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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Iran

Source: WH, 1-17-16

The Cabinet Room

10:48 A.M. EST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                          END             11:03 A.M. EST

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Republican response to State of the Union address Transcript

Source: CNN, 1-12-16

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

“Good evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And then we need to fix it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We lost nine incredible souls that night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Our forefathers paved the way for us.

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

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

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address

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

Source: WH, 1-12-16

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

WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU

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

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

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

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

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

I want to focus on our future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will only happen if we fix our politics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Full Text Political Transcripts January 8, 2016: President Barack Obama vetoes GOP Congress’ ObamaCare repeal the Reconciliation Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Veto Message from the President — H.R. 3762

Source: WH, 1-8-16

TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 3762, which provides for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016, herein referred to as the Reconciliation Act.  This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.  The Affordable Care Act includes a set of fairer rules and stronger consumer protections that have made health care coverage more affordable, more attainable, and more patient centered.  And it is working.  About 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage as the law’s coverage provisions have taken effect.  The Nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever, and demand for Marketplace coverage during December 2015 was at an all-time high.  Health care costs are lower than expected when the law was passed, and health care quality is higher — with improvements in patient safety saving an estimated 87,000 lives.  Health care has changed for the better, setting this country on a smarter, stronger course.

The Reconciliation Act would reverse that course.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million after 2017.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this reduction in health care coverage could mean, each year, more than 900,000 fewer people getting all their needed care, more than 1.2 million additional people having trouble paying other bills due to higher medical costs, and potentially more than 10,000 additional deaths.  This legislation would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage they deserve.  Reliable health care coverage  would no longer be a right for everyone:  it would return to being a privilege for a few.

The legislation’s implications extend far beyond those who would become uninsured.  For example, about 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages.  And it would cause the cost of health coverage for people buying it on their own to skyrocket.

The Reconciliation Act would also effectively defund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood uses both Federal and non-federal funds to provide a range of important preventive care and health services, including health screenings, vaccinations, and check-ups to millions of men and women who visit their health centers annually.  Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.  By eliminating Federal Medicaid funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3762 would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals.

Republicans in the Congress have attempted to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act over 50 times.  Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs.  Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of millions of Americans, it has earned my veto.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 7, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at CNN “Guns In America” Town Hall

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at CNN “Guns In America” Town Hall

Source: WH, 1-7-16

George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia

8:00 P.M. EST

MR. COOPER: Good evening from George Mason University here in Fairfax, Virginia.  We are here tonight to talk about one of the most divisive issues in America today — guns.  Their protection is enshrined in the Constitution, in the Second Amendment, and gun ownership is an integral part of American history and culture.

There are some 30,000 gun deaths in America each year.  Two-thirds of them are suicides; one-third of them are homicides.  So the question we want to confront tonight is how you find a balance between protecting the rights of American citizens who want to own guns, but preventing guns from getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

We brought together people here tonight who represent really all sides of the issue — gun owners, gun sellers, people who have survived shootings or lost loved ones.  Some here believe that having more guns makes us all safer, and believe the right to bear arms defines us, preserves us from tyranny and cannot be compromised in any way.  Others here tonight believe just as passionately that more needs to be done to limit the sale of firearms.  And we respect all of their views, and we want to hear from as many as we can tonight in the hour ahead.

One voice you will not hear from tonight is the National Rifle Association.  They’re the nation’s largest, most influential and powerful gun rights group.  We invited them to be here — I think their office is just a couple miles away.  They declined to take part.  Some of their members are here tonight, though.  We’re very thankful for that.  And so are representatives from the National Firearms Retailers Association.

This town hall is not something the White House dreamed up or that the White House organized.  CNN approached the White House shortly after the San Bernardino terror attack with this idea.  And we’re pleased that they agreed to participate and pleased to welcome tonight the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.

MR. COOPER:  Hello, Mr. President.  Welcome.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great to see you.

MR. COOPER:  Good to see you.  Let me start.  Have you ever owned a gun?

THE PRESIDENT:  I have never owned a gun.  Now, up at Camp David, we’ve got some skeet shooting, so on a fairly regular basis, we get a 12-gauge and — I’m not making any claims about my marksmanship.

MR. COOPER:  Before you were President, did you ever feel a desire to get a gun, feel the need to get a gun?

THE PRESIDENT:  I grew up mostly in Hawaii, and other than hunting for wild pig — which they do once in a while — there’s not the popularity of hunting and sportsmanship with guns as much as there are in other parts of the country.

MR. COOPER:  I mean, I ask the question because there’s a lot of people out there who don’t trust you, obviously, on the issue of guns.  You keep saying you don’t want to take away everybody’s guns.  But there’s a lot of people out there tonight watching who don’t believe you.  There are a lot of people in this room who, frankly, don’t believe you.  And it’s not just that you don’t really have personal experience having owned a gun, but that things you’ve said:  Support for Australia’s tough anti-gun policies.  They banned semi-automatic assault rifles.  They banned even shotguns in Australia.  You’ve praised their policies over and over.

Back in 2008, you said — you talked about “bitter Americans clinging to their guns.”  Even now, these executive actions have caused a lot of concern among a lot of people.  What can you say to somebody tonight to convince them that you don’t want to take away everybody’s guns and you’re not coming for their guns?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, Anderson, I think it’s useful to keep in mind I’ve been now President for over seven years and gun sales don’t seem to have suffered during that time.

MR. COOPER:  If anything, actually —

THE PRESIDENT:  They’ve gone up.  I’ve been very good for gun manufacturers.  More importantly — I’ll tell you a story that I think indicates how I see the issue.

Back in 2007-2008, when I was campaigning, I’d leave Chicago, a city which is wonderful, I couldn’t be prouder of my city, but where every week there’s a story about a young person getting shot.  Some are gang members and it’s turf battles.  Sometimes it’s innocent victims.

MR. COOPER:  Fifty-five people have been shot in Chicago in the last seven days.

THE PRESIDENT:  Sometimes it’s happened just a few blocks from my house, and I live in a reasonably good neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

So that’s one image — talking to families who’ve gone through the pain of losing somebody because of violence in Chicago — gun violence.

Michelle and I are then campaigning out in Iowa, and we’re going to farms and we’re going to counties.  And at one point, Michelle turned to me and she said, you know, if I was living in a farmhouse, where the sheriff’s department is pretty far away, and somebody can just turn off the highway and come up to the farm, I’d want to have a shotgun or a rifle to make sure that I was protected and my family was protected.  And she was absolutely right.

And so part of the reason I think that this ends up being such a difficult issue is because people occupy different realities.  There are a whole bunch of law-abiding citizens who have grown up hunting with their dad, or going to the shooting range, and are responsible gun owners.  And then there’s the reality that there are neighborhoods around the country where it is easier for a 12 or 13-year-old to purchase a gun — and cheaper — than it is for them to get a book.

MR. COOPER:  But what you’re proposing, what you proposed this week, the executive actions, the other things, are they really going to be effective?  And I ask this because the vast majority of felons out there — I mean, we can all agree criminals should not get guns; we want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  The vast majority of criminals get their guns from — either illegally or from family or friends.  So background checks is not something that’s going to affect them, is it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but that’s not exactly accurate.  Look, first of all, it’s important for everybody to understand what I’ve proposed and what I haven’t proposed.  What I’ve said consistently throughout my presidency is I respect the Second Amendment; I respect the right to bear arms; I respect people who want a gun for self-protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship.  But all of us can agree that it makes sense to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of people who would try to do others harm, or to do themselves harm.

Because every year we’re losing 30,000 people to gun violence.  Two-thirds of those are actually suicides.  Hundreds of kids under the age of 18 are being shot or shooting themselves, often by accident — many of them under the age of five.  And so if we can combine gun safety with sensible background checks and some other steps, we’re not going to eliminate gun violence, but we will lessen it.  And if we take that number from 30,000 down to, let’s say, 28,000, that’s 2,000 families who don’t have to go through what the families at Newtown or San Bernardino or Charleston went through.

And so what we’ve proposed is that if you have a background check system that has a bunch of big loopholes, which is why a lot of criminals and people who shouldn’t have guns are able to get guns —

Q    But they’re not buying them at gun shows — only 1 percent of criminals are buying them at gun shows.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, but this is what happens.  Let’s go back to the city of Chicago that has strong gun control laws.  And oftentimes the NRA will point to that as an example and say, see, these things don’t work.  Well, the problem is, is that about 30, 40 percent of those guns are coming from Indiana, across the border, where there are much laxer laws.  And so folks will go to a gun show and purchase a whole bunch of firearms, put them in a van, drive up into Mike Pfleger’s neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where his parish is, open up the trunk, and those things are for sale.

Now, technically, you could say those folks bought them illegally, but it was facilitated by the fact that what used to be a small exception that said collectors and hobbyists don’t need to go through a background check has become this massive industry where people who are doing business are, in fact, saying that they’re not in the business of selling guns, but are.

And all we’re saying here is, is that we want to put everybody on notice that the definition of doing business — which means you have to register, and it means you have to run a background check — is if you are making a profit and repeatedly selling guns, then you should have to follow the same rules as every other gun dealer.  And what that means —

MR. COOPER:  There are a lot of people who believe that’s not specific enough because there’s a lot of fathers and sons who sell guns every now and then and at gun shows.  Are they going to have to now start doing background checks?  Are they going to start to have to register?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, what the Justice Department has done is provided a whole range of very specific examples.  And what we ultimately need I believe is for Congress to set up a system that is efficient, that doesn’t inconvenience the lawful gun seller or purchaser, but that makes sure that we’re doing the best background check possible.

And the fact, Anderson, that the system may not catch every single person, or there may be a circumstance where somebody doesn’t think that they have to register and do, and that may cause some red tape and bureaucracy for them, which — or inconvenience — has to be weighed against the fact that we may be able to save a whole bunch of families from the grief that some of the people in this audience have had to go through.

And keep in mind, for the gun owners who are in attendance here, my suspicion is, is that you all had to go through a background check and it didn’t prevent you from getting a weapon. And the notion that you should have to do that but there are a whole bunch of folks who are less responsible than you who don’t have to do it doesn’t make much sense.

So why we should resist this — keep in mind that, historically, the NRA was in favor of background checks.  Historically, many in the Republican Party were in favor of background checks.  And what’s changed is not that my proposals are particularly radical.  What’s changed is we’ve suddenly created an atmosphere in which I put out a proposal like background checks or, after Sandy Hook, was calling on Congress, along with people like Gabby Giffords, who herself was a victim of gun violence — we put out a proposal that is common sense, modest, does not claim to solve every problem, is respectful of the Second Amendment, and the way it is described is that we’re trying to take away everybody’s guns.

And part of the reason I welcomed this opportunity by CNN to have a good discussion and debate about it is because our position is consistently mischaracterized.  And, by the way, there’s a reason why the NRA is not here.  They’re just down the street, and since this is the main reason they exist, you’d think that they’d be prepared to have a debate with the President.

MR. COOPER:  They haven’t been to the White House for years.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no, no — we’ve invited them.  We’ve invited them.

MR. COOPER:  So, right now, tonight, you’re saying you would be —

THE PRESIDENT:  We have invited them repeatedly.  But if you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over the top and so over-heated, and, most importantly, is not acknowledging the fact that there’s no other consumer item that we purchase —

Q    So is that an open invitation that —

THE PRESIDENT:  Hold on a second.  Let me finish this point, Cooper.  There’s nothing else in our lives that we purchase where we don’t try to make it a little safer if we can.  Traffic fatalities have gone down drastically during my lifetime.  And part of it is technology, and part of it is the National Highway Safety Administration does research and they figure out, you know what, seatbelts really work.  And then we passed some laws to make sure seatbelts are fastened.  Airbags make a lot of sense; let’s try those out.  Toys — we say, you know what, we find out that kids are swallowing toys all the time, let’s make sure that the toys aren’t so small that they swallow them if they’re for toddlers or infants.  Medicine — kids can’t open aspirin caps.

Now, the notion that we would not apply the same basic principles to gun ownership as we do to everything else that we own just to try to make them safer, or the notion that anything we do to try to make them safer is somehow a plot to take away guns, that contradicts what we do to try to create a better life for Americans in every other area of our lives.

MR. COOPER:  And just so I’m clear, tonight you’re saying you would welcome to meet with the NRA?

THE PRESIDENT:  Anderson, I’ve said this repeatedly — I’m happy to meet with them.  I’m happy to talk to them.  But the conversation has to be based on facts and truth and what we’re actually proposing, not some imaginary fiction in which Obama is trying to take away your guns.

The reason, by the way, that gun sales spike not just before I propose something — every time there is a mass shooting, gun sales spike.  And part of the reason is, is that the NRA has convinced many of its members that somebody is going come grab your guns — which is, by the way, really profitable for the gun manufacturers.  It’s a great advertising mechanism, but it’s not necessary.  There’s enough of a market out there for people who want protection, who are sportsmen, who wants to go hunting with their kids.  And we can make it safer.

MR. COOPER:  I want to open this up to people in our audience.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

MR. COOPER:  People have traveled far.  I want you to meet Taya Kyle.  She’s the widow of Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL, author of “American Sniper.”  Taya wrote a book, “American Life: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal.”

Taya, we’re happy you’re here.  What do you want to ask the President?

Q    I appreciate you taking the time to come here.  And I think that your message of hope is something I agree with, and I think it’s great.  And I think that by creating new laws you do give people hope.  The thing is that the laws that we create don’t stop these horrific things from happening, right?  And that’s a very tough pill to swallow.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.

Q    We want to think that we can make a law and people will follow it.  But by the very nature of their crime, they’re not following it.  By the very nature of looking at the people who hurt our loved ones here, I don’t know that any of them would have been stopped by the background check.  And yet — I crave that desire for hope, too.  And so I think, part of it, we have to recognize that we cannot outlaw murder, because the people who are murdering are — they’re breaking the law, but they also don’t have a moral code that we have.  And so they could do the same amount of damage with a pipe bomb.  The problem is that they want to murder.

And I’m wondering why it wouldn’t be a better use of our time to give people hope in a different way, to say, you know what, we — well, first of all, actually, let me back up to that. Because with the laws, I know that at least the last I heard, the federal prosecution of gun crimes was like 40 percent.  And what I mean by that is that there are people lying on these forms already, and we’re not prosecuting them.  So there’s an issue there, right?  But instead, if we can give people hope and say that also during this time, while you’ve been President, we are at the lowest murder rate in our country — all-time low of murders.  We’re at an all-time high of gun ownership, right?  I’m not necessarily saying that the two are correlated, but what I’m saying is that we’re at an all-time low for a murder rate.  That’s a big deal.

And yet, I think most of us in this country feel like it could happen at any moment.  It could happen to any of us at any time, at a moment’s notice.  When you talk about the NRA, and after a mass shooting that gun sales go up, I would argue that it’s not necessarily that I think somebody is going to come take my gun from me, but I want the hope, and the hope that I have the right to protect myself, that I don’t end up to be one of these families; that I have the freedom to carry whatever weapon I feel I need, just like your wife said on that farm.  The sheriff is not going to get to my house, either.  And I understand that background checks aren’t necessarily going to stop me from getting a gun, but I also know that they wouldn’t have stopped any of the people here in this room from killing.  And so it seems like almost a false sense of hope.

So why not celebrate where we are?  I guess that’s my real question — is celebrate that we’re good people, and 99.9 percent of us are never going to kill anyone.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me make a couple of points.  First of all, thanks to your husband for his service, and thank you for your service, because of extraordinary heroism that he and your family have shown in protecting all of us.  And I’m very grateful for that.

Number two, what you said about murder rates and violent crime generally is something that we don’t celebrate enough.  The fact of the matter is, is that violent crime has been steadily declining across America for a pretty long time.  And you wouldn’t always know it by watching television, but overall, most cities are much safer than they were 10 years ago or 20 years ago.

Now, I’d challenge the notion that the reason for that is because there’s more gun ownership, because if you look at where are the areas with the highest gun ownership, those are the places, in some cases, where the crime rate hasn’t dropped down that much.  And the places where there’s pretty stiff restrictions on gun ownership, in some of those places the crime has dropped really quickly.  So I’m not sure that there’s a one-to-one correlation there.

But I think the most important point I want to make is that you will be able to purchase a firearm.  Some criminals will get their hands on firearms even if there’s a background check.  Somebody may lie on a form.  Somebody will intend to commit a crime but they don’t have a record that shows up on the background check system.

But in the same way that we don’t eliminate all traffic accidents, but over the course of 20 years, traffic accidents get lower — there’s still tragedies, there’s still drunk drivers, there’s still people who don’t wear their seatbelts — but over time, that violence was reduced, and so families are spared.  That’s the same thing that we can do with gun ownership.

There is a way for us to set up a system where you, a responsible gun owner, who I’m assuming, given your husband and your family, is a much better marksman than I am, can have a firearm to protect yourself, but where it is much harder for somebody to fill up a car with guns and sell them to 13-year-old kids on the streets.  And that is I think what we’re trying to do.

What we’re also trying to do is make the database more effective — so that’s part of the proposal — which, by the way, will convenience you when you go to the store, because if we can set up a 24/7 background check system, then that means that it’s less likely that things slip through the cracks or it’s more difficult for you to get your background check completed.

And we’re also trying to close a loophole that has been developing over the last decade where now people are using cut-out trusts and shell corporations to purchase the most dangerous weapons — sawed-off shotguns, automatic weapons, silencers — and don’t have to go through background checks at all.  And we don’t know whether — are these sales going to drug traffickers? We don’t know who’s purchasing them right now.  And so what we’re saying is, you know what, that is something that we’ve got to do something about.

The same thing is true with Internet sales, where one study has shown that one out of 30 persons who are purchasing weapons over the Internet turn out to have a felony record.  And that’s not something you want to see.

MR. COOPER:  I think one question a lot of people have about you is do you believe the fundamental notion that a good guy with a gun or a good woman with a gun is an important bulwark against a bad person with a gun?  And before you answer, I want you to meet Kimberly Corban.  Kimberly was a college student in Colorado in 2006 — Kimberly is right over there.  She was raped by a man who broke into her apartment.  She testified for three hours in the trial against him.  Her attacker was sentenced to 24-years-to-life in prison.  And I know that attack, Kimberly, changed your view of handguns.  What’s your question for the President?

Q    Absolutely.  As a survivor of rape and now a mother to two small children, it seems like being able to purchase a firearm of my choosing, and being able to carry that wherever me and my family are, it seems like my basic responsibility as a parent at this point.  I have been unspeakably victimized once already, and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids.  So why can’t your administration see that these restrictions that you’re putting to make it harder for me to own a gun, or harder for me to take that where I need to be is actually just making my kids and I less safe?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Kimberly, first of all, obviously, your story is horrific.  The strength you’ve shown in telling your story and being here tonight is remarkable.  And so I’m really proud of you for that.

I just want to repeat that there’s nothing that we’ve proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm. And now, you may be referring to issues like concealed carry, but those tend to be state-by-state decisions, and we’re not making any proposals with respect to what states are doing.  They can make their own decisions there.  So there really is no — nothing that we’re proposing that prevents you or makes it harder for you to purchase a firearm if you need one.

There are always questions as to whether or not having a firearm in the home protects you from that kind of violence.  And I’m not sure we can resolve that.  People argue it both sides.  What is true is, is that you have to be pretty well trained in order to fire a weapon against somebody who is assaulting you and catches you by surprise.  And what is also true is there’s always the possibility that that firearm in a home leads to a tragic accident.  We can debate that, round or flat.

But for now, what I just want to focus on is that you certainly would like to make it a little harder for that assailant to have also had a gun.  You certainly would want to make sure that if he gets released, that he now can’t do what he did to you to somebody else.  And it’s going to be easier for us to prevent him from getting a gun if there’s a strong background system in place — background check system in place.

And so if you look at the statistics, there’s no doubt that there are times where somebody who has a weapon has been able to protect themselves and scare off an intruder or an assailant.  But what is more often the case is that they may not have been able to protect themselves but they end up the victim of the weapon that they purchased themselves.  And that’s something that can be debated.  In the meantime, all I’m focused on is making sure that a terrible crime like yours that was committed is not made easier because somebody can go on the Internet and just buy whatever weapon they want without us finding out whether they’re a criminal or not.

MR. COOPER:  Kimberly, thank you for being here.  I appreciate it.

You talked about Chicago, and there’s a lot of folks from Chicago here tonight.  I want you to meet — or I want everybody to meet, because I know you’ve met her before, Cleo Pendleton.  She’s sitting over there.  And I should point out — I think I said it earlier — 55 shootings in Chicago in just the past seven days.  Cleo Pendleton, her daughter, Hadiya, performed at your second inauguration.  She was shot to death a little more than a week later.  She was 15 years old.  She was an honor student, a majorette.  And you being here tonight honors her, so thank you very much for being here.  What’s your question to the President?

Q    Well, I want to say thank you, first of all, for making it more difficult for guns to get in the hands of those that shouldn’t have them.  Thank you for the action you took on Tuesday.  But I want to ask a question — how can we stop the trafficking of guns from states with looser gun laws into states with tougher gun laws?  Because I believe that’s the case often in Chicago, and possibly the source of the gun that shot and murdered my daughter.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, it’s great to see you again.  And part of the reason that we do this is because when you meet parents of wonderful young people and they tell their stories, at least for me, I think of Malia and I think of Sasha and I think of my nieces and I think of my nephews.  And the pain that any of us go through with a loss like that is extraordinary. And I couldn’t be prouder of the families who are here representing both sides but who’ve been affected in those ways.

If we are able to set up a strong background check system — and my proposal, by the way, includes hiring — having the FBI hire a couple hundred more people to help process background checks, because they’re big numbers, you’re talking about 20 million checks that are getting done every year — hiring 200,000 — or 200 more ATF agents to be able to go after unscrupulous gun dealers, then that will apply across the country.

And so, some states may have laws that allow for conceal-and -carry; some states may not.  There’s still going to be differences.  But what will at least be consistent across the country is that it’s a little bit harder to get a gun.

Now, we can’t guarantee that criminals are not going to have ways of getting guns.  But, for example, it may be a little more difficult and a little more expensive, and the laws of supply and demand mean that if something is harder to get and it’s a little more expensive to get, then fewer people get them.  And that, in and of itself, could make a difference.

So if somebody is a straw purchaser — and what that means is they don’t intend the guns for themselves, they intend to resell them to somebody else — they go to a gun show in Indiana, where right now they don’t have to do a background check, load up a van, and open up that van and sell them to kids in gangs in Chicago — if now that person has to go through a background check, they’ve got to register, ATF has the capacity then to find out if and when a gun is used in a crime in Chicago where that gun had come from.  And now you know here’s somebody who seems to be willing to sell a gun to a 15-year-old who had a known record.

MR. COOPER:  But you’re only going to be asking people to get a license and do background checks if they give out business cards, if they’re selling weapons that are in the original packaging.  Somebody just walking around a gun show selling a weapon is not necessarily going to have to register.

THE PRESIDENT:  No — look, there’s going to be a case-by-case evaluation:  Are they on an ongoing basis making a profit and are they repeatedly selling firearms.

MR. COOPER:  I want you to meet Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona.  He’s a Republican running for Congress.  After the recent terror attacks, Sheriff, I know you’ve been telling citizens to arm themselves to protect their families.  What’s your question to the President?

Q    Well, first, deputies’ slow response time has been mentioned a couple times.  I want to be clear that my deputies have a very fast emergency response —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sure that’s true.

Q    Yes.  Mr. President, you’ve said you’ve been thwarted by — frustrated by Congress.  As a sheriff, I oftentimes get frustrated.  But I don’t make the laws and I’ve sworn an oath to enforce the law, to uphold the Constitution, the same oath you’ve taken.  And the talk and why we’re here is all these mass shootings, and yet you’ve said in your executive action it wouldn’t have solved even one of these or the terrorist attack —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I didn’t say that.  I didn’t say that it wouldn’t solve one.

Q    Well, looking at the information, what would it have solved?  Now, knowing —

MR. COOPER:  None of the recent mass shootings, I should point out, none of the guns were purchased from an unlicensed dealer.

Q    Correct.  And that’s what I’m speaking to — the executive action that you mentioned earlier.  Aspirin, toys, or cars, they’re not written about in the Constitution.  I want to know — and I think all of us really want to get to the solution, and you said don’t talk past each other — what would you have done to prevent these mass shootings and the terrorist attack?  And how do we get those with mental illness and criminals — that’s the real problem here — how are we going to get them to follow the laws?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, appreciate your service.  Good luck on your race.  You sure you want to go to Congress?

Q    I don’t want to talk about —

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  I’m sure that’s true.  That will hurt you.  And I’m sure it’s a Republican district.  (Laughter.)

Look, crime is always going to be with us.  So I think it’s really important for us not to suggest that if we can’t solve every crime, we shouldn’t try to solve any crimes.  (Applause.)

And the problem when we talk about that guns don’t kill people; people kill people, or it’s primarily a mental health problem, or it’s a criminal and evil problem and that’s what we have to get at — all of us are interested in fighting crime.  I’m very proud of the fact that violent crime rates have continued to go down during the course of my presidency.  I’ve got an Attorney General, an FBI that works very closely with local law enforcement in busting up crime rings all the time.  That’s a huge priority to us.  And we’re probably providing grants to your department to help go after criminals.

The challenge we have is that in many instances, you don’t know ahead of time who’s going to be the criminal.  It’s not as if criminals walk around with a label saying, “I’m a criminal.”  And, by the way, the young man who killed those kids in Newtown, he didn’t have a criminal record, and so we didn’t know ahead of time, necessarily, that he was going to do something like that. But he was able to have access to an arsenal that allowed him in very short order to kill an entire classroom of small children.  And so the question then becomes, are there ways for us — since we can’t identify that person all the time, are there ways for us to make it less lethal when something like that happens?

And I mentioned this during my speech at the White House a couple of days ago.  Right around the time of Newtown, in China, a guy who was obviously similarly deranged had a knife and started attacking a bunch of schoolchildren.  About the same number were cut or stabbed by this guy.  But most of them survived.  And the reason was because he wasn’t yielding a semi-automatic.

So the main point I think that I want to make here is that everybody here is in favor of going after criminals, locking them up, making sure that we’re creating an environment where kids don’t turn into criminals and providing the support that they need.  Those are all important things.  Nobody is saying we need to be going soft on criminals.

What we do have to make sure of is that we don’t make it so easy for them to have access to deadly weapons.  In neighborhoods like Chicago — I keep on using Chicago — this is all across the country.  You go into any neighborhood, it used to be that parents would see some kids messing around on the corner and they’d say, “Yo” — even if they weren’t the parent of those children — “go back inside, stop doing that.”  And over time, it was a lot harder to discipline somebody else’s kid and have the community maintain order, or talk to police officers if somebody is doing something wrong, because now somebody is worried about getting shot.

And if we can create an environment that’s just a little bit safer in those communities, that will help.  And if it doesn’t infringe on your Second Amendment rights, and it doesn’t infringe on your Second Amendment rights, and you’re still able to get a firearm for your protection, why wouldn’t we want to do that?

MR. COOPER:  We’ve got to take a break.  (Applause.)  We’re going to take a quick break.  Our live town hall conversation, “Guns in America,” with President Barack Obama continues right after this.

* * * *

MR. COOPER:  And welcome back.  We’re live at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, continuing our live town hall conversation with President Barack Obama, “Guns In America,” talking to voices from all sides of the issue, including the President.

You made your announcement just the other day in a very obviously emotional ceremony at the White House.  And I want to play just a moment from it for those who haven’t seen it.

(Video is shown.)

I think a lot of people were surprised by that moment.

THE PRESIDENT:  I was, too, actually.  I visited Newtown two days after what happened, so it was still very raw.  It’s the only time I’ve ever seen Secret Service cry on duty.  And it wasn’t just the parents.  You had siblings — 10-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 3-year-olds, who, in some cases, didn’t even understand that their brother or sister weren’t going to be coming home.  And I’ve said this before — it continues to haunt me.  It was one of the worst days of my presidency.

But, look, I want to emphasize that there are a lot of tragedies that happen out there as a consequence of the victims of crime.  There are police officers who are out there laying down their lives to protect us every single day.  And tears are appropriate for them, as well, and I visit with those families, as well — victims of terrorism, soldiers coming home.

There’s a lot of heartache out there.  And I don’t suggest that this is the only kind of heartache we should be working on. I spent a lot of time and a lot of hours — in fact, a lot more hours than I spend on this — trying to prevent terrorist attacks.  I spend a lot of time and a lot of hours trying to make sure that we’re continuing to reduce our crime rate.

There are a whole bunch of other answers that are just as important when it comes to making sure that the streets of places like Chicago and Baltimore are safer.  Making sure kids get a good early childhood education.  Making sure that we’re teaching conflict resolution that doesn’t involve violence.  Making sure that faith communities are able to reach out to young people and intervene in timely ways.

So this is not a recipe for solving every problem.  Again, I just want to emphasize that the goal here is just to make progress.  And it’s interesting, as I enter into my last year as President, I could not be prouder of the work that we’ve done. But it also makes you really humble, because you realize that change takes a long time and a lot of the work you do is just to incrementally make things better so that, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, the crime rate has gone down.

That’s not just because of my administration.  That’s the groundwork that was laid by a bunch of good work by law enforcement and others for years, across administrations, on a bipartisan basis.

The same is true with traffic safety.  The same is true with advances in medicine.  The same can be true with this if we stop exaggerating or mischaracterizing the positions of either side and we just come up with some sensible areas that people agree with.  Background checks are an example:  The majority of gun owners agree with this.

MR. COOPER:  You talk about faith communities.  Father Michael Pfleger is here.  I know you know him well.  He’s a Roman Catholic priest in Chicago.  For those who don’t know, his church is St. Sabina on the South Side of Chicago.  I was there about a month ago.  It was a great honor to be there.

Father, you’ve given a lot of eulogies for a lot of kids in your community.  Far too many over the 40 years that you have been there.  What your question for the President?

Q    Mr. President, first of all, thank you for your courage and your passion, and keep pushing.  I happen to be from one of those cities where violence is not going down.  Not only, as Anderson mentioned, the 55 shot, there’s been 11 killed in seven days in Chicago.  And one of the main reasons for that is the easy access to guns.  It’s easier to get a gun in my neighborhood than it is a computer.  And the reality is, is because many of those guns have been bought legally.  And I understand why people are pushing against you, because I understand it’s a business and it’s about a business, and so if we cut back the easy access to guns, less money for gun manufacturers, less money for the gun lobby.  I understand the business of it.  But that business is causing blood and the kids that are dying in Chicago.  And for many years, nobody even cared about Chicago because the violence is primarily black and brown.

The reality is that I don’t understand why we can’t title guns just like cars.  If I have a car and I give it to you, Mr. President, and I don’t transfer a title and you’re in an accident, it’s on me.  We don’t take cars away by putting titles on them.  Why can’t we do that with guns and every gun in America?  So if somebody who’s buying 200 guns, selling them on the streets, if they can’t transfer those titles, then they’re going to be held responsible for the guns that they sell.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Father Mike, first of all, for those of you who don’t know him, has been working since before I moved to Chicago, and I was a 23-year-old when I first met him.  And somehow I aged and he didn’t.  (Laughter.)

MR. COOPER:  Your gray hair is not going back, I can tell you from experience.

THE PRESIDENT:  He was always the best-looking priest in Chicago.  (Laughter.)  But Father Pfleger has done heroic work at St. Sabina Parish.

Issues like licensing, registration, that’s an area where there’s just not enough national consensus at this stage to even consider it.  And part of it is, is people’s concern that that becomes a prelude to taking people’s guns away.  I mean, part of the challenge in this is that the gun debate gets wrapped up in broader debates about whether the federal government is oppressive.  And there are conspiracy theories floating around the Internet these days all the time.  We did a military exercise in Texas, and a whole bunch of folks were sure that this was the start of martial law, and were suggesting maybe don’t cooperate with the United States Army in an effort to prepare so that if they get deployed overseas, they can handle it.  But that’s how difficult sometimes these debates are.

But I want to pick up on some things where I think there should be consensus.  One of those areas that I talked about at the speech, part of the proposal is developing smart gun technology.  Now, this is an interesting example.  I don’t exactly understand this, and maybe there will be somebody in the audience who explains it to me.  Back in 1997, the CEO of Colt said we can design, or are starting to develop guns where you can only use it if you’ve got a chip, where you wear a band or a bracelet, and that then protects your 2-year-old or 3-year-old from picking up the gun and using it.  And a boycott was called against him, and they had to back off of developing that technology.  The same with Smith & Wesson.  They were in the process of developing similar technology, and they were attacked by the NRA as “surrendering.”

Now, to me, this does not make sense.  If you are a gun owner, I would think that you would at least want a choice so that if you wanted to purchase a firearm that could only be used by you — in part to avoid accidents in your home, in part to make sure that if it’s stolen, it’s not used by a criminal, in part, if there’s an intruder, you pull the gun but somehow it gets wrested away from you, that gun can’t be turned on you and used on you — I would think there might be a market for that.  You could sell that gun.

Now, I’m not saying that necessarily would be the only gun that’s available, but it seems to me that that would be something that in any other area, in any other product, any other commercial venture, there would be some research and development on that because that’s a promising technology.

It has not been developed primarily because it’s been blocked by either the NRA, which is funded by gun manufacturers, or other reasons.  In part, what we proposed was, you know what, we’re going to do some of the research.  We’ll work with the private sector.  (Applause.)  We’ll figure out whether or not this technology can be developed — (applause) — and then give everybody a choice in terms of the kind of firearm that they want to purchase — because I think that there will, in fact, be a market for that.  And over time, that’s an example of how we could reduce some of the preventable gun deaths that are out there.

MR. COOPER:  I want to bring in somebody who actually knows a lot about selling guns.  I want you to meet Kris Jacob.  He’s vice president of the American Firearms Retailers Association.  He’s the owner of the Bullseye Indoor Shooting Range and gun store in San Rafael, California.  Kris, it’s great to have you here.  First of all, how is business under President Obama?  Because everything I read says gun sales have been going up.  Every time he talks about guns, gun sales go up.

Q    It’s been busy.  And certainly I think that shows, as Taya said earlier, that there’s a very serious concern in this country about personal security.  And the sheriff is right — they do everything they possibly can to make sure they get there as quickly as they possibly can.  And my question is actually focused around law enforcement, as well.  There’s 53,000 licensed gun dealers in the United States who stand behind the counter and say no to people all day.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    We feel it’s our responsibility to make sure that people who have a criminal past, people who are mentally ill or are having a bad day don’t get possession of firearms.  So we assist law enforcement all the time in the process of making sure that those things don’t change hands inside our commercial market if they shouldn’t.  It’s a very serious responsibility for us, and as a group, we take it very seriously.

My question is around the executive order related to the investigators, the inspectors, the adding of 200 inspectors who are more on the auditing and record-keeping side.  Why not add 200 ATF agents on the law enforcement side to keep the criminals and the bad guys out of the stores in the first place?  I mean, the problem seems to me to be — you mentioned dealers who are less responsible than others, and certainly it’s possible that those folks are out there, but if we can enforce the laws that already exist, the tens of thousands of gun laws that are on the books right now, it might create a very significant deterrent in just getting those people in the stores.

MR. COOPER:  Let me also point out the number of ATF agents during your administration has actually declined.  So even if you hired 200 more —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, but not because of my budget.

MR. COOPER:  But even if you hired 200 more, it will get it to what it was right before you took office.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, look, first of all, there are a whole bunch of responsible gun dealers out there.  And my hope would be that those gun dealers would support making sure that everybody is following the same rules that they are.  That’s number one.

Number two is we’re not writing a new law.  Only Congress can do that.  This is about enforcing existing laws, and closing what has grown into a massive loophole where a huge percentage of guns — many of whom end up being traced to crime — are not going through the responsible gun dealers, but are going through irresponsible folks who are not registered as doing business.  And the whole goal here is to clarify and to put on notice that if you’re a business, even if you don’t have bricks and mortar, then you’re supposed to register, you’re supposed to conduct background checks.  So the issue is not where you do it, it’s what you’re doing.  And that should not be something that threatens responsible gun dealers across the country.

In terms of the ATF, it is absolutely true that the ATF budget has been shrank because — has been shrunk — it’s a little late — (laughter) — you knew what I meant — (laughter) — and part of it is because the politicizing of this issue.  So many in the Republican Congress feel as if the ATF is not their friend, but their enemy.  Part of the story I was telling —

MR. COOPER:  You said this issue should be politicized, though.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but what I mean by that, Anderson, is, is that they have been portrayed as trying to take people’s guns away as opposed to trying to make sure that the laws are enforced.  And one of the most frustrating things that I hear is when people say — who are opposed to any further laws — why don’t you just enforce the laws that are on the books, and those very same members of Congress then cut ATF budgets to make it impossible to enforce the law.  (Applause.)

And by the way, the ATF is a law enforcement agency working under the FBI that is doing enormous work in going after criminals and drug cartels, and have a pretty dangerous job.  So it’s not as if doing background checks or auditing gun sales is all that they’re doing.

Part of my proposal is also developing better technologies so that we can do tracing of shells when a crime is committed in order to figure out who exactly are the perpetrators of the crime and where did they obtain the weapon.  So there’s a whole bunch of other elements to this that are going to be important.  But my hope is, is that responsible gun dealers like yourself and your organization are going to be supportive of this proposal, because it should actually help push away unscrupulous dealers and that means more customers for you guys.

MR. COOPER:  I want to bring in Mark Kelly.  As you know, a former astronaut, husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who we’re proud to say is here tonight.  Five years ago this week in Tucson, Arizona, Congresswoman Giffords was shot.  Six others were killed.  Captain, your question?

Q    Well, thank you for being here, Mr. President.  As you know, Gabby and I are both gun owners.  We take gun ownership very seriously and really think about the voices of responsible gun owners in this debate.  But I want to follow up to something Father Pfleger said and your answer to his question, and it’s about expanded background checks.  Often, what you hear in the debate of expanding background checks to more gun sales — and, as you know, Gabby and I are 100 percent behind the concept of somebody getting a background check before buying a gun — but when we testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we heard not only from the gun lobby but from United States senators that expanding background checks will — not may — will lead to a registry, which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to a tyrannical government.

So I would like you to explain, with 350 million guns in 65 million places, households, from Key West to Alaska — 350 million objects in 65 million places — if the federal government wanted to confiscate those objects, how would they do that?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, first of all, every time I see Gabby, I’m just so thrilled because I visited her in the hospital, and, as I mentioned I think in the speech in the White House, as we left the hospital then to go to a memorial service, we got word that Gabby had opened her eyes for the first time.  And we did not think that she was going to be here, and she is.  And Mark has just been extraordinary.  And, by the way, Mark’s twin brother is up in space right now and is breaking the record for the longest continuous orbiting of the planet, which is pretty impressive stuff.

What I think Mark is alluding to is what I said earlier — this notion of a conspiracy out there, and it gets wrapped up in concerns about the federal government.  Now, there’s a long history of that.  That’s in our DNA.  The United States was born suspicious of some distant authority.

MR. COOPER:  But let me just jump in — is it fair to call it a conspiracy?  I mean, there’s a lot of people who really believe this deeply — that they just don’t trust you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, Cooper, yes it is fair to call it a conspiracy.  What are you saying?  (Applause.)  Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can impose martial law —

MR. COOPER:  Not everybody, but there is certainly a lot of people —

THE PRESIDENT:  — is a conspiracy?  Yes, that is a conspiracy.  I would hope that you would agree with that.  (Applause.)  Is that controversial except on some websites around the country?

MR. COOPER:  There are certainly a lot of people who just have a fundamental distrust that you do not want to get — go further and further and further down this road.

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I mean, I’m only going to be here for another year.  I don’t know — when would I have started on this enterprise, right?  (Laughter.)

I come from the state of Illinois, which — we’ve been talking about Chicago, but downstate Illinois is closer to Kentucky than it is to Chicago.  And everybody hunts down there and a lot of folks own guns.  And so this is not, like, alien territory to me.  I’ve got a lot of friends like Mark who are hunters.  I just came back from Alaska, where I ate a moose that had just been shot — and it was pretty good.

So, yes, it is a false notion that I believe is circulated for either political reasons or commercial reasons in order to prevent a coming together among people of goodwill to develop common-sense rules that will make us safer while preserving the Second Amendment.

And the notion that we can’t agree on some things while not agreeing on others and the reason for that is because, well, the President secretly wants to X would mean that we’d be paralyzed about doing everything.  I mean, maybe when I proposed to make sure that unsafe drugs are taken off the market that, secretly, I’m trying to control the entire drug industry, or take people’s drugs away.  But probably not.  What’s more likely is I just want to make sure that people are not dying by taking bad drugs.

MR. COOPER:  You wrote an op-ed that just got published.  A lot of people probably have not read it yet.  One of the things you say in it is that you are not going to campaign for, vote for any candidate, regardless of what party they’re in, if they do not support common-sense gun reform.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I meant what I said.  And the reason I said that is this.  The majority of people in this country are a lot more sensible than what you see in Washington, and the reason that Washington doesn’t work well in part is because the loudest, shrillest voices, the least compromising, the most powerful or those with the most money have the most influence.

And the way Washington changes is when people vote.  And the way we break the deadlock on this issue is when Congress does not have just a stranglehold on this debate — or, excuse me — the NRA does not have a stranglehold on Congress in this debate — (applause) — but it is balanced by a whole bunch of folks — gun owners, law enforcement, the majority of the American people — when their voices are heard, then things get done.

The proposals that we’ve put forward are a version — a lawful, more narrow version — of what was proposed by Joe Manchin and Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Republican and a Democrat, both of whom get straight-A scores from the NRA.  And somehow, after Newtown, that did not pass the Senate.  The majority of senators wanted it, but 90 percent of Republicans voted against it.  And I’ll be honest with you, 90 percent of those senators didn’t disagree with the proposal, but they were fearful that it was going to affect them during the election.

So all I’m saying is, is that this debate will not change and get balanced out so that lawful gun owners and their Second Amendment rights are protected, but we’re also creating a pathway towards a safer set of communities — it’s not going to change until those who are concerned about violence are not as focused and disciplined during election time as those who are.  And I’m going to throw my shoulders behind folks who want to actually solve problems instead of just getting a high score from an interest group.  (Applause.)

MR. COOPER:  We have time for one more question.  And we talked about Chicago a little bit.  We haven’t really heard from young people tonight — no offense to those who have spoken.  (Laughter.)  I’m in the same category as you all.  Sorry, Father.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re a kid.

