’s intransigence showed the futility of negotiations.  In fact, it was our very willingness to negotiate that helped America rally the world to our cause, and secured international participation in an unprecedented framework of commercial and financial sanctions.  Keep in mind unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran had been in place for decades, but had failed to pressure Iran to the negotiating table.  What made our new approach more effective was our ability to draw upon new U.N. Security Council resolutions, combining strong enforcement with voluntary agreements from nations like China and India, Japan and South Korea to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil, as well as the imposition by our European allies of a total oil embargo.

Winning this global buy-in was not easy — I know.  I was there.  In some cases, our partners lost billions of dollars in trade because of their decision to cooperate.  But we were able to convince them that absent a diplomatic resolution, the result could be war, with major disruptions to the global economy, and even greater instability in the Middle East.  In other words, it was diplomacy — hard, painstaking diplomacy — not saber-rattling, not tough talk that ratcheted up the pressure on Iran.

With the world now unified beside us, Iran’s economy contracted severely, and remains about 20 percent smaller today than it would have otherwise been.  No doubt this hardship played a role in Iran’s 2013 elections, when the Iranian people elected a new government that promised to improve the economy through engagement with the world.  A window had cracked open.  Iran came back to the nuclear talks.  And after a series of negotiations, Iran agreed with the international community to an interim deal — a deal that rolled back Iran’s stockpile of near 20 percent enriched uranium, and froze the progress of its program so that the P5+1 — the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the European Union — could negotiate a comprehensive deal without the fear that Iran might be stalling for time.

Now, let me pause here just to remind everybody that when the interim deal was announced, critics — the same critics we’re hearing from now — called it “a historic mistake.”  They insisted Iran would ignore its obligations.  They warned that sanctions would unravel.  They warned that Iran would receive a windfall to support terrorism.

The critics were wrong.  The progress of Iran’s nuclear program was halted for the first time in a decade.  Its stockpile of dangerous materials was reduced.  The deployment of its advanced centrifuges was stopped.  Inspections did increase. There was no flood of money into Iran, and the architecture of the international sanctions remained in place.  In fact, the interim deal worked so well that the same people who criticized it so fiercely now cite it as an excuse not to support the broader accord.  Think about that.  What was once proclaimed as a historic mistake is now held up as a success and a reason to not sign the comprehensive deal.  So keep that in mind when you assess the credibility of the arguments being made against diplomacy today.

Despite the criticism, we moved ahead to negotiate a more lasting, comprehensive deal.  Our diplomats, led by Secretary of State John Kerry, kept our coalition united.  Our nuclear experts — including one of the best in the world, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz — worked tirelessly on the technical details.  In July, we reached a comprehensive plan of action that meets our objectives.  Under its terms, Iran is never allowed to build a nuclear weapon.  And while Iran, like any party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, is allowed to access peaceful nuclear energy, the agreement strictly defines the manner in which its nuclear program can proceed, ensuring that all pathways to a bomb are cut off.

Here’s how.  Under this deal, Iran cannot acquire the plutonium needed for a bomb.  The core of its heavy-water reactor at Arak will be pulled out, filled with concrete, and replaced with one that will not produce plutonium for a weapon.  The spent fuel from that reactor will be shipped out of the country, and Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors for at least 15 years.

Iran will also not be able to acquire the enriched uranium that could be used for a bomb.  As soon as this deal is implemented, Iran will remove two-thirds of its centrifuges.  For the next decade, Iran will not enrich uranium with its more advanced centrifuges.  Iran will not enrich uranium at the previously undisclosed Fordow facility, which is buried deep underground, for at least 15 years.  Iran will get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is currently enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs, for the next 15 years.  Even after those 15 years have passed, Iran will never have the right to use a peaceful program as cover to pursue a weapon.

And, in fact, this deal shuts off the type of covert path Iran pursued in the past.  There will be 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities.  For decades, inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain — from the uranium mines and mills where they get raw materials, to the centrifuge production facilities where they make machines to enrich it.  And understand why this is so important:  For Iran to cheat, it has to build a lot more than just one building or a covert facility like Fordow.  It would need a secret source for every single aspect of its program.  No nation in history has been able to pull off such subterfuge when subjected to such rigorous inspections.  And under the terms of the deal, inspectors will have the permanent ability to inspect any suspicious sites in Iran.

And finally, Iran has powerful incentives to keep its commitments.  Before getting sanctions relief, Iran has to take significant, concrete steps like removing centrifuges and getting rid of its stockpile.  If Iran violates the agreement over the next decade, all of the sanctions can snap back into place.  We won’t need the support of other members of the U.N. Security Council; America can trigger snapback on our own.  On the other hand, if Iran abides by the deal and its economy begins to reintegrate with the world, the incentive to avoid snapback will only grow.

So this deal is not just the best choice among alternatives -– this is the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated.  And because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support.  The United Nations Security Council has unanimously supported it.  The majority of arms control and non-proliferation experts support it.  Over 100 former ambassadors — who served under Republican and Democratic Presidents — support it.  I’ve had to make a lot of tough calls as President, but whether or not this deal is good for American security is not one of those calls.  It’s not even close.

Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics where every foreign policy decision is viewed through a partisan prism, evaluated by headline-grabbing sound bites. And so before the ink was even dry on this deal — before Congress even read it — a majority of Republicans declared their virulent opposition.  Lobbyists and pundits were suddenly transformed into arm-chair nuclear scientists, disputing the assessments of experts like Secretary Moniz, challenging his findings, offering multiple — and sometimes contradictory — arguments about why Congress should reject this deal.  But if you repeat these arguments long enough, they can get some traction.  So let me address just a few of the arguments that have been made so far in opposition to this deal.

First, there are those who say the inspections are not strong enough because inspectors can’t go anywhere in Iran at any time with no notice.

Well, here’s the truth:  Inspectors will be allowed daily access to Iran’s key nuclear sites.  If there is a reason for inspecting a suspicious, undeclared site anywhere in Iran, inspectors will get that access, even if Iran objects.  This access can be with as little as 24 hours’ notice.  And while the process for resolving a dispute about access can take up to 24 days, once we’ve identified a site that raises suspicion, we will be watching it continuously until inspectors get in.  And by the way, nuclear material isn’t something you hide in the closet.  It can leave a trace for years.  The bottom line is, if Iran cheats, we can catch them — and we will.

Second, there are those who argue that the deal isn’t strong enough because some of the limitations on Iran’s civilian nuclear program expire in 15 years.  Let me repeat:  The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent.  The ban on weapons-related research is permanent.  Inspections are permanent.  It is true that some of the limitations regarding Iran’s peaceful program last only 15 years.  But that’s how arms control agreements work.  The first SALT Treaty with the Soviet Union lasted five years.  The first START Treaty lasted 15 years.  And in our current situation, if 15 or 20 years from now, Iran tries to build a bomb, this deal ensures that the United States will have better tools to detect it, a stronger basis under international law to respond, and the same options available to stop a weapons program as we have today, including — if necessary — military options.

On the other hand, without this deal, the scenarios that critics warn about happening in 15 years could happen six months from now.  By killing this deal, Congress would not merely pave Iran’s pathway to a bomb, it would accelerate it.

Third, a number of critics say the deal isn’t worth it because Iran will get billions of dollars in sanctions relief.  Now, let’s be clear:  The international sanctions were put in place precisely to get Iran to agree to constraints on its program.  That’s the point of sanctions.  Any negotiated agreement with Iran would involve sanctions relief.  So an argument against sanctions relief is effectively an argument against any diplomatic resolution of this issue.

It is true that if Iran lives up to its commitments, it will gain access to roughly $56 billion of its own money — revenue frozen overseas by other countries.  But the notion that this will be a game-changer, with all this money funneled into Iran’s pernicious activities, misses the reality of Iran’s current situation.  Partly because of our sanctions, the Iranian government has over half a trillion dollars in urgent requirements — from funding pensions and salaries, to paying for crumbling infrastructure.  Iran’s leaders have raised the expectations of their people that sanctions relief will improve their lives.  Even a repressive regime like Iran’s cannot completely ignore those expectations.  And that’s why our best analysts expect the bulk of this revenue to go into spending that improves the economy and benefits the lives of the Iranian people.

Now, this is not to say that sanctions relief will provide no benefit to Iran’s military.  Let’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to.  We have no illusions about the Iranian government, or the significance of the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force.  Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.  It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies — including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq.  They try to destabilize our Gulf partners.  But Iran has been engaged in these activities for decades.  They engaged in them before sanctions and while sanctions were in place.  In fact, Iran even engaged in these activities in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War — a war that cost them nearly a million lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

The truth is that Iran has always found a way to fund these efforts, and whatever benefit Iran may claim from sanctions relief pales in comparison to the danger it could pose with a nuclear weapon.

Moreover, there’s no scenario where sanctions relief turns Iran into the region’s dominant power.  Iran’s defense budget is eight times smaller than the combined budget of our Gulf allies. Their conventional capabilities will never compare with Israel’s, and our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge helps guarantee that.  Over the last several years, Iran has had to spend billions of dollars to support its only ally in the Arab World — Bashar al-Assad — even as he’s lost control of huge chunks of his country.  And Hezbollah has suffered significant blows on the same battlefield.  And Iran, like the rest of the region, is being forced to respond to the threat of ISIL in Iraq.

So contrary to the alarmists who claim that Iran is on the brink of taking over the Middle East, or even the world, Iran will remain a regional power with its own set of challenges.  The ruling regime is dangerous and it is repressive.  We will continue to have sanctions in place on Iran’s support for terrorism and violation of human rights.  We will continue to insist upon the release of Americans detained unjustly.  We will have a lot of differences with the Iranian regime.

But if we’re serious about confronting Iran’s destabilizing activities, it is hard to imagine a worse approach than blocking this deal.  Instead, we need to check the behavior that we’re concerned about directly:  By helping our allies in the region strengthen their own capabilities to counter a cyber-attack or a ballistic missile; by improving the interdiction of weapons shipments that go to groups like Hezbollah; by training our allies’ special forces so that they can more effectively respond to situations like Yemen.  All these capabilities will make a difference.  We will be in a stronger position to implement them with this deal.  And, by the way, such a strategy also helps us effectively confront the immediate and lethal threat posed by ISIL.

Now, the final criticism — this sort of a catch-all that you may hear — is the notion that there’s a better deal to be had.  “We should get a better deal” — that’s repeated over and over again.  “It’s a bad deal, need a better deal” — (laughter) — one that relies on vague promises of toughness, and, more recently, the argument that we can apply a broader and indefinite set of sanctions to squeeze the Iranian regime harder.

Those making this argument are either ignorant of Iranian society, or they’re just not being straight with the American people.  Sanctions alone are not going to force Iran to completely dismantle all vestiges of its nuclear infrastructure — even those aspects that are consistent with peaceful programs.  That oftentimes is what the critics are calling “a better deal.”  Neither the Iranian government, or the Iranian opposition, or the Iranian people would agree to what they would view as a total surrender of their sovereignty.

Moreover, our closest allies in Europe, or in Asia — much less China or Russia — certainly are not going to agree to enforce existing sanctions for another 5, 10, 15 years according to the dictates of the U.S. Congress.  Because their willingness to support sanctions in the first place was based on Iran ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  It was not based on the belief that Iran cannot have peaceful nuclear power.  And it certainly wasn’t based on a desire for regime change in Iran.

As a result, those who say we can just walk away from this deal and maintain sanctions are selling a fantasy.  Instead of strengthening our position as some have suggested, Congress’s rejection would almost certainly result in multilateral sanctions unraveling.  If, as has also been suggested, we tried to maintain unilateral sanctions, beefen them up, we would be standing alone.  We cannot dictate the foreign, economic and energy policies of every major power in the world.

In order to even try to do that, we would have to sanction, for example, some of the world’s largest banks.  We’d have to cut off countries like China from the American financial system.  And since they happen to be major purchasers of or our debt, such actions could trigger severe disruptions in our own economy and, by the way, raise questions internationally about the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.

That’s part of the reason why many of the previous unilateral sanctions were waived.  What’s more likely to happen, should Congress reject this deal, is that Iran would end up with some form of sanctions relief without having to accept any of the constraints or inspections required by this deal.  So in that sense, the critics are right:  Walk away from this agreement and you will get a better deal — for Iran.  (Applause.)

Now, because more sanctions won’t produce the results that the critics want, we have to be honest.  Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any U.S. administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option — another war in the Middle East.

I say this not to be provocative.  I am stating a fact. Without this deal, Iran will be in a position — however tough our rhetoric may be –- to steadily advance its capabilities.  Its breakout time, which is already fairly small, could shrink to near zero.  Does anyone really doubt that the same voices now raised against this deal will be demanding that whoever is President bomb those nuclear facilities?

And as someone who does firmly believes that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon, and who has wrestled with this issue since the beginning of my presidency, I can tell you that alternatives to military action will have been exhausted once we reject a hard-won diplomatic solution that the world almost unanimously supports.

So let’s not mince words.  The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war — maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.  And here’s the irony.  As I said before, military action would be far less effective than this deal in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  That’s not just my supposition.  Every estimate, including those from Israeli analysts, suggest military action would only set back Iran’s program by a few years at best, which is a fraction of the limitations imposed by this deal.  It would likely guarantee that inspectors are kicked out of Iran.  It is probable that it would drive Iran’s program deeper underground.  It would certainly destroy the international unity that we’ve spent so many years building.

Now, there are some opponents — I have to give them credit; there are opponents of this deal who accept the choice of war.  In fact, they argue that surgical strikes against Iran’s facilities will be quick and painless.  But if we’ve learned anything from the last decade, it’s that wars in general and wars in the Middle East in particular are anything but simple.  (Applause.)  The only certainty in war is human suffering, uncertain costs, unintended consequences.  We can also be sure that the Americans who bear the heaviest burden are the less than 1 percent of us, the outstanding men and women who serve in uniform, and not those of us who send them to war.

As Commander-in-Chief, I have not shied from using force when necessary.  I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat.  I have sat by their bedside sometimes when they come home.  I’ve ordered military action in seven countries.  There are times when force is necessary, and if Iran does not abide by this deal, it’s possible that we don’t have an alternative.

But how can we in good conscience justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives; that has been agreed to by Iran; that is supported by the rest of the world; and that preserves our options if the deal falls short? How could we justify that to our troops?  How could we justify that to the world or to future generations?

In the end, that should be a lesson that we’ve learned from over a decade of war.  On the front end, ask tough questions.  Subject our own assumptions to evidence and analysis.  Resist the conventional wisdom and the drumbeat of war.  Worry less about being labeled weak; worry more about getting it right.

I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran.  It is offensive.  It is incendiary.  We do take it seriously.  But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts, or even provocations that can be addressed short of war.  Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe.  (Applause.)

In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo.  It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal.  They’re making common cause with the Republican caucus.  (Laughter and applause.)

The majority of the Iranian people have powerful incentives to urge their government to move in a different, less provocative direction — incentives that are strengthened by this deal.  We should offer them that chance.  We should give them that opportunity.  It’s not guaranteed to succeed.  But if they take it, that would be good for Iran, it would be good for the United States.  It would be good for a region that has known too much conflict.  It would be good for the world.

And if Iran does not move in that direction, if Iran violates this deal, we will have ample ability to respond.  The agreements pursued by Kennedy and Reagan with the Soviet Union, those agreements, those treaties involved America accepting significant constraints on our arsenal.  As such, they were riskier.  This agreement involves no such constraints.  The defense budget of the United States is more than $600 billion.  To repeat, Iran’s is about $15 billion.  Our military remains the ultimate backstop to any security agreement that we make.  I have stated that Iran will never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.  I have done what is necessary to make sure our military options are real.  And I have no doubt that any President who follows me will take the same position.

So let me sum up here.  When we carefully examine the arguments against this deal, none of them stand up to scrutiny.  That may be why the rhetoric on the other side is so strident.  I suppose some of it can be ascribed to knee-jerk partisanship that has become all too familiar; rhetoric that renders every decision that’s made a disaster, a surrender — “you’re aiding terrorists; you’re endangering freedom.”

On the other hand, I do think it’s important to acknowledge another, more understandable motivation behind the opposition to this deal, or at least skepticism to this deal, and that is a sincere affinity for our friend and ally, Israel — an affinity that, as someone who has been a stalwart friend to Israel throughout my career, I deeply share.

When the Israeli government is opposed to something, people in the United States take notice.  And they should.  No one can blame Israelis for having a deep skepticism about any dealings with a government like Iran’s — which includes leaders who have denied the Holocaust, embrace an ideology of anti-Semitism, facilitate the flow of rockets that are arrayed on Israel’s borders, are pointed at Tel Aviv.  In such a dangerous neighborhood, Israel has to be vigilant, and it rightly insists that it cannot depend on any other country — even its great friend the United States — for its own security.  So we have to take seriously concerns in Israel.

But the fact is, partly due to American military and intelligence assistance, which my administration has provided at unprecedented levels, Israel can defend itself against any conventional danger — whether from Iran directly or from its proxies.  On the other hand, a nuclear-armed Iran changes that equation.

And that’s why this deal ultimately must be judged by what it achieves on the central goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  This deal does exactly that.  I say this as someone who has done more than any other President to strengthen Israel’s security.  And I have made clear to the Israeli government that we are prepared to discuss how we can deepen that cooperation even further.  Already we’ve held talks with Israel on concluding another 10-year plan for U.S. security assistance to Israel.  We can enhance support for areas like missile defense, information sharing, interdiction — all to help meet Israel’s pressing security needs, and to provide a hedge against any additional activities that Iran may engage in as a consequence of sanctions relief.

But I have also listened to the Israeli security establishment, which warned of the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran for decades.  In fact, they helped develop many of the ideas that ultimately led to this deal.

So to friends of Israel, and to the Israeli people, I say this:  A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief.

I recognize that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees — disagrees strongly.  I do not doubt his sincerity.  But I believe he is wrong.  I believe the facts support this deal.  I believe they are in America’s interest and Israel’s interest.  And as President of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally.  I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States.  I do not believe it would be the right thing to do for Israel.  (Applause.)

Over the last couple weeks, I have repeatedly challenged anyone opposed to this deal to put forward a better, plausible alternative.  I have yet to hear one.  What I’ve heard instead are the same types of arguments that we heard in the run-up to the Iraq War:  Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically; we can take military strikes without significant consequences; we shouldn’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone will fall in line; tougher talk, more military threats will force Iran into submission; we can get a better deal.

I know it’s easy to play on people’s fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich.  But none of these arguments hold up.  They didn’t back in 2002 and 2003; they shouldn’t now.  (Applause.)  The same mindset, in many cases offered by the same people who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong, led to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before or since.  It’s a mindset out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy, where we exhaust diplomacy before war, and debate matters of war and peace in the cold light of truth.

“Peace is not the absence of conflict,” President Reagan once said.  It is “the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means.”  President Kennedy warned Americans, “not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than the exchange of threats.”  It is time to apply such wisdom.  The deal before us doesn’t bet on Iran changing, it doesn’t require trust; it verifies and requires Iran to forsake a nuclear weapon, just as we struck agreements with the Soviet Union at a time when they were threatening our allies, arming proxies against us, proclaiming their commitment to destroy our way of life, and had nuclear weapons pointed at all of our major cities — a genuine existential threat.

We live in a complicated world — a world in which the forces unleashed by human innovation are creating opportunities for our children that were unimaginable for most of human history.  It is also a world of persistent threats, a world in which mass violence and cruelty is all too common, and human innovation risks the destruction of all that we hold dear.  In this world, the United States of America remains the most powerful nation on Earth, and I believe that we will remain such for decades to come.  But we are one nation among many.

And what separates us from the empires of old, what has made us exceptional, is not the mere fact of our military might.  Since World War II, the deadliest war in human history, we have used our power to try to bind nations together in a system of international law.  We have led an evolution of those human institutions President Kennedy spoke about — to prevent the spread of deadly weapons, to uphold peace and security, and promote human progress.

We now have the opportunity to build on that progress.  We built a coalition and held it together through sanctions and negotiations, and now we have before us a solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, without resorting to war.  As Americans, we should be proud of this achievement.  And as members of Congress reflect on their pending decision, I urge them to set aside political concerns, shut out the noise, consider the stakes involved with the vote that you will cast.

If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran’s nuclear program, or the sanctions we have painstakingly built.  We will have lost something more precious: America’s credibility as a leader of diplomacy; America’s credibility as the anchor of the international system.

John F. Kennedy cautioned here, more than 50 years ago, at this university, that “the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war.”  But it’s so very important.  It is surely the pursuit of peace that is most needed in this world so full of strife.

My fellow Americans, contact your representatives in Congress.  Remind them of who we are.  Remind them of what is best in us and what we stand for, so that we can leave behind a world that is more secure and more peaceful for our children.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

12:54 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 25-28, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Trip to Kenya and Ethiopia



President Obama Travels to Kenya and Ethiopia

President Obama is traveling in Kenya and Ethiopia to meet with leaders from government, business, and civil society, reinforcing the U.S. commitment to economic growth and trade, democracy, and investing in the next generation of African leaders.

Follow along for highlights from the President’s trip.

Thursday, July 25th

  • On Saturday morning, the President spoke at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit
  • President Obama visited the Power Africa Innovation Fair
  • He then attended a wreath laying ceremony and then a welcome ceremony
  • President Obama and President Kenyatta of Kenya then held a bilateral meeting and joint press conference
  • In the evening, the President attended the Kenya State Dinner

July 26th

  • President Obama participates in a welcoming ceremony, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • The President and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn held a bilateral meeting and press conference
  • President Obama holds a multilateral meeting on South Sudan and counterterrorism issues with Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the African Union and Uganda.
  • President Obama attends a State Dinner with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn

July 27th

  • President Obama participates in a welcoming ceremony, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • The President and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn held a bilateral meeting and press conference
  • President Obama holds a multilateral meeting on South Sudan and counterterrorism issues with Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, the African Union and Uganda.
  • President Obama attends a State Dinner with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn

July 28th

  • President Obama Visits Faffa Foods, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • President Obama Holds a Bilateral Meeting with AUC Chairperson Dr. Dlamini Zuma
  • President Obama Speaks to the African Union


Full Text Political Transcripts July 15, 2015: President Barack Obama scolds CBS News’ Major Garrett on Iran hostages question at press conference



Obama scolds CBS News’ Major Garrett on Iran hostages question at press conference

Source: CBS News, 7-15-15

Transcription of exchange between CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett and President Obama over Iranian hostages.

Major Garrett: As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran – three held on trumped up charges according to your administration, one, whereabouts unknown. Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all of the fanfare around this [nuclear] deal to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for, in relation to these four Americans?

And last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said under no circumstances should there be any relief for Iran in terms of ballistic missiles or conventional weapons. It was perceived that that was a last-minute capitulation in these negotiations, making the Pentagon feel you’ve left the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hung out to dry. Could you comment?

President Obama: I’ve got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I am content, as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails – Major, that’s nonsense. And you should know better. I’ve met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody’s content, and our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.

Now, if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates. Suddenly, Iran realizes, you know what, maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals – makes it much more difficult for us to walk away if Iran somehow thinks that a nuclear deal is dependent in some fashion on the nuclear deal. And by the way, if we had walked away from the nuclear deal, we’d still be pushing just as hard to get these folks out. That’s why those issues are not connected, but we are working every single day to try to get them out and won’t stop until they’re out and rejoined with their families.

With respect to the Chairman’s testimony, to some degree I already answered this with Carol. We are not taking the pressure off Iran with respect to arms and with respect to ballistic missiles. As I just explained, not only do we keep in place for five years the arms embargo this particular new UN resolution, not only do we maintain the eight years on the ballistic missiles under this particular UN resolution, but we have a host of other multilateral and unilateral authorities that allow us to take action where we see Iran engaged in those activities – whether it’s six years from now or 10 years from now.

So, we have not lost those legal authorities, and in fact part of my pitch to the GCC countries, as well as to Prime Minister Netanyahu, is we should do a better job making sure that Iran’s not engaged in sending arms to organizations like Hezbollah, and as I just indicated, that means improving our intelligence capacity and our interdiction capacity with our partners.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 15, 2015: President Barack Obama’s press conference on the Iran nuclear deal Transcript



Full text: Obama’s news conference on the Iran nuclear deal

Source: WH, 7-15-15

Press Conference by the President

East Room

1:25 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Yesterday was a historic day.  The comprehensive, long-term deal that we achieved with our allies and partners to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon represents a powerful display of American leadership and diplomacy.  It shows what we can accomplish when we lead from a position of strength and a position of principle, when we unite the international community around a shared vision, and we resolve to solve problems peacefully.

As I said yesterday, it’s important for the American people and Congress to get a full opportunity to review this deal.  That process is now underway.  I’ve already reached out to leaders in Congress on both sides of the aisle.  My national security team has begun offering extensive briefings.  I expect the debate to be robust — and that’s how it should be.  This is an important issue.  Our national security policies are stronger and more effective when they are subject to the scrutiny and transparency that democracy demands.

And as I said yesterday, the details of this deal matter very much.  That’s why our team worked so hard for so long to get the details right.  At the same time, as this debate unfolds, I hope we don’t lose sight of the larger picture — the opportunity that this agreement represents.  As we go forward, it’s important for everybody to remember the alternative and the fundamental choice that this moment represents.

With this deal, we cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear program — a nuclear weapons program, and Iran’s nuclear program will be under severe limits for many years.  Without a deal, those pathways remain open; there would be no limits on Iran’s nuclear program, and Iran could move closer to a nuclear bomb.

With this deal, we gain unprecedented, around-the-clock monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities and the most comprehensive and intrusive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated.  Without a deal, those inspections go away, and we lose the ability to closely monitor Iran’s program and detect any covert nuclear weapons program.

With this deal, if Iran violates its commitments, there will be real consequences.  Nuclear-related sanctions that have helped to cripple the Iranian economy will snap back into place.  Without a deal, the international sanctions regime will unravel, with little ability to re-impose them.

With this deal, we have the possibility of peacefully resolving a major threat to regional and international security.  Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.

As I said yesterday, even with this deal, we will continue to have profound differences with Iran — its support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East.  Therefore, the multilateral arms embargo on Iran will remain in place for an additional five years, and restrictions on ballistic missile technology will remain for eight years.  In addition, the United States will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its human rights violations.  And we’ll continue our unprecedented security cooperation with Israel and continue to deepen our partnerships with the Gulf States.

But the bottom line is this:  This nuclear deal meets the national security interests of the United States and our allies.  It prevents the most serious threat — Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would only make the other problems that Iran may cause even worse.  That’s why this deal makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure.  It’s why the alternative — no limits on Iran’s nuclear program, no inspections, an Iran that’s closer to a nuclear weapon, the risk of a regional nuclear arms race and a greater risk of war — all that would endanger our security.  That’s the choice that we face.  If we don’t choose wisely, I believe future generations will judge us harshly for letting this moment slip away.

And no one suggests that this deal resolves all the threats that Iran poses to its neighbors or the world.  Moreover, realizing the promise of this deal will require many years of implementation and hard work.  It will require vigilance and execution.  But this deal is our best means of assuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.  And, from the start, that has been my number-one priority, our number-one priority.  We’ve got a historic chance to pursue a safer and more secure world — an opportunity that may not come again in our lifetimes.  As President and as Commander-in-Chief, I am determined to seize that opportunity.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions.  And let me see who I’m starting off with.  Here you go.  I got it.  (Laughter.)

Andrew Beatty, AFP.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Yesterday, you said the deal offered a chance at a new direction in relations with Iran.  What steps will you take to enable a more moderate Iran?  And does this deal allow you to more forcefully counter Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region quite aside from the nuclear question?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Andrew, if you don’t mind, just because I suspect that there’s going to be a common set of questions that are touched on — I promise I will get to your question, but I want to start off just by stepping back and reminding folks of what is at stake here.  And I already did in my opening statement, but I just want to reiterate it because I’ve heard already some of the objections to the deal.

The starting premise of our strategy with respect to Iran has been that it would be a grave threat to the United States and to our allies if they obtained a nuclear weapon.  And so everything that we’ve done over the last six and a half years has been designed to make sure that we address that number-one priority.  That’s what the sanctions regime was all about.  That’s how we were able to mobilize the international community, including some folks that we are not particularly close to, to abide by these sanctions.  That’s how these crippling sanctions came about, was because we were able to gain global consensus that Iran having a nuclear weapon would be a problem for everybody.

That’s the reason that Iran’s accounts got frozen and they were not able to get money for the oil sales that they’ve made.  That’s the reason that they had problems operating with respect to international commerce — because we built that international consensus around this very specific, narrow, but profound issue — the possibility of Iran getting a nuclear weapon.

And, by the way, that was not simply my priority.  If you look back at all the debates that have taken place over the last five, six years, this has been a Democratic priority, this has been a Republican priority, this has been Prime Minister Netanyahu’s priority.  It’s been our Gulf allies’ priority — is making sure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.

The deal negotiated by John Kerry, Wendy Sherman, Ernie Moniz, our allies, our partners, the P5+1 achieves that goal.  It achieves our top priority — making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.  But we have always recognized that even if Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, Iran still poses challenges to our interests and our values, both in the region and around the world.

So when this deal gets implemented, we know that we will have dismantled the immediate concerns around Iran’s nuclear program.  We will have brought their stockpiles down to 98 percent.  We will have significantly reduced the number of centrifuges that they operate.  We will have installed an unprecedented inspections regime, and that will remain in place not just for 10 years but, for example, on the stockpiles, will continue to 15 years.

Iran will have pledged to the international community that it will not develop a nuclear weapon and now will be subject to an Additional Protocol, a more vigorous inspection and monitoring regime that lasts in perpetuity.  We will have disabled a facility like Arak, the Arak facility, from allowing Iran to develop plutonium that could be used for a bomb.  We will have greatly reduced the stockpile of uranium that’s enriched.  And we will have put in place inspections along the entire supply chain so that if uranium was diverted into a covert program we would catch it.

So I can say with confidence but, more importantly, nuclear experts can say with confidence that Iran will not be in a position to develop a nuclear bomb.  We will have met our number-one priority.

Now, we’ll still have problems with Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism; its funding of proxies like Hezbollah that threaten Israel and threaten the region; the destabilizing activities that they’re engaging in, including in places like Yemen.  And my hope is that building on this deal we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave.  But we’re not counting on it.  So this deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior.  It’s not contingent on Iran suddenly operating like a liberal democracy.

It solves one particular problem, which is making sure they don’t have a bomb.  And the point I’ve repeatedly made — and is, I believe, hard to dispute — is that it will be a lot easier for us to check Iran’s nefarious activities, to push back against the other areas where they operate contrary to our interests or our allies’ interests, if they don’t have a bomb.

And so will they change their behavior?  Will we seek to gain more cooperation from them in resolving issues like Syria, or what’s happening in Iraq, to stop encouraging Houthis in Yemen?  We’ll continue to engage with them.  Although, keep in mind that unlike the Cuba situation, we’re not normalizing diplomatic relations here.  So the contacts will continue to be limited.  But will we try to encourage them to take a more constructive path?  Of course.  But we’re not betting on it.

And in fact, having resolved the nuclear issue, we will be in a stronger position to work with Israel, work with the Gulf countries, work with our other partners, work with the Europeans to bring additional pressure to bear on Iran around those issues that remain of concern.

But the argument that I’ve been already hearing — and this was foreshadowed even before the deal was announced — that because this deal does not solve all those other problems, that that’s an argument for rejecting this deal, defies logic.  It makes no sense.  And it loses sight of what was our original number-one priority, which is making sure that they don’t have a bomb.

Jon Karl.

Q    Mr. President, does it give you any pause to see this deal praised by Syrian dictator Assad as a “great victory for Iran,” or praised by those in Tehran who still shout “death to America,” and yet our closest ally in the Middle East calls it “a mistake of historic proportions”?  And here in Congress, it looks like a large majority will vote to reject this deal.  I know you can veto that rejection, but do you have any concerns about seeing a majority of the people’s representatives in Congress saying that this is a bad deal?