MR. COOPER:  There’s a lot of kids, as you know, growing up in Chicago, fearful of walking to school, fearful of coming home from school.  A lot of kids have been killed on buses.  There’s a lot of moms of kids who have been killed in the streets of Chicago.  And I want you to meet Trey Bosley.  He’s 18 years old. He’s a high school student.  And his brother Terrell was shot and killed nearly 10 years ago while he was helping a friend in a church parking lot.  Terrell would have turned 28 years old on this Tuesday.  What’s your question, Trey?

Q    As you said, I lost my brother a few years ago — well, 10 years ago.  And I’ve also lost a countless amount of family members and friends to gun violence, as well.  And just growing up as a young black teen in Chicago, where you’re surrounded by not only just gun violence but police brutality, as well, most of aren’t thinking of our life on a long-term scale.  Most of us are either thinking day to day, hour to hour — for some, even minute to minute.  I want to thank you for your stand against gun violence for not only the victims of gun violence, but those on the verge of being victims of gun violence.  And my question to you is, what is your advice to those youth growing up surrounded by poverty and gun violence?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, Trey, I couldn’t be prouder of you.  And I know — is that your momma next to you?  I know she’s proud of you right now.  So good job, Mom.

When I see you, Terrell, I think I about my own —

MR. COOPER:  Trey.

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me — Trey.  When I see you, I think about my own youth, because I wasn’t that different from you.  Probably not as articulate and maybe more of a goof-off.  But the main difference was I lived in a more forgiving environment.  If I screwed up, I wasn’t at risk of getting shot.  I’d get a second chance.  There were a bunch of folks who were looking out for me, and there weren’t a lot of guns on the streets.  And that’s how all kids should be growing up, wherever they live.

My advice to you is to continue to be an outstanding role model for the young ones who are coming up behind you.  Keep listening to your mom.  Work hard and get an education.  Understand that high school and whatever peer pressure or restrictions you’re under right now won’t matter by the time you’re a full adult, and what matters is your future.  But what I also want to say to you is, is that you’re really important to the future of this country.

And I think it is critical in this debate to understand that it’s not just inner-city kids who are at risk in these situations.  Out of the 30,000 deaths due to gun violence, about two-thirds of them are actually suicides.  That’s part of the reason why we are investing more heavily also in mental health under my proposal.

But while the majority of victims of gun homicide are black or Hispanic, the overwhelming majority of suicides by young people are white.  And those, too, are tragedies.  Those, too, are preventable.  I’m the father of two outstanding young women, but being a teenager is tough.  And we all remember the times where you get confused, you’re angry, and then the next thing you know, if you have access to a firearm what kind of bad decisions you might make.  So those are deaths we also want to prevent.

Accidental shootings are also deaths we want to prevent.  And we’re not going to prevent all of them.  But we can do better.  We’re not going to, through this initiative alone, solve all the problems of inner-city crime.  Some of that, as I said, has to do with investing in these communities and making sure there’s good education and jobs and opportunity — (applause) — and great parents, and moral responsibility, and ethical behavior, and instilling that in our kids — that’s going to be important.

So this is not a proposal to solve every problem.  It’s a modest way of us getting started on improving the prospects of young men and young women like you, the same way we try to improve every other aspect of our lives.  That’s all it is.

And if we get started — as I said before, it used to be people didn’t wear seatbelts, didn’t have airbags.  It takes 20, 30 years, but you look and then you realize all these amazing lives of young people like this who are contributing to our society because we came together in a practical way, looking at evidence, looking at data, and figured out how can we make that work better.

Right now, Congress prohibits us even studying through the Center for Disease Control ways in which we could reduce gun violence.  That’s how crazy this thing has become.  Let’s at least figure out what works.  And some of the proposals that I’m making may turn out are not as effective as others.  But at least let’s figure it out, let’s try some things.  Let’s not just assume that — every few weeks there’s a mass shooting that gets publicity, every few months there’s one that gets national publicity, every day there are a whole bunch of folks shot on streets around the country that we don’t even hear about.  That is not something that we can be satisfied with.

And part of my faith and hope in America is just that — not that we achieve a perfect union, but that we get better.  And we can do better than we’re doing right now if we come together.  (Applause.)

Thank you.

MR. COOPER:  Mr. President, thank you very much for your time.

THE PRESIDENT:  Appreciate it very much.

                             END           9:13 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts January 5, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement Announcing Gun Control Executive Actions

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform

Source: WH, 1-5-16

East Room

11:43 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.

Mark, I want to thank you for your introduction.  I still remember the first time we met, the time we spent together, and the conversation we had about Daniel.  And that changed me that day.  And my hope, earnestly, has been that it would change the country.

Five years ago this week, a sitting member of Congress and 18 others were shot at, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona.  It wasn’t the first time I had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting, nor would it be the last.  Fort Hood.  Binghamton.  Aurora.  Oak Creek.  Newtown.  The Navy Yard.  Santa Barbara.  Charleston.  San Bernardino.  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks to a great medical team and the love of her husband, Mark, my dear friend and colleague, Gabby Giffords, survived.  She’s here with us today, with her wonderful mom.  (Applause.)  Thanks to a great medical team, her wonderful husband, Mark — who, by the way, the last time I met with Mark  — this is just a small aside — you may know Mark’s twin brother is in outer space.  (Laughter.)  He came to the office, and I said, how often are you talking to him?  And he says, well, I usually talk to him every day, but the call was coming in right before the meeting so I think I may have not answered his call — (laughter) — which made me feel kind of bad.  (Laughter.)    That’s a long-distance call.  (Laughter.)  So I told him if his brother, Scott, is calling today, that he should take it.  (Laughter.)  Turn the ringer on.  (Laughter.)

I was there with Gabby when she was still in the hospital, and we didn’t think necessarily at that point that she was going to survive.  And that visit right before a memorial — about an hour later Gabby first opened her eyes.  And I remember talking to mom about that.  But I know the pain that she and her family have endured these past five years, and the rehabilitation and the work and the effort to recover from shattering injuries.

And then I think of all the Americans who aren’t as fortunate.  Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns — 30,000.  Suicides.  Domestic violence.  Gang shootouts.  Accidents.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children.  Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or learned to live without the love of their life.

A number of those people are here today.  They can tell you some stories.  In this room right here, there are a lot of stories.  There’s a lot of heartache.  There’s a lot of resilience, there’s a lot of strength, but there’s also a lot of pain.  And this is just a small sample.

The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people.  We are not inherently more prone to violence.  But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency.  It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries.  It’s not even close.  And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal.

And instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates — despite the fact that there’s a general consensus in America about what needs to be done.  That’s part of the reason why, on Thursday, I’m going to hold a town hall meeting in Virginia on gun violence.  Because my goal here is to bring good people on both sides of this issue together for an open discussion.

I’m not on the ballot again.  I’m not looking to score some points.  I think we can disagree without impugning other people’s motives or without being disagreeable.  We don’t need to be talking past one another.  But we do have to feel a sense of urgency about it.  In Dr. King’s words, we need to feel the “fierce urgency of now.”  Because people are dying.  And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do, no longer suffice.

That’s why we’re here today.  Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to try to prevent the next one.  (Applause.)  To prove that the vast majority of Americans, even if our voices aren’t always the loudest or most extreme, care enough about a little boy like Daniel to come together and take common-sense steps to save lives and protect more of our children.

Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start — and I’ve said this over and over again, this also becomes routine, there is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do — I believe in the Second Amendment.  It’s there written on the paper.  It guarantees a right to bear arms.  No matter how many times people try to twist my words around — I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this — (applause) — I get it.  But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.

I mean, think about it.  We all believe in the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech, but we accept that you can’t yell “fire” in a theater.  We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people.  We cherish our right to privacy, but we accept that you have to go through metal detectors before being allowed to board a plane. It’s not because people like doing that, but we understand that that’s part of the price of living in a civilized society.

And what’s often ignored in this debate is that a majority of gun owners actually agree.  A majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking feud from inflicting harm on a massive scale.

Today, background checks are required at gun stores.  If a father wants to teach his daughter how to hunt, he can walk into a gun store, get a background check, purchase his weapon safely and responsibly.  This is not seen as an infringement on the Second Amendment.  Contrary to the claims of what some gun rights proponents have suggested, this hasn’t been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation.  Contrary to claims of some presidential candidates, apparently, before this meeting, this is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns.  You pass a background check; you purchase a firearm.

The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules.  A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked.  A recent study found that about one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records — one out of 30 had a criminal record.  We’re talking about individuals convicted of serious crimes — aggravated assault, domestic violence, robbery, illegal gun possession.  People with lengthy criminal histories buying deadly weapons all too easily.  And this was just one website within the span of a few months.

So we’ve created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys his or her gun the right way and subjects themselves to a background check.  That doesn’t make sense.  Everybody should have to abide by the same rules.  Most Americans and gun owners agree.  And that’s what we tried to change three years ago, after 26 Americans -– including 20 children -– were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Two United States Senators -– Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, both gun owners, both strong defenders of our Second Amendment rights, both with “A” grades from the NRA –- that’s hard to get  — worked together in good faith, consulting with folks like our Vice President, who has been a champion on this for a long time, to write a common-sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check.  That was it.  Pretty common-sense stuff.  Ninety percent of Americans supported that idea.  Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea.  But it failed because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against that idea.

How did this become such a partisan issue?  Republican President George W. Bush once said, “I believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.”  Senator John McCain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole, saying, “We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws.”  Even the NRA used to support expanded background checks.  And by the way, most of its members still do.  Most Republican voters still do.

How did we get here?  How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people’s guns?

Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying.  I reject that thinking.  (Applause.)  We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world.  But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.

Some of you may recall, at the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill — with a knife — a bunch of children in China.  But most of them survived because he didn’t have access to a powerful weapon.  We maybe can’t save everybody, but we could save some.  Just as we don’t prevent all traffic accidents but we take steps to try to reduce traffic accidents.

As Ronald Reagan once said, if mandatory background checks could save more lives, “it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”  The bill before Congress three years ago met that test.  Unfortunately, too many senators failed theirs.  (Applause.)

In fact, we know that background checks make a difference.  After Connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40 percent — 40 percent.  (Applause.)  Meanwhile, since Missouri repealed a law requiring comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, gun deaths have increased to almost 50 percent higher than the national average.  One study found, unsurprisingly, that criminals in Missouri now have easier access to guns.

And the evidence tells us that in states that require background checks, law-abiding Americans don’t find it any harder to purchase guns whatsoever.  Their guns have not been confiscated.  Their rights have not been infringed.

And that’s just the information we have access to.  With more research, we could further improve gun safety.  Just as with more research, we’ve reduced traffic fatalities enormously over the last 30 years.  We do research when cars, food, medicine, even toys harm people so that we make them safer.  And you know what — research, science — those are good things.  They work.  (Laughter and applause.)  They do.

But think about this.  When it comes to an inherently deadly weapon — nobody argues that guns are potentially deadly — weapons that kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, Congress actually voted to make it harder for public health experts to conduct research into gun violence; made it harder to collect data and facts and develop strategies to reduce gun violence.  Even after San Bernardino, they’ve refused to make it harder for terror suspects who can’t get on a plane to buy semi-automatic weapons.  That’s not right.  That can’t be right.

So the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage.  (Applause.)  We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to be clear.  Congress still needs to act.  The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does.  (Applause.)  Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures we can reduce gun violence a whole lot more.  But we also can’t wait.  Until we have a Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives -– actions that protect our rights and our kids.

After Sandy Hook, Joe and I worked together with our teams and we put forward a whole series of executive actions to try to tighten up the existing rules and systems that we had in place.  But today, we want to take it a step further.  So let me outline what we’re going to be doing.

Number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions.  (Applause.)  It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it over the Internet or at a gun show.  It’s not where you do it, but what you do.

We’re also expanding background checks to cover violent criminals who try to buy some of the most dangerous firearms by hiding behind trusts and corporations and various cutouts.

We’re also taking steps to make the background check system more efficient.  Under the guidance of Jim Comey and the FBI, our Deputy Director Tom Brandon at ATF, we’re going to hire more folks to process applications faster, and we’re going to bring an outdated background check system into the 21st century.  (Applause.)

And these steps will actually lead to a smoother process for law-abiding gun owners, a smoother process for responsible gun dealers, a stronger process for protecting the people from — the public from dangerous people.  So that’s number one.

Number two, we’re going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books, which means we’re going to add 200 more ATF agents and investigators.  We’re going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis. We’re working with advocates to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence, where too often — (applause) — where too often, people are not getting the protection that they need.

Number three, we’re going to do more to help those suffering from mental illness get the help that they need.  (Applause.)  High-profile mass shootings tend to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others.  But the truth is, is that nearly two in three gun deaths are from suicides.  So a lot of our work is to prevent people from hurting themselves.

That’s why we made sure that the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — (laughter and applause) — that law made sure that treatment for mental health was covered the same as treatment for any other illness.  And that’s why we’re going to invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country.  (Applause.)

It’s also why we’re going to ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check system, and remove barriers that prevent states from reporting relevant information.  If we can continue to de-stigmatize mental health issues, get folks proper care, and fill gaps in the background check system, then we can spare more families the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

And for those in Congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here’s your chance to support these efforts.  Put your money where your mouth is.  (Applause.)

Number four, we’re going to boost gun safety technology.  Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally.  In 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents –- and that includes 30 children younger than five years old.  In the greatest, most technologically advanced nation on Earth, there is no reason for this.  We need to develop new technologies that make guns safer.  If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?  (Applause.)  If there’s an app that can help us find a missing tablet — which happens to me often the older I get — (laughter) — if we can do it for your iPad, there’s no reason we can’t do it with a stolen gun.  If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure that they can’t pull a trigger on a gun.  (Applause.)  Right?

So we’re going to advance research.  We’re going to work with the private sector to update firearms technology.

And some gun retailers are already stepping up by refusing to finalize a purchase without a complete background check, or by refraining from selling semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines.  And I hope that more retailers and more manufacturers join them — because they should care as much as anybody about a product that now kills almost as many Americans as car accidents.

I make this point because none of us can do this alone.  I think Mark made that point earlier.  All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important — Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them.  Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina.  (Applause.)  And that was denied Jews in Kansas City.  And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.  (Applause.)  They had rights, too.  (Applause.)

Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette.  Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown.  First-graders.  And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad.  And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.  (Applause.)

So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.  All of us need to stand up and protect its citizens.  All of us need to demand governors and legislatures and businesses do their part to make our communities safer.  We need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented to join with us to demand something better.  (Applause.)

And we need voters who want safer gun laws, and who are disappointed in leaders who stand in their way, to remember come election time.  (Applause.)

I mean, some of this is just simple math.  Yes, the gun lobby is loud and it is organized in defense of making it effortless for guns to be available for anybody, any time.  Well, you know what, the rest of us, we all have to be just as passionate.  We have to be just as organized in defense of our kids.  This is not that complicated.  The reason Congress blocks laws is because they want to win elections.  And if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws, they’ll change course, I promise you.  (Applause.)

And, yes, it will be hard, and it won’t happen overnight.  It won’t happen during this Congress.  It won’t happen during my presidency.  But a lot of things don’t happen overnight.  A woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight.  The liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight.  LGBT rights — that was decades’ worth of work.  So just because it’s hard, that’s no excuse not to try.

And if you have any doubt as to why you should feel that “fierce urgency of now,” think about what happened three weeks ago.  Zaevion Dobson was a sophomore at Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He played football; beloved by his classmates and his teachers.  His own mayor called him one of their city’s success stories.  The week before Christmas, he headed to a friend’s house to play video games.  He wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He hadn’t made a bad decision.  He was exactly where any other kid would be.  Your kid.  My kids. And then gunmen started firing.  And Zaevion — who was in high school, hadn’t even gotten started in life — dove on top of three girls to shield them from the bullets.  And he was shot in the head.  And the girls were spared.  He gave his life to save theirs –- an act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old.  “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

We are not asked to do what Zaevion Dobson did.  We’re not asked to have shoulders that big; a heart that strong; reactions that quick.  I’m not asking people to have that same level of courage, or sacrifice, or love.  But if we love our kids and care about their prospects, and if we love this country and care about its future, then we can find the courage to vote.  We can find the courage to get mobilized and organized.  We can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do.

That’s what we’re doing today.  And tomorrow, we should do more.  And we should do more the day after that.  And if we do, we’ll leave behind a nation that’s stronger than the one we inherited and worthy of the sacrifice of a young man like Zaevion.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  Thank you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END

12:20 P.M. EST

 

Full Text Political Transcripts January 4, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Recommendations on Gun Safety

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Recommendations on Gun Safety

 

Source: WH, 1-4-16

Oval Office

2:42 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy New Year, everybody.  Before the New Year, I mentioned that I had given the charge to my Attorney General, FBI Director, Deputy Director at the ATF, and personnel at my White House to work together to see what more we could do to prevent a scourge of gun violence in this country.

I think everybody here is all too familiar with the statistics.  We have tens of thousands of people every single year who are killed by guns.  We have suicides that are committed by firearms at a rate that far exceeds other countries.  We have a frequency of mass shootings that far exceeds other countries in frequency.

And although it is my strong belief that for us to get our complete arm around the problem Congress needs to act, what I asked my team to do is to see what more we could do to strengthen our enforcement and prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands to make sure that criminals, people who are mentally unstable, those who could pose a danger to themselves or others are less likely to get them.

And I’ve just received back a report from Attorney General Lynch, Director Comey, as well as Deputy Director Brandon about some of the ideas and initiatives that they think can make a difference.  And the good news is, is that these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they’re also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe.

So over the next several days, we’ll be rolling out these initiatives.  We’ll be making sure that people have a very clear understanding of what can make a difference and what we can do.  And although we have to be very clear that this is not going to solve every violent crime in this country, it’s not going to prevent every mass shooting, it’s not going to keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal, it will potentially save lives and spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they’ve suffered as a consequence of a firearm getting in the hands of the wrong people.

I’m also confident that the recommendations that are being made by my team here are ones that are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment and people’s lawful right to bear arms.  And we’ve been very careful recognizing that, although we have a strong tradition of gun ownership in this country, that even though it’s who possess firearms for hunting, for self-protection, and for other legitimate reasons, I want to make sure that the wrong people don’t have them for the wrong reasons.

So I want to say how much I appreciate the outstanding work that the team has done.  Many of you worked over the holidays to get this set of recommendations to me.  And I’m looking forward to speaking to the American people over the next several days in more detail about it.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END

2:46 P.M. EST

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

Source: WH, 12-23-15

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

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

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

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WaPo, 12-18-15

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

Here is the full text of his remarks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So with that, let me take some questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK. David Jackson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So when you combine that with the fact that it’s really expensive, and that we are — you know, essentially, at this point, detaining a handful of people, and each person is costing several million dollars to detain, when there are more efficient ways of doing it, you know, I think we can make a strong argument.

I — I — I’m — but I’ll take — you know, I’ll take your point, that it’ll be an uphill battle. Every battle I’ve had with Congress over the last five years have been — has been uphill, and — but we keep on surprising you by actually getting some stuff done.

QUESTION: (inaudible) on an immigration bill (ph)?

OBAMA: Sometimes — sometimes that may prove necessary, but — you know, we try not to get out ahead of ourselves on that.

Julie Pace.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Wanted to ask you about the broader challenges in the Middle East.

OBAMA: Yeah.

QUESTION: Who (ph) of the Republicans who are running for president have argued that the Mid-East and the United States would be safer if you hadn’t (ph) had regime changes, places (ph) like Iraq, Libya, and Egypt.

And having gone through the experience of the Arab Spring and the aftermath, I wonder what you now see of (ph) the U.S. role in the Middle East in terms of trying to push dictators out of power.

Would you advise future presidents to call for authoritarian leaders to step down, as you did? And just specifically on Syria, at this point, is it your expectation that Bashar Assad’s presidency will outlast yours?

OBAMA: You know, there’s been a lot of revisionist history, sometimes by the same people, making different arguments depending on the situation. So maybe it’s useful just for us to go back over some of these issues.

We did not depose Hosni Mubarak. Millions of Egyptians did because of their dissatisfaction with the corruption and authoritarianism of the regime. We had a working relationship with Mubarak. We didn’t trigger the Arab Spring, and the notion that somehow the U.S. was in a position to pull the strings on a country that is the largest in the Arab world, I think is — is mistaken.

What is true is that at the point at which the choice becomes mowing down millions of people or trying to find some transition, we believed and I would still argue that it was more sensible for us to find a peaceful transition to the Egyptian situation.

With respect to Libya, Libya is sort of an alternative version of Syria in some ways, because by the time the international coalition interceded in Syria, chaos had already broken out. You already had the makings of a civil war. You had a dictator who was threatening and was in a position to carry out the wholesale slaughter of large numbers of people. And we worked under U.N. mandate with a coalition of folks in order to try to avert a big humanitarian catastrophe that would not have good for us.

Those who now argue in retrospect, we should have left Gadhafi in there, seem to forget that he had already lost legitimacy and control of his country and we could have — instead of what we have in Libya now, we could have had another Syria in Libya now. The — the problem with Libya was the fact that there was a failure on the part of the entire international community, and I think that the United States has some accountability for not moving swiftly enough and underestimating the need to rebuild government there quickly, and as a consequence, you now have a very bad situation.

As far as Syria goes, I think it is entirely right and proper for the United States of America to speak out on behalf of its (ph) values. And when you have an authoritarian leader that is killing hundreds of thousands of his own people, the notion that we would just stand by and say nothing is contrary to who we are, and that does not serve our interests, because at that point, us being in collusion with that kind of governance would make us even more of a target for terrorist activity, would…

QUESTION: Do you think that government (ph) can help try to stop (inaudible)?

OBAMA: But — but the reason that Assad has been a problem in Syria is because that is a majority Sunni country and he had lost the space that he had early on to execute an inclusive transition — peaceful transition. He chose instead to slaughter people and once that happened, the idea that a minority population there could somehow crush tens of millions of people who oppose him is not feasible. It’s not plausible. Even if you were being cold-eyed and hard-heartened about the human toll there, it just wouldn’t happen.

OBAMA: And as a consequence, our view has been that you cannot bring peace to Syria, you cannot get an end to the civil war unless you have a government that has — it is recognized as legitimate by a majority of that country. It will not happen, and this is the argument that I have had repeatedly with Mr. Putin. Dating five years ago, at which time his suggestion, as I gather some Republicans are now suggesting, was, “You know, Assad’s not so bad, let him just be as brutal and repressive as he can, but at least he’ll keep order.” I said, “Look. The problem is that the history of trying to keep order when a large majority of the country has turned against you is not good.”

And five years later, I was right. So we now have an opportunity — and John Kerry is meeting as we speak with Syria and Turkey and Iran and the Gulf countries and other parties who are interested, we now have an opportunity not to turn back the clock, it’s going to be difficult to completely overcome the devastation that’s happened in Syria already, but to find a political transition that maintains the Syrian state, that recognizes a bunch of stakeholders inside of Syria and hopefully to initiate a cease-fire that won’t be perfect, but allows all the parties to turn on what should be our number one focus, and that is destroying Daesh and its allies in the region.

And that is going to be a difficult process, it’s going to be a pain staking process, but there is no shortcut to that. And that’s not based on some idealism on my part, that’s our hard-headed calculation about what’s going to be required to get the job done.

QUESTION: Do you think that Assad, though, could remain in power a year from now?

OBAMA: I think that Assad is going to have to leave in order for the country to stop the bloodletting and for all the parties involved to be able to move forward in a nonsectarian way. He has lost legitimacy in the eyes of a large majority of the country.

Now, is there a way of us constructing a bridge creating a political transition that allows those who are aligned with Assad right now, allows the Russians, allows the Iranians to ensure that their equities are respected and minorities, that minorities like the Alawites (ph) are not crushed or retribution is not the order of the day, I think that’s going to be very important as well.

And that’s what make this so difficult. You know, sadly, had Assad made a decision earlier that he was not more important personally than his entire country, that kind of political transition would have been much easier. It’s a lot harder now.

But John Kerry has been doing excellent work in moving that process forward and I do think that you’ve seen from the Russians a recognition that after a couple months, they’re not really moving the needle that much in this fight of sizable deployment inside of Syria. And of course, that’s what I suggested would happen, because there’s only so much bombing you can do when an entire country is outraged and believes that its ruler doesn’t represent them.

Sheryl (ph) Bowl (ph)?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to ask about the surprise (ph) in Congress. Specifically, what are your top legislative priorities for next year? And how has the new speaker, Paul Ryan, changed the dynamic with you and Capitol Hill? And can you be more ambitious next year doing things like maybe completing the Transatlantic Trade Partnership or even getting tax reform?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, it’s important to give some credit where credit is due. John Boehner did a favor to all of us, including now Speaker Ryan, by working with us to agree on a top line budget framework. That was the basis for subsequent negotiations. He was able to do that because he was going out the door, and was then given, I think, a little more room to maneuver than he previously had.

Having said that, I also want to give Speaker Ryan credit. I called both him and Mitch McConnell, as well as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for the orderly way in which they actually negotiated a budget, the way Congress is historically and typically supposed to work. I think (ph) we’ve gotten kind of used to last-minute crises and shutdown threats and so forth. And this — this is a messy process that doesn’t satisfy everybody completely, but it’s more typical of American democracy, and I think that Speaker Ryan deserves a role in that.

I will say that, in his interactions with me, he has been professional, he has reached out to tell me what he can do and what he cannot do. I think it’s a good working relationship.

We recognize that we disagree on a whole bunch of other stuff, and have fundamentally different visions for where we want to move the country, but, perhaps because even before he was elected he had worked on Capitol Hill, I think he is respectful of the process and respectful of how legislation works.

So kudos to him, as well as all the leaders and appropriators who were involved in this process. Now, just want to repeat, because sometimes we take for granted what’s happened.

I said early on in this process that I wasn’t going to sign a budget that — that did not relieve sequester, this artificial austerity that was making it difficult to invest in things like education and our military. And I said I would not accept a lot of ideological riders that were attached to a big budget deal.

And we met our goals. And because of some terrific negotiations by the Democrats up on Capitol Hill, and I think some pretty good work by our legislative staffs here, we’re gonna be able to fund environmental protection, we’re gonna be able to make sure that we’re investing in things like early childhood education and making college more affordable.

We’re going to be able to implement the clean power plant rule. We’re going to be able to continue to invest in clean energy that spurs on innovation. We’re going to be able to make sure that our military gets the equipment and the training that it needs to be effective in fighting ISIL and other threats around the world.

So it was a — it was a good win. And there are some things in there that I don’t like, but that’s the nature of legislation and — and compromise. And I think the system worked. That gives me some optimism that, next year, on a narrow set of issues, we can get some more work done.

As David said, it’s an election year, and obviously, a lot of the legislative process is going to be skewed by people looking over their shoulders, worrying about primaries, trying to position themselves relative to the presidential candidates. So that makes it harder.

But I think there are going to be a handful of areas where we can make real progress. One of them, you already mentioned, Trans-Pacific Partnership, which now has been out, Congress has had a chance to review, and it meets the bar that I set.

It is consistent with what I promised, which is the most pro- labor, pro-environment, progressive trade deal in history, that eliminates just about every tariff on American manufacturing goods in countries that up until this point have charged a tax, essentially, on anything that American workers and American businesses sell in these areas.

It brings those taxes down to zero on basically all of American manufactured products. A huge win for agriculture, because now — you know, the people of Japan are going to be in a better position to enjoy American beef and American pork, which, up until this point, even though we’re much more efficient producers, has have been tagged with a tax that makes — you know, our products uncompetitive in Japanese markets.

So this is a big deal, and I think Speaker Ryan would like to try to get it done. And there are both proponents and opponents of this in both Democratic and Republican parties, and so it’s gonna be an interesting situation where we’re going to have to stitch together the same kind of bipartisan effort, in order for us to get it done.

A second area that I think is possible is criminal justice reform. There has been sincere, serious negotiations and efforts by Democrats and Republicans to create a criminal justice system that is more fair, more even handed, more proportionate and is smarter about how we reduce crime. And I have really been impressed by the dedication of a core group of Democrats and Republicans. Some of them the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans coming together saying this is the right thing to do. We’ve got a good bill in the Senate that passed with bipartisan support out of committee. My hope is that that gets to the floor. And that we can pair it up with a good bill out of the House. And then this is an area where potentially can see us save money, reduce recidivism, you know, make sure people who make a mistake on nonviolent crimes have to pay the price. Have to serve time, but are released in a — in a reasonable fashion. That they have more support so they’re less likely to go back into the criminal system, subsequently.

And that’s an area where we may be able to make a big difference. So those are just two examples. We’ll keep on looking for a number of examples like that. And — and wherever there’s an opportunity, I’m going to take it.

Phillip Grub (ph). Phillip Grub (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned climate change already. And at the time of the signing of the deal in Paris you said it was potentially a turning point for the the world. But this was a deal that was — that is not a legally binding document and you bypassed Congress pretty much completely.

Are you worried at this point that a Republican president who might take over for you in the White House could stop the deal in its tracks entirely, and considering that possibility, are you more interested in campaigning for a Democrat nominee considering that danger?

OBAMA: I think it’s fair I was going to be campaigning for a Democratic nominee even without that danger. And I am very confident that we’re going to have a terrific Democratic nominee and — whose phone is that, guys? Come on, now. Somebody. You recognize your ring, don’t be embarrassed. Just turn it off. There you go. OK. Can I still here it?

All right, I think it’s off now.

I think we will have a strong Democratic nominee. I think that nominee will win. I think I will have a Democratic successor and I will campaign very hard to make that happy for a whole variety of reasons because they’re far more likely to share my fundamental vision about where America should go.

But having said that, what I think people should also feel good about is that the agreement struck in Paris, although not legally binding when it comes to the targets that had been set does create this architecture in which all around the world countries are saying this is where we’re going.

We’re going to be chasing after this clean energy future. This is how we’re going to meet our goals. We’re going to double down on solar power. We’re going to double down on wind power. We’re going to invest more heavily in biofuels. We’re going to figure out battery technologies.

And what you saw in this budget, which I think was really significant, was an extension of the solar tax credits and wind tax credits that we had helped to really boost early on in my administration and that it resulted in wind power increasing threefold, solar power increasing by twentyfold. Those tax credits are now going to be extended for five to seven years and as a consequence, that combination of market signals means that the private sector is going to start investing much more heavily. They know this is coming. And it’s not just coming here. It’s coming around the world.

You now have a global marketplace for clean energy that is stable and accelerating over the course of the next decade. That then creates a different dynamic that is independent of what Congress does, but also helps to shape what Congress does. Because the more people that are now getting jobs in solar installation and production, the more that you have companies who are seeing how American innovation can sell products in clean energy all across the Asia Pacific and in Europe and in Africa. Suddenly, there’s a big monetary incentive to getting this right.

And that’s been the history of environmental progress in this country and now we’ve exported it around the world. Every time we have made a decision, you know what, we’re going to have clean air. The predictions were, everything would fall apart. And low and behold, turns out that American innovation makes getting clean air a lot less expensive than people expected and it happens a lot faster than expected.

When we made a decision that we were going to double fuel efficiency standards on cars, everybody said, I’m just going to ruin the American auto industry. The American auto industry has been booming over the last couple years.

Acid rain. When George H.W. Bush instituted a system to charge for the emissions that were causing acid rain, everybody said, well you can’t do that, that’s going to ruin business and it turned out that it was smoother, faster, quicker, better.

And acid rain — folks who were born, I don’t know — some of you reporters are getting younger or I’m getting older, you may not remember it but that was a big deal and now most folks don’t even remember it anymore because it got solved. And there’s no reason why the same won’t happen here.

Now, do I think there’s going to be a lot of noise and campaigning next year about how we’re going to stop Paris in its tracks? There will probably be a lot of noise about that. Do I actually think two years from now, three years from now, even Republican members of Congress are going to look at it and say that’s a smart thing to do? I don’t think they will.

Keep in mind that right now the American Republican party is the only major party that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies climate change. I mean, it’s an outlier. Many of the key signatories to this deal, the architects of this deal, come from center-right governments. Even the far right parties in many of these countries. They may not like immigrants for example, but they admit, yes, the science tells us that we have to do something about climate change. So my sense is that this is something that may be an advantage in terms of short-term politics in the Republican primary. It’s not something that is going to be a winner for Republicans long- term.

QUESTION: You mentioned American leadership. But is it embarrassing to you that the other party denies climate change?

OBAMA: No, because first of all, I’m not a member of that party. Second of all, it didn’t stop us from being the key leader in getting this done. I mean, this is something that I have been working on now for five, six years. When I went to Copenhagen, I essentially engaged in 24 hours of diplomacy to salvage from a pretty chaotic process, the basic principle that all countries had to participate.

We couldn’t have a rigid division between developed countries and developing countries when it came to solving this problem. That was the initial foundation for us. Then working with other countries, culminating in the joint announcement with China, bringing in India, bringing in Brazil and the other big, emerging countries, working with the Europeans in getting this done.

This would not have happened without American leadership. And by the way, the same is true for the Iran nuclear deal. The same is true for the Trans-Pacific partnership. The same is true for stamping out Ebola, something you guys may recall from last year, which was the potential end of the world.

You know, at each juncture, what we have said is that American strength and American exceptionalism is not just a matter of us bombing somebody. More often, it’s a matter of us convening, setting the agenda, pointing other nations in a direction that’s good for everybody and good for U.S. interests.

Engaging in painstaking diplomacy, leading by example and sometimes, the results don’t come overnight, they don’t come the following day, but they come. And this year, what you really saw was that steady, persistent leadership on many initiatives that I began when I first came into office.

Alright.

QUESTION: Mr. President?

OBAMA: I’ve got April Ryan (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to ask you something about criminal justice — on that subject and also something on Secretary Kerry (ph). Your administration contends (ph) the United States is five percent of the world population, but 25 percent of the global jail population. What legislation are you supporting that significantly cuts mass incarceration in this country? And going back to the Assad (ph) issue, does Assad have to go to defeat ISIS? OBAMA: Well, we’re going to defeat ISIS, and we’re going to do so by systemically squeezing them, cutting off their supply lines, cutting off their financing, taking out their leadership, taking out their forces, taking out their infrastructure. We’re going to do so in partnership with forces on the ground that sometimes are spotty, sometimes need capacity building, need our assistance, need our training, but we’re seeing steadily progress in many of these areas. And so they’re going to be on the run.

Now, they are going to continue to be dangerous, so — so let me just be very clear, because whenever I say that we have made progress in squeezing the territory that they control or made real end roads against them, what people will say is, well, if something happens around the world, then obviously that must not be true.

But in any battle, in any fight, even as you make progress, there’s still dangers involved. And ISIL’s capacity both to infiltrate Western countries with people who have travel to Syria or travel to Iraq and the savviness of their social media, their ability to recruit disaffected individuals who may be French or British or even U.S. citizens, will continue to make them dangerous for some time. But — but — but we will systemically go after them.

Now, in order for us to stamp them out thoroughly, we have to eliminate lawless areas in which they cannot still roam. So we can — we can disable them, we can dismantle much of their infrastructure, greatly reduce the threat that they pose to the United States, our allies and our neighbors, but in the same way that Al Qaida is pinned down and has much more difficulty carrying out any significant attacks because of how we have systemically dismantled them, they still pose a threat.

There are still operatives who are interested in carrying out terrorist attacks because they still operate in areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan or more prominently right now in Yemen that are hard to reach. Our — our long-term goal has to be able to stabilize these areas so that they don’t have any safe haven, and in order for us to do that in Syria, there has to be an end to the civil war. There has to be an actual government that has a police capacity and a structure in these areas that currently aren’t governed.

And it is my firm belief and the belief of the experts in this administration that so long as Assad is there, we cannot achieve that kind of stability inside of Syria, and, you know, I — I think the history over the last several years indicates as much. So that’s going to continue to be a top priority for us, moving aggressively on the military track and not letting ISIL take a breath and pounding away at them with our special forces and our airstrikes and the training and advising of partners that can go after them. But we also have to keep very aggressive on this diplomatic track in order for us to bring countries together. All right?

Everybody? On criminal justice reform? I — I answered the question. I’m hopeful.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) OBAMA: Right. In April (ph), what I said was is that I strongly support the Senate legislation that’s already been put forward. I’m hopeful that the House can come up with legislation that follows the same principles, which is to make sure that we’re doing sentencing reform, but we’re also doing a better job in terms of reducing recidivism and providing support for ex-offenders. And if we can get those two bills together in a conference, then I’m somewhat optimistic that we’re gonna be able to make a difference.

Now keep in mind, April (ph), when you use the term mass incarceration, statistically the overwhelming majority of people who are incarcerated are in state prisons and state facilities for state crimes. We can only focus on federal law and federal crimes. And so there’s still going to be a large population of individuals who are incarcerated even for nonviolent drug crimes because this is a trend that started in the late ’80s and ’90s and accelerated at the state levels.

But if we can show at the federal level that we can be smart on crime, more cost effective, more just, more proportionate, then we can set a trend for other states to follow as well. And that’s our hope.

This is not going to be something that’s reversed overnight. So just to go back to my general principle, April (ph), it took 20 years for us to get to the point we are now. And only 20 years probably before we reverse — we reverse some of these major trends.

OK, everybody, I gotta get to Star Wars. Thank you. Thank you, guys.

Appreciate you. Thank you. Merry Christmas, everybody.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 12, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Paris Climate Agreement

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

The President Delivers a Statement on the Paris Climate Agreement

Source: WH, 12-12-15

 

Full Text Political Transcripts December 9, 2015: President Barack Obama’s speech at Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment Abolition of Slavery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment

Source: WH, 12-9-15

U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C.

12:02 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  “In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free.”  That’s what President Lincoln once wrote. “Honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.  We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

Mr. Speaker, leaders and members of both parties, distinguished guests:  We gather here to commemorate a century and a half of freedom — not simply for former slaves, but for all of us.

Today, the issue of chattel slavery seems so simple, so obvious — it is wrong in every sense.  Stealing men, women, and children from their homelands.  Tearing husband from wife, parent from child; stripped and sold to the highest bidder; shackled in chains and bloodied with the whip.  It’s antithetical not only to our conception of human rights and dignity, but to our conception of ourselves — a people founded on the premise that all are created equal.

And, to many at the time, that judgment was clear as well.  Preachers, black and white, railed against this moral outrage from the pulpit.  Former slaves rattled the conscience of Americans in books, in pamphlets, and speeches.  Men and women organized anti-slavery conventions and fundraising drives.  Farmers and shopkeepers opened their barns, their homes, their cellars as waystations on an Underground Railroad, where African Americans often risked their own freedom to ensure the freedom of others.  And enslaved Americans, with no rights of their own, they ran north and kept the flame of freedom burning, passing it from one generation to the next, with their faith, and their dignity, and their song.

The reformers’ passion only drove the protectors of the status quo to dig in harder.  And for decades, America wrestled with the issue of slavery in a way that we have with no other, before or since.  It shaped our politics, and it nearly tore us asunder.  Tensions ran so high, so personal, that at one point, a lawmaker was beaten unconscious on the Senate floor.  Eventually, war broke out –- brother against brother, North against South.

At its heart, the question of slavery was never simply about civil rights.  It was about the meaning of America, the kind of country we wanted to be –- whether this nation might fulfill the call of its birth:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” that among those are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

President Lincoln understood that if we were ever to fully realize that founding promise, it meant not just signing an Emancipation Proclamation, not just winning a war.  It meant making the most powerful collective statement we can in our democracy:  etching our values into our Constitution.  He called it “a King’s cure for all the evils.”

A hundred and fifty years proved the cure to be necessary but not sufficient.  Progress proved halting, too often deferred.  Newly freed slaves may have been liberated by the letter of the law, but their daily lives told another tale.  They couldn’t vote.  They couldn’t fill most occupations.  They couldn’t protect themselves or their families from indignity or from violence.  And so abolitionists and freedmen and women and radical Republicans kept cajoling and kept rabble-rousing, and within a few years of the war’s end at Appomattox, we passed two more amendments guaranteeing voting rights, birthright citizenship, equal protection under the law.

And still, it wasn’t enough.  For another century, we saw segregation and Jim Crow make a mockery of these amendments.  And we saw justice turn a blind eye to mobs with nooses slung over trees.  We saw bullets and bombs terrorize generations.

And yet, through all this, the call to freedom survived.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”  And eventually, a new generation rose up to march and organize, and to stand up and to sit in with the moral force of nonviolence and the sweet sound of those same freedom songs that slaves had sung so long ago -– crying out not for special treatment, but for equal rights.  Calling out for basic justice promised to them almost a century before.

Like their abolitionist predecessors, they were plain, humble, ordinary people, armed with little but faith:  Faith in the Almighty.  Faith in each other.  And faith in America.  Hope in the face so often of all evidence to the contrary, that something better lay around the bend.

Because of them — maids and porters and students and farmers and priests and housewives — because of them, a Civil Rights law was passed, and the Voting Rights law was signed.  And doors of opportunity swung open, not just for the black porter, but also for the white chambermaid, and the immigrant dishwasher, so that their daughters and their sons might finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes.  Freedom for you and for me.  Freedom for all of us.

And that’s what we celebrate today.  The long arc of progress.  Progress that is never assured, never guaranteed, but always possible, always there to be earned -– no matter how stuck we might seem sometimes.  No matter how divided or despairing we may appear.  No matter what ugliness may bubble up.  Progress, so long as we’re willing to push for it; so long as we’re willing to reach for each other.

We would do a disservice to those warriors of justice — Tubman, and Douglass, and Lincoln, and King — were we to deny that the scars of our nation’s original sin are still with us today.  (Applause.)  We condemn ourselves to shackles once more if we fail to answer those who wonder if they’re truly equals in their communities, or in their justice systems, or in a job interview.  We betray the efforts of the past if we fail to push back against bigotry in all its forms.  (Applause.)

But we betray our most noble past as well if we were to deny the possibility of movement, the possibility of progress; if we were to let cynicism consume us and fear overwhelm us.  If we lost hope.  For however slow, however incomplete, however harshly, loudly, rudely challenged at each point along our journey, in America, we can create the change that we seek.  (Applause.)  All it requires is that our generation be willing to do what those who came before us have done:  To rise above the cynicism and rise above the fear, to hold fast to our values, to see ourselves in each other, to cherish dignity and opportunity not just for our own children but for somebody else’s child.  (Applause.)  To remember that our freedom is bound up with the freedom of others -– regardless of what they look like or where they come from or what their last name is or what faith they practice.  (Applause.)  To be honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.  To nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth.  To nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth.  That is our choice.  Today, we affirm hope.

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

END
12:16 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors Reception Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President to the 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees

Source: WH, 12-6-15 

East Room

5:15 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, have a seat, have a seat.  Have a seat and welcome to the White House.  This is a good-looking group.  (Laughter.)  President Kennedy once said, “There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts.”

I believe he was right.  Our achievements as a country and as a culture go hand-in-hand.  The oldest of the 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees was born over 90 years ago — you won’t be able to tell.  (Laughter.)  But when we look back on the last century, for all the challenges we faced, what we see is a time of extraordinary progress.  We won one World War, and then another.  We endured one depression, and prevented another.  And through it all, we created new medicines and technologies that changed the world for the better.  We welcomed new generations of striving immigrants that made our country stronger.  We worked together, and marched together, to open up new doors of opportunity for women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBT Americans, Americans with disabilities -– achievements that made all of us more free.

Tonight, we honor five artists who helped tell the story of the first American century through music, theater, and film -– and by doing so, helped to shape it, helped to inspire it, helped to fortify our best instincts about ourselves.

(Baby makes noises.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  (Laughter.)  It includes your grandpa.  (Laughter.)

About 80 years ago, the ship carrying a young girl named Rosa Dolores Alverio — (applause) — from Puerto Rico — (applause) — came into New York City, steamed by the Statue of Liberty.  “Oh my goodness,” she thought, “a lady runs this country!”  (Laughter and applause.)  She wasn’t yet known by the stage name of Rita Moreno, but even then, she knew she wanted to be a star.  At age nine, she debuted as a dancer.  At 13, she set foot in a Broadway theatre for the first time in her life -– as a member of the cast.  At 30, she became the first Latina to win an Academy Award for her unforgettable performance as “Anita” in “West Side Story.”

(Baby makes noises.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, it was good, wasn’t it?  (Laughter.)

After more than seven decades on stage and screen, Rita’s one of just a handful of artists to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony.  She’s got an “EGOT.”  (Applause.)  But being a pioneer is never easy.  For years, she was pigeonholed as what she called, “the house ethnic.”  She says she played all her parts with the same accent, because nobody “seemed to care.”  And when she pushed back against Hollywood typecasting, the roles dried up.  But Rita refused to sell herself short.  This is a woman who won the Tony for best supporting actress, then concluded her acceptance speech by reminding everyone, “I am a leading lady — I am not a supporting actress.”  (Laughter and applause.)

And she was right.  She was the leading lady of that show.  And she is still a leading lady of her era, a trailblazer with the courage to break through barriers and forge new paths.  Eight decades after Rita Moreno first laid eyes on the Statue of Liberty, she continues to personify its promise:  that here, in America, no matter what you look like or where you come from or what your last name is, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

As a teenager in Tokyo, an aspiring classical pianist named Seiji Ozawa defied his mother’s orders and joined a rugby match.  Now, I have to say, looking at you Seiji, I’m not sure that was a good idea.  (Laughter.)  I mean, I don’t know much about rugby.  (Laughter.)  He broke two fingers, and that put an end to his piano-playing career –- but fortunately for the rest of us, it opened up the door to a career as a conductor.

Here, Michelle and my mother-in-law would like me to point out that defying one’s mother does not usually work out well.  (Laughter.)

But there are exceptions, and for Seiji, it did.  In 1960, when he was 25 years old, he landed at Logan Airport with only a few words of English and a sign that read, “Lennox, Mass.” But his work as a conductor spoke volumes.  Just a few weeks later, the New York Times pronounced him “a name to remember.”  He went on to become Leonard Bernstein’s assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic, and then led the Toronto and San Francisco Symphonies, all by the time he was 35.  It makes you feel kind of underachieving.  (Laughter.)  His conducting was somehow sensitive and intense, drawing the “lyric essence” of every note.  And with his mop haircut, and his turtlenecks, and his love beads, he almost looked like a Beatle.  (Laughter.)

And in 1973, Seiji found his musical home with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he led for 29 years.  When he wasn’t cheering on his beloved Red Sox and Patriots, he was transfixing audiences with passionate, precise performances conducted entirely from memory, using his whole body -– elbows, fingers, knees, hair -– (laughter) — as a baton.  Seiji has dedicated his life to bridging East and West with classical music.  In his words, “Music is easier to understand than language — it can be understood right away.  Just like the sunset, which is beautiful wherever you watch it.”  (Applause.)

As a child in Harlem, Cicely Tyson sold shopping bags on the street corner to make — to help her family make ends meet.  After high school, she found work as a secretary — until one day she stood up and announced to everyone in the room, “[I am] sure that God did not put me on the face of this Earth to bang on a typewriter for the rest of my life!”  (Laughter and applause.)

Cicely was already displaying what you could call a flair for the dramatic.  (Laughter.)  And like all great actors, she never just plays a character -– she becomes one.  “I’m looking inside myself,” she once explained.  “Inside of me is where this character is coming from.”

It certainly took character to get where she is today.  As a black woman, Cicely wasn’t offered many roles with the pay and stature her tremendous talent should have commanded.  But that only steeled her resolve.  She once said, “When I became aware of the kind of ignorance that existed, I made a very conscious decision that I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress — I had some very important things to say, and I would say them through my work.”

Cicely has been saying important things for nearly 60 years, from “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” to “Sounder,” to “The Trip to the Bountiful.”  And even now, eight shows a week, she walks onto a Broadway stage to beat James Earl Jones in hand after hand of rummy in “The Gin Game.”  (Laughter and applause.)  At 90 years old, she’s still delivering remarkable, heartfelt performances night after night after night -– just like God intended, and she sure does look good doing it every night.  (Applause.)  Cicely Tyson.  (Applause.)

At age 15, a young woman named Carol Klein formed a doo-wop group with her friends called “The Co-Sines” — Co-Sines — that’s a little math.  (Laughter.)  They did great with the hard-to-reach trigonometry demographic.  (Laughter and applause.)  Around the same time, Carol talked to a DJ, and asked him the best way to get in touch with record companies.  He told her a secret –- look them up in a phone book.  (Laughter.)  So Carol made some calls, landed a contract, and took on the stage name of Carole King.

It turned out to be a perfect choice -– because today, in the world of American music, Carole is royalty.  By the time she was 30, she’d teamed up with Gerry Goffin to write hits like “Up on the Roof” for The Drifters.  “One Fine Day” for The Chiffons.  “The Loco-Motion” for Little Eva.  And of course, “You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)” – I think I just became the first President ever to say that.  (Laughter and applause.)  It sounded better when Aretha said it.  (Laughter and applause.)

And then finally, in the 1970s, Carole found the perfect voice for her songs, which was her own.  At one point, her solo album “Tapestry” — which, by the way, was one of the first albums I ever bought — was the highest-selling album of any genre in history.  It stayed on the charts for six years, full of songs you could not get out of your head -– songs about home, and friendship, and vulnerability; songs about just being human.  And that’s what makes Carole so special.  Whether it’s winter, spring, summer or fall — (laughter) — whether she’s fighting with passion for our environment or campaigning for the causes that she believes in; Carole is always that honest, unvarnished voice –- the friend who tells you again and again that you are beautiful — as beautiful as you feel.  (Applause.)

George Lucas recently shared one of his regrets. He told a reporter, “I never got the experience that everyone else got to have.  I never got to see ‘Star Wars.’”  (Laughter.)

Well, George, let me tell you -– you missed out.  It was really good. (Laughter.)  That movie was awesome.  (Laughter.)

As one wise Jedi Master might put it, “Changed nearly everything, George Lucas has.”  (Laughter.)  George was at the vanguard of the New Hollywood, blending genres and combining timeless themes with cutting-edge technology.  Without him, movies would not look as good or sound as good as they do today.  Spaceships might still fly around the screen with little strings attached to them.  (Laughter.)  The effects were only part, though, of what makes George special.  He created a mythology so compelling that in a 2001 census, the fourth-largest religion in the United Kingdom was “Jedi.”  (Laughter and applause.)

Think about how many children have been raised, at least in part, by George Lucas.  (Laughter.)  Think about how many young people searching for their place in the universe have thought to themselves, “If a kid from Tatooine moisture farm can go from bulls-eyeing womp rats in his T-16 to saving the galaxy, then maybe I can be something special too?”  (Laughter.)  How many engineers got their start arguing about the structural flaws in the Death Star?  How many philosophers got their start arguing about whether Han shot first?  (Laughter.)  How many bookish teenagers have taken solace in the fact that the most charismatic guy on the planet is an archeologist named Indiana Jones?  (Laughter.)

George, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they might even make a brand new “Star Wars” movie soon.  (Laughter.)  It’s very low-key, it’s not getting a lot of promotion.  (Laughter.)  But it’s also pretty remarkable that nearly 40 years after the first star destroyer crawled across the screen, we are still obsessed with George’s vision of a galaxy far, far away.  And we’ll be raising our children on his stories for a long, long time to come.  (Applause.)

Rita Moreno.  Seiji Ozawa.  Cicely Tyson.  Carole King.  George Lucas.  Each of these artists was born with something special to offer their country and the world.  Each of them found a way to enrich our lives with their lives’ work.  For all the joy and the pleasure, all the insight and the understanding that they have brought to us over the years, we want to thank them -– and we sure are proud to celebrate them as our 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees.  Please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

END
5:32 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Oval Office Address on Fighting ISIS Terrorism

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Address to the Nation by the President

Source: WH, 12-6-15

Oval Office

8:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  On Wednesday, 14 Americans were killed as they came together to celebrate the holidays.  They were taken from family and friends who loved them deeply. They were white and black; Latino and Asian; immigrants and American-born; moms and dads; daughters and sons.  Each of them served their fellow citizens and all of them were part of our American family.

Tonight, I want to talk with you about this tragedy, the broader threat of terrorism, and how we can keep our country safe.

The FBI is still gathering the facts about what happened in San Bernardino, but here is what we know.  The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one of their coworkers and his wife.  So far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home.  But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.  They had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition, and pipe bombs.  So this was an act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people.

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.  In the process, we’ve hardened our defenses — from airports to financial centers, to other critical infrastructure.  Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted countless plots here and overseas, and worked around the clock to keep us safe.  Our military and counterterrorism professionals have relentlessly pursued terrorist networks overseas — disrupting safe havens in several different countries, killing Osama bin Laden, and decimating al Qaeda’s leadership.

Over the last few years, however, the terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase.  As we’ve become better at preventing complex, multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turned to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society.  It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year; and now in San Bernardino.  And as groups like ISIL grew stronger amidst the chaos of war in Iraq and then Syria, and as the Internet erases the distance between countries, we see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino killers.

For seven years, I’ve confronted this evolving threat each morning in my intelligence briefing.  And since the day I took this office, I’ve authorized U.S. forces to take out terrorists abroad precisely because I know how real the danger is.  As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people.  As a father to two young daughters who are the most precious part of my life, I know that we see ourselves with friends and coworkers at a holiday party like the one in San Bernardino.  I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris.  And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

Well, here’s what I want you to know:  The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.  We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.  Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values, or giving into fear.  That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for.  Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless, and by drawing upon every aspect of American power.

Here’s how.  First, our military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary.  In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure.  And since the attacks in Paris, our closest allies — including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom — have ramped up their contributions to our military campaign, which will help us accelerate our effort to destroy ISIL.

Second, we will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we take away their safe havens.  In both countries, we’re deploying Special Operations Forces who can accelerate that offensive.  We’ve stepped up this effort since the attacks in Paris, and we’ll continue to invest more in approaches that are working on the ground.

Third, we’re working with friends and allies to stop ISIL’s operations — to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters.  Since the attacks in Paris, we’ve surged intelligence-sharing with our European allies.  We’re working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria. And we are cooperating with Muslim-majority countries — and with our Muslim communities here at home — to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online.

Fourth, with American leadership, the international community has begun to establish a process — and timeline — to pursue ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian war. Doing so will allow the Syrian people and every country, including our allies, but also countries like Russia, to focus on the common goal of destroying ISIL — a group that threatens us all.

This is our strategy to destroy ISIL.  It is designed and supported by our military commanders and counterterrorism experts, together with 65 countries that have joined an American-led coalition.  And we constantly examine our strategy to determine when additional steps are needed to get the job done. That’s why I’ve ordered the Departments of State and Homeland Security to review the visa *Waiver program under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino originally came to this country.  And that’s why I will urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice.

Now, here at home, we have to work together to address the challenge.  There are several steps that Congress should take right away.

To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.  What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?  This is a matter of national security.

We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino.  I know there are some who reject any gun safety measures.  But the fact is that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies — no matter how effective they are — cannot identify every would-be mass shooter, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology.  What we can do — and must do — is make it harder for them to kill.

Next, we should put in place stronger screening for those who come to America without a visa so that we can take a hard look at whether they’ve traveled to warzones.  And we’re working with members of both parties in Congress to do exactly that.

Finally, if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists.  For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets.  I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united, and committed, to this fight.

My fellow Americans, these are the steps that we can take together to defeat the terrorist threat.  Let me now say a word about what we should not do.

We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria.  That’s what groups like ISIL want. They know they can’t defeat us on the battlefield.  ISIL fighters were part of the insurgency that we faced in Iraq.  But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits.

The strategy that we are using now — airstrikes, Special Forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country — that is how we’ll achieve a more sustainable victory.  And it won’t require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil.

Here’s what else we cannot do.  We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam.  That, too, is what groups like ISIL want.  ISIL does not speak for Islam.  They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology. Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim.  If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.

That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities.  This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse.  Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization, it is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination.  It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country.  It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently.  Because when we travel down that road, we lose.  That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.  Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country.  We have to remember that.

My fellow Americans, I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history.  We were founded upon a belief in human dignity — that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes of the law.

Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let’s make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional. Let’s not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear; that we have always met challenges — whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks — by coming together around our common ideals as one nation, as one people.  So long as we stay true to that tradition, I have no doubt America will prevail.

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

END
8:14 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 6, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Hanukkah

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Hanukkah

Source: WH, 12-6-15

Tonight, Jews in America, Israel, and around the world come together to light the first candle of the Festival of Lights. At its heart, Hanukkah is about the struggle for justice in the face of overwhelming obstacles. It’s a chance to reflect on the triumph of liberty over tyranny, the rejection of persecution, and on the miracles that can happen even in our darkest hours. It renews our commitment as Americans – as people who live by faith and conscience – to lead the way and act as unyielding advocates for the fundamental dignity of every human being.

During these eight days, let us be inspired by the light that can overcome darkness. As we recall the Maccabees’ struggle to free a people from oppression, let us rededicate ourselves to being the engine of the miracles we seek. May the lights of the menorah brighten your home and warm your heart, and from my family to yours, Chag Sameach.

Full Text Political Transcripts November 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by President Obama — Antalya, Turkey

 

Source: WH, 11-16-15 

Kaya Palazzo Resort

Antalya, Turkey

4:42 P.M. EET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking President Erdogan and the people of Antalya and Turkey for their outstanding work in hosting this G20 Summit. Antalya is beautiful. The hospitality of the Turkish people is legendary. To our Turkish friends — çok teşekkürler. (Laughter.) I’ve been practicing that.

At the G20, our focus was on how to get the global economy growing faster and creating more jobs for our people. And I’m pleased that we agreed that growth has to be inclusive to address the rising inequality around the world.

Given growing cyber threats, we committed to a set of norms — drafted by the United States — for how governments should conduct themselves in cyberspace, including a commitment not to engage in the cyber theft of intellectual property for commercial gain. And as we head into global climate talks, all G20 countries have submitted our targets, and we’ve pledged to work together for a successful outcome in Paris.

Of course, much of our attention has focused on the heinous attacks that took place in Paris. Across the world, in the United States, American flags are at half-staff in solidarity with our French allies. We’re working closely with our French partners as they pursue their investigations and track down suspects.

France is already a strong counterterrorism partner, and today we’re announcing a new agreement. We’re streamlining the process by which we share intelligence and operational military information with France. This will allow our personnel to pass threat information, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often — because we need to be doing everything we can to protect against more attacks and protect our citizens.

Tragically, Paris is not alone. We’ve seen outrageous attacks by ISIL in Beirut, last month in Ankara, routinely in Iraq. Here at the G20, our nations have sent an unmistakable message that we are united against this threat. ISIL is the face of evil. Our goal, as I’ve said many times, is to degrade and ultimately destroy this barbaric terrorist organization.

As I outlined this fall at the United Nations, we have a comprehensive strategy using all elements of our power — military, intelligence, economic, development, and the strength of our communities. With have always understood that this would be a long-term campaign. There will be setbacks and there will be successes. The terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback. Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can’t lose sight that there has been progress being made.

On the military front, our coalition is intensifying our airstrikes — more than 8,000 to date. We’re taking out ISIL leaders, commanders, their killers. We’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can and is pushed back. So local forces in Iraq, backed by coalition airpower, recently liberated Sinjar. Iraqi forces are fighting to take back Ramadi. In Syria, ISIL has been pushed back from much of the border region with Turkey. We’ve stepped up our support of opposition forces who are working to cut off supply lines to ISIL’s strongholds in and around Raqqa. So, in short, both in Iraq and Syria, ISIL controls less territory than it did before.

I made the point to my fellow leaders that if we want this progress to be sustained, more nations need to step up with the resources that this fight demands.

Of course, the attacks in Paris remind us that it will not be enough to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq alone. Here in Antalya, our nations, therefore, committed to strengthening border controls, sharing more information, and stepping up our efforts to prevent the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. As the United States just showed in Libya, ISIL leaders will have no safe haven anywhere. And we’ll continue to stand with leaders in Muslim communities, including faith leaders, who are the best voices to discredit ISIL’s warped ideology.

On the humanitarian front, our nations agreed that we have to do even more, individually and collectively, to address the agony of the Syrian people. The United States is already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people — some $4.5 billion in aid so far. As winter approaches, we’re donating additional supplies, including clothing and generators, through the United Nations. But the U.N. appeal for Syria still has less than half the funds needed. Today, I’m again calling on more nations to contribute the resources that this crisis demands.

In terms of refugees, it’s clear that countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — which are already bearing an extraordinary burden — cannot be expected to do so alone. At the same time, all of our countries have to ensure our security. And as President, my first priority is the safety of the American people. And that’s why, even as we accept more refugees — including Syrians — we do so only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks.

We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves — that’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.

Finally, we’ve begun to see some modest progress on the diplomatic front, which is critical because a political solution is the only way to end the war in Syria and unite the Syrian people and the world against ISIL. The Vienna talks mark the first time that all the key countries have come together — as a result, I would add, of American leadership — and reached a common understanding. With this weekend’s talks, there’s a path forward — negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime under the auspices of the United Nations; a transition toward a more inclusive, representative government; a new constitution, followed by free elections; and, alongside this political process, a ceasefire in the civil war, even as we continue to fight against ISIL.

These are obviously ambitious goals. Hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before. There are any number of ways that this latest diplomatic push could falter. And there are still disagreements between the parties, including, most critically, over the fate of Bashar Assad, who we do not believe has a role in Syria’s future because of his brutal rule. His war against the Syrian people is the primary root cause of this crisis.

What is different this time, and what gives us some degree of hope, is that, as I said, for the first time, all the major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on a process that is needed to end this war. And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still head, the United States, in partnership with our coalition, is going to remain relentless on all fronts — military, humanitarian and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions. And I will begin with Jerome Cartillier of AFP.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, sending the message that they could now target civilians all over the world. The equation has clearly changed. Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what we have been doing. We have a military strategy that is putting enormous pressure on ISIL through airstrikes; that has put assistance and training on the ground with Iraqi forces; we’re now working with Syrian forces as well to squeeze ISIL, cut off their supply lines. We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities, the oil that they’re trying to ship outside. We are taking strikes against high-value targets — including, most recently, against the individual who was on the video executing civilians who had already been captured, as well as the head of ISIL in Libya. So it’s not just in Iraq and Syria.

And so, on the military front, we are continuing to accelerate what we do. As we find additional partners on the ground that are effective, we work with them more closely. I’ve already authorized additional Special Forces on the ground who are going to be able to improve that coordination.

On the counterterrorism front, keep in mind that since I came into office, we have been worried about these kinds of attacks. The vigilance that the United States government maintains and the cooperation that we’re consistently expanding with our European and other partners in going after every single terrorist network is robust and constant. And every few weeks, I meet with my entire national security team and we go over every single threat stream that is presented, and where we have relevant information, we share it immediately with our counterparts around the world, including our European partners.

On aviation security, we have, over the last several years, been working so that at various airports sites — not just in the United States, but overseas — we are strengthening our mechanisms to screen and discover passengers who should not be boarding flights, and improving the matters in which we are screening luggage that is going onboard.

And on the diplomatic front, we’ve been consistently working to try to get all the parties together to recognize that there is a moderate opposition inside of Syria that can form the basis for a transition government, and to reach out not only to our friends but also to the Russians and the Iranians who are on the other side of this equation to explain to them that ultimately an organization like ISIL is the greatest danger to them, as well as to us.

So there will be an intensification of the strategy that we put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work. But as I said from the start, it’s going to take time.

And what’s been interesting is, in the aftermath of Paris, as I listen to those who suggest something else needs to be done, typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing. The one exception is that there have been a few who suggested that we should put large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground.

And keep in mind that we have the finest military in the world and we have the finest military minds in the world, and I’ve been meeting with them intensively for years now, discussing these various options, and it is not just my view but the view of my closest military and civilian advisors that that would be a mistake — not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we’ve seen before, which is, if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface — unless we’re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.

And let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria. What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send more troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps? Or if there’s a terrorist network that’s operating anywhere else — in North Africa, or in Southeast Asia?

So a strategy has to be one that can be sustained. And the strategy that we’re pursuing, which focuses on going after targets, limiting wherever possible the capabilities of ISIL on the ground — systematically going after their leadership, their infrastructure, strengthening Shia — or strengthening Syrian and Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces that are prepared to fight them, cutting off their borders and squeezing the space in which they can operate until ultimately we’re able to defeat them — that’s the strategy we’re going to have to pursue.

And we will continue to generate more partners for that strategy. And there are going to be some things that we try that don’t work; there will be some strategies we try that do work. And when we find strategies that work, we will double down on those.

Margaret Brennan, CBS.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the West. Have you underestimated their abilities? And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, we haven’t underestimated our abilities. This is precisely why we’re in Iraq as we speak, and why we’re operating in Syria as we speak. And it’s precisely why we have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL, and why I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters, and why we’ve been putting pressure on those countries that have not been as robust as they need to in tracking the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq.

And so there has been an acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that it is possible for an organization like ISIL that has such a twisted ideology, and has shown such extraordinary brutality and complete disregard for innocent lives, that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West. And because thousands of fighters have flowed from the West and are European citizens — a few hundred from the United States, but far more from Europe — that when those foreign fighters returned, it posed a significant danger. And we have consistently worked with our European partners, disrupting plots in some cases. Sadly, this one was not disrupted in time.

But understand that one of the challenges we have in this situation is, is that if you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people. That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weapon that they possess, but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die. And in those circumstances, tracking each individual, making sure that we are disrupting and preventing these attacks is a constant effort at vigilance, and requires extraordinary coordination.

Now, part of the reason that it is important what we do in Iraq and Syria is that the narrative that ISIL developed of creating this caliphate makes it more attractive to potential recruits. So when I said that we are containing their spread in Iraq and Syria, in fact, they control less territory than they did last year. And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state, and the more it becomes apparent that they are simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations. That allows us to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, which then, over time, will lessen the numbers of terrorists who can potentially carry out terrible acts like they did in Paris.

And that’s what we did with al Qaeda. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that al Qaeda no longer possess the capabilities of potentially striking the West. Al Qaeda in the Peninsula that operates primarily in Yemen we know has consistently tried to target the West. And we are consistently working to disrupt those acts. But despite the fact that they have not gotten as much attention as ISIL, they still pose a danger, as well.

And so our goals here consistently have to be to be aggressive, and to leave no stone unturned, but also recognize this is not conventional warfare. We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they’re a state, and we use routine military tactics that are designed to fight a state that is attacking another state. That’s not what’s going on here.

These are killers with fantasies of glory who are very savvy when it comes to social media, and are able to infiltrate the minds of not just Iraqis or Syrians, but disaffected individuals around the world. And when they activate those individuals, those individuals can do a lot of damage. And so we have to take the approach of being rigorous on our counterterrorism efforts, and consistently improve and figure out how we can get more information, how we can infiltrate these networks, how we can reduce their operational space, even as we also try to shrink the amount of territory they control to defeat their narrative.

Ultimately, to reclaim territory from them is going to require, however, an ending of the Syrian civil war, which is why the diplomatic efforts are so important. And it’s going to require an effective Iraqi effort that bridges Shia and Sunni differences, which is why our diplomatic efforts inside of Iraq are so important, as well.

Jim Avila.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the days and weeks before the Paris attacks, did you receive warning in your daily intelligence briefing that an attack was imminent? If not, does that not call into question the current assessment that there is no immediate, specific, credible threat to the United States today?

And secondly, if I could ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, every day we have threat streams coming through the intelligence transit. And as I said, every several weeks we sit down with all my national security, intelligence, and military teams to discuss various threat streams that may be generated. And the concerns about potential ISIL attacks in the West have been there for over a year now, and they come through periodically. There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we need — that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.

But typically the way the intelligence works is there will be a threat stream that is from one source, how reliable is that source; perhaps some signal intelligence gets picked up, it’s evaluated. Some of it is extraordinarily vague and unspecific, and there’s no clear timetable. Some of it may be more specific, and then folks chase down that threat to see what happens.

I am not aware of anything that was specific in the sense — that would have given a premonition about a particular action in Paris that would allow for law enforcement or military actions to disrupt it.

With respect to the broader issue of my critics, to some degree I answered the question earlier. I think that when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference — because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

Now, there are a few exceptions. And as I said, the primary exception is those who would deploy U.S. troops on a large scale to retake territory either in Iraq or now in Syria. And at least they have the honesty to go ahead and say that’s what they would do. I just addressed why I think they’re wrong. There have been some who are well-meaning, and I don’t doubt their sincerity when it comes to the issue of the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, who, for example, call for a no-fly zone or a safe zone of some sort.

And this is an example of the kind of issue where I will sit down with our top military and intelligence advisors, and we will painstakingly go through what does something like that look like. And typically, after we’ve gone through a lot of planning and a lot of discussion, and really working it through, it is determined that it would be counterproductive to take those steps — in part because ISIL does not have planes, so the attacks are on the ground. A true safe zone requires us to set up ground operations. And the bulk of the deaths that have occurred in Syria, for example, have come about not because of regime bombing, but because of on-the-ground casualties. Who would come in, who could come out of that safe zone; how would it work; would it become a magnet for further terrorist attacks; and how many personnel would be required, and how would it end — there’s a whole set of questions that have to be answered there.

I guess my point is this, Jim: My only interest is to end suffering and to keep the American people safe. And if there’s a good idea out there, then we’re going to do it. I don’t think I’ve shown hesitation to act — whether it’s with respect to bin Laden or with respect to sending additional troops in Afghanistan, or keeping them there — if it is determined that it’s actually going to work.

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.

Jim Acosta.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you have not underestimated ISIS’s abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities? And how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is — and if you’ll forgive the language — is why can’t we take out these bastards?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question, so I don’t know what more you want me to add. I think I’ve described very specifically what our strategy is, and I’ve described very specifically why we do not pursue some of the other strategies that have been suggested.

This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

And so we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution. And part of the reason, as I said, Jim, is because there are costs to the other side. I just want to remind people, this is not an abstraction. When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed; they’re away from their families; our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t shoot first and aim later. It’s important for us to get the strategy right. And the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.

Ron Allen.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you’re pursuing — and it’s been more than a year now — ISIS’s capabilities seem to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned? And do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States?

And do you think that given all you’ve learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, so this is another variation on the same question. And I guess — let me try it one last time.

We have been fully aware of the potential capabilities of them carrying out a terrorist attack. That’s precisely why we have been mounting a very aggressive strategy to go after them. As I said before, when you’re talking about the ability of a handful of people with not wildly sophisticated military equipment, weapons, who are willing to die, they can kill a lot of people. And preventing them from doing so is challenging for every country. And if there was a swift and quick solution to this, I assure you that not just the United States, but France and Turkey, and others who have been subject to these terrorist attacks would have implemented those strategies.

There are certain advantages that the United States has in preventing these kinds of attacks. Obviously, after 9/11, we hardened the homeland, set up a whole series of additional steps to protect aviation, to apply lessons learned. We’ve seen much better cooperation between the FBI, state governments, local governments. There is some advantages to geography with respect to the United States.

But, having said that, we’ve seen the possibility of terrorist attacks on our soil. There was the Boston Marathon bombers. Obviously, it did not result in the scale of death that we saw in Paris, but that was a serious attempt at killing a lot of people by two brothers and a crockpot. And it gives you some sense of, I think, the kinds of challenges that are going to be involved in this going forward.

So again, ISIL has serious capabilities. Its capabilities are not unique. They are capabilities that other terrorist organizations that we track and are paying attention to possess, as well. We are going after all of them.

What is unique about ISIL is the degree to which it has been able to control territory that then allows them to attract additional recruits, and the greater effectiveness that they have on social media and their ability to use that to not only attract recruits to fight in Syria, but also potentially to carry out attacks in the homeland and in Europe and in other parts of the world.

And so our ability to shrink the space in which they can operate, combined with a resolution to the Syria situation — which will reduce the freedom with which they feel that they can operate, and getting local forces who are able to hold and keep them out over the long term, that ultimately is going to be what’s going to make a difference. And it’s going to take some time, but it’s not something that at any stage in this process have we not been aware needs to be done.

Q (Off-mic) — Mr. President?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay, go ahead.

Q Should I wait for the microphone?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I can hear you.

Q Okay, thank you so much. (Inaudible.) I want to ask a question (inaudible). These terrorist attacks we’ve seen allegedly have been attacks under the name of Islam. But this really takes — or upsets the peaceful people like countries like Turkey. So how can we give off that (inaudible) this is not really representative of Muslims?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is something that we spoke a lot about at the G20. The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL, are themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims. This is something that’s been emphasized by Muslim leaders — whether it’s President Erdogan or the President of Indonesia or the President of Malaysia — countries that are majority Muslim, but have shown themselves to be tolerant and to work to be inclusive in their political process.

And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.

Now, what is also true is, is that the most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims. And I do think that Muslims around the world — religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people — have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root, even if it’s only affecting a very small fraction of the population. It is real and it is dangerous. And it has built up over time, and with social media it has now accelerated.

And so I think, on the one hand, non-Muslims cannot stereotype, but I also think the Muslim community has to think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism. There’s been pushback — there are some who say, well, we don’t believe in violence, but are not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed. And I think those ideas have to be challenged.

Let me make one last point about this, and then unfortunately I have to take a flight to Manila. I’m looking forward to seeing Manila, but I hope I can come back to Turkey when I’m not so busy.

One of the places that you’re seeing this debate play itself out is on the refugee issue both in Europe, and I gather it started popping up while I was gone back in the United States. The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important — and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 — that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.

In Europe, I think people like Chancellor Merkel have taken a very courageous stance in saying it is our moral obligation, as fellow human beings, to help people who are in such vulnerable situations. And I know that it is putting enormous strains on the resources of the people of Europe. Nobody has been carrying a bigger burden than the people here in Turkey, with 2.5 million refugees, and the people of Jordan and Lebanon, who are also admitting refugees. The fact that they’ve kept their borders open to these refugees is a signal of their belief in a common humanity.

And so we have to, each of us, do our part. And the United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable.

And so I think it is very important for us right now — particularly those who are in leadership, particularly those who have a platform and can be heard — not to fall into that trap, not to feed that dark impulse inside of us.

I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse. And whether you are European or American, the values that we are defending — the values that we’re fighting against ISIL for are precisely that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith. We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them. And we don’t feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war.

And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END 5:43 P.M. EET

Full Text Political Transcripts November 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey about Paris Terror Attacks Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by President Obama — Antalya, Turkey

Source: WH, 11-16-15

Kaya Palazzo Resort
Antalya, Turkey

4:42 P.M. EET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking President Erdogan and the people of Antalya and Turkey for their outstanding work in hosting this G20 Summit. Antalya is beautiful. The hospitality of the Turkish people is legendary. To our Turkish friends — çok teşekkürler. (Laughter.) I’ve been practicing that.

At the G20, our focus was on how to get the global economy growing faster and creating more jobs for our people. And I’m pleased that we agreed that growth has to be inclusive to address the rising inequality around the world.

Given growing cyber threats, we committed to a set of norms — drafted by the United States — for how governments should conduct themselves in cyberspace, including a commitment not to engage in the cyber theft of intellectual property for commercial gain. And as we head into global climate talks, all G20 countries have submitted our targets, and we’ve pledged to work together for a successful outcome in Paris.

Of course, much of our attention has focused on the heinous attacks that took place in Paris. Across the world, in the United States, American flags are at half-staff in solidarity with our French allies. We’re working closely with our French partners as they pursue their investigations and track down suspects.

France is already a strong counterterrorism partner, and today we’re announcing a new agreement. We’re streamlining the process by which we share intelligence and operational military information with France. This will allow our personnel to pass threat information, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often — because we need to be doing everything we can to protect against more attacks and protect our citizens.

Tragically, Paris is not alone. We’ve seen outrageous attacks by ISIL in Beirut, last month in Ankara, routinely in Iraq. Here at the G20, our nations have sent an unmistakable message that we are united against this threat. ISIL is the face of evil. Our goal, as I’ve said many times, is to degrade and ultimately destroy this barbaric terrorist organization.

As I outlined this fall at the United Nations, we have a comprehensive strategy using all elements of our power — military, intelligence, economic, development, and the strength of our communities. With have always understood that this would be a long-term campaign. There will be setbacks and there will be successes. The terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback. Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can’t lose sight that there has been progress being made.

On the military front, our coalition is intensifying our airstrikes — more than 8,000 to date. We’re taking out ISIL leaders, commanders, their killers. We’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can and is pushed back. So local forces in Iraq, backed by coalition airpower, recently liberated Sinjar. Iraqi forces are fighting to take back Ramadi. In Syria, ISIL has been pushed back from much of the border region with Turkey. We’ve stepped up our support of opposition forces who are working to cut off supply lines to ISIL’s strongholds in and around Raqqa. So, in short, both in Iraq and Syria, ISIL controls less territory than it did before.

I made the point to my fellow leaders that if we want this progress to be sustained, more nations need to step up with the resources that this fight demands.

Of course, the attacks in Paris remind us that it will not be enough to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq alone. Here in Antalya, our nations, therefore, committed to strengthening border controls, sharing more information, and stepping up our efforts to prevent the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. As the United States just showed in Libya, ISIL leaders will have no safe haven anywhere. And we’ll continue to stand with leaders in Muslim communities, including faith leaders, who are the best voices to discredit ISIL’s warped ideology.

On the humanitarian front, our nations agreed that we have to do even more, individually and collectively, to address the agony of the Syrian people. The United States is already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people — some $4.5 billion in aid so far. As winter approaches, we’re donating additional supplies, including clothing and generators, through the United Nations. But the U.N. appeal for Syria still has less than half the funds needed. Today, I’m again calling on more nations to contribute the resources that this crisis demands.

In terms of refugees, it’s clear that countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — which are already bearing an extraordinary burden — cannot be expected to do so alone. At the same time, all of our countries have to ensure our security. And as President, my first priority is the safety of the American people. And that’s why, even as we accept more refugees — including Syrians — we do so only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks.

We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves — that’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.

Finally, we’ve begun to see some modest progress on the diplomatic front, which is critical because a political solution is the only way to end the war in Syria and unite the Syrian people and the world against ISIL. The Vienna talks mark the first time that all the key countries have come together — as a result, I would add, of American leadership — and reached a common understanding. With this weekend’s talks, there’s a path forward — negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime under the auspices of the United Nations; a transition toward a more inclusive, representative government; a new constitution, followed by free elections; and, alongside this political process, a ceasefire in the civil war, even as we continue to fight against ISIL.

These are obviously ambitious goals. Hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before. There are any number of ways that this latest diplomatic push could falter. And there are still disagreements between the parties, including, most critically, over the fate of Bashar Assad, who we do not believe has a role in Syria’s future because of his brutal rule. His war against the Syrian people is the primary root cause of this crisis.

What is different this time, and what gives us some degree of hope, is that, as I said, for the first time, all the major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on a process that is needed to end this war. And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still head, the United States, in partnership with our coalition, is going to remain relentless on all fronts — military, humanitarian and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions. And I will begin with Jerome Cartillier of AFP.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, sending the message that they could now target civilians all over the world. The equation has clearly changed. Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what we have been doing. We have a military strategy that is putting enormous pressure on ISIL through airstrikes; that has put assistance and training on the ground with Iraqi forces; we’re now working with Syrian forces as well to squeeze ISIL, cut off their supply lines. We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities, the oil that they’re trying to ship outside. We are taking strikes against high-value targets — including, most recently, against the individual who was on the video executing civilians who had already been captured, as well as the head of ISIL in Libya. So it’s not just in Iraq and Syria.

And so, on the military front, we are continuing to accelerate what we do. As we find additional partners on the ground that are effective, we work with them more closely. I’ve already authorized additional Special Forces on the ground who are going to be able to improve that coordination.

On the counterterrorism front, keep in mind that since I came into office, we have been worried about these kinds of attacks. The vigilance that the United States government maintains and the cooperation that we’re consistently expanding with our European and other partners in going after every single terrorist network is robust and constant. And every few weeks, I meet with my entire national security team and we go over every single threat stream that is presented, and where we have relevant information, we share it immediately with our counterparts around the world, including our European partners.

On aviation security, we have, over the last several years, been working so that at various airports sites — not just in the United States, but overseas — we are strengthening our mechanisms to screen and discover passengers who should not be boarding flights, and improving the matters in which we are screening luggage that is going onboard.

And on the diplomatic front, we’ve been consistently working to try to get all the parties together to recognize that there is a moderate opposition inside of Syria that can form the basis for a transition government, and to reach out not only to our friends but also to the Russians and the Iranians who are on the other side of this equation to explain to them that ultimately an organization like ISIL is the greatest danger to them, as well as to us.

So there will be an intensification of the strategy that we put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work. But as I said from the start, it’s going to take time.

And what’s been interesting is, in the aftermath of Paris, as I listen to those who suggest something else needs to be done, typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing. The one exception is that there have been a few who suggested that we should put large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground.

And keep in mind that we have the finest military in the world and we have the finest military minds in the world, and I’ve been meeting with them intensively for years now, discussing these various options, and it is not just my view but the view of my closest military and civilian advisors that that would be a mistake — not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we’ve seen before, which is, if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface — unless we’re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.

And let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria. What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send more troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps? Or if there’s a terrorist network that’s operating anywhere else — in North Africa, or in Southeast Asia?

So a strategy has to be one that can be sustained. And the strategy that we’re pursuing, which focuses on going after targets, limiting wherever possible the capabilities of ISIL on the ground — systematically going after their leadership, their infrastructure, strengthening Shia — or strengthening Syrian and Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces that are prepared to fight them, cutting off their borders and squeezing the space in which they can operate until ultimately we’re able to defeat them — that’s the strategy we’re going to have to pursue.

And we will continue to generate more partners for that strategy. And there are going to be some things that we try that don’t work; there will be some strategies we try that do work. And when we find strategies that work, we will double down on those.

Margaret Brennan, CBS.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the West. Have you underestimated their abilities? And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, we haven’t underestimated our abilities. This is precisely why we’re in Iraq as we speak, and why we’re operating in Syria as we speak. And it’s precisely why we have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL, and why I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters, and why we’ve been putting pressure on those countries that have not been as robust as they need to in tracking the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq.

And so there has been an acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that it is possible for an organization like ISIL that has such a twisted ideology, and has shown such extraordinary brutality and complete disregard for innocent lives, that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West. And because thousands of fighters have flowed from the West and are European citizens — a few hundred from the United States, but far more from Europe — that when those foreign fighters returned, it posed a significant danger. And we have consistently worked with our European partners, disrupting plots in some cases. Sadly, this one was not disrupted in time.

But understand that one of the challenges we have in this situation is, is that if you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people. That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weapon that they possess, but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die. And in those circumstances, tracking each individual, making sure that we are disrupting and preventing these attacks is a constant effort at vigilance, and requires extraordinary coordination.

Now, part of the reason that it is important what we do in Iraq and Syria is that the narrative that ISIL developed of creating this caliphate makes it more attractive to potential recruits. So when I said that we are containing their spread in Iraq and Syria, in fact, they control less territory than they did last year. And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state, and the more it becomes apparent that they are simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations. That allows us to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, which then, over time, will lessen the numbers of terrorists who can potentially carry out terrible acts like they did in Paris.

And that’s what we did with al Qaeda. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that al Qaeda no longer possess the capabilities of potentially striking the West. Al Qaeda in the Peninsula that operates primarily in Yemen we know has consistently tried to target the West. And we are consistently working to disrupt those acts. But despite the fact that they have not gotten as much attention as ISIL, they still pose a danger, as well.

And so our goals here consistently have to be to be aggressive, and to leave no stone unturned, but also recognize this is not conventional warfare. We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they’re a state, and we use routine military tactics that are designed to fight a state that is attacking another state. That’s not what’s going on here.

These are killers with fantasies of glory who are very savvy when it comes to social media, and are able to infiltrate the minds of not just Iraqis or Syrians, but disaffected individuals around the world. And when they activate those individuals, those individuals can do a lot of damage. And so we have to take the approach of being rigorous on our counterterrorism efforts, and consistently improve and figure out how we can get more information, how we can infiltrate these networks, how we can reduce their operational space, even as we also try to shrink the amount of territory they control to defeat their narrative.

Ultimately, to reclaim territory from them is going to require, however, an ending of the Syrian civil war, which is why the diplomatic efforts are so important. And it’s going to require an effective Iraqi effort that bridges Shia and Sunni differences, which is why our diplomatic efforts inside of Iraq are so important, as well.

Jim Avila.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the days and weeks before the Paris attacks, did you receive warning in your daily intelligence briefing that an attack was imminent? If not, does that not call into question the current assessment that there is no immediate, specific, credible threat to the United States today?