And if I can just ask you quick political question, a very quick one.

THE PRESIDENT:  Jon, I think —

Q    Donald —

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me answer the question that you asked.  It does not give me pause that Mr. Assad or others in Tehran may be trying to spin the deal in a way that they think is favorable to what their constituencies want to hear.  That’s what politicians do.  And that’s been the case throughout.  I mean, you’ll recall that during the course of these negotiations over the last couple of months every time the Supreme Leader or somebody tweeted something out, for some reason we all bought into the notion, well, the Obama administration must be giving this or capitulating to that.  Well, now we have a document so you can see what the deal is.

We don’t have to speculate, we don’t have to engage in spin, you can just read what it says and what is required.  And nobody has disputed that as a consequence of this agreement Iran has to drastically reduce its stockpiles of uranium, is cut off from plutonium; the Fordow facility that is underground is converted; that we have an unprecedented inspections regime; that we have snap-back provisions if they cheat.  The facts are the facts.  And I’m not concerned about what others say about it.

Now, with respect to Congress, my hope — I won’t prejudge this — my hope is, is that everyone in Congress also evaluates this agreement based on the facts — not on politics, not on posturing, not on the fact that this is a deal I bring to Congress as opposed to a Republican President, not based on lobbying, but based on what’s in the national interest of the United States of America.

And I think that if Congress does that, then, in fact, based on the facts, the majority of Congress should approve of this deal.  But we live in Washington and politics do intrude.  And as I said in an interview yesterday, I am not betting on the Republican Party rallying behind this agreement.  I do expect the debate to be based on facts and not speculation or misinformation.  And that I welcome — in part because, look, there are legitimate real concerns here.  We’ve already talked about it.  We have huge differences with Iran.  Israel has legitimate concerns about its security relative to Iran.  You have a large country with a significant military that has proclaimed that Israel shouldn’t exist, that has denied the Holocaust, that has financed Hezbollah, and as a consequence there are missiles that are pointed towards Tel Aviv.

And so I think there are very good reasons why Israelis are nervous about Iran’s position in the world generally.  And I’ve said this to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I’ve said it directly to the Israeli people.  But what I’ve also said is that all those threats are compounded if Iran gets a nuclear weapon.  And for all the objections of Prime Minister Netanyahu, or, for that matter, some of the Republican leadership that’s already spoken, none of them have presented to me, or the American people, a better alternative.

I’m hearing a lot of talking points being repeated about “this is a bad deal” — “this is a historically bad deal,” “this will threaten Israel and threaten the world and threaten the United States.”  I mean, there’s been a lot of that.

What I haven’t heard is, what is your preferred alternative?  If 99 percent of the world community and the majority of nuclear experts look at this thing and they say, this will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, and you are arguing either that it does not, or that even if it does it’s temporary, or that because they’re going to get a windfall of their accounts being unfrozen that they’ll cause more problems, then you should have some alternative to present.  And I haven’t heard that.  And the reason is because there really are only two alternatives here:  Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation, or it’s resolved through force, through war.  Those are the options.

Now, you’ll hear some critics say, well, we could have negotiated a better deal.  Okay.  What does that mean?  I think the suggestion among a lot of the critics has been that a better deal, an acceptable deal would be one in which Iran has no nuclear capacity at all, peaceful or otherwise.  The problem with that position is that there is nobody who thinks that Iran would or could ever accept that, and the international community does not take the view that Iran can’t have a peaceful nuclear program.  They agree with us that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon.

And so we don’t have diplomatic leverage to eliminate every vestige of a peaceful nuclear program in Iran.  What we do have the leverage to do is to make sure they don’t have a weapon.  That’s exactly what we’ve done.

So to go back to Congress, I challenge those who are objecting to this agreement, number one, to read the agreement before they comment on it; number two, to explain specifically where it is that they think this agreement does not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and why they’re right and people like Ernie Moniz, who is an MIT nuclear physicist and an expert in these issues, is wrong, why the rest of the world is wrong, and then present an alternative.

And if the alternative is that we should bring Iran to heel through military force, then those critics should say so.  And that will be an honest debate.

All right.

Q    Mr. President, if I can —


Q    Prime Minister Netanyahu said that you have a situation where Iran can delay 24 days before giving access to military facilities —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m happy to — that’s a good example.  So let’s take the issue of 24 days.  This has been I think swirling today, the notion that this is insufficient in terms of inspections.

Now, keep in mind, first of all, that we’ll have 24/7 inspections of declared nuclear facilities — Fordow, Natanz, Arak, their uranium mines; facilities that are known to produce centrifuges, parts.  That entire infrastructure that we know about we will have sophisticated, 24/7 monitoring of those facilities.

So then the issue is, what if they try to develop a covert program?  Now, one of the advantages of having inspections across the entire production chain is that it makes it very difficult to set up a covert program.  There are only so many uranium mines in Iran.  And if, in fact, we’re counting the amount of uranium that’s being mined and suddenly some is missing on the back end, they got some explaining to do.

So we’re able to track what’s happening along the existing facilities to make sure that there is not diversion into a covert program.  But let’s say that Iran is so determined that it now wants to operate covertly.  The IAEA, the international organization charged with implementing the non-proliferation treaty and monitoring nuclear activities in countries around the world — the IAEA will have the ability to say, that undeclared site we’re concerned about, we see something suspicious.  And they will be able to say to Iran, we want to go inspect that.

Now, if Iran objects, we can override it.  In the agreement, we’ve set it up so we can override Iran’s objection.  And we don’t need Russia or China in order for us to get that override.  And if they continue to object, we’re in a position to snap back sanctions and declare that Iran is in violation and is cheating.

As for the fact that it may take 24 days to finally get access to the site, the nature of nuclear programs and facilities is such, this is not something you hide in a closet.  This is not something you put on a dolly and kind of wheel off somewhere.  And, by the way, if we identify an undeclared site that we’re suspicious about, we’re going to be keeping eyes on it.  So we’re going to be monitoring what the activity is, and that’s going to be something that will be evidence if we think that some funny business was going on there that we can then present to the international community.

So we’ll be monitoring that that entire time.  And, by the way, if there is nuclear material on that site, high school physics will remind us that that leaves a trace.  And so we’ll know that, in fact, there was a violation of the agreement.

So the point is, Jonathan, that this is the most vigorous inspection and verification regime by far that has ever been negotiated.  Is it possible that Iran decides to try to cheat despite having this entire inspection verification mechanism?  It’s possible.  But if it does, first of all, we’ve built in a one-year breakout time, which gives us a year to respond forcefully.  And we’ve built in a snap-back provision so we don’t have to go through lengthy negotiations at the U.N. to put the sanctions right back in place.

And so really the only argument you can make against the verification and inspection mechanism that we’ve put forward is that Iran is so intent on obtaining a nuclear weapon that no inspection regime and no verification mechanism would be sufficient because they’d find some way to get around it because they’re untrustworthy.

And if that’s your view, then we go back to the choice that you have to make earlier.  That means, presumably, that you can’t negotiate.  And what you’re really saying is, is that you’ve got to apply military force to guarantee that they don’t have a nuclear program.  And if somebody wants to make that debate — whether it’s the Republican leadership, or Prime Minister Netanyahu, or the Israeli Ambassador or others, they’re free to make it.  But it’s not persuasive.

Carol Lee.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I want to ask you about the arms and ballistic missile embargo.  Why did you decide — agree to lift those even with the five- and eight-year durations?  It’s obviously emerging as a sticking point on the Hill.  And are you concerned that arms to Iran will go to Hezbollah or Hamas?  And is there anything that you or a future President can do to stop that?

And if you don’t mind, I wanted to see if you could step back a little bit, and when you look at this Iran deal and all the other issues and unrest that’s happening in the Middle East, what kind of Middle East do you want to leave when you leave the White House in a year and a half?

THE PRESIDENT:  So the issue of the arms embargo and ballistic missiles is of real concern to us — has been of real concern to us.  And it is in the national security interest of the United States to prevent Iran from sending weapons to Hezbollah, for example, or sending weapons to the Houthis in Yemen that accelerate a civil war there.

We have a number of mechanisms under international law that give us authority to interdict arms shipments by Iran.  One of those mechanisms is the U.N. security resolution related to Iran’s nuclear program.  Essentially, Iran was sanctioned because of what had happened at Fordow, its unwillingness to comply with previous U.N. security resolutions about their nuclear program.  And as part of the package of sanctions that was slapped on them, the issue of arms and ballistic missiles were included.

Now, under the terms of the original U.N. resolution, the fact is that once an agreement was arrived at that gave the international community assurance Iran didn’t have a nuclear weapon, you could argue just looking at the text that those arms and ballistic missile prohibitions should immediately go away.

But what I said to our negotiators was given that Iran has breached trust, and the uncertainty of our allies in the region about Iran’s activities, let’s press for a longer extension of the arms embargo and the ballistic missile prohibitions.  And we got that.  We got five years in which, under this new agreement, arms coming in and out of Iran are prohibited.  And we got eight years with respect to ballistic missiles.

But part of the reason why we were willing to extend it only for five, let’s say, as opposed to a longer period of time, is because we have other U.N. resolutions that prohibit arms sales by Iran to organizations like Hezbollah.  We have other U.N. resolutions and multilateral agreements that give us authority to interdict arms shipments from Iran throughout the region.  And so we’ve had belts and suspenders and buttons, a whole bunch of different legal authorities.  These legal authorities under the nuclear program may lapse after five or eight years, but we’ll still be in possession of other legal authorities that allow us to interdict those arms.

And truthfully, these prohibitions are not self-enforcing.  It’s not like the U.N. has the capacity to police what Iran is doing.

What it does is it gives us authority under international law to prevent arms shipments from happening in concert with our allies and our partners.  And the real problem, if you look at how, for example, Hezbollah got a lot of missiles that are a grave threat to Israel and many of our friends in the region, it’s not because they were legal.  It’s not because somehow that was authorized under international law.  It was because there was insufficient intelligence, or capacity, to stop those shipments.

So the bottom line is, Carol, I share the concerns of Israel, Saudis, Gulf partners about Iran shipping arms and causing conflict and chaos in the region.  And that’s why I’ve said to them, let’s double down and partner much more effectively to improve our intelligence capacity and our interdiction capacity so that fewer of those arms shipments are getting through the net.

But the legal authorities, we’ll still possess.  And obviously, we’ve got our own unilateral prohibitions and sanctions in place around non-nuclear issues, like support for Hezbollah.  And those remain in place.

Now, in terms of the larger issues of the Middle East, obviously that’s a longer discussion.  I think my key goal when I turn over the keys to the President — the next President — is that we are on track to defeat ISIL; that they are much more contained and we’re moving in the right direction there.  That we have jumpstarted a process to resolve the civil war in Syria, which is like an open sore in the region and is giving refuge to terrorist organizations who are taking advantage of that chaos.  To make sure that in Iraq not only have we pushed back ISIL, but we’ve also created an environment in which Sunni, Shia and Kurd are starting to operate and function more effectively together.  And to be in a conversation with all our partners in the region about how we have strengthened our security partnerships so that they feel they can address any potential threats that may come, including threats from Iran.  And that includes providing additional security assurances and cooperation to Israel, building on the unprecedented cooperation that we have already put in place and support that we’ve already put in place.  It includes the work that we’ve done with the GCC up at Camp David, making sure that we execute that.

If we’ve done those things, then the problems in the Middle East will not be solved.  And ultimately, it’s not the job of the President of the United States to solve every problem in the Middle East.  The people of the Middle East are going to have to solve some of these problems themselves.  But I think we can provide that next President at least a foundation for continued progress in these various areas.

The last thing I would say — and this is a longer-term issue — is we have to address the youth in the region with jobs and opportunity and a better vision for the future so that they are not tempted by the nihilistic, violent dead-end that organizations like ISIL offer.  Again, we can’t do that entirely by ourselves, but we can partner with well-intentioned organizations, states, NGOs, religious leaders in the region.  We have to do a better job of that than we’ve been doing so far.

Michael Crowley.

Q    Thank you.  You alluded earlier to Iran’s role in Syria, just to focus on that for a moment.  Many analysts and some former members of your administration believe that the kind of negotiated political settlement that you say is necessary in Syria will require working directly with Iran and giving Iran an important role.  Do you agree?  And is that a dialogue you’ll be actively seeking?

And what about the fight against ISIS?  What would it take for there to be explicit cooperation between the U.S. and Iran?

THE PRESIDENT:  I do agree that we’re not going to solve the problems in Syria unless there’s buy-in from the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks, our Gulf partners.  It’s too chaotic.  There are too many factions.  There’s too much money and too many arms flooding into the zone.  It’s gotten caught up in both sectarian conflict and geopolitical jockeying.  And in order for us to resolve it, there’s going to have to be agreement among the major powers that are interested in Syria that this is not going to be won on the battlefield.  So Iran is one of those players, and I think that it’s important for them to be part of that conversation.

I want to repeat what I said earlier.  We have not — and I don’t anticipate any time in the near future — restored normal diplomatic relations with Iran.  And so I do not foresee a formal set of agreements with Iran in terms of how we’re conducting our counter-ISIL campaign.

But clearly, Iran has influence in Iraq.  Iraq has a majority Shia population.  They have relationships to Iran.  Some are natural.  We expect somebody like Prime Minister Abadi to meet with and negotiate and work with Iran as its neighbor.  Some are less legitimate, where you see Iran financing Shia militias that in the past have killed American soldiers and in the future may carry out atrocities when they move into Sunni areas.

And so we’re working with our diplomats on the ground, as well as our military teams on the ground to asses where can we appropriately at least de-conflict, and where can we work with Prime Minister Abadi around an overall strategy for Iraq to regain its sovereignty, and where do we tell Abadi, you know what, what Iran is doing there is a problem, and we can’t cooperate in that area, for example, unless you get those folks out of there because we’re not going to have our troops, even in an advisory or training role, looking over their shoulders because they’re not sure of what might happen to them.  And those conversations have been ongoing.  I think they will continue.

The one thing you can count on is that any work that the U.S. government does, or the U.S. military does in Iraq with other partners on the ground is premised on the idea that they are reporting to — under the chain of command of the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces.  If we don’t have confidence that ultimately Abadi is directing those soldiers, then it’s tough for us to have any kind of direct relationship.

Major Garrett.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran — three held on trumped-up charges, according to your administration; one, whereabouts unknown.  Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of this nation and the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?

And last week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, under no circumstances should there be any relief for Iran in terms of ballistic missiles or conventional weapons.  It is perceived that that was a last-minute capitulation in these negotiations.  Many in the Pentagon feel you’ve left the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hung out to dry.  Could you comment?

THE PRESIDENT:  I got to give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions.  The notion that I am content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails — Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better.

I’ve met with the families of some of those folks.  Nobody is content.  And our diplomats and our teams are working diligently to try to get them out.

Now, if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates.  Suddenly, Iran realizes, you know what, maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals.  It makes it much more difficult for us to walk away if Iran somehow thinks that a nuclear deal is dependent in some fashion on the nuclear deal.  And, by the way, if we had walked away from the nuclear deal, we’d still be pushing them just as hard to get these folks out.  That’s why those issues are not connected.  But we are working every single day to try to get them out, and won’t stop until they’re out and rejoined with their families.

With respect to the Chairman’s testimony, to some degree I already answered this with Carol.  We are not taking the pressure off Iran with respect to arms and with respect to ballistic missiles.  As I just explained, not only do we keep in place for five years the arms embargo under this particular new U.N. resolution, not only do we maintain the eight years on the ballistic missiles under this particular U.N. resolution, but we have a host of other multilateral and unilateral authorities that allow us to take action where we see Iran engaged in those activities whether it’s six years from now or 10 years from now.

So we have not lost those legal authorities.  And in fact, part of my pitch to the GCC countries, as well as to Prime Minister Netanyahu, is we should do a better job making sure that Iran is not engaged in sending arms to organizations like Hezbollah.  And as I just indicated, that means improving our intelligence capacity and our interdiction capacity with our partners.

April Ryan.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I want to change the subject a bit.  Earlier this year, on the flight to Selma, you said, on matters of race, as President your job is to close the remaining gaps that are left in state and federal government.  Now, how does criminal justice reform fit into that equation?  And what gaps remain for you towards the end of your presidency?  And also, what does it mean to travel to Kenya, your father’s homeland, in the next couple of weeks as President to the United States?  And lastly, would you revoke the Medal of Freedom from Bill Cosby?

THE PRESIDENT:  You stuffed a lot in there, April.  (Laughter.)

Q    I learned from my colleagues.

THE PRESIDENT:  Say, who did you learn from?  Jonathan Karl?  Is that what you said?  (Laughter.)

Q    On criminal justice reform, obviously I gave a lengthy speech yesterday, but this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot; been working first with Eric Holder, now with Loretta Lynch about — we’ve been working on along with other prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  It’s an outgrowth of the task force that we put together, post-Ferguson and the Garner case in New York.

And I don’t think that the criminal justice system is obviously the sole source of racial tension in this country, or the key institution to resolving the opportunity gap.  But I think it is a part of the broader set of challenges that we face in creating a more perfect union.

And the good news is, is that this is one of those rare issues where we’ve got some Republican and Democratic interest, as well as federal, state, and local interest in solving the problem.  I think people recognize that there are violent criminals out there and they’ve got to be locked up.  We’ve got to have tough prosecutors, we have to support our law enforcement officials.  Police are in a tough job and they are helping to keep us safe, and we are grateful and thankful to them.

But what we also know is this huge spike in incarcerations is also driven by non-violent drug offenses where the sentencing is completely out of proportion with the crime.  And that costs taxpayers enormous amounts of money.  It is debilitating communities who are seeing huge proportions of the young men in their communities finding themselves with a criminal record, rendering them oftentimes unemployable.  So it compounds problems that these communities already have.

And so I am very appreciative of folks like Dick Durbin and Cory Booker, alongside Mike Lee and Rand Paul and other folks in the House who are working together to see if we can both reduce some of these mandatory minimums around non-violent drug offenses.  Because again, I tend not to have a lot of sympathy when it comes to violent crime.  But when it comes to non-violent drug offenses, is there work that we can do to reduce mandatory minimums, create more diversion programs like drug courts?  Then, can we do a better job on the rehabilitation side inside of prisons so that we are preparing these folks who are eventually going to be released to reenter the workforce?  On the back end, are we doing more to link them up with reentry programs that are effective?

And this may be an area where we could have some really significant bipartisan legislation that doesn’t eliminate all the other challenges we’ve got.  Because the most important goal is keeping folks from getting in the criminal justice system in the first place, which means early childhood education and good jobs, and making sure that we’re not segregating folks in impoverished communities that have no contact with opportunity.

But this can make a difference.  I met these four ex-offenders, as I said, yesterday, and what was remarkable was how they had turned their lives around.  And these were some folks who had been some pretty tough criminals.  One of them had served 10 years; another was a repeat offender that had served a lot of time.  And in each instance, somebody intervened at some point in their lives — once they had already been in the criminal justice system, once they had already gotten in trouble — and said, you know what, I think you can live a different way, and I’m willing to help you.

And that one person, an art teacher, or a GED teacher, or somebody who was willing to offer a guy a job — I want to give a shout-out to Five Guys, because one of the guys there was an ex-felon, and Five Guys gave him a job.  And he ended up becoming a manager at the store and was able to completely turn his life around.  But the point was, somebody reached out to that person and gave him a chance.

And so part of our question should be, how about somebody reaching out to these guys when they’re 10, or 11, or 12, or eight, as opposed to waiting until they’ve already gone through a criminal justice program.  That’s part of why we’re doing My Brother’s Keeper.  But this is an area where I feel modestly optimistic.

I think in the meantime we’ve got to stay on top of keeping the crime rate down, because part of the reason I think there’s a conversation taking place is violent crime has significantly dropped.  Last year, we saw both incarcerations and the crime rate drop, and this can always turn if we start seeing renewed problems in terms of violent crime.  And there’s parts of the country where violent crime is still a real problem, including my hometown of Chicago, and in Baltimore.

And part of what I’ve asked Attorney General Lynch to do is to figure out how can we refocus attention.  If we’re going to do a package of criminal justice reforms, part of it would be actually having a greater police presence and more law enforcement in the communities that are really getting hit hard and haven’t seen some of the drops in violent crime that we’ve seen in places like Manhattan, for example.

With respect to the visit to Kenya, it’s obviously something I’m looking forward to.  I’ll be honest with you, visiting Kenya as a private citizen is probably more meaningful to me than visiting as President because I can actually get outside of a hotel room or a conference center.  And just the logistics of visiting a place are always tough as President, but it’s obviously symbolically important.  And my hope is, is that we can deliver a message that the U.S. is a strong partner not just for Kenya, but for Sub-Saharan Africa generally; build on the progress that’s been made around issues of health and education; focus on counterterrorism issues that are important in East Africa because of al-Shabaab and some of the tragedies that have happened inside of Kenya; and continue to encourage democracy and the reduction of corruption inside that country that sometimes has held back this incredibly gifted and blessed country.

And with respect to the Medal of Freedom, there’s no precedent for revoking a medal.  We don’t have that mechanism.  And as you know, I tend to make it a policy not to comment on the specifics of cases where there might still be, if not criminal, then civil issues involved.

I’ll say this:  If you give a woman — or a man, for that matter — without his or her knowledge, a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape.  And I think this country — any civilized country — should have no tolerance for rape.

All right.  Have we exhausted Iran questions here?  I think there’s a helicopter that’s coming.  But I really am enjoying this Iran debate.  Topics that may not have been touched upon, criticisms that you’ve heard that I did not answer?  Go ahead.  I know Josh is getting a little stressed here — (laughter) — but I just want to make sure that we’re not leaving any stones unturned here.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Mr. President.  I’ll be brief.  The argument has been made that Iran now has a cash windfall, billions to spend.  Your people seem confident they’re going to spend it at home.  Why are you confident they’re not going to spend it on arming Hezbollah, arming Bashar al-Assad, et cetera?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think that’s a great question and I’m glad you brought it up.  I think it is a mistake to characterize our belief that they will just spend it on daycare centers, and roads, and paying down debt.  We think that they have to do some of that, because Rouhani was elected specifically on the premise of improving the economic situation inside of Iran.  That economy has tanked since we imposed sanctions.

So the notion that they’re just immediately going to turn over $100 billion to the IRGC or the Quds Force I think runs contrary to all the intelligence that we’ve seen and the commitments that the Iranian government has made.

Do we think that with the sanctions coming down, that Iran will have some additional resources for its military and for some of the activities in the region that are a threat to us and a threat to our allies?  I think that is a likelihood that they’ve got some additional resources.  Do I think it’s a game-changer for them?  No.

They are currently supporting Hezbollah, and there is a ceiling — a pace at which they could support Hezbollah even more, particularly in the chaos that’s taking place in Syria.  So can they potentially try to get more assistance there?  Yes.  Should we put more resources into blocking them from getting that assistance to Hezbollah?  Yes.  Is the incremental additional money that they’ve got to try to destabilize the region or send to their proxies, is that more important than preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?  No.  So I think — again, this is a matter of us making a determination of what is our priority.

The other problem with the argument that folks have been making about, oh, this is a windfall and suddenly Iran is flushed with cash, and they’re going to take over the world.  And I say that not tongue-in-cheek, because if you look at some of the statements by some of our critics, you would think that Iran is, in fact, going to take over the world as a consequence of this deal — which I think would be news to the Iranians.

That argument is also premised on the notion that if there is no deal, if Congress votes down this deal, that we’re able to keep sanctions in place with the same vigor and effectiveness as we have right now.  And that, I can promise you, is not true.  That is absolutely not true.  I want to repeat:  We’re not writing Iran a check.  This is Iran’s money that we were able to block from them having access to.  That required the cooperation of countries all around the world, many of whom really want to purchase oil from Iran.  The imposition of sanctions — their cooperation with us — has cost them billions of dollars, made it harder for them.  They’ve been willing to do that because they’ve believed we were sincere about trying to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, and they considered that a priority — a high enough priority that they were willing to cooperate with us on sanctions.

If they saw us walking away, or more specifically, if they saw the U.S. Congress effectively vetoing the judgment of 99 percent of the world community that this is a deal that resolves the Iranian weapons program — nuclear weapons program in an equitable way, the sanctions system unravels.  And so we could still maintain some of our unilateral sanctions, but it would be far less effective — as it was before we were able to put together these multilateral sanctions.

So maybe they don’t get $100 billion; maybe they get $60 billion or $70 billion instead.  The price for that that we’ve paid is that now Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.  We have no inspectors on the ground.  We don’t know what’s going on.  They’re still getting some cash windfall.  We’ve lost credibility in the eyes of the world.  We will have effectively united Iran and divided ourselves from our allies.  A terrible position to be in.

I’m just going to look — I made some notes about any of the arguments — the other arguments that I’ve heard here.

Q    What about — (off-mic) — the end of the deal?

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, yes, that’s a good one.  The notion —

Q    At the end of the deal they could go back —

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.  Well, so let’s address this issue of — because that’s the other big argument that’s been made.  All right, let’s assume that the deal holds for 10 years, Iran doesn’t cheat.  Now, at the end of 10 years, some of the restrictions have been lifted — although, remember, others stay in place for 15 years.  So for example, they’ve still got to keep their stockpiles at a minimal level for 15 years.  The inspections don’t go away; those are still in place 15, 20 years from now.  Their commitment under the Non-Proliferation Treaty does not go away; that’s still in place.  The additional protocol that they have to sign up for under this deal, which requires a more extensive inspection and verification mechanism — that stays in place.

So there’s no scenario in which a U.S. President is not in a stronger position 12, 13, 15 years from now if, in fact, Iran decided at that point they still wanted to get a nuclear weapon.  Keep in mind, we will have maintained a one-year breakout time, we will have rolled back their program, frozen their facilities, kept them under severe restrictions, had observers.  They will have made international commitments supported by countries around the world.

And — hold on a second — and if at that point they finally decided, you know what, we’re going to cheat, or not even cheat — at that point, they decide openly we’re now pursuing a nuclear weapon — they’re still in violation of this deal and the commitments they’ve made internationally.

And so we are still in a position to mobilize the world community to say, no, you can’t have a nuclear weapon.  And they’re not in a stronger position to get a nuclear weapon at that point; they’re in a weaker position than they are today.  And, by the way, we haven’t given away any of our military capabilities.  We’re not in a weaker position to respond.

So even if everything the critics were saying was true — that at the end of 10 years, or 12 years, or 15 years, Iran now is in a position to decide it wants a nuclear weapon, that they’re at a breakout point — they won’t be at a breakout point that is more dangerous than the breakout point they’re in right now.  They won’t be at a breakout point that is shorter than the one that exists today.  And so why wouldn’t we at least make sure that for the next 10, 15, years they are not getting a nuclear weapon and we can verify it; and afterwards, if they decide if they’ve changed their mind, we are then much more knowledgeable about what their capabilities are, much more knowledgeable about what their program is, and still in a position to take whatever actions we would take today?

Q    So none of this is holding out hope that they’ll change their behavior?


Q    Nothing different —

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  Look, I’m always hopeful that behavior may change for the sake of the Iranian people as well as people in the region.  There are young people there who are not getting the opportunities they deserve because of conflict, because of sectarianism, because of poor governance, because of repression, because of terrorism.  And I remain eternally hopeful that we can do something about that, and it should be part of U.S. foreign policy to do something about that.  But I’m not banking on that to say that this deal is the right thing to do.

Again, it is incumbent on the critics of this deal to explain how an American President is in a worse position 12, 13, 14, 15 years from now if, in fact, at that point Iran says we’re going to pull out of the NPT, kick out inspectors and go for a nuclear bomb.  If that happens, that President will be in a better position than what happened if Iran, as a consequence of Congress rejecting this deal, decides that’s it, we’re done negotiating, we’re going after a bomb right now.

The choices would be tougher today than they would be for that President 15 years from now.  And I have not yet heard logic that refutes that.

All right.  I really have to go now.  I think we’ve hit the big themes.  But I promise you, I will address this again.  All right?  I suspect this is not the last that we’ve heard of this debate.

2:33 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts July 14, 2015: Joint statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on reaching the Iran Nuclear Deal




Joint statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif Vienna, 14 July 2015

Source: EEAS, 7-14-15

Today is an historic day.

It is a great honour for us to announce that we have reached an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.

With courage, political will, mutual respect and leadership, we delivered on what the world was hoping for: a shared commitment to peace and to join hands in order to make our world safer. This is an historic day also because we are creating the conditions for building trust and opening a new chapter in our relationship.

This achievement is the result of a collective effort.

No one ever thought it would be easy. Historic decisions never are. But despite all twists and turns of the talks, and the number of extensions, hope and determination enabled us to overcome all the difficult moments. We have always been aware we had a responsibility to our generation and the future ones.

Thanks to the constructive engagement of all parties, and the dedication and ability of our teams, we have successfully concluded negotiations and resolved a dispute that lasted more than 10 years.

Many people brought these difficult negotiations forward during the last decade and we would like to thank all of them – as we would like to thank the International Atomic Energy Agency for its critical contribution and close cooperation as well as the Austrian government for the support and hospitality.

We, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security policy and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, together with the Foreign Ministers of the People´s Republic of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States of America met here in Vienna, following several months of intensive work, at various levels and in different formats, to negotiate the text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), based on the key parameters agreed in Lausanne on 2 April.

We have today agreed on the final text of this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

The E3/EU+3 and the Islamic Republic of Iran welcome this historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which will ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful, and mark a fundamental shift in their approach to this issue. They anticipate that full implementation of this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action includes Iran’s own long-term plan with agreed limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, and will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action comprises of a main text, and five technical annexes – on nuclear, sanctions, civil nuclear energy cooperation, a joint commission, and implementation. These documents are detailed and specific: that is important because all sides wanted clarity so as to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a balanced deal that respects the interests of all sides. It is also complex, detailed and technical: we cannot fully summarise the agreement now. But the full main text and all its annexes will be made public still today and will be presented within the next few days by the E3+3 to the Security Council for endorsement.

We know that this agreement will be subject to intense scrutiny. But what we are announcing today is not only a deal but a good deal. And a good deal for all sides – and the wider international community.

This agreement opens new possibilities and a way forward to end a crisis that has lasted for more than 10 years. We are committed to make sure this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is fully implemented, counting also on the contribution of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

We call on the world community to support the implementation of this historic effort.

This is the conclusion of our negotiations, but this is not the end of our common work. We will keep doing this important task together.



Full Text Political Transcripts July 14, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Statement on Iran Nuclear Deal



Speaker Boehner Statement on Iran Nuclear Agreement

Source: Speaker Boehner’s Press Office, 7-14-15

“At the outset of these talks, the Obama administration said it would secure an agreement that affirmed Iran does not have a right to enrich and permanently dismantles the infrastructure of its nuclear programs. It said that sanctions would not be lifted until Iran met concrete, verifiable standards. And if these terms were not met, the president promised he would walk away.

“The American people and our allies were counting on President Obama to keep his word. Instead, the president has abandoned his own goals. His ‘deal’ will hand Iran billions in sanctions relief while giving it time and space to reach a break-out threshold to produce a nuclear bomb – all without cheating. Instead of making the world less dangerous, this ‘deal’ will only embolden Iran – the world’s largest sponsor of terror – by helping stabilize and legitimize its regime as it spreads even more violence and instability in the region. Instead of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, this deal is likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world.