And secondly, if I could ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, every day we have threat streams coming through the intelligence transit. And as I said, every several weeks we sit down with all my national security, intelligence, and military teams to discuss various threat streams that may be generated. And the concerns about potential ISIL attacks in the West have been there for over a year now, and they come through periodically. There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we need — that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.

But typically the way the intelligence works is there will be a threat stream that is from one source, how reliable is that source; perhaps some signal intelligence gets picked up, it’s evaluated. Some of it is extraordinarily vague and unspecific, and there’s no clear timetable. Some of it may be more specific, and then folks chase down that threat to see what happens.

I am not aware of anything that was specific in the sense — that would have given a premonition about a particular action in Paris that would allow for law enforcement or military actions to disrupt it.

With respect to the broader issue of my critics, to some degree I answered the question earlier. I think that when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference — because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

Now, there are a few exceptions. And as I said, the primary exception is those who would deploy U.S. troops on a large scale to retake territory either in Iraq or now in Syria. And at least they have the honesty to go ahead and say that’s what they would do. I just addressed why I think they’re wrong. There have been some who are well-meaning, and I don’t doubt their sincerity when it comes to the issue of the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, who, for example, call for a no-fly zone or a safe zone of some sort.

And this is an example of the kind of issue where I will sit down with our top military and intelligence advisors, and we will painstakingly go through what does something like that look like. And typically, after we’ve gone through a lot of planning and a lot of discussion, and really working it through, it is determined that it would be counterproductive to take those steps — in part because ISIL does not have planes, so the attacks are on the ground. A true safe zone requires us to set up ground operations. And the bulk of the deaths that have occurred in Syria, for example, have come about not because of regime bombing, but because of on-the-ground casualties. Who would come in, who could come out of that safe zone; how would it work; would it become a magnet for further terrorist attacks; and how many personnel would be required, and how would it end — there’s a whole set of questions that have to be answered there.

I guess my point is this, Jim: My only interest is to end suffering and to keep the American people safe. And if there’s a good idea out there, then we’re going to do it. I don’t think I’ve shown hesitation to act — whether it’s with respect to bin Laden or with respect to sending additional troops in Afghanistan, or keeping them there — if it is determined that it’s actually going to work.

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.

Jim Acosta.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you have not underestimated ISIS’s abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities? And how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is — and if you’ll forgive the language — is why can’t we take out these bastards?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question, so I don’t know what more you want me to add. I think I’ve described very specifically what our strategy is, and I’ve described very specifically why we do not pursue some of the other strategies that have been suggested.

This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

And so we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution. And part of the reason, as I said, Jim, is because there are costs to the other side. I just want to remind people, this is not an abstraction. When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed; they’re away from their families; our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t shoot first and aim later. It’s important for us to get the strategy right. And the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.

Ron Allen.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you’re pursuing — and it’s been more than a year now — ISIS’s capabilities seem to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned? And do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States?

And do you think that given all you’ve learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, so this is another variation on the same question. And I guess — let me try it one last time.

We have been fully aware of the potential capabilities of them carrying out a terrorist attack. That’s precisely why we have been mounting a very aggressive strategy to go after them. As I said before, when you’re talking about the ability of a handful of people with not wildly sophisticated military equipment, weapons, who are willing to die, they can kill a lot of people. And preventing them from doing so is challenging for every country. And if there was a swift and quick solution to this, I assure you that not just the United States, but France and Turkey, and others who have been subject to these terrorist attacks would have implemented those strategies.

There are certain advantages that the United States has in preventing these kinds of attacks. Obviously, after 9/11, we hardened the homeland, set up a whole series of additional steps to protect aviation, to apply lessons learned. We’ve seen much better cooperation between the FBI, state governments, local governments. There is some advantages to geography with respect to the United States.

But, having said that, we’ve seen the possibility of terrorist attacks on our soil. There was the Boston Marathon bombers. Obviously, it did not result in the scale of death that we saw in Paris, but that was a serious attempt at killing a lot of people by two brothers and a crockpot. And it gives you some sense of, I think, the kinds of challenges that are going to be involved in this going forward.

So again, ISIL has serious capabilities. Its capabilities are not unique. They are capabilities that other terrorist organizations that we track and are paying attention to possess, as well. We are going after all of them.

What is unique about ISIL is the degree to which it has been able to control territory that then allows them to attract additional recruits, and the greater effectiveness that they have on social media and their ability to use that to not only attract recruits to fight in Syria, but also potentially to carry out attacks in the homeland and in Europe and in other parts of the world.

And so our ability to shrink the space in which they can operate, combined with a resolution to the Syria situation — which will reduce the freedom with which they feel that they can operate, and getting local forces who are able to hold and keep them out over the long term, that ultimately is going to be what’s going to make a difference. And it’s going to take some time, but it’s not something that at any stage in this process have we not been aware needs to be done.

Q (Off-mic) — Mr. President?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay, go ahead.

Q Should I wait for the microphone?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I can hear you.

Q Okay, thank you so much. (Inaudible.) I want to ask a question (inaudible). These terrorist attacks we’ve seen allegedly have been attacks under the name of Islam. But this really takes — or upsets the peaceful people like countries like Turkey. So how can we give off that (inaudible) this is not really representative of Muslims?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is something that we spoke a lot about at the G20. The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL, are themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims. This is something that’s been emphasized by Muslim leaders — whether it’s President Erdogan or the President of Indonesia or the President of Malaysia — countries that are majority Muslim, but have shown themselves to be tolerant and to work to be inclusive in their political process.

And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.

Now, what is also true is, is that the most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims. And I do think that Muslims around the world — religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people — have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root, even if it’s only affecting a very small fraction of the population. It is real and it is dangerous. And it has built up over time, and with social media it has now accelerated.

And so I think, on the one hand, non-Muslims cannot stereotype, but I also think the Muslim community has to think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism. There’s been pushback — there are some who say, well, we don’t believe in violence, but are not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed. And I think those ideas have to be challenged.

Let me make one last point about this, and then unfortunately I have to take a flight to Manila. I’m looking forward to seeing Manila, but I hope I can come back to Turkey when I’m not so busy.

One of the places that you’re seeing this debate play itself out is on the refugee issue both in Europe, and I gather it started popping up while I was gone back in the United States. The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important — and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 — that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.

In Europe, I think people like Chancellor Merkel have taken a very courageous stance in saying it is our moral obligation, as fellow human beings, to help people who are in such vulnerable situations. And I know that it is putting enormous strains on the resources of the people of Europe. Nobody has been carrying a bigger burden than the people here in Turkey, with 2.5 million refugees, and the people of Jordan and Lebanon, who are also admitting refugees. The fact that they’ve kept their borders open to these refugees is a signal of their belief in a common humanity.

And so we have to, each of us, do our part. And the United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable.

And so I think it is very important for us right now — particularly those who are in leadership, particularly those who have a platform and can be heard — not to fall into that trap, not to feed that dark impulse inside of us.

I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse. And whether you are European or American, the values that we are defending — the values that we’re fighting against ISIL for are precisely that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith. We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them. And we don’t feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war.

And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END 5:43 P.M. EET

Full Text Political Transcripts November 13, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Paris Terror Attacks Statement Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Situation in Paris

Source: WH, 11-13-15

5:45 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  I just want to make a few brief comments about the attacks across Paris tonight.  Once again, we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.  This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.

We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond.  France is our oldest ally.  The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again.  And we want to be very clear that we stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress.  Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong.  The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share.  And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.

We’re going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.

We don’t yet know all the details of what has happened.  We have been in contact with French officials to communicate our deepest condolences to the families of those who have been killed, to offer our prayers and thoughts to those who have been wounded.  We have offered our full support to them.  The situation is still unfolding.  I’ve chosen not to call President Hollande at this time, because my expectation is that he’s very busy at the moment.  I actually, by coincidence, was talking to him earlier today in preparation for the G20 meeting.  But I am confident that I’ll be in direct communications with him in the next few days, and we’ll be coordinating in any ways that they think are helpful in the investigation of what’s happened.

This is a heartbreaking situation.  And obviously those of us here in the United States know what it’s like.  We’ve gone through these kinds of episodes ourselves.  And whenever these kinds of attacks happened, we’ve always been able to count on the French people to stand with us.  They have been an extraordinary counterterrorism partner, and we intend to be there with them in that same fashion.

I’m sure that in the days ahead we’ll learn more about exactly what happened, and my teams will make sure that we are in communication with the press to provide you accurate information.  I don’t want to speculate at this point in terms of who was responsible for this.  It appears that there may still be live activity and dangers that are taking place as we speak.  And so until we know from French officials that the situation is under control, and we have for more information about it, I don’t want to speculate.

Thank you very much.

                                  END            5:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts November 9, 2015: President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Statement before their White House Meeting Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel Before Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 11-9-15

Oval Office

10:34 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it is very good to welcome once again Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to the Oval Office.  There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently, and I think that’s a testimony to the extraordinary bond between the United States and Israel.

Before I get started, I just want to say a brief word about the Jordanian attack that we discovered earlier — the fact that someone dressed in military uniform carried out an attack at a training facility in which it appears that there may have been two or three U.S. citizens killed, and a number of other individuals injured.  Obviously, a full investigation is taking place.  We take this very seriously, and we’ll be working closely with the Jordanians to determine exactly what happened.  But at this stage, I want to just let everyone know that this is something we’re paying close attention to.  And at the point where the families have been notified, obviously our deepest condolences will be going out to them.

I also want to extend my condolences to the Israeli people on the passing of former President Navon.  Obviously, he was an important figure in Israeli politics.  And we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.

This is going to be an opportunity for the Prime Minister and myself to engage in a wide-ranging discussion on some of the most pressing security issues that both our countries face.  It’s no secret that the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas.  And as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities.  And that has expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds.

We have closer military and intelligence cooperation than any two administrations in history.  The military assistance that we provide we consider not only an important part of our obligation to the security of the state of Israel, but also an important part of U.S. security infrastructure in the region, as we make sure that one of our closest allies cannot only protect itself but can also work with us in deterring terrorism and other security threats.

In light of what continues to be a chaotic situation in Syria, this will give us an opportunity to discuss what’s happening there.  We’ll have an opportunity to discuss how we can blunt the activities of ISIL, Hezbollah and other organizations in the region that carry out terrorist attacks.  A lot of our time will be spent on a memorandum of understanding that we can potentially negotiate.  It will be expiring in a couple of years, but we want to get a head start on that to make sure that both the United States and Israel can plan effectively for our defense needs going forward.

We’ll also have a chance to talk about how implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement is going.  It’s no secret that the Prime Minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue, but we don’t have a disagreement on the need to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don’t have a disagreement about the importance of us blunting and destabilizing activities that Iran may be taking place.  And so we’re going to be looking to make sure that we find common ground there.

And we will also have an opportunity to discuss some of the concerns that both of us have around violence in the Palestinian Territories.  I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against its and Israeli citizens.  And I want to repeat once again, it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself.

I also will discuss with the Prime Minister his thoughts on how we can lower the temperature between Israelis and Palestinians, how we can get back on a path towards peace, and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met through a political process, even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself.

And so this is going to be a lot of work to do, with too little time, which is why I will stop here and just once again say, welcome.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you.  Mr. President, first let me express the condolences of the people of Israel for the loss of American lives.  We are with you.  We’re with each other in more ways than one.  And I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which is strong; strengthen our alliance, which is strong.  I think it’s rooted in shared values.  It’s buttressed by shared interests.  It’s driven forward by a sense of a shared destiny.

We are obviously tested today in the instability and insecurity in the Middle East, as you described it.  I think everybody can see it — with the savagery of ISIS, with the aggression and terror by Iran’s proxies and by Iran itself.  And the combination of turbulence has now displaced millions of people, has butchered hundreds of thousands.  And we don’t know what will transpire.

And I think this is a tremendously important opportunity for us to work together to see how we can defend ourselves against this aggression and this terror; how we can roll back.  It’s a daunting task.

Equally, I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace.  We’ll never give up the hope for peace.  And I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.

I don’t think that anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to defend itself against terror and destruction, and neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors that genuinely want to achieve peace with us.  And I look forward to discussing with you practical ways in which we can lower the tension, increase stability, and move towards peace.

And finally, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your commitment to further bolstering Israel’s security in the memorandum of understanding that we’re discussing.  Israel has shouldered a tremendous defense burden over the years, and we’ve done it with the generous assistance of the United States of America.  And I want to express my appreciation to you and express the appreciation of the people of Israel to you for your efforts in this regard during our years of common service and what you’re engaging in right now — how to bolster Israel’s security, how to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can, as you’ve often said, defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

So for all these reasons, I want to thank you again for your hospitality, but even more so for sustaining and strengthening the tremendous friendship and alliance between Israel and the United States of America.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

END
10:43 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts October 29, 2015: Paul Ryan’s Remarks to the House of Representatives after his Election as Speaker of the House Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Speaker Ryan’s Remarks to the House of Representatives

Source: Speaker Ryan’s Press Office, 10-29-15

Thank you, Madam Leader. Before I begin, I want to thank the family and friends who flew in from Wisconsin and from all over to be here today. In the gallery, I have my mom, Betty; my sister, Janet; my brothers, Stan and Tobin; and more relatives than I can count. Most important of all, I want to recognize my wife, Janna, and our three kids: Liza, Charlie, and Sam.

I also want to thank Speaker Boehner. For almost five years, he led this House. And for nearly 25 years, he served it. Not many people can match his accomplishments: the offices he held, the laws he wrote. But what really sets John apart is he’s a man of character—a true class act. He is, without question, the gentleman from Ohio. So please join me in saying, one last time, “Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”

Now I know how he felt. It’s not till you hold this gavel and stand in this spot and look out and see all 435 members of the House—as if all of America was sitting right in front of you. It’s not till then that you feel it: the weight of responsibility, the gravity of the moment.

And standing here, I cannot help but think of something Harry Truman once said. The day after Franklin Roosevelt died and Truman became president, he told a group of reporters: “If you ever pray, pray for me now. . . . When they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

We all should feel that way. A lot is on our shoulders. So if you ever pray, pray for each other— Republicans for Democrats, Democrats for Republicans. And I don’t mean pray for a conversion. Pray for a deeper understanding, because—when you’re up here, you see it so clearly—wherever you come from, whatever you believe, we are all in the same boat.

I never thought I’d be the speaker. But early in my life, I wanted to serve in the House. I thought the place was exhilarating—because here, you could make a difference. If you had a good idea and worked hard, you could make it happen. You could improve people’s lives. To me, the House represented the best of America: the boundless opportunity to do good.

But let’s be frank: The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean. Neither the members nor the people are satisfied with how things are going. We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business.

We need to let every member contribute—not once they have earned their stripes, but right now. I come at this job as a two-time committee chair. The committees should retake the lead in drafting all major legislation. If you know the issue, you should write the bill. Open up the process. Let people participate. And they might change their tune. A neglected minority will gum up the works. A respected minority will work in good faith. Instead of trying to stop the majority, they might try to become the majority.

In other words, we need to return to regular order. Now, I know that sounds like process. But it’s actually a matter of principle. We are the body closest to the people. Every two years, we face the voters—and sometimes face the music. But we do not echo the people. We represent them. We are supposed to study up and do the homework that they cannot do. So when we do not follow regular order—when we rush to pass bills a lot of us do not understand—we are not doing our job. Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people.

And if there were ever a time for us to step up, this would be that time. America does not feel strong anymore because the working people of America do not feel strong anymore. I’m talking about the people who mind the store and grow the food and walk the beat and pay the taxes and raise the family. They do not sit in this House. They do not have fancy titles. But they are the people who make this country work, and this House should work for them.

Here’s the problem. They’re working hard. They’re paying a lot. They are trying to do right by their families. And they are going nowhere fast. They never get a raise. They never get a break. But the bills keep piling up—and the taxes and the debt. They are working harder than ever to get ahead. Yet they are falling further behind. And they feel robbed—cheated of their birthright. They are not asking for any favors. They just want a fair chance. And they are losing faith that they will ever get it. Then they look at Washington, and all they see is chaos.

What a relief to them it would be if we finally got our act together—what a weight off their shoulders. How reassuring it would be if we actually fixed the tax code, put patients in charge of their health care, grew our economy, strengthened our military, lifted people out of poverty, and paid down the debt. At this point, nothing could be more inspiring than a job well done. Nothing could stir the heart more than real, concrete results.

The cynics will scoff and say it’s not possible. But you better believe we are going to try. We will not duck the tough issues. We will take them head on. We are going to do all we can so working people get their strength back and people not working get their lives back. No more favors for the few. Opportunity for all—that is our motto.

I often talk about the need for a vision. I’m not sure I ever said what I meant. We solve problems here—yes. We create a lot of them too. But at bottom, we vindicate a way of life. We show by our work that free people can govern themselves. They can solve their own problems. They can make their own decisions. They can deliberate, collaborate, and get the job done. We show self-government is not only more efficient and more effective; it is more fulfilling. In fact, we show it is that struggle, that hard work, the very achievement itself that makes us free.

That is what we do here. And we will not always agree—not all of us, not all of the time. But we should not hide our disagreements. We should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated. If you have ideas, let’s hear them. I believe a greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us.

And there is every reason to have hope. When the first speaker took the gavel, he looked out at a room of 30 people, representing a nation of 3 million. Today, as I look out at you, we represent a nation of 300 million. So when I hear people say America does not have it—we are done, we are spent—I do not believe it. I believe, with every fiber of my being, we can renew the America Idea. Now, our task is to make us all believe.

My friends, you have done me a great honor. The people of this country have done all of us a great honor. Now, let’s prove ourselves worthy of it. Let’s seize the moment. Let’s rise to the occasion. And when we are done, let us say we left the people—all the people—more united, happy, and free. Thank you.

– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/speaker-ryans-remarks-house-representatives#sthash.AHNVeuhN.dpuf

 

Full Text Political Transcripts October 29, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Farewell Address to the House of Representatives Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Speaker John Boehner’s Farewell Address: This, Too, Can Really Happen To You

Source: Speaker Ryan’s Press Office, 10-29-15

My colleagues, I rise today to inform you that I will resign as Speaker of the House effective upon the election of my successor.

I will also resign as Representative of Ohio’s Eighth District at the end of this month.

I leave with no regrets or burdens.  If anything, I leave as I started – just a regular guy humbled by the chance to do a big job.

That’s what I’m most proud of – that I’m still just me…

But before I go, let me just express what an honor it is been to serve with all of you.  

The people’s House is, in my view, the great embodiment of the American idea.

Everyone comes from somewhere and is on some mission.

I come from a part of the world where we’re used to working.

As far back as I can remember, I was working…going back to when I was eight or nine, throwing newspapers, working at my dad’s bar on Saturdays from 5 am – 2 pm for 2 dollars…TOTAL.

I never thought about it as coming up the easy way or the hard way. 

It’s just the Cincinnati way.

Our city takes its name from a great Roman general, Cincinnatus – a farmer who answered the call of his nation to lead, then surrendered his power and returned to his plow.

For me, it wasn’t a farm – it was a small business. 

And it wasn’t so much a calling as it was a mission: to strive for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government in Washington, DC.   

How did we do?

Well, here are some facts….

For the first time in nearly 20 years, we have made real entitlement reforms, saving trillions over the long term.

We have protected 99 percent of Americans from tax increases.

We are on track to save taxpayers $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years – the most significant spending reductions in modern history.

We have banned earmarks altogether.

We have protected this institution, and made it more open to the people.

And every day in this capital city, hundreds of kids from the toughest of neighborhoods are finally getting a decent education.

I am proud of these things. 

But the mission is not complete, and the truth is, it may never be…

One thing I came to realize is that this battle over the size and scope of government has been going on for more than 200 years.   

And the forces of the status quo go to an awful lot of trouble to prevent change.  Real change takes time. 

That’s certainly true for all the things I just mentioned. 

Yes, freedom makes all things possible. 

But patience is what makes all things real.

So believe in the long, slow struggle. 

Believe in this country’s ability to meet her challenges, and lead the world.

Believe in the decency of people to come together and do what can be done. 

And remember, you can’t do a big job alone, especially this one.

I’m grateful to my family…

I’m grateful to my colleagues…

I’m grateful to all the people who work in this institution … you’ve made me proud every day.

I’m grateful to my staff … I’ve always told them, you never leave Boehnerland, and that certainly goes for me too.   

And I’m especially grateful to all my constituents and volunteers over the years…

That includes a student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio who was putting up signs for me during one of my very first campaigns in the early 90s.

His name was Paul Ryan.

I don’t think he knew how to pronounce my name…

But, as Cincinnatus understood, there’s a difference between being asked to do something and being called to do something.

Paul is being called to serve, and I know he will serve that calling with grace and energy. 

I wish him, and his family, all the best.

My colleagues, I’ve described my life as a chase for the American Dream.

That chase began at the bottom of a hill just off the main drag in Reading, Ohio.

At the top was a small house with a big family … a shining city in its own right.  

The hill had twists.  And it had turns.  And even a few tears … nothing wrong with that.

But let me tell you, it was all just perfect.

Never forget, we are the luckiest people on the face of the Earth.

In America, you can do anything if you’re willing to work hard and make the necessary sacrifices.

If you falter – and you will – you can just dust yourself off and keep on going.

Because hope always springs eternal.

And if you just do the right things for the right reasons, good things will happen.

And this, too, can really happen to you… 

– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/farewell-address-too-can-really-happen-you#sthash.ugCuigN6.dpuf

 

Full Text Political Transcripts October 23, 2015: Paul Ryan’s Letter Announcing Candidacy for Speaker of the House Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Paul Ryan’s Letter Announcing Candidacy for Speaker of the House

Source: WaPo, 10-22-15

The full letter:

Dear Colleague:

Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about our country, and it’s clear to me that we’re in a very serious moment. Working families continue to fall behind, and they are losing faith in the American Idea: the belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead. At the same time, a weaker America has led to a more dangerous world. Our friends and rivals alike wonder whether we will pull ourselves out of this stupor.

Instead of rising to the occasion, Washington is falling short—including the House of Representatives. We are not solving the country’s problems; we are only adding to them.

But now, we have an opportunity to turn the page, to start with a clean slate, and to rebuild what has been lost. We can make the House a more open and inclusive body—one where every member can contribute to the legislative process. We can rally House Republicans around a bold agenda that will tackle the country’s problems head on. And we can show the country what a commonsense conservative agenda looks like.

That’s why I’m actually excited for this moment. I’ve spoken with many of you over the past few days, and I can sense the hunger in our conference to get to work. I know many of you want to show the country how to fix our tax code, how to rebuild our military, how to strengthen the safety net, and how to lift people out of poverty. I know you’re willing to work hard and get it done, and I think this moment is ripe for real reform.

That’s because, whatever our differences, we’re all conservatives. We were elected to defend the constitution. We share the same principles. We all believe America is the land of opportunity—the place where you should be able to go as far as your talents and hard work will take you. We all believe in empowering every person to realize his or her potential. And we have the know-how to apply these principles to the problems of today.

I never thought I’d be speaker. But I pledged to you that if I could be a unifying figure, then I would serve—I would go all in. After talking with so many of you, and hearing your words of encouragement, I believe we are ready to move forward as one, united team. And I am ready and eager to be our speaker.

This is just the beginning of our work. There is a long road ahead. So let’s get started.

Sincerely,

Paul Ryan

Full Text Political Transcripts October 22, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement at Veto Signing of Defense Spending Bill National Defense Authorization Act Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Veto Signing of National Defense Authorization Act

Source: WH, 10-22-15

Oval Office

3:52 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  As President and Commander-in-Chief, my first and most important responsibility is keeping the American people safe.  And that means that we make sure that our military is properly funded, and that our men and women in uniform get the support, the equipment, the support for their families that they need and deserve when they protect our freedom and our safety.

The bill that has been presented to me authorizing our defense — excuse me — the bill that’s before me, authorizing our defense spending for this year, does a number of good things.  It makes sure that our military is funded.  It has some important provisions around reform for our military retirement system, which is necessary to make sure that it is stable and effective.  It’s got some cybersecurity provisions that are necessary for an increasing threat.

Unfortunately, it falls woefully short in three areas.  Number one, it keeps in place the sequester that is inadequate for us to properly fund our military in a stable, sustained way and allows all of our armed forces to plan properly.  I have repeatedly called on Congress to eliminate the sequester and make sure that we’re providing certainty to our military so they can do out-year planning, ensure military readiness, ensure our troops are getting what they need.  This bill instead resorts to gimmicks that does not allow the Pentagon to do what it needs to do.

Number two, unfortunately it prevents a wide range of reforms that are necessary for us to get our military modernized and able to deal with the many threats that are presenting themselves in the 21st century.  We have repeatedly put forward a series of reforms eliminating programs that the Pentagon does not want — Congress keeps on stepping back in, and we end up wasting money.  We end up diverting resources from things that we do need to have the kind of equipment and training and readiness that are necessary for us to meet all potential threats.

And the third thing is that this legislation specifically impeded our ability to close Guantanamo in a way that I have repeatedly argued is counterproductive to our efforts to defeat terrorism around the world.  Guantanamo is one of the premiere mechanisms for jihadists to recruit.  It’s time for us to close it.  It is outdated; it’s expensive; it’s been there for years. And we can do better in terms of keeping our people safe while making sure that we are consistent with our values.

So I’m going to be vetoing this authorization bill.  I’m going to be sending it back to Congress.  And my message to them is very simple:  Let’s do this right.  We’re in the midst of budget discussions — let’s have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security.  Let’s make sure that we’re able, in a constructive way, to reform our military spending to make it sustainable over the long term, and let’s make sure that, in a responsible way, we can draw down the populations in Guantanamo, make sure that the American people are safe, and make sure that we’re not providing the kinds of recruitment tools to terrorists that are so dangerous.

END
3:57 P.M. EDT

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Transcript: Clinton testifies before House committee on Benghazi

Source: Washington Post October 22 at 4:19 PM

 

GOWDY: Good morning. The committee will come to order.

The chair notes the presence of a quorum.

Good morning. Welcome, Madam Secretary. Welcome to each of you. This is a public hearing of the Benghazi Select Committee.

Just a couple of quick administrative matters before we start.

Madam Secretary, there are predetermined breaks, but I want to make it absolutely clear we can take a break for any reason or for no reason. If you or anyone, just simply alert me, then we will take a break and it can be for any reason or for no reason.

To our guests, we are happy to have you here. The witness deserves to hear the questions and the members deserve to hear the answers. So proper decorum must be observed at all times — no reaction to questions or answers, no disruptions. Some committees take an incremental approach to decorum. I do not. This is your one and only notice.

Madam Secretary, the ranking member and I will give opening statements and then you will be recognized for your opening statement. And then after that, the members will alternate from one side to the other. And because you have already been sworn, we will go straight to your opening. So I will now recognize myself and then recognize Mr. Cummings, and then you, Madam Secretary.

Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods served this country with courage and with honor. And they were killed under circumstances that most of us could never imagine. Terrorists poured through the front gate of an American facility, attacking people and property with machine guns, mortars, and fire. It is important that we remember how these four men died. It is equally important that we remember how these four men lived and why.

They were more than four images on a television screen. They were husbands and fathers and sons and brothers and family and friends. They were Americans who believed in service and sacrifice. Many people speak wistfully of a better world, but do little about it. These four went out and actually tried to make it better and it cost them their lives.

So we know what they gave us. What do we owe them?

GOWDY: Justice for those that killed them. We owe their families our everlasting gratitude, respect. We owe them and each other the truth — the truth about why we were in Libya, the truth about what we were doing in Libya, the truth about the escalating violence in Libya before we were attacked and these four men were killed, the truth about requests for additional security, the truth about requests for additional personnel, the truth about requests for additional equipment, the truth about where and why our military was positioned as it was on the anniversary of 9/11, the truth about what was happening and being discussed in Washington while our people were under attack, the truth about what led to the attacks, and the truth about what our government told the American people after the attacks.

Why were there so many requests for more security personnel and equipment, and why were those requests denied in Washington? Why did the State Department compound and facility not even come close to meeting proper security specifications? What policies were we pursuing in Libya that required a physical presence in spite of the escalating violence?

Who in Washington was aware of the escalating violence? What precautions, if any, were taken on the anniversary of 9/11? What happened in Washington after the first attack? And what was our response to that attack?

What did the military do or not do? What did our leaders in Washington do or not do, and when? Why was the American public given such divergent accounts of what caused these attacks, and why is it so hard to get information from the very government these four men represented, served and sacrificed for?

Even after an Accountability Review Board and a half dozen congressional investigations, these and other questions still lingered. These questions linger, because previous investigations were thorough. These questions lingered because those previous investigations were narrow in scope, and either incapable or unwilling to access the facts and evidence necessary to answer all relevant questions.

So the House of Representatives, including some Democrats I hasten to add, asked this committee to write the final accounting of what happened in Benghazi. This committee is the first committee to review more than 50,000 pages of documents, because we insisted that they be produced. This committee is the first committee to demand access to more eyewitnesses, because serious investigations talk to as many eyewitnesses as possible. This committee is the first committee to thoroughly and individually interview scores of other witnesses, many of them for the first time. This committee is the first committee to review thousands of pages of documents from top State Department personnel. This committee is the first committee to demand access to relevant documents from the CIA, the FBI, the Department Of Defense and even the White House.

This committee is the first committee to demand access to the e- mails to and from Ambassador Chris Stevens. How could an investigation possibly be considered serious without reviewing the e- mails of the person most knowledgeable about Libya?

This committee is the first committee, the only committee, to uncover the fact that Secretary Clinton exclusively used personnel e- mail on her own personal server for official business and kept the public record, including e-mails about Benghazi and Libya, in her own custody and control for almost two years after she left office.

You will hear a lot today about the Accountability Review Board. Secretary Clinton has mentioned it more than 70 times in her previous testimony before Congress. But when you hear about the ARB, you should know the State Department leadership hand picked the members of the ARB.

The ARB never interviewed secretary Clinton. The ARB never reviewed her e-mails. And Secretary Clinton’s top adviser was allowed to review and suggest changes to the ARB before the public ever saw it. There’s no transcript of ARB interviews. So, it’s impossible to mow whether all relevant questions were asked and answered. Because there’s no transcript, it is also impossible to cite the ARB interviews with any particularity at all.

That is not independent. That is not accountability. That is not a serious investigation. You will hear there were previous congressional investigations into Benghazi. And that is true. It should make you wonder why those investigations failed to interview so many witnesses and access so many documents.

If those previous congressional investigations were really serious and thorough, how did they miss Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails? If those previous investigations were serious and thorough, how did they miss Secretary Clinton’s e-mails? If those congressional investigations really were serious and thorough, why did they fail to interview dozens of key State Department witnesses, including agents on the ground who experienced the attacks firsthand?

GOWDY: Just last month, three years after Benghazi, top aides finally returned documents to the State Department. A month ago, this committee received 1,500 new pages of Secretary Clinton’s e-mails related to Libya and Benghazi, three years after the attacks.

A little over two weeks ago, this committee received nearly 1,400 pages of Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails, three years after the attacks. It is impossible to conduct a serious fact-centric investigation without access to the documents from the former Secretary of State, the ambassador who knew more about Libya than anybody else and testimony from witnesses who survived the attacks.

Madam Secretary, I understand there are people frankly in both parties who have suggested that this investigation is about you. Let me assure you it is not. And let me assure you why it is not. This investigation is about four people who were killed representing our country on foreign soil.

It is about what happened before, during and after the attacks that killed them. It is about what this country owes to those who risk their lives to serve it. And it is about the fundamental obligation of government to tell the truth always to the people that it purports to represent.

Madam Secretary, not a single member of this committee signed up to investigate you or your e-mail. We signed up to investigate and therefore honor the lives of four people that we sent into a dangerous country to represent us. And to do everything we can to prevent it from happening to others. Our committee has interviewed half a 100 witnesses. Not a single one of them has been named Clinton until today.

You were the secretary of state for this country at all relevant times. So, of course, the committee is going to want to talk to you. You are an important witness. You are one important witness among half a hundred important witnesses. And I do understand you wanted to come sooner than today. So let me be clear why that did not happen.

You had an unusual e-mail arrangement which meant the State Department could not produce your e-mails to us. You made exclusive use of personal e-mail and a personal server. And when you left the State Department, you kept the public record to yourself for almost two years. And it was you and your attorneys who decided what to return and what to delete. Those decisions were your decisions, not our decisions. It was only in March of this year we learned of this e-mail arrangement. And since we learned of this e-mail arrangement, we have interviewed dozens of witnesses, only one of whom was solely related to your e-mail arrangement. And that was the shortest interview of all, because that witness invoked his fifth amendment privilege against incrimination.

Making sure the public record is complete is what we serious investigations do. It’s important and remains important that this committee have access to all of Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails, the e- mails of senior leaders and witnesses and it is important to gain access to all of your e-mails, Madam Secretary.

Your e-mails are no less or no more important than the e-mails of anyone else. It just took us a little bit longer to get them and it garnered a little more attention in the process. I want you to take note during this hearing how many times congressional Democrats call on this administration to make long awaited documents available to us. They won’t.

Take note of how many witnesses congressional Democrats ask us to schedule for interview. They won’t. We would be closer to finding out what happened and writing the final definitive report if Democrats on this committee had helped us just a little bit pursue the facts. But if the Democrats on this committee had their way, dozens of witnesses never would have been interviewed, your public record would still be private.

Thousands of documents would never be accessed and we wouldn’t have the e-mails of our own ambassador. That may be smart politics, but it is a lousy way to run a serious investigation.

There are certain characteristics that make our country unique in the annals of history. We are the greatest experiment in self- governance the world has ever known, and part of that self-governance comes self-scrutiny, even of the highest officials.

GOWDY: Our country is strong enough to handle the truth and our fellow citizens expect us to pursue the truth wherever the facts take us.

So this committee is going to do what we pledged to do and what should have been done, frankly, a long time ago, which is interview all relevant witnesses, examine all relevant evidence, and access all relevant documents. And we’re going to pursue the truth in a manner worthy of the memory of the four people who lost their lives and worthy of the respect of our fellow citizens.

And we are going to write that final definitive accounting of what happened in Benghazi. We would like to do it with your help and the help of our Democrat colleagues, but make no mistake, we are going to do it nonetheless. Because understanding what happened in Benghazi goes to the heart of who we are as a country and the promises we make to those that we send into harm’s way. They deserve the truth. They deserve the whole truth. They deserve nothing but the truth. The people we work for deserve the truth. The friends and family of the four who lost their lives deserve the truth.

We’re going to find the truth because there is no statute of limitations on the truth.

With that, I would recognize my friend my Maryland.

CUMMINGS: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Madam Secretary, I want to thank you very much for being here today to testify before Congress on this very important issue. This is your third time. This week, our chairman, Mr. Gowdy, was interviewed in a lengthy media profile. During his interview, he complained that he was, and I quote, he “has an impossible job.” That’s what the chairman said — “impossible job.” He said it’s impossible to conduct a serious, fact-centric investigation in such a, quote, “political environment.”

I have great respect for the chairman, but on this score he is absolutely wrong. In fact, it has been done by his own Republican colleagues in the House on this very issue, Benghazi. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee conducted an extensive, bipartisan, two-year investigation and issued a detailed report.

The Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee also conducted a bipartisan investigation. Those bipartisan efforts respected and honored the memories of the four brave Americans who gave their lives in Benghazi: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

The problem is that the Republican caucus did not like the answers they got from those investigations, so they set up this select committee with no rules, no deadline, and an unlimited budget. And they set them loose, Madam Secretary, because you’re running for president.

Clearly, it is possible to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation. What is impossible is for any reasonable person to continue denying that Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

In the chairman’s interview, he tried to defend against this criticism by attempting to cast himself as the victim. And he complained about attacks on the credibility of the select committee.

CUMMINGS: His argument would be more compelling if Republicans weren’t leading the charge. As we all know, Representative Kevin McCarthy, Speaker Boehner’s second in command and the chairman’s close friend admitted that they established the select committee to drive down Secretary Clinton’s poll numbers. Democrats didn’t say that. The second in command in the House said that, a Republican.

Republican Congressman Richard Hanna said the Select Committee was, quote, “designed — designed to go after Secretary Clinton.” And one of the chairman’s own, hand-picked investigators, a self- proclaimed conservative Republican, charged that he was fired in part for not going along with these plans to, quote, “hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton,” end of quote.

These stark admissions reflect exactly what we have seen inside the Select Committee for the past year. Let’s just look at the facts. Since January, Republicans have canceled every single hearing on our schedule for the entire year except for this one, Secretary Clinton. They also canceled numerous interviews that they had planned with the Defense Department and the CIA officials.

Instead of doing that, they said they were going — what they were going to do, Republicans zeroed in on Secretary Clinton, her speech writers, her I.T. staffers and her campaign officials.

This is what the Republicans did, not the Democrats. When Speaker Boehner established this Select Committee, he justified it by arguing that it would, quote, “cross jurisdictional lines.” I assume he meant we would focus on more than just secretary of State.

But, Madam Secretary, you are sitting there by yourself. The Secretary Of Defense is not on your left. The director of the CIA is not on your right. That’s because Republicans abandoned their own plans to question those top officials.

So, instead of being cross jurisdictional, Republicans just crossed them off the list. Last weekend, the chairman told the Republican colleagues to shut up and stop talking about the Select Committee.

What I want to know is this. And this is a key question. Why tell the Republicans to shut up when they are telling the truth, but not when they are attacking Secretary Clinton with reckless accusations that are demonstrably false? Why not tell them to shut up then? Carly Fiorina has said that Secretary Clinton has blood on her hands. Mike Huckabee accused her of ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi. Senator Ryan Paul said Benghazi was a 3 a.m. phone call that she never picked up. And Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted, where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?

Everyone on this panel knows these accusations are baseless, from our own investigation and all those before it. Yet Republican members of this Select Committee remain silent.

On Monday, the Democrats issued a report showing that none of the 54 witnesses the committee interviewed substantiated these wild Republican claims. Secretary Clinton did not order the military to stand down, and she neither approved nor denied requests for additional security.

I ask our report be included in the official report for the hearing. Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Without objection.

CUMMINGS: What is so telling is that we issued virtually the same report a year ago. Same report. When we first joined the Select Committee, I asked my staff to put together a complete report and database setting forth the questions that have been asked about the attacks and all of the answers that were provided in the eight previous investigations.

I asked that this report also be included in the record, Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Without objection.

CUMMINGS: The problem is that rather than accepting these facts, Republicans continue to spin new conspiracy theories that are just as outlandish and inaccurate.

For example, the chairman recently tried to argue that Sidney Blumenthal was Secretary Clinton’s adviser on Libya. And this past Sunday, Representative Pompeo claimed on national television that Secretary Clinton relied on Sidney Blumenthal for most of her intelligence on Libya. Earlier this week, the Washington Post fact checker awarded this claim four Pinocchios, its worst rating.

Here is the bottom line. The Select Committee has spent 17 months and $4.7 million of taxpayer money. We have held four hearings and conducted 54 interviews and depositions. Yes, we have received some new e-mails from Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Stevens and others. And yes, we have conducted some new interviews.

But these documents and interviews do not show any nefarious activity. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The new information we obtained confirms and corroborates the core facts we already knew from eight previous investigations. They provide more detail, but they do not change the basic conclusions. It is time — it is time, and it is time now, for the Republicans to end this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition. We need to come together and shift from politics to policy. That’s what the American people want, shifting from politics to policy.

We need to finally make good on our promises to the families. And the families only asked us to do three things. One, do not make this a political football. Two, find the facts. Three, do everything in your power to make sure that this does not happen again.

And so we need to start focusing on what we here in Congress can do to improve the safety and security of our diplomatic corps in the future.

And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

GOWDY: The chair thanks the gentleman from Maryland.

Madam Secretary, you are recognized for your opening statement.

CLINTON: Thank you Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Cummings, members of this committee.

The terrorist attacks at our diplomatic compound and later, at the CIA post in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, took the lives of four brave Americans, Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty And Tyrone Woods.

I’m here to honor the service of those four men. The courage of the Diplomatic Security Agency and the CIA officers who risked their lives that night. And the work their colleagues do every single day all over the world.

I knew and admired Chris Stevens. He was one of our nation’s most accomplished diplomats. Chris’ mother liked to say he had “sand in his shoes,” because he was always moving, always working, especially in the Middle East that he came to know so well.

When the revolution broke out in Libya, we named Chris as our envoy to the opposition. There was no easy way to get him into Benghazi to begin gathering information and meeting those Libyans who were rising up against the murderous dictator Gadhafi. But he found a way to get himself there on a Greek cargo ship, just like a 19th- century American envoy.

But his work was very much 21st-century, hard-nosed diplomacy.

CLINTON: It is a testament to the relationships that he built in Libya that on the day following the awareness of his death, tens of thousands of Libyans poured into the streets in Benghazi. They held signs reading, “Thugs don’t represent Benghazi or Islam,” “Sorry, people of America, this is not the behavior of our Islam or our prophet,” “Chris Stevens, a friend to all Libyans.”

Although I didn’t have the privilege of meeting Sean Smith personally, he was a valued member of our State Department family. An Air Force veteran, he was an information management officer who had served in Pretoria, Baghdad, Montreal and the Hague.

Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty worked for the CIA. They were killed by mortar fire at the CIA’s outpost in Benghazi, a short distance from the diplomatic compound. They were both former Navy SEALs and trained paramedics with distinguished records of service including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As secretary of State, I had the honor to lead and the responsibility to support nearly 70,000 diplomats and development experts across the globe. Losing any one of them, as we did in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico, Haiti and Libya, during my tenure was deeply painful for our entire State Department and USAID family and for me personally. I was the one who asked Chris to go to Libya as our envoy. I was the one who recommended him to be our ambassador to the president.

After the attacks, I stood next to President Obama as Marines carried his casket and those of the other three Americans off the plane at Andrews Air Force Base. I took responsibility, and as part of that, before I left office, I launched reforms to better protect our people in the field and help reduce the chance of another tragedy happening in the future.

What happened in Benghazi has been scrutinized by a non-partisan hard-hitting Accountability Review Board, seven prior congressional investigations, multiple news organizations and, of course, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. So today, I would like to share three observations about how we can learn from this tragedy and move forward as a nation.

First, America must lead in a dangerous world, and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places. The State Department sends people to more than 270 posts in 170 countries around the world. Chris Stevens understood that diplomats must operate in many places where our soldiers do not, where there are no other boots on the ground and safety is far from guaranteed. In fact, he volunteered for just those assignments.

He also understood we will never prevent every act of terrorism or achieve perfect security and that we inevitably must accept a level of risk to protect our country and advance our interests and values. And make no mistake, the risks are real. Terrorists have killed more than 65 American diplomatic personnel since the 1970s and more than 100 contractors and locally employed staff.

Since 2001, there have been more than 100 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. But if you ask our most experienced ambassadors, they’ll tell you they can’t do their jobs for us from bunkers. It would compound the tragedy of Benghazi if Chris Stevens’ death and the death of the other three Americans ended up undermining the work to which he and they devoted their lives.

We have learned the hard way when America is absent, especially from unstable places, there are consequences. Extremism take root, aggressors seek to fill the vacuum and security everywhere is threatened, including here at home. That’s why Chris was in Benghazi. It’s why he had served previously in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem during the second intifada.

Nobody knew the dangers of Libya better. A weak government, extremist groups, rampant instability. But Chris chose to go to Benghazi because he understood America had to be represented there at that pivotal time. He knew that eastern Libya was where the revolution had begun and that unrest there could derail the country’s fragile transition to democracy. And if extremists gained a foothold, they would have the chance to destabilize the entire region, including Egypt and Tunisia. He also knew how urgent it was to ensure that the weapons Gadhafi had left strewn across the country, including shoulder-fired missiles that could knock an airplane out of the sky, did not fall into the wrong hands. The nearest Israeli airport is just a day’s drive from the Libyan border.

Above all, Chris understood that most people in Libya or anywhere reject the extremists’ argument that violence can ever be a path to dignity or justice. That’s what those thousands of Libyans were saying after they learned of his death. And he understood there was no substitute for going beyond the embassy walls and doing the hard work of building relationships.

Retreat from the world is not an option. America cannot shrink from our responsibility to lead. That doesn’t mean we should ever return to the go-it-alone foreign policy of the past, a foreign policy that puts boots on the ground as a first choice rather than a last resort. Quite the opposite. We need creative, confident leadership that harnesses all of America’s strengths and values, leadership that integrates and balances the tools of diplomacy, development and defense.

And at the heart of that effort must be dedicated professionals like Chris Stevens and his colleagues who put their lives on the line for a country, our country, because they believed, as I do, that America is the greatest force for peace and progress the world has ever known. My second observation is this. We have a responsibility to provide our diplomats with the resources and support they need to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible. After previous deadly attacks, leaders from both parties and both branches of government came together to determine what went wrong and how to fix it for the future.

That’s what happened during the Reagan administration, when Hezbollah attacked our embassy and killed 63 people, including 17 Americans, and then in a later attack attacked our Marine barracks and killed so many more. Those two attacks in Beirut resulted in the deaths of 258 Americans.

It’s what happened during the Clinton administration, when Al Qaida bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing more than 200 people, wounding more than 2,000 people and killing 12 Americans.

And it’s what happened during the Bush administration after 9/11.

Part of America’s strength is we learn, we adapt and we get stronger.

CLINTON: After the Benghazi attacks, I asked Ambassador Thomas Pickering, one of our most distinguished and longest serving diplomats, along with Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — appointed by President George W. Bush — to lead an accountability review board.

This is an institution that the Congress set up after the terrible attacks in Beirut. There have been 18 previous accountability review boards. Only two have ever made any of their findings public — the one following the attacks on our embassies in East Africa, and the one following the attack on Benghazi.

The accountability review board did not pull a single punch. They sound systemic problems and management deficiencies in two State Department bureaus. And the review board recommended 29 specific improvements. I pledged that by the time I left office, every one would be on the way to implementation and they were.

More Marines were slated for deployment to high-threat embassies. Additional diplomatic security agents were being hired and trained. And Secretary Kerry has continued this work.

But there is more to do and no administration can do it alone. Congress has to be our partner, as it has been after previous tragedies. For example, the accountability review board and subsequent investigations have recommended improved training for our officers before they deploy to the field. But efforts to establish a modern joint training center are being held up by Congress. The men and women who serve our country deserve better.

Finally, there is one more observation I’d like to share. I traveled to 112 countries as secretary of state. Every time I did, I felt great pride and honor representing the country that I love. We need leadership at home to match our leadership abroad, leadership that puts national security ahead of politics and ideology. Our nation has a long history of bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy and national security. Not that we always agree, far from it, but we do come together when it counts.

As secretary of state, I worked with the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to pass a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. I worked with the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, to open up Burma, now Myanmar, to democratic change. I know it’s possible to find common ground because I have done it. We should debate on the basis of fact, not fear. We should resist denigrating the patriotism or loyalty of those with whom we disagree. So I’m here. Despite all the previous investigations and all the talk about partisan agendas, I’m here to honor those we lost and to do what I can to aid those who serve us still.

My challenge to you, members of this committee, is the same challenge I put to myself. Let’s be worthy of the trust the American people have bestowed upon us. They expect us to lead, to learn the right lessons, to rise above partisanship and to reach for statesmanship. That’s what I tried to do every day as secretary of state and it’s what I hope we will all strive for here today and into the future.

Thank you.
Meet the members of the Benghazi panel
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The group investigating the Benghazi incident is made up of seven Republicans and five Democrats.

GOWDY: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

I did not cut off your opening at all, nor would I think about doing so because the subject matter is critically important and you deserve to be heard. I would just simply note that, and I don’t plan on cutting off any of your answers — our members have questions that we believe are worthy of being answered, so I would just simply note that we do plan to ask all of the questions, and whatever precision and concision that you can give to the answers, without giving short shrift to any of the answers, would be much appreciated.

And with that, I would recognize the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Roskam.

ROSKAM: Good morning, Secretary Clinton.

Jake Sullivan, your chief foreign policy adviser, wrote a tick- tock on Libya memo on August 21, 2011. And this was the day before the rebels took Tripoli. He titles it, quote, “Secretary Clinton’s Leadership on Libya,” in which he describes you as, quote, “a critical voice” and, quote, “the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya and instrumental in tightening the noose around Gadhafi and his regime.”

But that didn’t come easy, did it? Because you faced considerable opposition, and I can pause while you’re reading your notes from your staff.

CLINTON: One thing at a time, Congressman.

ROSKAM: OK. That didn’t come easy, did it, that leadership role and that public face and so forth that I just mentioned?

CLINTON: (OFF-MIKE) this is an issue that the committee has raised. And it really boils down to why were we in Libya; why did the United States join with our NATO and European allies, join with our Arab partners to protect the people of Libya against the murderous planning of Gadhafi. Why did we take a role alongside our partners in doing so.

There were a number of reasons for that. And I think it is important to remind the American people where we were at the time when the people of Libya, like people across the region, rose up demanding freedom and democracy, a chance to chart their own futures. And Gadhafi…

ROSKAM: I take your point.

CLINTON: … Gadhafi threatened them with genocide, with hunting them down like cockroaches. And we were then approached by, with great intensity, our closest allies in Europe, people who felt very strongly — the French and the British, but others as well — that they could not stand idly by and permit that to happen so close to their shores, with the unintended consequences that they worried about.

And they asked for the United States to help. We did not immediately say yes. We did an enormous amount of due diligence in meeting with not only our European and Arab partners, but also with those were heading up what was called the Transitional National Council. And we had experienced diplomats who were digging deep into what was happening in Libya and what the possibilities were, before we agreed to provide very specific, limited help to the European and Arab efforts.

We did not put one American soldier on the ground. We did not have one casualty. And in fact, I think by many measures, the cooperation between NATO and Arab forces was quite remarkable and something that we want to learn more lessons from.

ROSKAM: Secretary Clinton, you were meeting with opposition within the State Department from very senior career diplomats in fact. And they were saying that it was going to produce a net negative for U.S. military intervention.

For example, in a March 9th, 2011 e-mail discussing what has become known as the Libya options memo, Ambassador Stephen Mull, then the executive secretary of the State Department and one of the top career diplomats, said this, “In the case of our diplomatic history, when we’ve provided material or tactical military support to people seeking to drive their leaders from power, no matter how just their cause, it’s tended to produce net negatives for our interests over the long term in those countries.”

Now, we’ll come back to that in a minute. But you overruled those career diplomats. I mean, they report to you and you’re the chief diplomat of the United States. Go ahead and read the note if you need to.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: I have to — I have to…

ROSKAM: I’m not done with my question. I’m just giving you the courtesy of reading your notes.

CLINTON: That’s all right.

ROSKAM: All right.

They were — they were pushing back, but you overcame those objections. But then you had another big obstacle, didn’t you, and that was — that was the White House itself. There were senior voices within the White House that were opposed to military action — Vice President Biden, Department of Defense, Secretary Gates, the National Security Council and so forth.

But you persuaded President Obama to intervene militarily. Isn’t that right?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, I think it’s important to point out there were many in the State Department who believed it was very much in America’s interests and in furtherance of our values to protect the Libyan people, to join with our European allies and our Arab partners. The ambassador, who had had to be withdrawn from Libya because of direct attacks — or direct threats to his physical safety, but who knew Libya very well, Ambassador Cretz, was a strong advocate for doing what we could to assist the Europeans and the Arabs.

CLINTON: I think it’s fair to say there were concerns and there were varying opinions about what to do, how to do it, and the like. At the end of the day, this was the president’s decision. And all of us fed in our views. I did not favor it until I had done, as I said, the due diligence speaking with not just people within our government and within the governments of all of the other nations who were urging us to assist them, but also meeting in-person with the gentleman who had assumed a lead role in the Transitional National Council.

So it is of course fair to say this is a difficult decision. I wouldn’t sit here and say otherwise. And there were varying points of view about it. But at the end of the day, in large measure, because of the strong appeals from our European allies, the Arab League passing resolution urging that the United States and NATO join with them, those were unprecedented requests.

And we did decide in recommending to the president there was a way to do it. The president I think, very clearly had a limited instruction about how to proceed. And the first planes that flew were French planes. And I think what the United States provided was some of our unique capacity. But the bulk of the work militarily was done by Europeans and Arabs.

ROSKAM: Well I think you are underselling yourself. You got the State Department on board. You convinced the president, you overcame the objections of Vice President Biden and Secretary of Defense Gates, the National Security Council. And you had another obstacle then, and that was the United Nations.

And you were able to persuade the Russians, of all things, to abstain, and had you not been successful in arguing that abstention, the Security Council Resolution 1973 wouldn’t have passed because the Russians had a veto. So you overcame that obstacle as well, right? Isn’t that right?

CLINTON: Well congressman, it is right that doing my due diligence and reviewing the various options and the potential consequences of pursuing each of them, I was in favor of the United States joining with our European allies and our air partners and I also was in favor of obtaining U.N. Security Council support because I thought that would provide greater legitimacy. And that of course, our ambassador to the U.N. was very influential and successful in making the case to her colleagues. But this was at the behest of the president once he was presented with the varying argument.

ROSKAM: And you presented the argument… CLINTON: Congressman, I have been in a number of situation room discussions. I remember very well, the very intense conversation over whether or not to launch the Navy SEALS against the compound we thought in (inaudible) that might house bin Laden.

There was a split in the advisers around the president. Eventually the president makes the decision. I supported doing what we could to support our European and Arab partners in their effort on a humanitarian basis, a strategic basis, to prevent Gadhafi from launching and carrying massacres.

ROSKAM: There was another obstacle that you overcame and that was the Arabs themselves. Jake Sullivan sent you an e-mail, and he said this, “I think you should call. It will be a painful 10 minutes. But you will be the one who delivered Arab support.” And that’s a Jake Sullivan e-mail of March 17th to you asking you to call the secretary general of the Arab League.

So to put this in totality, you were able to overcome opposition within the State Department. You were able to persuade the president. You were able to persuade the United Nations and the international community. You made the call to the Arabs and brought them home. You saw it. You drove it. You articulated it. And you persuaded people. Did I get that wrong?

CLINTON: Well, congressman, I was the secretary of state. My job was to conduct the diplomacy. And the diplomacy consisted of a long series of meetings and phone calls both here in our country and abroad to take the measure of what people were saying and whether they meant it.

We had heard sometimes before from countries saying, well, the United States should go do this. And when we would say, well, what would you do in support of us, there was not much coming forth. This time, if they wanted us to support them in what they saw as an action vital respective to their respective national security interests, I wanted to be sure they were going to bear the bulk of the load. And in fact, they did. What the United States did, as I said, was use our unique capacities. As I recall, if you want if you monetary terms, slightly over a billion dollars or less than we spend in Iraq in one day, is what the United States committed in support of our allies. We asked our allies to do a lot for us Congressman, they had asked is for us to help them.

ROSKAM: My time is expiring. Let me reclaim my time. Let me reclaim my time because it’s expiring. Actually, you summed it up best when you e-mailed your senior staff and you said of this interchange, you said, “It’s good to remind ourselves and the rest of the world that this couldn’t have happened without us.” And you were right, Secretary Clinton.

Our Libya policy be couldn’t have happened without you because you were its chief architect. And I said we were going to go back to Ambassador Mulls’ warning about using military for regime change, and he said, “Long-term things weren’t going to turn out very well. And he was right. After your plan, things in Libya today are a disaster. I yield back.

CLINTON: Well, we’ll have more time I’m sure to talk about this because that’s not a view that I will ascribe to.

GOWDY: Thank the gentleman from Illinois and I recognize the gentleman from Maryland.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much Madam secretary, and again I want to thank you for being here. I want to start with the No. 1 question that Republicans claim has not been answered in eight previous investigations. Yesterday the chairman wrote an op-ed and he said, this is his top unanswered question about Benghazi. And it is, and I quote, “Why our people in Libya and Benghazi made so many requests for additional security personnel and equipment and why those requests were denied?”

I’ll give you a chance to answer in a minute. Secretary Clinton, as you know, this exact question has been asked many times and answered many times. Let’s start with the accountability review board. Now you, a moment ago you talked about Admiral Mullen. But you also appointed another very distinguished gentlemen, Ambassador Pickering.

And of course Admiral Mullen served under Republican administrations. And Ambassador Pickering, who I have a phenomenal amount of respect for, served 40 years, as you know, as part of our diplomatic core. He served under George H.W. Bush and also served as U.N. Ambassador under — he also served under Reagan.

Now, I’m just wondering — let me go back to that question. Why our people in Libya and Benghazi made so many requests, and then, I want you to comment. There seems to be an implication that the ARB, Accountability Review Board, was not independent. And I think the chairman said they were hand-picked by you, of course, that’s done by law. But I’m just — would you comment on those two things, please?

CLINTON: Yes. I’d be happy to.

Now, as I said in my opening statement, I take responsibility for what happened in Benghazi. I felt a responsibility for all 70,000 people working at the State Department in USAID. I take that very seriously. As I said with respect to security requests in Benghazi back when I testified in January 2013, those requests and issues related to security were rightly handled by the security professionals in the department.

I did not see them. I did not approve them. I did not deny them. Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen make this case very clearly in their testimony before your committee and in their public comments. These issues would not ordinarily come before the secretary of state. And they did not in this case.

As secretary, I was committed to taking aggressive measures to ensure our personnel’s and facilities were as safe as possible. And certainly when the nonpartisan critical report from the accountability review board came forward, I took it very seriously. And that’s why I embraced all of their recommendations and created a new position within the Diplomatic Security Bureau specifically to evaluate high- risk posts.

CLINTON: I think it’s important also to mention, Congressman, that the Diplomatic Security professionals who were reviewing these requests, along with those who are serving in war zones and hot spots around the world, have great expertise and experience in keeping people safe. If you go on CODELs, they are the ones who plan your trip to keep you safe.

They certainly did that for me. But most importantly, that’s what they do every day for everybody who serves our country as a diplomat or development professional.

And I was not going to second-guess them. I was not going to substitute my judgment, which is not based on experience that they have in keeping people safe, for theirs. And the changes that were recommended by the accountability review board are ones that we thought made sense and began quickly to implement.

CUMMINGS: Now, the ARB., after conducting, Madam Secretary, more than 100 interviews, identifies a specific employee at the State Department who denied these requests. It was Deputy Assistant Secretary Of The Bureau Of Diplomatic Security Charlene Lamb. And again, she did come before the Oversight Committee.

The ARB report was very critical of her. It was also critical of her two supervisors. Principal deputy assistant secretary and the assistant secretary for Diplomatic Security. The Oversight Committee found the same answer as the ARB. It found that this official denied these requests. It found no evidence that you approved or denied them.

The problem is Republicans just keep asking the same question over and over again, and pretend they don’t know the answer. In 2013, the Republican chairman of five House committees issued a report falsely accusing you personally of denying these requests cable (ph) over your signature.

The next day, the next day, the chairman of the Oversight Committee Darrell Issa, went on national television and accused you of the same thing.

Can we play that clip, please?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF.: Secretary of State was just wrong. She said she did not participate in this. And yet only a few months before the attack, she outright denied security in her signature in April 2014.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUMMINGS: Do you remember that, Madam Secretary?

CLINTON: I do.

CUMMINGS: Well, when the Washington Post fact checker examined this claim, they gave it four Pinocchios. They called it a whopper. It turns out, that the Republicans had a copy of that cable, but didn’t tell the American people that your so-called signature was just a stamp that appeared on millions of cables from the State Department every single year.

Is that right?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

CUMMINGS: Now, Madam Secretary, my goal has always been to gather facts and to defend the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Last year, I asked our staff to compile an asked and answered database.

And this particular issue was answered thoroughly. On Monday, we put out another report and this issue was addressed yet again. But the Republicans want to keep this attack going, so they are now trying to argue that we have new e-mails that raise new questions.

The truth is that we have reviewed these e-mails, and they don’t contradict previous conclusions. They confirm them. They corroborate them. We have reviewed e-mails from Ambassador Stevens. And they show that he asked Charleston Lamb for more security.

Nothing we have obtained, not the new interviews or the new e- mails changes the basic fact we have known for three years.

Secretary Clinton, let me ask one final question, and please take as much time as you want to answer this. There is no evidence to support the Republican claims that you personally rejected security requests. So, some have a argued that since you knew the danger was increasing in Libya, you should have been in there making detailed decisions about whether this would be 5, 7, or even 9 security officers at any given post.

Madam Secretary, I know you have answered it over again. You might just want to elaborate and just I’ll give you — I have a minute and seven seconds.

CLINTON: Well, thank you, Congressman. I think there has been some confusion, and I welcome the opportunity to try to clarify it to the best of my ability. With respect, as you rightly point out, the claims that were made about the cables, I think you have explained the fact, which is that it is the long-standing tradition of the State Department for cables from around the world to be sent to and sent from the State Department under the signature, over the signature of the secretary of State. It’s a — it’s a stamp. It’s just part of the tradition. There are millions of them, as you point out. They are sorted through and directed to the appropriate personnel. Very few of them ever come to my attention.

None of them with respect to security regarding Benghazi did. Then the other point, which I thank you for raising so that perhaps I can speak to this one as well. There is, of course, information that we were obtaining about the increasingly dangerous environment in Libya.

Across the country, but in particular in Eastern Libya. And we were aware of that. And we were certainly taking that into account. There was no actionable intelligence on September 11th, or even before that date, about any kind of planned attack on our compound in Benghazi. And there were a lot of debates, apparently, that went on within the security professionals about what to provide.

Because they did have to prioritize. The Accountability Review Board pointed that out. The State Department has historically, and certainly before this terrible accident, not had the amount of money we thought necessary to do what was required to protect everyone.

So, of course, there had to be priorities. And that was something that the security professionals dealt with. I think that both Admiral Mullen And Ambassador Pickering made it very clear that they thought that the high threat post should move to a higher level of scrutiny. And we had immediately moved to do that.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

GOWDY: Thank the gentleman. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from Indiana, Ms. Brooks.

BROOKS: Good morning, Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: Good morning.

BROOKS: Thank you for being here today. In drawing on what you just said, that very few, but no requests for Benghazi came to your attention, I’d like to show you something. This pile represents the e-mails that you sent or received about Libya in 2011, from February through December of 2011.

This pile represents the e-mails you sent or received from early 2012 until the day of the attack. There are 795 e-mails in this pile. We’ve counted them.

There’s 67 e-mails in this pile in 2012. And I’m troubled by what I see here. And so, my questions relate to these piles. In this pile in 2011 I see daily updates, sometimes is hourly updates from your staff about Benghazi and Chris Stevens.

When I look at this pile in 2012, I only see a handful of e-mails to you from your senior staff about Benghazi. And I have several questions for you about this disparity, because we know from talking to your senior advisers, that they knew, and many of them are here today seated behind you, they knew to send you important information, issues that were of importance to you.

And I can only conclude by your own records that there was a lack of interest in Libya in 2012.

So, let’s first focus, though, on this pile and what was happening in Libya in 2011. We had an ambassador to Libya, Ambassador Cretz. But you have told us — and you told us in your opening, you hand-picked Chris Stevens to be your special representative in Benghazi, and you sent him there.

And by your own e-mails, most provided last February, a few provided just a few weeks ago, they show that in March of ’11 — so, we’re in March of ’11, you had Chris Stevens join you in Paris, where you were meeting with the leader of the Libyan revolution.

And after Paris, that is when, as you talked about Chris Stevens went into Benghazi I believe in April 5th of 2011 on that Greek cargo ship. How long was he expected to stay?

What were Chris Stevens’s orders from you about Libya and about Benghazi specifically?

CLINTON: Chris Stevens was asked to go to Benghazi to do reconnaissance, to try to figure out who were the leaders of the insurgency who were based in Benghazi, what their goals were, what they understood would happen if they were successful. It was, as I had, the hard-nosed 21st century diplomacy that is rooted in the old- fashioned necessary work of building relationships and gathering information.

BROOKS: How long was he anticipated to stay in Benghazi, do you recall?

CLINTON: There — it was open-ended. We were, in discussing it with him, unsure as to how productive it would be, whether it would be appropriate for him to stay for a long time or a short time. That was very much going to depend upon Chris’ own assessment.

We knew we were sending someone who understood the area, who understood the language, who understood a lot of the personalities because of the historical study that he used to love to do. And we were going to be guided by what he decided.

BROOKS: I’d like to draw your attention to an e-mail. It’s an e-mail found at Tab 1. It’s an Op Center e-mail that was forwarded to you from Huma Abedin on Sunday, March 27th that says at the bottom of the e-mail — so the current game plan is for Mr. Stevens to move no later than Wednesday from Malta to Benghazi. But the bottom of the e- mail says the goal of this one-day trip is for him to lay the groundwork for a stay of up to 30 days.

So just to refresh that recollection, I believe initially the goal was to go in for 30 days. Were you personally briefed on his security plan prior to him going into Libya?

CLINTON: Yes.

BROOKS: Because at that time, if I’m not mistaken — I’m sorry to interrupt — Gadhafi’s forces were still battling the rebels, correct?

CLINTON: That’s right.

BROOK: And so what were — were you personally briefed before you sent Mr. Stevens into Benghazi?

CLINTON: I was personally told by the officials who were in the State Department who were immediately above Chris, who were making the plans for him to go in, that it was going to be expeditionary diplomacy. It was going to require him to make a lot of judgments on the ground about what he could accomplish and including where it would be safe for him to be and how long for him to stay. And I think the initial decision was, you know, up to 30 days and reassess. But it could have been 10 days, it could have been 60 days depending upon what he found and what he reported back to us.

BROOKS: And possibly what was determined about the danger of Benghazi. Who were those officials?

CLINTON: Well, there were a number of officials who were…

BROOKS: That were advising you on the security specifically?

CLINTON: Well, with respect to the security, this was a particular concern of the assistant secretary for the bureau in which Chris worked.

BROOKS: I’m sorry. What was that person’s name?

CLINTON: Assistant secretary Jeff Feldman.

BROOKS: Thank you.

CLINTON: And it was also a concern of the assistant secretary for diplomatic security, as well as other officials within the State Department. And I think it’s fair to say, Congresswoman, this was, we all knew, a risky undertaking and it was something that was, as I said in my opening statement, more reminiscent of the way diplomacy was practiced back in the 19th century.

Because we didn’t have is the Internet. We didn’t have instantaneous communication. You would send diplomats and envoys into places and not hear from them for maybe months. This was obviously not of that kind, but it was not that different in degree from what we had done before. And it was a risky undertaking and one which Chris volunteered for and was anxious to undertake.

BROOKS: And it was so risky — I’d like to pull up another e- mail from the Op Center that forwarded to you from Ms. Abedin Sunday, April 10th. So he had been there about five days. And it indicates that the situation in Ajdabiya had worsened to the point where Stevens is considering departing from Benghazi. This is within five days of him going in.

Were you aware of that concern in the first five days that he had gone in?

CLINTON: Yes.

BROOKS: And did anyone share that with you and — did share that with you?

CLINTON: Yes. We were aware because we were — we were really counting on Chris to guide us and give us the information from the ground. We had no other sources. You know, there was no American outpost. There was no, you know, American military presence. Eventually, other Americans representing different agencies were able to get into Benghazi and begin to do the same work, but they, of course, couldn’t do that work overtly, which is why we wanted a diplomat who could be publicly meeting with people to try to get the best assessment.

But it was always going to be a constant risk, and we knew that.

BROOKS: And so let me go back to the risk in 2011 because there was a lot of communication, again, once again from your senior staff, from the State Department to you or from you in 2011. And in fact, that is when Gadhafi fell. He fell in 2011. But then when we go to 2012, Libya, Benghazi, Chris Stevens, the staff there, they seem to fall off your radar in 2012, and the situation is getting much worse in 2012. It was getting much worse.

And let me just share for you in your records that we have reviewed, there is not one e-mail to you or from you in 2012 when an explosive device went off at our compound in April. There’s not a single e-mail in your records about that explosive device.

So my question is, this was a very important mission in 2011, you sent Chris Stevens there. But yet when your compound is attacked in 2012, what kind of culture was created in the State Department that your folks couldn’t tell you in an e-mail about a bomb in April of 2012?

CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, I did not conduct most of the business that I did on behalf of our country on e-mail. I conducted it in meetings. I read massive amounts of memos, a great deal of classified information. I made a lot of secure phone calls. I was in and out of the White House all the time. There were a lot of things that happened that I was aware of and that I was reacting to.

If you were to be in my office in the State Department, I didn’t have a computer, I did not do the vast is majority of the work on my e-mail. And I bet there are a lot of Sid Blumenthal’s e-mails in there from 2011 too.

BROOKS: Well, we’ll get to…

CLINTON: And so I think that there were — I don’t want you to have a mistaken impression about what I did and how I did it. Most of my work was not done on e-mails with my closest aides, with officials in the State Department, officials in the rest of the government, as well as the White House and people around the world.

BROOKS: And thank you for sharing that because I’m sure that it’s not all done on e-mails, Madam Secretary, and there are meetings and there are discussions. And so then when your compound took a second attack on June 6th, when a bomb blew a wall through the compound then, no e-mails, no e-mails at all. But I am interested in knowing who were you meeting with, who were you huddling with, how were you informed about those things? Because there is nothing in the e-mails that talks about two significant attacks on our compounds in 2012. There was a lot of information in 2011 about issues and security posture and yet nothing in 2012.

CLINTON: Well, I’d be happy to explain. Every morning when I arrived at the State Department, usually between 8:00 and 8:30, I had a personal one-on-one briefing from the representative of the Central Intelligence Agency who shared with me the highest level of classified information that I was to be aware of on a daily basis.

I then had a meeting with the top officials of the State Department every day that I was in town. That’s where a lot of information, including threats and attacks on our facilities, was shared. I also had a weekly meeting every Monday with all of the officials, the assistant secretaries and others, so that I could be brought up to date on any issue they were concerned about.

During the day, I received hundreds of pages of memos, many of them classified, some of them so top secret they were brought into my office in a locked briefcase that I had to read and immediately return to the courier. And I was constantly at the White House in the situation room meeting with the national security adviser and others. I would also be meeting with officials in the State Department, foreign officials and others.

So there was a lot going on during every day. I did not e-mail during the day and — except on rare occasions when I was able to. But I didn’t conduct the business that I did primarily on e-mail. That is not how I gathered information, assessed information, asked the hard questions of the people that I worked with.

BROOKS: It appears that leaving Benghazi — with respect to all of that danger, leaving Benghazi was not an option in 2012.

And I yield back.

CLINTON: If I could just quickly respond, there was never a recommendation from any intelligence official in our government, from any official in the State Department, or from any other person with knowledge of our presence in Benghazi to shut down Benghazi, even after the two attacks that the compound suffered.

And perhaps, you know, you would wonder why, but I can tell you that it was thought that the mission in Benghazi, in conjunction with the CIA mission, was vital to our national interests.

GOWDY: The gentlelady from Indiana yields back.

The chair will now briefly recognize Mr. Cummings and then Ms. Duckworth.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to clarify, when I was asking Secretary Clinton a question a moment ago, I mentioned an e-mail that had gone from Ambassador Chris Stevens to Deputy Secretary Lamb. What I meant to say was a cable. And I just wanted to make sure the record was clear.

GOWDY: The record will reflect that.

Ms. Duckworth?

DUCKWORTH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Secretary Clinton, I’m pleased that you finally have the opportunity to be here. Before I start my line of questioning, I just want to clarify with regard to the April-June, 2012 incidents. I believe that the procedure that the State Department had for these types of incidents was to actually hold what are called emergency action committee hearings on the ground immediately. And in fact, there were at least five on the records for June alone, on the ground in both Tripoli and Benghazi.

And that is the correct procedure for handling such instances. Is that not correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

Secretary Clinton, my focus and my job on this committee is to make sure that we never put brave Americans like Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty ever on the ground again anywhere in the world without the protection that they so rightly deserve.

Having flown combat missions myself in some dangerous places, I understand the dedication of our men and women who choose to serve this country overseas. I have a special affinity for the diplomatic corps because these are folks who go in without the benefit of weapons, without the benefit of military might, armed only with America’s values and diplomatic words and a handshake, to forward our nation’s interests globally.

And so I am absolutely determined to make sure that we safeguard in the name of our heroic dead our men and women in the diplomatic corps wherever where they around the world.

So, the bottom line for me, I’m a very mission-driven person, the bottom line for me with respect to examining what went wrong in Benghazi is clear. Let’s learn from those mistakes and let’s figure out what we need to do to fix them.

I’ve only been in Congress not quite three years, almost three years. And in this time, I’ve actually served on two other committees in addition to this one that has looked at the Benghazi attacks, both Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform. So I’ve had a chance to really look at all of these documents.

One of the things that I saw, and I’d like you to — discuss this with you, is that the Department of State and the Department of Defense at the time seems to have not had the most ideal cooperation when it came to threat or security analysis. I do know, however, that over the past decade, they’ve established a tradition of working together on the ground in dangerous regions that has increased over time.

However, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, which also looked at the Benghazi attack, I’m concerned that the interagency cooperation between State and DOD was not sufficient in the weeks and months leading up to the September 11, 2012 attacks. For example, joint contingency planning and training exercises, if we had conducted any joint interagency planning and training exercises, this may have actually helped State and DOD to identify and fix existing vulnerabilities in the temporary mission facility in Benghazi.

Moreover, regular communications between AFRICOM, which is the DOD command, and the special mission Benghazi, could have facilitated the pre-positioning of military assets in a region where there were very real questions over the host country’s ability to protect our diplomatic personnel.

Secretary Clinton, within the weeks of the terrorist attack in Benghazi happening, following that, I understand you partnered with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to establish and deploy five interagency security assessment teams to assess our security posture and needs at at least the 19 high-threat posts in 13 different countries. In fact, Deputy Secretary Nize (ph) testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in December of 2012 that the State Department and DOD ISAT initiative created a road map for addressing emerging security challenges.

Why did you partner with the Department of Defense to conduct such a high-priority review? And was it effective in addressing the shortfalls inn Benghazi and applying it for other locations?

CLINTON: Congressman — Congresswoman, thank you very much, and thanks for your service, and particularly your knowledge about these issues rising from your own military service and the service on the committees here in the House.

It’s very challenging to get military assets into countries that don’t want them there. And in fact, that has been a constant issue that we have worked, between the State Department and the Department of Defense. The Libyans made it very clear from the very beginning they did not want any American military or any foreign military at all in their country.

And what I concluded is that we needed to have these assessments because even if we couldn’t post our own military in the country, we needed to have a faster reaction. I certainly agree 100 percent with the findings of the Armed Services Committee here in the House and other investigations. Our military did everything they could. They turned over every rock. They tried to deploy as best they could to try to get to Benghazi. It was beyond the geographic range. They didn’t have assets nearby because we don’t have a lot of installations and military personnel that are in that immediate region.

So following what happened in Benghazi, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey and I, agreed to send out mixed teams of our diplomatic security and their top security experts from the Defense Department to get a better idea of the 19 high-threat posts. And that’s exactly what we did. And it gave us some guidance to try to have better planning ahead of time.

I know Admiral Mullen testified that it would be beyond the scope of our military to be able to provide immediate reaction to 270 posts. But that’s why we tried to narrow down. And of course, we do get help from our military in war zones. The military has been incredibly supportive of our embassy in Kabul and our embassy in Baghdad. But we have a lot of hot spots now and very dangerous places that are not in military conflict areas where we have American military presence.

So we wanted to figure out how we could get more quickly a fast reaction team to try to help prevent what happened in Benghazi.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

So this ISAT process that the joint teams at DOD and State that goes out, and initially looked at the 19 posts, that’s great that they come back with a report. It’s kind of like, you know, the seven reports do this, and now we have another committee. We can keep having committees to look into Benghazi, but we never act on them. It doesn’t help our men and women on the ground. And that’s what I’m focused on.

So what I want to know is, with these ISATs, so they came back with their recommendations to you. Have they been resourced? Are they institutionalized? Is — what has been done with this process so that it’s not a snapshot in time in reaction to Benghazi attack? And I want to make sure that, you know, at the very least, we’re continuing that cooperation, or at least there’s some sort of institutionalization of the review process to make sure that if it’s not those 19 posts, if the shift now is there’s 20 posts or some other posts. What has been done to make sure it’s institutionalized?

CLINTON: Well, that was one of the changes that I instituted before I left. And I’m confident that Secretary Kerry and his counterpart, Secretary Carter, at the Defense Department are continuing that. Because I think it was very useful. Certainly, it was useful for our security professionals and our diplomats to be partnered in that way with the Defense Department.

You know, historically, the only presence at some of our facilities has been Marines. And as you know well, Marines were there not for the purpose of personnel protection. They were there to destroy classified material and equipment. And so part of the challenge that we have faced inn some of these hot-spot, dangerous areas is how we get more of a presence. And after Benghazi, we were able to get Marines deployed to Tripoli.

So this is a constant effort between the State Department and the Defense Department, but it’s my strong belief that the ISAT process has been and should be institutionalized and we should keep learning from it.

DUCKWORTH: I’d like to touch on the quadrennial reviews. Again, coming from Armed Services, even as a young platoon leader out in, you know, in a platoon, we got and read the defense quadrennial review, which is a review that happens on a periodic basis, that gives the individual soldier an idea of what the Defense Department is trying to do. And I understand you initiated something similar in the State Department.

CLINTON: Right.

DUCKWORTH: And this goes to — there’s been discussion already about the culture at the State Department, especially when it comes to security. I found that the Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review is really good at instilling culture throughout the department.

Can you talk a little bit how and why you decided to do the review for the State Department? Was it useful? Is it useful? Is it getting out there? Is it a waste of time, and we shouldn’t be wasting money on it and we should be doing something else?

CLINTON: Well, I hope it’s not the latter. I learned about the Quadrennial Defense Review serving on Armed Services Committee in the Senate during my time there.

I agree with you completely, Congresswoman. It is a very successful road map as to where we should be going. And I’m impressed as a platoon leader, it was something you too into account. So, when I came to the State Department, there had never been anything like this done, there was no road map.

And the State Department, USAID would come up and fight for the money they could get out of Congress, no matter who was in charge of the Congress, every single year. It is one percent of the entire budget. And it was very difficult to explain effectively what it is we were trying to achieve.

So it did institute the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Diplomacy And Development Review. And one of the key questions that we were addressing is, what is this balance between risk and reward when it comes to our diplomats and our development professionals?

Because the first thing I heard when I got to the State Department was a litany of complaints from a lot of our most experienced diplomats that they were being ham-strung. That the security requirements were so intense, that they were basically unable to do their jobs. And of course, then, from the security professionals, who were all part of this, what we call the QDDR, they were saying, we don’t want you to go beyond the fence.

We can’t protect you in all of these dangerous circumstances. How you balance that — and it is a constant balancing of risk and reward, in terms of what we hope our diplomats and development professionals can do. So, it has been twice now. Secretary Kerry, in his tenure, has done the second QDDR. And I hope it becomes as important and as much of a road map as the QDR has for our Defense Department and our military services.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you. I’m out of time, Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Thank you the gentle lady from Illinois. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from Alabama, Ms. Roby.

ROBY: Good morning.

CLINTON: Good morning.

ROBY: Secretary Clinton, some I colleagues have focused on your relationship with the Ambassador Chris Stevens, and why you sent him into Benghazi in 2011 as part of your broader Libya initiative.

But it’s not so clear from everything that we’ve reviewed that you had a vision in Benghazi going forward into 2012 and beyond. It appears that there was confusion and uncertainly within your own department about Libya. And quite frankly, Secretary Clinton, it appears that you were a large cause of that uncertainty.

And we have seen all the day-to-day updates and concern early in 2011. And I heard what you said to my colleague, Ms. Brooks. And I’ll get to that in a minute.

But showing that Libya, and for that matter Benghazi, belonged to you in 2011. It was yours, so to speak. And from your own records that we have, we saw a drop in your interest in Libya and Benghazi in 2012.

Not only do the records show your drop in interest in Benghazi, it was even noticed by your own staff. I want to point this out to you — I say this, because I want to point you to an e-mail in early February 2012, between two staffers at your Libya desk that says, you didn’t know whether we still even had a presence in Benghazi.

Let’s not use my words. Let’s use theirs. This can be found at tab 31. The e-mail says — and it is dated February 9, 2012. One writes to the other about an encounter that she had with you.

Quote, “Also, the secretary also asked last week if we still have a presence in Benghazi. I think she would be upset to hear, yes, we do. But because we don’t have enough security, they are on lockdown,” end quote.

And I say this is very troubling to me because it raises several issues that I would like to ask you about. I’m struck by the first part, quote, “The secretary asked last week if we still have a presence in Benghazi.” Now, you pointed out to Mrs. Brooks in her last line of questioning, based on the e-mail stacks here, that you engaged in a lot of conversations and briefings. So, I’m assuming that this conversation with this member of your staff took place in one of those briefings.

But then she sent this e-mail asking about this. So, how can this be that two of your staffers are e-mailing about whether or not you even knew if we had a presence in Benghazi in 2012, with all your interest in Libya in 2011, including your trip in October of 2011? And that months later, we come to find out you didn’t even know we had a presence there?

CLINTON: Well, I can’t comment on what has been reported. Of course, I knew we had a presence in Benghazi. I knew that we were evaluating what that presence should be, how long it should continue. And I knew exactly what we were doing in Libya.

And I think it’s important. Since you have very legitimate questions about what we were doing. You know, the United States played a role in the first election that the Libyan people had in 51 years. It was a successful election by every count. And they voted for moderates. They voted for the kind of people they wanted to govern them.

We had a very successful effort that the United States supported, getting rid of Gadhafi’s remaining chemical weapons, which we led and supported the United Nations and others in being able to do.

We were combating the proliferation of weapons. That’s one of the reasons why there was a CIA presence in Benghazi, because we were trying to figure out how to get those weapons out of the wrong hands, and get them collected in a way and destroyed. And in fact, we began reducing those heavy weapon stocks.

We were working on providing transition assistance to the Libyans. I met with the Libyans. I telephoned with the Libyans. I saw the Libyans all during this period. And it was hard. Because a lot of them knew what they wanted, but they didn’t know how to get from where they were to that goal.

And we did an enormous amount of work. My two deputies, Tom Nides and Bill Burns, went to Libya. Other officials in the State Department went to Libya. So there was a constant, continuing effort that I led to try to see what we could do to help.

Now, one of the problems we faced is that the Libyans did not really feel that welcome a peace-keeping mission. They couldn’t welcome foreign troops to their soil. That made it really difficult. And it didn’t have to be American troops, it could have been troops from anywhere in the world under a U.N. Mandate that might have helped them begin to secure their country.

ROBY: Secretary Clinton, if I may, I hear what you’re saying, but this e-mail says something very, very different.

CLINTON: Well, I — you know, I can’t speak to that. I can just tell you what I was doing, and I was doing a lot.

ROBY: Sure. But these — this was your staff. And I…

(CROSSTALK)

ROBY: If they had this conversation with you, why would they make it up?

But I want to move on. This e-mail, you know, makes me wonder about the vision for Benghazi, because they’re asking if you — they’re saying that you asked if we still had a presence. But if you — you know, we look at the second part of the e-mail, quote, “And I think she would be upset to say, yes, we do,” I…

CLINTON: Congresswoman, I’m sorry. I have no recollection of, or no knowledge of — of course…

ROBY: Well, please turn to tab 31, because it’s right there.

CLINTON: Well, I trust that you have read it. But I also tell you that we had a presence in Benghazi. We had members of the administration and Congress visiting Benghazi.

So, of course, I knew we had a presence in Benghazi. I can’t speak to what someone either heard or misheard. But I think what’s important, and I understand that the underlying point of your request question is, what were we doing about Libya? And after Gadhafi fell.

ROBY: Right. And I’ve heard that first part.

CLINTON: And that’s what I’m trying to explain to you about what we were doing.

ROBY: Yes, ma’am. I want to get to the second part of the e- mail that suggests that we were in lockdown, that you would have been upset to know yes — heard the first part of your answer — but that we were in lockdown. And you’ve said on numerous occasions, including in your opening statement, on point number one, you know, America must lead and we must represent in dangerous places, quote, “They can’t do their jobs for us in bunkers.”

And essentially what we know is that there weren’t the required number of security on the ground in order for the individual to even move about the country to provide you with what you have reiterated on numerous occasions as being very important at that time, which is political reporting.

CLINTON: Well, could — could you tell me who is — who are the names on this e-mail that you’re talking about?

ROBY: Sure. I can. Turn to tab 31. You have a book in front of you. It is Alice Abdallah and I’m going to pronounce it wrong, Enya Sodarais (ph)? Is that correct?

CLINTON: They were not on my staff. I’m not in any way contradicting what they think they heard or what they heard somebody say. But the people that I know…

ROBY: Can you tell me who they were if they were not on your staff?

CLINTON: They were not on my — they were in the State Department, along with thousands of other people. They were not part of the secretary staff. But I get what you’re saying, Congresswoman. And I want to focus on this. I think it’s a fair and important question.