“The House of Representatives will review every detail of this agreement very closely, but I won’t support any agreement that jeopardizes the safety of the American people and all who value freedom and security. This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s about right and wrong. And we will fight a bad deal that is wrong for our national security and wrong for our country.”
– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/speaker-boehner-statement-iran-nuclear-agreement#sthash.JkHQYhtS.dpuf

Full Text Political Transcripts July 14, 2015: Full Text of Iran Nuclear Deal



Full text of the Iran nuclear deal

The accord will end decades of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program…READ MORE

Iran nuclear deal text


The Iran nuclear deal: full text

Source: CNN, 7-14-15

The following is the full text of the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers:

Joint Plan of Action


The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iranˈs nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons. This comprehensive solution would build on these initial measures and result in a final step for a period to be agreed upon and the resolution of concerns. This comprehensive solution would enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the NPT in conformity with its obligations therein. This comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program. This comprehensive solution would constitute an integrated whole where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This comprehensive solution would involve a reciprocal, step-by step process, and would produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions, as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iranˈs nuclear program.

There would be additional steps in between the initial measures and the final step, including, among other things, addressing the UN Security Council resolutions, with a view toward bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the UN Security Councilˈs consideration of this matter. The E3+3 and Iran will be responsible for conclusion and implementation of mutual near-term measures and the comprehensive solution in good faith. A Joint Commission of E3/EU+3 and Iran will be established to monitor the implementation of the near-term measures and address issues that may arise, with the IAEA responsible for verification of nuclear-related measures. The Joint Commission will work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern.

Elements of a first step

The first step would be time-bound, with a duration of 6 months, and renewable by mutual consent, during which all parties will work to maintain a constructive atmosphere for negotiations in good faith.

Iran would undertake the following voluntary measures:

* From the existing uranium enriched to 20%, retain half as working stock of 20% oxide for fabrication of fuel for the TRR. Dilute the remaining 20% UF6 to no more than 5%. No reconversion line.

* Iran announces that it will not enrich uranium over 5% for the duration of the 6 months.

* Iran announces that it will not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (1), Fordow (2), or the Arak reactor (3), designated by the IAEA as IR-40.

* Beginning when the line for conversion of UF6 enriched up to 5% to UO2 is ready, Iran has decided to convert to oxide UF6 newly enriched up to 5% during the 6 month period, as provided in the operational schedule of the conversion plant declared to the IAEA.

* No new locations for the enrichment.

* Iran will continue its safeguarded R&D practices, including its current enrichment R&D practices, which are not designed for accumulation of the enriched uranium.

* No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing.

* Enhanced monitoring:

– Provision of specified information to the IAEA, including information on Iranˈs plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of the adoption of these measures.

– Submission of an updated DIQ for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40, to the IAEA.

– Steps to agree with the IAEA on conclusion of the Safeguards Approach for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.

– Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification, Interim Inventory Verification, Physical Inventory Verification, and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records, at Fordow and Natanz.

– IAEA inspector managed access to:

. centrifuge assembly workshops4;

. centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and,

. uranium mines and mills.

In return, the E3/EU+3 would undertake the following voluntary measures:

– Pause efforts to further reduce Iranˈs crude oil sales, enabling Iranˈs current customers to purchase their current average amounts of crude oil. Enable the repatriation of an agreed amount of revenue held abroad. For such oil sales, suspend the EU and U.S. sanctions on associated insurance and transportation services.

– Suspend U.S. and EU sanctions on:

. Iranˈs petrochemical exports, as well as sanctions on associated services. (5)

. Gold and precious metals, as well as sanctions on associated services.

• Suspend U.S. sanctions on Iranˈs auto industry, as well as sanctions on associated services.

• License the supply and installation in Iran of spare parts for safety of flight for Iranian civil aviation and associated services. License safety related inspections and repairs in Iran as well as associated services. (6)

• No new nuclear-related UN Security Council sanctions.

• No new EU nuclear-related sanctions.

• The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.

• Establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iranˈs domestic needs using Iranian oil revenues held abroad. Humanitarian trade would be defined as transactions involving food and agricultural products, medicine, medical devices, and medical expenses incurred abroad. This channel would involve specified foreign banks and non-designated Iranian banks to be defined when establishing the channel.

* This channel could also enable:

a- transactions required to pay Iranˈs UN obligations; and,

b- direct tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad, up to an agreed amount for the six month period.

• Increase the EU authorisation thresholds for transactions for non-sanctioned trade to an agreed amount.

Elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution*

The final step of a comprehensive solution, which the parties aim to conclude negotiating and commence implementing no more than one year after the adoption of this document, would:

• Have a specified long-term duration to be agreed upon.

• Reflect the rights and obligations of parties to the NPT and IAEA Safeguards Agreements.

• Comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy, on a schedule to be agreed upon.

• Involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.

• Fully resolve concerns related to the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40. No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing.

• Fully implement the agreed transparency measures and enhanced monitoring. Ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Majlis (Iranian parliament).

• Include international civil nuclear cooperation, including among others, on acquiring modern light water power and research reactors and associated equipment, and the supply of modern nuclear fuel as well as agreed R&D practices.

Following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its full duration, the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT.



(1) Namely, during the 6 months, Iran will not feed UF6 into the centrifuges installed but not enriching uranium. Not install additional centrifuges. Iran announces that during the first 6 months, it will replace existing centrifuges with centrifuges of the same type.

(2) At Fordow, no further enrichment over 5% at 4 cascades now enriching uranium, and not increase enrichment capacity. Not feed UF6 into the other 12 cascades, which would remain in a non-operative state. No interconnections between cascades. Iran announces that during the first 6 months, it will replace existing centrifuges with centrifuges of the same type.

(3) Iran announces on concerns related to the construction of the reactor at Arak that for 6 months it will not commission the reactor or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site and will not test additional fuel or produce more fuel for the reactor or install remaining components.

(4) Consistent with its plans, Iranˈs centrifuge production during the 6 months will be dedicated to replace damaged machines.

(5) ˈSanctions on associated servicesˈ means any service, such as insurance, transportation, or financial, subject to the underlying U.S. or EU sanctions applicable, insofar as each service is related to the underlying sanction and required to facilitate the desired transactions. These services could involve any non-designated Iranian entities.

(6) Sanctions relief could involve any non-designated Iranian airlines as well as Iran Air.

* With respect to the final step and any steps in between, the standard principle that ˈnothing is agreed until everything is agreedˈ applies.ˈ

Full Text Obama Presidency July 14, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Iran Nuclear Deal Transcript



Statement by the President on Iran

Source: WH, 7-14-15

State Floor

**Please see below for a correction, marked with an asterisk.

7:02 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not — a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change — change that makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure.  This deal is also in line with a tradition of American leadership.  It’s now more than 50 years since President Kennedy stood before the American people and said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”  He was speaking then about the need for discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, which led to efforts to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons.

In those days, the risk was a catastrophic nuclear war between two super powers.  In our time, the risk is that nuclear weapons will spread to more and more countries, particularly in the Middle East, the most volatile region in our world.

Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.  Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring.  Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.  And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place.  Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb.

Because of this deal, Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb — and store them under constant international supervision.  Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade.  Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium.

To put that in perspective, Iran currently has a stockpile that could produce up to 10 nuclear weapons.  Because of this deal, that stockpile will be reduced to a fraction of what would be required for a single weapon.  This stockpile limitation will last for 15 years.

Because of this deal, Iran will modify the core of its reactor in Arak so that it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium.  And it has agreed to ship the spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the lifetime of the reactor.  For at least the next 15 years, Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors.

Because of this deal, we will, for the first time, be in a position to verify all of these commitments.  That means this deal is not built on trust; it is built on verification.  Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s key nuclear facilities.

*Iran [Inspectors] will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain — its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility, and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities.  This ensures that Iran will not be able to divert materials from known facilities to covert ones.  Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years.

Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location.  Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.  That arrangement is permanent.  And the IAEA has also reached an agreement with Iran to get access that it needs to complete its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear research.

Finally, Iran is permanently prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which provided the basis for the international community’s efforts to apply pressure on Iran.

As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran’s nuclear program — both America’s own sanctions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.  This relief will be phased in.  Iran must complete key nuclear steps before it begins to receive new sanctions relief.  And over the course of the next decade, Iran must abide by the deal before additional sanctions are lifted, including five years for restrictions related to arms, and eight years for restrictions related to ballistic missiles.

All of this will be memorialized and endorsed in a new United Nations Security Council resolution.  And if Iran violates the deal, all of these sanctions will snap back into place.  So there’s a very clear incentive for Iran to follow through, and there are very real consequences for a violation.

That’s the deal.  It has the full backing of the international community.  Congress will now have an opportunity to review the details, and my administration stands ready to provide extensive briefings on how this will move forward.

As the American people and Congress review the deal, it will be important to consider the alternative.  Consider what happens in a world without this deal.  Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program.  Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure.  And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission.  We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic resolution, and that is what we have done.

Without this deal, there would be no agreed-upon limitations for the Iranian nuclear program.  Iran could produce, operate and test more and more centrifuges.  Iran could fuel a reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb.  And we would not have any of the inspections that allow us to detect a covert nuclear weapons program.  In other words, no deal means no lasting constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.

Such a scenario would make it more likely that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.  It would also present the United States with fewer and less effective options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

I’ve been President and Commander-in-Chief for over six years now.  Time and again, I have faced decisions about whether or not to use military force.  It’s the gravest decision that any President has to make.  Many times, in multiple countries, I have decided to use force.  And I will never hesitate to do so when it is in our national security interest.  I strongly believe that our national security interest now depends upon preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — which means that without a diplomatic resolution, either I or a future U.S. President would face a decision about whether or not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon or whether to use our military to stop it.

Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.  Moreover, we give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully.  If, in a worst-case scenario, Iran violates the deal, the same options that are available to me today will be available to any U.S. President in the future.  And I have no doubt that 10 or 15 years from now, the person who holds this office will be in a far stronger position with Iran further away from a weapon and with the inspections and transparency that allow us to monitor the Iranian program.

For this reason, I believe it would be irresponsible to walk away from this deal.  But on such a tough issue, it is important that the American people and their representatives in Congress get a full opportunity to review the deal.  After all, the details matter.  And we’ve had some of the finest nuclear scientists in the world working through those details.  And we’re dealing with a country — Iran — that has been a sworn adversary of the United States for over 35 years.  So I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue, and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement.

But I will remind Congress that you don’t make deals like this with your friends.  We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union when that nation was committed to our destruction.  And those agreements ultimately made us safer.

I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interest of the United States and our allies.  So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.

We do not have to accept an inevitable spiral into conflict. And we certainly shouldn’t seek it.  And precisely because the stakes are so high, this is not the time for politics or posturing.  Tough talk from Washington does not solve problems.  Hard-nosed diplomacy, leadership that has united the world’s major powers offers a more effective way to verify that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Now, that doesn’t mean that this deal will resolve all of our differences with Iran.  We share the concerns expressed by many of our friends in the Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf States, about Iran’s support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize the region.  But that is precisely why we are taking this step — because an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would be far more destabilizing and far more dangerous to our friends and to the world.

Meanwhile, we will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its human rights violations.  We will continue our unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel’s security — efforts that go beyond what any American administration has done before.  And we will continue the work we began at Camp David to elevate our partnership with the Gulf States to strengthen their capabilities to counter threats from Iran or terrorist groups like ISIL.

However, I believe that we must continue to test whether or not this region, which has known so much suffering, so much bloodshed, can move in a different direction.

Time and again, I have made clear to the Iranian people that we will always be open to engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect.  Our differences are real and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored.  But it is possible to change.  The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel — that’s a dead end.  A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.

This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction.  We should seize it.

We have come a long way to reach this point — decades of an Iranian nuclear program, many years of sanctions, and many months of intense negotiation.  Today, I want to thank the members of Congress from both parties who helped us put in place the sanctions that have proven so effective, as well as the other countries who joined us in that effort.

I want to thank our negotiating partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, as well as the European Union — for our unity in this effort, which showed that the world can do remarkable things when we share a vision of peacefully addressing conflicts.  We showed what we can do when we do not split apart.

And finally, I want to thank the American negotiating team.  We had a team of experts working for several weeks straight on this, including our Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz.  And I want to particularly thank John Kerry, our Secretary of State, who began his service to this country more than four decades ago when he put on our uniform and went off to war.  He’s now making this country safer through his commitment to strong, principled American diplomacy.

History shows that America must lead not just with our might, but with our principles.  It shows we are stronger not when we are alone, but when we bring the world together.  Today’s announcement marks one more chapter in this pursuit of a safer and more helpful and more hopeful world.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.

7:17 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Re-Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba and Reopening Embassies Transcript



Statement by the President on the Re-Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

Source: WH, 7-1-15

Rose Garden

11:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

More than 54 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the United States closed its embassy in Havana.  Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and re-open embassies in our respective countries.  This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.

When the United States shuttered our embassy in 1961, I don’t think anyone expected that it would be more than half a century before it re-opened.  After all, our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people.  But there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things.

For the United States, that meant clinging to a policy that was not working.  Instead of supporting democracy and opportunity for the Cuban people, our efforts to isolate Cuba despite good intentions increasingly had the opposite effect -– cementing the status quo and isolating the United States from our neighbors in this hemisphere.  The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn’t working, we can -– and will –- change.

Last December, I announced that the United States and Cuba had decided to take steps to normalize our relationship.  As part of that effort, President Raul Castro and I directed our teams to negotiate the re-establishment of embassies.  Since then, our State Department has worked hard with their Cuban counterparts to achieve that goal.  And later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana formally to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.

This is not merely symbolic.  With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people.  We’ll have more personnel at our embassy.  And our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island.  That will include the Cuban government, civil society, and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life.

On issues of common interest –- like counterterrorism, disaster response, and development -– we will find new ways to cooperate with Cuba.  And I’ve been clear that we will also continue to have some very serious differences.  That will include America’s enduring support for universal values, like freedom of speech and assembly, and the ability to access information.  And we will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values.

However, I strongly believe that the best way for America to support our values is through engagement.  That’s why we’ve already taken steps to allow for greater travel, people-to-people and commercial ties between the United States and Cuba.  And we will continue to do so going forward.

Since December, we’ve already seen enormous enthusiasm for this new approach. Leaders across the Americas have expressed support for our change in policy; you heard that expressed by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil yesterday.  Public opinion surveys in both our countries show broad support for this engagement.  One Cuban said, “I have prepared for this all my life.”  Another said that that, “this is like a shot of oxygen.”  One Cuban teacher put it simply:  “We are neighbors.  Now we can be friends.”

Here in the United States, we’ve seen that same enthusiasm.  There are Americans who want to travel to Cuba and American businesses who want to invest in Cuba.  American colleges and universities that want to partner with Cuba.  Above all, Americans who want to get to know their neighbors to the south. And through that engagement, we can also help the Cuban people improve their own lives.  One Cuban American looked forward to “reuniting families and opening lines of communications.”  Another put it bluntly:  “You can’t hold the future of Cuba hostage to what happened in the past.”

And that’s what this is about:  a choice between the future and the past.

Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward.  I believe it’s time for Congress to do the same.  I’ve called on Congress to take steps to lift the embargo that prevents Americans from travelling or doing business in Cuba.  We’ve already seen members from both parties begin that work.  After all, why should Washington stand in the way of our own people?

Yes, there are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation.  But it’s long past time for us to realize that this approach doesn’t work.  It hasn’t worked for 50 years.  It shuts America out of Cuba’s future, and it only makes life worse for the Cuban people.

So I’d ask Congress to listen to the Cuban people.  Listen to the American people.  Listen to the words of a proud Cuban American, Carlos Gutierrez, who recently came out against the policy of the past, saying, “I wonder if the Cubans who have to stand in line for the most basic necessities for hours in the hot Havana sun feel that this approach is helpful to them.”

Of course, nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight. But I believe that American engagement — through our embassy, our businesses, and most of all, through our people — is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights.  Time and again, America has demonstrated that part of our leadership in the world is our capacity to change.  It’s what inspires the world to reach for something better.

A year ago, it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana.  This is what change looks like.

In January of 1961, the year I was born, when President Eisenhower announced the termination of our relations with Cuba, he said:  It is my hope and my conviction that it is “in the not-too-distant future it will be possible for the historic friendship between us once again to find its reflection in normal relations of every sort.”  Well, it took a while, but I believe that time has come.  And a better future lies ahead.

Thank you very much.  And I want to thank some of my team who worked diligently to make this happen.  They’re here.  They don’t always get acknowledged.  We’re really proud of them.  Good work.

11:15 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference after G7 Summit — Transcript



Remarks by President Obama in Press Conference after G7 Summit

Source: WH, 6-8-15

Elmau Briefing Center
Krün, Germany

4:08 P.M. CEST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good afternoon.  Let me begin by once again thanking Chancellor Merkel and the people of Bavaria and Germany for their extraordinary hospitality here at the G7.  My stay here has been extraordinary.  I wish I could stay longer.  And one of the pleasures of being President is scouting out places that you want to come back to, where you don’t have to spend all your time in a conference room.  The setting is breathtaking.  Our German friends have been absolutely wonderful, and the success of this summit is a tribute to their outstanding work.

The G7 represents some of the largest economies in the world.  But in our G7 partners, the United States also embraces some of our strongest allies and closest friends in the world.  So, even as we work to promote the growth that creates jobs and opportunity, we’re also here to stand up for the fundamental principles that we share as democracies:  for freedom; for peace; for the right of nations and peoples to decide their own destiny; for universal human rights and the dignity of every human being.  And I’m pleased that here in Krün, we showed that on the most pressing global challenges, America and our allies stand united.

We agree that the best way to sustain the global economic recovery is by focusing on jobs and growth.  That’s what I’m focused on in the United States.  On Friday, we learned that our economy created another 280,000 jobs in May — the strongest month of the year so far — and more than 3 million new jobs over the past year, nearly the fastest pace in over a decade.  We’ve now seen five straight years of private sector job growth — 12.6 million new jobs created — the longest streak on record.  The unemployment rate is near its lowest level in seven years.  Wages for American workers continue to rise.  And since I took office, the United States has cut our deficit by two-thirds.  So, in the global economy, America is a major source of strength.

At the same time, we recognize that the global economy, while growing, is still not performing at its full potential, And we agreed on a number of necessary steps.  Here in Europe, we support efforts to find a path that enables Greece to carry out key reforms and return to growth within a strong, stable and growing Eurozone.  I updated my partners on our effort with Congress to pass trade promotion authority so we can move ahead with TPP in the Asia Pacific region, and T-TIP here in Europe –agreements with high standards to protect workers, public safety and the environment.

We continue to make progress toward a strong global climate agreement this year in Paris.  All the G7 countries have now put forward our post-2020 targets for reducing carbon emissions, and we’ll continue to urge other significant emitters to do so as well.  We’ll continue to meet our climate finance commitments to help developing countries transition to low-carbon growth.

As we’ve done in the U.S., the G7 agreed on the need to integrate climate risks into development assistance and investment programs across the board, and to increase access to risk insurance to help developing countries respond to and recover from climate-related disasters.  And building on the Power Africa initiative I launched two years ago, the G7 will work to mobilize more financing for clean-energy projects in Africa.

With respect to security, the G7 remains strongly united in support for Ukraine.  We’ll continue to provide economic support and technical assistance that Ukraine needs as it moves ahead on critical reforms to transform its economy and strengthen its democracy.  As we’ve seen again in recent days, Russian forces continue to operate in eastern Ukraine, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  This is now the second year in a row that the G7 has met without Russia -— another example of Russia’s isolation -— and every member of the G7 continues to maintain sanctions on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.

Now, it’s important to recognize the Russian economy has been seriously weakened.  The ruble and foreign investment are down; Inflation is up.  The Russian central bank has lost more than $150 billion in reserves.  Russian banks and firms are virtually locked out of the international markets.  Russian energy companies are struggling to import the services and technologies they need for complex energy projects.  Russian defense firms have been cut off from key technologies.  Russia is in deep recession.  So Russia’s actions in Ukraine are hurting Russia and hurting the Russian people.

Here at the G7, we agreed that even as we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution, sanctions against Russia will remain in place so long as Russia continues to violate its obligations under the Minsk agreements.  Our European partners reaffirmed that they will maintain sanctions on Russia until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented, which means extending the EU’s existing sectoral sanctions beyond July.  And the G7 is making it clear that, if necessary, we stand ready to impose additional, significant sanctions against Russia.

Beyond Europe, we discussed the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and we remain united heading into the final stages of the talks.  Iran has a historic opportunity to resolve the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program, and we agreed that Iran needs to seize that opportunity.

Our discussions with Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq, President Caid Essebsi of Tunisia and President Buhari of Nigeria were a chance to address the threats of ISIL and Boko Haram.  The G7 countries, therefore, agreed to work -— together and with our partners -— to further coordinate our counterterrorism efforts.

As many of the world’s leading partners in global development — joined by leaders of Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and the African Union — we discussed how to maximize the impact of our development partnerships.  We agreed to continue our landmark initiative to promote food security and nutrition — part of our effort to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.  We’ll continue to work with our partners in West Africa to get Ebola cases down to zero.  And as part of our Global Health Security Agenda, I’m pleased that the G7 made a major commitment to help 60 countries over the next five years achieve specific targets to better prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks before they become epidemics.

And finally, I want to commend Chancellor Merkel for ensuring that this summit included a focus on expanding educational and economic opportunities for women and girls. The G7 committed to expanding career training for women in our own countries, and to increase technical and vocational training in developing countries, which will help all of our nations prosper.
So, again, I want to thank Angela and the people of Germany for their extraordinary hospitality.  I leave here confident that when it comes to the key challenges of our time, America and our closest allies stand shoulder to shoulder.

So with that, I will take some questions.  And I will start off with Jeff Mason of Reuters.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  After your meetings here, you mentioned Greece in your opening statement.  Do you believe that the Europeans are being too tough on Greece in these talks? And what else needs to be done on both sides to ensure there’s a deal and to ensure that there isn’t the undue harm to financial markets that you’ve warned about?

And on a separate and somewhat related topic, the French told reporters today that you said to G7 leaders that you’re concerned that the dollar is too strong.  What did you say exactly?  And are you concerned that the dollar is too strong?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  First of all, don’t believe unnamed quotes. I did not say that.  And I make a practice of not commenting on the daily fluctuations of the dollar or any other currency.

With respect to Greece, I think that not only our G7 partners but the IMF and other institutions that were represented here feel a sense of urgency in finding a path to resolve the situation there.  And what it’s going to require is Greece being serious about making some important reforms not only to satisfy creditors, but, more importantly, to create a platform whereby the Greek economy can start growing again and prosper.  And so the Greeks are going to have to follow through and make some tough political choices that will be good for the long term.

I also think it’s going to be important for the international community and the international financial agencies to recognize the extraordinary challenges that Greeks face.  And if both sides are showing a sufficient flexibility, then I think we can get this problem resolved.  But it will require some tough decisions for all involved, and we will continue to consult with all the parties involved to try to encourage that kind of outcome.

Q    Are you confident it will happen before the deadline?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think that everybody wants to make it happen and they’re working hard to get it done.


Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  How frustrated are you that after you personally raised your concerns about cybersecurity with the Chinese President that a massive attack on U.S. personnel files seems to have originated from China?  Was the Chinese government involved?  And separately, as a sports fan, can you give us your reaction to the FIFA bribery scandal?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  With respect to FIFA, I cannot comment on a pending case by our Attorney General.  I will say that in conversations I’ve had here in Europe, people think it is very important for FIFA to be able to operate with integrity and transparency and accountability.

And so as the investigation and charges proceed, I think we have to keep in mind that although football — soccer — depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on, is a game, it’s also a massive business.  It is a source of incredible national pride, and people want to make sure that it operates with integrity.

The United States, by the way, since we keep on getting better and better at each World Cup, we want to make sure that a sport that’s gaining popularity is conducted in an upright manner.

I don’t want to discuss — because we haven’t publicly unveiled who we think may have engaged in these cyber-attacks — but I can tell you that we have known for a long time that there are significant vulnerabilities and that these vulnerabilities are going to accelerate as time goes by, both in systems within government and within the private sector.  This is why it’s so important that Congress moves forward on passing cyber legislation — cybersecurity legislation that we’ve been pushing for; why, over the last several years, I’ve been standing up new mechanisms inside of government for us to investigate what happens and to start finding more effective solutions.

Part of the problem is, is that we’ve got very old systems. And we discovered this new breach in OPM precisely because we’ve initiated this process of inventorying and upgrading these old systems to address existing vulnerabilities.  And what we are doing is going agency by agency, and figuring out what can we fix with better practices and better computer hygiene by personnel, and where do we need new systems and new infrastructure in order to protect information not just of government employees or government activities, but also, most importantly, where there’s an interface between government and the American people.

And this is going to be a big project and we’re going to have to keep on doing it, because both state and non-state actors are sending everything they’ve got at trying to breach these systems.  In some cases, it’s non-state actors who are engaging in criminal activity and potential theft.  In the case of state actors, they’re probing for intelligence or, in some cases, trying to bring down systems in pursuit of their various foreign policy objectives.  In either case, we’re going to have to be much more aggressive, much more attentive than we have been.

And this problem is not going to go away.  It is going to accelerate.  And that means that we have to be as nimble, as aggressive, and as well-resourced as those who are trying to break into these systems.

Justin Sink.

Q    Thanks, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about two things that were on the agenda at the G7 this weekend.  The first was the Islamic State.  You said yesterday, ahead of your meeting with Prime Minister Cameron, that you’d assess what was working and what wasn’t.  So I’m wondering, bluntly, what is not working in the fight against the Islamic State.  And in today’s bilateral with Prime Minister Abadi, you pledged to step up assistance to Iraq.  I’m wondering if that includes additional U.S. military personnel.

Separately, on trade, Chancellor Merkel said today that she was pleased you would get fast track authority.  I’m wondering if that means that you gave her or other leaders here assurance that it would go through the House.  And if it doesn’t, what does it say about your ability to achieve meaningful agreements with Congress for the remainder of your time in office?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, on the latter question, I’m not going to hypothesize about not getting it done.  I intend to get it done.  And, hopefully, we’re going to get a vote soon because I think it’s the right thing to do.

With respect to ISIL, we have made significant progress in pushing back ISIL from areas in which they had occupied or disrupted local populations, but we’ve also seen areas like in Ramadi where they’re displaced in one place and then they come back in, in another.  And they’re nimble, and they’re aggressive, and they’re opportunistic.

So one of the areas where we’re going to have to improve is the speed at which we’re training Iraqi forces.  Where we’ve trained Iraqi forces directly and equipped them, and we have a train-and-assist posture, they operate effectively.  Where we haven’t, morale, lack of equipment, et cetera, may undermine the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces.  So we want to get more Iraqi security forces trained, fresh, well-equipped and focused. And President Abadi wants the same thing.

So we’re reviewing a range of plans for how we might do that, essentially accelerating the number of Iraqi forces that are properly trained and equipped and have a focused strategy and good leadership.  And when a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people.  We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis, as well, about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place.  And so the details of that are not yet worked out.

Q    Is it fair to say that additional military personnel — U.S. military personnel are of what’s under consideration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I think what is fair to say is that all the countries in the international coalition are prepared to do more to train Iraqi security forces if they feel like that additional work is being taken advantage of.  And one of the things that we’re still seeing is — in Iraq — places where we’ve got more training capacity than we have recruits.  So part of my discussion with Prime Minister Abadi was how do we make sure that we get more recruits in.  A big part of the answer there is our outreach to Sunni tribes.

We’ve seen Sunni tribes who are not only willing and prepared to fight ISIL, but have been successful at rebuffing ISIL.  But it has not been happening as fast as it needs to.  And so one of the efforts that I’m hoping to see out of Prime Minister Abadi, and the Iraqi legislature when they’re in session, is to move forward on a National Guard law that would help to devolve some of the security efforts in places like Anbar to local folks, and to get those Sunni tribes involved more rapidly.

This is part of what helped defeat AQI — the precursor of ISIL — during the Iraq War in 2006.  Without that kind of local participation, even if you have a short-term success, it’s very hard to hold those areas.

The other area where we’ve got to make a lot more progress is on stemming the flow of foreign fighters.  Now, you’ll recall that I hosted a U.N. General Security Council meeting specifically on this issue, and we’ve made some progress, but not enough.  We are still seeing thousands of foreign fighters flowing into, first, Syria, and then, oftentimes, ultimately into Iraq.

And not all of that is preventable, but a lot of it is preventable — if we’ve got better cooperation, better coordination, better intelligence, if we are monitoring what’s happening at the Turkish-Syria border more effectively.  This is an area where we’ve been seeking deeper cooperation with Turkish authorities who recognize it’s a problem but haven’t fully ramped up the capacity they need.  And this is something that I think we got to spend a lot of time on.

If we can cut off some of that foreign fighter flow then we’re able to isolate and wear out ISIL forces that are already there.  Because we’re taking a lot of them off the battlefield, but if they’re being replenished, then it doesn’t solve the problem over the long term.

The final point that I emphasized to Prime Minister Abadi is the political agenda of inclusion remains as important as the military fight that’s out there.  If Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia all feel as if they’re concerns are being addressed, and that operating within a legitimate political structure can meet their need for security, prosperity, non-discrimination, then we’re going to have much easier time.

And the good news is Prime Minister Abadi is very much committed to that principle.  But, obviously, he’s inheriting a legacy of a lot of mistrust between various groups in Iraq — he’s having to take a lot of political risks.  In some cases, there are efforts to undermine those efforts by other political factions within Iraq.  And so we’ve got to continue to monitor that and support those who are on the right side of the issue there.

Colleen Nelson.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You mentioned that the U.S. and its European allies have reached a consensus on extending the sanctions against Russia.  Is there a consensus, though, about what specifically the next step should be if Russia continues to violate the Minsk agreement?  And also, can you deter Russian aggression in other parts of Eastern Europe without a permanent U.S. troop presence?

And separately, I wanted to ask you about the possibility that the court battle over your actions on immigration could extend late into your term.  Do you think that there’s anything more that you can do for the people who would have benefitted from that program and now are in limbo?  And how do you view the possibility of your term ending without accomplishing your goals on immigration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  On Ukraine and Russia and Minsk, there is strong consensus that we need to keep pushing Russia to abide by the terms of the Minsk agreement; we need to continue to support and encourage Ukraine to meet its obligations under Minsk — that until that’s completed, sanctions remain in place.

There was discussion about additional steps that we might need to take if Russia, working through separatists, doubled down on aggression inside of Ukraine.  Those discussions are taking place at a technical level, not yet at a political level — because I think the first goal here going into a European Council meeting that’s coming up is just rolling over the existing sanctions.  But I think at a technical level, we want to be prepared.

Our hope is, is that we don’t have to take additional steps because the Minsk agreement is met.  And I want to give enormous credit to Chancellor Merkel, along with President Hollande, who have shown extraordinary stick-to-itiveness and patience in trying to get that done.

Ultimately, this is going to be an issue for Mr. Putin.  He’s got to make a decision:  Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to re-create the glories of the Soviet empire?  Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?

And as I mentioned earlier, the costs that the Russian people are bearing are severe.  That’s being felt.  It may not always be understood why they’re suffering, because of state media inside of Russia and propaganda coming out of state media in Russia and to Russian speakers.  But the truth of the matter is, is that the Russian people would greatly benefit.  And, ironically, one of the rationales that Mr. Putin provided for his incursions into Ukraine was to protect Russian speakers there.  Well, Russian speakers inside of Ukraine are precisely the ones who are bearing the brunt of the fighting.  Their economy has collapsed.  Their lives are disordered.  Many of them are displaced.  Their homes may have been destroyed.  They’re suffering.  And the best way for them to stop suffering is if the Minsk agreement is fully implemented.

Oh, immigration.  With respect to immigration, obviously, I’m frustrated by a district court ruling that now is winding its way through the appeals process.  We are being as aggressive as we can legally to, first and foremost, appeal that ruling, and then to implement those elements of immigration executive actions that were not challenged in court.