The facility in Benghazi was a temporary facility. There had been no decision made as to whether or not it would be permanent. It was not even a consulate. Our embassy was in Tripoli. Obviously much of the work that we were doing was going through the embassy.

There was a very vigorous discussion on the part of people who were responsible for making a recommendation about Benghazi as to what form of consulate, what form of facility it should be. Chris Stevens believed that it should be a formal consulate.

But that was something that had to be worked out. And there had not yet been a decision at the time that the attack took place. So it was not a permanent facility. And, you know, there were a number of questions that people were asking about whether it could or should be.

ROBY: I want to drill down on the security issue. But I also want to say it’s frustrating for us here on this panel asking these questions to hear you in your opening statement talk about the responsibility you took for all 70 plus thousand employees, yet I read you an e-mail between two of those employees and it seems as though you’re just kind of brushing it off as not having any knowledge.

CLINTON: I’m just saying I have no recollection of it and it doesn’t correspond with the facts of what we were doing on a regular basis. ROBY: Well if we talk for just a minute about the security, I have a few seconds left. In 2011, during the revolution, then envoy Stevens had 10 agents with him on the ground in Benghazi. And then we know in 2012 where the security situation had deteriorated even further, there were only three agents assigned to Benghazi.

Again, can’t even move anybody off of the facility to do the necessary political reporting. And my question is, you know, why did you not acknowledge, because of your interest in 2011, the importance of having those security officers there to do what was so important to you, which was the political reporting? Then in 2011, 2010, and when an am bass doctor was there, three, and he brought two of his own the night of the attack, which would meet the requisite five, but there was really only three there at any given time. So if you could address that, again, I’m running a little short on time.

CLINTON: Well, he did have five with him on September 11th and…

ROBY: Well, he brought two, right? He brought two with him, there were three there, and there were…

CLINTON: Right. But the point was they were personal security. So they were there to secure him. So yes, he did bring two. When he got there, he had five.

ROBY: Can you address the discrepancy?

CLINTON: The day before September 10th he went in to Benghazi. He went to a luncheon with leading civic leaders, business leaders in Benghazi. So he felt very comfortable. It was his decision. Ambassadors do not have to seek permission from the State Department to travel around the country that they are assigned to.

He decided to go to Benghazi by taking two security officers with him and having three there, he had the requisite five that had been the subject of discussion between the embassy and the State Department security professionals.

I’m not going to in any way suggest that he or the embassy got everything they requested. We know that they didn’t from the Accountability Review Board, by investigations that were done by the Congress. We know that there were a lot of discussions about what was needed, particularly in Benghazi. And that the day that he died he had five security officers.

A lot of security professionals who have reviewed this matter, even those who are critical, that the State Department did not do enough, have said that the kind of attack that took place would have been very difficult to repel. That’s what we have to learn from, Congresswoman.

There are many lessons going back to Beirut, going back to Tehran and the take over of our embassy and going all the way through these years. And sometimes we learn lessons and we actually act and we do the best we can. And there’s a perfect, terrible example of that with respect to what happened in Benghazi.

Certainly. And my time has expired. We will certainly never know what the outcome would have been if there had been more agents that night. I yield back.

CLINTON: Well, that’s not what the professionals, that’s not what the experts in security have concluded, if you have read the Accountability Review Board…

ROBY: I have read it Secretary Clinton. And it says that security was grossly in adequate.

CLINTON: Well, it said that there were deficiencies within two bureaus in the State Department which we have moved to correct and it also pointed out that the diplomatic security officers that were there acted heroically. There was not one single question about what they did. And they were overrun. And it was unfortunate that the agreement we had with the CIA annex and when those brave men showed up that it was also not enough.

ROBY: Certainly. We’ll discuss this more. I have to yield back.

GOWDY: The gentle lady’s time has expired. The chair will now recognizes the gentleman from Washington.

SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you Madam Secretary for being here. Just to clarify, you knew we had a presence.

CLINTON: Of course I knew, I knew, Congressman, of course.

SMITH: Going back to your earlier question, you were also aware of those two attacks on your compounds even though you didn’t e-mail about it.

CLINTON: Yes, I was aware.

SMITH: And that I think sort of points out, I mean, after 17 months and $4.7 million, as the ranking member pointed out in his opening statements, and as we’ve seen today, you know, this committee is simply not doing its job. And I don’t really think it should have been formed in the first place.

But what we have heard here is well, first of all, an obsession with e-mail. The idea that two fairly junior level staffers might not have gotten something wrong in what they heard or the information in an e-mail might, in fact, not be accurate, are certainly not things that should be news to anybody. But it is the obsession with the e- mails that takes us off what should have been the task of this committee.

I also find it interesting that Mr. Obi’s (ph) final comments were to quote the ARB report. Yes, the ARB report I think was very good. I think we absolutely had to have it. I think it was appropriate for the committees and Congress to do the investigations they did. But all of that begs the question as to why we’ve spent the $4.7 million we have spent on this.

And even in the chairman’s opening remarks, it was primarily a defense of the committee’s existence. Not any new information. Not here’s what we, in those 17 months and $4.7 million have figured out that is new and different. Nothing. In fact, we have heard nothing. Even in today’s hearing. Not a single solitary thing that hasn’t already been discussed repeatedly. So we have learned absolutely nothing.

Yes, we have uncovered a trove of new information. In this age, I don’t think there’s ever an end to e-mails. We could probably go on for another two years and we’d find more. The question is what we found anything substantively that tells us something different about what happened in Benghazi? And the answer to that question is no.

Look, I didn’t think this committee should have been formed in the first place. But if it was going to be formed, the least we could do is to actually focus on the four brave Americans who were killed, why they were killed, and focus on Benghazi. And we have not. Mr. Roskam’s questions I found to be the most interesting. Basically — I don’t know, it was like he was running for president.

He wanted to debate you on overall Libya policy as to why we got in the first place. And that’s debatable. And I think you will argue that quite well. But that’s not about the attack on Benghazi. That’s not about what we could have done in Benghazi to better protect them.

So again, I think we have seen hat this committee is focused on you. And I’m the ranking member of the Armed Services committee. I don’t see the Department of Defense here. I don’t see the CIA here. There were many, many other agencies involved in this. And yet yours has been the one they have obsessively focused on. And I think that’s a shame for a whole lot of reasons.

SMITH: For one thing, this committee, as it has been in the news the last several weeks, has been yet one more step in denigrating this institution. And I happen to think this institution needs more support, not less. So I wish we would stop doing that.

And I — you know, you mentioned Beirut, and that was the first though that occurred to me when this happened, was a Democratic Congress at the time did a fair and quick investigation of what was an unspeakable tragedy — two separate suicide bombings four months apart. And there was clearly inadequate security. But the focus there was not on partisanship, not on embarrassing the Reagan administration, but in actually figuring out what happened and how we can better protect Americans.

Now, I wonder if I could just ask questions about what I think is the central issue, and that is how do we have that presence in the world that you described in what is an increasingly dangerous world? Because as I’ve traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Yemen and other places, I’m consistently amazed by the willingness of our diplomatic corps to put their lives at risk. And I wonder how do you balance that very difficult decision. Because frankly, what I’ve heard more often from that diplomatic corps is that they chafe at the restrictions.

I mean, I remember vividly being in Peshawar, which is, you know — I mean, I didn’t like the ride from the airport to the embassy, which was 10 minutes, and we were there for, I don’t know, a few hours and then out. You know, the State Department personnel, they live there and went out amongst the community. How do you try and strike that balance of, you know, being present and at the same time meeting the security obligations?

And then most importantly, who drives that decision? Because it seems to me in most instances it is driven by the diplomatic corps there. If they take risks, it’s because they’ve decided to do it. They’re there. They know the security situation certainly better than the secretary and better than most everybody else. What is the proper way to strike that balance going forward to protect our personnel and still fulfill their mission?

CLINTON: Congressman, I think that is the most important question, and I would certainly welcome Congressional discussion and debate about this because it’s what we tried to do — going back to Congresswoman Duckworth’s question, what we tried to begin to do in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the first one that was ever done, because that’s exactly what we were facing. You know, we have had diplomats and development professionals in war zones now for a number of years. We’ve had them in places that are incredibly unstable and dangerous because of ongoing conflicts. It is, I think, the bias of the diplomacy corps that they be there because that’s what they signed up for. And they know that if America is not represented, then we leave a vacuum and we lose our eyes and our ears about what people are thinking and doing.

It is certainly the hardest part of the job in many of our agencies and departments today. And it was for me in the State Department. That’s why I relied on the security professionals because by the time I got there in 2009, the diplomatic security professionals had been taking care of American diplomats in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan for years. And they had learned a lot of the lessons and they were forced to make tough decisions all the time.

You mentioned Peshawar, one of clearly the high threat posts that the United States maintains a presence in. But when you think that since 2001 we’ve had 100 of our facilities attacked, if we were to shut them all down, if we were to pull out from all of them, we would be blinding ourselves. So it’s a constant balancing act. What are the risks and what are the rewards for opening, maintaining and/or closing a site.

I don’t know that there’s any hard and fast rule that we can adopt. We just have to get better at making that assessment, Congressman, and your question really goes to the heart of it. When you were as a member of Congress in Peshawar, you were guarded by our diplomatic security professionals. They had to assess was it safe enough for a member of Congress to come, how do we get him from the airport to the embassy.

It won’t surprise you to hear we’ve had attacks there as so many other places around the world. And that is a heavy responsibility, and the diplomatic security professionals get it right 999 times out of a thousand. And it’s deeply distressing to them when anything goes wrong.

We have lost non-Americans with some of these attacks on facilities. We’ve lost our locally-employed staff. They never want to see any successful attack, so they have to be — they have to be right 100 percent of the time, the terrorists only have to be right once. And, you know, that’s why this is really at the core of what I tried to do before even I got the Accountability Review Board, going back to the QDDR, to come up with a better way of trying to make those assessments.

SMITH: Madam Secretary, if I may, just two final points. I mean, so the bottom line is Benghazi on 9/11/2012 was not the only dangerous place in the world where our security personnel were and where these difficult decisions had to be made.

CLINTON: Right.

SMITH: And the other point I want to make before my time expires, now this was in 2012, so we were only a couple of years into this, but Secretary of Defense Ash Carter just I think yesterday wrote an editorial in the Wall Street journal about the impact of five years of budget uncertainty on the DOD’s ability to function. I mean, for five years, we have gone through C.R.s, threatened government shutdowns, one actual government shutdown, and constant budget uncertainty.

Now, my area is the Department of Defense. I know how it’s impacted them. They basically from one week to the next barely know what they can spend money on. Now, one of the criticisms is that there should have been more security, but if you don’t have a budget, if you don’t have an appropriations bill, how does that complicate your job as secretary in trying to figure out what money you can spend?

CLINTON: Well, it makes it very difficult, Congressman. And this is a subject that we talked about all the time, how do you plan. How do you know — you know, you have so many diplomatic security officers in so many dangerous places, how do you know what you’re going to have to be able to deploy and where are you going to have to make the choices.

That’s why the prioritization, which shouldn’t have to be, in my view, the responsibility of the officials in the State Department or the Defense Department to try to guess what makes the most sense. We should have a much more orderly process for our budget.

And I will say again, as secretary of State, the kind of dysfunction and failure to make decisions that we have been living with in our government hurts us. It hurts us in the obvious ways, like where you’re going to deploy forces if you’re in DOD or where we’re going to send security if you’re in the Department of State.

But it hurts us as the great country that we are, being viewed from an abroad as unable to handle our own business. And so it has a lot of consequences. And it’s something that I wish that we could get over and have our arguments about policy, have our arguments about substance, but get back to regular order, where we have the greatest nation in the world with a budget that then they can plan against as opposed to the uncertainty that has stalked us now for so long.

SMITH: Thank you, Madam Secretary. So the bottom line is Congress needs to do its job.

CLINTON: Right. I agree with that.

GOWDY: The gentlemen yields back. And I’ll be happy to get a copy of my opening statement for the gentleman from Washington so he can refresh his recollection on all the things our committee found that your previous committee missed. And with that I’ll go to the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Westmoreland.

WESTMORELAND: Thank you. Madam Secretary, I talk a little slower than everybody else, so…

CLINTON: I lived in Arkansas a long time. I don’t need an interpreter, Congressman. WESTMORELAND: So some of the questions I’m asking you can just get a yes-or-no answer, that would be great. But I do want you to give us a full answer.

But Mr. Smith from Washington mentioned there was no new facts brought out in some of these interviews, and I want to just say that I think he was at one interview for one hour. I have been at a bunch of those and there has been a lot of new facts that’s come out.

One of the things he said, it doesn’t — that you knew about these two incidents that have been mentioned previously. It’s not a matter if you knew about them, it’s a matter of what you did about them. And to us, the answer to that is nothing. Now, you say you were briefed by the CIA every morning that you were in Washington; is that correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

WESTMORELAND: Did they ever mention to you Assistant Acting Director Morrell wrote in his book that there were scores of intelligence pieces describing in detail how the situation in Libya was becoming more and more dangerous. Did you ever read any of these pieces?

CLINTON: Yes. As I’ve previously stated, we were certainly aware that the situation across Libya was becoming more dangerous, and that there were particular concerns about eastern Libya.

WESTMORELAND: Did you read the piece that was Libya, Al Qaida establishing sanctuary?

CLINTON: I’m aware that was certainly among the information provided to me.

WESTMORELAND: There was another particular piece that was talked about after the IED attack that AFRICOM wrote. Al Qaida expands in Libya. Were you familiar with that?

CLINTON: I can’t speak to specific pieces, Congressman, but I was well aware of the concerns we all had about the setting up of jihadist training camps and other activities in Libya, particularly in eastern Libya.

WESTMORELAND: You — you were briefed, in I think the CIA, between January and September of 2012, at over 4500 pages of intelligence. Were you aware of how many pages of intelligence? And I know you had a specific division, I guess, of the State Department under you that was called Intelligence and Research.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

WESTMORELAND: Did they keep you up to speed on all these 400 cables or different things that they were getting? Did they keep you up to speed on that, that you were aware of them?

CLINTON: Congressman, I can’t speak to specific reports. But I can certainly agree with you that I was briefed and aware of the increasingly dangerous upsurge in militant activity in Libya.

WESTMORELAND: And so what did you do to make sure that our men and women over there were protected, knowing how much the threat had grown, especially in Benghazi, because a lot of people say that really, in the summer of 2012, the security in Benghazi was worse than it was during the revolution.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, with respect to not only the specific incidents that you referenced earlier, but the overall concerns about Benghazi, I think I stated previously, there was never any recommendation by anyone, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the State Department officials responsible for Libya, to leave Benghazi.

Even after the two incidents that you mentioned. Because, in part, as I responded to Congressman Smith, we had so many attacks on facilities that, as I said, went back to 2001, that certainly also happened in other parts of the world while I was there. Each was evaluated, and there was not a recommendation. Furthermore, there was not even, on the morning of September 11, while Chris Stevens and Sean Smith were at the compound, Chris had spoken with intelligence experts. There was no credible, actionable threat known to our intelligence community…

WESTMORELAND: Yes, ma’am.

CLINTON: … against our compound.

WESTMORELAND: Reclaiming my time, you said that the — Ambassador Chris was pulled out of Tripoli because of threats on his life.

CLINTON: There were threats from people associated with Gadhafi after the publication…

WESTMORELAND: OK.

CLINTON: … of cables he had written that were made public by WikiLeaks.

WESTMORELAND: You — and you say you were aware of the two attacks at the mission facility in Benghazi.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

WESTMORELAND: Mr. Morell in his book states that there was 20 attacks on that facility. Are you familiar with the other 18?

CLINTON: There were two that we thought rose to the level of being serious, and I…

WESTMORELAND: Were — but were you familiar with the other 18?

CLINTON: … I’m not aware of 18 others. And I would point out, and I am sure that former Deputy Director Morell made this point when he was testifying, the CIA stayed in Libya.

The CIA had a much bigger presence than the State Department, despite the overall decline in stability. Some might argue actually because of the overall decline in stability, it was thought to be even more important for the CIA to stay there. And they also did not believe that their facility would be the subject of a deadly attack either, because I think sometimes…

WESTMORELAND: Ma’am (inaudible).

CLINTON: … you know, sometimes the — the discussion gets pulled together, when really we had Chris and Sean dying at the State Department compound, which we are discussing, and we had our other two deaths of Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty at the CIA annex.

WESTMORELAND: Reclaiming my time for just a minute. And I — and I do appreciate that. But if you — if you talk to the CIA contractors that were at the annex, and you ask them how they were armed and equipped, and then if you would — or could — talk to the diplomatic security agents that were at the facility, I think you will see that there was a big, big difference in the equipment that they had to protect theirself (ph).

But you knew of the two — what you called major incidents, but you don’t recollect the other 18 that Mr. Morell says happened. How many instances would it have taken you to say, “hey, we need to look at the security over there?”

Would it have been three major instances, 30 instances, 40 instances, 50 instances? How many instances would you have been made aware of that would have made you say, “hey, I don’t care what anybody else says, we’re going to protect our people. Chris Stevens is a good friend of mine, we’re going to look after him.”

How many would it have taken?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, of course I made it abundantly clear that we had to do everything we could to protect our people. What I did not — and do not believe any secretary should — do was to substitute my judgment from thousands of miles away for the judgment of the security professionals who made the decisions about what kind of security would be provided.

WESTMORELAND: Ma’am.

CLINTON: And that — I know that — that sounds somewhat hard to understand. But, you know, we have a process, and the experts, who I have the greatest confidence in, and who had been through so many difficult positions, because practically all of them had rotated through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, other places — they were the ones making the assessment. No one ever came to me and said, “we should shut down our compound in Benghazi.”

WESTMORELAND: Ma’am, I’m not saying shut it down. I’m saying protect it.

CLINTON: Well…

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

CLINTON: Right.

WESTMORELAND: When you say security professionals — I’m not trying to be disparaging with anybody, but I — I don’t know who those folks were, but…

CLINTON: Well, they were people who risked their lives to try to save…

WESTMORELAND: … just my little — in my little opinion, they weren’t very professional when it came to protecting people.

But let me say this. You said that the mission that you gave Ambassador Stevens was to go in to — in to investigate the situation. Now, if you’re going to investigate a situation, it would seem to me like you would have to get out into the country to investigate that.

And I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but there were not even enough diplomatic security for him to leave the compound without asking the CIA operatives to assist them. Were you aware of that?

CLINTON: Well, we had an agreement with the CIA to help supplement security and to come to the aid — it was a — it was a mutual agreement.

WESTMORELAND: Was that a — was that a written agreement?

CLINTON: No, it was — it was not a written agreement. But we — we are posted with the CIA in many places in the country…

WESTMORELAND: OK.

CLINTON: … I mean, in the — in the world. And it’s important to have a good working relationship. And we did. And unfortunately, despite all the weapons and despite the fortification, two CIA contractors died at the CIA annex that night.

WESTMORELAND: Just to follow up on one thing about Ambassador Stevens. You got a lot of e-mails from Sidney Blumenthal. And you say that Mr. Blumenthal was a friend of yours. And he had your personal e-mail address.

You say Chris Stevens was a friend of yours. He asked numerous of times for extra protection. Now, if I had been Mr. Stevens — and I think anybody out there — anybody watching this would agree.

If I had been Mr. Stevens and I had had a relationship with you, and I had requested 20 or more times for additional security to protect not only my life but the people that were there with me, I would have gotten in touch with you some way.

I would have let you know that I was in danger, and that the situation had deteriorated to a point, I needed you to do something. Did he have your personal e-mail?

CLINTON: Congressman, I — I do not believe that he had my personal e-mail. He had the e-mail and he had the direct line to everybody that he’d worked with for years. He had been posted…

WESTMORELAND: But not your…

CLINTON: … with officials in the State Department. They had gone through difficult, challenging, dangerous assignments together. He was in constant contact with people.

Yes, he and the people working for him asked for more security. Some of those requests were approved. Others were not.

We’re obviously looking to learn what more we could do, because it was not only about Benghazi, it was also about the embassy in Tripoli. I think it’s fair to say that, you know, Chris asked for what he and his people requested, because he thought that it would be helpful. But he never said to anybody in the State Department you know what, we just can’t keep doing this, we just can’t — we can’t stay there. He was in constant contact with, you know, people on my staff, other officials in the State Department.

And, you know, I did have an opportunity to talk with him about the substance of the policy. But with respect to security, he took those requests where they belonged. He took them to the security professionals.

And I have to add, Congressman, the diplomatic security professionals are among the best in the world. I would put them up against anybody. And I just cannot allow any comment to be in the record in any way criticizing or disparaging them. They have kept Americans safe in two wars and in a lot of other really terrible situations over the last many years.

I trusted them with my life. You trust them with yours when you’re on CODELs. They deserve better. And they deserve all the support that the Congress can give them, because they’re doing a really hard job very well.

WESTMORELAND: Well, ma’am, all I can say is they missed something here. And we lost four Americans.

GOWDY: The gentleman’s time has expired. The chair will recognize the gentleman from Kansas, Mr. Pompeo.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary, you’ve referred to the QDDR a couple of times as being important to diplomatic security. Is that correct?

CLINTON: It provoked a discussion, Congressman, about balancing of risk. POMPEO: Madam Secretary, I had a chance to read that. I wanted to only read the executive summary that ran 25 pages. But it didn’t have a word about diplomatic security in those entire 25 pages of the executive summary. Not one word, Madam Secretary. And then I read the remaining pages from out of the 270-plus. Do you know how many pages of those 270 had to do with diplomatic security?

CLINTON: It was about the balancing of risk and reward.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary…

CLINTON: Which was not only about diplomatic security specifically about, but about the larger question of our mission around the world.

POMPEO: Madam secretary, there was no balance. There was no balance. There was two pages out of 270 pages. You talked about a lot of things in there. You talked about a lot of improvements.

It didn’t have anything to do with diplomatic security in any material way in that report. You talked about being disappointed, too, I’ve heard you use that several times. You were disappointed, you read the ARB.

Why didn’t you fire someone? In Kansas, Madam Secretary, I get asked constantly, why has no one been held accountable? How come not a single person lost a single paycheck, connected to the fact that we had the first ambassador killed since 1979?

How come no one has been held accountable to date?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, the Accountability Review Board pointed out several people working in the State Department, who they thought had not carried out their responsibilities adequately. But they said that they could not find a breach of duty. And…

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am.

CLINTON: The personnel rules and the laws that govern those decisions were followed very carefully.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. I’m not asking what the ARB did. I’m asking what you did.

CLINTON: I followed the law, Congressman. That was my responsibility.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary, you’re telling me you had no authority to take anyone’s paycheck, to cause anyone to be fired? You’re telling me you were legally prohibited from doing that, is that your position here this morning?

CLINTON: It is my position that in the absence of finding dereliction or breach of duty, there could not be immediate action taken. But there was a process that was immediately instituted, and which led to decisions being made. POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. The decision was to put these back in full back pay, keep them on as employees. That was the decision made as a result of the processes you put in place. I will tell you, the folks in Kansas don’t think that is accountability.

I want to do some math with you. Can I get the first chart, please? Do you know how many security requests there were in the first quarter of 2012?

CLINTON: For everyone, or for Benghazi?

POMPEO: I’m sorry, yes, ma’am, related to Benghazi in Libya. Do you know how many there were?

CLINTON: No, I do not know.

POMPEO: Ma’am, there were just over a 100-plus. Second quarter, do you know how many there were?

CLINTON: No, I do not.

POMPEO: Ma’am, there were 172-ish. Might have been 171 or 173. That’s — how many were there in July and August and then in that week and few days before the attacks, do you know?

CLINTON: There were a number of them, I know that.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am, 83 by our count.

That’s over 600 requests. You’ve testified here this morning that you had none of those reach your desk; is that correct also?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary, Mr. Blumenthal wrote you 150 e-mails. It appears from the materials we’ve read that all of those reached your desk.

Can you tell us why security requests from your professionals, the men that you just testified — and which I agree, are incredibly professional, incredibly capable people, trained in the art of keeping us all safe, none of those made it to you.

But a man who was a friend of yours, who had never been to Libya, didn’t know much about it, at least that was his testimony, didn’t know much about it, every one of those reports that he sent on to you that had to do with situations on the ground in Libya, those made it to your desk.

You asked for more of them. You read them. You corresponded with him. And yet the folks that worked for you didn’t have the same courtesy.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, as you’re aware, he’s a friend of mine. He sent me information he thought might be of interest. Some of it was, some of it wasn’t, some of it I forwarded to be followed up on. The professionals and experts who reviewed it found some of it useful, some of it not.

POMPEO: Madam secretary…

CLINTON: He had no official position in the government. And he was not at all my adviser on Libya. He was a friend who sent me information that he thought might be in some way helpful.

POMPEO: Madam secretary, I have lots of friends. They send me things. I have never had somebody send me pieces of intelligence with the level of detail Mr. Blumenthal sent me every week. That’s a special friend.

CLINTON: Well, it was information that had been shared with him that he forwarded on. And as someone who got the vast majority of the information that I acted on from official channels, I read a lot of articles that brought new ideas to my attention, and occasionally people including him and others would give me ideas. They all went into the same process to be evaluated.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. I will tell you that the record we have received to date does not reflect that. It simply doesn’t. We’ve read the e-mails. We’ve read everything we can get our hands on. It’s taken us a long time to get it, but you, you just described all this other information you relied upon. And it doesn’t comport with the record that this committee has been able to establish today.

I want you to take a look at this chart to the left. You’ll see the increasing number of requests, over 600. I think data matters. The pictures are worth a lot. You see the increase in the requests, and the bottom line is the increase in security. And you’ll note that the slope of those two lines is very different.

Can you account for why that is, why we have an increase in requests yet no increase in security?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, I can only tell you that I know a number of requests were fulfilled, and some were not. But from my perspective, again, these were handled by the people that were assigned the task of elevating them.

And, you know, I think it’s important to again reiterate that, although there were problems and deficiencies discovered by the Accountability Review Board, the general approach to have security professionals handle security requests, I think still stands.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. I wish you’d have listened to those security professionals.

You described Mr. Stevens as having the best knowledge of Libya of anyone. Your words this morning. And yet when he asked for increased security, he didn’t get it.

May I see the second chart, please? This chart says the same thing; I just talked to you about requests for assistance. This chart — I won’t go through the numbers in detail — we’ve talked about them a bit. But it shows the increasing number of security incidents at the facility, your facility, the State Department facility, in Benghazi, Libya.

And then again, it shows the increase in security being nonexistent. I assume your answer is the same with respect to the fact that we have increasing security incidents, but no corresponding increase in the amount of security?

CLINTON: Congressman, I just have to respectfully disagree. Many security requests were fulfilled.

POMPEO: Well, ma’am…

CLINTON: We would be happy to get that information for the record. So I can’t really tell what it is you’re putting on that poster, but I know that a number of the security requests were fulfilled for Benghazi.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. What it shows is that the number of diplomatic security agents at the beginning of 2012, and those that — they were there that day of the — the murder of four Americans is no different.

CLINTON: Congressman, the decision, as I recall, was that the post, namely embassy Tripoli on behalf of Benghazi, requested five diplomatic security personnel, and they did have that on the day that Chris Stevens was in Benghazi.

Unfortunately, that proved insufficient in the face of the kind of attack that they were facing.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. May — put the next poster up, please. Madam Secretary, you’re not likely to know who these two folks are, do you?

CLINTON: I do not.

POMPEO: The one on the left is Mohamed al-Zahawi. He was the head of Ansar al-Sharia, a jihadist group based in Benghazi. The man on your left is Wissam bin Hamid. Were you aware that your folks in Benghazi, Libya met with that man on the — within 48 hours before the attack?

CLINTON: I know nothing about any meeting with him.

POMPEO: On September 11th, on the day that he was killed, Ambassador Stevens sent a cable through the State Department talking about his meeting with Mr. Bin Hamid. Are you aware of that cable?

CLINTON: No, I’m not.

POMPEO: He said — in his cable, he said they — referring to Mr. Wissam Bin Hamid — they wanted an introductory meeting, they were here. They asked us what we needed to bring security to Benghazi. So your officials were meeting with this man on the ground in Benghazi, Libya, discussing security, two days before that. But in August of that same year, the United States government had said that this very man was, quote, “a young rebel leader who allegedly fought in Iraq under the flag of al-Qaida.”

Were you aware that our folks were either wittingly or unwittingly meeting with al-Qaida on the ground in Benghazi, Libya, just hours before the attack?

CLINTON: I know nothing about this, Congressman.

POMPEO: I think that’s deeply disturbing. I think the fact that your team was meeting…

CLINTON: I’m sorry. Which team is this, Mr….

POMPEO: Your team would have been — we don’t know exactly who…

CLINTON: Well, it would be helpful…

POMPEO: It would have been one of the — one of your State Department employees, Madam Secretary, I don’t know which one. Perhaps you could enlighten us or help us get the records we need to do so.

CLINTON: Well…

POMPEO: To date, we’ve been able to learn that.

CLINTON: Well since we didn’t have an ongoing significant presence of State Department personnel in Benghazi, I don’t know to whom you are referring.

POMPEO: Mr. Chairman, I’ll yield back the balance of my time.

GOWDY: The gentleman from Kansas yields. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from California, Ms. Sanchez.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Madam Secretary, for coming again to answer our questions. We know over the last 17 months there have been a number of allegations that have been made with respect to you, and when the facts and the testimony and the record don’t support that, we seem to move on to the next, you know, new allegation.

One of the more recent ones is that Republicans are claiming that because you received e-mails from Sidney Blumenthal that he was your primary source for intelligence. Now, Chairman Gowdy claimed that Mr. Blumenthal was, and I’m going to quote him here, quote, “Secretary Clinton’s primary adviser on Libya because nearly half of all the e- mails sent to and from Secretary Clinton regarding Benghazi and Libya prior to the Benghazi terrorist attacks involved Sidney Blumenthal,” end quote.

He also claimed that Mr. Blumenthal was, and I’m quoting again, “one of the folks providing her the largest volume of information about Libya.” Secretary Clinton, was Sidney Blumenthal your primary policy adviser or your primary intelligence officer?

CLINTON: No. Of course not.

SANCHEZ: Was he the primary source of information that you were receiving on Libya?

CLINTON: No, absolutely not.

SANCHEZ: Can you tell us, then, who were you receiving information from and in what form? Because there’s been a particular emphasis on e-mail communication and e-mail communication only.

CLINTON: Well, as I testified earlier, I did not primarily conduct business on e-mail with officials in our government. And I think the e-mails that have been produced thus far demonstrate that as well.

As I said, I got intelligence briefings from the intelligence community. I had a very experienced group of senior diplomats who knew quite a bit about Libya. Deputy Secretary Bill Burns had been our nation’s top diplomat, who actually had negotiated with Gadhafi.

Prior to the entering in by the United States to support our European allies and Arab partners, I sent a team to meet with representatives of Gadhafi to see if there were some way that he would back down and back off of his increasingly hysterical threats against his own people.

We had people like the ambassador that I referenced earlier who had served in Libya and had the occasion to observe and to meet with Gadhafi. So we had a very large group of American diplomats, intelligence officers, and some private citizens who were experts in Libya who were available to our government. And we took advantage of every person we could with expertise to guide our decision-making.

SANCHEZ: So would it be fair to say that you received information from Ambassador Stevens?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The director of policy planning, Jacob Sullivan?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The National Security Council?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The intelligence community?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: The Defense Department?

CLINTON: Yes.

SANCHEZ: This weekend, one of our colleagues on this panel, Mr. Pompeo, went on Meet the Press and I wonder if we could queue up the video. He had this exchange.

Can we please play the video clip?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POMPEO: … Mr. Blumenthal. It goes directly to the security issue. We see now that former Secretary Clinton relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence. That is, she was relying…

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: That is factually not true.

POMPEO: No, it is absolutely factually correct.

MITCHELL: Relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence? You (inaudible).

POMPEO: Ms. Mitchell, take a look — take a look at the e-mail trail and you will see.

MITCHELL: That’s just — I cover the State Department. That is just factually not correct. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: That clip for me just defies all logic. And I think Andrea Mitchell correctly called him out on something that was a falsehood.

Secretary Clinton, what did you think when you heard that clip?

CLINTON: Well, that it was factually untrue. And I think your questioning and what I have stated today is a much clearer and more factual description of how we gathered information to make our decisions regarding Libya.

SANCHEZ: With your answer that you believe it to be factually incorrect, I just want to add that The Washington Post fact-checker immediately awarded that claim for Pinocchios, which is the worst rating possible. And I’m going to quote the Post on what they said about that quote, “Looking at her private e-mails is just part of the picture and it ignores the fast amount of information, much of it classified, that is available to the secretary of state.”

Secretary Clinton, would you agree with that statement from The Washington Post?

CLINTON: Yes, I would.

SANCHEZ: OK. So, it seems to me, you know, there have been allegations that the work that this committee has done has been political in nature. And that much of the facts have already been decided before all of the evidence is in, including your testimony here today.

When I see clips like that, it sort of supports the theory that this panel is not really interested in investigating what happened just prior to, the evening of, and immediately in the aftermath of September 11th, 2012, but that in fact there is another motive behind that.

We have you here, and so while you are here I want to make the most of your time and allow you to sort of debunk many of the myths that have been generated over the last 17 months, most of which have no factual basis for those being said.

One is that you seemingly were disengaged the evening of September 11th, 2012. For example, Mike Huckabee accused you, as Mr. Cummings said, of ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi. And Senator Rand Paul stated that Benghazi was a three a.m. phone call that you never picked up. And Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack.

Those appear to be based on the testimony of witnesses and the documentation that we have obtained in this committee and other previous committees. They seem to run counter to the truth because the testimony we’ve received states pretty much that you were deeply engaged the night of the attack. So, can you describe for us what the initial hours of that night were like for you and how you learned about the attacks? And what your initial thoughts and actions were?

CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, I learned about the attacks from a State Department official rushing into my office shortly after or around 4 o’clock, to tell me that our compound in Benghazi had been attacked. We immediately summoned all of the top officials in the State Department for them to begin reaching out. The most important, quick call was to try to reach Chris himself. That was not possible. Then to have the diplomatic security people try to reach their agents. That was not possible. They were obviously defending themselves, along with the ambassador and Sean Smith.

We reached the second in command in Tripoli. He had heard shortly before we reached him, from Chris Stevens, telling him that they were under attack. We began to reach out to everyone we could possibly think who could help with this terrible incident.

CLINTON: During the course of the, you know, following hours, obviously I spoke to the White House. I spoke to CIA Director Petraeus. I spoke to the Libyan officials because I hoped that there was some way that they could gather up and deploy those who had been part of the insurgency to defend our compound.

I had conference calls with our team in Tripoli. I was on a — what’s called a SVTS, a, you know, videoconference with officials who had operational responsibilities in the Defense Department, in the CIA, at the National Security Council.

It was just a swirl and whirl of constant effort to try to figure out what we could do. And it was deeply — it was deeply distressing when we heard that the efforts by our CIA colleagues were not successful, that they had had to evacuate the security officers, our diplomatic security officers, that they had recovered Sean Smith’s body and they could not find the ambassador.

We didn’t know whether he had escaped and was still alive or not.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: If I may, because my time is running short, I just want to point out that you spoke with folks on the ground, you spoke with folks in the White House, the CIA, the Libyan president of the general national congress.

Now, interestingly enough, former director of the CIA, David Petraeus, has not been before this committee and has not spoken with this committee. But he did testify before the House Intelligence Committee in 2012 and he said that you personally called him and asked him for help that night.

And I just want to end on this quote.

Quote, “When secretary Clinton called me later that afternoon to indicate that Ambassador Stevens was missing and asked for help, I directed our folks to ensure that we were doing everything possible and that is, of course, what they were doing that night.”

Is that correct?

CLINTON: That is. And also the Defense Department was doing everything it could possibly do. We had a plane bringing additional security from Tripoli to Benghazi. There was an enormous amount of activity, everyone. It was all hands on deck, everyone jumped in to try to figure out what they could do. The attack on the compound was very fast.

SANCHEZ: So would it be safe to say that you were fully engaged that evening?

CLINTON: That is certainly safe to say, Congresswoman.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

And I yield back.

GOWDY: The gentlelady from California yields back.

The chair would now recognize the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

You just gave a long answer, Madam Secretary, to Ms. Sanchez about what you heard that night, what you’re doing. But nowhere in there did you mention a video. You didn’t mention a video because there was never a video-inspired protest in Benghazi. There was in Cairo but not in Benghazi.

Victoria Nuland, your spokesperson at the State Department, hours after the attacks said this, “Benghazi has been attacked by militants. In Cairo, police have removed demonstrators.”

Benghazi, you got weapons and explosions. Cairo, you got spray paint and rocks.

One hour before the attack in Benghazi, Chris Stevens walks a diplomat to the front gate. The ambassador didn’t report a demonstration. He didn’t report it because it never happened. An eyewitness in the command center that night on the ground said no protest, no demonstration; two intelligence reports that day, no protest, no demonstration.

The attack starts at 3:42 Eastern time, ends at approximately 11:40 pm that night.

At 4:06, an ops alert goes out across the State Department.

It says this, “Mission under attack, armed men, shots fired, explosions heard.”

No mention of video, no mention of a protest, no mention of a demonstration.

But the best evidence is Greg Hicks, the number two guy in Libya, the guy who worked side by side with Ambassador Stevens. He was asked, if there had been a protest, would the ambassador have reported it?

Mr. Hicks’s response, “Absolutely.”

For there to have been a demonstration on Chris Stevens’ front door and him not to have reported it is unbelievable, Mr. Hicks.

He said, secondly, if it had been reported, he would have been out the back door within minutes and there was a back gate.

Everything points to a terrorist attack. We just heard from Mr. Pompeo about the long history of terrorist incidents, terrorist violence in the country.

And yet five days later Susan Rice goes on five TV shows and she says this, “Benghazi was a spontaneous reaction as a consequence of a video,” a statement we all know is false. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what others have said.

“Rice was off the reservation,” off the reservation on five networks, White House worried about the politics. Republicans didn’t make those statements. They were made by the people who worked for you in the Near Eastern Affairs bureau, the actual experts on Libya in the State Department.

So if there’s no evidence for a video-inspired protest, then where did the false narrative start?

It started with you, Madam Secretary.

At 10:08, on the night of the attack, you released this statement, “Some have sought to justify the vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

At 10:08, with no evidence, at 10:08, before the attack is over, at 10:08, when Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty are still on the roof of the annex, fighting for their lives, the official statement of the State Department blames a video.

Why?

CLINTON: During the day on September 11th, as you did mention, Congressman, there was a very large protest against our embassy in Cairo. Protesters breached the walls. They tore down the American flag. And it was of grave concern to us because the inflammatory video had been shown on Egyptian television, which has a broader reach than just inside Egypt.

And if you look at what I said, I referred to the video that night in a very specific way. I said, some have sought to justify the attack because of the video.

I used those words deliberately, not to ascribe a motive to every attacker but as a warning to those across the region that there was no justification for further attacks.

And, in fact, during the course of that week, we had many attacks that were all about the video. We had people breaching the walls of our embassies in Tunis, in Khartoum; we had people, thankfully not Americans, dying at protests. But that’s what was going on, Congressman. JORDAN: Secretary Clinton, I appreciate most of those attacks were after the attack on the facility in Benghazi. You mentioned Cairo. It was interesting what else Ms. Nuland said that day.

She said, “If pressed by the press, if there’s a connection between Cairo and Benghazi,” she said this, “there’s no connection between the two.”

So here’s what troubles me. Your experts knew the truth. Your spokesperson knew the truth. Greg Hicks knew the truth.

But what troubles me more is I think you knew the truth.

I want to show you a few things here. You’re looking at an e- mail you sent to your family.

Here’s what you said at 11:00 that night, approximately one hour after you told the American people it was a video, you say to your family, “Two officers were killed today in Benghazi by an Al Qaeda- like group.”

You tell — you tell the American people one thing, you tell your family an entirely different story.

Also on the night of the attack, you had a call with the president of Libya. Here’s what you said to him.

“Ansar al-Sharia is claiming responsibility.”

It’s interesting; Mr. Khattala, one of the guys arrested in charge actually belonged to that group.

And finally, most significantly, the next day, within 24 hours, you had a conversation with the Egyptian prime minister.

You told him this, “We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”

Let me read that one more time.

“We know,” not we think, not it might be, “we know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”

State Department experts knew the truth. You knew the truth. But that’s not what the American people got. And again, the American people want to know why.

Why didn’t you tell the American people exactly what you told the Egyptian prime minister?

CLINTON: Well, I think if you look at the statement that I made, I clearly said that it was an attack. And I also said that there were some who tried to justify…

(CROSSTALK) JORDAN: Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: … on the basis — on the basis of the video, Congressman.

And I think…

JORDAN: Real, real quick, calling it an attack is like saying the sky is blue. Of course it was an attack.

(CROSSTALK)

JORDAN: We want to know the truth. The statement you sent out was a statement on Benghazi and you say vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material on the Internet. If that’s not pointing as the motive of being a video, I don’t know what is. And that’s certainly what — and that’s certainly how the American people saw it.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, there was a lot of conflicting information that we were trying to make sense of. The situation was very fluid. It was fast-moving. There was also a claim of responsibility by Ansar al-Sharia. And when I talked to the Egyptian prime minister, I said that this was a claim of responsibility by Ansar al-Sharia, by a group that was affiliated — or at least wanted to be affiliated — with Al Qaida.

Sometime after that, the next — next day, early the next morning after that, on the 12th or 13th, they retracted their claim of responsibility.

JORDAN: Madam Secretary…

CLINTON: And I think if — if you look at what all of us were trying to do, and we were in a position, Congressman, of trying to make sense of a lot of incoming information…

JORDAN: Madam…

CLINTON: … and watch the way the intelligence community tried to make sense of it.

JORDAN: Madam Secretary, there was not…

CLINTON: So all I can say is nobody…

JORDAN: … conflicting — there was not conflicting information the day of the attack, because your press secretary said, “if pressed, there is no connection between Cairo and Benghazi.” It was clear. You’re the ones who muddied it up, not the — not the information.

CLINTON: Well, there’s no connection…

JORDAN: Here’s what — here’s what I think that — here’s what I think is going on. Here’s what I think’s going on.

Let me show you one more slide. Again, this is from Victoria Nuland, your press person. She says to Jake Sullivan, Philippe Reines. Subject line reads this: Romney’s Statement on Libya.

E-mail says, “This is what Ben was talking about.” I assume Ben is the now-somewhat-famous Ben Rhodes, author of the talking points memo. This e-mail’s at 10:35, 27 minutes after your 10:08 — 27 minutes after you’ve told everyone it’s a video, while Americans are still fighting because the attack’s still going on, your top people are talking politics.

It seems to me that night you had three options, Secretary. You could tell the truth, like you did with your family, like you did with the Libyan president, like you did with the Egyptian prime minister — tell them it was a terrorist attack.

You could say, “you know what, we’re not quite sure. Don’t — don’t really know for sure.” I don’t — I don’t think the evidence — I think it’s all in the person (ph) — but you could have done that.

But you picked the third option. You picked the video narrative. You picked the one with no evidence. And you did it because Libya was supposed to be — and Mr. Roskam pointed out, this great success story for the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department.

And a key campaign theme that year was GM’s alive, bin Laden’s dead, Al Qaida’s on the run. And now you have a terrorist attack, and it’s a terrorist attack in Libya, and it’s just 56 days before an election.

You can live with a protest about a video. That won’t hurt you. But a terrorist attack will. So you can’t be square with the American people. You tell your family it’s a terrorist attack, but not the American people. You can tell the president of Libya it’s a terrorist attack, but not the American people. And you can tell the Egyptian prime minister it’s a terrorist attack, but you can’t tell your own people the truth.

Madam Secretary, Americans can live with the fact that good people sometimes give their lives for this country. They don’t like it. They mourn for those families. They pray for those families.

But they can live with it. But what they can’t take, what they can’t live with, is when their government’s not square with them.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

GOWDY: Madam Secretary, you’re welcome to answer the question, if you would like to.

CLINTON: Well, I wrote a whole chapter about this in my book, Hard Choices. I’d be glad to send it to you, Congressman, because I think the insinuations that you are making do a grave disservice to the hard work that people in the State Department, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the White House did during the course of some very confusing and difficult days.

There is no doubt in my mind that we did the best we could with the information that we had at the time. And if you’d actually go back and read what I said that night…

JORDAN: I have.

CLINTON: … I was very — I was very careful in saying that some have sought to justify. In fact, the man that has been arrested as one of the ringleaders of what happened in Benghazi, Ahmed Abu Khattala, is reported to have said it was the video that motivated him.

None of us can speak to the individual motivations of those terrorists who overran our compound and who attacked our CIA annex. There were probably a number of different motivations.

I think the intelligence community, which took the lead on trying to sort this out, as they should have, went through a series of interpretations and analysis. And we were all guided by that.

CLINTON: We were not making up the intelligence. We were trying to get it, make sense of it, and then to share it.

When I was speaking to the Egyptian prime minister or in the other two examples you showed, we had been told by Ansar al-Sharia that they took credit for it. It wasn’t until about 24 or more hours later, that they retracted taking credit for it.

JORDAN: Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: We also knew, Congressman, because my responsibility was what was happening throughout the region, I needed to be talking about the video, because I needed to put other governments and other people on notice that we were not going to let them get away with attacking us, as they did in Tunis, is they did in Khartoum.

And in Tunis there were thousands of protesters who were there only because of the video, breaching the calls of our embassy, burning down the American school. I was calling everybody in the Tunisian government I could get, and finally, President Marzouki sent his presidential guard to break it up. There were — is example after example. That’s what I was trying to do, during those very desperate and difficult hours.

JORDAN: Secretary Clinton — if I could, Mr. Chairman — Secretary Clinton, you said my insinuation. I’m not insinuating anything. I’m reading what you said. Plain language. We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. That’s as plain as it can get; that’s vastly different than vicious behavior justified by Internet material.

Why didn’t you just speak plain to the American people?

CLINTON: I did. If you look at my statement as opposed to what I was saying to the Egyptian prime minister, I did state clearly, and I said it again in more detail the next morning, as did the president.

I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, Congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were. And the facts, as the Democratic members have pointed out in their most recent collection of them, support this process that was going on, where the intelligence community was pulling together information.

And it’s very much harder to do it these days than it used to be, because you have to monitor social media, for goodness’s sakes. That’s where the Ansar al-Sharia claim was placed. The intelligence committee did the best job they could, and we all did our best job to try to figure out what was going on, and then to convey that to the American people.

GOWDY: The gentleman’s time has expired. The chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Schiff.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Madam secretary, We’re almost at the end of the first round of questions. I’ll have an opportunity, then the chairman will, before we have a break, just to let you know where we are in the scheme of things.

So, I want to take a moment to think about what we’ve covered in this round. In particular, a comment on where this began, with the chairman’s statement.

The chairman said at the outset of the hearing that the American people are entitled to the truth, the truth about what happened in Benghazi, the truth about the security there, the truth about what happened after the attack.

The implication of this, of course, is that the American premium don’t know the truth, that this is the first investigation we have ever had. The reality is, we’ve had eight investigations. We’ve gone through this endlessly.

And if we look at the documentary record, we have the ARB report. We have the report of the Armed Services Committee, led by Republican Buck McKeon, which debunked the stand down order allegation. We have the report of the committee on government reform.

We have the report of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. We have the report of the house Foreign Affairs Committee. We have the GOP conference’s own report. We have the report of the Intelligence Committee on which I serve.

Now, bear in mind, these aren’t with their accompanying exhibits or the classified stuff, because it would be up through the ceiling if I included them.

This is the report of our committee. This is what $4.7 million of taxpayer money buy you. This is what 17 months of investigation have shown.

Now, the chairman said, and he’s a very good lawyer and a good former prosecutor, we have a lot of former prosecutors here on the panel. He gave you a great recitation of the number of witnesses and the number of documents. There are too many good prosecutors on this panel not to know that when a lawyer describes the metrics of the success of an investigation by the sheer number of people they’ve talked to or the volume of documents, it says nothing about the substance of what they’ve learned, that there’s a problem.

And the reality is that after 17 months, we have nothing new to tell the families. We have nothing new to tell the American people. We have discovered nothing that alters the core conclusions of the eight investigations that went on before. Now, my colleagues have been saying quite often this week, with amazing regularity, that this is a fact-centric investigation. And I agree, so I would like to talk about president facts which are centric to this investigation, because while the American people are entitled to the truth about Benghazi they’re also entitled to the truth about our committee.

Fact: what gave rise to your appearance today was many months ago, a group called the Stop Hillary PAC which aired an offensive ad during the Democratic debate showing the tombstone of Ambassador Stevens, among other things, delivered 264,000 signatures demanding you appear before us.

Fact: it was the next day the majority approached us to have you come before this committee. Fact: after The New York times issued its story in March, this committee canceled all other hearing hearings except for a hearing with a witness named Clinton.

Fact: we abandoned our plans to bring in the secretary of Defense and the head of the CIA. Fact: we haven’t had a single hearing from the Department of Defense — with the Department of Defense in 17 months.

Fact: of the 70,000 pages of documents obtained by the Select Committee, the only documents that the chairman has chose on the release publicly are your e-mails with Sidney Blumenthal.

Fact: of the 32 press releases that have been issued since March of this year, 27 of them are about you, or the State Department and five are about everything else.

Fact: as recently as last week, the chairman issued a 13-page letter which is alleges you risked it had lives of people by sending an e-mail that contained the name of a classified CIA source. Fact: CIA told us there was nothing in that e-mail that was classified, nor was the name of that person, who is well known to many.

The chairman has said that this will be the final, definitive report. One thing that I think we can tell already — there will be nothing final about this report. Wherever we finish, if ever we finish, the problem we’ve had as a committee, is we don’t know what we’re looking for.

But there won’t be a final conclusion. There won’t be anything definitive about the work of this committee, because unlike the Accountability Review Board that operated in a non-partisan way, it’s unlikely the majority here will even consult with us on what their final report looks like.

Those who want to believe the worst will believe the worst. Those that want to believe that this is a partisan exercise will believe it. As I said from the beginning of the investigation, the only way this committee will add any value to what’s gone on before is if we can find a way to work together and reach a common conclusion.

But it’s plain that’s not their object. The chairman might say, ignore the words of our Republican leadership, ignore the words of our Republican members, ignore the words of our own GOP investigator. Judge us by our actions. But it is the actions of the committee that are the most damning of all, because they have been singly focused on you.

Let me ask you briefly, because I want to expand on just the — what I think is the core theory here. I want to give you a chance to respond to it.

You know, as a prosecutor, we’re taught every case should have a core theory, and the evidence and the witnesses go back to that core theory. And I’ve wrestled as I’ve listened to my colleagues today, as I have over 17 months. What is the core theory of their case? What are they trying to convey?

And I have to say I think it’s confusing. I think the core theory is this — that you deliberately interfered with security in Benghazi and that resulted in people dying. I think that is the case they want to make, and notwithstanding how many investigations we’ve had that have found absolutely no merit to that, that is the impression they wish to give.

Well, I have to say, I’m a little confused today because my colleague pointed to an e-mail suggesting that you weren’t aware we had a presence in Benghazi, so if you weren’t aware we had a presence I don’t know how you could have interfered with the security there.

But nonetheless, I do think that’s what they’re aiming at. I know the ambassador was someone you helped pick. I know the ambassador was a friend of yours, and I wonder if you would like to comment on what it’s like to be the subject of an allegation that you deliberately interfered with security that cost the life of a friend.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, it’s a very personally painful accusation. It has been rejected and disproven by non-partisan, dispassionate investigators. But nevertheless, having it continued to be bandied around is deeply distressing to me.

You know, I’ve — I would imagine I’ve thought more about what happened than all of you put together. I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been wracking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done.

And so, when I took responsibility, I took it as a challenge and an obligation to make sure, before I left the State Department, that what we could learn — as I’m sure my predecessors did after Beirut and after Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and after all the other attacks on our facilities, I’m sure all of them — Republican and Democrat alike — especially where there was loss of American life — said, “OK, what must we do better?

“How do we protect the men and women that we send without weapons, without support from the military, into some of the most dangerous places in the world?”

And so I will continue to speak out and do everything I can from whatever position I’m in to honor the memory of those we lost and to work as hard as I know to try to create more understanding and cooperation between the State Department, our diplomats, our development professionals from USAID and the Congress so that the Congress is a partner with us, as was the case in previous times.

I would like us to get back to those times, Congressman. Whereas I think one of you said, Beirut, we lost far more Americans, not once but twice within a year. There was no partisan effort. People rose above politics.

A Democratic Congress worked with a Republican administration to say, “what do we need to learn?” Out of that came the legislation for the Accountability Review Board.

Similarly, after we lost more Americans in the bombings in east Africa, again, Republicans and Democrats worked together, said, “what do we need to do better?”

So I’m — I’m an optimist, Congressman. I’m hoping that that will be the outcome of this and every other effort, so that we really do honor not only those we lost, but all those who, right as we speak, are serving in dangerous places, representing the values and the interests of the American people.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

GOWDY: The gentleman from California yields back. I’m going to address a couple things that he said and then recognize myself. Because he invoked the family members of the four (ph), Madam Secretary, and partially this will be for your benefit also. But I want to specifically address the family members that are here.

There is no theory of the prosecution, Mr. Schiff, because there is no prosecution. There’s a very big difference between a prosecution, where you already have reached a conclusion and you’re just trying to prove it to people.

This is an investigation, which is why it’s so sad that nowhere in that stack that you just put up there were the e-mails of Secretary Clinton, the e-mails of the ambassador, 50,000 — 50,000 pages worth of documents, eyewitnesses.

That’s the real tragedy. To the family and the friends. When you’re told that there have been seven previous investigations and an ARB, you should immediately ask, “why did you miss so many witnesses? Why did you miss so many documents?”

This is not a prosecution, Mr. Schiff. You and I are both familiar with them. I’ve reached no conclusions, and I would advise you to not reach any conclusions, either, until we reach the end.

There are 20 more witnesses, so I’ll agree not to reach any conclusions if you’ll do the same.

With that, Madam Secretary, regardless of where he ranked in the order of advisers, it is undisputed that a significant number of your e-mails were to or from a Sidney Blumenthal.

Now, he did not work for the State Department. He didn’t work for the U.S. government at all. He wanted to work for the State Department, but the White House said no to him.

Do you recall who specifically at the White House rejected Sidney Blumenthal?

CLINTON: No, I do not.

GOWDY: After he was turned down for a job at the State Department by the White House, he went to work where?

CLINTON: I think he had a number of consulting contracts with different entities.

GOWDY: Well, if he had a number of them, do you recall any of them?

CLINTON: I know that he did some work for my husband.

GOWDY: Well, he worked for the Clinton Foundation.

CLINTON: That’s — that’s correct.

GOWDY: OK. He worked for Media Matters.

CLINTON: I — I’m sure he did.

GOWDY: He worked for Correct the Record.

CLINTON: I’m sure he did.

GOWDY: When you were asked about Sidney Blumenthal you said he was an old friend who sent you unsolicited e-mails, which you passed in some instances because you wanted to hear from people outside what you called the bubble.

We will ignore for a second whether or not Sidney Blumenthal is outside the bubble, but I do want to ask you about a couple of those other comments, because what you left out was that he was an old friend who knew absolutely nothing about Libya, was critical of President Obama and others that you work with, loved to send you political and image advice, had business interests in Libya, which he not only alerted you to, but solicited your help for.

And you often forwarded his e-mails, but usually only after you redacted out any identifier, so nobody knew where the information was coming from.

What does the word unsolicited mean to you?

CLINTON: It means that I did not ask him to send me the information that he sent me, and as I have previously stated, some of it I found interesting, some of it I do not. Some of it I forwarded, some of it I do not.

I did not know anything about any business interest. I thought that, just as I said previously, newspaper articles, journalists, of which he is one — a former journalist — had some interesting insights. And so, you know, we took them on board and evaluated them, and some were helpful and others were not.

GOWDY: We’re going to get to all the points you just made, but I want to start with your — your public comment that these e-mails were unsolicited.

You wrote to him, Another keeper, thanks and please keep them coming. Greetings from Kabul and thanks for keeping this stuff coming. Any other info about it? What are you hearing now? Got it, we’ll follow up tomorrow. Anything else to convey?

Now, that one is interesting because that was the very e-mail where Mr. Blumenthal was asking you to intervene on behalf of a business deal that he was pursuing in Libya.

What did you mean by What are you hearing now?

CLINTON: I have no idea, Congressman.

They started out unsolicited and, as I said, some were of interest. I passed them on, and some were not. And so he continued to provide me information that was made available to him.

GOWDY: I — I don’t want to parse words and — and I don’t want to be hypertechnical, because it’s not a huge point, but it is an important point. You didn’t say they started off unsolicited. You said they were — you said they were unsolicited.

CLINTON: Well, they were unsolicited. But obviously, I did respond to some of them.

GOWDY: Well, anything else…

CLINTON: … And I’m sure that encouraged him.

GOWDY: … Anything else to convey? What are you hearing now? I’m going to Paris tomorrow night, will meet with TNC (ph) leaders, so this and additional info useful. Still don’t have electricity or BlackBerry coverage post-Iran, so I’ve had to resort to my new iPad. Let me know if you received this.

We’ll talk about the new iPad in a little bit. Here’s another one.

This report is in part a response to your questions. That’s an e-mail from him to you. This is — this report is, in part, a response to your questions. There will be further information in the next day.

If you’re the one asking him for information, how does that square with the definition of unsolicited? CLINTON: I said it began that way, Mr. Chairman, and I will add that both Chris Stevens and Gene Cretz (ph) found some of the information interesting — far more than I could, because they knew some of the characters who were being mentioned, and they were the ones — the kind of persons with the expertise — that I asked to evaluate to see whether there was any useful information.

GOWDY: We’re gonna get to that in a second, now. Before you give Mr. Blumenthal too much credit, you agree he didn’t write a single one of those cables or memos he sent you.

CLINTON: I’m sorry, what?

GOWDY: He didn’t write a single one of those cables or memos.

CLINTON: I — I don’t know who wrote them. He’s the one who sent them to me.

GOWDY: Would you be surprised to know not a single one of those was from him?

CLINTON: I don’t know where he got the information that he was sending to me.

GOWDY: Did you ask? Did you — did you ask?

You’re sending me very specific detailed intelligence, what is your source? That seems like a pretty good question.

CLINTON: Well, I — I did learn later that he was talking to or sharing information from former American Intelligence Official.

GOWDY: By the name of? Who wrote those cables?

CLINTON: I don’t recall — I don’t know, Mr. chairman.

GOWDY: You had this information passed on to others, but, at least on one occasion, you as a Ms. Abenine (ph) can you print without any identifiers?

Why would you want his name removed?

CLINTON: Because I thought that it would be more important to just look at the substance, and to make a determination as to whether or not there was anything to it.

GOWDY: Well, don’t people have a right to know the source of the information so they can determine credibility?

CLINTON: But he wasn’t, as you just said, the source of the information…

GOWDY: But you didn’t know that, Madam Secretary. And that’s what you just said.

CLINTON: No, no, Mr. chairman, I said that I knew — I knew that he didn’t have the sources to provide that information. I knew he was getting it from somewhere else, whether they — he knew a lot of journalists…

GOWDY: Did — did you ask where?

CLINTON: … He knew others in Washington. It could have been a variety of people.

GOWDY: If you’re gonna — if you’re going to determine credibility, don’t you want to know the source?

CLINTON: Well, it wasn’t credibility so much as trying to follow the threads that were mentioned about individuals. And, as I already stated, some of it was useful and some of it was not.

GOWDY: Well, did the president know that Mr. Blumenthal was advising you?

CLINTON: He wasn’t advising me. And, you know, Mr. chairman…

GOWDY: Did he know that he was your most prolific e-mailer that we have found on the subjects of Libya and Benghazi?

CLINTON: That’s because I didn’t do most of my work about Libya…

GOWDY: That’s fair.

CLINTON: … On e-mail.

GOWDY: I’m not challenging that, Madam Secretary. I am not challenging that.

All I’m telling you is that documents show he was your most prolific e-mailer on Libya and Benghazi. And my question to you is, did the president — the same White House that said you can’t handle him, and can’t hire him — did he know that he was advising you?

CLINTON: He was not advising me, and I have no reason to have ever mentioned that or know that the president knew that.

GOWDY: All right. I want to draw your attention to an e-mail about Libya from Mr. Blumenthal to you dated April 2011. It will be Exhibit 67.

And this is — this is informative. “Should we pass this on,” and in parentheticals, “unidentified to the White House?”

If you were gonna pass something on to the White House, why would you take off the identifiers?

CLINTON: Because it was important to evaluate the information, and from a lot of intelligence that I have certainly reviewed over the years, you often don’t have the source of the intelligence. You look at the intelligence, and you try to determine whether or not it is credible. Whether it can be followed up on. GOWDY: Well, I’m gonna accept the fact that you and I come from different backgrounds, because I can tell you that an unsourced comment could never be uttered in any courtroom. You have to have the…

CLINTON: But we’re not talking about courtrooms, Mr. chairman. We’re talking about intelligence.

GOWDY: No, we’re talking about credibility and the ability to assess who a source is, and whether or not that source has ever been to Libya, knows anything about Libya, or has business interests in Libya — all of which would be important if you were going to determine the credibility, which I think is why you probably took his information off of what you sent to the White House.

But here’s another possible explanation. It may give us a sense of why, maybe the White House didn’t want you to hire him in the first place.

In one e-mail he wrote this about the president’s Secretary of Defense: “I infer gate (ph) problem as losing an internal debate. Tyler…” And by the way, Tyler Drumheller (ph), that’s who actually authored the cables that you got from Mr. Blumenthal.

“… Tyler knows him well and says he’s a mean, vicious, little…” I’m not gonna say the word, but he did.

This is an e-mail from Blumenthal to you about the president’ Security of Defense.

And here’s another Blumenthal e-mail to you about the president’s national security adviser. “Frankly, Tom Donelan’s (ph) babbling rhetoric about narratives on a phone briefing of reporters on March the 10th has inspired derision among foreign — serious foreign policy analysts both here and abroad.”

And here’s another from, what you say is your old friend Sidney Blumenthal. This is a quote from him. “I would say Obama…” — and by the way, he left the president part out. “I would say Obama appears to be intent on seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. He and his political cronies in the White House and Chicago are, to say the least, unenthusiastic about regime change in Libya. Obama’s lukewarm and self-contradicting statements have produced what is, at least for the moment, operational paralysis.”

GOWDY: I think, that may give us a better understanding of why the White House may have told you, you cannot hire him.

Blumenthal could not get hired by our government, didn’t pass any background check at all, had no role with our government, had never been to Libya, had no expertise in Libya, was critical of the president and others that you worked with, shared polling data with you on the intervention in Libya, gave you political advice on how to take credit for Libya, all the while working for The Clinton Foundation and some pseudo news entities.

And Madam Secretary, he had unfettered access to you. And he used that access, at least on one occasion, to ask you to intervene on behalf of a business venture.

Do you recall that?

CLINTON: You know, Mr. Chairman, if you don’t have any friends who say unkind things privately I congratulate you. But from my perspective…

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: I’d like to think I’d correct them.

CLINTON: … I don’t know what this line of questioning does to help us get to the bottom of the deaths of four Americans.

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: I’ll be happy to help you understand that, madam secretary.

CLINTON: But I want to reiterate what I said to Congresswoman Sanchez. These were originally unsolicited. You’ve just said that perhaps the main, if not the exclusive author, was a former intelligence agent for our country, who rose to the highest levels of the CIA and who was given credit for being one of the very few who pointed out that the intelligence used by the Bush administration to go to war in Iraq was wrong.

So I think that, you know, the sharing of information from an old friend that I did not take at face value, that I sent on to those who were experts, is something that, you know, makes sense.

But it was certainly not in any way the primary source of or the predominant understanding that we had of what was going on in Libya and what we needed to be doing.

GOWDY: Well, Madam Secretary, I’m out of time and we’ll pick this back up the next round but I’ll go ahead and let you know ahead of time why it’s relevant.

It’s relevant because our ambassador was asked to read and respond to Sidney Blumenthal’s drivel. It was sent to him to read and react to, in some instances on the very same day he was asking for security. So I think it is eminently fair to ask why Sidney Blumenthal had unfettered access to you, Madam Secretary, with whatever he wanted to talk about.

And there’s not a single solitary e-mail to or from you to or from Ambassador Stevens. I think that that is fair and we’ll take that up.

CUMMINGS: Will the gentleman yield?

Will the gentleman yield?

GOWDY: Sure.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, you’ve made several inaccurate statements over the past month as you have tried to defend against multiple Republican admissions that the Select Committee has been wasting millions of tax dollars to damage Secretary Clinton’s bid for president.

On Sunday, you made another inaccurate statement during your appearance on “Face the Nation” and it’s being taken up here. And this is the relevance.

Here’s what you said, and I quote, “There are other folks who may have equities in her e-mails and there may be other entities who are evaluating her e-mails. But my interest — my interest in them is solely making sure that I get everything I’m entitled to so that I can do my job. The rest of it, classification, The Clinton Foundation, you name it, I have zero interest in it, which is why you haven’t seen me send a subpoena related to it or interview a single person, other than Brian Fabiano (ph), because I need to know that the record is complete. And I’m going back to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: I’m waiting…

CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, let me finish.

GOWDY: I’ve been very patient.

CUMMINGS: I’m coming, just wait.

GOWDY: I’m waiting on the inaccurate statement.

CUMMINGS: I’m getting there.

Mr. Chairman…

GOWDY: Well, we got to take a break.

CUMMINGS: Well, it’s not going to take a long. You took up four minutes over so let me have three.

GOWDY: I’ve let everybody go over, including you, Mr. Congressman.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much.

You issued a subpoena to Sidney Blumenthal on May 19th, 2015, compelling him to appear for a deposition on June 16, 2015. You issued this subpoena unilaterally without giving the Select Committee members the opportunity to debate or vote on it.

You sent two armed marshals to serve the subpoena on Mr. Blumenthal’s wife at their home without having ever sent him a request to participate voluntarily, which he would have done.

Then, Mr. Chairman, you personally attended Mr. Blumenthal’s deposition; you person personally asked him about The Clinton Foundation and you personally directed your staff to ask questions about The Clinton Foundation, which they did more than 50 times.

Now these facts directly contradict the statements you made on national television.

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: No, that’s — no, sir, with all due respect, they do not. We’re — we just heard e-mail after e-mail after e-mail about Libya and Benghazi that Sidney Blumenthal sent to the secretary of state. I don’t care if he sent it by Morse code, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, the fact that he happened to send it by e-mail is irrelevant.

What is relevant is that he was sending information to the secretary of state. That is what’s relevant. Now, with respect to the subpoena, if he’d bothered to answer the telephone calls of our committee, he wouldn’t have needed a subpoena.

CUMMINGS: Will the gentleman yield?

GOWDY: I’ll be happy to but you need to make sure the entire record is correct.

CUMMINGS: Yes. And that’s exactly what I want to do.

GOWDY: Well, then, go ahead.

CUMMINGS: I’m about to tell you.

I move that we put into the record the entire transcript of Sidney Blumenthal. We’re going to release the e-mails; let’s do the transcript. That way the world can see it.

(UNKNOWN): I second that motion.

GOWDY: Well, we didn’t — we didn’t…

CUMMINGS: That motion has been seconded.

GOWDY: Well, we’re not going to take that up at a hearing. We’ll take that up…

(CROSSTALK)

CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, I have consulted with the parliamentarian and they have informed us that we have a right to record a vote on that — on that motion. We want — you know, you can ask for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Well, that’s what we want to have. You can put that — let the world see it.

GOWDY: Why is it that you only want Mr. Blumenthal’s transcript released?

Why don’t you…

CUMMINGS: I’d like to have all of them released.

GOWDY: The survivors?

Even their names?

You want that?

CUMMINGS: No, you…

GOWDY: You want that released?

CUMMINGS: Well, let me tell you something, right now…

GOWDY: The only one you’ve asked for is Sidney Blumenthal.

That’s the only one you’ve asked for, that and Ms. Mills.

(UNKNOWN): Cheryl Mills, Cheryl Mills.

CUMMINGS: That’s not true.

GOWDY: That’s two out of 54.

(UNKNOWN): The chairman asked for a recorded vote?

GOWDY: You want to ask for some facts…

CUMMINGS: I ask for a recorded vote on the — on the Blumenthal — you said from the beginning we want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Why don’t we just put the entire transcript out there and let the world see it?

What do you have to hide?

SCHIFF (?): These are the only e-mails that you have released and in fairness to Mr. Blumenthal and to the American people, in the interest of a complete record, if you’re going to release his e-mails, release his transcript, where he has a chance to give the context of those e-mails.

GOWDY: Well, you keep referring to Blumenthal e-mails. I would hasten to remind both of you the only reason we have Blumenthal e- mails is because he e-mailed the secretary of state. Those are her e- mails. That’s why they were released. They’re not Blumenthal’s e- mails. And she wanted all of her e-mails released. She’s been saying since March I want the entire world to see my e-mails.

Well, Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mails are part of that.

So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll be happy to talk to the parliamentarian because the parliamentarian told me that your motion actually would not be in order for a hearing. But at the latest we’ll take a vote and the first we are back after this week we’ll have a business meeting, we can take up Mr. Blumenthal’s transcript. We can take up what ever other transcripts you want.

And while we’re there, we can also take up the 20-some odd outstanding discovery requests that we have to different executive branch entities.

Why don’t we just take all of it up then?

SCHIFF: Mr. Chairman, the allegations that have been made against him are refuted by his own testimony, in the interest of not having…

GOWDY: That’s your opinion, Adam.

SCHIFF: Well, if you disagree, then release the transcripts.

(CROSSTALK)

GOWDY: What allegation, Adam?

SCHIFF: Why conceal the transcripts?

Even if the motion were not in order, you have to power to release them.

GOWDY: I’ll tell you why, because I’m not going to release one transcript of someone who knows nothing about Libya by his own admission while people who risk their lives — you have no interest in their story getting out. You don’t want the — you don’t want the 18 D.S. agents, you don’t want the CIA agents.

The only transcripts you want released are Ms. Mills and Sidney Blumenthal’s. So we’ll take all of this up… SCHIFF: And the only person you are interested in asking about during her entire questioning was Sidney Blumenthal. If you’re so interested in him, release the transcript. You selectively released his e-mails, they’re the only witness you’ve done that for. So you’re asking why are we only ask asking for his transcript?

GOWDY: I’m going to ask the gentleman from California to please do a better job of characterizing. These are not Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mails. These are Secretary Clinton’s e-mails. And I’ll tell you what, if you think you’ve heard about Sidney Blumenthal so far, wait until the next round.

With that, we’re adjourned.

The second session:

GOWDY: The hearing will come back to order.

Madam Secretary, with your indulgence, we will take up one little house keeping matter.

The question is on the motion of the gentleman to include the document in the record. The Chair opposes the motion.

Those in favor of the motion may signify by — so by saying aye.

Those opposed by no.

CUMMINGS(?): Roll call, Mr. Chairman.

CLERK: Mr. Chairman, I ask for a recorded vote.

GOWDY: A recorded vote has been — has been requested.

Chairman’s says — the Chairman’s vote — what?

UNKNOWN: (OFF-MIKE).

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

CLERK: Mr. Westmoreland?

WESTMORELAND: No.

CLERK: Mr. Westmoreland votes no.

Mr. Jordan?

JORDAN: No.

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

CLERK: Sorry, Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: No.

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

ROSKAM: No.

CLERK: Mr. Roskam votes no.

Mr. Pompeo?

POMPEO: No.

CLERK: My. Pompeo votes no.

Mrs. Roby?

ROBY: No.

CLERK: Mrs. Roby votes no.

Mrs. Brooks?

BROOKS: No.

CLERK: Mrs. Brooks votes no.

Mr. Cummings?

CUMMINGS: Yes.

CLERK: Mr. Cummings votes yes.

Mr. Smith?

SMITH: Aye.

CLERK: Mr. Smith votes aye.

Mr. Schiff?

SCHIFF: Aye.

CLERK: Mr. Schiff votes aye.

Ms. Sanchez?

SANCHEZ: Aye.

CLERK: Ms. Sanchez votes aye.

Ms. Duckworth?

DUCKWORTH: Aye.

CLERK: Ms. Duckworth votes aye.

GOWDY: The clerk will report.

CLERK: And Mr. Gowdy.

GOWDY: No.

CLERK: Mr. Gowdy votes no. Yeas five, no’s eight.

GOWDY: And the motion is not agreed to. Madame Secretary…

CLERK: My apologies, sir. It was seven.

GOWDY: Motion’s still not agreed to. Even South Carolina math can figure that out.

Madame Secretary, before we broke, there was a question asked that I thought was a fair question, which is why was I talking about Mr. Blumenthal’s e-mails.

I do think that’s a fair question. I think it’s an equally it fair question to ask why you were reading Mr. Blumenthal’s e-mails? I think both are fair. So, I want to go to June of 2012, which is an interesting time period to look at. It’s started. Charlene Lamb was an employee of the State Department and she sent an e-mail, which you may be familiar with, tab 56, I’m not going to read it, but it’s the tab 56, where she described Benghazi as a soft target, attacks on Americans not staffed adequately. It’s a very haunting e-mail to read.

It was actually three months to the day when our four fellow citizens were killed. And that is on June the 7th, 2012. Also on June the 7th 2012, your deputy chief of staff, Mr. Jake Sullivan is e- mailing Ambassador Stevens, asking the ambassador to look at a memo Sidney Blumenthal sent you. And in fact, Mr. Sullivan writes for Ambassador Chris, checking in with you on this report, “any reactions?”

All right, that is on exactly the same day that I believe our ambassador papers were accepted in Libya. It’s the day after an IED attack on our compound and Chris Stevens is being asked to read and react to an e-mail by Sidney Blumenthal from your deputy chief of staff.

Now, this is what he’s writing on the 7th, this is after he’s been turned down on a request for more security. This is our ambassador, “Appreciate you giving this proposal, even if the conclusion was not the favorable for us. We’d be interested in pursuing the other avenue you suggest, high threat trained agents. Best, Chris.”

So, I have this contrast in my mind. A ambassador newly in place. It’s a day after an attack on our facility. Your deputy chief of staff is sending him an e-mail from Sidney Blumenthal, asking him to take time to read and react to it. And then to the best of my recollection, that’s forwarded to you.

So help us understand how Sidney Blumenthal had that kind of access to you, Madame Secretary, but ambassador did not.

CLINTON: Mr. Chairman, because I think that your question does help to clarify matters.

Chris Stevens e-mailed regularly with Jake Sullivan one of my closest aides in the State Department. He could have e-mailed to Mr. Sullivan knowing that it would have been immediately responded to on any issue that was of concern to him, and he did not raise issues about security on that day or other days.

And I think it’s important to recognize that when an ambassador is at post overseas, especially as experienced a diplomat as Chris Stevens, he knows where to pull the levers, where to go for information, where to register concerns.

And I think he did exactly as one might have expected. He dealt with security issues through dealing with the security professionals who were the ones making the assessments. And I think that Ambassador Stevens understood completely that that is where the experts were, and that is where anything he requested or anything he was questioning should be directed.

GOWDY: Speaking of experts, who is Victoria Nuland?

CLINTON: A very experience diplomat. She served as our Ambassador to NATO, appointed by President George W. Bush. She served as one of the advisers as a Foreign Service Officer delegated to the White House for Vice President Cheney. She served as the spokesperson for the State Department during my tenure, and she is currently the Assistant Secretary for Europe under Secretary Kerry.

GOWDY: She wrote this to the Ambassador on June 13, 2012, that is a week after the facility was attacked. It is only a handful of days after he was turned down on a request — specific request for more security.

“Chris, I know you have your hands full, but we’d like your advice about public massaging on the state of violence in Libya over the past 10 days.”

So she’s asking him for help with public massaging. Jake Sullivan (ph), which is the other half of the question that I don’t think we got to. I — I understand that Chris Stevens was a rule follower. I understand that. I’ve got no qualms. My question was, actually, not why Chris Stevens didn’t contact you, but why did Jake Sullivan (ph) send Chris Stevens a Sidney Blumenthal e-mail to read and react to? On a day after the facility was attacked, the same day he was denied a request for more security. And instead of e-mail traffic back and forth about security, it’s read and react to a Blumenthal e-mail.

CLINTON: Well, I think any ambassador, if one were sitting before the committee, would say that they handled a lot of incoming information and requests.

Some of it was about what was happening in-country, some of about it was about what was happening back in the United States. And Chris felt strongly that the United States needed to remain in and committed to Libya.

So he was concerned that there might be a — a feeling on the part of some, either in the State Department or elsewhere in the Government, that we shouldn’t be in Libya. And he was adamantly in favor of us staying in Libya.

So part of what the discussion with him and — and Jake Sullivan (ph) and others was, you know, how do we best convey what the stakes the United States has in staying involved in Libya would be? And I thought that was, you know, very much in keeping with both his assessment and his experience.

GOWDY: Well, I appreciate your perspective, Madame Secretary.

Let me share with you my perspective. And if you need to take time to read a note, I’m happy to pause.

CLINTON: No, I’m just being reminded, which I think is important that remember, Chris spent the vast majority of his time in Tripoli, not in Benghazi. So a lot of what he was looking at is how you deal with not only those in authority positions in Libya, who were based in Tripoli at that time, but also representatives of other governments and the like.

And I think it is fair to say that anytime you’re trying to figure out what’s the best argument to make, especially if you’re someone like Chris Stevens trying to put together and make the best argument about why the United States should remain committed to Libya and others, as well, he’s going to engage in conversations about that.

GOWDY: Well, with respect, Madame Secretary, no matter what city he was in in Libya, having to stop and provide public massaging advice to your press shop, and having to read and respond to an e-mail sent by Sidney Blumenthal, it doesn’t matter what town you’re in. He needed security help.

He didn’t need help messaging the violence. He needed help actually with the violence. You…

CLINTON: No… GOWDY: … Have said several times this morning that you had people and processes in place. And I want to ask you about an e-mail that was sent to you by another one of your aids, Ms. Huma Abedin (ph). That would be Exhibit number 70 (ph) in your folder.

She e-mailed you that the Libyan people needed medicine, gasoline, diesel and milk. Do you know how long it took you to respond to that e-mail?

CLINTON: Well, I responded to it very quickly.

GOWDY: Yeah. 4 minutes.

My question, and I think it’s a fair one, is the Libyan people had their needs responded to directly by you in 4 minutes. And there is no record of our security folks ever even making it to your inbox.

So if you had people and processes in place for security, did you not also have people and processes in place for medicine, gasoline, diesel, milk?

CLINTON: You know, Mr. chairman, I’ve said it before, I will say it again, I’ll say it as many times as is necessary to respond.

Chris Stevens communicated regularly with the members of my staff. He did not raise security with the members of my staff. I communicated with him about certain issues. He did not raise security with me. He raised security with the security professionals.

Now, I know that’s not the answer you want to hear because it’s being asked in many different ways by committee members. But those are the facts, Mr. Chairman. Ambassadors in the field are engaged in many different tasks. They are basically our chief representative of the president of the United States, so they deal with everything from, you know, foreign aid to security to dealing with the personal requests for visas that come from people in the country they are assigned to.

And Chris Stevens had regular contact with members of my staff and he did not raise security issues. Now, some of it may have been because despite what was implied earlier, there was a good back and forth about security. And many of the requests that came from Embassy Tripoli, both for Tripoli and for Benghazi, were acted on affirmatively. Others were not.

That is what an ambassador, especially in a diplomat as experienced as Chris Stevens, would expect, that it would be unlikely to be able to get every one of your requests immediately answered positively.

So, yes, he had regular contact with my aides. He did not raise security with me. And the security questions and requests were handled by the security professionals.

GOWDY: Madam Secretary, with all due respect, those are two separate issues. Who Chris Stevens had access to is one issue. Who had access to you and for what is another issue, because you have said you had people and processes in place.

You also have people and processes in place for people who want to send you meaningless political advice. You also have people and processes in place for people who want to inquire about milk and diesel fuel and gasoline. You also have people and processes in place for people who want to provide insults towards folks you work with in the administration.

All of that made it directly into your in-box, Madam Secretary. That is my question. My question is: How did you decide when to invoke a people and process and who just got to come straight to you? Because it looked like certain things got straight to your in box, and the request for more security did not.

And while you’re answering that, I want to inform and instruct why I’m asking it. You have mentioned the ARB on a number of occasions again today. This was not the first ARB. We had one after Kenya and Tanzania. And that ARB could not have been more specific. The secretary of state should personally review the security situation of our embassy facilities.

That ARB put the responsibility squarely on you. So with respect to that previous ARB recommendation, and in contrast, what did make your in box versus what did not, did you personally review our security situation as the previous ARB required?

CLINTON: Well, let me see if I can answer the many parts of your — of your question, Mr. Chairman.

Yes, personal e-mail came to my personal account. Work-related e-mail did as well. And I also relied on a number of my aides and staff members, as well as experienced Foreign Service officers and civil servants who were similarly engaged in gathering information and sharing it.

And as I said and I will repeat, Chris Stevens communicated with a number of people that I worked with on a daily basis in the State Department. So far as I know, he did not raise any issue of security with any of those people. He raised it where he knew it would be properly addressed. If he had raised it with me, I would be here telling you he had. He did not.

And so I think it’s important to try to separate out the various elements of your question, Mr. Chairman, and I will do my best to continue to try to answer your questions. But I have said before and I will repeat again, Sid Blumenthal was not my adviser official or unofficial about Libya. He was not involved in any of the meetings, conversations, other efforts to obtain information in order to act on it.

On occasion, I did forward what he sent me to make sure that it was in the mix. So if it was useful, it could be put to use. And I believe in response to the e-mail you pointed our originally from Ambassador Stevens, he actually said it rang true and it was worth looking into.

So I think it’s important that we separate out the fact that Mr. Blumenthal was not my adviser. He was not an official of the United States government. He was not passing on official information. He, like a number of my friends who would hand me a newspaper article, would buttonhole me at a reception and say “what about this” or “what about that” — were trying to be helpful. Some of it was. A lot of it wasn’t.

GOWDY: The chair will not recognize the gentlelady from California, Ms. Sanchez. SANCHEZ: Thank you.

Secretary Clinton, I listened very carefully when Chairman Gowdy was questioning you in the first round of questioning. I have to say I was kind of surprised. We waited more than a year to finally get you up here to testify. We spent almost $5 million and we interviewed about 54 witnesses.

And when the chairman finally got his chance to question you, he asked you — he quibbled, actually — over the definition of the word “unsolicited.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, then he doubled-down on this idea that Sidney Blumenthal was your primary adviser on Libya, a claim that we heard The Washington Post awarded four Pinocchios.

He said on Sunday on national television that he had zero interest in the Clinton Foundation and other topics, but then he just spent his full time, the full questioning time in the first round asking you about the Clinton Foundation, media matters, and other topics that don’t really have anything to do with the attack that occurred in Benghazi. And my own sense of incredulity was really, really — is this why we’ve asked you to come to testify about that?

The overwhelming sense that I get from the Republican side of the aisle is they seem to be arguing somehow that Sidney Blumenthal had access to you, while Ambassador Stevens did not. Do you — do you think that that’s an accurate statement?

CLINTON: Of course not, Congresswoman. You know, you didn’t need my e-mail address to get my attention. In fact, most of the work I did, as I said this morning, had nothing to do with my e-mails. It had to do with the kind of meetings and materials that were provided to me through those who were responsible for making decisions on a whole range of issues.

And as I just told the chairman, if Ambassador Stevens had grave concerns that he wanted raised with me, he certainly knew how to do that.

SANCHEZ: He could speak to your office or your staff?

CLINTON: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Or you directly on the telephone?

CLINTON: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Did he ever ask you for your personal e-mail address and you turned him down (inaudible)?

CLINTON: No, he did not.

SANCHEZ: The other thing that I’m hearing from the other side of the aisle is they’re arguing that there was this, you know, security was, you know, it was sort of decomposing in eastern Libya. And that no security improvements were ever made to the Benghazi outpost. That’s not a true statement, is it? CLINTON: No, it is not.

SANCHEZ: In fact, there were many security enhancements that were asked for that were actually made, although there were others that were — other requests that were made that were not fulfilled. Is that correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

SANCHEZ: OK. The other line of questioning that sort of surprises me is that over the course of this investigation, Republicans have repeatedly asked why the U.S. was still in Benghazi on the night of the attacks. During the select committee’s first hearing, which was more than a year ago, the chairman posed the following question: “We know the risk of being in Benghazi. Can you tell us what our policy was in Libya that overcame those risks? In other words, why were we there?”