But, obviously, the centerpiece, one of the key provisions for me was being able to get folks who are undocumented to go through a background check — criminal background check — pay back taxes, and then have a legal status.  And that requires an entire administrative apparatus and us getting them to apply and come clean.

I made a decision, which I think is the right one, that we should not accept applications until the legal status of this is clarified.  I am absolutely convinced this is well within my legal authority, Department of Homeland Security’s legal authority.  If you look at the precedent, if you look at the traditional discretion that the executive branch possesses when it comes to applying immigration laws, I am convinced that what we’re doing is lawful, and our lawyers are convinced that what we’re doing is lawful.

But the United States is a government of laws and separations of power, and even if it’s an individual district court judge who’s making this determination, we’ve got to go through the process to challenge it.  And until we get clarity there, I don’t want to bring people in, have them apply and jump through a lot of hoops only to have it deferred and delayed further.

Of course, there’s one really great way to solve this problem, and that would be Congress going ahead and acting, which would obviate the need for executive actions.  The majority of the American people I think still want to see that happen.  I suspect it will be a major topic of the next presidential campaign.

And so we will continue to push as hard as we can on all fronts to fix a broken immigration system.  Administratively, we’ll be prepared if and when we get the kind of ruling that I think we should have gotten in the first place about our authorities to go ahead and implement.  But ultimately, this has never fully replaced the need for Congress to act.  And my hope is, is that after a number of the other issues that we’re working on currently get cleared, that some quiet conversations start back up again, particularly in the Republican Party, about the shortsighted approach that they’re taking when it comes to immigration.

Okay.  Christi Parsons.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  More than six million Americans may soon lose health insurance if the Supreme Court this month backs the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act. A growing number of states are looking for assistance as they face the prospect that their residents may lose federal insurance subsidies and their insurance markets may collapse.  Yet, your administration has given very little to no guidance on how states can prepare.  What can you tell state leaders and advocates who worry that health care markets in half the country may be thrown into chaos?

THE PRESIDENT:  What I can tell state leaders is, is that under well-established precedent, there is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case.  It has been well documented that those who passed this legislation never intended for folks who were going through the federal exchange not to have their citizens get subsidies.  That’s not just the opinion of me; that’s not just the opinion of Democrats; that’s the opinion of the Republicans who worked on the legislation.  The record makes it clear.

And under well-established statutory interpretation, approaches that have been repeatedly employed — not just by liberal, Democratic judges, but by conservative judges like some on the current Supreme Court — you interpret a statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for.

And so this should be an easy case.  Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up.  And since we’re going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do.

But, look, I’ve said before and I will repeat again:  If, in fact, you have a contorted reading of the statute that says federal-run exchanges don’t provide subsidies for folks who are participating in those exchanges, then that throws off how that exchange operates.  It means that millions of people who are obtaining insurance currently with subsidies suddenly aren’t getting those subsidies; many of them can’t afford it; they pull out; and the assumptions that the insurance companies made when they priced their insurance suddenly gets thrown out the window. And it would be disruptive — not just, by the way, for folks in the exchanges, but for those insurance markets in those states, generally.

So it’s a bad idea.  It’s not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words in — as we were reminded repeatedly — a couple-thousand-page piece of legislation.

What’s more, the thing is working.  I mean, part of what’s bizarre about this whole thing is we haven’t had a lot of conversation about the horrors of Obamacare because none of them come to pass.  You got 16 million people who’ve gotten health insurance.  The overwhelming majority of them are satisfied with the health insurance.  It hasn’t had an adverse effect on people who already had health insurance.  The only effect it’s had on people who already had health insurance is they now have an assurance that they won’t be prevented from getting health insurance if they’ve got a preexisting condition, and they get additional protections with the health insurance that they do have.

The costs have come in substantially lower than even our estimates about how much it would cost.  Health care inflation overall has continued to be at some of the lowest levels in 50 years.  None of the predictions about how this wouldn’t work have come to pass.

And so I’m — A, I’m optimistic that the Supreme Court will play it straight when it comes to the interpretation.  And, B, I should mention that if it didn’t, Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision.

But I’m not going to go into a long speculation anticipating disaster.

Q    But you’re a plan-ahead kind of guy.  Why not have a plan B?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, you know, I want to just make sure that everybody understands that you have a model where all the pieces connect.  And there are a whole bunch of scenarios not just in relation to health care, but all kinds of stuff that I do, where if somebody does something that doesn’t make any sense, then it’s hard to fix.  And this would be hard to fix.  Fortunately, there’s no reason to have to do it.  It doesn’t need fixing.  All right?

Thank you very much.  Thank you to the people of Germany and Bavaria.  You guys were wonderful hosts.

4:43 P.M. CEST

Full Text Political Transcripts May 22, 2015: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Emails



Full Text Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Emails

Source: FOIA, 5-22-15

U.S Department of State Freedom of Information Act….


Full Text Obama Presidency May 22, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Jewish American Heritage Month Adas Israel Synagogue



Remarks by the President on Jewish American Heritage Month

Source: WH, 5-22-15

Adas Israel Congregation
Washington, D.C.

10:57 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Well, good morning, everybody!

AUDIENCE: Good morning!

THE PRESIDENT:  A slightly early Shabbat Shalom.  (Laughter.)  I want to thank Rabbi Steinlauf for the very kind introduction.  And to all the members of the congregation, thank you so much for such an extraordinary and warm welcome.

I want to thank a couple of outstanding members of Congress who are here.  Senator Michael Bennet — where did Michael Bennet go?  There he is.  (Applause.)  And Representative Sandy Levin, who is here.  (Applause.)  I want to thank our special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, for his important work.  There he is.  (Applause)  But as I said, most of all I want to thank the entire congregation of Adas Israel for having me here today.

Earlier this week, I was actually interviewed by one of your members, Jeff Goldberg.  (Applause.)  And Jeff reminded me that he once called me “the first Jewish President.”  (Laughter.)  Now, since some people still seem to be wondering about my faith — (laughter) — I should make clear this was an honorary title.  (Laughter.)  But I was flattered.

And as an honorary member of the tribe, not to mention somebody who’s hosted seven White House Seders and been advised by — (applause) — and been advised by two Jewish chiefs of staff, I can also proudly say that I’m getting a little bit of the hang of the lingo.  (Laughter.)  But I will not use any of the Yiddish-isms that Rahm Emanuel taught me because — (laughter) — I want to be invited back.  (Laughter.)  Let’s just say he had some creative new synonyms for “Shalom.”  (Laughter.)

Now, I wanted to come here to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month because this congregation, like so many around the country, helps us to tell the American story.  And back in 1876, when President Grant helped dedicate Adas Israel, he became the first sitting President in history to attend a synagogue service.  And at the time, it was an extraordinarily symbolic gesture — not just for America, but for the world.

And think about the landscape of Jewish history.  Tomorrow night, the holiday of Shavuot marks the moment that Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai, the first link in a chain of tradition that stretches back thousands of years, and a foundation stone for our civilization.  Yet for most of those years, Jews were persecuted — not embraced — by those in power.  Many of your ancestors came here fleeing that persecution.
The United States could have been merely another destination in that ongoing diaspora.  But those who came here found that America was more than just a country.  America was an idea.  America stood for something.  As George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island:  The United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

It’s important for us to acknowledge that too often in our history we fell short of those lofty ideals — in the legal subjugation of African Americans, through slavery and Jim Crow; the treatment of Native Americans.  And far too often, American Jews faced the scourge of anti-Semitism here at home.  But our founding documents gave us a North Star, our Bill of Rights; our system of government gave us a capacity for change.  And where other nations actively and legally might persecute or discriminate against those of different faiths, this nation was called upon to see all of us as equal before the eyes of the law.  When other countries treated their own citizens as “wretched refuse,” we lifted up our lamp beside the golden door and welcomed them in.  Our country is immeasurably stronger because we did.  (Applause.)

From Einstein to Brandeis, from Jonas Salk to Betty Friedan, American Jews have made contributions to this country that have shaped it in every aspect.  And as a community, American Jews have helped make our union more perfect.  The story of Exodus inspired oppressed people around the world in their own struggles for civil rights.  From the founding members of the NAACP to a freedom summer in Mississippi, from women’s rights to gay rights to workers’ rights, Jews took the heart of Biblical edict that we must not oppress a stranger, having been strangers once ourselves.

Earlier this year, when we marked the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma, we remembered the iconic images of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. King, praying with his feet.  To some, it must have seemed strange that a rabbi from Warsaw would take such great risks to stand with a Baptist preacher from Atlanta.  But Heschel explained that their cause was one and the same.  In his essay, “No Religion is an Island,” he wrote, “We must choose between interfaith and inter-nihilism.”  Between a shared hope that says together we can shape a brighter future, or a shared cynicism that says our world is simply beyond repair.

So the heritage we celebrate this month is a testament to the power of hope.  Me standing here before you, all of you in this incredible congregation is a testament to the power of hope.  (Applause.)  It’s a rebuke to cynicism.  It’s a rebuke to nihilism.  And it inspires us to have faith that our future, like our past, will be shaped by the values that we share.  At home, those values compel us to work to keep alive the American Dream of opportunity for all.  It means that we care about issues that affect all children, not just our own; that we’re prepared to invest in early childhood education; that we are concerned about making college affordable; that we want to create communities where if you’re willing to work hard, you can get ahead the way so many who fled and arrived on these shores were able to get ahead.  Around the world, those values compel us to redouble our efforts to protect our planet and to protect the human rights of all who share this planet.

It’s particularly important to remember now, given the tumult that is taking place in so many corners of the globe, in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods, those shared values compel us to reaffirm that our enduring friendship with the people of Israel and our unbreakable bonds with the state of Israel — that those bonds, that friendship cannot be broken.  (Applause.)  Those values compel us to say that our commitment to Israel’s security — and my commitment to Israel’s security — is and always will be unshakeable.  (Applause.)

And I’ve said this before:  It would be a moral failing on the part of the U.S. government and the American people, it would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly not just on behalf of Israel’s right to exist, but its right to thrive and prosper.  (Applause.)  Because it would ignore the history that brought the state of Israel about.  It would ignore the struggle that’s taken place through millennia to try to affirm the kinds of values that say everybody has a place, everybody has rights, everybody is a child of God.  (Applause.)

As many of you know, I’ve visited the houses hit by rocket fire in Sderot.  I’ve been to Yad Vashem and made that solemn vow:  “Never forget.  Never again.”  When someone threatens Israel’s citizens or its very right to exist, Israelis necessarily that seriously.  And so do I.  Today, the military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries is stronger than ever.  Our support of the Iron Dome’s rocket system has saved Israeli lives.  And I can say that no U.S. President, no administration has done more to ensure that Israel can protect itself than this one.  (Applause.)

As part of that commitment, there’s something else that the United States and Israel agrees on:  Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon.  (Applause.)  Now, there’s a debate about how to achieve that — and that’s a healthy debate.  I’m not going to use my remaining time to go too deep into policy — although for those of you who are interested — (laughter) — we have a lot of material out there.  (Laughter.)  But I do want everybody to just remember a few key things.

The deal that we already reached with Iran has already halted or rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program.  Now we’re seeking a comprehensive solution.  I will not accept a bad deal.  As I pointed out in my most recent article with Jeff Goldberg, this deal will have my name on it, so nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise.  (Applause.)  I want a good deal.

I’m interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon — every single path.  A deal that imposes unprecedented inspections on all elements of Iran’s nuclear program, so that they can’t cheat; and if they try to cheat, we will immediately know about it and sanctions snap back on.  A deal that endures beyond a decade; that addresses this challenge for the long term.  In other words, a deal that makes the world and the region — including Israel — more secure.  That’s how I define a good deal.

I can’t stand here today and guarantee an agreement will be reached.  We’re hopeful.  We’re working hard.  But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  And I’ve made clear that when it comes to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, all options are and will remain on the table.

Moreover, even if we do get a good deal, there remains the broader issue of Iran’s support for terrorism and regional destabilization, and ugly threats against Israel.  And that’s why our strategic partnership with Israel will remain, no matter what happens in the days and years ahead.  And that’s why the people of Israel must always know America has its back, and America will always have its back.  (Applause.)

Now, that does not mean that there will not be, or should not be, periodic disagreements between our two governments.  There will be disagreements on tactics when it comes to how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is entirely appropriate and should be fully aired.  Because the stakes are sufficiently high that anything that’s proposed has to be subjected to scrutiny — and I welcome that scrutiny.

But there are also going to be some disagreements rooted in shared history that go beyond tactics, that are rooted in how we might remain true to our shared values.  I came to know Israel as a young man through these incredible images of kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and Israel overcoming incredible odds in the ’67 war.  The notion of pioneers who set out not only to safeguard a nation, but to remake the world.  Not only to make the desert bloom, but to allow their values to flourish; to ensure that the best of Judaism would thrive.  And those values in many ways came to be my own values.  They believed the story of their people gave them a unique perspective among the nations of the world, a unique moral authority and responsibility that comes from having once been a stranger yourself.

And to a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world — that idea was liberating.  The example of Israel and its values was inspiring.

So when I hear some people say that disagreements over policy belie a general lack of support of Israel, I must object, and I object forcefully.  (Applause.)  For us to paper over difficult questions, particularly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about settlement policy, that’s not a true measure of friendship.

Before I came out here, the Rabbi showed me the room that’s been built to promote scholarship and dialogue, and to be able to find how we make our shared values live.  And the reason you have that room is because applying those values to our lives is often hard, and it involves difficult choices.  That’s why we study.  That’s why it’s not just a formula.  And that’s what we have to do as nations as well as individuals.  We have to grapple and struggle with how do we apply the values that we care about to this very challenging and dangerous world.

And it is precisely because I care so deeply about the state of Israel — it’s precisely because, yes, I have high expectations for Israel the same way I have high expectations for the United States of America — that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland.  (Applause.)  And I believe that’s two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.  (Applause.)  Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to emphasize — that’s not easy.  The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners.  (Laughter.)  The neighborhood is dangerous.  And we cannot expect Israel to take existential risks with their security so that any deal that takes place has to take into account the genuine dangers of terrorism and hostility.

But it is worthwhile for us to keep up the prospect, the possibility of bridging divides and being just, and looking squarely at what’s possible but also necessary in order for Israel to be the type of nation that it was intended to be in its earliest founding.  (Applause.)

And that same sense of shared values also compel me to speak out — compel all of us to speak out — against the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists.  (Applause.)  I want to be clear that, to me, all these things are connected.  The rights I insist upon and now fight for, for all people here in the United States compels me then to stand up for Israel and look out for the rights of the Jewish people.  And the rights of the Jewish people then compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity.  That’s what Jewish values teach me.  That’s what the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches me.  These things are connected.  (Applause.)

And in recent years, we’ve seen a deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in parts of the world where it would have seemed unthinkable just a few years or decades ago.  This is not some passing fad; these aren’t just isolated phenomenon.  And we know from our history they cannot be ignored.  Anti-Semitism is, and always will be, a threat to broader human values to which we all must aspire.  And when we allow anti-Semitism to take root, then our souls are destroyed, and it will spread.

And that’s why, tonight, for the first time ever, congregations around the world are celebrating a Solidarity Shabbat.  It’s a chance for leaders to publicly stand against anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms.  And I’m proud to be a part of this movement, and I’m proud that six ambassadors from Europe are joining us today.  And their presence here — our presence together — is a reminder that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  (Applause.)  Our traditions, our history, can help us chart a better course as long as we are mindful of that history and those traditions, and we are vigilant in speaking out and standing up against what is wrong.  It’s not always easy, I think, to speak out against what is wrong, even for good people.

So I want to close with the story of one more of the many rabbis who came to Selma 50 years ago.  A few days after David Teitelbaum arrived to join the protests, he and a colleague were thrown in jail.  And they spent a Friday night in custody, singing Adon Olam to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.”  And that in and of itself is a profound statement of faith and hope.  But what’s wonderful is, is that out of respect many of their fellow protestors began wearing what they called “freedom caps” — (laughter) — yarmulkes — as they marched.