And the Accountability Review Board had already answered that question. It explained that Benghazi was the largest city and historical power center in eastern Libya. It further went on to say although the rebel-led Transitional National Council declared that Tripoli would continue to be the capital of post-Gadhafi Libya, many of the influential players in the TNC remained based in Benghazi.

And the ARB went on to explain that Ambassador Stevens advocated for a U.S. presence in Benghazi and his status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy and his expertise on Benghazi in particular caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments.

Secretary Clinton, do you agree? Was Ambassador Stevens a leading expert on Libya policy? And did you also give his opinions a lot of weight and respect?

CLINTON: Yes, I did, Congresswoman.

SANCHEZ: Do you recall Ambassador Stevens advocating from the ground up for continued U.S. presence specifically in Benghazi?

CLINTON: Yes, he did.

SANCHEZ: In fact, Ambassador Stevens’s e-mails, many of which this committee has had for more than a year, confirm what you’ve just stated.

Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent to enter this document into the record, and it’s being passed out to the members of the committee.

GOWDY: Without objection.

SANCHEZ: Secretary Clinton, I understand this e-mail is not one that you have seen before as it was not addressed or sent to you, is that correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

SANCHEZ: In the e-mail before you, then-Special Envoy Stevens wrote this proposal for continued presence in Benghazi at Embassy Tripoli — as Embassy Tripoli was reopened following the fall of Gadhafi. He suggested two potential models. Option A was a slimmed- down compound and Option B was a virtual presence with zero full-time State Department staff in Benghazi.

Special Envoy Stevens sent this e-mail to Gene Cretz, then the ambassador to Libya, his deputy chief of mission and the director of the Office of Mahgreb Affairs. At the time, these career diplomats had a combined 83 years of foreign service experience. Would the recommendation of this team be given a fair amount of weight within the Department?

CLINTON: Yes, it would.

SANCHEZ: And is that the way that it should work that the views of experienced diplomats should count in decision making?

CLINTON: They certainly did to me, and I think that should be the practice.

SANCHEZ: In the same e-mail, Special Envoy Stevens states, quote, “my personal recommendation would be Option A,” which was the option for a slimmed-down compound. He then notes a few of his key rationales for wanting to stay. In an earlier September 6th, 2011 e- mail advocating for a continued Benghazi presence, Special Envoy Stevens provided more reasons including the opportunity to, quote, “monitor political trends and public sentiment regarding the new Libya. The revolution began in eastern Libya and the view of these 2 million inhabitants will certainly influence events going forward.”

Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Ambassador Stevens’ view that there were important reasons to have a presence in Benghazi despite the risks?

CLINTON: Yes, I do.

SANCHEZ: Other documents show that Ambassador Stevens continued to advocate for a continued U.S. presence once he became ambassador to Libya. In fact, at the end of August, just two week before the attacks, he was working on a proposal for a permanent presence. As that proposal explained, quote, “a permanent branch office in Benghazi to provide a permanent platform to protect U.S. national security interests in the region and to promote a stronger healthier and more vibrant bilateral relationship with the new, free and democratic Libya.”

While Ambassador Stevens took seriously the significant security incidents in Benghazi that occurred in June, he never decided that the risk outweighed the benefit and he never recommended closing the post in Benghazi. He worked with his counterparts to try to manage that risk as best they could.

In its report, the Benghazi Accountability Review Board found, quote, “the total elimination of risk is a non starter for U.S. diplomacy given the need for the U.S. government to be present in places where stability and security are often most profoundly lacking and host government support is sometimes minimal to nonexistent.”

Secretary Clinton, this is such a difficult issue, the balancing of interests. From your perspective as a former senator and secretary of State, how do you best ensure that we are striking the right balance going forward?

CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, thank you for that question because I do think that’s what we should be talking about, and several of you have posed similar questions.

I think you do start with the best expert and experienced advice that you can get from across our government. And as you rightly point out, Chris Stevens never recommended that we close Benghazi, he advocated for keeping Benghazi open. And as you rightly referred to this e-mail for a particular configuration that would fulfill the needs of our country being represented there.

Obviously, you have to constantly do this balancing act that I referred to earlier today, and most times we get it right. In fact, the vast majority of times, we get it right. With Benghazi, the CIA did not have any plans to close their facility. The opinion of those with the greatest understanding of our mission, our diplomatic mission in Benghazi was exactly the same, that we should not close down, we should not leave Benghazi. And it’s, you know, obviously something that you have to be constantly evaluating in all of these difficult unstable spots around the world.

But I appreciate your bringing to the committee’s attention the — you know, the strong opinion of the man who knew the most and was on the ground and who understood what we were trying to achieve in Benghazi, Ambassador Stevens.

SANCHEZ: And was it your understanding that he certainly understood the risk of being there?

CLINTON: He definitely understood the risks, yes.

SANCHEZ: Thank you. I yield back.

GOWDY: The gentlelady yields back. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from Indiana, Ms. Brooks.

BROOKS: Secretary Clinton, I’d like to ask you a bit about your decision making and the discussions you had as it related to how long the Benghazi mission itself was going to last.

I’m putting up a map just because most of us really don’t know much about Libya, don’t know much about the geography of Libya. And as we’ve talked about these various communities, I don’t think most people really realized. So I want to share with you that — we know from my last round that Chris Stevens went into Benghazi in April of 2011, and I want to talk to you about what happened the rest of that year. And just because there was a lot going on, I thought it would be helpful to have this map.

So by mid-July, our government formally recognized the TNC as the official government of Libya, replacing the Gadhafi regime. And TNC was based in Benghazi at that time. And in August, after the Gadhafi government fell, Gadhafi went over into — he left Tripoli where Gadhafi been headquartered, and he went into hiding in Sirte.

Now once that happened, the TNC moved their Benghazi headquarters over to Tripoli, and then in September, we re-opened our embassy in Tripoli and Ambassador Cretz returned; he had been evacuated previously. And Chris Stevens stayed in Benghazi. Does that sound like an accurate summary of the summer of 2011?

CLINTON: It does sound accurate, except I’m not sure exactly the duration of Ambassador Stevens’ presence in Benghazi during those months.

BROOKS: Well, that leads to my next question. What was your plan for the mission in the fall of 2011 and going forward? What were the discussions you had and who did you have those discussions with about the mission of Benghazi going forward in 2011?

CLINTON: Well, as you may have heard, Congresswoman, the e-mail that Congresswoman Sanchez introduced into the record was from the fall of 2011. And there was quite a discussion going on between officials in the State Department, in the intelligence community, in both Washington and Libya about the path forward.

The Transitional National Council had been based in Benghazi, and there was a dispute even within the Libyans themselves as to whether they would split the government, whether the government would be located predominantly but not exclusively in Tripoli or as some were hoping predominantly but not exclusively in Benghazi. So this was all a very live subject that was being debated both in Libya and with respect to what our response would be in Washington.

So we, at Chris Stevens’ strong urging and that of other of our experienced diplomats, wanted to maintain a presence in Benghazi in some form. We re-opened our embassy in Tripoli which had been the historical capital certainly under Gadhafi. But this was a constant discussion about what we should do when and where, and I think that’s why this e-mail from Chris Stevens about his recommendations is so informative.

BROOKS: Well, thank you and I’ll get to that in just a moment. But I have to ask you, I assume that your chief of staff Cheryl Mills was intimately involved in these discussions with you and with your top staff. She’s one of your staff as you were referring to them, is that right?

CLINTON: Well, she covered a broad range of issues. I’m sure she was involved in some of the discussions, but she had many other responsibilities, so I can’t say all of them.

BROOKS: I’d like to refer to you an update on Tripoli operations provided to Cheryl Mills on September 14th. And at the top of that two-page memo, assumptions for Benghazi in September were gradual winding down of operations over the next six months, transition to Tripoli only — transition to Tripoli only by January 2012, no consulate. No consulate meant no consulate in Benghazi. This was in September.

Would that be fair and accurate? And would you — were you in that briefing with Ms. Mills, or did she brief you about the fact that in September the gameplan was to shut down Benghazi?

CLINTON: Well, I think you have to look at that in context, Congresswoman. There was not an active plan for a consulate in Benghazi at any point during this period. That is not what the compound in Benghazi was. It was a temporary facility placed there to help us make a determination as to what we would need going forward in Benghazi…

BROOKS: Excuse me, madam secretary.

CLINTON: There was a strong argument that Chris Stevens and others made that they hoped eventually there might be a consulate, but there was never an agreement to have a consulate.

BROOKS: And, in fact, it had been deemed a consulate, it would have had a different level of security, is that correct, than a temporary mission compound, is that accurate?

CLINTON: Well, we have…

BROOKS: Is that accurate, that consulates have certain levels of security. There are standards, there are protocols. When it is a consulate, it gets a certain level of security.

CLINTON: That is the hoped-for outcome. That is not what happens in the beginning in many places, especially the hot spots and the conflict areas where a consulate is stood up.

BROOKS: Can you talk with me about the decision, then — there is a briefing with respect to — after the closing, rather, of the consulate in Benghazi by January of 2012. We know it didn’t close. It did not close. You went to Tripoli in October of 2011. Ambassador Cretz was still there. How about Chris Stevens? Did Chris Stevens come over from Benghazi to see you when you went for the big trip in October ’11?

CLINTON: I don’t recall. I don’t recall if he did or not. This was — this — this was about Ambassador Cretz, and Ambassador Cretz was the person that we were meeting with at that time.

BROOKS: What was your purpose for meeting with Ambassador Cretz if Chris Stevens was your expert in Libya?

CLINTON: Ambassador Cretz was an expert as well. Ambassador Cretz was our ambassador. You remember, as I mentioned to you before, he had been our ambassador, and then because he reported very accurately about what he observed regarding Gadhafi and Gadhafi’s henchmen, when Wikileaks disclosed internal U.S. government cables and Gene Cretz’s cables were publicized talking very critically about Gadhafi he was then subjected to threats and then we took him out. We did not close the embassy at that time.

So, he had returned to finish out his time and we were in the process of moving him to another assignment and nominating Chris Stevens to replace him.

BROOKS: But you didn’t, during that one trip to Libya, you didn’t talk to Chris Stevens, best of your recollection at that time?

CLINTON: While I was in Libya, I don’t recall that. Of course we consulted with him in respect to planning the trip, as to who we would meet with, what we would ask for.

We were trying very hard to get people in positions of authority at that time in Libya to let us work with them on everything from border security to collecting weapons and trying to disarm the militias. We had a lot of business we were doing with them.

BROOKS: So going back to Miss Sanchez’s e-mail with respect from John Stevens to Miss Polysheck (ph), it talks about Option A, as you’ve pointed out, slimming down the compound, and so he weighed in on — in October he was weighing in on whether or not the compound should stay open.

But I’d like to direct your attention to an e-mail that’s at tab four, dated December 15th from Chris Stevens.

And I might add for the record, we do not, still to this day, have all of Chris Stevens e-mails. We received 1,300 more this week. We received most of them last week. We don’t have the universe yet of Ambassador Stevens e-mails.

But he e-mailed to a reporting officer who we know was in Benghazi still. He wrote, “Interesting. Has security improved in Benghazi in recent weeks? Also curious what you guys decided to do regarding future of the compound. He was in Washington, D.C., or back in the States during that time, and in December Ambassador Stevens, your soon-to-be ambassador, didn’t know what was going to happen with the compound in Benghazi, how is that possible?

Updates coming …

 

 

Full Text Obama Presidency October 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by the President

Source: WH, 10-2-15

State Dining Room

3:55 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to take a couple of questions from the press.  But first, a few additional pieces of business.

First of all, we learned today that our businesses created another 118,000 new jobs in September, which means that we now have had 67 straight months of job creation; 13.2 million new jobs in all — and an unemployment rate that has fallen from a high of 10 percent down to 5.1 percent.  These long-term trends are obviously good news, particularly for every American waking up each morning and heading off to a new job.

But we would be doing even better if we didn’t have to keep on dealing with unnecessary crises in Congress every few months. And this is especially important right now, because although the American economy has been chugging along at a steady pace, much of the global economy is softening.  We’ve seen an impact on our exports, which was a major driver of growth for us particularly at the beginning of the recovery.  And so our own growth could slow if Congress does not do away with some of the counterproductive austerity measures that they have put in place, and if Congress does not avoid the kind of manufactured crises that shatter consumer confidence and could disrupt an already skittish global economy.

On Wednesday, more than half of Republicans voted to shut down the government for the second time in two years.  The good news is that there were enough votes in both parties to pass a last-minute bill to keep the government open and operating for another 10 weeks before we can get a more long-term solution.  But keep in mind that gimmick only sets up another potential manufactured crisis just two weeks before Christmas.

And I’ve said this before, I want to repeat it — this is not the way the United States should be operating.

Oftentimes I hear from folks up on Capitol Hill, “the need for American leadership,” “the need for America to be number one.”  Well, you know what, around the globe, part of what makes us a leader is when we govern effectively and we keep our own house in order, and we pass budgets, and we can engage in long-term planning, and we can invest in the things that are important for the future.  That’s U.S. leadership.

When we fail to do that, we diminish U.S. leadership.  It’s not how we are supposed to operate.  And we can’t just keep on kicking down the road without solving any problems or doing any long-term planning for the future.  That’s true for our military; that’s true for our domestic programs.  The American people, American families deserve better.  And we can grow faster and the economy can improve if Congress acts with dispatch.  It will get worse if they don’t.

That’s why I want to be very clear:  I will not sign another shortsighted spending bill like the one Congress sent me this week.  We purchased ourselves 10 additional weeks; we need to use them effectively.

Keep in mind that a few years ago, both parties put in place harmful automatic cuts that make no distinction between spending we don’t need and spending we do.  We can revisit the history of how that happened — I have some rather grim memories of it.  But the notion was that even as we were bringing down the deficit, we would come up with a sustainable, smart, long-term approach to investing in the things that we need.  That didn’t happen.  And so now these cuts that have been maintained have been keeping our economy from growing faster.  It’s time to undo them.  If we don’t, then we will have to fund our economic and national security priorities in 2016 at the same levels that we did in 2006.

Now, understand, during that decade, between 2006 and 2016, our economy has grown by 12 percent.  Our population has grown by 8 percent.  New threats have emerged; new opportunities have appeared.  We can’t fund our country the way we did 10 years ago because we have greater demands — with an aging population, with kids who need schools, with roads that need to be fixed, with a military on which we are placing extraordinary demands.

And we can’t cut our way to prosperity.  Other countries have tried it and it has not worked.  We’ve grown faster than they have because we did not pursue these blind, unthinking cuts to necessary investments for our growth.  And by the way, because we’ve grown faster than them, we’ve brought our deficits down faster than they have.

I want to repeat this because the public apparently never believes it.  Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  The deficit has not been going up; it has been coming down — precipitously.  We’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  They’re below the average deficits over the past 40 years.

So the bottom line is, Congress has to do its job.  It can’t flirt with another shutdown.  It should pass a serious budget.  And if they do, and get rid of some of these mindless cuts, even as we’re still prudent about maintaining the spending that we need but not spending we don’t need and is not working, their own non-partisan budget office estimates we’re going to add an extra half-million jobs to our economy next year alone.  We can immediately put half a million more people back to work if we just have a more sensible budget.

And in these negotiations, nobody is going to get everything they want.  We have to work together, though, even if we disagree, in order to do the people’s business.  At some point we have to want to govern, and not just play politics or play to various political bases.  At some point, we need to pass bills so that we can rebuild our roads, and keep our kids learning, and our military strong, and help people prepare for and recover from disasters.  That is Congress’s most basic job.  That’s what our government is supposed to do — serve the American people.

So with that, let me take some questions.  And I’ll start with Julie Pace of AP.

Hang in there, kids.  (Laughter.)

Q    It will be over soon.  Thank you, Mr. President.  There have been several developments in Syria that I wanted to ask you about, starting with Russia’s involvement.  You met with President Putin earlier this week, and I wonder if you think he was honest with you about his intentions in Syria.  If Russia is targeting groups beyond the Islamic State, including U.S.-aligned groups, does the U.S. military have an obligation to protect them?  And on the situation in Syria more broadly, there have obviously been failures in the U.S. train-and-equip program.  Do you believe that that program can be fixed or do you have to look at other options?  Would you, in particular, be willing to reconsider a no-fly zone, which several presidential candidates, including your former Secretary of State, are now calling for?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first and foremost, let’s understand what’s happening in Syria and how we got here.  What started off as peaceful protests against Assad, the president, evolved into a civil war because Assad met those protests with unimaginable brutality.  And so this is not a conflict between the United States and any party in Syria; this is a conflict between the Syrian people and a brutal, ruthless dictator.

Point number two is that the reason Assad is still in power is because Russia and Iran have supported him throughout this process.  And in that sense, what Russia is doing now is not particularly different from what they had been doing in the past — they’re just more overt about it.  They’ve been propping up a regime that is rejected by an overwhelming majority of the Syrian population because they’ve seen that he has been willing to drop barrel bombs on children and on villages indiscriminately, and has been more concerned about clinging to power than the state of his country.

So in my discussions with President Putin, I was very clear that the only way to solve the problem in Syria is to have a political transition that is inclusive — that keeps the state intact, that keeps the military intact, that maintains cohesion, but that is inclusive — and the only way to accomplish that is for Mr. Assad to transition, because you cannot rehabilitate him in the eyes of Syrians.  This is not a judgment I’m making; it is a judgment that the overwhelming majority of Syrians make.

And I said to Mr. Putin that I’d be prepared to work with him if he is willing to broker with his partners, Mr. Assad and Iran, a political transition — we can bring the rest of the world community to a brokered solution — but that a military solution alone, an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire.  And it won’t work.  And they will be there for a while if they don’t take a different course.

I also said to him that it is true that the United States and Russia and the entire world have a common interest in destroying ISIL.  But what was very clear — and regardless of what Mr. Putin said — was that he doesn’t distinguish between ISIL and a moderate Sunni opposition that wants to see Mr. Assad go.  From their perspective, they’re all terrorists.  And that’s a recipe for disaster, and it’s one that I reject.

So where we are now is that we are having technical conversations about de-confliction so that we’re not seeing U.S. and American firefights in the air.  But beyond that, we’re very clear in sticking to our belief and our policy that the problem here is Assad and the brutality that he has inflicted on the Syrian people, and that it has to stop.  And in order for it to stop, we’re prepared to work with all the parties concerned.  But we are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior.

Keep in mind also, from a practical perspective, the moderate opposition in Syria is one that if we’re ever going to have to have a political transition, we need.  And the Russian policy is driving those folks underground or creating a situation in which they are de-capacitated, and it’s only strengthening ISIL.  And that’s not good for anybody.

In terms of our support of opposition groups inside of Syria, I made very clear early on that the United States couldn’t impose a military solution on Syria either, but that it was in our interest to make sure that we were engaged with moderate opposition inside of Syria because eventually Syria will fall, the Assad regime will fall, and we have to have somebody who we’re working with that we can help pick up the pieces and stitch back together a cohesive, coherent country.  And so we will continue to support them.

The training-and-equip program was a specific initiative by the Defense Department to see if we could get some of that moderate opposition to focus attention on ISIL in the eastern portion of the country.  And I’m the first one to acknowledge it has not worked the way it was supposed to, Julie.  And I think that the Department of Defense would say the same thing.  And part of the reason, frankly, is because when we tried to get them to just focus on ISIL, the response we’d get back is, how can we focus on ISIL when every single day we’re having barrel bombs and attacks from the regime?  And so it’s been hard to get them to reprioritize, looking east, when they’ve got bombs coming at them from the west.

So what we’re doing with the train-and-equip is looking at where we have had success — for example, working with some of the Kurdish community in the east that pushed ISIL out — seeing if we can build on that.  But what we’re also going to continue to do is to have contacts with and work with opposition that, rightly, believes that in the absence of some change of government inside of Syria we’re going to continue to see civil war, and that is going to turbocharge ISIL recruitment and jihadist recruitment, and we’re going to continue to have problems.

Now, last point I just want to make about this — because sometimes the conversation here in the Beltway differs from the conversation internationally.  Mr. Putin had to go into Syria not out of strength but out of weakness, because his client, Mr. Assad, was crumbling.  And it was insufficient for him simply to send them arms and money; now he’s got to put in his own planes and his own pilots.  And the notion that he put forward a plan and that somehow the international community sees that as viable because there is a vacuum there — I didn’t see, after he made that speech in the United Nations, suddenly the 60-nation coalition that we have start lining up behind him.

Iran and Assad make up Mr. Putin’s coalition at the moment. The rest of the world makes up ours.  So I don’t think people are fooled by the current strategy.  It does not mean that we could not see Mr. Putin begin to recognize that it is in their interest to broker a political settlement.  And as I said in New York, we’re prepared to work with the Russians and the Iranians, as well as our partners who are part of the anti-ISIL coalition to come up with that political transition.  And nobody pretends that it’s going to be easy, but I think it is still possible.  And so we will maintain lines of communication.

But we are not going to be able to get those negotiations going if there is not a recognition that there’s got to be a change in government.  We’re not going to go back to the status quo ante.  And the kinds of airstrikes against moderate opposition that Russia is engaging in is going to be counterproductive.  It’s going to move us farther away rather than towards the ultimate solution that we’re all — that we all should be looking for.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Julie, throughout this process, I think people have constantly looked for an easy, low-cost answer — whether it’s we should have sent more rifles in early and somehow then everything would have been okay; or if I had taken that shot even after Assad offered to give up his chemical weapons, then immediately things would have folded, or the Assad regime would have folded, and we would have suddenly seen a peaceful Syria.

This is a hugely, difficult, complex problem.  And I would have hoped that we would have learned that from Afghanistan and Iraq, where we have devoted enormous time and effort and resources with the very best people and have given the Afghan people and the Iraqi people an opportunity for democracy.  But it’s still hard, as we saw this week in Afghanistan.  That’s not by virtue of a lack of effort on our part, or a lack of commitment.  We’ve still got 10,000 folks in Afghanistan.  We’re still spending billions of dollar supporting that government, and it’s still tough.

So when I make a decision about the level of military involvement that we’re prepared to engage in, in Syria, I have to make a judgment based on, once we start something we’ve got to finish it, and we’ve got to do it well.  And do we, in fact, have the resources and the capacity to make a serious impact — understanding that we’ve still got to go after ISIL in Iraq; we still have to support the training of an Iraqi military that is weaker than any of us perceived; that we still have business to do in Afghanistan.  And so I push — and have consistently over the last four, five years sought out a wide range of opinions about steps that we can take potentially to move Syria in a better direction.

I am under no illusions about what an incredible humanitarian catastrophe this is, and the hardships that we’re seeing, and the refugees that are traveling in very dangerous circumstances and now creating real political problems among our allies in Europe, and the heartbreaking images of children drowned trying to escape war, and the potential impact of such a destabilized country on our allies in the region.  But what we have learned over the last 10, 12, 13 years is that unless we can get the parties on the ground to agree to live together in some fashion, then no amount of U.S. military engagement will solve the problem.  And we will find ourselves either doing just a little bit and not making a difference, and losing credibility that way, or finding ourselves drawn in deeper and deeper into a situation that we can’t sustain.

And when I hear people offering up half-baked ideas as if they are solutions, or trying to downplay the challenges involved in this situation — what I’d like to see people ask is, specifically, precisely, what exactly would you do, and how would you fund it, and how would you sustain it?  And typically, what you get is a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

So these are hard challenges.  They are ones that we are going to continue to pursue.  The topline message that I want everybody to understand is we are going to continue to go after ISIL.  We are going to continue to reach out to a moderate opposition.  We reject Russia’s theory that everybody opposed to Assad is a terrorist.  We think that is self-defeating.  It will get them into a quagmire.  It will be used as a further recruitment tool for foreign fighters.

We will work with the international community and our coalition to relieve the humanitarian pressure.  On refugees, we are working with the Turks and others to see what we can do along the border to make things safer for people.  But ultimately, we’re going to have to find a way for a political transition if we’re going to solve Syria.

Jon Karl.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    Back in July you said that the gun issue has been the most frustrating of your presidency, and we certainly heard that frustration from you last night.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    So in the last 15 months of your presidency, do you intend to do anything differently to get Congress to act or to do something about this gun violence problem?

And I have to get you to respond to something that Jeb Bush just said, and to be fair to Governor Bush I want to read it directly.  Asked about the drive to take action in light of what happened in Oregon, he said, “Look, stuff happens.  There’s always a crisis.  And the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not always the right thing to do.”  How would you react to Governor Bush?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t even think I have to react to that one.  (Laughter.)  I think the American people should hear that and make their own judgments, based on the fact that every couple of months, we have a mass shooting, and in terms of — and they can decide whether they consider that “stuff happening”.

In terms of what I can do, I’ve asked my team — as I have in the past — to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  Are there additional actions that we can take that might prevent even a handful of these tragic deaths from taking place?  But as I said last night, this will not change until the politics change and the behavior of elected officials changes.

And so the main thing I’m going to do is I’m going to talk about this on a regular basis, and I will politicize it because our inaction is a political decision that we are making.

The reason that Congress does not support even the modest gun safety laws that we proposed after Sandy Hook is not because the majority of the American people don’t support it.  I mean, normally, politicians are responsive to the views of the electorate.  Here you’ve got the majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do.  Background checks, other common-sense steps that would maybe save some lives couldn’t even get a full vote.  And why is that?  It’s because of politics.  It’s because interest groups fund campaigns, feed people fear. And in fairness, it’s not just in the Republican Party — although the Republican Party is just uniformly opposed to all gun safety laws.  And unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem.

For example, you’ll hear people talk about the problem is not guns, it’s mental illness.  Well, if you talk to people who study this problem, it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men, but there are hundreds of millions of angry young men around the world — tens of millions of angry young men.  Most of them don’t shoot.  It doesn’t help us just to identify — and the majority of people who have mental illnesses are not shooters.  So we can’t sort through and identify ahead of time who might take actions like this.  The only thing we can do is make sure that they can’t have an entire arsenal when something snaps in them.

And if we’re going to do something about that, the politics has to change.  The politics has to change.  And the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side who are absolutists and think that any gun safety measures are somehow an assault on freedom, or communistic — or a plot by me to takeover and stay in power forever or something.  (Laughter.)  I mean, there are all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theories that float around there — some of which, by the way, are ratified by elected officials in the other party on occasion.

So we’ve got to change the politics of this.  And that requires people to feel — not just feel deeply — because I get a lot of letters after this happens — “do something!”  Well, okay, here’s what you need to do.  You have to make sure that anybody who you are voting for is on the right side of this issue.  And if they’re not, even if they’re great on other stuff, for a couple of election cycles you’ve got to vote against them, and let them know precisely why you’re voting against them.  And you just have to, for a while, be a single-issue voter because that’s what is happening on the other side.

And that’s going to take some time.  I mean, the NRA has had a good start.  They’ve been at this a long time, they’ve perfected what they do.  You’ve got to give them credit — they’re very effective, because they don’t represent the majority of the American people but they know how to stir up fear; they know how to stir up their base; they know how to raise money; they know how to scare politicians; they know how to organize campaigns.  And the American people are going to have to match them in their sense of urgency if we’re actually going to stop this.

Which isn’t to say stopping all violence.  We’re not going to stop all violence.  Violence exists around the world, sadly.  Part of original sin.  But our homicide rates are just a lot higher than other places — that, by the way, have the same levels of violence.  It’s just you can’t kill as many people when you don’t have easy access to these kinds of weapons.

And I’m deeply saddened about what happened yesterday.  But Arne is going back to Chicago — let’s not forget, this is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country.  Every single day.  Kids are just running for their lives, trying to get to school.  Broderick, when we were down in New Orleans, sitting down with a group of young men, when we were talking about Katrina, and I’ve got two young men next to me, both of them had been shot multiple times.  They were barely 20.

So we got to make a decision.  If we think that’s normal, then we have to own it.  I don’t think it’s normal.  I think it’s abnormal.  I think we should change it.  But I can’t do it by myself.

So the main thing I’m going to do, Jon, is talk about it.  And hope that over time I’m changing enough minds — along with other leaders around the country — that we start finally seeing some action.  I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight.

Cheryl Bolen.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  To go back to your opening remarks, you said that you won’t sign another short-term CR.  But as you know, yesterday Secretary Lew announced that the government’s borrowing authority would run out around November 5th.  Would you recommend negotiating an increase in the debt ceiling as part of these budget negotiations on spending caps?  And also does the Speaker’s race complicate these negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sure the Speaker’s race complicates these negotiations.  (Laughter.)  That was a rhetorical question. (Laughter.)  It will complicate the negotiations.  But when it comes to the debt ceiling, we’re not going back there.

Maybe it’s been a while, so let me just refresh everybody’s memory.  Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more, it simply authorizes us to pay the bills that we have already incurred.  It is the way for the United States to maintain its good credit rating — the full faith and credit of the United States.

Historically, we do not mess with it.  If it gets messed with, it would have profound implications for the global economy and could put our financial system in the kind of tailspin that we saw back in 2007-2008.  It’s just a bad thing to do.  So we’re not going to negotiate on that.  It has to get done in the next five weeks.  So even though the continuing resolution to keep the government open lasts for 10 weeks, we have to get the debt ceiling raised in five.  You’ve got a shorter timetable to get that done.

But here’s the bottom line:  Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, myself, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid — we’ve all spoken and talked about trying to negotiate a budget agreement.  And, yes, Speaker Boehner’s decision to step down complicates it.  But I do think that there is still a path for us to come up with a reasonable agreement that raises the spending caps above sequester to make sure that we can properly finance both our defense and nondefense needs, that maintains a prudent control of our deficits, and that we can do that in short order.  It’s not that complicated.  The math is the math.

And what I’ve encouraged is that we get started on that work immediately, and we push through over the next several weeks — and try to leave out extraneous issues that may prevent us from getting a budget agreement.

I know, for example, that there are many Republicans who are exercised about Planned Parenthood.  And I deeply disagree with them on that issue, and I think that it’s mischaracterized what Planned Parenthood does.  But I understand that they feel strongly about it, and I respect that.  But you can’t have an issue like that potentially wreck the entire U.S. economy — any more than I should hold the entire budget hostage to my desire to do something about gun violence.  I feel just as strongly about that and I think I’ve got better evidence for it.  But the notion that I would threaten the Republicans that unless they passed gun safety measures that would stop mass shootings I’m going to shut down the government and not sign an increase in the debt ceiling would be irresponsible of me.  And the American people, rightly, would reject that.

Well, same is true for them.  There are some fights that we fight individually.  They want to defund Planned Parenthood, there’s a way to do it.  Pass a law, override my veto.  That’s true across a whole bunch of issues that they disagree with me on, and that’s how democracy works.  I got no problem with that.

But you have to govern.  And I’m hoping that the next Speaker understands that the problem Speaker Boehner had or Mitch McConnell had in not dismantling Obamacare, or not eliminating the Department of Education, or not deporting every immigrant in this country was not because Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell didn’t care about conservative principles.  It had to do with the fact that they can’t do it in our system of government, which requires compromise.  Just like I can’t do everything I want in passing an immigration bill, or passing a gun safety bill.  And that doesn’t mean, then, I throw a tantrum and try to wreck the economy, and put hardworking Americans who are just now able to dig themselves out of a massive recession, put them in harm’s way.  Wrong thing to do.

Peter Alexander.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You addressed — I want to follow up on Jon’s questions about the issue that’s obviously deeply personal and moving to you — that is the gun issue.  Apart from Congress’s inaction, apart from the desire for new laws and, beyond that, apart from the gun lobby, as you noted, the pattern is that these perpetrators are angry, aggrieved, oftentimes mentally ill young men.  Is there something that you can do with the bully pulpit, with your moral authority, with your remaining time in office to help reach these individuals who believe that gun violence is the way out?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  I think I can continue to speak to the American people as a whole and hopefully model for them basic social norms about rejecting violence, and cooperation and caring for other people.  But there are a lot of young men out there.  And having been one myself once, I can tell you that us being able to identify or pinpoint who might have problems is extraordinarily difficult.

So I think we, as a culture, should continuously think about how we can nurture our kids, protect our kids, talk to them about conflict resolution, discourage violence.  And I think there are poor communities where, rather than mass shootings, you’re seeing just normal interactions that used to be settled by a fistfight settled with guns where maybe intervention programs and mentorship and things like that can work.  That’s the kind of thing that we’re trying to encourage through My Brother’s Keeper.

But when it comes to reaching every disaffected young man, 99 percent of — or 99.9 percent of whom will hopefully grow out of it — I don’t think that there’s a silver bullet there.  The way we are going to solve this problem is that when they act out, when they are disturbed, when that particular individual has a problem, that they can’t easily access weapons that can perpetrate mass violence on a lot of people.

Because that’s what other countries do.  Again, I want to emphasize this.  There’s no showing that somehow we are inherently more violent than any other advanced nation, or that young men are inherently more violent in our nation than they are in other nations.  I will say young men inherently are more violent than the rest of the population, but there’s no sense that somehow this is — it’s something in the American character that is creating this.  Levels of violence are on par between the United States and other advanced countries.  What is different is homicide rates and gun violence rates and mass shooting rates.  So it’s not that the behavior or the impulses are necessarily different as much as it is that they have access to more powerful weapons.

Julia Edwards.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You just said that you reject President Putin’s approach to Syria and his attacks on moderate opposition forces.  You said it was a recipe for disaster.  But what are you willing to do to stop President Putin and protect moderate opposition fighters?  Would you consider imposing sanctions against Russia?  Would you go so far as to equip moderate rebels with anti-aircraft weapons to protect them from Russian air attacks?  And how do you respond to critics who say Putin is outsmarting you, that he took a measure of you in Ukraine and he felt he could get away with it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I’ve heard it all before.  (Laughter.) I’ve got to say I’m always struck by the degree to which not just critics but I think people buy this narrative.

Let’s think about this.  So when I came into office seven and a half years ago, America had precipitated the worst financial crisis in history, dragged the entire world into a massive recession.  We were involved in two wars with almost no coalition support.  U.S. — world opinion about the United States was at a nadir — we were just barely above Russia at that time, and I think potentially slightly below China’s.  And we were shedding 800,000 jobs a month, and so on and so forth.

And today, we’re the strongest large advanced economy in the world — probably one of the few bright spots in the world economy.  Our approval ratings have gone up.  We are more active on more international issues and forge international responses to everything from Ebola to countering ISIL.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin comes into office at a time when the economy had been growing and they were trying to pivot to a more diversified economy, and as a consequence of these brilliant moves, their economy is contracting 4 percent this year.  They are isolated in the world community, subject to sanctions that are not just applied by us but by what used to be some of their closest trading partners.  Their main allies in the Middle East were Libya and Syria — Mr. Gaddafi and Mr. Assad — and those countries are falling apart.  And he’s now just had to send in troops and aircraft in order to prop up this regime, at the risk of alienating the entire Sunni world.

So what was the question again?  (Laughter.)

No, but I think it’s really interesting to understand.  Russia is not stronger as a consequence of what they’ve been doing.  They get attention.  The sanctions against Ukraine are still in place.  And what I’ve consistently offered — from a position of strength, because the United States is not subject to sanctions and we’re not contracting 4 percent a year — what I’ve offered is a pathway whereby they can get back onto a path of growth and do right by their people.

So Mr. Putin’s actions have been successful only insofar as it’s boosted his poll ratings inside of Russia — which may be why the beltway is so impressed, because that tends to be the measure of success.  Of course, it’s easier to do when you’ve got a state-controlled media.

But this is not a smart, strategic move on Russia’s part.  And what Russia has now done is not only committed its own troops into a situation in which the overwhelming majority of the Syrian population sees it now as an enemy, but the Sunni population throughout the Middle East is going to see it as a supporter, an endorser, of those barrel bombs landing on kids — at a time when Russia has a significant Muslim population inside of its own borders that it needs to worry about.

So I want Russia to be successful.  This is not a contest between the United States and Russia.  It is in our interest for Russia to be a responsible, effective actor on the international stage that can share burdens with us, along with China, along with Europe, along with Japan, along with other countries — because the problems we have are big.  So I’m hopeful that Mr. Putin, having made this doubling-down of the support he has provided to Mr. Assad, recognizes that this is not going to be a good long-term strategy and that he works instead to bring about a political settlement.

Just as I hope that they can resolve the issues with Ukraine in a way that recognizes Russian equities but upholds the basic principle of sovereignty and independence that the Ukrainian people should enjoy like everybody else.  But until that time, we’re going to continue to have tensions and we’re going to continue to have differences.

But we’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia.  That would be bad strategy on our part.  This is a battle between Russia, Iran, and Assad against the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people.  Our battle is with ISIL, and our battle is with the entire international community to resolve the conflict in a way that can end the bloodshed and end the refugee crisis, and allow people to be at home, work, grow food, shelter their children, send those kids to school.  That’s the side we’re on.

This is not some superpower chessboard contest.  And anybody who frames it in that way isn’t paying very close attention to what’s been happening on the chessboard.

All right, last question.  Major Garrett.

Q    Mr. President, good to see you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good to see you.

Q    And for the children there, I promise I won’t take too long.  So you’ve been very patient.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve been boring them to death, I guarantee it.  (Laughter.)  But there have been times where I’ve snagged rebounds for Ryan when he is shooting three-pointers so he has got to put up with this.  (Laughter.)

Q    Understood.  Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell the country to what degree you were changed or moved by what you discussed in private with Pope Francis?  What do you think his visit might have meant for the country long term?  And for Democrats who might already be wondering, is it too late for Joe Biden to decide whether or not to run for President?  And lastly, just to clarify, to what degree did Hillary Clinton’s endorsement just yesterday of a no-fly zone put her in a category of embracing a half-baked answer on Syria that borders on mumbo jumbo?

THE PRESIDENT:  On the latter issue, on the last question that you asked, Hillary Clinton is not half-baked in terms of her approach to these problems.  She was obviously my Secretary of State.  But I also think that there’s a difference between running for President and being President, and the decisions that are being made and the discussions that I’m having with the Joint Chiefs become much more specific and require, I think, a different kind of judgment.  And that’s what I’ll continue to apply as long as I’m here.  And if and when she’s President, then she’ll make those judgments.  And she’s been there enough that she knows that these are tough calls but that —

Q    — that she should know better?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, that’s not what I said.  That’s perhaps what you said.  What I’m saying is, is that we all want to try to relieve the suffering in Syria, but my job is to make sure that whatever we do we are doing in a way that serves the national security interests of the American people; that doesn’t lead to us getting into things that we can’t get out of or that we cannot do effectively; and as much as possible, that we’re working with international partners.

And we’re going to continue to explore things that we can do to protect people and to deal with the humanitarian situation there, and to provide a space in which we can bring about the kind of political transition that’s going to be required to solve the problem.  And I think Hillary Clinton would be the first to say that when you’re sitting in the seat that I’m sitting in, in the Situation Room, things look a little bit different — because she’s been right there next to me.

I love Joe Biden, and he’s got his own decisions to make, and I’ll leave it at that.  And in the meantime, he’s doing a great job as Vice President and has been really helpful on a whole bunch of issues.

Pope Francis I love.  He is a good man with a warm heart and a big moral imagination.  And I think he had such an impact in his visit here — as he has had around the world — because he cares so deeply about the least of these, and in that sensea expresses what I consider to be, as a Christian, the essence of Christianity.  And he’s got a good sense of humor.  (Laughter.)  Well, I can’t share all his jokes.  They were all clean.  (Laughter.)

And as I said in the introduction in the South Lawn when he appeared here at the White House, I think it’s really useful that he makes us uncomfortable in his gentle way; that he’s constantly prodding people’s consciences and asking everybody all across the political spectrum what more you can do to be kind, and to be helpful, and to love, and to sacrifice, and to serve.  And in that sense, I don’t think he’s somebody where we should be applying the typical American political measures — liberal and conservative, and left and right — I think he is speaking to all of our consciences, and we all have to then search ourselves to see if there are ways that we can do better.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It did.  I think that when I spend time with somebody like the Pontiff — and there are other individuals, some of whom are famous, some of whom are not, but who are good people and deeply moral — then it makes me want to be better, makes me want to do better.  And those people are great gifts to the world.  And sometimes they’re just a teacher in a classroom. And sometimes they’re your neighbor.  And sometimes they’re your mom, or your wife.  Sometimes they’re your kids.  But they can encourage you to be better.  That’s what we’re all trying to do.

And that’s part of the wonderful thing about Pope Francis, is the humility that he brings to do this.  His rejection of the absolutism that says I’m 100 percent right and you’re 100 percent wrong; but rather, we are all sinners and we are all children of God.  That’s a pretty good starting point for being better.

All right.  Thank you, guys, for your patience.  You can now go home.  (Laughter.)

Thanks.

END

4:53 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency October 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Shootings at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Shootings at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

6:22 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s been another mass shooting in America — this time, in a community college in Oregon.

That means there are more American families — moms, dads, children — whose lives have been changed forever.  That means there’s another community stunned with grief, and communities across the country forced to relieve their own anguish, and parents across the country who are scared because they know it might have been their families or their children.

I’ve been to Roseburg, Oregon.  There are really good people there.  I want to thank all the first responders whose bravery likely saved some lives today.  Federal law enforcement has been on the scene in a supporting role, and we’ve offered to stay and help as much as Roseburg needs, for as long as they need.

In the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims — young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams on what they could make of their lives.  And America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love.

But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough.  It’s not enough.  It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel.  And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.

We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did.  And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be.  But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people.  We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.

Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.”  And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.  That day!  Somehow this has become routine.  The reporting is routine.  My response here at this podium ends up being routine.  The conversation in the aftermath of it.  We’ve become numb to this.

We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston.  It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.

And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation.  Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out:  We need more guns, they’ll argue.  Fewer gun safety laws.

Does anybody really believe that?  There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country –they know that’s not true.  We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws — including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America.  So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?  We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.  So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings.  Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.  So we know there are ways to prevent it.

And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue.  Well, this is something we should politicize.  It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.  I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports.  This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you.  We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so.  And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.  How can that be?

This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America.  We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.  When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer.  When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer.  When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities.  We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives.  So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.

So, tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up.  And that will require a change of politics on this issue.  And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision.  If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.

And I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.

And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up.  Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws.  And this is not something I can do by myself.  I’ve got to have a Congress and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.

I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as President to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances.  But based on my experience as President, I can’t guarantee that.  And that’s terrible to say.  And it can change.

May God bless the memories of those who were killed today.  May He bring comfort to their families, and courage to the injured as they fight their way back.  And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change.

Thank you.

END
6:35 P.M. EDT