And the day after they were released from prison, Rabbi Teitelbaum watched Dr. King lead a prayer meeting before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  And Dr. King said, “We are like the children of Israel, marching from slavery to freedom.”

That’s what happens when we’re true to our values.  It’s not just good for us, but it brings the community together.  (Applause.)  Tikkun Olam — it brings the community together and it helps repair the world.  It bridges differences that once looked unbridgeable.  It creates a future for our children that once seemed unattainable.  This congregation — Jewish American life is a testimony to the capacity to make our values live.  But it requires courage.  It requires strength.  It requires that we speak the truth not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.

So may we always remember that our shared heritage makes us stronger, that our roots are intertwined.  May we always choose faith over nihilism, and courage over despair, and hope over cynicism and fear.  As we walk our own leg of a timeless, sacred march, may we always stand together, here at home and around the world.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

11:26 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s speech announcing a ‘framework’ agreement for a nuclear weapons deal with Iran — Transcript



President Barack Obama’s speech announcing a ‘framework’ agreement for a nuclear weapons deal with Iran — Transcript

Source: WaPo, 4-2-15

OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody.

Today, the United States, together with our allies and partners, has reached a historic understanding with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

As president and commander in chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people, and I am convinced that if this framework leads to a final, comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world safer. This has been a long time coming.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been advancing its nuclear program for decades. By the time I took office, Iran was operating thousands of centrifuges, which can produce the materials for a nuclear bomb. And Iran was concealing a covert nuclear facility.

I made clear that we were prepared to resolve this issue diplomatically, but only if Iran came to the table in a serious way.

When that did not happen, we rallied the world to impose the toughest sanctions in history, sanctions which had a profound impact on the Iranian economy.

Now, sanctions alone could not stop Iran’s nuclear program, but they did help bring Iran to the negotiating table. Because of our diplomatic efforts, the world stood with us, and we were joined at the negotiating table by the world’s major powers: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China as well as the European Union.

Over a year ago, we took the first step towards today’s framework with a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas.

And recall that at the time, skeptics argued that Iran would cheat, that we could not verify their compliance, and the interim agreement would fail. Instead, it has succeeded exactly as intended. Iran has met all of its obligations.

It eliminated its stockpile of dangerous nuclear material, inspections of Iran’s program increased, and we continued negotiations to see if we could achieve a more comprehensive deal.

Today, after many months of tough principle diplomacy, we have achieved the framework for that deal. And it is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives.

This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history. So this deal is not based on trust. It’s based on unprecedented verification.

Many key details will be finalized over the next three months. And nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed. But here are the basic outlines of the deal that we are working to finalize.

First, Iran will not be able to pursue a bomb using plutonium because it will not develop weapons grade plutonium. The core of its reactor at Arak will be dismantled and replaced. The spent fuel from that facility will be shipped out of Iran for the life of the reactor. Iran will not build a new heavy water reactor. And Iran will not reprocess fuel from its existing reactors, ever.

Second, this deal shuts down Iran’s path to a bomb using enriched uranium. Iran has agreed that its installed centrifuges will be reduced by two thirds. Iran will no longer enrich uranium at its Fordo facility. Iran will not enrich uranium with its advanced centrifuges for at least the next 10 years. The vast majority of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium will be neutralized.

Today, estimates indicate that Iran is only two or three months away from potentially acquiring the raw materials that could be used for a single nuclear bomb. Under this deal, Iran has agreed that it will not stockpile the materials needed to build a weapon. Even if it violated the deal, for the next decade at least, Iran would be a minimum of a year away from acquiring enough material for a bomb. And the strict limitations on Iran’s stockpile will last for 15 years.

Third, this deal provides the best possible defense against Iran’s ability to pursue a nuclear weapon covertly, that is in secret. International inspectors will have unprecedented access not only to Iranian nuclear facilities, but to the entire supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program, from uranium mills that provide the raw materials to the centrifuge production and storage facilities that support the program.

If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it. Iran’s past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed.

With this deal, Iran will face more inspections than any other country in the world. So, this will be a long-term deal that addresses each path to a potential Iranian nuclear bomb.

There will be strict limits on Iran’s program for a decade. Additional restrictions on building new facilities or stockpiling materials will last for 15 years. The unprecedented transparency measures will last for 20 years or more. Indeed, some will be permanent. And as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran will never be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon.

In return for Iran’s actions, the international community has agreed to provide Iran with relief from certain sanctions. Our own sanctions and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This relief will be phased, as Iran takes steps to adhere to the deal. If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place.

Meanwhile, other American sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program, will continue to be fully enforced.

Now let me re-emphasize, our work is not yet done. The deal has not been signed. Between now and the end of June, the negotiators will continue to work through the details of how this framework will be fully implemented and those details matter.

If there is backsliding on the part of the Iranians, if the verification and inspection mechanisms don’t meet the specifications of our nuclear and security experts, there will be no deal.

But if we can get this done and Iran follows through on the framework that our negotiators agreed to, we will be able to resolve one of the greatest threats to our security and to do so peacefully.

Given the importance of this issue, I have instructed my negotiators to fully brief Congress and the American people on the substance the deal. And I welcome a robust debate in the weeks and months to come.

I am confident that we can show that this deal is good for the security of the United States, for our allies and for the world.

But the fact is we only have three options for addressing Iran’s nuclear program. First, we can reach a robust and verifiable deal, like this one, and peacefully prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The second option is we can bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, thereby starting another war in the Middle East and setting back Iran’s program by a few years. In other words, setting it back by a fraction of the time that this deal will set it back. Meanwhile, we’d ensure that Iran would raise their head to try and build a bomb.

Third, we could pull out of negotiations, try to get other countries to go along and continue sanctions that are currently in place or add additional ones and hope for the best. Knowing that every time we have done so, Iran has not capitulated, but instead has advanced its program. And that in very short order, the breakout timeline would be eliminated and a nuclear arms race in the region could be triggered because of that uncertainty.

In other words, the third option leads us very quickly back to a decision about whether or not to take military action because we’d have no idea what was going on inside of Iran. Iran is not going to simply dismantle its program because we demand it to do so.

That’s not how the world works. And that’s not what history shows us. Iran has shown no willingness to eliminate those aspects of their program that they maintain are for peaceful purposes, even in the face of unprecedented sanctions.

Should negotiations collapse because we, the United States, rejected what the majority of the world considers a fair deal, what our scientists and nuclear experts suggest would give us confidence that they are not developing a nuclear weapon, it’s doubtful that we could even keep our current international sanctions in place.

So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East? Is it worse than doing what we’ve done for almost two decades with Iran moving forward with its nuclear program and without robust inspections?

I think the answer will be clear. Remember, I have always insisted that I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and I will.

But I also know that a diplomatic solution is the best way to get this done and offers a more comprehensive and lasting solution. It is our best option by far. And while it is always a possibility that Iran may try to cheat on the deal in the future, this framework of inspections and transparency makes it far more likely that we’ll know about it if they try to cheat, and I or future presidents will have preserved all of the options that are currently available to deal with it.

To the Iranian people, I want to reaffirm what I’ve said since the beginning of my presidency. We are willing to engage you on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect.

This deal offers the prospect of relief from sanctions that were imposed because of Iran’s violation of international law. Since Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, this framework gives Iran the opportunity to verify that it’s program is, in fact, peaceful. It demonstrates that if Iran complies with its international obligations, then it can fully rejoin the community of nations, thereby fulfilling the extraordinary talent and aspirations of the Iranian people. That would be good for Iran, and it would be good for the world.

Of course, this deal alone, even if fully implemented, will not end the deep divisions and mistrust between our two countries. We have a difficult history between us.

And our concerns will remain with respect to Iranian behavior so long as Iran continues its sponsorship of terrorism, its support for proxies who destabilize the Middle East, its threats against America’s friends and allies, like Israel.

So make no mistake, we will remain vigilant in countering those actions and standing with our allies.

It’s no secret that the Israeli prime minister and I don’t agree about whether the United States should move forward with a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue. If in fact Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking for the most effective way to ensure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, this is the best option.

And I believe our nuclear experts can confirm that.

More importantly, I will be speaking with the prime minister today to make clear that there will be no daylight, there is no daylight when it comes to our support for Israel’s security and our concerns about Iran’s destabilizing policies and threats towards Israel.

That’s why I’ve directed my national security team to consult closely with the new Israeli government in the coming weeks and months about how we can further strengthen our long-term security cooperation with Israel and make clear our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s defense.

Today, I also spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia, to reaffirm our commitment to the security of our partners in the Gulf. And I am inviting the leaders of the six countries who make up the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain to meet me at Camp David this spring to discuss how we can further strengthen our security cooperation while resolving the multiple conflicts that have caused so much hardship and instability throughout the Middle East.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that Congress has, on a bipartisan basis, played a critical role in our current Iran policy, helping to shape the sanctions regime that applied so much pressure on Iran and ultimately forced them to the table.

In the coming days and weeks, my administration will engage Congress once again about how we can play — how it can play a constructive oversight role. I’ll begin that effort by speaking to the leaders of the House and the Senate today.

In those conversations, I will underscore that the issues at stake here are bigger than politics. These are matters of war and peace. And they should be evaluated based on the facts, and what is ultimately best for the American people and for our national security. For, this is not simply a deal between my administration and Iran. This is a deal between Iran, the United States of America and the major powers in the world, including some of our closest allies.

If Congress kills this deal not based on expert analysis, and without offering any reasonable alternative, then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy. International unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen.

The American people understand this, which is why a solid majority support a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue. They understand instinctively the words of President Kennedy, who faced down the far greater threat of Communism, and said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” The American people remembered that at the height of the Cold War.

Presidents like Nixon and Reagan struck historic arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, a far more dangerous adversary, despite the fact that that adversary not only threatened to destroy our country and our way of life, but had the means to do so.

Those agreements were not perfect. They did not end all threats. But they made our world safer. A good deal with Iran will do the same. Today I’d like to express my thanks to our international partners for their steadfastness, their cooperation.

I was able to speak earlier today with our close allies, Prime Minister Cameron and President Holland and Chancellor Merkel, to reaffirm that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this effort. And most of all, on behalf of our nation, I want to express my thanks to our tireless — and I mean tireless — Secretary of State John Kerry and our entire negotiating team. They have worked so hard to make this progress. They represent the best tradition of American diplomacy.

Their work, our work, is not yet done and success is not guaranteed. But we have a historic opportunity to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in Iran and to do so peacefully, with the international community firmly behind us. We should seize that chance. Thank you. God bless you. And god bless the United States of America.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 2, 2015: State Department Full Text of Iran Nuclear Weapons Program Deal Parameters



Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program

Source: State.gov, 4-2-15

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
April 2, 2015

Below are the key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program that were decided in Lausanne, Switzerland. These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and June 30, and reflect the significant progress that has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran. Important implementation details are still subject to negotiation, and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We will work to conclude the JCPOA based on these parameters over the coming months.


  • Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges. Iran will go from having about 19,000 installed today to 6,104 installed under the deal, with only 5,060 of these enriching uranium for 10 years. All 6,104 centrifuges will be IR-1s, Iran’s first-generation centrifuge.
  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
  • Iran has agreed to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 percent LEU for 15 years.
  • All excess centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure will be placed in IAEA monitored storage and will be used only as replacements for operating centrifuges and equipment.
  • Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.
  • Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.

Iran will convert its facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium

  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years.
  •  Iran has agreed to convert its Fordow facility so that it is used for peaceful purposes only – into a nuclear, physics, technology, research center.
  • Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.
  • Almost two-thirds of Fordow’s centrifuges and infrastructure will be removed. The remaining centrifuges will not enrich uranium. All centrifuges and related infrastructure will be placed under IAEA monitoring.

Iran will only enrich uranium at the Natanz facility, with only 5,060 IR-1 first-generation centrifuges for ten years.

  • Iran has agreed to only enrich uranium using its first generation (IR-1 models) centrifuges at Natanz for ten years, removing its more advanced centrifuges.
  • Iran will remove the 1,000 IR-2M centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in IAEA monitored storage for ten years.
  • Iran will not use its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models to produce enriched uranium for at least ten years. Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1.
  • For ten years, enrichment and enrichment research and development will be limited to ensure a breakout timeline of at least 1 year. Beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA, and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.

Inspections and Transparency

  • The IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies.
  • Inspectors will have access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program. The new transparency and inspections mechanisms will closely monitor materials and/or components to prevent diversion to a secret program.
  • Inspectors will have access to uranium mines and continuous surveillance at uranium mills, where Iran produces yellowcake, for 25 years.
  • Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years. Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing base will be frozen and under continuous surveillance.
  • All centrifuges and enrichment infrastructure removed from Fordow and Natanz will be placed under continuous monitoring by the IAEA.
  • A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear program will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology – an additional transparency measure.
  • Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA much greater access and information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, including both declared and undeclared facilities.
  • Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.
  • Iran has agreed to implement Modified Code 3.1 requiring early notification of construction of new facilities.
  • Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.

Reactors and Reprocessing

  • Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.
  • The original core of the reactor, which would have enabled the production of significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be destroyed or removed from the country.
  • Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.
  • Iran has committed indefinitely to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel.
  • Iran will not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor, and will sell any remaining heavy water on the international market for 15 years.
  • Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.


  • Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments.
  • U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.
  • The architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.
  • All past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency).
  • However, core provisions in the UN Security Council resolutions – those that deal with transfers of sensitive technologies and activities – will be re-established by a new UN Security Council resolution that will endorse the JCPOA and urge its full implementation. It will also create the procurement channel mentioned above, which will serve as a key transparency measure. Important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles, as well as provisions that allow for related cargo inspections and asset freezes, will also be incorporated by this new resolution.
  • A dispute resolution process will be specified, which enables any JCPOA participant, to seek to resolve disagreements about the performance of JCPOA commitments.
  • If an issue of significant non-performance cannot be resolved through that process, then all previous UN sanctions could be re-imposed.
  • U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.


  • For ten years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development – ensuring a breakout timeline of at least one year. Beyond that, Iran will be bound by its longer-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plan it shared with the P5+1.
  • For fifteen years, Iran will limit additional elements of its program. For instance, Iran will not build new enrichment facilities or heavy water reactors and will limit its stockpile of enriched uranium and accept enhanced transparency procedures.
  • Important inspections and transparency measures will continue well beyond 15 years. Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA is permanent, including its significant access and transparency obligations. The robust inspections of Iran’s uranium supply chain will last for 25 years.
  • Even after the period of the most stringent limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran will remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits Iran’s development or acquisition of nuclear weapons and requires IAEA safeguards on its nuclear program.

Political Musings March 13, 2015: Romney wants Obama to refuse Iran deal defends Netanyahu and 47 GOP senators




Romney wants Obama to refuse Iran deal defends Netanyahu and 47 GOP senators

March 13, 2015

Just because he is not running for president in 2016 does not mean former 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney is not going to weigh in on the potential Iran nuclear weapons deal. Romney wrote an op-ed published…

Political Musings March 12, 2015: Americans find 47 Senators traitors guilty of treason in WH petition and polls




Americans find 47 Senators traitors guilty of treason in WH petition and polls

March 12, 2015

Americans believe the 47 Republican senators who wrote and signed an open to Iran about the potential nuclear weapons deal went too far in crossing the line. Not too long after the senators released their letter on Monday, March 9…

Political Musings March 11, 2015: Did the 47 GOP Senators commit treason, violate the Logan Act with Iran letter?




Did the 47 GOP Senators commit treason, violate the Logan Act with Iran letter?

March 11, 2015

Law professors and liberal pundits and news media are taking their criticism of the letter to Iran 47 Republican Senators signed against a potential nuclear weapons deal on Monday, March 9, 2015 to a new level charging that the Republican…

Political Musings February 7, 2015: Biden, Democrats unofficially boycotting Netanyahu’s address to Congress




Biden, Democrats unofficially boycotting Netanyahu’s address to Congress

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Although there will not by an official boycott against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s joint address to Congress on March 3, 2015, Democratic members of Congress might be conveniently busy and unable to attend. Even Vice President Joe Biden…READ MORE
%d bloggers like this: